Sites Aligned to the Sun

Bryn Celli Ddu in Wales — Aligns to Solstices and Equinoxes

Bryn Celli Ddu in Wales -- summer solstice winter solstice

The Ancient Site of Bryn Celli Ddu

In the Welsh island of Anglesey lies a Neolithic site called Bryn Celli Ddu — a site aligned to the summer and winter solstices as well as the equinoxes, and richly imbued with symbolism that points to the site’s ancient use for the marking or celebration of solstices; the site’s builders plainly paying homage to the spirituality of the sun.

The name Bryn Celli Ddu means “the mound in the dark grove” and it is one of the finest passage tombs in Wales, comprising a narrow entrance and an eight meter passage shaped from vertical slab stones which lead into a chamber. It stands facing the sea, about a mile away.

Bryn Celli Ddu’s present shape is but the site’s most recent incarnation. Archaeological research shows it was once a henge, with a bank, ditch, oval stone circle made of seventeen stones, and entrance causeway. There was an alter stone as well as a “pattern stone,” carved with serpentine, wavy imagery.

Bryn Celli Ddu as a henge

An artist’s depiction of Bryn Celli Ddu as a henge, as illustrated on the official information board at the site.
Screen capture was taken from this video by YouTube user StarFire Alternity.

Radiocarbon dating of post holes at the site date back to 4,000 BC. It’s thought that the henge however was constructed circa 3,500 BC, an era that saw a flurry of megalithic building throughout the British Isles, including Newgrange in Ireland and Avebury in England. The stone circle was in use for approximately one thousand years before being transformed into a passage mound.

The mound would have once stretched to a ring of kerbstones that followed the line of the old henge, spanning twenty-six meters (eighty-five feet) across. The mound was intentionally closed after its period of use.

Bryn Celli Ddu Model

Model of Bryn Celli Ddu in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, By Wolfgang Sauber (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Phallic Pillar

Bryn Celli Ddu Phallic Stone

The Standing Stone within the chamber of Bryn Celli Ddu. Photo by Wolfgang Sauber (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Within the chamber stands a free-standing pillar of stone around two metres high. Michael Bott recently revealed it to be a petrified (fossilized) tree trunk, making it extremely ancient and rare. The standing pillar symbolizes the male presence at the site, as is common amongst many similar ancient sites of the world. Conversely the cave chamber is a symbol of the feminine, representing the womb. Both masculine and feminine principles incorporated into these neolithic sites are symbolic of the energies of creation, which in turn can be seen as pointers to the process of enlightenment.

On this subject, in their book Return to Source, Belsebuub and Angela Pritchard explain that:

The process of creation of matter and spiritual life at the beginning of the universe is one of the greatest mysteries. Understanding the basic principles is important for understanding how enlightenment works, as enlightenment is the re-absorption back into the one, the divine source of creation.

Yggdrasil -- world tree

An 1847 depiction of the world tree from the Prose Edda (translated by Oluf Olufsen Bagge).

Another interesting symbolism of the pillar within the cave at Bryn Celli Ddu is that this tree-turned-to-stone may have been especially suitable to use as a symbol for the world tree, or axis mundi. The world tree is a theme commonly present across many cultures, traditions, and mythologies of the past. It is depicted as a colossal tree that supports the heavens, yet has its roots in the underworlds, thus connection the three worlds: heavens, earth, and the underworlds. It is also a symbol related to the Tree of Life.

Summer Solstice Alignments

Research has shown that the original stone circle of Bryn Celli Ddu marked the summer solstice sun. The passageway of the subsequent mound is now also roughly aligned to the summer solstice sun; for a few weeks around the summer solstice sunlight makes its way into the back wall of the otherwise dark chamber.

bryn celli ddu passageway

Looking out through the passageway from the center of Bryn Celli Ddu. Photo by Christine Johnstone [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Bryn Celli Ddu Decorated Standing Stone

Bryn Celli Ddu Decorated Standing Stone (replica), by Booaug11 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

When the sunlight illuminates the passageway on the summer solstice it travels across the chamber and is reflected by quartz to illuminate a carved spiral. Spiral patterns, wave forms and zigzag patterns were found depicted on a stone found behind the chamber, though its original location may have been different.

Solar Spiral Pattern

The double spiral that emerged in the experiment “A Year of Solar Burns.” Diagram by Ella Klyashtisky, reproduced based on a diagram by Charles Ross.

Spiral patterns are a common thread amongst ancient sacred sites all over the world. Interestingly, the significance of the ancient symbol of the double spiral was accidentally captured by American artist Charles Ross in his piece “A Year of Solar Burns.” He set up a powerful lens to burn a new piece of wood every day for 366 days. When he plotted the resulting pattern a double spiral emerged. During the summer the spiral was a tight clockwise spiral, during the winter it was a more spacious anti-clockwise spiral.

Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, authors in the field of archaeoastronomy and the Neolithic period, identify the main alignments in Bryn Celli Ddu as:

– The alignment of the passage and its cup mark (art work) sequences highlight the equinoxes and the summer solstice
– The shadow gauge indicates where in the solar year you are at any given time
– The pillar stone and stone edge are positioned to accurately measure the Venus cycle, the winter solstice, and the winter agricultural calendar

A Venus Temple

“Around the winter solstice, the slot and the pillar of the chamber accurately measure the angular distance of Venus and the sun, using the difference between daggers of light cast by the sun and Venus onto the pillar.”
– Knight and Lomas, Uriel’s Machine

venus pentagram

The pentagram of Venus. Earth is positioned at the centre of the diagram, and the curve represents the direction and distance of Venus as a function of time.

The cycle of Venus is known as one of the most accurate measurement of time, the understanding of which allowed for precise predictions of cosmic events such as eclipses. Sometimes called the “Queen of the Heavens,” Venus has an eight-year cycle, during which it draws a five-pointed star/flower in relation to Earth; the two planets are tied to each other gravitationally and move in a beautiful mathematical dance.

The occult symbol of the pentagram is linked by some to the discovery of this pattern and traced back to ancient Mesopotamia. Known as the Great Star to the Mayans, it was part of a triad of heavenly cycles that made up their sophisticated calenders, the sun, moon and Venus—the three brightest celestial bodies in the sky.

“the cycles of Venus which must be intertwined with the precessional cycles of the sun and the moon to form a trinity as the basis of many belief systems of ancient cultures. Venus emerges as the Goddess of Resurrection and Renewal who gracefully moves through the celestial patterns climbing the heights of the night sky as she rises from the sea in her own cycle that transgresses the yearly cycle flowing in and out of the consciousness of both lunar and solar energy.”
– The Mythology of Venus Ancient Calendars and Archaeoastronony, Helen Benigni

Winter Solstice Alignments

During the winter solstice a shaft of light falls on the free-standing, phallus-shaped, petrified wood within the womb of the mound.

Bryn Celli Ddu winter solstice alignment

The interior chamber with the phallic pillar. Photo by Ray West [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Anglesey – a Druidic Heartland

the druid tradition at Anglesey

An Arch Druid in His Judicial Habit. By S.R. Meyrick and C.H. Smith. – from The Costume of the Original Inhabitants of the British Islands.

Anglesey is a small island just off the north-west coast of Wales, separated from the mainland by the Menai Strait and from the rest of Britain by the mountains of Snowdonia. It was known as a Druidic stronghold and where the long training required to become a druid took place; it was the home of druid mystery schools. The Welsh bard, Taliesin, (sixth century) wrote: “They went to Anglesey, to search for the craft.”

The island has one of the densest concentrations of sacred sites per square mile in Britain, albeit not of the same grandeur of the megalithic sites in Wiltshire, England. In 1945 cauldrons, chariots, swords, jewellery, and ceremonial items were discovered in Anglesey’s Llyn Cerrig Bach (lake of the small stones), the largest deposit of Druidic ritual items unearthed.

The island was called Mona by the Romans, Ynys Môn in Welsh. It’s also been called “shady or dark isle,” (Ynys Dywyll), relating to its former groves, the isle of the brave, (Ynys y Cedairn) Môn, Mother of Wales (Môn Mam Cymru) and the “Island of the Cow.”

female druid

‘The Druidess’, by Alexandre Cabanel

This island’s name has etymological links to a Celtic mother goddess. That this island had such strong links to a divine feminine deity is suggested as the reason why women made up the army defending the island from the Roman Army. The druids encouraged the Britons to fight the invading armies. Seen as a threat to the empire’s power, they were attacked, defeated, and their oak groves burnt.

Tacitus (historian of the Roman Empire) wrote about the deciding battle that saw Anglesey defeated, “On the coastline, a line of warriors of the opposition was stationed, mainly made up of armed men, amongst them women, with their hair blowing in the wind, while they were carrying torches. Druids were amongst them, shouting terrifying spells, their hands raised towards the heavens, which scared our soldiers so much that their limbs became paralysed. As a result, they remained stationary and were injured. At the end of the battle, the Romans were victorious, and the holy oaks of the druids were destroyed.”

Just off the west coast of Anglesey is another smaller island, Holy Island, with a rich plethora of stone circles, burial chambers, and other religious sites. Its name and archaeological remains point to this island also being a spiritually important place for the religious people of the past.

The Druids

The mysterious druids of ancient Briton left no written records of their own. They passed their sacred and secret knowledge through oral tradition rather than the written word, and their sacred temples were old oak groves—no wonder little is known of them today. It’s possible that their myths resembled the stories of the Mabinogion, the first prose literature in Britain, Welsh stories written down in the twelfth to thirteenth century, with content reaching back to the Iron Age (circa 1,200 BC). Its Celtic gods and tales of Annwfn, the Otherworld, may provide us a glimpse of the oratory culture and beliefs of the druids. Mab means son, or boy, in Welsh, and some scholars link the etymology of the Mabinogion to the Celtic God Maponos, the “Divine Son.”

Though the druids were persecuted and eventually defeated, in medieval Wales bards and musicians flourished—it’s thought that the druids are likely their cultural ancestors. We may even see a memory of Druidic culture in the annual Welsh Eisteddfod, a celebration of the arts through competitions and performances, culminating in the ceremony of the Chairing of the Bard.

What we do know, from Roman records and those of Julius Caesar, is that the druids were a class of learned people who were esteemed and distinct from the noblemen of the time. They were priests, in charge of religious rites and public ceremonies, judges, philosophers, bards, and teachers of natural law.

Caesar writes that a principle teaching of the druids was, “The souls do not perish, but after death pass from one to another,” i.e. that the soul or consciousness reincarnates after death. He also writes that their practices were concerned with, “Divine worship, the due performance of sacrifices, private or public, and the interpretation of ritual questions,” and also, “The stars and their movements, the size of the cosmos and the earth, the world of nature, and the powers of deities.”

druids

Druid Cutting Mistletoe on the sixth day of the Moon, by Henri Paul Motte, (c.1890)

The word druid means: “finding the oak tree,” or “oak knowledge,” a meaning which reveals the symbolic importance of the oak. It’s well documented that these trees were sacred to the druids and that mistletoe growing on an oak was considered to have magical properties. The oak tree is symbolic of immense wisdom, nobility, endurance and was considered the king of trees. Its tendency to attract lightening was also seen as testimony to its power.

“The druids – that is what they call their magicians – hold nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and a tree on which it is growing, provided it is a hard-timbered oak…. Mistletoe is rare and when found it is gathered with great ceremony, and particularly on the sixth day of the moon … A priest arrayed in white vestments climbs the tree and, with a golden sickle, cuts down the mistletoe, which is caught in a white cloak.”
– Pliny the Elder, Natural History

Visiting Bryn Celli Ddu

Bryn Celli Ddu is another example of the immense cosmic understanding our ancestors possessed and the special emphasis they placed on the rhythms of the solar year.

In modern times, the Anglesey Druid Order holds a recreation of an ancient ceremony marking the longest day of the year on the 21st of June (summer solstice).

“It’s a ritual that honours the power of the sun and the life-giving force of the sun. We will give thanks to the sun for the fruition it has brought to us, and acknowledge that the power of the sun is now waning,” explained Kristopher Hughes, head of the Anglesey Druid Order, talking to the Daily Post.

The origin of the ceremony can be traced back to the ancient Celtic druids, a class of people inextricably linked to the pre-Christian animistic religion that flourished in Britain and Gaul (modern-day France). Hughes continues, “The pre-Christian druids thought the world was alive and had its own spirit or soul. We have an animistic world-view which holds that non-human entities possess a spiritual essence.”

Anglesey is reached by two land bridges from Wales. High-speed train services link the island with London and the UK. Brynsiencyn is the nearest town and Llanddaniel Fab the nearest village.

Written and researched by Ella Klyashitsky. Edited and co-researched by Jenny Resnick.

————

Sources:

Uriel’s Machine: Uncovering the Secrets of Stonehenge, Noah’s Flood and the Dawn of Civilization, by Christopher Knight, Robert Lomas

http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/druids-spectators-descend-bryn-celli-10640852

http://www.ancient-wisdom.com/walesbryncelliddu.htm

http://www.archaeologyuk.org/ba/ba89/news.shtml

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/north_west/5083436.stm

http://cadw.gov.wales/about/news/summer-solstice-celebrations/?lang=en

Venus Cycle

http://www.chichenitza.com/listingview.php?listingID=49

http://alignment2012.com/fap13.html

http://www.lunarplanner.com/HCpages/Venus.html

https://grahamhancock.com/glynjonesw5/

Anglesey/Druids

http://www.angleseydruidorder.co.uk/

http://philipcoppens.com/anglesey.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/wales/entries/375ec5d4-a10c-3f1a-929c-12d9697f3f58

http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/ancient/anglesey/

http://resourcesforhistory.com/celtic_druids.htm

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/mab/

http://www.britannica.com/topic/Druid

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24 Comments

    • Very nice, I really like these 3D reconstructions as they make it so easy to imagine everything.

      On a side note, I find the pronounciation of this name quite peculiar!

      • Haha – yes, that’s the double L that makes Welsh place names so difficult for most people! I can’t even find a parallel, it’s a bit like hissing out of the sides of your mouth! – but the double D is like a ‘th’ as in ‘the’.

    • Thanks Dara. A video like that is good way to show a lot about a site in a concise way.

      Interesting, though unfortunate, to hear about the reconstruction of the mound in the early 20th century.

      Kind of off topic: The 3D fly-through inside the chamber towards the end looks very real, like real camera footage. Bit scary actually and makes me wonder about VR technology in the future.

    • Very cool animation! I love these sorts of things – they really help you get a sense of spaces when not able to actually visit in person.

    • Neat how they’re also recognizing how much activity is happening all around and that Bryn Celli Ddu is somehow connected with all the rest. I hope they keep exploring sites this way. Thanks for the share, Ella.

  • Thanks for a really interesting article Ella and Jenny, and I do agree with Ella’s comment that It’s sad to realise how little is known about this side of our collective history. Well done for shedding some light on it!

  • Thanks Ella and Jenny for a very well written and thoroughly reseached article. It’s great to discover how many of these spectacular places are “hidden in plain sight”, as Jenny said.

  • Thanks for writing about this site Ella as well as the other information .

    The site’s different stages remind me of Cairnpapple in Scotland, where (amongst its incarnations) it also went from a stone circle with henge etc. to a mound in later times.

    That ‘Year of Solar Burns’ by Charles Ross and the link made to the spirals on ancient stones is incredibly cool! Thanks for bringing it to our attention Ella. I had to take a few minutes to understand/visualise how this worked.

    That pattern Venus makes around the Earth is beautiful and amazing.

    Very nice music in that video btw.

    • Just came across a pattern that really looked like the ‘year of solar burns’ the other day. It’s on the back of a Celtic Torc (or in this case more like a ‘collar’ necklace.) It could of course be a coincidence, as a natural swirling pattern to fill up that particular rectangular shape on the Torc, but it just looked surprisingly similar. This is the object in question, but the pattern is on the back, which you can sort of see here.

  • Thank you Ella and Jenny for that research and post.
    Especially about Druids I really liked reading all this information you put together. Sounds like a big chapter that we miss so much from it, probably because of the lack of scripts from that era. But also like a great spiritual brotherhood that existed back then. And that connection they had with nature is quite nice.

    …and one more sacred place at the cue of those I’m looking forward visiting one day 🙂
    Thanks!

  • Very interesting and well-documented article! as my main experience from Britain is from London, I am impressed that so many things, and such mysticism, exist “beneath the surface”.

    Impressed also by the pentagram of Venus, as well as so many interesting things (the theme of the world-tree, the spiral) converging at one place.

    I checked a bit the poetry related with Taliesin and it seems also very inspiring:

    “I have been a multitude of shapes,
    Before I assumed a consistent form.
    I have been a sword, narrow, variegated,
    I have been a tear in the air,
    I have been in the dullest of stars.
    I have been a word among letters,
    I have been a book in the origin.”
    (From https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taliesin)

    “The Book of Taliesin” also seems that has even inspired John Williams for the music for Star Wars!
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cad_Goddeu

    Cheers!

    • Thank you for sharing the poem, Chris — very beautiful. I’ve not read much by Taliesin, but have seen the reference in Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (one of my favorites). Intrigued to read more.

      And yes, really amazing how much is “beneath the surface” or “hidden in plain sight” all over the world, and how interconnected and potent the symbolism is all over the world. Glad you found this site of interest.

    • That’s a beautiful poem Chris, one I’d read before as an example of the animistic world-view of the druids. It seems to hint at the understanding of reincarnation through not just human bodies, but through all the different manifestations of nature.

  • What a spiritually rich site with a deep history behind it! Thanks very much Ella and Jenny for this beautiful article and pictures. It would be interesting (for me anyway) to understand the exact reasons for its intentional closing… It seems as if with the less spiritual times approaching, many temples/worship places disappeared from the face of Earth or became inactive. In this case, its no wonder with all the persecution the Druids faced back then, but I noticed similar patterns with other sites/groups related to the spirituality of the Sun. Its almost as if the whole humanity turned itself away from the Sun it and its life-giving spiritual nourishment, which is very sad. This website is very unique in this regard I feel, as it brings back this long-const spiritual heritage, connecting people of different traditions with the universal ancient root from which they all sprang.

    • Hi Lucia,

      yes there must have been an important reason for these sites to be closed or transformed. All I know about it, from looking into some longbarrows (similar to Bryn Celli Ddu) in Wiltshire is that when the stars that they were aligned to fell beneath the horizon, that’s when they were filled in. It’s possible that they saw the energy that linked the two as no longer ‘available’ when the stellar body disappeared out of site. It seems that, as they build certain monuments when certain heavenly bodies align (like the winter solstice and the heliacal rising of Sirius), so they abandon them when the timing is also, somehow, ‘right’. Very mysterious indeed.

  • Thank you for such a thorough description of Bry Celli Ddu as well as of the Druids. Although I have never visited this site I relate very much to the mysticism of Britain which I feel a strong love for.

    The groves, mists, springs, humid air and even the way that houses and villages are built has a certain air of spirituality that can still be felt today. It is no wonder to me that there are so many sacred sites in the British Isles and I would not be surprised if the energy of Britain is somehow conducive to such mysteries.

    • It’s hard not to feel I may be somewhat biased, coming from Britain, but I do feel the land possesses a special quality. I’ve wondered if in part it’s due to the high latitude combined with the relatively mild weather – it creates a watery kind of light. I’ve also read that the huge amount of limestone in the south and strong tides creates a large amount of electro-magnetic energy. Perhaps this was somehow important to the ancient people as they built a lot of their sites of worship on the locations where this energy was highest. Saying that, it’s clear that every part of the world has its own unique and special imprint.

      It was great to explore a bit further into the heritage of Wales and to see that a great universal spirituality was practiced here, when you are taught to instead see it as primitive. It’s sad to realise how little is known about this side of our collective history, something I’m sure contributes to our general divorce from spirituality in society.

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