BURIAL CHAMBERS AND PASSAGE MOUNDS
The dolmen under tumulus is the dwelling place of ancestors, who for successive generations can be called upon for divine protection, as mediators between the living and the potent netherworld. With chambers generally oriented in the direction of the rising and setting sun, a link is made between those buried between the stones and the course of the great celestial body. Consider the etymology of the word ‘origin’(from the Latin oriri: ‘to rise as the sun’): beyond the foundational role they hold for the community, the dead keeps on nourishing the living, just like the rising of the sun at the origin of each day.
While there is great emphasis on the proper treatment of the dead in small burial chambers, they also fulfill initiatory functions for the living: not only lesser rites of passage but also the royal, shamanic initiations of a select cast of individuals searching to penetrate the mysteries of life and death. If for the dead chiefs buried there, immortality is a reward, for the initiate it must be earned. In the dark damp depths of chambers, trials are undertaken, union with the Great Goddess (hierogamy) sought, and through realization of the Eternal, immortality attained. If the round tumulus shelters the cranium of the dead, it also witnesses the crowning of the realized initiate.
Evolved from those simple chambers, passage mounds play a more collective role. They are built for long-term use and may have multiple chambers set in a cruciform layout. Large stone-cut offering bowls are sometimes found. It has been suggested that some sites may witness physical birth events.
In the ‘Tumb of the womb’, the cyclic, ever-present, all-embracing arms of the goddess is directly felt, experienced, and learned. Beyond the symbols of the goddess and motifs of masculine power found carved in the chambers, it is abstract designs that are favored: processes (evolutive and involutive spirals), elements (earth, water, wind, fire), celestial bodies (sun, moon), serpentine designs, entoptic patterns (dots, arcs, zigzags, grids, lozenges, eye-patterns, cup and ring marks) and other images of shamanic trances.
Passage mounds are often built and orientated so as to mark key points in the rising and setting of the sun and moon. Winter and summer solstice rising are often celebrated with dramatic light effects that appear in the depths of the chambers. To achieve this, the passage may slope upward or undulate from side to side; the use of light-boxes and stone portals may further allow or restrict the flow of light. Eventually, light entering a passage is narrowed into a focused beam of light that only penetrates the inner chamber for a few minutes at these key moments. In the chamber's surrounding gloom may suddenly appears the golden light display of a triple spiral, its vital force re-awakened or re-activated; a free-standing monolith may suddenly transforms into a laser-like shaft of light, a magical rising of potent life-force.