Sunday, 22 November 2015

The synchronicity of the swans

Recently I've found that my senses have come into sharp focus around certain mythical imagery associated closely with the Boyne Valley area. In my spare time, I'm doing some study and research which has taken me towards examining the metaphor and symbolism of myth. This has yielded interesting results. I explained to a friend this week how I seemed to be engaged in an interesting process of following "hunches" and "leads" and that this process almost always bears fruit.

When dealing with the area of science versus mysticism, I can, by and large, only deal with my own direct experiences and how they have forged my thoughts and beliefs around the whole question of the rational versus the esoteric. Currently, I am agnostic. The best and simplest definition of my agnosticism I can offer is this - I neither have proof in the existence of a god or an afterlife, or of other worlds and other realms of spirit or consciousness; nor do I have proof that they don't exist. I remain very open-minded. I am grateful for this open-mindedness. It prevents me from blindly following a path of enquiry without considering the alternatives. Recently, my work has focused on the alternatives.
The sun setting above Rosnaree overlooking the Boyne river.
I have been experiencing synchronicities - strange and wonderful coincidences and happenings - since the very beginning of my researches into myths and monuments years ago. I initially thought them to be what Richard Moore and I called "spooky coincidences" but over the years I've come to see them less as something to be scared of and more something to be enthralled and inspired by. My own experience has been that when a synchronicity occurs, it's like an affirmation that I'm on the right track with something.

But is all this just some sort of mystical woo? Is this just me indulging in some new age wishy-washy nonsense? I don't think so. And I'm glad to quote Philip Freund, a novelist, poet, short-story writer, documentary film writer, television dramatist and playwright as well as essayist, literary critic and anthropologist. Freund was a man described in his obituary as a "true polymath". If ever there was somebody who embodied the persona of the Samildánach - the many-gifted - it was Freund. Here's what Freund has to say about science and intuition, which brings us back to the subject in hand:

The history of science is filled with instances of noted workers in all fields who testify in their memoirs that a "hunch," a perhaps inexplicable ray of light, suddenly led them to a major discovery. Is it Newton under the apple tree, or Galvani watching his wife cook frogs' legs? Some of these invaluable "finds" seem to have been pure accidents . . . But what inspires the author of a scientific hypothesis to choose one route, one direction of approach, rather than another, when many offer themselves with equal persuasiveness to him or confront him with an equal opacity? Whence comes the "hunch," what directs the "ray of light," the seemingly lucky chance that without warning illuminates the right dark path to be followed?  (Myths of Creation, Peter Owen Publishers, [1964] (2003), p.280.

I was walking the dog on Friday night, going to collect my sons from football. As I walked along on a very cold, icy night (the first of this winter), I thought about all the research I've been doing lately and how it all seems to have produced fascinating insights. A great deal of this research work has surrounded stories about animals and mythic creatures. A great deal of it involved following hunches and intuition. And a great deal of it yielded interesting results. A thought came into my head, along these lines:

"You've really hit on something here, Anthony. This is the sweet spot".

Just as I thought that, I heard what might have been children's voices in the distance. I looked along the road, half expecting to see my sons and their friends coming towards me. But the road was deserted. There were no cars and no people at all, which is unusual because it's normally a very busy road.

Again I thought I heard a voice or two, but this time they were above me, so I looked up instinctively, and caught sight of a formation of eight whooper swans flying southwards, directly over my head.

The significance of this beautiful creature (for those of you unfamiliar with the myths of Newgrange) is that the whooper swan has been wintering at Newgrange for a long time - quite probably since before the monuments were built there 5,000 years ago. Some of the predominant myths about Newgrange, and the supernatural characters associated with it, involve swans. The most famous of these is the Aislinge Óenguso, the Dream of Angus Óg. See the Cygnus Enigma for more about the swan.

Were these eight swans among the first to arrive into the Boyne Valley for the winter of 2015? Every winter, thousands of whooper swans come to Ireland from Iceland, landing en masse in Donegal and then diverging into smaller groups to winter at various sites on the island. The area around Newgrange is an important wintering ground. It regularly sees more than 50 swans in winter, making it one of the predominant sites for the whoopers.

Just this afternoon I received an SMS text message from a friend of mine who keeps a close eye on things out in the valley. Over the past few winters he has been keeping me informed about the arrival and departure of the whooper swans. This is what I received from him today:

Whoopers at Knowth Anthony. About 8. Just arrived.

I smiled when I received it. And of course the first thing to come into my mind was the thought that perhaps these were the same eight that had flown over my head on Friday night . . .

So I feel inclined to continue following these lines of mythic research that are opening up before me. There is something in the mythology of the Boyne monuments that begs to be explored, deeply and extensively, and open-mindedly, because they are more than just stories. I believe they contain an essence of what the monuments were all about, and an insight into the mind of distant ancestors. Are these stories at all relevant today? Absolutely. They are a revelation - a vista into the soul itself, and I don't believe it's at all coincidental that this mythology has survived from time immemorial to tell a story to the people of today.

The process of mythic investigation has been an epiphany for me, a process of recondite introspection that has been at times both intimidating and riveting. It's brought me right into the centre of my own story on this planet . . . the reason I am here.


  1. So much thought and introspection in this beautifully poignant blog. Thank you. How you have made connections with the universe and shared the experience in words, inmates and thoughts is as you say riveting.
    Nicki Heenan

    1. Nicki, thank you for the lovely comment. I'm glad to share it. I've been doing a lot of introspection over the past few years and believe it or not the myths have helped enormously with that.

  2. One "woo woo" source of information states that the entire universe, absolutely everything, is all a synchronicity. All working together, all communicating, though on a level that we as humans are mostly unaware of. My experience with synchronicity and other weird happenings leads me to believe this is true. Rather wonderful :-)

    Lovely blog post. Thanks...

    1. Thank you indeed. I think mythology works on a very succinct and perhaps fundamental level. We should not forget our myths, because they are important to understanding our place in the cosmos. Synchronicity is something that used to be weird for me, but now it fascinates and enthrals me.

  3. I loved reading this. When I lived in the Cuilcagh mountains, we had a swan story in the folklore of Lough MacNean. Some of the stories took a while to sing in, and the meanings I found in them seemed to shift as my life did, and often while walking in the landscape there, a remembered story would recur to me and a sudden insight would guide me in a decision or problem I was struggling with then. And I took so many photos of the stones and the swans and all that I'm running out of room on four hard drives to hold them on lol. Anyhow, thank you for the lovely post.

    1. Susan, you're very welcome. I too find that the meaning of myth has changed and evolved as I have grown. It's very interesting. I came at all this from a scientific viewpoint, specifically with regard to astronomy, but have gravitated towards the more mystical and esoteric aspects which I have found gripping.