from Amergin's chant against a sunset at the Boyne Estuary. Click
the year 1694, according to the Annals, the Milesians arrived in Ireland
to take it from the Tuatha Dé Danann. The leader of this Spanish
invasion, Amergin, set foot on the shore of Inbher Colpa, the Boyne Estuary,
and chanted some very famous lines, including: "Who but I knows the
place where the Sun sets?"and "Who but I knows the ages of the
Speculation abounds as to the true meaning of the invasion myths. Some
think they are purely myths, the invention of fertile ancient minds; others,
that they are pseudo-historical accounts, a sort of embellished history
of an old Ireland shrouded in myth, magic and mystery; others still believe
that the myths record actual events, but were expanded and exaggerated
to include some sort of arcane knowledge so that the stories could be
used as the vehicles for transporting scientific knowledge from one generation
to the next. Was Amergin a real man, or was he purely a mythical invention,
a mysterious being immortalized in words but lacking in subtance?
Sandy Dunlop, one of the founders of the Bard group, said at a recent
talk that when most people wonder about mythology, they ask, "Is
it true?". Mr. Dunlop suggested a more appropriate question would
be "Is the myth useful?"
"Who but I knows the ages of the Moon?", Amergin asked as he
planted his foot on the fertile soil along the Boyne Estuary. There are
two significant "ages" of the Moon. There is its 18.6-year eclipse
cycle, also known as the 'Saros'cycle, which brings the lunar nodes once
around the heavens, through the Zodiac.
After this period, eclipses repeat themselves in regular, predictable
and recordable patterns. Then there is the Moon's 19-year cycle, which
brings the phases of the Moon back to the same background stars once again.
This is called the Metonic
Cycle, after a Greek called Meton who apparently discovered the phenomenon
back in the fifth century BC.
If Amergin was an astronomer, he was not the first in the Boyne Valley.
markings on the Calendar Stone at Knowth.
on the so-called "Calendar
Stone" at Knowth have been interpreted to show that there were
competent astronomers studying the lunar movements along the Boyne as
long ago as 3300BC, and probably earlier. These markings would appear
to suggest that both Meton and Amergin were a little bit late with their
astronomical knowledge, and that the real pioneer astronomers had lived
and died many centuries previously - in Meton's case nearly 3,000 years
local folklore, Amergin is said to be buried at the Millmount in Drogheda.
The modern-day monument is famous for its Martello tower, first built
as a defensive fortification when the British built their military barracks
at Millmount in the early 1800s. The name Millmount is said to be derived
from a mill which once sat atop the mound, owned by a man called Delahoyde.
But the name, whether through coincidence or purpose, commemorates the
man said to be buried underneath. Amergin and his brothers were sons of
a Spanish king called Mil, hence the collective name Milesians. Their
brother, Colpa, was drowned during the tempestuous clash with Dé
Danann magic as they tried to land. He is said to be buried under a mound
not far from the spot downstream from Millmount where Amergin was said
to have landed. The road leading to Colpa's mound from the river is called,
again perhaps coincidentally, the Mill road.
Millmount in Drogheda.
know Millmount was important in ancient times. The annals say it was one
of the great monuments of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and record that
it was plundered by the Vikings in the Ninth Century, along with Newgrange,
Knowth and Dowth.
We know that Newgrange,
Knowth and Dowth
all have astronomical functions. Newgrange is the most famous of the three
and its winter solstice alignment is known around the world. Richard
Moore and myself have been carrying out research into Millmount and
the Boyne Valley and its myths and astronomy for five years. We have found
some very interesting evidence which might help explain the meaning of
some of the myths. "What land is better than this island of the setting
sun?", "Who but I knows the place where the sun sets?"
The first interesting significance about these lines is the date of the
arrival of the Milesians - the feast of Bealtaine, 1694. Bealtaine, which
falls at the beginning of May, is said to be one of the Celtic cross-quarter
days, dating back to a time when the calendar year was organised into
eight sections, divided by the solstices, equinoxes and cross-quarter
days. However, there is evidence aplenty that the cross-quarter days were
important back in the Stone Age when Newgrange and Knowth were constructed.
Bealtaine would have marked the beginning of the "bright half"
of the year, with Samhain, at the beginning of November, the celebration
of Hallowe'en, marked the beginning of the dark half.
the day the Milesians arrived in Ireland, May 1st, 1694BC, the Sun was
located in he hand of Orion, one of two points in the sky where the Sun's
path crosses the Milky Way, the heavenly Boyne River, the Bealach na Bó
Finne, the "Way of the Bright Cow".
The second significance of Amergin's chant about the Sun and Moon is connected
with Millmount's astronomical alignments.
On Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the day on which the
sunrise penetrates into the chamber of Newgrange, a person standing on
Millmount would see the sun setting in the direction of the Hill
Hill of Tara. Click
to go there.
one story, Tara is said to be named after the mythical queen Tea, who
asked Amergin to choose the most beautiful hill in Ireland upon which
she would be buried and her descendants would rule. Amergin chose for
her the "Druim Cain", the "Beautiful Hill", which
would become known as Temair after the queen.
When Amergin's brothers Eremon and Eber assumed kingship of Ireland, they
divided the country into two and the dividing line was the Boyne river.
Local folklore records that Millmount itself was a dividing marker. West
of Millmount is the Hill of Slane, upon which is another mound which is
said to be the burial place of the Fir Bolg King, Sláine.
The Fir Bolg divided Ireland into five kingdoms, not of equal size, with
Sláine taking the largest portion, again with the Boyne acting
as a dividing boundary.
at the Hill of Slane viewed from Millmount in Drogheda on March
22nd, 2004, the night the High Man poster was launched at Millmount.
the time of Spring Equinox, the sun viewed from Millmount sets over the
Hill of Slane. Here we have
an interesting correlation between events in the sky and the monuments
on the ground. On its journey through the zodiac, the Sun spends half
the year north of the Milky Way, and half the year south.
On the ground, the sunsets viewed from Millmount spend half the year north
of the Boyne river and half the year south. On May 1st, 1694, when Amergin
landed, the Sun was in the Milky Way, and would spend the following six
months north of the Milky Way before crossing over the river again at
one half year plus another half year equals one whole year. (Obviously).
This was the length of time Eber and Eremon ruled Ireland under a joint
sovereignty agreement before things turned sour. The two boys, spurred
on by their women, became jealous of each other and each desired the sole
kingship of Ireland. So they battled to the death, and Eremon killed his
brother to become the king of all Ireland.
Orion Nebula setting over the Hill of Tara. An observer at Millmount
would see Orion setting in the direction of Tara. Click this image
for a larger view.
means Eremon would have become king of Ireland on the feast of Bealtaine,
Back in the Neolithic, long before Amergin and the boys came to Ireland,
the constellation Orion had another major significance. The constellation
at that time would appear to rise and set in the direction of Winter Solstice
sunrise and sunset, the events which were targeted by the chambers of
Newgrange and Dowth. We can imagine a giant man, or warrior, placing his
feet on the earth as he set. If Millmount is as old as Newgrange, this
would mean its builders would have seen Orion setting in the direction
of Tara. Specifically, the Orion Nebula marked the exact point of Winter
Solstice sunset. Interestingly, if we continue the Winter Solstice line
Orion Nebula setting over the Hill of Tara and beyond that at Carbury
Well, the source of the Boyne. Click for large view.
Tara and onwards, it eventually meets Carbury Well in Co.Kildare, the
mythical rising place of the Boyne.
The story of the drowning of
Bóann links the source of the Boyne and the estuary. Bóann
approached Nechtain’s well, which she was not supposed to do. Nechtain
was her husband, by the way. The well was guarded by three cup bearers.
We have speculated that the Orion Nebula could be the mythical Nechtain's
Well of the sky, and that as Orion set over Carbury viewed from Millmount,
the Nechtain's Well of the sky was seen to connect with the Nechtain's
Well on the ground. Thus also was the source of the Boyne at Carbury linked
up with the estuary (Millmount), as the story implies.
Some time between the Stone Age and the date given for the arrival of
Amergin, the very bright star 'Rigel' would have marked out Tara as viewed
from Millmount. Rigel is one of the oldest Arabic star names, and means
"foot". It is the sixth brightest star in the entire night sky,
out of a total visible count of 6,500 stars.
Amergin's epithet was "Glúingeal", meaning "fair
knee" or "bright knee". Taken literally, what does this
mean? Did Amergin get up every morning and polish his right knee until
it shone? As an astronomical myth, it could be an effort to describe the
constellation Orion and the bright star Rigel. Was Amergin, the self-proclaimed
"Gigantic, Sword-Wielding Champion", really a constellation
of the night sky - Orion?
has long been seen, by many people in many nations, as a giant man in
the sky, sometimes a hunter, sometimes a warrior, sometimes a god. It
is one of those few constellations which actually looks like what it is
supposed to represent.
belt stars point to Sirius, the Dog Star, the brightest star in the entire
sky. His rising heralds the arrival of that most luminous of stars. Again
back in the Stone Age, Sirius was important because it shared the same
rising and setting positions as the Winter Solstice sun.
beam of sunlight on the floor of the chamber at Newgrange
means the Dog Star would have been visible from the chamber of Newgrange
every night as it rose over the hill of Redmountain, a fact not lost on
author William Battersby who refers to this fact in his book about Newgrange.
We’ve often wondered if this was why three dog skeletons were found
in the chamber of Newgrange during excavations? At Millmount, Sirius would
have marked the location of Tara when it was setting.
From the standing stones at Baltray,
near the mouth of the Boyne, Sirius would have risen at the islands of
over 15 miles away.
These islands were said to have been formed by Bóann's lapdog,
Dabilla, which was drowned with her after the rising waters from Nechtain’s
Well washed her out to sea when the Boyne was formed. The Winter Solstice
alignment of Baltray was discovered
in 1999 by myself, Richard Moore and Michael Byrne.
It is quite probable the megalithic builders knew the significance of
Orion and Sirius. A beautifully decorated kerbstone
at Newgrange could, we think, contain representations of Orion's Belt
stars. Now that we've had an introduction to the giant man of the heavens,
we turn to the giant warrior on the ground, the "High Man".
This is the gigantic figure of a warrior-like man, etched into the landscape
by a system of roads near the east coast of Ireland in an area called
Ferrard, which means "High Man". Measuring 12 miles from top
to bottom, the incredibly human-like character looms large on a very sacred
and historical landscape.
It may seem odd that such a life-like figure should exist in the road
network, and it may seem that only extraordinary chance could result in
such an outstanding visual icon. But what if this gargantuan individual
was not the result of chance, but rather the exceptional brilliance of
an ancient design? In the context of the Irish mythical and archaeological
environment, this high hero finds himself in the most eminent area of
the entire country. He has his legs planted in the Boyne, Ireland's foremost
sacred river in ancient times; he lies on an area rich in archaic myth
and abundant in tales of giant mythical heroes; and within his boundaries
lie Newgrange, Knowth
and Dowth - the foremost
Irish monuments, rich in astronomy, legend and art.
the burial place of Amergin "bright knee", marks the "knee"
star of Orion on the ground.
the burial place of Amergin of the "bright knee", marks the
knee of this giant figure. Another great mythical champion who often had
his feet planted in the waters of a river was Cúchulainn, the principal
character of the epic Táin
Bó Cuailnge. Cúchulainn is firmly connected with Newgrange
- his spiritual father Lugh having visited his mother Dechtine during
her time there and magically impregnated her. He was described in the
Táin as "a huge,
high hero . . . vast as a Fomorian giant".
of the action in this legendary saga is concentrated in an area known
long ago as Muirthemhne, but which today is called County Louth, after
Cúchulainn’s spiritual father, Lugh Lamhfada, Lugh of the
Long Arm. Muirthemhne was "the plan which Cúchulainn called
Táin describes Cúchulainn as having a gold-hilted sword
in a high clasp on his belt, its ivory guard decorated with gold, a description
befitting of the constellation Orion. Many of Cúchulainn's battles
took place at river fords - crossing points - so it is fitting when gazing
upon Orion to see him stand beneath one of the two fords of the sky, the
crossing point of the Moon and planets over the Milky Way. It is also
fitting that Louth village, named after Cúchulainn's father Lugh,
marks this crossing point above the giant man. Louth was said to have
been the centre of an ancient Sun cult.
Also interesting is the fact that Drogheda, or Droichead Átha,
was a known fording point or crossing point on the Boyne in ancient times
and marks the point where the High Man's leg meets the water.
We heard about Nechtain earlier on. He was an archetypal Orion-like figure
and a Tuatha Dé Danann king also known as Nuadu Silver-Arm. As
we said already, it was supposedly Nechtain's well, at Carbury, Co. Kildare,
which gave rise to the Boyne River after his wife Bóann (the bright
cow/Moon) had approached it.
Nechtain's arm was famously chopped off in battle and replaced by the
healer Diancecht with a new silver arm. Orion's upraised arm is shrouded
by the Milky Way – the heavenly Boyne – which was described
as the 'Great Silver Yolk'.
It is interesting to note that this mythical episode may have provided
some inspiration for George Lucas' Star Wars movies. In Star Wars Part
V (the second movie in the original trilogy), Luke Skywalker confronts
the evil Darth Vader, against the advice of his peers. During this confrontation,
Vader reveals he is Luke's father, and during their fighting, Luke's hand
is chopped off by Darth Vader. Later in the film, we see Luke getting
a new hand, a robotic limb which works perfectly, just like the old hand!
interesting link with the movies ties Lord of the Rings in with Ardee!
Local legend says that in the last days, a mythical six-fingered hero
will take a sword out of the stone in Garrett's
Fort, and rouse the mythical enchanted army which is said to be sleeping
there. This sounds very much like the great King Arthur, and may well
be an Irish variant of the same story. In the third film of the Lord of
the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King, which by itself sounds like
a messianic prediction, Aragorn goes into a cave and uses the sword of
the king to rouse the dead army, who help him fight on the Pelennor fields
and win the battle. Amazing stuff! All based on mythical literature, apparently.
Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien did spend some time in Ireland,
surprise, surprise. Anyway, this great hero figure will return for the
glory of Ireland according to some versions. His appearance, along with
the re-emergence of the black pig from his hideout at Carrickanane, between
Collon and Drogheda, Co. Louth, signal the last days of this earth.
Copyright © Anthony Murphy, 2004.
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