(Information taken from Uriel’s Machine, an extraordinary book written by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas)
Newgrange is described as a “passage tomb”. It was built 1000 years before the pyramids of Egypt, using 208,000 tons of river rolled stones, and its eastern section is faced with white quartz crystal
Sunset Over Tor
The mound is not a perfect circle but is made up of a series of sections of parabolas, which make a slightly heart-shaped plan. Around it is an outer circle of 12 rough standing stones. Inside there is a single vaulted chamber entered through a passage that faces the sunrise on the winter solstice. In front of the mouth of the passage is a huge stone carved with interlacing spirals, jagged V-shaped lines, and many diamond figures.
The tunnel alignment was designed to allow the rising sun at winter solstice to shine right down into the far end of the chamber. This was a special design feature of the building because a special slot was cut above the entrance to let the light in for a short and very precise period of time. It is fortunate that this lightbox survived, for when the tunnel was excavated they tried to prise the lintel stone out. If they had succeeded, the astronomical alignment would never have been discovered.
The plan view of the chamber is in the form of a cross, and in each of the arms there is a beautifully worked stone basin. The basin in the back alcove was broken a long time ago by a treasure hunter.
There are 21 stones on the right hand side of the tunnel, and 22 on the left.
Newgrange was built in approx 3700BC. It fell out of use around 2500BC. It is said to be the home of Oengus, son of the Dagda (the good god) and it became known as Brug Oengus (the mansion of Oengus). The whole area was called Bru na Boinne, or the mansions of the Boyne, a large river that flows nearby. According to Celtic legends, the Dagda and his son Oengus were two of the most important members of the Tuatha de Danann, which placed the mounds under the protection of the fairy folk.
Newgrange was not built primarily as a tomb.
Whoever built Newgrange was able to organize a large workforce with sufficient skill to construct a corbelled roof chamber, align a 24-meter long passageway exactly with the line of the rising sun at the winter solstice, and carve the intricate patterns which adorn the structures.
Here are some of the skills they needed:
Agriculture over a long period of time to provide a constant supply of food for the workforce;
Specialization of job function. They needed food providers, stone transporters, stone carvers and builders. The same people could not have done all these jobs;
Intimate knowledge of the movements of the sun over its yearly cycle;
Organizational skills to plan over a period of lifetimes;
A driving vision and motive to complete the required tasks.
It has been estimated that many hundreds of people over a period of, say, 30 years, were needed to build Newgrange. The structure is a major feat of civil engineering.
Newgrange predates the astronomically orientated structures such as Stonehenge by about 1000 years. Newgrange is the oldest structure known for certain to have an astronomical function.
There are two other similar sized structures built at about the same time, at Dowth and Knowth.
|Dowth and Knowth|
Knowth lies a little to the east of Newgrange and Dowth is to the west on the same hilltop ridge. From any one of the three sites the other two are clearly visible. There are at least 40 other smaller mounds within this area.
The mound at Dowth is about 85 meters in diameter and 13.3 m in height. It is surrounded by 115 stones, and has two chambers facing westwards. The northern passage is approx 8 meters long, leading into a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof. The mounds southern chamber has a 3.3m long passage leading into a circular chamber 5.5m in diameter.
Within the mound at Knowth there are two tunnels: one faces due east, the other due west. Due to damage, it is not possible to know if any lightboxes ever existed. Still, the rising sun could shine into the eastern chamber at both equinox sunrises, and the setting sun shone into the western tomb on the same days. The mound is roughly an oval with its major axis of 95 meters and its minor axis of around 80 meters, covering about 1.5 acres.
The two tunnels in the mound are arranged back to back, and the one facing towards the east leads down a long passage into a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof. The roof rises to a height of 5.7m. There is a passage to the western chamber some 35m, and the site is rich in carvings.
At the most elaborate of the Loughcrew tombs, Cairn T, the sunlight of the equinox sunrises illuminates a series of radial line patterns which are carved on various stones in the tomb.
Phallus shaped stone objects have been found at both Knowth and Newgrange.
Professor O’Keefe discovered the lightbox at Newgrange in 1963. At exactly 9.45am (BST) the top edge of the sun disc appeared above the local horizon and at 9.58 the first pencil of direct sunlight shone through the roof box and right along the passage. The tomb was dramatically illuminated. These light effects only occur about a week before and after the winter solstice, and are most dramatic on the day itself.
The passageway is not a simple flat structure. It was built up a slope which is not the natural level of the site and is curved into an “S” shape so that the beam of light is very closely collimated (formed into a parallel-sided focused beam) by the stones.
Although some aspects of Newgrange are built with great precision, there are others which seem sloppy. The passage in Newgrange is rising and is constructed in an “S” shape, while the other mounds such as Knowth have passages with flat floors. There was a reason for this, yet it was unknown. Knight and Lomas wondered if Venus could have shone down the passage, and asked an expert to work it out.
|Venus appears as a morning star around the time of winter solstice four years out of eight. The other four years it appears as an evening star, following the setting sun down. Some years it is brighter than others and its closeness to the sun varies throughout the cycle. Here is the pattern of Venus at the time of the winter solstice:|
This is the basic 8-year cycle of Venus. It repeats itself very closely every 8 years, and exactly every 40 years. A new cycle started in the year AD1, and also in AD2001. There are four possible occasions throughout its 8-year cycle where Venus rises before the sun during the winter solstice. On only one of those occasions does Venus pass across the aperture of the Newgrange lightbox, at the point of its cycle where she is at her brightest. On this morning, exactly 24 minutes before sunlight enters the chamber, light from the sun bounces off the surface of the planet Venus and enters the chambers at Newgrange as a collimated beam through the lightbox. For about 15 minutes the chamber is brightly illuminated by the cold, steely light of a full Venus, the third brightest object in the sky. As the ghostly light of Venus moves off the slot, the warm golden light of the sun fills the chamber before it also moves on and the chamber returns to darkness. On all other occasions Venus rises too far north for its light to enter the carefully designed lightbox.
It becomes obvious why the passageway is curved, slopes upwards, and the lightbox has such a small aperture. The curve and slope of the chamber stop the brightness of the dawn sky brightening the chamber with ambient scattered light. Even on a bright, sunlit winter’s day, the chamber is still almost pitch-black.
|The Writing on the Wall|
Above the entrance to Newgrange, on the lintel which forms the top of the lightbox, are clearly carved exactly eight rectangular boxes with a line joining each corner to form a cross. The symbol of a diagonal cross seems to signify a year for the megalithic people. The pattern of the shadows cast by the markers of the summer and winter solstice sunrises and sunsets form an X-shaped cross. The exact angle of the X varies according to one’s position on the Earth’s surface.
At Stonehenge, the latitude of 51 degrees North is the only place in the northern hemisphere where the summer solstice sunrise aligns with the winter solstice sunset, and the winter solstice sunrise also aligns with the summer solstice sunset to produce a totally symmetrical image. In all other latitudes – bar one – the angles of the solstice sunrises and sunsets are not symmetrical. The exception is 55 degrees north, where the angles produce a perfect square. For the megalith builders there would be no better way to signify a year than to use an X-cross. The occurrence of eight identical symbols above the top of a roof-box designed to match an eight-year cycle must be deliberate.
Another symbol that is common at Newgrange, as well as other megalithic sites, is a diamond shape which archaeologists call a “lozenge”. We can assume it relates to the geometry of the sun’s rays. The diagonal cross of the year symbol has four legs which represent the direction of a solstice sunrise or sunset, but the shadows created by two marker poles at a solstice will also provide a diamond shape that will vary in its angles according to latitude. At 55 degrees, a regular diamond with four 90-degree angles is produced. Places south of this produce increasingly wider diamonds, and those further north become progressively taller. These latitude-specific shapes of the lozenges could possibly be used to identify a location.
This lozenge symbol is often found in conjunction with double spirals. It is found at Skara Brae, Newgrange, Pierowall (Orkney) and Knowth. The spiral has been demonstrated as the path traced by the shadow of the sun over a quarter of a year. A single spiral therefore equals three months, and a full year is an “S” shaped double spiral that has been covered twice over. The triple spiral design on the great entrance stone at Newgrange, and in the hidden part of the inner chamber, could therefore mark a period of nine months, which is the human gestation period.
In Freemasonry, the light of Venus is associated with resurrection. The kings and pharaohs of ancient Egypt were considered to be sons of god because they were resurrected to the light of Venus rising from the direction of the “Way of Horus” over the Sinai.
|A New Temple To Venus|
The results of
this extraordinary detective work has fired my imagination. The next time
Venus is at her brightest in the morning is at Winter Solstice 2009. On
this date I would like to be sitting in a megalithic temple which I have
helped to build, together with a group of people who have also committed
themselves to make the project happen. We will all be present at the culmination
of a profound three-year magical journey, waiting to be bathed in Venus’s
We need: suitable land. It needs
to be in the wilderness, private, with good access, and have a source
of drinking water; funds to make the whole project happen; a person with
civil engineering/building skills; a serious commitment to spiritual growth
and healing: a commitment to meet regularly; and most importantly, a sense
of magical adventure.