Emerald Isle

Standing Stones

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore, Irish fairy tales and More Irish Tales and Legends

Standing Stones of Ireland

Some of the most striking and beautiful ancient monuments left by the elder folk of Ireland are the many standing stones spread throughout every corenr of the country. People of almost every era have raised them as boundary markers, in commemoration, gathering places and ceremonial coronation or sacred spaces, as tombstones and for many other reasons. One of their most obscure purpoes hinted at in the old mythology is that of battle-pillars, which heroes might stand against during the surge and flow of battle, to protect their backs from treacherous blows.

Several Irish standing stones, or menhirs, were said to have sorcerous powers, like the Lia Fáil in Tara, which let out a mighty roar that could be heard across all Ireland when the true King touched it.

There are numerous types and arrangements of standing stones, which are broadly categorised into three kinds - single stones, pairs of stones, and stone rows of between three and nine stones, often arranged with the tallest on one end, and the lowest on the other.

Stones in rows or in pairs often line up with hilltops or gaps between hills, and are thought to be connected to some important astronomical occurrence, like sunrise during the solstices, or moonrise during the equinoxes. They may also point to individual stars or contellations on sacred dates. Stone pairs sometimes acted as "gateway" stones into other areas.

Many stories tell that standing stones were thrown into their present locations by giants and heroes competing with one another, reflecting on the importance of stone lifting and throwing in the competitions and festivals of the time. The mightier a man was, the heavier the stone he could lift.

It is thought that numerous standing stones were altered in later times to add Ogham script along their length, although it is difficult to date this accurately. During the Christian era others had Christian crosses and symbols engraved upon them.

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