Raphoe, County Donegal, Ireland
For thousands of years the landscape around Raphoe has been an important centre of ritual practise, a place of worship to where pre christian ancestors came to pay homage to their spiritual rulers such as the Sun & Moon. Near Raphoe on the summit of Beltany Hill stands this Neolithic stone circle dating back 800 – 1400BC. This stonecircle comprises of 64 standing stones but it is thought that there may have been originally 80 stones. One of the stones which is about 2 metres in height stands to the southeast of the circle. It probably had some function related to the pagan ceremonies held in the circle.
The name Beltany is derived from the word Beltane which is linked to the Celtic festival of fertility. This festival was usually held in May the Irish for which is Bealtaine. It is said that on the first day of Bealtaine two fires were lit and the animals were driven between the fires. This was done to protect the animals from diseases, to promote regeneration and also to pay homage to sun god Baal for the following season. Its hard to imagine that these standing stones may have been standing here longer than the Great Pyramids in Egypt!