Briagha is a community leader
Pilgrimage to Callinish
In 2006 the moon reached the limits of her cycle and the lunar standstill took place. This is a complex subject, so I am not going into it here, suffice to say that at the two summer full moons, on June 11th and July 13th, the moon would rise as far to the south of east as she ever gets, cross the southern sky at a very low altitude, and set as far south of west as she ever gets. This makes for quite a spectacle, especially at a place where this process impacts on the visible horizon in some way, and nowhere more than at the ancient stone circles of Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis. I first heard about this back in 1987, the last time it happened, when some friends of mine went up to Callanish to experience it all, and came back full of wonder. The moon appears to rise out of the belly of a local mountain called the Sleeping Beauty, which looks like the form of a woman lying on her back, and this is a mystical moment, as the Earth Goddess seems to give birth to her moon child.
Back then I decided that I wanted to go and see it for myself, and slowly but surely the years went round until there was only a few months to go! I wanted to make my journey a megalithic pilgrimage, visiting some of the ancient sites I had heard so much about and never visited, so out came the map of Ancient Britain, and I started to plot the route. A couple of friends that also wanted to go joined forces with me, and agreed that they too would appreciate the chance to take the journey slowly, and connect with sites along the way.
We decided to start at Arbor Low, which is said to be the exact geographical centre of England, and we got there in the afternoon of the 5th of June, on a perfect summers day, with a slight haze over the distant hills. The view from this site is exceptional, and from the banks of the outer henge you can see a complete horizon of 360 degrees! The site itself consists of an outer bank, called a henge, with 15 ft high banks and about 100 ft across. Inside this is a circle of stones, all of which are lying flat on the ground. Whether they started out upright and were pushed over, or were flat from the start, is very hard to tell, either way they have been down for a very long time now.
We stayed at this wonderful place for some time, and went over to the mound nearby too, which is the remains of a burial chamber with some stones around it. There seemed to be a number of interesting bumps and mounds on the horizon as we looked around, which could well have been markers for the rising and setting of the sun as it travels through the year, part of an early calendar system. It was very peaceful here, just some sheep and cows quietly munching away, and some lambs scampering around in the summer sunshine.
After a pleasant night in a camping barn, we carried on our journey, daringly driving round Manchester on all the local roads rather than go back to the motorway, and were rewarded by the sight of a number of beautiful gypsy vardos, wooden caravans, parked up in several lay-bys, on their way to Appleby fair. It was good to see that these old ways are still strong up here, and obviously supported by the local people too. On we went, across the motorway and up into the lake district, where we stopped at Lake Windermere for a drink in a pub right by the lake,and had a paddle to cool ourselves down. From here it was not far to Castlerigg, one of the most beautifully placed stone circles in England, sitting in a bowl surrounded by the fells,on its own little hill.
This is a busy place, and while we were there a group of folk from English Heritage stood around discussing how best to protect the site from the 5,000 visitors every month! I am glad to say that they all felt it was important to keep it open and available to the public, and not just fence it off, though some felt that this might have to happen for a year or so in order for the ground to recover. You can see the erosion around the stones in the picture. At the moment they have planted a very tough grass there which is quite resistant to being walked on, but has effectively pushed out all the little herbs and flowers that should be here.
This picture shows how big the circle is, with Sue and Maryrose on the nearest stone, and the far side way off beyond the trees. You can also see the road through the middle. Though a number of the stones seemed to be pushed over, a lot are still standing, and this is one of the most impressive circles I have visited, for both size and atmosphere.#
So with our batteries recharged, and our DNA restructured, on we went to another camping barn, by Hadrians Wall, which seemed rather modern by comparison! The next day we got onto the motorway and quickly made our way up to Glasgow and beyond, to the quiet valley of Kilmartin, 30 miles south of Oban. This is a remarkable area, with over two miles of megalithic monuments strung out along the valley and ending at the village church, where there is a museum and a collection of mediaeval carved stones, indicating that this has been a very sacred space for many thousands of years. I had been here before, and very much wanted to come again and see more. We started at the southern end, with a burial chamber by the road, with two capstones still visible and in place, and small spaces that one can just squeeze into, underneath them. Across a field a line of stones can be seen, so we walked over there, to find that these are the remains of an avenue that once ran here, possibly going to the ringed cairn in one corner of the field. There are two cairns, one smaller and now just a mound of stones, while the other is a circle of stones with a central cist under a capstone. As I arrived there, I caught a glimpse of eyes glinting under this capstone, which quite shook me, till I saw it was a lamb who had wriggled under the stone to get some shade from the hot sun
Once more the stones changed, with these being much taller and thinner than the others we have seen, and with quartz pebbles imbedded in them too.I liked the way that these two framed the distant horizon mound, pretty well due north.
I feel a very strong personal connection with this valley, which I think is due to a past life connection, back in the time when I left Atlantis and came to Scotland in a great boat, with other members of the priestly caste, who had been chosen to carry the seeds of our culture to other lands as our own land disappeared under the waves. This is a very vivid memory for me, and it has been strengthened by the experiences I have had there in this lifetime.
The most potent place for me has been the third of the line of cairns going up the valley from Temple martin Stone circles, on a track that runs parallel to the main road, and that was probably the roadway in neolithic times. The first time I visited was in 1997, when I was involved in the search for a site for the international Rainbow Gathering. At that time I had an amazing vision dream of the flight from the drowning Atlantis, a mad journey of wild waves and lashing rain across the seas to the sanctuary of this land, where we built the monuments to mark the clans who had survived.
This time I went to that tomb after we had first called at Temple martin. There are two circles here, though one is more of a ring cairn, with only one or two stones of any size left. The main circle is lovely though. I think it has been restored a bit, though with these monuments it is hard to know to what period of their life to restore them, as they may have changed several times over the millennia. This one is a big circle of small rocks, maybe 30 ft across, with a ring of standing stones around, about 3 ft tall, and a cist in the centre, a square stone walled box which contained the remains of human bones. I like to sit in these cists as I feel I can contact the ancestors very easily this way, tuning into their vibrations in the rocks, connecting with the guardians of the site. There were a number of visitors here which is interesting, given that they were visiting quite an out of the way spot on a weekday, nice to think that so many people are drawn to our ancient sites, for so many different reasons perhaps, but all helping to keep these places alive and humming, turned on by our energy as we are by theirs. One of the stones in this circle has a spiral carved on it, like Long Meg, and the traces of a second too. There is a beautiful stillness here, as the hum of England and 100,000 internal combustion engines has finally gone, and the grass is full of those herbs and flowers that were missing at Castlerigg, and a different hum, of a million insects happily at work. There were some lovely trees here, growing round the circle and obviously enjoying the energy here, as did we , each lying back against one of the sunwarmed stones and letting them infuse us with their calm.
We could just see another of the circles here across a field, but decided to not go there, but carry onto the cairns, the first of which is Nether Largie, a great name. It is a large mound of rocks, which you can walk up and in the centre is a large chamber maybe 15 ft long by 4 ft wide, sunk into the centre of the mound. I went down into it,enjoying the cool darkness after the bright sun outside, and admiring the large stone slabs that make up the ceiling and side walls.
Then on to my favourite cairn, and I went there on my own, as the others went to the second one - there are a line of six going down the valley. This is a special place, a great mound of rocks with an entrance at the top giving onto [modern]stairs going down into the dark. Once you go down however, it is not dark, as they have put in some glass panels in the roof which allow in a dim light, enough to see by. And that's good, because on the raised slab, leaning against the wall behind the large cist in the floor, are over 30 cup and ring marks, and 7 axe -head shapes, carved into the stone. I have never seen such a large and clearly defined number of marks like this, and feel it is a highly potent piece of work. Since returning from this journey I have heard that australian aboriginals make these same marks on sacred stones to emphasise a wish/ spell they are making, e.g., for fertility for the parakeets that they like to eat, so many will be born, thus bringing good for both human and bird. There are many ideas about these marks, and why our ancestors made them, perhaps they too did it to emphasise their magic......
It was great to be at Kilmartin again, and go to the Nether Largie Cairn that I visited back in 1997. I had a quiet time in here, remembering the info about past lives that I got here before, and drawing down some more new stuff this time. I feel that these stone structures can really hold information, over the millenia, and we can acess this by placing ourselves in the right space and mindset to open up to what can be learnt. There is so much here to see, 3 circles and 6 cairns, plus single stones and chambers, whew!
Then on with our journey, stopping for a while under Ben Nevis, who can be seen in this photo with his “lady” - the two mountains really looked like 2 great heads to me, lying looking up at the moon together........
After a somewhat unsettled night, trying to sleep despite the midges, we whizzed onto Skye, across the new bridge, and up to a broch on the west side of the island, fairly ruined but still in a commanding position over the landscape. I like these brochs, and feel very at home in them. And across the sea to Harris and Lewis, magical isles as they came into view from the boat, full of mystery!
After we landed we went to my friends home in Crosbost, about 10 miles from Stornaway, to gather our wits and get ready for our trip to Callanish. I was not prepared for the amazing energy of the stones, as we went from circle to circle, or the stunning beauty of the Lewisian gneiss, the rock here, which seems to be lots of crystals compressed together. There are 3 circles close together, within sight of each other, and a fourth a mile or so away, so we took advantage of the good weather and went to all of them.
Others of the group had arrived by then, so we met up and I went to Callanish 4 with Richard and Julie. This circle has had some peat dug out of its centre, so there is now a pond there, and we played around for a while, paddling in the soft brown peaty water, and enjoying the amazing view. As the days passed, it felt as if every view showed us more giant earth beings, lying across the landscape , and when we went to a talk by Jill Smith, she had a wonderful painting of this very idea.
Saturday night was very cloudy and stormy, so our time at the stones was focused on the circle and the people there. There was quite a crowd, and some extrovert loud blokes, so though we did a bit of singing, it was rather hard work and we left early. But sunday morning dawned fine and clear, filling us with hope that we would see the full moon that night. We gathered as the sky grew full of the glorious sunset, over to the extreme north west, and watched the clouds chase across the sky. Slowly darkness came, and folk asked When will the moon rise? There were about 100 or so folk there, with a large number of cameras in position at the edge of the circle. Some saw it as a chance to seize some limelight for themselves, but gradually all grew quiet as we waited and waited. Some local Christians came along and sang Amazing Grace a few times, and we sang We all come from the Goddess....... It grew darker, and I felt it was like a birth, waiting and watching, and waiting some more. Just as my friend said it must be up and we can’t see it, a faint orange glow became visible on the Cailleachs belly, and as we watched in awe, the bright moon rose from between her legs, an absolutely incredible sight!!!!!!!!! I blew my conch loudly in salutation, and the cameras clicked frantically, and we sang some more. We were able to watch her roll along the mountain tops for a while, but I have to say that when it got cloudy again, I went to bed, as it seemed unlikely we would see the moon set into the centre of the circle.
This was one of the most magical sights I have ever seen, a cosmic birth indeed, and left me feeling so grateful for the good weather, and also to have shared it with some good friends too.
I have just been to Callanish again, and was blessed to be there for the lowest pass of all, the waxing moon of september 29th. As it was a waxing moon, it rose early in the afternoon, so we went over about 4 pm.
Initially it was rainy and we sat with friends under their canvas shelter, and drank strong coffee and smoked strong stuff. Then it cleared up and we went out to where about 25 others had gathered, at the end of the long avenue to the north of the circle. The clouds parted and the moon could be seen, rolling along the mountains, so low! And then , as she reached the stones, we could see her playing peekaboo with us, moving from behind each stone to become visible, then behind another stone, then out again........
We watched this for about an hour or more, fascinated by the beauty of this cosmic game! By moving from side to side of the end of the avenue, one could see an instant replay, as the moon apparently moved backwards. Finally she reached the end of the stones, and set into the last one, and the mountain tops hid her from view, and I felt I had reached completion on the journey that I had started in June. What a wonderful place and experiences, thankyou Earth Mother! And Moon too!
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