Most Dutch Dolmens lined up at Celtic Sun Celebrations

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View direction Sunrise Begin Winter (Samhain) and Begin Spring (Imbolc) Dolmen D 54

In the category ‘my hunebed’ we invite people to write about their own personal thoughts about hunebeds and megalithic monuments. Here is a story of Peter van den Hoek.

Article Version:  26-10-2020

Peter van den Hoek

As a child I was introduced to the Dolmens for the first-time during history lessons in primary school. These thousands of years old mysterious structures of many tons heavy stones made quite an impression to me. It lasted until my adulthood to actually come face to face with my first dolmen. From that moment on, my exploration of the many Megalithic (Great Stones) Structures in the World began.  For example, I become acquainted with the Pyramids, Carnac and Stonehenge and began to develop more and more as an Archaeoastronomer (Research of Archaeological Structures from an Astronomical point of view, so Sun, Moon and Stars). In this capacity I made a documentary for YouTube about Carnac¹ and Stonehenge².

In the last year I have returned to where my adventure started, at the Dutch dolmens! In the literature about it you can find that these dolmens are generally oriented east/west with the entrance towards the south. I decided to check this with my compass and came to a surprising discovery: Indeed, 14 of the 54 dolmens are east/west aligned, so at the Equinox points where the Sun rises and sets in spring and autumn, see table The Dutch Dolmens and their Alignment on Sun or Moon. Yet most dolmens and up to 20 are aligned with another Sun alignment, the start of the four seasons according to the Celtic partition of the Solar Year! Of course, this requires further explanation. In this article I will explain my vision. For those who prefer to be informed through visual language, I have placed a short documentary on Youtube³ about this subject.

Table; The Dutch Dolmens and their Alignment on Sun or Moon

To properly explain my vision, I first must tell you something about our ‘strange’ layout of the Solar Year.  This is not going to be an easy story, but it will be very interesting!

On june 21 our Sun will make its longest orbit in the sky. At the latitude of the Dutch dolmens it rises above the horizon at 47° in the northeast, and then after a long day it sets at 313° in the northwest, see drawing Celtic Sun Positions. We call this moment mid. summer and celebrate the beginning of summer. This is strange, because in fact the summer is already halfway. The same applies for the winter. On december 21 the Sun rises at 130° in the southeast, to set after a short day at 230° in the southwest. Then we celebrate the beginning of winter while winter is already halfway. Halfway these extreme positions, the Sun rises exactly in the east and then sets exactly in the west twelve hours later. That is why we call these points the Equinoxes, which means equalize, because day and night are exactly the same length. Because this are not extreme positions, such as mid. summer and mid. winter, the Sun passes twice a year. If the Sun moves towards mid. summer, we speak of spring when it rises and sets at these points on march 19. If the Sun moves towards mid. winter, we speak of autumn when it rises and sets at these points on september 24. Feel free to grab the drawing of the Celtic Sun Positions, otherwise this whole story really sounds like hocus pocus. When the Sun rises and sets in these equinox points, we celebrate the beginning of spring or autumn, but in fact both seasons are already halfway. That is why I call these points mid. spring and mid. autumn.

From this point of view, spring and winter begin when the Sun rises and sets halfway mid. winter and mid. spring/autumn. If the Sun moves towards mid. winter, we speak of the beginning of winter when it rises at 110° and sets at 250° on october 26. If, on the other hand, the Sun moves towards mid. summer, we speak of the beginning of spring when it rises at 110° and sets at 250° on february 15. Finally, summer and autumn begin according to this view when the Sun rises and sets halfway mid. summer and mid. spring/autumn. If the Sun moves towards mid. summer, we speak of the beginning of summer when it rises at 69° and sets at 291° on april 21. If the Sun moves towards mid. winter, we speak of the beginning of autumn when it rises at 69° and sets at 291° on august 22.

When we align a structure to the Sun, for example the Sunrise during mid. summer, then the Sun sets there on the other side six months later and 180° turned further during mid. winter, see drawing Celtic Sun Positions. An alignment at the beginning of a Celtic season becomes even more special. When we align a structure at the beginning of one of the seasons, we actually catch the start of all four seasons in one single alignment!

As an example, let’s take a look at dolmen D54, see Ground Plan D54. This drawing gives a detailed view of the dolmen as Albert van Giffen found it in 1918.

(I ended up being grateful to use his measurement data in my research, because they are most reliable. There have been quite a few excavations and restorations taken place on Dutch dolmens in the last century, where I wonder if the exact alignment with the north has been preserved.)

Back to where we left off. Where the Sun rises on the east side at 110° during the beginning of winter on october 26, six months later it sets at 290° on the west side during the beginning of summer on april 21. Because both points are not extreme positions of the Sun, it passes twice a year. So, the point that marks the beginning of winter on the way to mid. winter during Sunrise on october 26, changes on the way back to the point that marks the beginning of spring during Sunrise on february 15. This also applies to the other side of the dolmen six months later and 180° turned further. The point that marks the beginning of summer on the way to mid. summer during Sunset on april 21, changes on the way back to the point that marks the beginning of autumn during Sunset on august 22, see also drawing Celtic Sun Positions.

The following eight Celtic Sun-celebrations can be found in the alignment of the Dutch dolmens, see Table Alignment of the Dutch Dolmens to the eight Celtic Sun Celebrations:

  Alignment of the Dutch Dolmens to the eight Celtic Sun Celebrations  
Begin Winter (Samhain) / Summer (Beltain) / Spring (Imbolc) / Autumn (Lughnasadh)20 x
Mid. Spring (Ostara) / Autumn (Mabon)14 x
Mid. Summer (Litha) / Winter (Joel)  2 x
Total36 x

All eight Celtic Sun-celebrations recorded in stone! That’s quite special.  In my opinion, we can conclude that the Dolmen Builders or the people of the Funnel Beaker Culture also honored these Sun-celebrations. So, these celebrations are probably much older than the Celts. Could it be that they were transferred from the Funnel Beaker Culture, or wider Megalithic Culture, through the Burial Mound Culture to the Celts?  Or did both cultures discover these important Sun positions separately, because that was of great importance for agriculture?

I believe that through the Celts these Sun-celebrations have become known to us, but that their origins must be sought in the Megalithic Culture. In Godmanchester (Great Britain) for example, a temple from 2.900 BC was excavated (Megalithic Culture) which also recorded the alignment of all eight Celtic Sun-celebrations.⁴ This is about 2.400 years before the Celts arrived in Britain. In addition, dolmen (Mound of the Hostages), the burial mounds and earthworks of the ‘Hill of Tara’ in Ireland show us that the alignment of the Celtic Sun-celebrations Samhain and Imbolc has been transferred from the Megalithic Culture, through the Burial Mound Culture to the Celts. In an article I have written about the Hill of Tara I will go into more detail.⁵

For the Celts, the most important Sun-celebration was the beginning of winter that they called Samhain (pronunciation: So-when) and with it the Celtic New Year began.

For the Celts, everything started from the dark. “The Celts count in nights and in winters”  wrote Julius Caesar. They let their days begin after Sunset and their winter started with Samhain. The start of a new annual round and therefore a very important moment in the year. The following is said from the Esoteric tradition about this feast: ‘During this period, the veil between the spiritual world and the physical world is thinnest, so that an exchange can take place!’ This was the time of year for them to connect with their Ancestors and honor them in this way. This made the celebration so important to them! Would the Dutch Dolmen Builders have aligned most dolmens (20 pieces) in this direction for the same reason?

This turned out to be an important alignment not only in the Netherlands. Just think of the before mentioned ‘Hill of Tara’ in Ireland. But also in Carnac (France Breton) there is a dolmen (Dolmen de Kercado), which seems to be more than 1.000 years older than the Dutch dolmens, with the same alignment. During the beginning of winter (Samhain) and spring (Imbolc), the rising Sun illuminates the backstone of this dolmen through the entrance on the east side.

Today Samhain is still celebrated! Most people now know it as Halloween which is celebrated on the last day of october, exactly five days after october 26. This celebration has taken over by the Christians from the ancient Celts. This celebration lasts for three days, just like with the Celts. On october 31 we celebrate Halloween to scare away all evil spirits. The next day on november 1st we honor all Saints with ‘All Saints Day’. Finally, on november 2nd, we will remember the dead around us with ‘All Souls Day’ by lighting a candle for them. In fact, we also do a kind of Ancestor Worship, just like the Celts and Dolmen Builders!

But why are there five days difference between the actual moment the Sun rises and sets halfway between mid. winter and mid. autumn on october 26 and the moment we celebrate it on october 31? I think this has to do with the introduction of our current calendar by the Romans (Julian Calendar). The Dolmen Builders and Celts originally didn’t work with this calendar at all as they lived about 3000/500 years earlier respectively.  In my opinion they celebrated it on our current date of october 26, before the introduction of the Julian Calendar. The same applies to the Celtic Beltain. With this, the Celts celebrate the beginning of summer on the last evening of april. Looking at the sun, this moment actually takes place on april 21, so nine days earlier than april 30. I believe this date has also been shifted with the introduction of the Roman calendar.

In my opinion, the Dutch dolmens are much more than just graves. They were places where important Sun positions and celebrations were held, just like with the Celts, because 36 of the 54 dolmens are aligned with one of the eight Sun positions of the Celts, see Table. This is converted 4 out of 6. Such a score cannot be based on chance. In addition, there are several dolmens aligned at one of the Moon positions, because 9 out of 54 dolmens are aligned at the Minor or Major Lunar Standstills. I actually see it this way:  The dolmens were important meeting places for the communities that lived around them. Under the guidance of a Shaman or Holy Man, people gathered here to celebrate or commemorate, just as we do now in our churches. I believe the dolmens were also places for stillness, reflection and meditation, again just like our churches, nice and cool in summer and in winter it does not get as cold as outside. Then let us approach a dolmen with the same respect as a church!

Peter van den Hoek

Nieuwstraat 22 D

3811 JZ Amersfoort

The Netherlands

petervandenhoek@casema.nl

References:

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Sw9UoXsBdU

2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fq516VKysw8

3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKWG4HgP4Fc

4. https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg12917615-300/

5. https://www.hunebednieuwscafe.nl/2022/06/dolmen-hill-of-tara-aligned-with-celtic-sun-celebrations-and-a-lunar-standstill/?cn-reloaded=1

View direction Sunrise Begin Winter (Samhain) and Begin Spring (Imbolc) Dolmen D 54
Sunrise Mid. Spring (Ostara) and Mid. Autumn (Mabon) Dolmen D 50

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