Ireland · Travel · Writing

New Grange

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Of all the places I have been none have thrilled me in quite the way as Newgrange. My husband and I travelled to Ireland together about 3 years ago when we were still just boyfriend and girlfriend. His Grandad is from Belfast and he told us that we had to go to Newgrange. Newgrange is older than the pyramids, and stonehenge. It was built in the Neolithic period around 32 000 BC. It is a UNESCO world heritage sight and you can actually take a tour inside of it! I don’t know if this excites you as much as it does me but I was absolutely awe struck to be walking those ancient paths. When I went to Stonehenge as a teenager I was desperately disappointed to find that you had to stand far from the stones, there was security guards and a fence around the perimeter. I understand the need for it, people had been defacing the stones and trying to take home souvenirs but it was disappointing nonetheless.

There are three burial mounds in the Boine Valley. Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth. Newgrange is the largest and also the one with the greatest mystery attached to it. There is a triad of spirals that is carved into the rocks of Newgrange that isn’t seen anywhere else. There are many theories as to what the spiral pattern represents but no definite conclusions have been made. I love a good historical mystery.

 

Grainne tried to keep herself calm as she watched Diarmuid dress for the hunt. She had seen him dress a thousand times, had undressed him a thousand more. They had clung to one another through all of the horrible years of pursuit. After they had left Fionn, her intended husband and his chief they had only had one another to rely on. They had gone against the odds and peace had been hard won. Diarmuid’s foster father had managed to calm Fionn’s rage at the double betrayal and the two of them had been allowed to settle down to have a family. Grainne had borne him 5 healthy children and they had enjoyed years of simple domesticity. After years on the run, years without a fixed address, where they were hounded at every turn and forced to fight all manner of magical beasts it had been a blessing to do nothing more than live and care for their children. And now Diarmuid was determined to destroy Grainne’s peace of mind. Her eyes rove over her husband’s body, still strong despite the years. His back was still ramrod straight, his nose bent where it had been broken in battle, his long hair tied back in braids that she had lovingly woven for him. He caught her eye and let out a sigh of exasperation,

“It will all be well Mo Gra” he said his eyes on hers, he kissed her softly on the mouth and ran a thumb along the side of her face. She clung to the hand and kissed the palm a dread certainty in the pit of her stomach,

“Why?” she demanded of him her hands wrapped around his, “You know the prophecy that you will die in a boar hunt and yet you insist on going hunting boar with none other than the man who hounded after us for years, the one whom we both betrayed.” He gently untangled her fingers from his own and stepped away from her,

“After all these years you cannot tell me that you put such stock in a fortune teller’s lark. Fionn has long since forgiven our youthful indiscretion. I think the longevity and prosperity of our marriage has proven to him that we were destined for one another. No man wants to stand in the way of destiny.” Grainne clenched her jaw to stop herself from saying more, she knew her husband and by the set of his shoulders and the way in which he spoke she knew that she would never change his mind. If this was to be their last conversation (and the thought of it being so made her want to scream and rend her hair) than it would not be one of admonition. She took in a deep breath and tried to look as calm as could be expected. She walked with him keeping her own counsel all the way to the stables where she allowed herself a single moment of weakness as he leaned down to kiss her farewell. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him far more deeply than decorum allowed. When she finally let him go she held herself firm despite the tears that stood out in her eyes. He smiled at her in the way that had caught her heart all those years ago. A smile wicked with adventure and promise. And then he rode away leaving her as he had so many times before. Before she had always known he would return. She tried to find that certainty in her heart now, but there was no respite to be found. Instead a cold pit of dread opened in her stomach and she turned to go back into the keep, her face set against the tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks.

It was the next day that her husband came home. He was borne by Aengus, the foster father who had negotiated the peace with Fionn. It was a sight she would never forget. She had begun to tremble as soon as she had seen Fionn with a shrouded bundle the size of a man laid across his lap. He had dismounted and lifted the shroud from his horse and lay it at her feet. She felt as though the very threads that made up her being were coming undone as she had fallen to her knees and gently moved the cloth away from his face. And it was his face, the face of her only beloved and yet he was not there. The husk remained but the soul was gone, forever gone, where she could not touch it or speak to it or entreat it. They had not brought back her husband they had brought back an empty body. She had wondered at first who it was that screamed so loudly and it was only when her sons came and gathered her in their arms and forcefully led her away that she realized it was her who was screaming. The first thought that managed to make its way through the white noise that enveloped her senses was that she would never feel his arms around her again. His arms had been strong and capable and when they had held her she had felt as though nothing could touch her. As though, so long as he held her the two of them were invincible. The second thought to pierce its way through the numbness was that she would never again hear his voice. She had begun to panic at the thought of forgetting the timber of his voice and she could hardly stand to listen to her eldest son, so like his father, speak. There was only one place for a man of the stature and greatness of her husband to be buried. The great burial mound, the one most sacred to the Gods. With its great triple spiral pattern marking it as the greatest of the three.

As she stood on a painfully sunny day watching her husband’s remains be borne into the chamber, the bright white quartz of the exterior blinding her she felt her heart harden like the stone that would now encase her husband’s body. She had heard from Aengus how Diarmuid had been speared by the bore, how Fionn had brought him water cupped in his hands only to allow it to slip through his fingers. How he had repeated this offense until his own son threatened to kill him on the spot. By then it was too late and her beloved had succumbed to his wounds. There was only one thing to be done and so she had grasped the hand of her eldest son and looked into his eyes, the eyes that looked so much like her husband’s,

“You cannot allow his death to go unavenged.” Her son had set his shoulders, shoulders that were just beginning to spread in the first thrust of manhood. She had gathered her younger son to her and held his face in her hands and stared deeply into his eyes that mirrored her own, “Your father must be avenged.” Her sons had nodded, the loss forever changing their young lives. And she knew that they would grow to be fine men and that those men would not suffer Fionn to live while their father lay beneath the great stones of Sí an Brú.

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