Some studies show that often when one finds inequalities of power, wealth and status, one also finds practices that ‘turn the world upside-down’ (e.g. Tedlock 1975; Gilmore 1998; Bailey 2005). I intend to take the theme of a world inverted, and demonstrate how it is played out by the architecture of the Loughcrew passage tombs and settings themselves. For example, when one enters a passage tomb, there is a sensation of entering the earth itself, or a different ‘other’ place. This feeling of a ‘world inverted’ is magnified by the processes of engraving images and by overlaying motifs with other motifs. Through ‘unfinished’ and ongoing processes (see Gell 1998, 80), ‘senses’ of permanent resistance are literally etched away, as one engraves a permanent and timeless stone.
The possible application and erosion of natural pigment (Note 1) (via liquids?) may also have subtly evoked ‘energies’ against diverse authority that was opposed to change. Whether these authorities were the dead, mythic entities or social elders will remain unknown. We can, however, argue that the idea of the carnivalesque allows people to move beyond the limits of the material, beyond the stone and beyond the motifs themselves. At Loughcrew there are two episodes of the superimposition of one motif with another (Jones 2004, 209, Fig. 21.6). The superimposition of motifs in this context may be a sublime celebration of a world layered upon layer and turned upside down, the celebration and animation of life in a place of the dead. Such a proposition recalls Nietzsche’s description of a Dionysian fête, in which the revellers under the influence of narcotic drinks forever exult in the transformation of appearances (Stam 1989, 89).
This paper incorporates Jones’s (2004; see also O’Sullivan
1986; Eogan 1996) position, but was initial inspired by C. S. Lewis’s
(1971) paper ‘meditation in a toolshed’, in which he stressed the
differences between looking at and looking along a particular idea. I am
concerned that past models regarding Irish passage tomb motifs have
focused more on the structural forms of motifs than the processes that
helped produce them (see also Jones 2004, 202-3). They therefore are more
about looking at the forms rather than looking along the processes.
East meets West
This cairn is the focal tomb on Carnbane East and is a cruciform passage tomb
10m long (see image below). It is also a ‘stalled’ structure similar to
Tumulus J at Dowth, Boyne Valley (Herity 1974, 41). Cairn T, c. 35m in diameter,
is visually noticeable from the lower plains surrounding Loughcrew and from most
of the uneven topography below the hills themselves (Herity 1974, 42; Fraser
Plan of Cairn T with illustrations of C8 and L1, Loughcrew, Co. Meath. Scale represents internal plan only. (after Shee Twohig 1981, Figs. 232, 325; McMann 1993, 26).
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