Thursday, October 29, 2009

The year has turned

The year has turned and the day grows pale, and winter's shadows creep ever longer into the day.

This is the time of Samhain, a very ancient seasonal festival which announces the "dark half" of the year. And indeed darkness has drawn itself upon our daily trudge. Just four months ago, the sun was at his strongest, above Orion, bringing to Ireland the long bright joyous days which are in such contrast to those of midwinter. At that time, around June 21st, there was no dark night. At this latitude, the sun in June does not set far enough below the horizon to allow true darkness to settle upon our night. Instead, we get a constant glow from the northern horizon, and the day is long, with sunrise before 5am and sunset at 10pm.

Now come the days of darkness. And they come quickly. From the time of the Lughnasa harvest festival in August, the sun's rising and setting positions on the eastern and western aspects move more quickly towards the south. The maximum daily change in the length of day occurs at the equinoxes, with the Autumn Equinox around September 22nd heralding a quick return to short days and long nights.

For the past week or so, I have watched from my office window the dance of the golden leaves as they fall in heaps and showers from the trees outside. I look out upon many grey days, and the occasional bright blue one, but mostly I feel a melancholy tugging of my heart as the cold winter begins to draw in.

It is difficult at these times to comprehend how anyone living on this beautiful island of ours could not suffer from an episode of Seasonal Adjustment Disorder. There is a dramatic, sudden change to our daylight environment when the clocks go back, which happened last weekend. One day, it was dark at 7pm. The next, it was dark at 6. Those who dwelt upon this land in early times might not have suffered from such a sudden jolt to the daylight experience, but rather a gradual surge of darkness encroaching upon the light. But even then it must have been difficult to let go of the summer and the warmth and the light. Who would wish to dwell in winter's murky abode, its bleak tendrils wrapping themselves coldly around us?

I haven't been so acutely aware of the encroaching darkness this year. Perhaps with all my study on these matters I'm now becoming immune, or should I say acclimatised, to the onset of winter. Perhaps it's because September was warmer and drier than average, one of the best Septembers on record. Maybe I'm beginning to like winter?

As an astronomer, or star-gazer, I suppose I possess that innate gratitude for dark nights, knowing that the summer months present fewer opportunities to engage in that most glorious and ancient hobby. Unless, of course, one is willing to wait until 1am to begin star-gazing.

But I'm getting distracted, because the real reason I began writing this stems from my sudden discomfort at the conditions presenting themselves. All that melancholy light-longing has returned. I suddenly yearn for those long summer evenings which seem so recent. Right now the sky is grey and overcast, and it has been raining on and off all day. There is no chink of blue among the cloud, no sign of the real daylight. It's just grey. And that's how I feel now, looking out the window. Grey.

The night will be here within two hours, unless the cloud clears and we might get a bonus hour. Suddenly, this week, I find myself driving home from work in the dark. I don't like it, especially when it's raining. I feel much different, vastly so, when it is clear and I can see the stars, and the Moon, and Jupiter, out there high in the south like a beacon. Jupiter says to me, "All is not dark. There is always light. And the light will return." It gives me a feeling of inner comfort, and of a sure and steadfast knowledge that the days of light will indeed, inevitably return. Those are the winter nights I savour. The cold I don't mind so much. It's the damp, overcast, dreary dullness which brings the sadness.

Cold can be good if it's clear and the winter Moon is bright. What a huge difference a high, bright full Moon brings to a winter night. And the full Moons are always high in the sky, opposite the lowly winter Sun. Such is the way of cosmic nature, something which was understood with great instinct in the early days of our history.

Today though, we have invented our own moonlight and starlight. Our electric lights and appliances and technological conveniences dispel the darkness so we don't have to long so much for the return of summer any more. We can more comfortably endure the winter so long as we can switch on a light, and sit down in front of a television or a computer.

We have replaced the old fire - the hearth where so many stories were told - with the lightbulb, and the electronic goods which flood our existences with light. In doing so, we have shut out the cosmic order, over which we have declared supremacy. We tell the night that it no longer has dominion over us. We have banished the fairy stories and tales of the banshee and the mysterious lios lights to the past. We say that those were the days when people were not enlightened. Those were the days when people walked in the dark, and when Samhain was greeted with an inevitable hopelessness.

But are we the ones who have lost the light? In allowing our technological mastery to flood our lives with light, we have lost that most precious connection with cosmos? And is that detrimental to our fundamental beings? We have abandoned the former knowledge, the wisdom amassed over generations, and now we know not the signs of the weather, and the movements of the Sun and the Moon and the planets. For that, we have Google and NASA among others. We feel we don't need the former knowledge, being masters of the light ourselves. What extraordinary power we possess, to expunge the darkness with the simple flick of a switch.

But hold this thought in your mind as you extinguish the darkness tonight - is the light that I bring, the illumination that I contrive with my electricity supply and my light bulb, a form of darkness in itself? In turning on the lights, am I also "turning off" the stars and the Moonlight, and expunging the natural radiance of the cosmos from my existence? In flicking that switch, am I shutting off cosmos?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pioneering author Martin Brennan to return to Ireland

Pioneering author Martin Brennan, whose work changed the way the world looked at Newgrange and the Boyne Valley monuments, is set to return to Ireland for the first time in a quarter of a century.

Brennan wrote The Boyne Valley Vision and The Stones of Time, two books which radically altered thinking about Stone Age monuments and which challenged the widely-held academic view that Newgrange and its sister sites were just tombs.

The author, who is living in Mexico where he is currently working on concluding his next book, will headline a conference at Newgrange on Sunday, December 20th, the eve of Winter Solstice. He will reveal fascinating new data from Mexico relating to ancient alignments and the Mayan calendar, and will reveal the resonance and the synchronicity between his discoveries in Mexico and those he made in Ireland in the 1980s.

The conference will be titled "The Boyne Valley Revision" in honour of his first ground-breaking book, The Boyne Valley Vision, and will outline how the theories he advanced over a quarter of a century ago have matured, and how new data from other parts of the world is supporting the idea that the ancient monuments were inspired by the Cosmos.

He will be joined at the conference, being held at The Newgrange Lodge in the heart of the Boyne Valley, by two members of his research team who helped him with his major discoveries - Toby Hall and Jack Roberts. Also speaking will be Anthony Murphy, author of Island of the Setting Sun - In Search of Ireland's Ancient Astronomers, who is a great admirer of Martin Brennan's work.

Speaking directly to Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland, Martin Brennan said he was excited about coming back to Ireland and delighted to be giving his first talk here in over 25 years. Click here to listen to an audio clip of Martin speaking about the event.

His next book will be called 'Days of Power'. He has discovered fascinating alignments in Mexico, and his work also looks at the correlation between the beginning of the Mayan Long Count Calendar and the construction of Newgrange. As we speak, the famous author is ensconced in the jungle in Mexico preparing for publication of the book some time early in 2010.

The Boyne Valley Revision will take place on Sunday, December 20th, at The Newgrange Lodge. Tickets are on sale now at 65 euro for the day, and can be booked by emailing or by phoning The Newgrange Lodge on +353 41 988 2478.* To celebrate Martin Brennan's return to Ireland, a celebratory dinner will be held at the Lodge on the evening of the event. Spaces for this dinner will be limited. The dinner, which will be attended by Martin Brennan, will cost an additional 35 euro. Enquiries to the same email address and phone number as above.

It is hoped that on the morning of Winter Solstice, Monday 21st, Martin Brennan will be accompanied to Newgrange to watch the sunrise.

* One month refund policy applies. For more details contact The Newgrange Lodge

Monday, August 31, 2009

One of the most important Irish essays of modern times

I have just read one of the most important pieces of writing I have seen from an Irish writer in the past five years.

ESSAY: The elements that today might form a national culture – language, religion, nationalism – are no longer so readily identifiable here, where the effect of Tiger affluence was not individualism but conformism

Read Declan Kiberd's full article on the Irish Times website.

I posted a comment in response, which I will also post here:

As the author of what could be described as an Irish cultural book - 'Island of the Setting Sun - In Search of Ireland's Ancient Astronomers' - I find myself agreeing with much of what Declan has to say. My book is what you might call romantic, poetic, mythical. I evoke a very ancient Ireland, and I feel that I got in touch with our most ancient ancestors. The eight years of research carried out with artist Richard Moore took me on a voyage of discovery, and I found myself re-unearthing many things which had been hidden, things which had eluded me during my formative years and during the course of my education. I feel that this very ancient Ireland is still alive. It is still there. The myths still resonate, the heroes and gods of old usher in feelings of a timeless Irishness. There is no doubt that people sold out, and were sold out, during the so-called Celtic Tiger era. Many have emerged on the other side of this manic period feeling that the Tiger's premises are empty, its promises unfulfilled. But there is still a foundation for the Irish soul, an ancient and almost eternal foundation. We need not sell every last vestige of the soul in order to acquire that scenic house with the barbecue in the back yard. It is my firm belief that there will be a huge resurgence of interest in ancient Ireland and its mythology, landscape and monuments. All of that gives us a sense of being rooted, of being eternal. The Celtic Tiger is dead. Long live the Celtic Tiger.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

New video of Richard Moore painting at Donor's Green in Drogheda

I've made another video of Richard in action. He was doing a watercolour featuring the Boyne Viaduct, from Donor's Green in Drogheda. It is six minutes long:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The uncursing Tara - restoring the spirit of the Irish nation

Inspired by the artist, Richard Moore

I propose that the Dáil should convene on the Hill of Tara for one day once every three years and pass a few laws as a symbolic gesture to the Irish people to show that Ireland is finally being ruled from Tara once again after a 1,500-year gap .This event would be viewed as positive step towards giving the Irish people a symbolic sense of a restored pride in our national identity.

Tara has always been seen as the rightful place from which Ireland should be ruled. The erection of a large marquee in the grounds rather than a permanent structure will keep the archaeologists and the preservation community happy and it could have a festive attachment added to make it a fun day also.

The media would have a field day (excuse the pun) because this would be a truly first-time event in 1,500 years, so go for it.

The most symbolic date for this event to take place would be the Summer Solstice as this would celebrate an astronomical re-enactment of the timing of Amergin’s landing on the Boyne when he declared:
What iand is better than this Island of the Setting Sun?

Points to remember…

1 First time in 1,500 years that a ruling authority sits on Tara.
2 To be the first persons in modern Government to do so.
3 Not only are you restoring the status of Tara for the first time but you are restoring and revitalising a sense of pride to the Irish people, recognising that we are truly governed by our people once more.
4 Include the Northern Assembly as a further step toward a peaceful union.

The Uncursing of Tara

The soul of the Nation lies buried on Tara
Separated from its governing body
Join the two together
Restore the nation to life once again
As it was in the beginning and so shall it always be

Friday, July 31, 2009

One can have one's dreams . . . !!

National Geographic magazine's cover story for the June 2009 issue is "Ireland's Ancient Astronomers", an investigation into the 5,000-year-old cosmic monuments of the Boyne Valley based largely upon the book Island of the Setting Sun by Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore.

The cover image shows a sun or eclipse symbol from the 'Stone of the Seven Suns' at Dowth, which is one of the three major monuments of the Boyne Valley, along with Newgrange and Knowth.

The magazine's correspondent and photographer spent a month during the summer exploring the myths and monuments and the landscapes of the Boyne with Murphy and Moore.

'Island of the Setting Sun - In Search of Ireland's Ancient Astronomers' continues to inspire research and creative work across the globe, having sold out and gone to second edition within a year of being released.

Murphy and Moore continue to collaborate on future projects, including a more thorough project on The High Man - a giant landscape warrior reawakened.

(Note: The National Geographic cover is not intended to represent the real thing, but is rather wishful thinking on our parts!)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Author and composer swap score, book!

Anthony Murphy, author of Island of the Setting Sun, met up with Drogheda-born composer Richard Rock this week.

Anthony presented Richard with a signed copy of the book, while in turn Richard gave Anthony a copy of the score of his composition "Island of the Setting Sun", which was written for brass band. The presentation took place at the Drogheda Brass Band, which gave the piece its European debut in April at the European Band Championships in Oostende in Belgium.

The piece is inspired by the book, and indeed Anthony contributed to the composer's notes in the score which help explain the title. Richard took time during his visit home to conduct the Drogheda Brass Band through a few of his arrangements. He is looking forward to more books from Anthony which will hopefully form the basis of future compositions!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

New video - Dowth, the legend and the artist

I have made a new video which captures just a little bit of the atmosphere and the myth of Dowth, the giant cairn in the Boyne Valley.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Secrets of the Stones - major new two part RTE series

Ireland is unique. Isolated on the fringe of the Atlantic it was the last place in Europe to be inhabited .Yet with 150,000 ancient monuments, it holds an unprecedented record of its prehistoric past - a record that has been largely obliterated elsewhere in Europe. Now, cutting edge science is slowly peeling away layers of the secrets lost in time and rewriting Ireland's ancient story. The truth about our distant past is finally emerging.

There are gaps in our history that have never been explained. Can extraordinary new discoveries shine light on Ireland's dark ages and finally give us some answers?

Click here to read more about this fascinating series, starting Monday.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Island of the Setting Sun / Mythical Ireland news February 2009

Hello again to everyone and greetings in this the season of Imbolc. I hope those of you in the northern hemisphere have started to notice a "stretch in the evenings" as we say here in Ireland. From now until Bealtaine, 1st May, you should notice a good weekly increase in the amount of daylight, with the sun's setting position on the horizon moving quickest at the time of Spring Equinox in March.


I've added a new Photo of the Month for February showing snow-covered Cooley Mountains, taken this morning at Blackrock, County Louth.


I've added a brand new section to the website featuring Irish and Celtic music by contemporary artists. I hope to build this section up as time goes on.


Our book, Island of the Setting Sun, continues to be displayed prominently on bookshelves all over Ireland and further afield. We've set up a new BlogSpot page to feature more news and updates relating to Island of the Setting Sun.


The Mythic Links group has a fantastic new website. It is beautifully designed and features lots of stunning imagery.


The Bremore passage-tombs have been saved by a decision to move proposed deep water port infrastructure to a different location. This has been welcomed as a vindication for the pro-heritage lobby.


Don't forget if you want to find out what's happening in Ireland, we have a new events and activities section which details upcoming events related to the subjects explored on Mythical Ireland. The latest item is the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society's outings list for 2009.


Our new-look Forum is now secure from the spam registrations which had plagued it. I would invite you all to register (it's easy and takes seconds) and join in the discussions which are many and varied.

Kind regards,
Anthony Murphy

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Island of the Setting Sun inspires Brass Band composition

A Drogheda-born composer, Richard Rock, has created a piece for Brass Band called "Island of the Setting Sun", named after our book. The piece, which is 6 minutes long, was premiered in Britain by the Salford University Brass Band conducted by Howard Evans. The piece was inspired by the book, and features composer's notes which were compiled with the assistance of Anthony Murphy. Richard Rock plays tenor horn with the famous Yorkshire Building Society Band.

To see some of the score, click this link.

To hear a quick clip of the piece, click here.

Island of the Setting Sun for Brass Band is published by OffBeat Music Publishing. Click here for more details.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Welcome to the Island of the Setting Sun

Island of the Setting Sun is another title for Ireland, given to it, according to legend, by Amergin Glúngeal, the leader of the Milesians who came to take the island from the ruling Tuatha Dé Danann around 1700BC. As he stepped onto the shore of Inbher Colpa, the Boyne Estuary, Amergin said, "Who but I knows the place where the sun sets? Who but I knows the ages of the moon? What land is better than this island of the setting sun?"

'Island of the Setting Sun - In Search of Ireland's Ancient Astronomers' is the title of our book investigating the astronomical alignments and the cosmic undertones of Irish megalithic monuments and its myths. The book sold out after just one year and is currently on its second edition. Many people have commented on the breadth of the book and the wonderful journey it takes the reader on through history and myth.

We hope you enjoy this Blog. But if you would like more information about the book, along with hundreds of pages of information and thousands of photos relating to Ireland's ancient monuments, its myths and all the astronomical implications, then visit our long-established and hugely successful website,