Banner: Knocknarea at Sunset.
Newgrange in the eerie early morning mist that rolls up from the River Boyne. Four of the stones of the Great Circle are visible, as are several of the post holes from the later neolithic timber henge beside Newgrange.

The mythology of Newgrange

'As he spoke, he paused before a great mound grown over with trees, and around it silver clear in the moonlight were immense stones piled, the remains of an original circle, and there was a dark, low, narrow entrance leading therein. "This was my palace. In days past many a one plucked ere the purple flower of magic and the fruit of the tree of life. . ."

And even as he spoke, a light began to glow and to pervade the cave, and to obliterate the stone walls and the antique hieroglyphics engraven thereon, and to melt the earthen floor into itself like a fiery sun suddenly uprisen within the world, and there was everywhere a wandering ecstasy of sound: light and sound were one; light had a voice, and the music hung glittering in the air....

"I am Aengus; men call me the Young. I am the sunlight in the heart, the moonlight in the mind; I am the light at the end of every dream, the voice for ever calling to come away; I am desire beyond joy or tears. Come with me, come with me: I will make you immortal; for my palace opens into the Gardens of the Sun, and there are the fire-fountains which quench the heart's desire in rapture."'

A. E.

The story of the original owners of Newgrange is lost in Ireland's misty pre-history. It is quite a famous place in medieval Irish mythology, and is mentioned many times in various texts and annals. It seems to have been more a famous site than Knowth or Dowth, though Newgrange escaped the plunderings by the Norsemen the other two mounds suffered as mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters.

The mythological stories we have today come from medieval manuscripts compiled by Irish monks and scholars a thousand years ago. The myths are though by some to be the remenants of the iron age religious or spiritual beliefs.

The first mythological owner of the Mansion on the Boyne was Elcmar the Druid, the husband of the Boann, the Goddess of the River Boyne.

Dagda and the Woman of Uinshin
Dagda and the Woman of Uinshin by Jim Fitzpatrick, this is a variation of the mythology at Newgrange set in the river Uinshin at Lough Arrow in Connaught close by the massive cairn at Heapstown. Here the Dagda seduces the Morrigan as she washes her hair in the river.
The Entrance Stone at Newgrange.
The Entrance Stone at Newgrange, with Claire O'Kelly's rubbing added to the image in Photoshop, gives an idea of patterns of energy engraved into the stone as suggested by Michael Poynder.

The Dagda, a fiesty, earthy god desired the beautiful Boann and he sent Elcmar was away on an errand. Then the Dagda appeared and courted Boann, and they slept together and concieved a child. So that her husband would not know about their affair, the Dagda, a marvellous magician, caused nine months to pass in one day, or the sun to stand still for nine months, and so Aongus Og, the Young God was born on the same day that he was concieved:

Elcmar of the Brug had a wife whose name was Eithne, and another name for her was Boand. The Dagda desired her in carnal union. The woman would have yielded to the Dagda had it not been for fear of Elcmar, so great was his power. Thereupon the Dagda sent Elcmar away on a journey to Bres son of Elatha in Mag nInis, and the Dagda worked great spells upon Elcmar as he set out, that he might not return betimes [that is, early] and he dispelled the darkness of night for him, and he kept hunger and thirst from him.

He sent him on long errands, so that nine months went by as one day, for he had said that he would return home again between day and night. Meanwhile the Dagda went in unto Elcmar's wife, and she bore him a son, even Aengus, and the woman was whole of her sickness when Elcmar returned, and he perceived not her offence, that is, that she had lain with the Dagda.

The Bard of Bundoran at Newgrange.
The Bard of Bundoran at Newgrange.

Then the Dagda took possession of the mound from Elcmar and lived there for many years, presumably with Boann, the nearby river Boyne. Aongus grew up to become the god of love of the Túatha Dé Danann. He is always associated with birds, especially swans.

During the Dagda's reign at Brú na Boinne, which means the Palace on the Boyne, the mound was always associated with magic and wonder. It is the most mentioned monument in ancient manuscripts, and was called by many names such as 'yonder Bru of the many coloured Chequered Lights'.

One day Aongus went to his father and asked for possession of the mound for a day and a night, to which the Dagda agreed. When he came back the next day, his son informed him that since all eternity is made up of day and night, the Dagda had given Aongus the mound for ever. And so it became the Brú of Aongus Og.

Newgrange in 1953.
Newgrange in 1953.

Newgrange is mentioned in many Celtic sagas; in one three sons of kings are advised to go to the Brú and fast for three days, after which they are rewarded with land, wives and wealth.

It is the place where the Ulster hero, Cuchulain was concieved in a tale from the Ulster cycle; and it is interesting to note that in the early mythology the mound/womb is a place of conception and birth. The assocations with death and funerals tend come from later Christain and antiquarian writings.

When Cormac mac Art, the glorious High King of the Celtic Golden Age died, he could not be buiried at Newgrange, as the River Boyne rose up against the funeral procession. It is thought that this may be early political writing by the hand of a rival clan.

The symbolism of Newgrange fits in with Christian lore from a much later time as well: a magical child is born in the middle of winter, who later spends three days in a stone tomb and emerges reborn: these symbols may well be a part of the original rituals of the site.

View of Newgrange from the river Boyne
View of Newgrange from the River Boyne, about one kilometer to the south. Newgrange is located on the highest part of the hill, 61 meters above sea level.