Stone Circles

The Summer and Winter Solstices enhance the many wonders of the stone circle. On the longest day of the year; (the Summer Solstice), the first rays of the sun project between two portal stones, otherwise known as the “Entrance Stones”, and hit the centre of the recumbent stone. On the shortest day of the year, the last rays of the sun cross the threshold between the two portal stones. These two principal events represented the cohabitation of the sun and the earth. One could state that the building of the stone circles was a way of communicating with their sun god. The ancient people’s relationship with their sun god was imperative as to guarantee the growth of their crops. The touch of the sun’s rays on the recumbent stone was almost like a hand – shake after signing a contract to pledge its part in fertilizing the soil.

The question still remains of what evidence do we have that suggests stone circles epitomised fertility and that this was the main prayer; if you like, to their sun god to ensure the growth of their crops? Firstly, the shapes of the large stones that complete the stone circle cannot be underestimated. The slender stones on the left hand side of the circle if one is facing the east or towards the “Entrance Stones” stand for the male sex. On the right hand side of the stone circle, the large stones have rotund silhouettes representing the female sex and the womb. If one took a helicopter ride and viewed a complete stone circle from the sky, it can to some resemble a womb. The union between a man and a woman was considered sacred and magical, so too was the coming together of the sun and the earth, (the projection of the sun’s rays through the portal stones or the cervix of the stone circle and hitting the recumbent stone). Both of these unions stood for and produced new life and a new age. This miraculous unity between the sun and the earth and its great similarity to the coming together of a man and woman sexually surrounded the stone circle with a magical aurora. It is palpable from the above information that the stone circle was a versatile tool and the heart of the surrounding communities when it came to comprehending their fundamental beliefs.

The stone circle was also used as an observatory for the astronomers – the elected high priests in antiquity. Carvings of stars on some “Entrance Stones” of stone circles compel us to believe that they had interest in watching the sky at night. This would also leave us to believe and verify our suspicions of their fear of the sun being immortal. The weather was colder and more settled in ancient times which constituted suitable conditions for solar observation. They could predict by the stars and the constellations at night in lieu of the sun by day what season to expect and to be able to tell accurately when the new season was to occur. Therefore, it would leave the ordinary Joe soap of the ancient people to feel in awe of these supernatural happenings; the Summer and Winter Solstices and the chanting high priests for example. In the early days of the sun cult, great care was taken in building these stone circles. Large stones were selected to complete them. However, when Christianity made its way to our shores by St Patrick in the 5th century, the stone circles were built in a slapdash fashion as the solar cult began to breathe its last breath.

Stone Circles of interest can be found along the route from Beal na Blath

Knockaneirk Lower: This circle is located directly beside the road and is easy to access. This is an incomplete multiple stone circle with seven stones still standing but is otherwise in good state of preservation. The main axis stone, or recumbent stone, is located on the west side of the cirle. It is hard to distinguish whether the portal stones are within the seven stones still standing as the presumed portal stones on the east are parallel to another large stone on the west hand – side of the stone circle. The hasty style in which it was erected indicates that it dates around the time the solar religion was diminishing. The missing stones belonging to the stone circle may have been used as building materiel or early Christian fanatics could have eradicated them. This stone circle is likely to be orientated for the Winter Solstice, but it is difficult to confirm as conifers block the view to the west.

Currabeha: This is one such town land that has twin stone circles located not far from each other. An incomplete multiple stone circle that is missing its recumbent stone and which is orientated for the Winter Solstice. An impressive stone circle situated below the first one has a quartz stone positioned in the centre. This is by far the best of the number of stone circles in the Coppeen and the surrounding area. A beaker consisting of ashes was found in the centre of the circle when it was excavated. Hence the name the “Beaker Burial”. This is a classic stone circle, as the recumbent stone is placed due west. Many of the large stones that make up the stone circle have fallen including one of the portal stones on the left hand – side.