Joining the dots…

The waiting room was busy and the woman beside me said so… it was the opening gambit of one of those brief and revealing conversations that happen so often, where stranger speaks to stranger and they part as friends who will probably never see each other again.

Whenever you sit down and talk to someone, face to face, you begin to get a feel for their lives. From word, eye and gesture, from snippets of personal history that colour their conversations, you begin to learn, slowly building up a picture of who they are, and who they see themselves as being. The two do not always go hand in hand; from those with illusions of their own importance, to the ones so lacking in self confidence that they cannot see their own beauty.

Many things can blind us to ourselves. Those who raise us do the best they know how to do; parenthood does not come with an instruction manual or a failsafe. Yet their own inner shadows and insecurities, their beliefs, fears, and their joys, colour how we grow… not always without creating areas that are shaded grey, not always without some incongruous dabs of over-bright primaries. Experience is our next teacher, adding layer upon layer to our self-image, from all ends of the spectrum, as our lives and our choices shape us and our reactions to the reactions of others change us and mould our nascent personalities.

Imagine a pure, white lamp, then lay over it thin veils coloured tissue. Each layer is a clear colour, yet each layer, added to those that went before, will dim the lamp, changing its light, until very soon it will be impossible to see the original brilliance or determine either its own hue or the true colours of the overlay. The light within becomes muddied.

Whenever you sit down and talk face to face with someone who has chosen to consciously follow a spiritual path, you get a feeling that the life that streams behind them like a shadow has been… interesting. Not always good, not always easy, but somehow its peaks and troughs are sharp and vivid. Have their experiences been outside the norm? Are they any different from anyone else? Perhaps… and perhaps not. Their lives may have followed the same route and faced the same hurdles as thousands of others. Yet the glimpses that you see are sharper, carved in deeper relief.

Is it some magical ingredient? I think so, though not some arcane magic closed to the uninitiated. I think that the vividness comes from a clarity of consciousness… the awareness that seekers begin to develop from the moment they reach the turning point, ceasing to focus solely on the mundane life and instead gazing with intent upon the path ahead. That clarity is timeless and, like sunlight banishing shade, slowly extends across the past as well as present and future, throwing light into the dark corners of life and creating a new perspective, where everything has the potential to serve a greater good.

That perspective changes everything, infusing the minutiae with possibility and casting the larger events as opportunities for growth. Some may see this as a simplistic view, but to those who feel its touch, it makes perfect sense.

There are many, walking the varied spiritual paths, whose lives appear to have held more challenges than is usual, either from external events or from their own internal alchemy. Some have posited that this is why many turn to the Mysteries, seeking a validation… reasons, excuses, escape, depending on the mindset of the commentator. Having lived and worked within those circles all my life, I would say that nothing could be further from the truth… because what they are seeking is Truth… both personal and universal, and that is seldom comfortable when applied to the self… and that is where the magic has to begin.

There are no wands to erase the past in a puff of fairy dust. But we can change the essence of the past and how it overlays our own inner light, by learning to see clearly how what has gone before has shaped and influenced what is. We can learn to look upon the past… including the worst of events… even, and especially, our past self… with a love that wears the face of compassion and understanding.

There are neither potions nor spells that will instantly shape the future. It is the intent, the will, the imagination and, above all, the dedication of the individual that shapes the time to come.

And the present? We have to release the hold that we allow past emotions and future fears to have upon us, allowing ourselves to be whole, which is usually far easier said than done, as it means looking in the mirror of self with clear and honest eyes.

‘Living in the now’ has become a buzzword, but few say what they think it means. For me, it is neither the erasure of an unalterable past, nor a refusal to see some mythical future, by fixing our eyes solely on the moment at hand. It is more akin to joining the dots across time, like a child’s puzzle that reveals the hidden shape of that moment, or tracing the patterns we can barely discern in a starry sky, to bring all parts of being to a presence and awareness of what is and what it means to be a single point of light within a picture far greater than any one of us… but of which we are a part.

Full Circle: Long Meg


Our final site of the day was to be one of the most astonishing circles we have visited. It is not the biggest, nor are the stones themselves the largest, but it has a ‘feel’ unlike any other. Castlerigg, which we would visit on our final day of the workshop, may rightly be accounted one of the most beautiful of circles, but what Long Meg and her Daughters lack in aesthetics, they more than make up for in sheer presence.

On our very first visit, the light had been going and the winter dusk had been bitterly cold. We thought we knew what to expect…after all, we had seen enough photographs of the place. I had even a vague memory of having been taken there as a child. Yet, we had rounded the corner and been ambushed by the stones. Getting out of the car, we had literally bounced with excitement, like children at Christmas. The site was more, far more, than we had expected.


For a start, the narrow farm track that is signposted for the ‘Druid Circle’ gives no warning when you are about to arrive. It does not stop at the edge of an enclosure or parking space… it carries on, straight through the circle, skirting stones that divide the track at one point. When we arrived with our party for the workshop, our passenger too felt that ‘psychic shock’ and was, moments later, out of the car and bouncing up and down like an excited child.

The short winter’s day was drawing to a close and we would be in the circle at sundown. Unlike our last visit, equipped with cameras, the fading light would not linger and we lost no time in sending our party out to explore and attune with the stones.

Captured from Google Earth

The circle is huge, the sixth largest in Northern Europe, and not really a circle at all. It is an oval, formed from the geometric form of the vesica, and some three hundred and forty feet across its longest axis. Although legends say that it is bad luck to try and count the stones, the usual count puts them at fifty nine stones still in situ out of the seventy original stones. The whole thing was once surrounded by a low embankment, which may have been white-faced with gypsum, allowing it to glow.

Long Meg herself is the solitary standing stone who watches over her ‘daughters’, which are the stones of this Bronze Age circle. Legend says a coven of witches were put to sleep and petrified by a Scottish wizard named Michael Scot. His surname may indicate his origin north of the border, but Michael harks back to the Saint of that name who is so often shown with the dragon held quiescent on the point of his lance. The dragon power of old Albion, associated with the leys, was seen as pagan and therefore ‘evil’ by nascent Christianity and knowledge of its ways driven underground. Perhaps the dragons, like the stones, merely sleep…


The circle was built as part of the megalithic tradition which began around five and a half thousand years ago. The exact date of the circle and the surrounding enclosures and embankments is uncertain and its precise purpose is unknown, though much can be deduced. For a people who, like our ancestors, constructed interrelated sites across vast swathes of the landscape, it is probable that there is a relationship between this site and others in the area, including Little Meg, two fields away, and the henges we had visited. Not far away is the sacred landscape and Avenue at Shap… and you have to wonder if, as at Avebury and Stonehenge, these features formed part of a greater plan…and if so, did it echo the map of the heavens as our ancestors once saw it?

There are larger stones in circles across the country, but the stones are far from small. The four quarter-stones are not local and are quartz-bearing. Most circles are built from a single type of stone, perhaps with a quartz-bearing stone, or even an entire boulder of quartz, such as we had seen at Boscawen-Un. Here, however, Long Meg herself is a column of red sandstone that sparkles in the sunlight and which, with the quartz-rocks, differs from the rest of the circle. The technology of stone as it was known to our ancestors may be lost to us, but we have echoes in the use of crystal for both healing and communications technologies. Their choices of stone were not only deliberate but significant.


The arrangement of the stones suggests a calendrical function that would work by standing outside the circle and sighting across to the quartz stones. Long Meg herself, standing outside the circle, is part of a Samhain alignment with a portal stone and one of the quartz rocks.

Long Meg is a magnificent presence. Standing twelve feet tall, she is ‘tattooed’ with concentric circles and her uppermost surface is notched in the manner we have so often seen. This may be simple erosion, as is often averred, or the weather may have exaggerated an existing feature, but whenever we see this kind of notch we are struck by its similarity to the sight on an old-fashioned firearm. And this, we believe, was its function.

Between anecdotal observations and the mathematical precision survey work such as that conducted by Professor Thom’s, a good many astronomical alignments have been proposed and observed, indicating alignments at solstice and equinox and particularly with Deneb, the brightest star in the constellation Cygnus. Deneb heads the Northern Cross in the heavens and, along with Vega and Altair, is one of the three stars known as the Summer Triangle that was used for navigation right up until the twentieth century, helping pilots find their way home. There are physical alignments within the landscape too and while the entrance to the circle frames the hills, their form is shadowed in he contours of the stones.

As the day drew to its end, we gathered around Long Meg, focussing our minds and breathing. Closing our eyes, we once more sounded our ‘words of truth’, this time giving voice to the vowels which are the flowing seeds of sound. It is odd, but the voice changes when you work in this way; sound emerges unrecognisable from your throat as if illuminating hidden corners of your being. The words ‘breath of Creation’ passed through my mind, listening to the anonymous voices joined in unplanned harmony.

As we ended our day, the light failed and the clouds broke, allowing a final glimpse of the sun setting behind Long Meg. Wishing I had not left the camera in the car, I reached for my phone, just to mark the moment. The stones were alive, glad, I felt, for our presence and glowing faintly in the twilight as the sky itself offered us a final gift.