Monday, 23 June 2014


Rollright stones, facing East
We are just back from a lovely sunny midsummer weekend, visiting the Rollright stones on the border of Warwickshire/ Oxfordshire.
The King Stone
It's a beautiful ring of very weathered limestone stones, with a solitary 'King stone', now separated by a road and hedges, which is actually an integral part of the design, plus a burial monument of stones, a short walk away. The stones were set up around 4000 years ago at a time when the landscape was gradually changing, with land clearance and the development of farming techniques brought over from the grain-rich 'fertile crescent' of ancient Mesopotamia.
Standing in the circle, looking towards the King Stone, one's gaze would be directed towards the wide expanse of sky in which the midsummer sun sets, to the west, and then rises, to the east. The shadow cast by the King Stone falls, as it has done since it was first set up, as a giant sun-dial, allowing the observation and charting of the passage of time. In the photo, the shadow marks a mid-afternoon position of about 4pm. Today, the view of the stone, and the sun's setting and rising, is obscured by the hedge, so some imagination is required to get a sense of the whole structure.

lichen, standing stone
Historically fascinating, the stones also host a diversity of lichens and tiny creatures.

the micro environment of a crevice in a standing stone

In this crevice, if you look closely, you can see tiny snails, about 1mm in diameter, behind a single grass seed.

Parking the campervan in a layby near the stones on Friday evening, we found lots of people, including stewards, already there, and joined the general mooching around and quiet sitting, to get a feel for the place. Everything felt calm and good humoured, the natural merriment of some not intruding overmuch on the quiet contemplation of others.
A pretty but destructive candle

We did notice one moment of tension though. On arrival, as we walked into the ring, at twilight, little candle flames were flickering, all around the ring. It looked quite enchanting, the stones glowing gently in the soft light. The woman who had put them there was still at work, keen to light twelve, a number which sounded as though it had some special significance for her. Initially, it looked as though she was part of a group who were going to 'do' something, but she wasn't. There were no obvious groups doing organised 'things'. Within minutes of her departure, the stewards rushed in in consternation, and extinguished the candles again - pretty maybe, but death to the micro-environments inside the crevices, and potentially harmful to the rocks themselves.
The lighting of a few candles may sound a small thing, but yes, our impact is unwittingly damaging, all too often, even when we mean well. There's a saying, in many a magical circle, 'and it harm none', an expression of the wish that the projection of one's will cause no ill effects. Those ill effects can happen on a microscopic scale, as the tiny snails in the crevice show. The smaller we look, the harder it seems to fathom what impact we unwittingly have.
Chatting with the stewards, who come to protect the site because they care about it, all kinds of damage is done to the stones and the place itself, from daubing them with paint, to scratching into them, and paraffin wax and hot flame, although it may be meant to enhance the ambiance or perhaps sometimes to effect a magical rite, is also damaging to these ancient and mysterious stones. It is difficult to know who would vandalise such places deliberately, or why one would want to.
the moon, taken with my mobile

Although we cannot know for sure what rituals were enacted here long ago, and what beliefs were held, what stories told, what songs sung and dances danced, the point of the place, in part, is certainly connected with careful observation of the heavens. Ambience enough, on Friday evening, was provided by a beautiful waning gibbous moon, which stayed with us as the sun rose.

shortly before sunrise
By 4am, lots of people had gathered in the King Stone field to stand in quiet anticipation. People were there for all sorts of reasons - spiritual and secular, sharing the wind chill as the temperature dropped, watching and waiting together...

and sharing the sense of awe as the golden orb of the sun gradually appeared on the horizon, a sense of awe that surely unites humanity since we first walked the earth.

sunrise 4.45am midsummer 2014 Rollright Stones
me and the largest easterly-facing stone 

1 comment:

  1. Pelajaran terbesar dalam hidup ini adalah mengetahui bahwa orang bodoh pun kadang kala dapat melakukan yang benar.
    Obat kencing nanah