In the time the Bru was built, the sun rose in Taurus at the spring equinox. While we're not sure of how the Celts viewed the star stories, this important part of the sky is consistently a bull. And the word for the bull's crescent horns to this day is 'benn' (as in Finbennach, the white horned bull). The whole Brú complex sits on what is called a benn-chor, a curve of the river in the crescent shape, hence all the monasteries that end up as Banchory etc. The bull is ever a symbol of male fertility - and the moon, so the central notion of the male bull-moon mating with the female sun at the spring equinox is a great picture.
|The entrance to Knowth's western passage. In one version of its place name myth,|
Knowth is named from Cnó-guba, the nut lamentation. See below.
Too much really to tell in one small email. But, if we think of the cranes and their role in bringing children into life - at the spring equinox at Knowth, then we have something stunning to consider. And no I don't understand this, but it's a powerful story. Because if you look at the burials in the small mounds surrounding Knowth, and now at the breakdown of the cremation bones within Knowth's chambers, something extraordinary comes up - that there are lots of child cremations. Lots. Children only rarely get cremated, probably they die all too often, and aren't of high enough status to warrant a major ritual. There are children's bones in other tumuli, but only relatively rarely are they cremated. There is another 'urn' field in Ireland where each urn held a child and an adult - as if, said the archaeologist, the child was being given an adult to help them through to the otherworld. But here at Knowth we appear to have children probably being cremated then brought to Knowth for some special reason that only Knowth itself now remembers.
|Ceremonial basin in Knowth's eastern chamber. © Dept. of Environment,|
Heritage and Local Government.
This was the food of his band – bright feast –
blood-red nuts of the wood:
he casts the food from him on the ground;
he makes lamentation around the hillock.
Though it be called the Hill of Bua of combats,
this is the equal-valid counter-tale:
we have found that hence
from that 'nut-wailing' Cnogba is named.
So 'nut-wailing' and burials are what the stories of Knowth are about, and so it is. For a long time I tried to find any native 'blood-red nut' in Ireland, without success. But, when I went to look at the way a 'nut' is used within the language, it is a metaphor for a child. There is a story here at Knowth at the equinoxes that cuts deep into grief and the way people hoped for life renewed for their lost children.