In Ireland when we think of Winter Solstice we mostly think of Newgrange. The sun shines in its chamber every winter solstice morning.
We don’t, however, give much thought to Dowth, a monument equivalent in size to the original Newgrange. At Dowth, the setting sun is in alignment with its chamber the evening before Winter Solstice morning.
On any given winter solstice about 4 to 500 people brave the cold morning to honour the solstice for themselves. However, only a handful of people honour the sunset alignment the evening before at Dowth.
If our ancient ancestors just wanted to honour the New Year rebirth of the sun, then Newgrange alone would have been enough. The very existence of Dowth gives us a clue as to how our ancestors viewed the changing of the seasons.
The word Dowth comes from the old Irish “Dubhadh” meaning “darkness”. It is clear from Dowth’s equivalent size to Newgrange that the honouring of darkness held a significant place in our ancestors’ consciousness. If one was to be objective it looks like they honoured the darkness as much as the light and gave the darkness a special place in their folklore.
To honour one side of the coin while pretending the other side does not exist is not being very aware. The ancestors of Ireland were obviously mystics themselves, recognising the reality of opposites existing. To honour one side (the light) would mean not honouring the whole and living in denial.
In the words of the Lao Tzu the Taoist mystic “there can be no dark without light, love without hate, man without woman”. Lao Tzu also talked about the light of creation being born from the infinite darkness. The Sufi mystic Rumi says “what hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.” So what can we learn from this and how does our society honour the darkness?
From the period of Samhain to Winter Solstice we energetically (both solar and personal) with nature go deeper into the darkness. The winter solstice offers us not only the opportunity to celebrate the rebirth of the light but also its transition from darkness.
It is in the rebirth of light that brings hopes, aspirations and our prayers giving vision for the year ahead. It is in the celebration of the darkness that honours the year past, the wisdom gained, the letting go of that which is no longer serving us.
If we don’t celebrate the darkness before the light on winter solstice we don’t make space for the rebirthing energy, space for the new and the fresh.
The great wisdom in the Boyne Valley monuments are there for all people living on this land. To make conscious each year the very cycles of life that keep the world in balance. The monuments still stand in all their wisdom as an invitation to us from Ireland’s ancient ancestors, to come home to wholeness, to healing and to bring the darkness to the light and the light to darkness.