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Sacred Sites: Ireland · (Déithe Na Spéire)



This stunning 1-hour documentary gives an extraordinary new insight into the ancient sacred sites of Ireland – from the majestic passage tomb of Newgrange to the enigmatic stone circles of Beaghmore in County Tyrone. Combining history, mythology, astronomy, science and archaeology, the film looks at how celestial phenomena influenced religious practice and sacred sites in Ireland, thousands of years ago. Produced by Tile Films for the Smithsonian Channel USA and TG4 Ireland.

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Why did the ancient people of Ireland abandon worship of the Earth for worship of the Sky? And why, thousands of years later, did they abandon Paganism for Christianity?


The official release date for Sacred Sites: Ireland is July 2014

On February 15th 2013, a huge meteor streaked across the skies of Russia at a speed of 18km per second. Fragments of the rock broke off and exploded with deadly effect, shattering the windows of thousands of buildings in the city of Chelyabinsk and injuring hundreds of people. The meteor itself exploded with the force of 30 Hiroshima bombs. Witnesses described how they were transfixed by an unearthly light and a terror that ‘felt like the end of the world’. Afterwards, there was an upsurge in religious practice, as the city’s residents crowded into churches.

Could a meteor or comet have had an even bigger effect on people’s beliefs in ancient times? Dr Patrick McCafferty and Professor Mike Baillie of Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland have spent years studying the relationship between meteors, comets, sacred sites and religion. They and other experts believe that over the past 5,000 years, events in the sky helped to motivate great changes in religious practice in Ireland and other parts of the world. This thought-provoking and visually stunning documentary explores the religious and mythological significance of Ireland’s most hallowed sites. Traditional archaeological studies of these sacred places offer only a partial understanding of their purpose. To get closer to the truth, we need to study the sky just as much as the earth.

The documentary was directed and produced by multi award-winning filmmaker Stephen Rooke (Saving the Titanic, Waterways) and written by David Ryan (who also co-wrote the IFTA-winning Cromwell in Ireland). The film is based on Patrick McCafferty’s extensive research into comets, meteors and ancient religion, and benefits from the participation of leading historians, archaeologists and scientists.

Stephen Rooke said, ‘David Royle and Chris Hoelzl of the Smithsonian Channel asked us to produce a film about sacred sites in Ireland.  We were fascinated to learn about Patrick McCafferty’s research on these places. It gave us a new angle on religion in ancient Ireland and it was really remarkable to look at these familiar sites from a completely different perspective. Many people are fascinated by ancient sites, and we believe that Patrick’s theories will challenge the pre-conceived ideas they might have about ancient Ireland.’ Smithsonian Channel Executive Producer Tim Evans is hugely enthusiastic about the production: ‘This is a really impressive show,’ he said, ‘with an amazing revelation that ties modern astronomy to ancient history. The production values are awesome, and I think the story strikes just the right note.’


  • Monday 2nd Feb 2015

    ""TG4's Déithe na Spéire (The Gods of the Sky), made by award winning Tile Films, features new findings that suggest a shower of meteorites helped Christian monks to convert the pagan masses in ancient times. Experts, such as Celtic scholar Patrick McCafferty, explain how ancient Irish people changed from worshipping gods in the earth to gods in the sky - and eventually this helped bishops like St Patrick convert them to the new Christian Church. " See Déithe na Spéire on TG4 on Wednesday February 4th at 9.30pm"