As we near ‘An Grianstad’ (Gaelic for Midsummer and literally translates as ‘Sun Stop’) I am so excited to mark the Summer Solstice with my Druid tribe. I thought it would be apt, as my contribution to this wonderful Blog, to showcase and share some of the sites I have had the privilege of visiting and communing with over the years, not just in Ireland, but beyond. And I have to start at the beginning, at the original sin. I wanted to share with you a very ancient site in the Comeragh Mountains in Co Waterford, Ireland. I don’t have any imperative proof that it’s midsummer aligned, but it seems that way to me, regardless, it is entirely special and very sacred.
I’m not an archaeologist but I am stone mad and I’ve had this long held belief that no Megalithic or Neolithic or Prehistoric Monument stands alone or in isolation. They all exist in relation to another monument or feature on the landscape and or the cosmos. I think of them sometimes like points on one global synapsis or web of connection. This standing stone called ‘Carraigeen’ has a whole towns land named in its honour and it sits snugly in a gap to the east in the Nire Valley in the Comeragh Mountains in Co. Waterford, Ireland.
People often ask me about my fascination with stones. It is very difficult to give a succinct answer to that question. It’s a deeply spiritual thing and well, that is just so subjective. How do I tell people that stones speak to me and not have them calling urgently for the men and women in white coats? I have stone radar, of this there is no doubt and my trips and travels are almost entirely centred around them, directly or indirectly.
My wonder lies almost entirely with anything megalithic, but primarily with the construct of stone monuments on the landscape and their relationship with both the surrounding countryside and any astrological alignment it may have. No megalith that I’ve ever seen, stands entirely alone, they always have a relationship with another monument and/or the moon or the sun or a star.
I grew up in a Bronze Age landscape, one that was a lot untouched by time and amongst a people who seeped nature’s innate knowledge. The field systems around me were all D shaped, and stone lined. There were dips and barrows and stone rows and circles and mounds and hollows and cairns and replenishing wells and oak woodland. Each had a higher power, a deity or a druid association and all such places had to be respected. My people held them in great reverence.
One such place is a standing stone in the middle of the Gap in the Comeraghs between the Nire Valley and Rathgormack and an ancient routeway or “Bealach”, found in the towns land of Carraigeen which means ‘little stone or rock’. It stands solidly upright about 2.5 m tall with a WNW-ESE orientation. It looks like ochre sandstone that glints with quartz. It tapers to a point at it’s peak which has a little notch indent in it and this is aligned to a point on the mountains beyond. It is completely without adornment commanding stunning views and simply speaks for itself. The Nire River tumbles past beneath.
Some people say it was a marker post, a half way point on an ancient funeral road, others say it is a boundary marker. I see the shadow it casts, its alignment to other Bronze Age sites and mostly I just see it’s stalwartness. It has stood there for thousands of years, holding the secrets of the ages within it. There is this energy that I see around it, a translucent glow, as if it eminates a life force almost. For me, it brings peace.
Such stones in Ireland have a sacred dimension and were especially significant to the Druids and their divinations. They are shrouded in intrigue and many carry mystical powers. Stones like the Lia Fail on Tara for example spoke like an oracle and claimed the sovereignty of kings. Most standing stones date to Neolithic and provide evidence that our ancestors had masonry skills to cut, move, and assemble them with an accuracy and precision that is perplexing. There is a secret in every standing stone.