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The Swastika Stone (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Links

Verbeia knol

I've tried to consolidate information about Verbeia, the Romano-Celtic goddess from Ilkley, here. It includes recent research that seems to provide a historical link between the Lingones troops who created the Verbeia altar, the Swastika Stone, and the Camunian Roses in northern Italy. (As Ken suggests above - I'm 4 years late on this one!) Please suggest any other good info on the knol...

The Badger Stone (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>The Badger Stone</b>Posted by gyrus

Olcote (Kerbed Cairn) — Images

<b>Olcote</b>Posted by gyrus

Silbury Hill (Artificial Mound) — Images

<b>Silbury Hill</b>Posted by gyrus

Candle Hill (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Candle Hill</b>Posted by gyrus

Rombald's Moor — Images

<b>Rombald's Moor</b>Posted by gyrus

Callanish (Standing Stones) — Images

<b>Callanish</b>Posted by gyrus

Castlerigg (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Castlerigg</b>Posted by gyrus

Achnabreck (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Images

<b>Achnabreck</b>Posted by gyrus

The Swastika Stone (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Images

<b>The Swastika Stone</b>Posted by gyrus

Avebury (Circle henge) — Images

<b>Avebury</b>Posted by gyrus

Dunadd (Sacred Hill) — Fieldnotes

Nestled at Dunadd's foot are a couple of houses that look like they're among the best places to live in the land. The hill itself is so striking, slap-bang in the lowlands of the valley floor, it was surely part of prehistoric mythology before Scottish royalty became associated with it. Perhaps the large basin on top is ancient, and was appropriated into dynastic mythologies by the Dalriada. Curiously, the famous footprint alignes NNE, like so many of the not-quite-north alignments here. A splendid place to see the sun down, though I bailed quickly due to hordes of flying ants and American tourists.

Ballymeanoch — Fieldnotes

A striking, provocative group of monuments (cairn, standing stones and henge) - grouped together by a modern field of course, but also by obvious proximity. In terms of the postulated S-N procession along the glen, this place, like Dunchragaig and Baluachraig, would seem to introduce the procession to the swing round into the NNE-SSW glen.

The rams here seemed to fall into brief, half-hearted horn-locking scraps as they moved out of my way - maybe the males venting their indignation at always having to move for bloody tourists.

A suggestion on the info board described the henge as maybe being a dancefloor - I'm surprised the full sense and obviousness in this idea hasn't struck me before.

Dunchraigaig Cairn (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

These two sites seem to mark the eastern slopes bordering the 'processional lowlands' going up the glen. My general feeling from the area is the any ritual procession would come from the south, between Cairnbaan and Achnabreck, then be guided by monuments along the way to 'swing round' in the NNE-SSW aligned glen containing the linear cemetry.

Templewood (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Two circles here, one older and destroyed, the other built upon with burials. The cist in the centre of the newer, larger circle seems to line up NE to the older one. As I've mentioned in my entry on Nether Largie Cemetry, I reckon there's a strong North-Death association informing the monuments here - but so often the alignment is NE or NNE. Reasons why? The NNE-SSW alignment of the glen itself?

Nether Largie Cairn Cemetery (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

South Cairn: The earliest of all the cairns in this linear cemetry, with a northern entrance to the burial chamber. Is this unusual in cairns, to have a northern entrance? At Callanish, when sat on the Cnoc an Tursa, you look down the N-S aligned southern avenue of stones, and this lines up with the burial cairn in the circke, a standing stone, and the recently discovered burial cairn near Margaret & Ron's house. Margaret speculated about funeral procession going from the circle to the cairn in this north-south line.

I've been fascinated with the mythology of the north ever since becoming interested in myths about the Pole Star. Well, there was no Pole Star in the Bronze Age, but there was obviously still a concept of north - and the direction where the sun never shines from is an obvious place to locate the land of the dead, methinks. As is attested in numerous mythological and magickal systems, where the is a strong correlation between North and Death. Kilmartin Glen seems to be a grand testimony to this belief structure.

Ri Cruin & the Great X of Kilmartin — Fieldnotes

If there were ritual processions north up this glen - which seems almost certain - this seems to be the place where eveything starts to get 'focused down' a bit, as the valley floor starts to narrow approaching the linear cemetery of cairns. However, the 'X' is aligned roughly NE-SW, and doesn't line up with the cairns as you might expect.

Achnabreck (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Fieldnotes

Ungraspably large, the first carved outcrop you come across here is one to boggle at. Yes, there's fences, but see my entry on Cairnbaan for why I think they've done things quite well here. There's no steps to go over the fence as there are at Cairnbaan, but I think the general idea is that you can hop over to be close - just take the fence as a reminder to be careful.

Walking back down to the car park, the present path gave the distinct impression of heading towards the hill at Cairnbaan (which can be seen from the upper groupings of carvings at Achnabreck). I got a strong sense that these two sites relate to each other, possibly as part of a system of tracks, and possibly as kind of 'gateway points' into the ritual landscape proper in the Kilmartin Glen to the north.

Cairnbaan (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Fieldnotes

You can park up in the passing place if you turn right just before the Cairnbaan Hotel - the stones are well signposted.

Cairnbaan was the first of many places that impressed upon me how well the various authorities have done in preserving and presenting the numerous monuments here in the Kilmartin Glen. The first group of rock carvings you come to here are, like most major groups, fenced off. But the fencing is pretty inoffensive - no spikes, and subtle dark green in colour. On top of that, it's not there to keep you out. There are small metal steps there for you to get inside and see the carvings up-close. The thing is, once you're inside, the fence - and the fact that the ground in the enclosure is well tended and not covered in sheep shit - creates a palpable sense of this being a 'special place'. So, hopefully, people are gently dissuaded from stupid shit like leaving litter or damaging the rocks.

If people really want to vandalise, there's not a lot you can do. This idea, of the enclosing fence that doesn't exclude, is the best compromise between preservation and access I've seen - and almost made me think that a concept of 'sacred space' was being inadvertently rediscovered...

Clach an Trushal (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

A beast of a stone, mysterious to me for its lack of horizonal or land-based monuments. What purpose does such a massive block serve? Covered in utterly amazing sheets of moss and lichen, which were lushly dripping with rainwater when I visited.

Callanish (Standing Stones) — Fieldnotes

Amazed that this is the first review up here - but then, it's a trek and a half to Callanish! When I arrived it was pissing down. The journey, especially the ferry across, was very exciting, but this didn't rise to a peak as I approached the site, as I thought it may. I edge round the stones in the rain, then decided to go find Margaret and Ron Curtis.

Instantly had a ball in their exhibition shed: Margaret got me contstructing mini stone circles in circular sand pits, and I learnt more about stone circles in 15 minutes than I done reading many books. Margaret's such an enthusiastic and clear communicator. Then we helped Ron outside - he was experimenting with ways of erecting stones using wooden tripods and twisting rope - great fun!

The next day I was treated to great weather - sunny and windy (no midges!) - and to a comprehensive tour of the area by Margaret. She charges £20 an hour for tours, and believe me it's worth it. I had naively assumed the idiosyncratic 'skew-whiff' plan of Callanish was at least partly due to innaccurate construction. Pah! After half an hour, Margaret had me gobsmacked at the pinpoint precision underlying the apparent chaos of angles and lines.

There's a path around the circle that you're advised to keep to, but of course no one does. The first time I entered the circle itself was with Margaret - I didn't feel like doing so when I first arrived - and for a good 5 minutes or so, it was an effort to concentrate on the information she was giving me. The sheer overwhelming buzz of being up-close to those magnificent gneiss columns just made me grin and reel.

One thing worth noting is that there's one of the best places to camp ever here - just past the visitors centre on the little peninsula sticking out between Loch Roag and Loch Hullavig. Not an official camp site, but no one minds you there if you take care of the place, and the visitors centre leave the toilets open all night. Nice one.

New Craig (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Mindful of Merrick's experience with the police due to the GM test site here, I was sure to wait until the farmer was around to ask permission. The fields around here now have painted 'DANGER: Lady Farmer' signs and official 'Protected by Rural Crime Prevention' signs. The farmer seemed very friendly and gave me directions - but when I got back to my car, she had called the cops anyway, and I was given a quick grilling. Be warned!

The site itself is *fine* place. The small wood is great: like Loanhead of Daviot, very seductive to those with tents; like Loanhead of Daviot, almost no chance of succeeding in camping out there. As with many other circles here, only the recumbent, flankers and the stone opposing the recumbent remain. Indeed, I found myself wondering if the other stone weren't really just decoration anyway, if they were all ever there.

A grand view from here over to the Bennachie hills and Mither Tap, Dunnideer, and of course Tap O'Noth.

Stonehead (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

There was no one home at Stonehead stables (opposite) or Glendale (next to), so I hopped over the collapsed fence into the field where Stonehead stands. I moved slowly because the ponies seems nervous (only afterwards did I read Merrick's account which described how the ponies were vicious and attacked him and Annwen - were they different beasts then or was I naive & lucky?).

The remaining recumbent and flankers are magnificent. Recumbent aligns with Hill Flinder. Dunnideer very close to the east, and Tap O'Noth feels close in the west too. In this landscape, Dunnideer feels like the warm, friendly centre, and Tap O'Noth is the looming master/mistress glowering on the periphery.

Candle Hill (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

A sad, fallen place. Anticipated a great view from here, a site situated on the crest of a hill. The summit is overgrown with trees and bushes, surrounded by a 4ft wall. Trying to mount it from the west, I was confronted by some rotting animal knuckles covered in flies. After finding my way through the dense gorse, I was confronted with a truly ugly site - dumped in a large gash in the summit was a huge pile of garbage and - wait for it - rusting car wrecks! At least three remains of cars, with washing machines and other trash. How did they get it up here? Very strange.

Anyway, the circle itself is severely degraded, unsurprisingly. There's a rounded, fallen recumbent with fallen flankers. The stone opposing the recumbent is the only one left standing, a fine chest-height wedge. Two other fallen stones.

A curious feature here is the raised cairn-like mound in the centre of the circle - has this been excavated? Another added-on burial, as at Loanhead of Daviot?

No view from here - I was glad to get away from it, a forlorn place of dead trees, trash and lethargic insects.

Inschfield (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

I popped into the Inschfield farm to ask for permission, and found an old guy scrubbing the floor of a barn. He had an accent that went beyond comprehension - more to do with age and rural isolation than Scottishness I believe - and even though I couldn't understand him, he seemed unfriendly but obliging, so I just went up. As it turns out, the circle looked like it may actually be in a field connected to the next farm, Nether Boddam (!), but it was fallow and no one was around, so hey.

A wonderful view from this place - the smashed and fallen recumbent obviously used to line up with the foot of Dunnideer, and Tap O'Noth clearly looms off to the west.

Loanhead of Daviot (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

The semi-surrounding of trees gives this place a Rollrights feel, but the stones are entirely Grampian. And the cairn stones in the middle - especially with the empty, cleared centre - give the site a kind of mandalic focus. I was perplexed by descriptions of "twelve cup-marks" on one of the flankers - I could only find two un-cup-like horizontal grooves. The woods here look so perfect for camping, but very little chance of getting away with it I suppose, unless you're a local scout or guide...

Balquhain (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

An isolated patch of grass, nettles & thistles in the middle of a corn field next to the main road out of Inverurie. Only the recumbent, flankers and several other stones remain. Like East Aquhorthies, it's on a slight slope, but this time towards the recumbent. The line of the top of the recumbent does seem to echo the shape of the horizon before it - does the moon ever 'roll along' here? I was so fixated on the horizonal thing, fresh from revelations about circles and the horizon at Castlerigg, I forgot to check the other side of one of the stones for the cup-marks that Julian mentions. Doh!

Easter Aquhorthies (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Finely preserved circle, with, as Merrick suggested, a kind of odd feel in its positioning. Mither Tap looms to the west, but the circle seems to ignore it. Added to this is the cluster of modern trees that obscure the horizon frames by the recumbent and flankers. I loved the stone near the gate that looks like crystallised flesh!

Castlerigg (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

An astounding site. And yes, the setting is all. I went up there on a warm, clear night alone with Eno's 'Appollo' on minidisc to listen to, and had a eeriely wonderful time star-gazing.

The very first impression I got from the site was that it was placed with a genius for psychogeographic accuracy. Photos of the place obviously emphasise the majesty of the surrounding mountains. But what struck me is how humanised and pastoral the area immediately around Keswick is, and how at the circle you feel like you're on a platform that is part of, but above and beyond this landscape, reaching for the sky. I assume the lowlands round here would have been populated in Neolithic times as well. Castlerigg feels like a bridge-point between the human landscape and the mountains that touch the stars. Sitting there under the moon, I gained for the first time an insight into how hills on the horizon may have inspired the creation of stone rings - so people could "pull the horizon in" and humanise it - circles of stones standing for hilly horizons - presumably as something against which to measure the turning cosmos above.

A great place - go!

St. Lythans (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Fieldnotes

A friend and I visited this site on a whim while in the Cardiff area. The only other dolmen I've visited is the Devil's Den near Avebury. St. Lythans struck me by its subtly glorious positioning - atop a gentle rise in a field on a gentle hill - but mostly by the marvellous pockered stones. They're covered in amazing little dips and rounded, shallow holes, that give the monument a kind of Swiss-cheese-from-Mars feel.

The Twelve Apostles of Ilkley Moor (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

If you're up north around the winter solstice and don't mind the elements, this is a great place to see the solstice sun up. The circle's a bit of a mess, gradually more so each year it seems... But it's got such a good vantage over the Aire valley to the south, perfect for sunrises.

Only once did I see the sun's disc rise clearly over the horizon at solstice - and when it was exactly halfway over the horizon, it was bisected by a mast of some sort. Quite an odd coincidental alignment. I've failed to identify the mast so far - anyone have any idea about this?

Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

I haven't kept up with the plans to turn this amazing place into a quarry, but it seems from my experience that some so-called pagans are helping the process along.

I stayed there one full-moon night last year (around October), and the scene was wonderful for my first visit. There were naturally a bunch of other people there. Me and my friend Lee chatted to a few of them - they said they had met at a gay/bi pagan camp down south and were doing a ritual later on. They seemed cool, but we were tired and crashed before their ritual started.

Well, actually, before we got to sleep we were treated to the utterly bizarre spectacle of a large bunch of schoolkids being led around the circle by a few adults, singing really pagan-sounding nursery rhymes. They ended up doing the congo of onto the moonlit moor! Better education than I ever had...

Waking the next morning, Lee asked if I had heard anything during the night. Apart from the kids, no. He said he had heard what sounded like some sort of ritual, but it was interspersed with what sounded frighteningly like rocks being violently bashed together. I got up to look around, and sure enough, the few half-bricks and rocks that were scattered around the circle the night before were gone. A few of the circle's stones had had chunks hacked off, with the tell-tale compacted bumps of soft rock left by bricks or whatever being smashed on them. Fragments littered the floor.

We were incensed, but there was no sign of life in any of the many tents around. We had to leave early, and as we didn't want to shout blind abuse at sleeping people who may or may not have been responsible, we had to leave the arsehole culprits be. As far as I'm concerned, if they're out there seriously trying to mesh with the pagan levels of reality, and doing *this* to stone circles, they're cursing themselves anyway. Hope they have a really bad freak-out some day and wake up.

Object lesson: the outward appearance of funkitude often belies a nature as stupid as any lager lad.


At The Edge

An archive of articles from the excellent magazine 'At The Edge' - cross-over explorations of earth mysteries, folklore, mythology & local history.

Rombald's Moor — Fieldnotes

This moor, sandwiched between the beautiful Wharfedale valley to the north and Bradford city to the south, is one of the most inspiring, mystery-riddled places I know of. The famous Ilkley Moor is merely a part of it - although it is this particular area, to the north near Ilkley town and the River Wharfe (sacred to the snake goddess Verbeia) that is most densely populated with fabulous cup-and-ring carvings and strange, strange tales both old and new. The best I can do here is recommend a few spots (get OS Sheet SE 04/14 Pathfinder 671 of Keighley & Ilkley):

- Up Backstone Beck, opposite the dishevelled but still-buzzing Backstone Circle (OS 1261 4613), are the remains of a Bronze Age dwelling (OS 1310 4590). It goes much further back than that, though - archaeologists have found evidence of Mesolithic dwellings here, perhaps 10,000 years old or more.

- As you approach the more from Ilkley town, the White Wells (old spa bath, presently a tea-and-cakes place) become obvious. To the west is a clump of trees with a waterfall beneath it flowing onto a ford (OS 1155 4660). This mound is a really special place. Local people leave wreaths to dead loved ones here. At the top of the mound is a massive carved boulder, too. When looking at the mound from below, I imagine the waterfall to be sacred fluids flowing from a cunt, and the mound to be the prone form of the local goddess Verbeia. The two stream either side even correspond to the image on her altar (which you can still see in All Saints' Church in Ilkley town, next to the bridge over the Wharfe - well worth a peek).

- The Badger Stone (OS 1108 4605) is fantastic, such a seductive curve to the boulder - though sadly the prolific carvings are fast fading. A very powerful place, I've found - treat it with respect.

- The Swastika Stone (OS 0956 4695) is a must - a wonderful curvy armed cross carved at least 3000 years before the Nazi's decided they had a monopoly on this ancient symbol. Extreme right-wing graffiti and stickers have been spotted up here - but their attempts to associate themselves with the archaic petroglyph merely underlines their simple-minded dumbfuckness. Sadly enclose by railings due to graffiti - be sure to look past the Victorian copy at the front to the fainter original.

- The Doubler Stones (OS 0722 4649) are great. Totally natural (apart from the basins and cups on top), they basically look like two ginormous mushies. Watch out for the close-by farmer, especially if you're looking for the smaller organic cousins of the stones...

- The Buck Stones (OS 0920 4560) are again a natural formation, and again are great. A bit of a mess compared to the beautifully sculpted Doubler Stones, but there's the power - a very primal, raggedy place.

There's much more to discover, and I'll leave my review brief so that you have fun exploring for yourselves. And remember to take more litter away than you bring!
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