At Newgrange, Ireland an ancient Celtic site was uncovered, trees removed, earth cleared, an entrance found, a doorway to a long-lost tunnel with a mysterious horizontal opening above the door. It was years before they figured it out: On the shortest day of the year, December 21st, the sun, having gone as far south as it could, paused in the southern hemisphere and began to return north. On the 22nd of December, at the first light of dawn, sunlight entered the box widow above the door traveling down a 60 foot hallway tunnel to a back wall, illuminating a triple spiral chiseled in stone.
The Newgrange location is the site of one of the finest places in Europe where the Celts lived and built a monument to the celebration of the return of the sun with triple spirals. The picture above is the entrance to the ancient monument.
This is the light of dawn, the light of the rising sun at Newgrange, Ireland, following the longest night of the year, marking the turn of the seasons and the return of the sun, a new beginning and a welcome to a new year. At the end of the tunnel is the triple spiral. This is the first day in gold.
Here is another view of the Return of the Sun necklace against a blue sky. These ancient inspired necklaces and earrings glint in gold in the morning’s full sun. These are our newest favorites. Their golden glow is what we imagine was the feeling of the Celts when the sun reached the back of the tunnel.
Our the Return of the Sun earrings and necklace are gold, the Celtic dream of the sun, slightly smaller than a dime. Earrings shimmer and shine and move to your rhythm. Necklace has a golden bail–the beams of early sunlight in the tunnel. The light of dawn and the return of the sun is your new beginning.
And 3,000 Years of Celtic History
I went to Ireland for 10 days and spent 5 hours a day with John O’Donohue. One member of our group had studied O’Donohue for years and John was the sole reason she came. She had stars in her eyes for the first three days leading up to meeting him. After day one with John, I too had stars in my eyes. Never before, or since, have I met anyone who talked and spoke about the land and time, the soul, wind and rain. He spoke in poetry and with rhythm, rhyme, and a cadence you could sink your teeth and soul into. For me it was a spiritual experience. O’Donohue was channeling 3,000 years of Irish Celtic history.
We stood on the cliffs of Inishmore, 300 feet above the sea at the Black Fort and were suspended above, spellbound by the mystery. We stood in graveyards filled with Celtic crosses sculpted and detailed, as John held forth on history and who was buried beneath our feet and how their lives, the land, the very soil held the country’s memories. We went into the hills and the Burren of County Clare to study the mystery of dolmens. John was a walking, living Celtic history. We were his acolytes for a week.
We listened to John at breakfast as he spoke of the details of life. If John had been a Celtic Druid Priest our group of twenty would have joined. I returned home changed. I returned home someone different, feeling my land and trees in ways I’d never felt before. I had connected with my people, my ancestors, the Celts, in a deep and profound way. -R.H.P.
We Went to a Garden Party
We went to a sculpture garden party and sale. It was upcountry, far out in the woods. I was reluctant to lose a perfectly good summer day, but Nancy insisted I go. It was an old farmhouse, updated with new windows and hardwood floors. It was built on a hillside with fields, gardens, and an apple orchard. We wandered the property and viewed 25 rock sculptures, some finely crafted with smooth and polished surfaces, many large, requiring a front end loader to move.
It was nicely presented. There was wine and cheese, tags on each installation listing the name of the piece, the artist, and the price. The property was big; we wandered for a long time looking at stone art.
It was sunny and warm. It would have been a great day for boating. It was such a waste to have to put on a clean, newly pressed shirt, pants with a crease, shoes with laces and to have to drive for 50 minutes…it was a waste. I was convinced it was a waste…
Until somewhere near the end, under the shade of an old oak tree, I saw a wide flat granite table perched on big stones 3 feet off the ground. It stopped me. I stood. I’d never seen anything like it. I’d never seen any stone so beautiful. 6 – 8 feet across, a natural weathered salt and pepper top with a huge spiral carved into the surface. The spiral had 6 or 8 sweeps, big, bold sweeps. The groove was 1 ½ – 2 inches deep. And the magic, what stopped me, what held me, the spirals had been inlaid with soft green moss…petting moss. I’d never seen anything like it.
We went back up to the farmhouse for another glass of white wine, crackers and cheese then came back down. There were no chairs; there should have been at least two chairs. We talked, we petted the moss. We set our glasses on the table and the dish with cheese. We went for another walk to see again the other stone sculptures and to see how it would feel to discover this beauty again. It was good; it was even better the second time. We petted the moss, talked about where we would put the table. I was struck that on a typical walk in the woods rarely does one ever get down on hands and knees to pet moss. This rock, its spiral and moss just cried out to be touched, to be petted.
We looked, touched, hung around for an inappropriately long time. We could have bought it. We had a place for it, actually several shady oak tree spots. If they had two chairs, a bottle of white wine, empty glasses, cheese and crackers at the table they would have had us. I know we would have relaxed into it. It would have been so easy to bring their front end loader from around the back of the barn to load it up and deliver the spiral. If they had the two chairs we would have bought it. I know we would have. I’ve regretted the granite moss spiral loss ever since.
Some part of me knows the spiral as my ancestors knew spirals. Ten, twenty, thirty generations ago. The Scottish Highland branch of my family, I’m certain, knew a Druid or two.
The Celts in ancient history radiate out through multiple branches of my family lineage. The Celts carved woven patterns into iron tools and stone. They made jewelry too. Beautiful sculptural, decorative jewelry carved with patterns of nature and their culture. I can feel their patience and passion.
There are times an opportunity presents, we consider, we ponder, we think, we dither, we pass and then for years and years and years we regret. I truly wish I’d gone back up to the farmhouse and said, “We’ll take it. When can you deliver?” -R.H.P
And the Druids of Blue Mountain
These are our ancestors. I know they are mine, and perhaps your ancestors too.
I know them. I own them. I can feel them in my bones. The Druids were Celts. All our ancestors were somewhere, living, breathing, walking around, talking, learning, loving.
This painting captures a moment. Was it real? Did it really happen? Yes and no. Is there a Blue Mountain? I don’t know… probably. This painting stepped out of someone’s imagination and it probably captures a shard, a piece of some echo of a memory, passed down through a hundred, a thousand generations.
We all have historical memories, some more clear than others. This painting has haunted me for several years. It was at the antique store at Fort Andross, Maine. Every time I passed it I was drawn in, its ghostly images call out to me. I know this place. I know these people. They believed in nature. Were they perfect? No. They were successful enough that I have descended from them and I am here in the 21st century to speak to this memory.
Why all this Druid talk? The Druids were Celts, lovers of intricate knot patterns and lovers of wind, rain, blue skies and sunshine, lovers of the coming of spring and the finality of fall. They were close to the earth. I can smell the wood smoke. I can see the hearth fires burning.
In fact, when you look at what the Celts did in metalwork… they were masters. There are volumes written on Celtic art. They were so prolific, so obsesses with beautiful detailing, it was like they couldn’t make a metal tool without decorating it beautifully. Then there was the jewelry: great gifts and treasures to humanity that we are still deriving inspiration from. The present day Irish are the inheritors of much of this grand Celtic art.
What we share with you today is for the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day, and the Irish, the keepers of Celtic traditions.
Inspired by the Celts and their love of knot patterns, both of these items we describe in greater detail.
Earth, Air, Water
In the Maine Woods
My daughters went to science camp—their very first experience away from home, on the shore of a lake in Maine, with beautiful woods, puffins off the coast, their first sleep-away camp experience.
When parents arrived on the last day, there was a presentation and slideshow, and as a grown-up, I felt like it was totally unfair that the kids got to have all the fun, one of the most memorable images from long ago was a large round stone table at the base of a rustic amphitheater. Into the surface of the table, a spiral had been carved by hand, and over the years, the carving had filled in with moss it was beautiful and mesmerizing. The camp used it as a focal point, gathering young people in a circle around it to reflect on their time at camp. When my daughter explained it to me, it seemed like something everyone should have.
Spirals lead us on, but take us back at the same time, back, back, back to the origin—the origin of an idea, the origin of an experience. I have to believe that the spiral table helps to keep those memories clear, so that the lessons are well learned and challenges accepted. The beauty of it all remains for many years. -K.B.P
I am a doodler. Teachers and bosses have not always appreciated the benefits of my doodling, but I am a firm believer that doodling helps me stay focused—it is a tool when I feel my attention wavering, and while I think everyone may be unique, I am probably not alone in realizing that spirals are one of my “go to” doodles.
In the margins of my notes, the spirals that appear are there to keep me engaged, to help me to listen actively, to reflect and to imagine. I think everyone should doodle when they take notes! I have never made the leap to laptop notetaking—but I hope that if there is not a way to doodle, that there is someone working on that! -K.B.P.
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