Saturday, April 18, 2009

"It's now or never, COLLEGE!!!!" or, "STOP EFFING AROUND!!!"

I finally got to go to a rugby game! UCD played Munster yesterday, and it was absolutely fantastic. I've never enjoyed watching football or baseball, but this was really entertaining, despite the fact that we didn't know the rules. It has some similarities to football, but as they say here, football is a gentleman's game compared to rugby. The medic was running around on that field as much as or more than the actual players--and they didn't stop playing when they were injured, just taped it up and kept on getting smashed. It also moved a lot faster than football; they'd be in a huge scrum, fighting over the ball, and then all of a sudden the ball would reappear twenty feet away! The coolest play, though, was this brilliant lift that they would do whenever the ball was thrown back in. They literally lifted each other up (kind of like a cheerleading move, actually) to catch the ball in the air.

UCD lost, but it was still an insanely fun day. Rugby fans are absolutely mad.

the big LIFT

number 11, mr. fancypants, striking his signature pose


Monday, April 13, 2009

Bru na boinne and the Hill of Tara

Last Monday, I finally got to see Newgrange, an ancient tomb, and the Hill of Tara, which is an early medieval royal site--I'm not sure how else to explain it. It's actually exactly the type of thing that we've been looking at in my archaeology class: a bank-and-ditch enclosure, with more ditches signifying higher status, different 'levels' of enclosed space, and a strategic location overlooking three quarters of the country on a clear day (here's an aerial view, so you can see what the earthwork looks like as a whole). When you're actually on the hill, you can't really see the big picture; it just looks like the ground has turned to waves, and you're walking up and down a green surf. The landscape and the history on this trip were pretty spectacular, and Newgrange itself was so mysterious and creepy--but in a good way! I love the creepy stuff.

The tomb actually reminded me of the Ancient American shamanic artwork that I studied last semester. I wonder if archaeologists have considered that Newgrange may have been the product of a visionary culture? Dichotomies of light/dark, male/female, life/death, and white/black are obvious in the construction, as are themes of fertility/seasons/birth/rebirth, but for me the biggest clue was the recurrence of spirals and zigzags. The guide told us that people have guessed that they are a form of writing, or artwork. Spirals and zigzags are actually really important in shamanic art, because they (along with other motifs like lattices and tunnels) reflect the visionary consciousness; when a person goes into trance, those symbols are part of the first stage of the vision, while spirals themselves are also very eye-like. Inside the tomb, in one of the three niches, there was also a shallow basin that the guide suggested as a place to hold the dead, or possibly to collect blood from a sacrifice--but what about a hallucinogenic substance? Shamanic cultures often associate basins or metates with fertility and visions, and after all, Newgrange is a tomb where people came (perhaps) to journey to the world of the dead...just like having a vision and travelling to the underworld.

It sounds like I'm really going out on a limb here, but there were just so many similarities between Newgrange and Ancient American structures like Chavin de Huantar. They both incorporate the same dichotomies that I already explained, use the concept of difficult entrance and intimidation, and there is a strange similarity between the phallic Lanzon and the spear of light that pierces the interior of Newgrange at every winter solstice. I could say so much more, but I'd like to refrain from treating this blog like an art history paper. I think Newgrange can speak for itself!

side view of Newgrange--mound with a stone facade
the 'difficult' entrance--you had to climb over that rock in order to enter
the stone facade, reconstructed from the original materials at the site. white/black, light/dark, anyone? plus the black stones are EGG-shaped (as is the mound of Newgrange itself)
the kerbstones surrounding the structure
a kerbstone with spirals and zigzags
kerbstone pattern
small mound at the Hill of Tara
it still has a pretty cool view
bank, ditch, bank, ditch, bank...
there was no one there to explain this...but it looks pretty cool. I'm guessing that the pattern on the ground isn't original to the site.
overlooking all of Ireland--on a clear day. But of course, it rained for us.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter, 1916 and 2009

the Jim Larkin statue and the hoisting of the Irish tricolor

the "beach"--really a large mudflat
gardens at Dublin Castle

On Sunday, I went into town for the commemoration of the Easter Rising (which actually happened on Easter Monday, not Easter Sunday...I don't know why they changed the date). After visiting Kilmainham Gaol and reading the entire body of Yeats's work this semester, it was really interesting to be a part of this occasion. People mouthed the words to the Proclamation of Independence along with the speaker, sang the national anthem, and held their children up on their shoulders to see everything better. The reactions of the people around me really made me think--living in the Dublin of 2009 is an entirely different experience from that of the older people in the crowd, for whom the idea of independence is probably still a meaningful concept. The concurrence of the Rising with the Easter holiday (which I'm sure was not an accident) mashes together those ideas of resurrection and rebirth with those of nationhood and national identity. Even the politics here are poetic!