Category Archives: Ancient Sites

Father Bear…

HM15 970Pentre Ifan

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Which translates, ‘Ivan’s Village’ but was also formerly known as, ‘Arthur’s Quoit’.

Another ‘quoit’, and only a few miles away from the last one.

This seems, if anything, a little unimaginative.

Or, alternatively, it could signal a connection between the two sites.

The more obvious visual parallels though are with our first site, Carreg Samson.

Seen from one angle Pentre Ifan now frames the distant peak of Carningli (Hill of Angels) and like St Samson’s stone the upper ridge of its Cap follows closely the contours of the terrain which has always dominated its horizon.

We have been moving deeper into the country on our three-fold quest and the sites have become increasingly populace.

We met no one at the first site but at the second, we were hurried on our way by a couple of visitors as though we were holding up play on a golf course.

Here, we pass an entourage on the way in and on our way out we are replaced by another one.

The conveyor belt effect…

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True to the form in which we have cast these sketches we are over heating by this point in the proceedings.

Still, we have just come from a long climb up a big hill on a very hot day and the surrounding recumbents prove more than a tad adequate as baking stones.

It is perhaps just as well.

By paying too much attention to the stones one can start to become  a trifle uncomfortable in quite a different sense.

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For one thing, it becomes abundantly apparent that the central stone is not a support stone at all.

Not a support stone?

Quite definitely not.

But if it is not a support stone then what is it doing there, what is it, and why does it have claws?

Stone claws, or perhaps talons, which are firmly rooted in, not to say sprouting from, the earth?

Well, that is true, but even so…

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Maybe, whatever it is, is pointing the way.

Pointing the way to what and where?

To Ivan’s Village.

Whatever that means?

Ivan is Ian… is Jan, and Janus, the god-form of portals, is two-faced and looks both ways. In and out, up and down, before and after, here and there.

Ivan’s Village is Janus’ place!

Well, it is one aspect of Janus’ face, or Jane’s, certainly.

All of which means, we are still no nearer to an answer…

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…Not necessarily…

The symbolic preoccupation of all these structures seems to be with Headlands, (end of the land and start of the sea) or Mountain peaks (end of the land and start of the sky). And by extension with islands which is land situated in the sea, and also with birds which are beings that fly in the sky.

In other words the builders of these structures are concerned with thresholds and what lies beyond those thresholds in the domains which they bound. The analogy always involves the natural environment which is then related to their, and hence to our, own experience.

So, it is not so much from here to eternity but rather from here to our apparently limited horizons and then on beyond them…

Which may very well be an eternity or if not, then at least, an endless round.

Simple.

Eloquent.

Profound.

And that is just the formal symbolism of the structures, without consideration of the precise geometries of their situation…

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Despite the conveyor belt effect we still get time enough to do what is needed.

And we conclude our ‘…Prayer’ with a little chanting.

Impromptu.

Because that’s the way…

we like it.

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You think that will have gone unnoticed?

Quite possibly not.

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Baby Bear…

 

HM15 947Carreg Coetan Arthur

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 Otherwise, ‘Arthur’s Quoit.’

Of which there are a goodly number dotted about our Blessed Isles.

Which makes me wonder…

It is hard not to regard this Arthur as a giant too.

And indeed the folk record cares little whether it be a giant, or a king, or a saint who is responsible for placing the stones, only that their provenance be marked, and their links not forgotten.

The link at our previous site was with an isle and maybe if one were to sail from the isle to the mainland it would be useful to keep the stones, or the mound in sight. And if they couldn’t be seen it might have been unwise to set out at all…

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The link at this one  is with the setting sun on the now obscured horizon.

Now, a quoit is a ring thrown over an upright in the game which, like a lot of games, employs distinctly coital symbolism.

It would be easy to re-construct the ring, perhaps, the earthen mound covering the chamber would only need to have been circular in shape.

But the ‘upright’ might be more difficult…

Unless it were a beam of light?

Such a notion is certainly counter intuitive but it may widen our notions of being up-standing.

We begin to wish we had paid more attention to the ray diagrams of our youth and those interminable physics lessons.

Fortunately, someone else has already done the maths, although quite how is still something of a mystery, to us at least.

According to the estimable Mr Robin Heath, the midsummer sun set of 2800 BC would cast its light through the ‘v’ at what he calls the back of the monument but which we may want to call the front.

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One  has to wonder about a culture concerned enough about its environs to construct such a burial chamber.

A crucible for the last rays of the summer sun.

May it be that the structure was a calendrical instrument long before it was a tomb and that the bones eventually placed in its midst were once those of people connected to its construction and or continued employment?

When appropriate we still sometimes bury the tools of someone’s life long trade, or rather service, with ‘them’.

Such notions have  wide ranging ramifications for recent theories of psychological crystallisation, but that is another story…

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This being such a small portal there was little enough room for the reader so the Companions gathered around the periphery for another recital of the ‘…Prayer’.

The reading caused shivers which, given the designation we had somewhat irreverently foisted upon the structure, seemed curiously apt.

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Mother Bear…

HM15 884Carreg Samson

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With a total disregard for tradition we tackled our ‘just right bowl of porridge’ first .

It is strange to say, perhaps, but this particular conglomeration of, once covered but now exposed, structured stone did not, initially, feel particularly motherly.

For one thing there seemed to be a general reluctance for people to step inside.

Was this fear, awe, reverence… ?

Perhaps it was a commingling of all three emotions…

The structure does cast an illusion of wanton precariousness.

Those undressed slabs of rock together comprise an impressive sight and tonnage.

The bones of our ancestors were once interred here.

More recently it has served as a sheep shelter.

Whatever it was it was soon dispelled as we got ‘down and dirty’ in the chamber in order to read a contemporary ‘Druid Prayer’.

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There is a theory about male and female standing stones.

The broader, squatter, shorter stones being deemed female whilst the taller, thinner, longer stones are deemed male.

It struck me that if the Cap-Stone were upright it would probably be regarded as a male stone.

According to another theory the Cap-Stone would definitely be male, irrespective of whether or not it is standing, for it has seams of white-quartz running through it.

From this angle though the Cap-Stone, in its present state, looks like nothing so much as a bird skull.

Which thought may cause pause for further thought…

Was there a deeper level of symbolism at play than the familiar Womb-Tomb equation?

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There is talk in the official literature of a possible second chamber and certainly from this angle the Cap-Stone looks quite badly broken.

It would also explain the curiously lonely looking ‘stone figure’ to the right.

Whichever way one approaches the structure it is hard to shake the resemblance to a modern day coffin with pall bearers…

Except, perhaps, this one…

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The Cap-Stone possesses contours which closely resemble a distant Head-Land.

This is best seen in image one.

When the structure was covered in earth and grass this resemblance would, presumably, be even more accurate, especially if seen from a distance.

The portal ‘looks out’ across an ocean which has an island in it.

It is from this Isle, legend tells us, that St Samson flicked the stones to land and take up their present position.

So, St Samson must, at some stage in his story, have been a giant.

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North-easterly VII: A final grace

The Silent Eye

“…Manifest thy light for my regeneration, and let the breadth, height, fullness and crown
of the solar radiance appear, and may the light within shine forth!”

Abbe de Villars, ‘The Comte de Gabalis’

“We’ve just got to the top of the slope by the castle,” said the voice on the phone, in answer to my query. We had been a few minutes late arriving on Holy Island, and our companions had begun to stroll out towards the medieval castle that dominates the island landscape. Having failed to find them in any of the three cafés where we had looked, we had located them by phone and, putting on a bit of a spurt, finally caught up with them. From here we could look back at the beginning of our journey, over the water to Bamburgh Castle, just as the spiritual pilgrim looks back on his inner journey and sees with…

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Stanton Drew…

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Names matter.

For practical purposes they are like elephants and flowing water.

They follow the shortest, flatest path to wherever they are going, and en route the jagged edges first get smoothed and then get worn away.

In this particular case we are on the path to understanding…

‘Standing Stones of the Druids’

‘STANding sTONes of the DRUids’

STAN-TON-DRU

Stanton Drew…

There are a number of ‘Stantons’ in England with an attendant ancient site, and for a long time these places were associated with Druids although we now know that they were around a lot earlier than the period normally associated with those infamous ‘Old-Time-Sages’.

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This ‘fella’, could easily be a druid, although he could just as easily be a she, in which case one would be tempted to call her a witch.

It is the first stone that greets you at the site.

If you look closely at the first photograph you can see some of the other stones lurking in the background.

On our first visit to this site we were struck by how utterly ‘other’ the stones appeared in relation to their environment.

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…Everlasting to Everlasting…

The Silent Eye

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Euhemerism: an ideology that humanises the gods…?

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Euhemerus of Messene was a widely travelled man. He wrote a travel book in which he described his visit to an island called Panchaia in the Indian Ocean. In the island’s Temple of Zeus, he said, there was a golden pillar on which Zeus himself had written his autobiography as the king of Panchaia. Zeus had also written the biography of his father, Cronos, on the pillar, and Hermes had then added the biographies of Artemis and Apollo. Unfortunately, Euhemerus’s book does not survive, and no one else has ever found the island Panchaia, so later writers accused Euhemerus of inventing the whole thing.

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The most sympathetic account of Euhemerus’s work is contained in Diodorus Siculus’s, ‘World History’, where Diodorus explains that even supposing one accepts Euhemerus’s story it does not necessarily follow that the gods he described were…

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Practical Geometry…

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‘My goal is to teach practical geometry to our students, not as something new, but rather as a collation of older scattered material. Say what you will. I think our predecessors worked miracles. They had immense energy, and tried to get to the truth. Hard work could not dampen their ardour, nor any obstacle deter their efforts. They had deep insight into marvellous and almost incredible matters, and even in lesser ones they provided many examples of wisdom. To equal them may not be possible; not to try would be a disgrace. But enough exploration; let us address our task…’

Hugh of St Victor –  AD 1096-1141