Facing Fear With The Silent Eye, Part 7 – Fear Itself ~ Helen Jones

More from Helen Jones on our visit to a rather special site…

I recently attended a workshop with The Silent Eye about Facing Our Fears, an extraordinary weekend spent among the hills and grey stone villages of the Peak District. It’s taken me a little while, as it usually does, to process everything that happened. Once again there was history and mystery, good company and tasty food, old friends greeted and new friends made. And, as always, revelations.This is part seven of my account, parts one, two, three, four, five and six can be found here…

As we approached the Andle Stone its size, half hidden by the slope and vegetation, became more apparent, as did the fact that this was obviously a significant part of a larger landscape. Once again, there seemed to be a tradition of climbing attached to the stone, as someone had incised footholds as well as graffiti, and cup marks higher up indicated it had been in use for a very long time. However, it was a good four metres or so to the top so we decided to leave it, pushing through the shrubbery to the front of the stone, where an inscription lay hidden.

Continue reading at Helen Jones’ blog

Rites of Passage: Going deeper…

We had only a field to cross before we reached or final planned destination of the day. Doll Tor is a secluded little circle, now set within a wooded grove, a little off the beaten track. Following the unofficial addition of stones to the circle in the 90s, by well-meaning but misguided visitors, archaeologists carefully restored the site to its original layout, removing extraneous stones and it now looks much as it would have done when it was first built in the Bronze Age.

Thankfully, the site had been well documented. The circle is around twenty feet in diameter and consists of six standing stones which were once connected by drystone walling, traces of which still remain. The design reminded us of Barbrook II, though here the connecting walls take a back seat and may be missed by those concentrating on the standing stones. As we had seen at Nine Maidens, and on previous trips to Barbrook I, there is a cairn close to the circle, this time, though, instead of being at a small distance away, it is right beside it. Almost connected to it. Given the nature of the finds unearthed here, it could be seen perhaps as a mortuary temple… or perhaps its purpose was to forge a strong connection with the ancestors.

Bateman’s excavations in 1852 uncovered burial urns and cups within the circle. Eighty years later, Heathcote found five more cremations and a number of urns within the stones. In the cairn, he found a central stone cist containing the cremated remains of a woman. Around the edges, four more cremations had been buried, along with a faience bead. For such a small, withdrawn circle, set apart from the main settlement, sites and cairns of Stanton Moor, it was obviously a place of some importance to contain so many burials… almost as if it had been ‘supercharged’ with ancestral presences. It gives the impression of a place set apart for a reason.

Because of its seclusion, Doll Tor is a place still used by those for whom there is still magic in the land. It is one of those places where saying that the ‘veil is thin’ is more an accurate description of the atmosphere than a cliché. Our own experiences at the site had convinced us that the link between the land and its people was still functioning and we hoped our companions would join us in an experiment to reconnect with the ancestral presence.

We feel that this was once a place of seers. It has a distinctly feminine feel and even its form echoes that of a gravid goddess. The trees that shield the circle from view offer their own presence and the grove of wood and stone feels very much alive.

While two of us held the space, we would journey back, following the paths that open on the screen of imagination, and see what might come into the mind. Opening ourselves to the unknown is another threshold of fear, whether in everyday life or in any form of psychic or magical work. The pathways of the mind can lead us to some strange places, not all of them comfortable.

Motionless, with arms outstretched, we stood as our companions walked the inner paths that lead beyond time, space and realities. What they found there is not our story to share, but it is safe to say that for them, too, the circle was still alive and functional.

Such experiences may be dismissed by the sceptical as pure imagination…which is, after all, one of the most powerful forces in our world and the root of all innovation and creativity. For others, it is psychism or vision. When images surface from the deeper levels of the mind, such labels matter little. To those who experience such a moment, what matters is what is felt and learned. And none of us were left unmoved.

Before we left, we shared bread and wine, a symbolic communion of Earth and Spirit, that has its roots in a tradition far older than its current religious association. There is shared purpose at such moments, and a trust that knows no barriers. Then, having performed the closing visualisation, we made our way back towards the road.

A glance at the clock told us that the scheduled day had finished earlier than anticipated. With our table for dinner not booked till eight, we had time to spare…and a very intriguing site just five minutes down the road. The chance for a whistle-stop tour of the site seemed too good an opportunity to miss. It is a strange place, but one we know well. We knew our companions would find it interesting. But we were not expecting the weirdness that would find us there…

Full Circle: Spiral dance

We squelched through the mud at the gateway to the field, following the fence down to a tiny stone circle that is unknown to most casual visitors. Just a third of a mile from its big sister, the tiny cairn circle of Little Meg is one of the least known circles in the area and yet it is, with Long Meg and nearby Glassonby, one of only three in the area that has ancient carvings on its stones.

Technically, Little Meg is not a stone circle. When it was first discovered by antiquarians, it was buried within a mound of earth, making it the internal structure of a burial mound and the excavations revealed bones, charcoal and an urn, buried in a cist at the centre. The stones may, perhaps, have originally been a circle that was covered over, but the preservation of the symbols on one of the stones suggests that they were carved not too long before it was buried. There were once two decorated stones at the site, though only one now remains, carved with a spiral that flows into a series of concentric circles. The second is in Penrith museum and is carved with deep cups surrounded by concentric circles.

There is no way of knowing for certain what these carvings represented to our ancestors, and many theories have been put forward, from simple decoration to seasonal, star and energy maps. The odd thing is that, if these were purely decorative, why go to the trouble of carving into stone what could have been painted? And why were they buried beneath the mound of earth that once covered this cairn, where only the dead would see them?

We believe it was for this very reason, so that the dead… who were not thought of as ‘entirely’ dead, but were seen as Ancestors, with a presence and purpose within the clan… could see them. Were they, perhaps, a map for the journey home?

Whatever their purpose, when we had first visited the circle on our ‘recce’ trip, expecting only a few tumbled stones, we were wide-eyed at what we found. The carvings are quite crisp considering that they date back to the Bronze Age…and standing in their presence, under an open sky, is a strange and awe-inspiring feeling.

The stones were moved somewhat from their original positions during the excavation, and yet the familiar form of the ‘tailed’ entrance into the circle remains. There was a report of another  and similar cairn close by, but no trace now remains of this. Not far away is the small Glassonby circle that we would not have time to visit. It too has a stone carved with concentric circles and angular patterns…and here too, the design is placed so that only the dead will see it.

For now, though, and in spite of the remains of a bird within the circle, this was a place of the living, not the dead, where the ends of time could be connected through the medium of the human heart and voice.

Once more we sent our companions out into the field to speak their words to the winds. This time, however, we had asked them to seek the ‘seed’ of their word… the seed of words in general. At a previous workshop we had considered how, if you knew how to ‘send’ and ‘receive’ along the leys, one might, theoretically, be able to send a message by a type of Morse code, interrupting the current and letting it flow into the energetic ‘dots and dashes’ that could be interpreted when it reached its destination. We compared this to the role of vowel and consonant in words. The vowels flow while the consonants interrupt the flow. We have experimented with chanting at ancient sites over the past few years; was this, we wondered, relevant to why some chants work better in certain places? Those that are made up of pure vowel sounds, in contrast to those where the flow is ‘cut’ by consonants.

Gathering once more, we shared a short meditation, building upon the imagery of the web of light, connecting it to the realm of the stars… and wondering how closely the constellations of stones might shadow those of the heavens if we but knew how to look…

Circles Beyond Time – Cairnfields

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There are some places that seem to have a timeless quality. As if, when you step within their atmosphere, you step beyond the constraints of place and time; you could be anywhere…and anywhen. This little stretch of moor is such a place. Patches of heather were still in full bloom, stones lie hidden in the bracken and reeds, quite appropriately, mark the path of underground streams.

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We had gathered for lunch on Baslow, just a few minutes’ drive away and taken a little time out to settle after the morning at Gardom’s. The afternoon would be spent amongst the cairns and circles of Barbrook. It is a strange place. At first glance… and if you stick to the wide track across the moor… there seems to be little to see. Yet this small area is rich in archaeology. Like most of the Derbyshire sites, the stones are small and little shows above the summer vegetation, unless you know where to look. But almost as soon as you step onto the moor, you begin to feel it.

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We left the main track immediately; that had been put in place for modern access. We headed west, following a path we had found when the vegetation was lower by following the stones into the moor. Going that way also means that you complete the circle widdershins, rather than deosil… anti-clockwise, against the movement of the sun, rather than clockwise. To those of us who have studied and worked in the Western Mysteries or magical traditions, this really did ‘go against the grain’ at first, but we have found that at many of the older sites, this seems to be the natural way to move around them. As Helen said when this subject had been raised, perhaps the coming of Christianity and the subsequent demonisation of earlier pagan practices accounts for why moving widdershins has been associated with darker paths and bad luck. Another factor may be that the majority of the ancient sites we visit were built either for ritual or as part of the realm of the dead. Both would have been seen as gateways to the Otherworld that runs ‘at a tangent’ to our own… and perhaps that is why they require the opposite approach from sites pertaining to the lands of the living. Oddly enough, we still walk instinctively clockwise when we visit a church. It as if the site itself dictates the ritual of movement, if you listen.

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As we walked, we pointed out the remains of the Swine Sty hut circles and settlement site, over on the opposite side of the little valley that is divided by Bar Brook. These were once the lands of the living, which often seem to be separated by running water from the ritual landscape, and yet it feels far less welcoming than the cairn field where we now walked. There are around eighty cairns on this side of the brook, making up part of a Bronze Age necropolis. Some are thought to be clearance cairns, some are burial sites and, when the bracken is low, they can be clearly seen. Some have been robbed over the centuries, either for stone or from curiosity and their internal structure and the cysts they contain can be clearly seen. Most have never been legally excavated and the whole area is now a designated Scheduled Ancient Monument.

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The first major structure we came to was the large cairn behind the stone circle that would be our last stop of the afternoon. This particular  cairn was excavated and reconstructed around fifty years ago, the structure having been much disturbed in previous centuries by the amateur  antiquarians who were the precursors of our modern archaeologists. Four carved stones were found there and removed to Sheffield’s museum.  Cremated bones and pottery sherds from a collared urn were also found, along with an urn with the cremated remains of a child. So many unanswered questions in this one cairn! And with so many cairns, where so many of our ancestors were once laid to rest how many stories could this land whisper? It was perhaps a fitting start to our journey across a moor that holds at least four thousand years of human history, walking between the heather-covered cairns towards a very strange stone circle…

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