Today is Midsummer’s Day, June 21st, and the longest day of the year. It was a significant date for the ancient Celts who celebrated the sun today, for the life it brings. All around Ireland there are stone circles that mark this time of the year and the winter solstice. Newgrange, in Co Meath would be best known for the winter solstice.
In Co. Wicklow at Athgreany (‘Achadh Greine’ translates as ‘Field of the Sun) there is an ancient site of pagan worship. Fourteen granite boulders, up to two metres high, cover an area of 23 metres. On this day the sun aligns exactly with the keystone or outlier, a massive granite boulder, about 30 metres from the circle.
This stone is known locally as the Piper’s Stone and the other stones forming the circle as the dancers. Local folklore has it that the dancers were defying the Sabbath and were turned into stones.
This ancient site is thought to pre-date the pyramids in Egypt and was erected sometime between 1,400 and 800 BC. There is also a whitethorn tree here where people used to leave small scraps of material, petitions and offerings.
The Piper’s stone circle is at Athgreany, 2.5km from Hollywood, Co. Wicklow, on the N81.