The Eerie Beauty of Knowth and Dowth — Ancient Spirits Spiraling Through Time
There is a moss and mist dampened quietness to every footstep you take in Ireland, but the echoes of the past are deafening.
It's fascinating how our methods of expression, worship, cultural identity, beauty, spirituality, and creativity have taken so many different forms throughout history and have all still been able to accurately convey emotion. A few days ago, I put in my headphones and closed my eyes, searching for the clarity that for me seems to come when I open myself to the wild torrent of sound that is metal music. It might seem illogical that a genre that frequently comprises unintelligible and overwhelming noise can speak to me so clearly, but there's something about it that evokes as much memory in me as going back through my own photographic work does. Somewhere, between an impenetrable wall of blast beats and intense growls, and the bone-deep silence of kneeling on the chilled grass of a cloud swept moor, is my recollection of experiencing the neolithic tomb sites Knowth and Dowth. Lyrics describing a decrepit grimoire opened in a far future, unleashing ancient magic and a sense of apprehension tear through my soul and take me right back to Eire... tucked under the overhang of one of the mounds to shelter safely from the drizzle, but cautious of the sense of the wild and foreboding lore carved into the kerbstones bridging the gap of five thousand or so years.
Often, on @fullforceradio, I delve into the modern evolution of bardic tradition that folk metal represents. Sitting at my desk, listening to The Book of Dowth, I'm swept up in being here but not quite here; there without being there. While I experienced bright blazes of colour, unbridled celebration and joyful sunny afternoons on the emerald isle, my time at the tombsites was somber and evocative — maybe it was the weather, or maybe because the meaning of the ancient pictographs can only be guessed at, but the sense of magic and darkness and our connection to the earth was heavy on my mind and tingling in the soles of my feet. Carvings everywhere. Decorations, or warning. Expression, or worship. Listening to thundering music sitting at my desk but simultaneously hearing nothing but my own thundering heart as I follow the lines of spiral after spiral into the soul of the island, rooted to the ground as the clouds swirl above me.
While it isn't my strongest memory of my time in Ireland most of the time, listening to someone else's interpretation of the eerie beauty of Knowth and Dowth brings the sensations of being there crashing back over me and I scramble to pull up the pictures I'd forgotten I'd taken. As I sift through them one by one, I remember with a shiver how cold I felt as the damp grass soaked through my pants. I was kneeling? And here beside me, dark wings snapping shut to stand with head bowed in an unnatural pose, ringed in spirals...
Circles within circles, drawing you inevitably towards the entrances to the tombs. Mounds ringed by mounds encircled by spiral graven rocks enclosing paths speared into the heart of the earth.
At the crescendo of it all, the eastern passage looms long and still. The music is screaming and pounding now, and the silence is utter. My eyes and ears can't adjust, but the smell of the damp soil and the hairs on the back of my neck are in tune. A long exposure brings out the details of the channel; some stones hide their art on the back side, away from human eyes, and some remain untouchable somewhere there at the end of forever. I gaze long into this neolithic abyss and somehow know that across time it gazes long into me. I realize the album has finished and my heart stops racing. I feel like the long exposure of the tunnel has stolen some of its majesty and mystery away, and that this glimpse of the tomb has lost some of its magic in my retelling...it requires something more to properly convey the spirit of this place. I take a deep breath and press play again.
Beneath the stone of seven suns
Unveiling that which lies beyond
The reach of eyes, the reach of ears,
What we wish to be and become
My soul spirals into a darkness
Deeper and blacker
Than any I have ever known
Beyond my inner limit
Beyond the secrets of the stones
Dowth 2059, SuidAkrA
These photos and words are my own work, inspired by travels all over this pretty blue marble of ours. I hope you like them. 🌶️