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Observations placeholder

Sacred geography – Picts – Round tower 03 - Star maps and bliss



Type of Spiritual Experience


This is not about the Pictish Round Towers but the Irish Celtic round towers, but we believe the principles of their use and their layout is consistent between the Picts and Irish Celts. 

A description of the experience

THE ENIGMA OF THE TOWERS – from Kindred Spirit Autumn 1997 by Brian Freeston

Ireland's countryside is dotted with scores of round towers built by monks in the sixth and seventh centuries. for more than 40 years a top US scientist, professor Philip Callahan, has pondered their mystery………………….

Belleek is a small town in County Fermanagh, known for its fine porcelain. During the Second World War it was also an ideal position for a top secret radio range station. As a 20-year-old GI, Phil Callahan was responsible for keeping the radio range operational. This station,  the first of its kind, enabled RAF Coastal Command to maintain 24-hour cover over the Western Approaches.

'I'm very pleased with what I did there’. Callahan says. ‘Keeping aircraft over the Atlantic all the time meant that the U-boats had to remain submerged. The convoys got through and both English and German lives were saved.'

Callahan' s ability to view life from a different perspective imbues his work with a freshness and vitality that is so important to any major scientific breakthrough. His contribution to science has been massive, yet. as most of his work has been in the less than glamorous field of agriculture, it has largely gone unnoticed by the general public. Callahan's expertise covers entomology, ornithology and VLF/ELF radio waves; he is a leading light in non-invasive methods of insect control. …..

Callahan discovered that radio signals in the far infrared spectrum are a crucial element in insect behaviour. He also knew that radio signals could affect human behaviour and well-being.

During a particularly severe winter storm in Ireland in 1944 the young GI was on night duty alone at the station when both the primary and back-up transmitters failed. With ten aircraft out over the Atlantic dependent on his signal to get back, it was a fraught moment.

'I couldn't make any sense of it. Both machines were working fine, but there was no signal transmitting’. Callahan shakes his head at the memory. 'But then I remembered what an old Arctic radio man once told me about how ice-coated insulators could earth the signal. So I climbed up the antennae poles and whacked the ice off with a broom stick. It did the trick. But by the time I'd finished I could hardly stand up; the radio energy had made me drunk."

As a climber Callahan was familiar with climber's high' -a feeling of calmness and peace combined with a high level of mental and bodily energy sustainable over long periods of time. He had become convinced that the feeling of elation he had when climbing was more to do with the power of the rock than anything else. When he visited his first round tower at Devenish on Loch Erne he experienced a similar feeling to climber's high.

I've always been drawn to mystical places - spots on Earth that induce a feeling of awe or wonder, a feeling of oneness, where there is no real sense of time. Ireland has many of these places. The round tower at Devenish is one.'

It was the feeling from Devenish, along with the incident at the radio station, that created the impetus for Callahan's round tower research.

The Irish round towers were constructed by monks towards the end of the great period of monastic expansion, between the fifth and the seventh centuries. When they were built they would have been the only stone structures in the monastery. Today 25 or more towers stand upright in perfect form, and the remains, or stubs, of another 43 dot the countryside………….

Some years before, Callahan had bought Professor Barrow's Irish Heritage pamphlet on round towers which included a fine map of the still-standing towers.

'I was lying on a couch looking at the map. There was something very familiar about it - apart from it being a map of Ireland! After about five or ten minutes it suddenly flashed into my mind - insight I believe it is called - exactly why the map appeared so familiar. The towers formed a star map of the northern night sky. I have used that sky map dozens and dozens of times hiking around in the deserts of the world. It is gouged like a carved woodblock into my brain.'

One of the best preserved monasteries is Clonmacnoise in the centre of the great plain of Ireland. It is on the Shannon River and is widely assumed to have been the centre for the entire monastic movement. Callahan surmised that it was placed to represent the north star Polaris. All the other star groups then fell into place -Ursa Major, Draco, Cassiopeia,  Camelopardalis and Lynx, far to the south (Figures 1 & 2).

What Callahan had drawn was an almost perfect sky for the December solstice. The imperfections in the round tower star plot lie mainly in the fact that the monks had to fix their towers according to the lie of the land.

What is astonishing about the round tower star map of Ireland is that there were two great ecclesiastical centres during the early days of Christianity in Ireland: one at Armagh in the north and one at Clonmacnoise in central Ireland. In relation to the round tower plot of Draco, Armagh is exactly at the point of the ecliptic centre. This demonstrates very clearly that the Celtic peoples of Ireland knew not only that the Earth was round, but also about precession - the slow wobble of the Earth around a theoretical or ecliptic centre of the sky, a circular movement which takes 25,800 years to complete.

'The technocrat, who is high-energy, inorganic-slanted, will of course scoff at my star map of round towers and say that the correlation is coincidental.' Callahan shrugs. For the high-energy' technocrat every phenomenon that does not hit one on the head with an inorganic hammer is a coincidence. Coincidence is the cop-out word of the century used to put low-energy organic researchers in their place.'

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items




Tuning fork

Activities and commonsteps