Monday, November 12, 2012

Video captures incredible mystical vibe of Newgrange

This is a short video I made to try to capture some of the essence that is 'Newgrange: Monument to Immortality', featuring the extraordinary and visionary words of George William (AE) Russell, written in 1897, from 'A Dream of Angus Oge'. Russell wrote this at a time when the Newgrange aperture was apparently blocked up, and therefore the solstice illumination of the chamber was not possible. Russell claimed to have been psychic. Perhaps he was!! He appears to capture quite magnificently the magic and mysticism of Newgrange and the Tuatha Dé Danann.

In my new book I suggest that we need to reconnect with the magic of the Tuatha Dé Danann, who perhaps represent some aspect of our spirit and psyche that is now dormant. The video is an attempt to engender that spirit within us . . .

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pictures from Newgrange book launch

Chris McClintock, author of The Craft and the Cross, with myself at the launch.
This is me signing some books at the launch of Newgrange: Monument to Immortality
See more photographs from the launch of Newgrange: Monument to Immortality on Mythical Ireland.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Newgrange: Monument to Immortality now in the bookshops

My new book, 'Newgrange: Monument to Immortality', has just been published by The Liffey Press and will be available in bookshops this week. I am thrilled to say that the book looks fantastic, and contains no less than 127 colour photographs, which include many shots from inside Newgrange on the winter solstice and some spectacular 'fisheye' images from the interior of the passage and chamber.

The book appeared on the home page
The book is already attracting some major publicity, and was featured on the home page of the Irish Central website. The book will be launched this Friday, November 9th, at The Barbican in Drogheda, at 7pm. All welcome.

Newgrange: Monument to Immortality goes deep into the mind and soul of our neolithic ancestors to better understand what led them to build this remarkable monument. In a deeply moving, poetic and philosophical exploration, I look beyond the archaeology and the astronomy to reveal a much more profound and sacred vision of a sophisticated people who were driven to create this marvelous testament to their time.

The cover of my new book, Newgrange:
Monument to Immortality
But more than this, Newgrange: Monument to Immortality has a message for our troubled times of economic crisis and spiritual upheaval  Irish mythology speaks of many invasions which happened over the course of history and prehistory. The original gods of Ireland, the Tuatha Dé Danann, are said to have handed over the running of the country to the invading Milesians, and in doing so they retreated into the mounds and raths of Ireland where they await re-emergence in times of crisis. Has the time come for Irish people to enter the stone mounds and retrieve that dormant aspect of their spirit which finds itself suppressed by political, economic and religious forces in a turbulent world?

The message of Newgrange is an eternal one, and survives across more than five millennia, to speak to us of our long forgotten ancestors of yesteryear. That message is as relevant today as it has ever been, throughout the long centuries of oppression and imperialism. The magic of the Tuatha Dé Danann, representing the uplifting aspects of the Irish spirit and the Irish psyche, is alive today, but perhaps hidden in the dark chamber of Newgrange, awaiting the coming of the light.

With the Winter Solstice only weeks away, this is the perfect time to reflect upon the true meaning of Newgrange and the forces that drove its creators to construct such a remarkable memorial to their time. Newgrange is a monument to immortality, the eternal quest of the human spirit.

The book is available on and from The Liffey Press website.

Monday, July 23, 2012

New exhibition to feature photos of Newgrange and Boyne Valley monuments

The major historical landmarks of the Boyne Valley - along with a few lesser known ones - will feature in an evocative new exhibition by accomplished local photographer Pat Burns opening next week in Drogheda.

Swans on the Boyne in front of Newgrange, by Pat Burns.
The exhibition of highly atmospheric black and white prints is the result of five years of meticulous observation and many pre-dawn forays to catch the magical early morning light.

The exhibition, at the Abbey Gallery in Dominic Street, will feature rich moody images of Newgrange, the Hill of Slane, Monasterboice, Mellifont, Dunmoe Castle, Bective Abbey, Tara, Trim Castle, the cairns at Loughcrew and the standing stones at Baltray.

“For over 5,000 years, builders have left their mark in wonderful inscribed stone buildings and monuments across this ancient and historical countryside. It is a rich and royal landscape, home to high kings and druids, Christian saints, monks and monasteries,” says Pat, who hails from Laytown.

“The connecting thread in the landscape is the River Boyne from which the Valley takes its name.”

“The exhibition is an attempt to capture in black and white photographic images not only the beauty of the landscape of the Boyne Valley, but also the power, sense of mystery and atmosphere that still inhabits the place.”

“There's something palpable that still seems to cling to and live on in the castle ruins, in the high crosses and monasteries, the trees, standing stones, ancient mounds and along the river Boyne itself.”

Adds Pat: “The exhibition is not meant to be an in depth pictorial record of the Boyne Valley. Rather it is a personal visual homage to this place of myth, mystery and beauty.”

Pat is a self-taught photographer with a particular interest in documentary and landscape work. He has recorded many aspects of life and community in Laytown where he has lived for almost thirty years.

The exhibition will be opened by Anthony Murphy, co-author of Island Of The Setting Sun: In Search of Ireland's Ancient Astronomers, on Thursday July 26 at 7.30pm.

See more pictures at Mythical Ireland.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New book on Newgrange by Anthony Murphy

I am currently working on a new book about Ireland's most famous monument. The book, called 'Newgrange - Monument to Immortality', will be published by The Liffey Press in the autumn.

This new work explores Newgrange and its mysteries from many aspects and disciplines, including archaeology, astronomy and spirituality, and encompasses a broad-sweeping and philosophical examination of the big questions about Ireland's most famous monument. The book will contain lots of new colour photographs - none of which have been published before in any other book or on any website. These include photos from inside the passage and chamber on the winter solstice, when the sun shines into the heart of the monument.

A new blog site has been set up about the Newgrange book which can be found here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New Knowth book by Professor George Eogan launched

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, TD, today (Wednesday 20 June, 2012), commemorated 50 years of excavations by Professor George Eogan at the great passage tomb at Knowth, Co Meath, dating back to 3,000 BC. The occasion was marked by the launch of the fifth in a series of Knowth publications by Professor Eogan - ‘The Archaeology of Knowth in the First and Second Millennium AD’.

The Knowth passage tombs, along with those at Newgrange and Dowth, form part of the Brú na Bóinne archaeological complex inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.  The Brú na Bóinne tombs, in particular Knowth, contain the largest collection of megalithic art in Western Europe. The archaeological excavations on the site have contributed significantly to the knowledge of Ireland’s earliest farmers, including burial places, rituals, ceremonies and the sophistication of their society and economies.

“It is humbling to think” the Minister said “that some 5,000 years ago, when these tombs were built of the enormity of the effort which skilled craftsmen put into creating these tombs and passage ways.  These tombs are older than Stonehenge in England and they are also older than the Pyramids in Egypt.”

Describing the world heritage site at Brú na Bóinne as the jewel in the crown of our cultural heritage’, Minister Deenihan went onto say, “the wonderful carved stones, together with those at Newgrange and Dowth, constitute the largest collection of megalithic art in the world. I cannot over emphasise how important I believe it is for people to come and visit the Brú na Bóinne site and witness first-hand the magnitude of the feat which was achieved in building these mounds. It is by learning and honouring our past that we can appreciate the present”  added Minister Deenihan.

Minister Deenihan then presented Professor Eogan with a replica of the basin stone found in the tomb as a memento of his lifetime work at the site. The Minister remarked that Professor Eogan, who first discovered the passage tomb in 1968, ‘was probably the first person to see the chamber and the decorated stone basin since the 10th Century.’
The Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre, operated by the Office of Public Works, is open all year round, with access to Knowth available seven days a week from April to October.

The Archaeology of Knowth in the First and Second Millennium AD, is published by the Royal Irish Academy and can be purchased via their website -

Friday, June 8, 2012

Free summer solstice event at Beaghmore stone circles

Astronomers from the Armagh Observatory and the Irish Astronomical Association (IAA), and archaeologists from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), are joining forces on Thursday 21st June, the summer solstice (BST), for a day of fascinating and participative education and learning activities at Beaghmore Stone Circles, County Tyrone. The summer solstice marks the longest day of the year, and this year’s event follows the highly successful series of activities provided at this important Bronze-Age site last January as part of the BBC’s “Stargazing LIVE” programme.

Beaghmore Stone Circles. Photo: © Steve Emerson
Everyone is welcome to this event, which will showcase not just the astronomical alignments that are built into the site but also its puzzling archaeology and how these bits of the jigsaw fit into our understanding of the physical and historic landscape surrounding the site’s construction more than 4,000 years ago. In the morning, several schools have been invited to participate in archaeological and astronomical activities between 10:30 and 14:00.

Children and their teachers will hear how the Bronze-age people who built the stone circles and rows might have lived and how they constructed the stone circles. The children will learn how to make a stone circle and have a go at making a clay pot. They will also learn about the stars, planets and Seasons, and why the summer solstice is the longest day of the year. The astronomers participating in this morning session are supporting a new education and public outreach programme called European Universe Awareness (EU-UNAWE). This programme, which involves scientists in five European countries and South Africa, is funded through the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement 263325. It is directed mainly at young and disadvantaged children with the important aim of using the beauty and grandeur of the Universe to encourage them to have an interest in science and technology and a sense of global citizenship from the earliest age.

In the long term, EU-UNAWE will help to produce the next generation of engineers and scientists and raise awareness that we are all part of a much larger global and space-based European community. Universe Awareness (UNAWE) was founded five years ago and is already active in more than 40 countries comprising a network of almost 500 astronomers, teachers and educators worldwide. Later in the day, from 16:00 to 20:00 this free event is open to adults and families. Here, they will have the opportunity to participate in astro-archaeological tours at 17:00 and 19:00, led by NIEA archaeologist Claire Foley and astronomer Mark Bailey, Director of Armagh Observatory. Weather permitting, visitors will also have a chance, courtesy of members of the Irish Astronomical Association, to obtain a safe view of the Sun through special astronomical telescopes and, under the supervision of NIEA archaeologists, to participate in a real research survey into the surrounding peat bog to see if further stones can be identified by “bog probing”.

 The Beaghmore Stone Circle complex, County Tyrone, is located roughly halfway between Cookstown and Omagh, close to An Creagán and approximately an hour’s drive from either Armagh or Belfast. It is one of the most important stone-circle sites on the island of Ireland and discovered less than a hundred years ago during peat cutting in the 1940s and 1950s. There are three pairs of open stone circles and a single in-filled one built of quite low stones, and each circle is associated with a double alignment or “stone row” pointing roughly in the direction of midsummer sunrise or midwinter sunset. The combination of circles and alignments at Beaghmore is matched at other sites in Northern Ireland, and many, but by no means all, appear to have been designed as pointers to parts of the horizon that saw the rising or setting of the Sun or Moon.