|I don't understand how the traditional rhyme isn't already written here. So I don't apologise for the length of the following:
[...] Folklore and science, romance and archaeology, the unlearned and the learned, have all contributed answers [to the meaning of the stones]. From the folklore of the neighbourhood we have gleaned the story of the stones which has undoubtedly proved the most popular, and which will probably be attached to them as long as they stand. Indeed it is probable that if we searched the whole of England we should not find a site in which the folklore is a more living thing. From an article in the Banbury Guardian, 30th June 1927.
The story is well-enough known, but here it is:--
A certain King set out to conquer all England and had arrived at the head of his forces at the hill on which Rollright stands. He had almost reached its crest when a witch who claimed the ground appeared and stopped him with the words -
Seven long strides shalt thou take and
If Long Compton thou canst see
King of England thou shalt be.
Exulting greatly, thinking his victory assured, the King called out -
Stick, stock, stone,
As King of England I'll be known.
and took the seven long strides, when, lo! there arose before him a mound of earth, which at the completion of the strides prevented him from seeing the village of Long Compton below. The witch then pronounced the doom --
As Long Compton thou canst not see,
King of England thou shalt not be,
Rise up stick, stand still stone,
For King of England thou shalt be none.
Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be,
And I myself an eldern tree.
And so it came about.
[...] The elder is abundant all around the stones and several bushes have been pointed out as that embodying the witch. If you find the right one and cut it her blood oozes out, and the stones are seen to shiver, in an endeavour to come to life, for when the witch's blood is drawn her spell is broken and the King and his army will pursue their triumphant march.
On Midsummer eve, when the elder was in bloom it was formerly the custom for people to come to the King Stone and stand in a circle. Then an elder bush near by was cut and those present have affirmed that the King moved his head. The inhabitants of the district have, however, a dread of breaking the spell, and the writer was told, not so long ago, that those of Long Compton will not burn elder sticks in their grates.
The fairies dance round the King Stone of nights. One Will Hughes, of Long Compton, now gathered to his fathers, had seen them. They were little folk, he said, like little girls to look at. His wife's mother, who had been murdered as a witch, remembered a hole in the bank out of which the fairies came, and she and her playmates had often placed a flat stone over the opening to keep them in, but it had always been turned over before the morning. Folklore and religion blend in the attitude felt towards the spot and Sir Arthur Evans tells of a labourer who always went to the stones on Good Friday, for there he would be on Holy ground.
Away to the south-east on the edge of the large field in which the circle is situated, is a rather jumbled group of five large stones, called the Whispering Knights, which are said to be five treacherous officers who had detached themselves from the King's army and were plotting treason when the spell operated. They have their own particular piece of folklore and at midnight are said to run down the hill to drink at a spring in little Rollright spinney, every night according to some, only at special seasons according to others. At dusk, it is said, you can hear them whispering to each other.
Many of the stories attached to Rollright are to be found in other parts of Europe, and it is evident that we have in them something more than local superstition, but the subject is too great to be discussed here.
Another legend says that the stones become men at midnight, join hands and dance round in a circle and in Cornwall the name "Stone Dance" is attached to such circles as Rollright, the explanation there being that they are dancers turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath.
[...] Rollright and its kindred circles were to the prehistoric people who erected and used them, places as sacred as our cathedrals and churches are to us to-day. That it should come, as it did yesterday afternoon, under the auctioneer's hammer in a public saleroom, would have filled our ancestors, could they have foreseen and understood such a contingency, with the same kind of horror we should feel if the same auctioneers were to offer Westminster Abbey to the highest bidder.
Posted by Rhiannon
18th February 2017ce
Edited 19th February 2017ce