Saturday, 2 April 2016

Easter Sunday and controlling time at Brug na Bóinne

I suppose it's fitting that I should come to Newgrange on Easter Sunday, as the country remembers the events of a century ago, events that gave birth to a new nation. It's fitting in many ways. It's fitting because of the rebirth that Newgrange represents - the rebirth of the sun, and of new life, and perhaps also the rebirth of the soul.

I've come here for a short time to get away from the distractions of home, and to perhaps clear the mind a little, to allow the whispers of the gods to be heard among the chill winds of this bright but showery March evening.

Sunset at Newgrange on Easter Sunday. © Anthony Murphy.
What an auspicious day, Easter Sunday. A time when we think of resurrection, of the rebirth of dreams long forgotten in the shadow of winter. Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom. Aonghus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom. Just as I write that, I can hear the spring lambs bleating here on the grassy slopes in front of Newgrange. Oh lamb, why is it that you had to be sacrificed? What is it within us that believes something good will come of something so foul? Why do we feel we have to destroy life in order that life may flourish?

Perhaps those who were executed after the Easter Rising were the sacrificial lambs who had to be slaughtered in order for new life to thrive. But I don't know why that should be. I doubt I will ever understand it. Live and let live.

The sun comes now, beneath the cumulonimbus to the west, high above Rosnaree. Knowth reopens to the public after the winter at Easter. That is highly fortuitous, given that ancient Knowth was a site seemingly designed with finding Easter in mind. Ironically, the only time Newgrange closes is at Christmas.

At Knowth, at Easter, let us put Jesus into the eastern tomb at dawn, and perhaps at dusk we will find him emerging from the western tomb, facing Slane, awaiting the lighting of the Paschal Fire. In doing so, we might be putting him on the cross again, for the eastern tomb is cruciform, and the western tomb is not. He will shed his cross in order to come out the other side. Who knows what miracles might have been wrought in the depths of Buí's hill, overlooking the mighty Boyne.

Here at Newgrange, on the solstice, we will watch as god himself is born in man, a miracle of light in the darkness.

What we should not do is to try to control time. The Dagda tried to control time at Newgrange, so that he could lie with Bóinn for the conception of the new miracle son, Aonghus Óg, the son of god. But the plan came to nought because the Milesians arrived and sent them all underground.

Bressail Bó Dibad tried to control time at Dowth, so that his ego could be raised to new heights using a new tower of Babylon. But his plan came to nought when he lay with his sister, and the tower remained unfinished.

Today, on Easter Sunday, the period known as Daylight Saving Time began. At 1am this morning, the clocks went forward by an hour. Yet again, we are trying to control time. But the bleating lambs don't notice. The blackbirds in the hedge don't notice. The Dagda himself, in silent slumber somewhere in a realm known as the sídhe, doesn't notice. Today, we've fooled ourselves into thinking that the newly risen Jesus will tarry an extra hour at the doorway of Knowth.

Now that we think we have mastered time, what will become of us? Will our Milesians come, to banish us to another realm? Will darkness fall on our rush to build that tower to reach heaven - that new tower of Babylon, the one with which we will climb to heaven and converse with god himself?

The sun strikes the milky quartz on the western limb of Newgrange's great wall. The shadows from the great circle stones are much the same as they were yesterday. The lone crow riding the wind above the great mound does not see an extra hour of daylight. The sun sets when the sun sets. He does not put a number on it.

Last light at Newgrange on Easter Sunday 2016. © Anthony Murphy.
But I will delay a while longer, here at Newgrange on Easter Sunday, in the hope that, as Lady Gregory might have wished, Aonghus Óg will come out from the Brug and let himself be seen on the earth.

There are other people now. I gather by their accents that they are foreign. Sure weren't we all foreign once? Didn't we all come to this enchanted isle from across nine waves? We all come to Newgrange as foreigners. And we all leave as if leaving home. That is the power of the Brug. You leave it feeling that you are just a speck of dust on the master's table.

We cannot control time. It is futile. We can count it, and doubtless the builders of the great monuments did just that. And in counting it, and measuring it, and putting numbers on it, can we get any sense of beginnings and origins, of endings and destinies? This is one of the key questions that preoccupied the masterful builders of the great monuments:

Where did we come from?

Tied up with that question, bound inevitably to it. is the second part:

Where are we going, and what will happen to us?

In the pages of this blog, and the Mythical Ireland website, and my books, there is my own feeble exploration of those questions, a quest of sorts, an adventure in landscape and myth and time, an effort to put into words my own flimsy and fallible understanding of why I think the monuments, and the myths, of the Boyne Valley, are tied up with that ultimate quest.

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