Spring Equinox 2012

The monument is aligned to the rising sun of the equinox, its beam effectively halving  its inside into a northern and southern part. At entering through the gate the circa 3 feet wide beam reaches the lower stones of the wall opposite. It seems very likely that the stone-lined path found at its discovery would have been of approximately the same width. Higher the morning sun rises shorter the beam becomes, moving slightly from south to north by circa 15°.
Since the so called drain is within such narrow proximity, I suspect that it may have been moved and the light could have touched either the small aperture or even ran through the full thickness of the wall to appear on the other side, which would not only have been a rather remarkable spectacle but also some stroke of ingenuity.
The direction of the beam also points towards the Seven Sisters, part of the Derryveagh Mountains, prominent visible from Grianán to the west. Perhaps it is no coincident that the star cluster of the Pleiades also carries the name of the Seven Sisters and I will need to come back at dusk to see where the sun is setting and if my non-existing knowledge of the night sky will allow me to detect the cluster, so evidently featured in ancient art – weather permitting.

14 thoughts

  1. Truly stunning. I have looked for solstice significance in the structure for years without success. Now I know why. It’s the Equinox. Many thanks for this. Class pictures. Did you discover this yourself, or were you already aware of it?

  2. Dear Chris,

    Many thanks for your comment.
    The Grianán has become over the last years my centre of attention. As a result I noticed its most unusual and impractical position on the hill, sitting on the beginning of the southern slope and therefore weakening the integrity of the structure, eliminating its use as a stronghold of any description. Only an alignment to something would justify such risk to the stability of the monument. Being where we are, so far north, the sun would not rise through the gate on summer or winter solstice, leaving spring and autumn equinox. Once that became clear, all I had to do was wait for the sun to rise on either date. I tried last September but the clouds moved in before the sun reached the gate. A hint was given to me by a friend, which last year confirmed my suspicions, about a ‘strange’ occurrence her father and uncle had many years ago of the sunlight coming through the gate in the early hours of the morning. I sent her an email with the request of showing the photos to them both because this might not necessarily be what they saw and I would be very interested to find out what other alignments there are, suspecting that there might be more.

    With all the best wishes,

  3. I am just about to publish a short book entitled Columba – the last Irish Druid. It deals with the curious stones of Glencolmcille and my belief that that valley was home to the last sun-worshippers in Ireland – and that Columba, rather than cast them aside, welcomed them into the Celtic Church.

    This Grianán thing fits very well with the point I am making, and I thought perhaps I could include it in the epilogue. I would of course credit you with the discovery. (haven’t stopped thinking about it all day. The symbolism of dividing the ring into two halves on the equinox is just toooo good…)

    What do you think?


  4. You gave an interesting talk last year in Buncrana for the West Inishowen History and Heritage Group, which I attended, about your book The Craft and the Cross. My research also has lead me to the conclusion that the past did not necessary happen as presented by people with very much their own agenda throughout the ages.
    The halving of a circular structure by a beam of sun light on an important day in ancient calendars is very intriguing. Adding to it, and I think it is in John O’Donovan’s translation of Ancient Irish Law, is the colour of the winds for both directions. Black stands for the northern wind, hence the Black North,
    and white for the southern. So, yesterdays event spilt the monument into a black and a white half of the same, as you find in the symbol for yin and yang, or closer to home in the old division of Ireland, one being Conn’s half, the north, and the other being Mugh’s, the south.
    Feel free to use it and good luck with your book. If you can, please give another talk for our group about it.

  5. I had no idea we’d met in Buncrana. I enjoyed doing that talk, and hope to do many more. Thanks for the kind words. The new book is just what was in the Craft and the Cross about Columba and Glencolmcille. it stands alone without the later link to the symbols of Freemasonry, so I thought it would reach a different audience if I did it this way. I do have another main book ready for publication this year. Maybe I could give a talk on it? It’s about the people who built Newgrange and what might have been their motivation.

    Your discovery of this equinox event is fabulous. I see it on a par with the Boheh stone and the rolling sun – if not perhaps as spectacular. Nevertheless, i would like to mention it in this Columba book. I will need a full res picture for printing, so maybe you could organise that for me. My email is chris.mcclintock@btinternet.com

    I’m offline for a couple of days now, but I’ll be in touch at the start of the week. Whatever I write, I’ll let you see it first, to make sure you’re happy with it and that I’ve got your details right.

    Many thanks


  6. Bettin, it’s really interesting to know this and to see the pictures taken on that day as well. People have wondered about the significance of this structure for so many years. Thanks for your hard work, research and also for sharing this 🙂 While I didn’t get a chance to look for the tumulus last year, it’s on the list when I get up there again. Thanks also for providing links to the Wee Heritage Shop and Inishowen History and Heritage. I’m based in Buncrana but have never wandered into the Jewel Casket! Next time I get a visitor, I’ll know where to take them. Thanks again & best wishes 🙂

    PS: found this link via Visit Inishowen on facebook

  7. Eunan, Chris
    Many thanks for your comments. The possible location of the tumulus may not necessarily be correct. A friend of mine, who used to be a school teacher, came up with some ingenious idea, using the old Ordnance Survey plans of the monument and certain calculations to find the position of the tumulus. We will have to wait until he finds the time to see if we end up in the same spot.

  8. great photo. could be very significant.
    just checking something before getting excited…the excavation that took place by Dr Bernard in the last century apparently found a load of stones on the present site. was the gateway located in the exact same place? the present fort was also built about 500 ad on top of earlier hill mounds. the fort was destroyed on numerous occasions after this date. this would have been thousands of years after people built solar alignments. mind you the box window above the entrance to newgrange was only discovered in the late 1960’s. so maybe maybe…

  9. Emmet, Dr. Walter Bernard did not excavate the Grianán, he restored it, using the plans of the Ordnance Survey, made in 1830, as the ruin was officially found. If this raises suspicion that, as a result, he may have accidentally move the entrance to align it with the rising sun at the equinoxes, an alignment he was not aware of, then the same question would need to be asked of the restoration of Newgrange by the OPW or, indeed, any other monument which underwent repair.
    This Grianán is not a fort, i.e. stronghold, fortification. Aligning a military structure to the rising sun, to be halved by its beam with no regard to requirements of this nature, would defeat the purpose.
    What you were thinking of is the palace of Aileach, a few miles to the north east of this monument.

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