Stephen McPhilemy, from Essential Ireland Tours, had the honour of being the first representative of our passionate little tour-company to attend the Newgrange Winter Solstice ceremony at dawn on the 21st December (2016).
This is an incredible honour for Irish people. Newgrange is one of Ireland's most sacred ancient sites.
Each year almost 40,000 people apply for this most incredible of cultural and archaeological experiences. An annual lottery is held by the Office of Public Works (OPW) who maintain the UNESCO World Heritage site on behalf of the Irish people. Everyone who visits the site is entitled to write their name on a slip of paper and insert it into the lottery-box provided.
30 or so lucky winners are selected to be present inside the majestic central chamber, under hundreds of thousandsof tons of rocks and earth which was constructed with incredible engineering skills 5000 years ago. We Irish like to always remind people that this was long before Stonehenge and the pyramids were built!
On this particulate year Tour-driver legend Dennis McArdle from Monaghan won the honour after Stephen suggested he enter his name. The two were at Newgrange because Stephen was leading a group for his dear friend and mentor, Rick Steves (which Stephen still enjoys doing and has done over 200 times!).
In 2016, Stephen McPhilemy entered the Newgrange Lottery 400 times!
Stephen went to Newgrange 20 times in 2016, each time he had a group of around 15-20 people with him. He always asked his tour-members would they be available on December 21st 2016 to attend the winter solstice ceremony if they were picked, anyone who said no was politely asked to take 10 seconds to fill in the lottery application form in Stephen's name to try and make this young Irishmans dream come true. Despite almost 400 entries that year, his name wasn't picked out, sob sob :(
If you are lucky enough to be picked out, you must attend yourself. If you cannot attend you are unable to transfer the ticket to someone else. But you can bring a friend!
Dennis selected Stephen to be his 'plus one' and this resulted in Stephen cutting short a winter holiday in Los Angeles and flying home immediately so that both men could squeeze inside the chamber at dawn on the winter solstice. As their ancestors have done for 5000 years. An incredible experience.
Stephen took no video footage inside the chamber out of respect for protocol and for the spirits of our ancestors, and most importantly just to savour the moment that the laser beam of sunlight enters the passage and illuminates the central chamber as it has done every year since 3000BC.
The magic crystal of Juli Malone, the Dingle Druid.
Stephen received a message from Juli Malone, the Dingle Druid, a dear friend and a sort of spiritual-guide to all of us at Essential Ireland Tours. She had a request.
"Could you bring my crystal wand into Newgrange to be energised by the rays of the sun at dawn on the winter solstice?"
Thats a request a tour-guide does not get every day. So Stephen agreed to accept the mission, and despite if falling out of his pocket in the central chamber which was in the complete pre-dawn darkness, the crystal wand was found and it was indeed blessed and energised by the suns' rays and it has been present at many ceremony by the Dingle Druid on Dingle Bay these days.
For example this May Bealtaine ceremony at our travel HQ, Milltown House.