Ray of Light

Newgrange is a Neolithic passage tomb located in the Boyne Valley, Co. Meath, Ireland.

It is over 5,000 years old, which makes it older than both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza. The site has many remarkable features, both artistically and historically speaking. But perhaps what Newgrange is most famous for is the structure’s “roof box”, a small rectangular opening at the entrance to the tomb. Every year, on winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, weather permitting, the sun shines through the roof box and illuminates the inner chamber. (Actually this can happen a few days before and after 21 December.)  Quite a feat.

I first visited Newgrange as a kid, in early spring. I was in awe of the sight of it, and even more impressed once our tour guide led us inside. My group was mostly children my age, but there were also some adults, who kindly let us kids to the front of the queue. Our guide expertly explained all that he knew of the tomb; the best part (for me, at least) was when he spoke about the basin stones; human remains had been found inside or around them. One of them was broken; he told us there was a man who believed that the sun shining through the roof box at Solstice was a sign of hidden treasure, and smashed the stone in an attempt to find it.

A German woman asked, “What happened to the man?”

“I’ll tell you what happened to him!”, an older Irishman shouted from behind us. “He’s in hell! That’s what happened to him!”

Some of the adults were momentarily shocked by this outburst. I started laughing. To his credit, our guide smiled and said, “Yes, he probably is in hell.” And then he continued with his lecture.

That was my first visit. I never got to go inside the passage tomb at Solstice; there’s a lottery in September for those who want to see the sun illuminate the burial chamber; it’s a small space for such a large structure, and the event lasts for less than twenty minutes. So your chances of winning a peek are small.

I don’t know if the lottery system was in place when I was a kid; I was under the impression that you had to be a foreign dignitary or a scientist or a scholar or a politician to get inside this time of year.

Several years later…

I get depressed in the winter. I was still in my teens, so I was especially  moody.  Around Solstice, I was spending some time with a good friend of mine who is considerably older than me. We were drinking lemonade and reading the Bible.

By which I mean, we were drinking whiskey and playing cards.

I started complaining about how I’d never get to see the sun come through the roof box at Newgrange. “They’ll never let people like us in there.”

This friend is one of those people that constantly gets you into trouble, but it’s always worth it. He’s multi-talented; one of his talents is mimicking different accents, despite the fact that he has a Derry accent so thick you couldn’t cut it with a knife. He has several favourites, all of which never failed to make me laugh; there’s “Retired British Colonel”, “American 911 Operator”, Eamon Dunphy, Gerry Adams and a host of others. After he got tired of my moaning about Newgrange, he said, “I’ll fix this right now.”

And he picked up the telephone.

“What are you doing?”

“Getting you in to see the light. I have connections.”

I actually believed him. A little. He called up the folks at Newgrange, put the phone on speaker, and put a finger to his lips.

“Hello.”

“Hello,” he said in the worst Russian accent I’ve ever heard. “This is professor Ivor Rockoff, famous Russian astronomer. I am in your country, and I wish to see your Newgrange on 21st, December. Please put me on waiting list.”

The poor bastard on the other end of the line wasn’t stupid, but he also wasn’t rude.

“I’m sorry sir, but…”

“Is show of good faith between Russia and Ireland!”

I don’t laugh very often, but when I do, I go on a jag. I was laying on the floor, holding my sides and crying.

“Sir, I can’t possibly…”

“Also, I wish for my son to be on list. He is what you may call ‘criminally insane.’ But is good boy.”

I was braying like a donkey.

“Sir? What was your name again?”

“ROCKOFF! IVOR ROCKOFF, I TELL YOU!”

And then he hung up the phone.

I was still on the floor.

“There’s your ray of sunshine, you little bastard. Now let’s finish this whiskey.”

I would still dearly love to be in Newgrange during Solstice, but it’s not going to happen.

And I don’t need for it happen.

Not with a friend like that.

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19 Responses to Ray of Light

  1. Newgrange is even older than the Egyptian pyramids. Fascinating post! Your friend sounds hilarious!! lmao

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The Winter Solstice | the mirror@wordpress.com

  3. FlyTrapMan says:

    Interesting story! I think I read about Newgrange a number of years ago…the name seems familiar to me, however — I don’t remember to much about it. I bet there are older ritualistic astronomical sites…possibly built my other hominids, or perhaps during the Paleolithic Era.

    At least you had an opportunity to visit the outside of the tomb!

    Liked by 1 person

    • oglach says:

      I got inside a number of times, just not during Solstice. There are a number of similar sites around Ireland, Scotland, England, etc; and I would say you’re right about existing older sites; amazing what ‘primitive people’ could do, isn’t it? You should research Newgrange. I think you of all people would be fascinated. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Had to share on FB, hope you don’t mind!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, the solstice alignment is quite a feat, even tho the solstice was a wider target than a single day in Stone Age times. (The differences in day length around 12-21 are smaller than anybody could measure then.) That they cared about the solstice is no surprise. That they hit the target with available technology is a source of wonder and admiration. Somebody was really good at what would later be called STEM.

    OK, so your friend did not accomplish the even greater feat of jumping the queue by faking a Russian accent. He did succeed in what U recognized as the real purpose of the routine, and that is indeed enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, lemonade and the bible. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m just relieved to hear it was whiskey and cards. Not lemonade and the Bible! You had me for a second with that. Relief! Good tale all round. 🙂 Thanks for all your support this year. Best wishes for 2016.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. acarson1 says:

    Everyone needs a friend like that, they’re the reason we live.

    Liked by 1 person

    • oglach says:

      So very true. He’s one of a kind. I’m lucky to have met him. Could write a book about him, but he’d murder me if I did!

      Liked by 1 person

      • acarson1 says:

        Ha yes, I know that feeling. When I was writing my friend’s obituary, I was sad that I couldn’t include everything we did together. Mainly because it would bring shame upon her family and her mother was upset enough as it was. I miss her everyday.

        Like

      • oglach says:

        Yeah, I know where you’re coming from, there. Hopefully we’ll live long enough to get away with it. Some stories need to be told, but not just yet. I write ’em down just in case. Someone will read them, someday. There’s one about that friend of mine’s mother that would win a fucking Nobel Prize, but it’s not my place to write it.

        Liked by 1 person

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