Today we are embarking on a very special journey. A journey through time. A journey through 5000 years of history in Ireland’s Ancient East – the historic east coast of the green island. A story of stone age, Celts, fairy-tales and witches’ sagas in the land of 5000 sunrises – as the region is popularly known.
This with history and me is such a thing. In history lessons I have always been a zero. Data, facts and connections in dirty lectures and black letters in historical books have never really brought me closer to what has happened on this planet in millennia during my schooldays. But I love stories. I love to feel history, I have to feel it, touch it – or get explained by Hape Kerkeling in colorful costumes. I suppose, at some point, even a passable historian has been lost – at least the kind of Indiana Jones historian, on the road in world history hunting for lost treasures. If it had not been for that time the bad data and facts in black letters that have kept me from it.
That’s why I love to visit places with a special history when traveling. I wander through Scottish sands or Maltese medieval villages , visit jailislands in Australia, or let a blue veiner guide me through Stade . People and places are what makes history come alive. Ireland is full of these places and two of them I find particularly mystical – not least because of the many legends that hover around them: The Loughcrew Cairns and the Hill of Tara .
Already the ascent to the Loughcrew Cairns makes my heart quite flutter – on the one hand, because of the effort of the ascent, on the other hand, because of the incredible view. After days in the bus, between appointments in castles, picturesque villages and monastery ruins, I am finally allowed to admire them, the lush Irish landscape. And I can not get enough of it. Green as far as the eye can see. And that goes a long way when it was imprisoned for weeks in the big city jungle.
At the top, I stand in front of Cairn T, one of 32 cairns in this range of hills that date back to the Neolithic period. Built around 3200 BC, these tombs are older than Stonehenge, the pyramids of Giza, and even the not-so-distant but better-known Newgrange facility .
Our guide opens an iron grid at the entrance of the Cairns T – now used to protect the graves – and I slip through the narrow opening into the megalithic enclosure. A tiny room lined with black stones carved with rock carvings of various symbols. Through the small corridor, the engravings in the interior are illuminated only twice a year at a very specific time: At sunrise, the equinox, in spring and autumn. In other tombs, there are similar relationships, where, for example, the direct incidence of light takes place only at sunrise to the summer solstice.
I quickly realize that my fear of claustrophobia discovered in this pyramid of cheeks was really no illusion and would rather admire the structure and its orientation in the solar system from the outside. I stand in one of the stone circles, close my eyes and let the wind tickle my eyelashes.
Hills of the Witch
One reason why the Loughcrew Cairns are so well preserved today is the legend about the hills on which they are located. According to Celtic legend, once upon a time a huge witch hopped from hill to hill, only to drop big rocks from her apron, which eventually formed the cairns. On her last jump on the fourth hill, however, the Good shot past the target and fell to its death. The story of the witch, however, scared the ancient Celts so much that they left the otherwise unexplained heaps of stones largely untouched.
Even today, visitors to the Hag’s Chair, a throne-like giant stone, who allegedly was the seat of just this witch to let her fulfill a wish.
Hill of Tara
There is hardly a place in Ireland’s Ancient East or all of Ireland, where so many historical events have taken place as on the Hill of Tara, after all, this patch of land was used extensively from the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Similar to Loughcrew, there are megalithic tombs here. The neighboring hills and gullies look like air from the air like a giant symbol of infinity, with a phallic coronation stone at its center, which, according to legend, roars when touched by the rightful King of Tara. The whole alleged 143 times. Japp, 143 men touch a penis and he roars. Tell me another story would not be cool.
In addition, St. Patrick is once snowed past in Tara and here allegedly the famous Ark of the Covenant was last seen … which brings us back to Indiana Jones.
All this is almost a bit of history for me and I feel like Loriot for a moment . I just want to just sit there. And watch. And sit. Just stop for a moment and take in the place. Tara is such a place to do that. Everywhere they sit or lie, look into the landscape or just into the sky. Teenagers, old gentlemen, meditation groups, women with dogs.
Like Loughcrew, you do not have to believe in legends or be particularly spiritual, just gawk at the odd shaped hills to feel that Tara is special.
I am breaking away from the group that is slowly pushing back towards the minibus to be alone for a moment and discover a few hawthorn trees in my round about the area where colorful ribbons blow in the wind. To this day, these hedge plants have a reputation that they belong to the fairies and mark gates to the otherworld. So if you drop a hawthorn you have to believe it sooner or later in the same year. Therefore, you can still see individual trees in fields all over Ireland, which are fenced with stones or influence the entire streets.
Since the time of the Druids, people tie colorful ribbons to the branches to mollify the fairies or to ask for the health of their loved ones. For lack of a cloth, I pick a few long blades of grass and tie a small wreath around the branch. That’s a lot gentler for the tree and the fairies, I think, before I have to go back the way. I would like to stay there longer, just to sit.