The longest days of the year have arrived. The sun's rising and setting positions have reached their most northerly points along the horizon and these rising points are now "standing still" - hence the word solstice, or in Irish grianstad, meaning, literally, "stopped sun".
|Orion "carries" the sun across the sky on the three longest days of the year.|
|The sun is crossing over the Milky Way right now.|
It is fascinating that the Boyne river, along which the greatest megalithic passage-tombs in Europe were built, has a name that is the same as the old Irish name for the Milky Way - Bealach na Bó Finne, the Way of the White Cow.
In mythology, there are many gods and warriors, but some particularly interesting ones which we examined in Island of the Setting Sun - In Search of Ireland's Ancient Astronomers. One of these is Lugh Lamhfada, Lugh of the Long Arm (or the long throw, perhaps). In the ancient mind, was it perhaps Lugh who was seen to "throw" the sun, moon and planets from his upraised hand?
|Amergin's poem, on a photo of the Boyne estuary where he |
arrived in Ireland with the Milesians.
And then there's Cúchulainn, the warrior hero of The Táin Bó Cuailnge, who battles in ford water - a ford being the crossing point of a river. Was he guarding the ford of the sky, as hinted in The Táin?
a fair man facing your foes
in the starlit ford of night.
It is no mere coincidence that Cúchulainn is a son of Lugh. The Milky Way was known as Lugh's Chain and Lugh used a weapon called the Tathlum, which is described as a concrete ball - made of his enemies' brains hardened with lime. Could this be the moon?
To the hero Lugh was given
This concrete ball – no soft missile –
In Mag Tuireadh of shrieking wails,
From his hand he threw the tathlum.
Today, as you watch the sun make its way across the sky on the weekend of the Summer Solstice, it would be nice to reflect upon the powerful imagery. The god of light has the sun in his hand.