Sunday, 11 June 2023
Listening to the Stones
Both Jackie and I have been on our travels of late. Either for work or family or holiday or a combination of all these.
Given the nature and title of our book it has seemed only natural that stones should play a part in these trips, beginning a few weeks ago when we had our first work meeting (ourselves and John Mithcinson) at the Rollright stones in Oxfordshire.
I always feel that the period between Beltane and Midsummer is full of a heightened magic and enchantment and this year has seemed particularly so. In late May the roadsides of England were thick with the frothing cream of the May tree and of Queen Anne's lace, and over this particular hill in Oxfordshire the skylarks sent their song of summer longing up into the clouds overhead. We discussed badges and fairisle and the universal draw of the stones and their ability to be a unifying force. My 'cosmic love' batteries were recharged to over-brimming and I have been running on high ever since.
A week or so later I was heading north with my husband, Mike, and we stopped in Shap to visit old friends. It was an absolutely stunning evening and I was keen to see the sun set over the Goggleby stone, an impressive ten foot high boulder which is belived to have been part of a major neolithic avenue of stones. The last time I was there four years ago my friend Dave leaped up onto the stone and pulled me up by my right arm which miraculously sorted out a long term issue I'd had with my shoulder. It may well have been a lucky muscular readjustment but it was still a profound experience and so I wished to say my thanks again to this old friend. The moon rose behind us as the sun went down.
The next morning Mike and I paid a visit to the especially powerful stone and stone circle, Long Meg and her daughters. I particulalry love Long Meg for her towering height and her cup and ring markings, something I have been fascinated by since I first saw them marked on a map of Perthshire when I was a student at Stirling Uni in the 1980s. But back in 2010 I created a piece of stained glass of Long Meg and a hare because of their joint associations with witches and shapeshifting; it was for an exhibition with the Museum of British Folklore (and scale wise rather a gigantic hare!) When I later visited Long Meg in 2019 I could not believe my eyes when I saw three hares appear one by one from behind this majestic stone! The last one hopped around the sprawling stone circle (the daughters) and stopped within a few feet of where I sat. I still cannot believe it really happened but if you look closely at the photo below you will see that third hare.
A few days later we had arrived on our holiday destination of the Isle of Arran and I was keen to pay a visit to one of the first complexes of stones and stone circles I ever remember visiting as a small child. As such the Machrie Moor stones have a particulalry special place in my heart and I wished to introduce our own adult children to them. It was an incredible evening, the setting sun lit up the bog cotton like fairy flares across the moor and we walked away from the glimmering sea into the ampitheatre of hills that surround this moor. Two hares grazed in a meadow near the abandoned farmhouse that marks the threshold to the place of the tall stones and I was filled with excitement and anticipation.
However, it is always slightly nerve wracking, for me, to visit stones with other people. Somehow you just don't know how it'll go. On ones own there is all the time in the world to do or behave as one wants, to connect with the stones and the landscape, to see what unfurls. I thought we might have a fun but rather skittish and light hearted encounter. Admittedly the landscape, the time of day, the sunset, the light, the abandoned farmhouse, the hares, were all playing in the favour of an epic momnet but we were high on a great day outdoors, a fish supper and pints of cider so tom foolery was possible.
However, as we walked from the biggest solo stone across the bog to the trio of stones, the sound of a curlew cut across the dusky sky. From the north, from the myrtle and silver birch, a curlew flew directly towards us. It swooped by to the stones, alighted on one for a few seconds then continued its circle of us, calling and once again disappeared into the moorland!!
We were spellbound.
If we had not been eaten alive by midges I expect we would have been tempted to stay out there all night. It truly was an unforgettable moment and one which shall surely have a bearing on my work for Wild Folk....
But here's another coincidence.... In 2021 I made this piece of work based on an imagined encounter at Pentre Ifan in Pembrokeshire......
Wild Folk Club Badge
- Your name in the back
Wild Folk Club Badge Set
- Your name in the back