Terry Berg submitted this piece to our site months before his untimely and tragic death. It had been his plan to write and submit a second – maybe even a third – installment to the series. Instead we have only this one part of the whole story, offered here in Terry’s memory.
It is one experience to read history and quite another experience to encounter history with the senses. It is one experience to read the Passion Story and quite another to eat the bread and drink the wine.
Ancient Mystery: Part I – (Bru na Boinne) the
by Terry Berg
remarkable feature of a trip to Ireland besides the obvious…the emerald of the Emerald Isle, Guinness, the full Irish Breakfast including black pudding & fried tomatoes and the wonderful people, is the preservation and management of it’s Heritage (historic) Sites. Listed in the official guide to Heritage Sites of Ireland are over 60 locations along with 11 National Cultural Institutions in
The two weeks I (and my friend Art) spent in
The meandering journey that ultimately led to the title of this brief travelogue, among other places, took us to the Rock of Cashel or St. Patrick’s Rock (Co. Tipperary) , a fortress rock outcrop with origins in the pre-Christian 4th/5th century and went on to become the seat of power for the Irish kings for centuries, the earliest building on the site dating to 1101, and to Clonmacnoise (Co. Offaly) on the banks of the Shannon River. This ranks as the most important monastic site in
But the most amazing site we visited was at Brun na Boinn and the passage tombs at Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange. Each has its separate yet related history. The most significant of these megalithic burial tombs is the reconstructed site at Newgrange. This relatively unknown marvel of the ancient world presents the same kind of mystery as the Stone Henge. Imagine the flats beside the
It is estimated that 200,000 tonnes of material was moved…the equivalent of 300 workers labouring for 20 years. (The site was unprotected for centuries and the walls bear witness to graffiti dating to the 1800’s.)
Now imagine that each year at the Winter Solstice, between Dec. 19th and 23rd, the rising sun shines down through the roof box, along the passage way, completely illuminating the burial chamber for 17 minutes. Every year there is a lottery for the opportunity to experience this event. Standing in the chamber, in the very space that once held these ancient people, knowing that, attuned to the movements of the planets, they engineered the construction of a tomb of this magnitude to memorialize the lives of unknown (to us) and unknowable individuals, evoked a feeling which defies description and raised many unanswered and unanswerable questions. The stone, the empty tomb, the mystery formed in my mind an image of another death and of a living memorial. This remarkable country is imprinted with so many physical reminders of its history and spiritual life; reminders that, like the stone they are crafted from, will remain to the end of time. I think that a Guiding Force, which those ancient people recognized, was the architect of their labour, and that guiding force is the Creator of All. And yet it is in the living memorial that we, in the our present modernity, are invited, over and over again, to encounter the mystery that ultimately connects us to God: the Creator, Guiding Force, Universal Architect and Source of All that Is and ever will Be.
Ancient Mystery: Part III – Camino de Santiago: The Pilgrims Way