Hidden Avebury: Seeking the Unseen

Almost everyone knows of Avebury, the great stone circle within which a village was built. A World Heritage site and one of the most incredible sacred complexes of prehistory, it is justly famous for its beauty and mystery. The site attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year but while most simply walk in awe amongst the majestic standing stones of the Circle and Avenue, there is far more to discover for those who will walk the paths less travelled.

Join us in June, 2020, as we explore some of the hidden corners of this amazing landscape, ranging beyond the boundaries of the Circle to seek a deeper understanding of what our ancestors hoped to touch by building this earthly temple to the stars.

Based in the landscape around Avebury and beyond, this weekend will entail some relatively easy walking. There will be time during the weekend to explore Avebury and its stones.

The weekend runs from Friday afternoon to early Sunday afternoon, and costs £75 per person. Meals and accommodation are not included in the price and should be booked separately by all attendees. Meals are often taken together at a local pub or café. For those arriving by public  transport, we are able to offer a limited number of places in shared vehicles; please let us know if this would be required.

Hidden Avebury: Seeking the Unseen

Avebury, Wiltshire

12th – 14th June, 2020

Click below to
Download our Events Booking Form – pdf

For further details or to reserve your place: rivingtide@gmail.com

Hunting the Unicorn: Shells and fruits

Sometimes, on these workshops, the land and the sites are so well chosen that they need do little except be there in order to remind us that we are not simply here as sightseers… we are here engaged on spiritual work. As we climbed the winding path up the mound, Drumin Castle gave the illusion of being almost complete. The walls of the medieval tower house made a perfect illustration of the ego-illusion of wholeness we present to our world…and to ourselves… with, we were to find,  the facade hiding only memory and time-ruined hollowness within.

Empty windows look out across the confluence of the Livet and Avon rivers, making this a perfectly sited defensive tower. Every approach can be watched across three valleys and it is, itself, an imposing structure. Like the walls raised by the ego to keep the kernel of individuality safe and isolated within its shell, the exterior of Drumin is designed to say, ‘this far and no further’… at least, not without permission and watchful eyes.

Some of those eyes belong to Nature, though, especially these days. The defensive portals now hold only great nests and jackdaws chittered and fussed as we disturbed their younglings.

Drumin was built in the 1370s by Alexander Stewart, the notorious Wolf of Badenoch who had once attacked Elgin cathedral. It was almost certainly built on the site of an Iron Age fort and, with the cairn and stone circle of Doune of Dalmore just across the Livet, may have been part of yet another of those prehistoric sites where the lands of the living and those of the ancestors were separated by water.

As we entered the tower, I was struck by the resemblance to the Red Tower at Penrith Castle which we had visited on a previous workshop. The great supporting arch had sheltered us there from the bitter December wind and rain. This weekend, we had been far luckier with the weather, but the arch was almost identical.

Above it, one floor allowed a glimpse through vacant windows and thick walls, with a wonderful view over the river valleys below. It has a solid feel… a castle built to last… and yet, the apparently strong fortress had a lifespan little more than our own, falling into disuse around a century after it was built.

Below the castle, however, is a walled garden. Almost an orchard. ‘Almost’ because the trees of the community orchard are still very young. It is a beautiful and peaceful place… sheltered, protected  and yet very much a part of its landscape.

The contrast between the defunct, isolated tower and the vibrant green life of the communal garden is quite striking, both visually and symbolically, especially given their relationship and dependence on each other. So it made a perfect place to construct our pentagrams once again and walk the pattern of our own psyche on their lines.

When we had finished our work at the Castle, Dean took us to his new home. It is a project he and his partner have been working on for several years, building a sustainable home within the trees and hills just a few hundred yards from the Castle. It will be beautiful when it is finished and part of its landscape, not apart from it or imposed upon it. Already, even with the stark lines of newness still exposed, you can see how it will look when it is loved and lived in.

As I said… sometimes the land and the sites are so well chosen that they need do little except be there to remind us…

Hunting the Unicorn: the Fairy Circle

 

Sunday morning already… the weekend was slipping by incredibly fast, but we knew Dean had a lot planned for the final morning of the workshop. Our day began by packing the car, necessarily skipping breakfast… which was to prove a bit disastrous as things turned out… and re-inflating the dodgy tyre yet again. It was definitely getting worse, but it was still manageable as long as we had access to an air pump. There was no prospect of getting it dealt with on a Scottish Sunday so far from a large town anyway.

But all practical considerations would fade away as we drove to our rendezvous at Dean’s home in Glenlivet. The morning was beautiful, the landscape incredible with wide valleys fringed with the blue of snow-kissed mountains. We glimpsed rabbits, deer and scurrying weasels and, quite magically, there were huge hares on the road.

While hares may well be a common sight in that area, for us they are a real and exciting rarity and we saw three… as many in a few minutes as we have seen in all our travels together. Hares are symbolically associated with the moon, as are many of Scotland’s ancient sites… and with the realms of the Fae. They represent rebirth and regeneration… and, in our experience, they always herald something special.

We would have to wait and see… and had not long to wait. Our first stop was a place close to Dean’s home, with a name that sounds as beautiful as the site proved to be… the Doune of Dalmore. We parked beneath the hill that leads up to Drumin Castle, where we would be heading next, crossed the whisky-coloured river, where, to my delight, we found healthy elm trees, and walked into wonderland.

A mound rises up from a ridge at the top of the field… an emerald carpet scattered with white flowers, pale rocks and the silvery bark of the trees. It seems to be a man-made structure but, ‘Doune’ means ‘fort’ and that’s what it looks like, a fairy fort. It is what it feels like too…a magical place.

 

Close by is the stone circle, with four remining standing stones surrounding a ruined cairn of the Clava type, like the amazing structures we had seen on our last trip to the area and Clava Cairns.

The rocks that scatter the base of the hillock wear strange shapes and seem to be arranged in patterns, as if, did we but have the key, they would still speak for us with stories that have slept there for millennia.

We were here, though, to work, not wander off exploring…which I think we would all have been happy to do had we had the time to spare. It was the most beautiful of places.

Unfurling our ribbons and stones once again, we contemplated yet another aspect of the magical personality. As we worked, we were watched… a young deer patrolling the fences, though whether we were being guarded or guarded against, we will never know.

Some places have a ‘rightness’ to them that is impossible to explain. Across the river, the medieval walls of Drumin Castle looked almost complete above the trees. You could have been centuries ago, just looking at them… and yet, they were insubstantial, ephemeral, against the ancient spirit of this sacred hill.

In itself, that was another beautiful illustration of how well and how much the land itself can teach us. Beneath all our acquired habits, hang-ups, fears and triumphs, there is something much older and more real than we tend to realise as we go about our daily lives. No matter what we build for ourselves, all of which may decay or be torn down, there is a bedrock of beauty within each of us, a bastion of the otherworld, to remind us that we are more than our worldly form  and of whence and what we come.

Full Circle: The final curtain…

On most of our workshop weekends, we offer a ‘greeting of the dawn’ at one of the ancient sites. The winter workshops are perfect for this as the sun rises so much later, but as we are at the mercy of the season, the weather and the time local hotels serve breakfast, these are always optional. Usually we choose a place we would not otherwise get to visit, but this time, really, there was only one place to choose… Castlerigg. The stone circle nestles within a circle of hills and there can be few more spectacular settings for an ancient and sacred site.

Not everyone relishes such an early start, and we had made it clear that this would be a brief visit, just for the dawn… we would be gathering there later to end the official part of the weekend. Nevertheless, almost everyone chose to come and greet the birth of morning.

It was still almost dark when the first of us arrived, getting the circle briefly to ourselves. Others arrived shortly afterwards, both from our own party and fellow travellers. It soon became obvious that although we would be there for the dawn, we would not be able to stay for the sunrise. The mountains of the Lake District that ring the circle would not reveal the sun’s face for some time, as it climbed behind the bulk of Helvellyn.

As we gathered to sing a chant to the sun, marking its still-invisible rising, Steve invited three gentlemen who were obviously of our own mind in these matters to join us. We frequently share these sites with others, but we have yet to meet anyone unsympathetic or disrespectful of what we do… and you can usually tell those who will join with us for a moment. Seeds of possibility are planted when you follow such promptings… and these seeds we would see come to fruition later that day.

After we had greeted the sun, we all headed back to our hotels for breakfast and for most to check out. It was typical that our road led us to a gap in the hills where we did see the sun rise in splendour. It would take another hour in the circle, but at least we were able to stop and experience a moment’s glory.

Later, we gathered once more at Castlerigg. This time, we explored the stones, speaking a little of the five thousand year history of the site, its solar alignments and the curious effect where the shapes of the stones shadow the contours of the hills.

We spoke too of resonance… that curious phenomenon where the vibrations in one object will set off a similar vibration in another. We attempted to demonstrate with tuning forks, but the wind…and our lightweight tuning forks… made it almost impossible to hear the sympathetic vibrations. We had used sound at the sacred sites over the weekend in a very simple form. We have used it at other locations in various forms too and each time felt we were brushing the edges of something. How important was sound  and resonance in these circles where the greater reality was recreated in microcosmic form? It was something to ponder.

The theme of our weekend had been ‘finding the way home’. Could the world of our ancestors be considered ‘home’… that staring point of any journey? What did they see as ‘home’? Were these circles designed, at least in part, to allow our ancestors to access the Otherworld… the realm of the stars or the hollow hills…and were these seen as aspects of the same state of being? These are questions to which each must find their own answers, perhaps, but it may be that in asking such questions, we find something we did not know we had lost.

In the shelter of the tallest stone, there was a final meditation, placing ourselves as points of light within the Web of Light, where the heavens and the earth meet, shaped by the energies of star realm and our physical home, one with Creation. There was a simple sharing of the symbolic elements of life… and then it was time to leave. The wind was bitter now that the sun had risen, and a coach full of tourists had just arrived.

We drove to Keswick in search of warmth and coffee, after which life began to call the party back from wherever we had been, somewhere outside of time for a little while. Some took their leave and went off to explore, others shared lunch and wandered down to the lake.

Steve lives in the area and knows Keswick well. We walked along the edge of the park to where he could show us his favourite view. The rise of the land hid the town as he stood with the hills at his back, while before us, the afternoon sun sparkled on Derwentwater, reminding us how short the winter day would be. Walking back to the cars, we took our leave of each other. Most were returning home, but we still had a place or two left to visit… but that is another story.

(Click the highlighted links in the text for more on Castlerigg and its history and a demonstration of sympathetic resonance on Youtube)

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The Silent Eye runs three informal workshops in the landscape each year as well as a residential workshop every April. If you are interested in coming along, further details can be found on our Events page.

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.

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…

Missing the mark

A new footpath has been installed close to the village, running for a few miles through the silent, empty fields. One of its entrances gives onto the road I travel every day and I have watched with mild curiosity as the work has been underway.

The path is part of a walking and cycling initiative to connect the village to the nearest railway station and, hopefully, reduce the need for cars on the road. It follows the course of the old Roman road, which probably followed the course of an older track, thus continuing a tradition of travel along this route.

My interest was caught when I noticed the workmen had installed a sculpture or two, glimpsed through one of the gates and through the thinning leaves on the trees. Aha, I thought, a Pointy Stone! Even after millennia there is something about a standing stone guarding the way that seems absolutely right.

A standing stone, guarding a way through the wilderness. Symbolically, it was perfect. If my theories were correct, a pointed stone was once used as a waymarker, allowing travellers to navigate across the empty landscape before the land was mapped and signposted. But our ancestors had marked the entrance to their sacred sites with standing stones too, signalling that here a new path opened before the seeker’s feet and that each step forward should be taken with reverence.

What they revered, we can only surmise and perhaps feel for ourselves as we too walk the land, but that these stones were held as important, both exoterically and spiritually can be in little doubt.

There is both permanence and impermanence to stone. It has already lasted longer than man can fathom by the time we lift and shape it, yet once it is exposed to the wind and weather, it will eventually crumble. It may outlast us by millennia, but to the slow life of stone such timescales mean little.

On the first morning where weather, time and traffic came together, I took the camera for a closer look. As the sharp, sculpted angles caught the light, I realised I was doomed to disappointment. The stone is not a stone.

The disappointment I felt was in direct proportion to the expectations I had raised for myself.  I was also disproportionately saddened in a way that is a little difficult to explain.

For a chill autumn morning, the scene was pretty idyllic. Frosted fields held a herd of grazing cows, half veiled by the rising mist as the sun awoke, whiting out the sky. Even at close quarters, I had to reach out and touch the ‘stone’ to be sure, though I could feel the truth. It was metal, pre-rusted, and the hollowness beneath the tap of my fingertips seemed to sum up, somehow, where humankind has lost its way.

With our focus fixed on survival and success, we still choose to ape the forms that have served us through the centuries. Even though their original meaning may be lost to us, we recognise their significance. There are modern pyramids across the world… our local one is neither tomb nor temple, but it is, I suppose, still a gateway to another world, being a cinema. We erect stone circles in new housing estates, but without regard to their alignments or place within the landscape, they are no more than overgrown garden ornaments. Monuments imitating the glories of a bygone age, they are as empty of life as the grave.

The hollow clang of the new ‘standing stone’ beneath my hand seemed to epitomise the hollowness of life for so many. We adhere to the form of old beliefs and systems without engaging with them or applying them to how we live. It made me consider how we walk the earth without any sense of its sacredness… and we do not even have to believe in any god to hold the planet we call home in reverence, but modern societies no longer do so…only individuals touch the heart of earth and feel its life.

The metal of the sculpture is already rusted; even its finish has been faked, encouraged, its ultimate end hastened. Appearances matter more than the reality as we seek to have now the fruits of time’s passage and the processes of nature. The stones of the ancients in this land have stood for five thousand years and more. Will the modern metal ‘stone’ last a tenth of that long?

Even so, the newly erected ‘stone’ serves a purpose with poles upon which the weary walker can rest and it makes for a striking feature in the landscape. Perhaps, after all, doesn’t really matter what the outward form of anything may take… including our own lives. It is how we use them on the journey that matters.

Consider the lily…

Riddles of the Night.

1st-3rd December 2017, Bakewell, Derbyshire.

 

 

 

Sometimes it can be hard to see
The difference twixt wood and tree
Seek out the Lily and the Oak
Without a flame there is no smoke…

 

 

What links sacred sites, ancient and modern?

Are the clues all around us?

Do the keys to heaven lie hidden in the earth or are there keys to earth hidden in the heavens?

 

Riddles of the Night…

Hidden in plain sight.

1st-3rd December 2017, Bakewell, Derbyshire.

Discover for yourselves the hidden jewels of the night as the darkness of the winter solstice enfolds the land.

Will you find the jewel at the heart of the mystery?

Join us in Bakewell in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales to explore some of the ancient and sacred sites of our ancestors. The weekend will take the Companions on a true quest, seeking out the hidden magic in the landscape that echoes the magic of heart and soul.

The weekend is informal, no previous knowledge or experience is required. We ask only that you bring your own presence and thoughts to the moment.

Workshop costs £50 per person. Accomodation and meals are not included and bed and breakfast/hotel in Bakewell should be booked separately by all attendees. Lunch and dinner are usually shared meals.

Click below to

Download our Events Booking Form – pdf

For further details or to reserve your place: rivingtide@gmail.com

Solstice of the Moon: Circle of Timeless Light

Stars over Scotland. Image: Pixabay

A few stars twinkled above Inverurie as our group gathered for dinner. It wasn’t even raining much. That probably explains why, some time after nine o’clock, when the moonless night had well and truly fallen, four people would once again walk the path up to the stone circle at Easter Aquhorthies…

We arrive first and, switching off the lights of the car, allow our eyes to gradually become accustomed to the complete lack of artificial light. We have torches, but they seem an intrusion somehow and will only be used to navigate the potholed track. There is no moon tonight and the little town is far enough distant, and set low enough in the landscape, to be invisible. Even the lights of Aberdeen make only a smudge of sickly ochre on the far horizon. We can see very little… only the ink-black silhouettes of the trees against the lightless sky.

The silence is profound, yet it is not a silence created by the absence of sound, only by the absence of Man. There is a rustling in the leaves, the breath of a breeze, ghostly fingers caressing the night. It is not emptiness, but a living silence… and we are part of it.

We wait, watching for our companions’ arrival. Gradually we realise that the darkness is receding. After a while, we can see almost as clearly as in daylight. Not as far, it is true, but we stand within a circle of vision, painted in silver, black and grey. Between the dancing leaves of the trees, we can see a thousand stars with unparalleled clarity. It is astonishing how quickly our eyes accept the darkness, painting detail upon its canvas with ancient and remembered skill. We will not really need the torches… but our companions’ eyes will not have time to adjust.

Two specks of approaching light rob the night of its completeness. A few minutes later four of us leave the cars and the modern world behind. We speak softly; voices are louder in the darkness, hearing more acute. In fact, it seems as if all the senses awaken in the night, remembering a purpose the everyday world forgets. There is nothing to remind us of when we are… only the torchlight that dances ahead of us on the earth. I am acutely conscious of distance… the noise of a Saturday night is centuries away…  Extinguishing the torches, four souls step out of time and into the circle.

Without a word, we know what to do. We each seek our stone and stand before it in silence. My stone is the Elder, carved long before the others. I feel its presence, warm and enduring, against my spine. I think of my own garden and how the moon in its fullness casts shadows there. Tonight, the moon is absent. I look up… and the world falls away…

Above, the sky is cloudless and clear. A million, trillion stars sparkle, flashing colours. What I see is little different from what they would have seen here thousands of years ago… though there would have been no light save a few distant hearthfires to rob the darkness of beauty.

Three steps to my right and I am laying on the stone. It is warm in the circle, there is neither wind nor chill. ‘My’ stone looms over me, a dark void against the stars. Stone accepts my body… my view is unobstructed; the vastness of space draws me into that living silence and I hear its song. An endless time, that is no time, playing in the stars. The Milky Way arcs across the vault of night. The heavens are an upturned chalice to which the stones of the circle are reaching. Constellations that once shone white on black are drowning in a sea of diamond dust… and so am I…

After a few minutes, I sit up. Vision has embraced the night and I can see right across the circle ; the stones glow white in the starlight. I can see my companions, silhouetted against their brightness. It looks as if they are held within the folds of snowy wings. It reminds me of something we had found in a little country church… and as my mind returns to earth, my companions stir and leave their stones.

Reluctantly, I stand… I wish we could stay longer, but we are all aware that it is time to leave. We close the circle and leave quietly. There is no need for words… nor is there really any need for the torchlight. The temperature drops noticeably as we step beyond the stones. For safety’s sake, we switch on the lamps and the night recedes by thousands of years.

We say goodnight and head our separate ways. When we realise the time, we are incredulous. It feels as if we had been there no time at all… but it is not far from midnight…