Monday, December 20, 2010

Grianstad an Gheimhridh (Winter Solstice)

Winter Solstice in Newgrange.

If there is any place else I'd rather be in the world tomorrow it is at Newgrange in Ireland. The light of the sun and the moon will appear in the chamber together for the first time in the 5,200 years since it was built. Yes, Newgrange is older than the pyramids of Egypt and if you haven't visited there, you must. It is one of those places that stays with you forever.

For the first time in 450 years the sun will flood through the chambers at Newgrange as the moon passes out of a rare total lunar eclipse.

Astronomer Prof Tom Ray of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies told the Irish Times that the last time the Winter Solstice and a full lunar eclipse coincided the Tudors were in power in England.

What is even most magical is that the light from the sun and moon will appear in the chamber at Newgrange together.

Prof Ray said “That will happen at exactly eight minutes to nine. The two happen to coincide to within a minute.”

Newgrange was built 5,200 years ago making them older that the Pyramids in Egypt. Prof Ray said this is the first time moon and sun light would have entered Newgrange’s chambers together since the monument was built.

The Irish Times questioned him as to whether this could have some special significance or messages. He said “I don’t do astrology”.

Hundreds will travel to Meath tomorrow to see the solstice event at Newgrange but only a handful, chosen by lottery, will be in the chamber at sunrise. The light enters the chamber due to very fine alignment, through a shoebox-sized gap about the entrance.

Total lunar eclipses are not very rare but only occur every couple of year. Astronomy Ireland Association said the next will not be visible in Ireland until 2015.

Astronomy Ireland have explained the lunar eclipse as follows: “Just before sunrise on the Winter Solstice 2010, a Full Moon will turn red as it rests just above the western horizon. This event is known as a total lunar eclipse, as the Moon will move into Earth’s shadow. From 6:32am, you will be able to see the Moon gradually get darker as Earth’s shadow is cast upon it, and at 7:40am the Moon will have entered totality

And a happy, magical Solstice to all you pagans out there!


  1. Wow - I knew it was full moon and Solstice tonight - I hadn't realised the Newgrange coincidence, too - oh, to be amongst those people there!

  2. We were lucky to have clear skies here in Yorkshire in northern England. Set my alarm for 6.15am and was able to watch it until 7.20am when it had reached totality and everything went black.

    Venus was also very bright in the Southeastern sky. She has been retrograde and is now stationary ready to turn direct again.

    Fabulous sky at sunrise and a clear sky with sun over the snow now. Absolutely beautiful.

    Temperature about -4C. The UK is in the freezer!

    Marry Christmas to everyone.

  3. Oops, should have read Merry. Not sure how many will want to Marry at Christmas in this weather :-)

  4. I've been there, but not at solstice.
    Pretty spooky.

  5. I bet the astrologers have all sorts of fancy explanations for the coincidence. But a fascinating coincidence is all it is. I keep meaning to visit Newgrange but I haven't done so yet.

  6. I felt a bit underwhelmed by all the eclipse stuff, WWW. I must be becoming astrologically jaded.
    These are cycles - significant but regular cycles.

    But at this point in the cycle it's good to greet our buddies - and I do so warmly. Happy Whatevers to all!

  7. From one pagan to another - Happy Solstice! Sadly, we had thick clouds all night. At least it meant I wasn't 'bog-eyed' this morning.

  8. Apparently the moon turned blood red for those who were able to see it (not me in the cloudy south of England, and not on the canal in any case, because the moon was only just above the horizon and could only be seen from high ground). Apparently the blood red is the usual observation at eclipses (red light bends best)and was interpreted by the ancients, who knew very well the coincidence of the moon's cycle with women's, of a sign of the moon returning fertility.

    Since I knew I wouldn't see it I stayed under the duvet. As Rossa says, the UK is in the freezer.

    But I celebrated the solstice this evening with a small party on my boat: for the next six months the days will get steadily longer -- but I thought if I didn't light fires and candles and bake food and drink wine, the sun might change her mind.

  9. I can't believe I didn't know about that. Our news round here is almost exclusively about the weather conditions. I am so bored with the weather I could scream. It is the sole topic of any conversation among the English.

    It's been lovely getting to you know WWW, have a happy and peaceful Christmas.


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