@David Halpin Circle Stories
Rainwater collects within the 5’500 year old basin on Baltinglass Hill, Co. Wicklow.
Although this monument was originally covered, the passageway would have allowed light through.
Perhaps the sun, moon and stars were thought to infuse whatever the bowl contained with magical properties?We can only speculate, of course. As the researcher and writer Tom Four Winds once wrote about the basin, “Was it blood, bones, ashes or water that filled it?” Another possibility is that of an entheogen.
Recent findings in comparable structures have found traces of cannabis and other psychedelic substances.
A method mentioned in ancient texts concerns burning incenses with psychoactive properties. Certainly, in contained structures like cairns and mounds this would have been an ideal way to enter trance states, much like sweat lodges of other indigenous cultures.
As far as I am aware there has never been testing for these substances in Irish monuments but the work of scholars such as Professor Carl Ruck has highlighted an ancient shamanic tradition of burning psychedelic substances within enclosed structures going far back into antiquity.
Recently, Russian scientists discovered the 2,000-year-old mummified remains of a Scythian queen. She was laid out in white silk alongside horse harnesses, a mirror, dishes and a small ceremonial container of cannabis.
Writing in 450 BCE, Herodotus describes an ancient practice of the Scythian people, “ …when, therefore, the Scythians have taken some seed of this hemp, they creep under the cloths and put the seeds on the red hot stones; but this being put on smokes, and produces such a steam, that no Grecian vapour-bath would surpass it. The Scythians, transported by the vapour, shout aloud.”
You can read more here: http://www.herbmuseum.ca/node/1552
Dr. Alexander Sumach, in his work, A Treasury of Hashish, writes, “The sorcerers of Thracian tribes were known to have burned female cannabis flowers (and other psychoactive plants) as a mystical incense to induce trances.”
So, as you can see, although never investigated by Irish archaeologists, there is good reason to suspect that many of our ancient structures were much more than repositories for the dead, which many were as well, of course. Instead, there is a good chance that these sacred structures were a way to continue contact with the ancestors and spirits through shamanistic trance. Literally, they may have been gateways to the Otherworld as the oral traditions have always told us they were.
In this context, the magical significance of alignments at certain times of the year would seem to have had a major ritualistic purpose. Combined with the darkness, silence and isolation, the inhaling of these substances have a profound effect upon the senses. Perhaps in future years we will be able to integrate the latest findings by non-Irish researchers into the overall picture regarding our ancient structures and sites.
Tales of spirits, ancestors and good people may have been a very real and living shamanic interaction as opposed to the mere superstition of later arriving people and interpretations.
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