Tonight will be longest night of the year. The exact solstice moment occurs at 1:08 AM Saturday morning, Atlanta time. So happy winter solstice, everyone!
This means that at Newgrange in Ireland, probably starting yesterday and running through Monday, the annual solstice event is occurring, meaning that for just a few minutes each morning — weather permitting — the sun will shine directly into the heart of this megalithic tomb. Even though it is about 5,000 years old, this ancient structure is perfectly aligned so that the winter solstice sunrise briefly shines directly into its heart, casting light into chambers that the rest of the year would lie in serene darkness.
We know so little about what our ancestors believed. Clearly, to build a tomb like Newgrange (which easily took several generations to complete) with such a precise astronomical alignment speaks not only to a profound reverence for the dead, but also a deep knowledge of the environment — and, we may presume, some sort of conviction about immortality. The form those beliefs may have taken, of course, has been lost in the mists of time. All that is left is a massive structure, which after millennia stands as a silent testimony to an ancient wisdom long lost.
It begs the question: what other forms of knowledge or wisdom have been lost to us? And what will take to regain such insight?
Good questions for us as we reflect on the longest night of the year, and the anticipated return of the sun.
N.B. My apologies to readers from the southern hemisphere — hope you have a joyful summer solstice!