When I first lived in Ireland, my husband-to-be and I rented an ancient farmhouse in the Boyne Valley within an area known as the Brú na Bóinne Archaeological Ensemble. Quite the mouthful. Locals call it the Bend in the Boyne and although it’s a World Heritage Site, it’s still one of Ireland’s best kept secrets. It’s also the very place where the Tuatha Dé Danann, the old deities of Ireland, are said to be based.
The more I learned of the myths and legends associated with the area, the more I had to write about them. After all, I was fortunate enough to be a local and to have access to my partner’s considerable archaeological and historical resources.
There are forty passage graves located within the Bend in the Boyne, with three absolutely massive ones: Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.
Newgrange is the home of one Óenghus Óg (also Angus Oge, Aenghus Óg and Aenghus Mac in Óg), the Irish god of Youth, Love and Light. Newgrange has one passageway aligned to the midwinter sunrise.
Knowth, although less prominent is more archaeologically intriguing. It contains about 1/3 of Europe’s megalithic art. Knowth has two passageways, aligned to the spring and autumn equinoxes (although there is some claim it might to lunar events close to these equinoxes). Knowth is associated with a goddess, possibly one Cnoc Buí (Cnogba). It’s impossible as an English speaker, however, to miss the connotation Knowth has with the word Knowledge.
Lastly, but not least – never least – is Dowth. The most mysterious of the mounds. In Irish, Dowth is Dubhadh or Darkness. The mythology associated with the site is a tale of a king and his sister, of incest, and the manipulation of time. Dowth has two passageways, aligned to the midwinter sunrise AND sunset.
Embracing all three is the River Boyne, named after the Goddess of the White Cow (and the mother of Óenghus).
Drawing on translations of very old Irish texts (the Dindshenchas), more modern interpretations from the Celtic Revival poets and writers, archaeological evidence, and my own experience in witnessing the midwinter sunrise, I began to pull together a story.