Passage Tombs, Astronomy and Ritual:

  • At these latitudes NE is generally aligned with the Midsummer sunrise, NW with the Midsummer Sunset, SE with the Midwinter Sunrise and SW with the Midwinter sunset.
  • The passage tomb at Newgrange, in Meath, is aligned with the Winter Solstice Sunrise (take a look at this fantastic picture of it from the entrance to the tomb) (Ireland) Courtesy of
  • The Cairn T at Loughcrew is aligned at both the Spring and Autumnal Equinox. (Cairn L is aligned with Samhain sunrise and can be viewed below) The sun comes through the entrance and illuminates a craved backstone for about 30 minutes. The carvings clearly show a sun, but take a look for yourself and let us know what you see! People have made lunar observations as well, but the pattern would be based on a lunar cycle which only repeats every 18.6 years. (also called the Saros Cycle) By the way, Cairn T is the tallest and most prominent part of the Loughcrew complex. There are 4 additional mounds which are aligned with the summer solstice sunrise there. (Ireland) Pictures courtesy of
  • In the Long Barrows near Stonehenge, bodies were laid facing East. (England)

Aerial view of the Knowth passage tomb


Winter Solstice Sunrise from the entrance Newgrange

Spring Equinox Sunrise at Cairn T

Stone Circles/Rows, Astronomy and Ritual:

Castlerigg - is one of Britain's oldest stone circles.  It has 38 stones in a slightly oval shape with 10 small stones forming a rectangle on the south-east side of the ring. There is one stone which is much bigger than the rest, and it is aligned with the November 1st (Samhain) sunrise. (England)
Here are video clips from Castlerigg:

Long Meg and Her Daughters - this circle is the 3rd largest in England and is a single circle with a single oversized stone.  What caught my attention is that the large stone (which would be Long Meg) is aligned on the midwinter sunset.  This day can be referred to as St. Brigid's Day, Candlemas or Imbolc and is generally Feb. 2 (yes, Groundhog's is a holdover of these ancient religions that we try to see when spring is coming on that date) (England)

Stonehenge - I know, you were waiting for this one.  The fact is there is too much information for one of my quick synopses, so here is a link dedicated to Stonehenge. (England)

Nether Largie - has rows of standing stones running NE to SW with another grouping in the shape of a cross.  It is believed that the stones can be used to calculate the moon's minimum every 18.61 years as well as some maxima. (Scotland)

Sunhoney - the stones at this site are positioned to
represent the moon's phases and in fact it has a singular, the decorated recumbent stone over which the moon rise is visible. (Scotland)

Avebury Henge - it is the largest stone circle known in the world at 28 acres.  There is an outer ring of 98 Sarsen stones with 2 intersecting rings within.  There are 2 stone lined avenues (the surviving West Kennet Avenue and the Beckhampton Avenue) which lead to the main areas, one of the avenues connects this site to The Sanctuary on Overton Hill. (England)

The Sanctuary at Overton Hill  - Although it started as 6 concentric circles of wood posts, it was later a double circle of standing stones.  Evidence indicates it was used for feasts and death rituals. (England)

Stanton Drew - this site consists of 3 circles, 2 avenues, a cove of stones and external stone marker known as an outlier.  The rings are North East, the Great Ring and South West and the avenues run from the center and NE rings eastward to the river Chew.  The stone cove is in line with the centers of the same circles and the outlier is in line to the NE of the circles.  Another boulder is in line with the Great Ring and the SW one.  With the help  of a magnetometer, we now know that in the Great Circle
were a series of pits that held posts.  There were 9 rings which were concentric with that circle. (England)

The Hurlers - is a series of 3 stones circles running NNE to SSW and there is a "spread" of quartz crystals in the center circle.  There is both a round barrow and a portal dolmen nearby. (England)

Men Scryfa - is a standing stone in Cornwall which has replaced an earlier grave marker.  What makes this stone interesting is an early Christian inscription calling the stone of the royal raven.  The raven, associated with death or battle is considered a magical bird and worshipped by warrior societies.  Look for the story of Riolobran (England)




Video of Cairn L at Longcrew at Samhain (Oct 31) Sunrise: