We all gathered around the stone, everyone agreeing that it looked very similar to a sundial. Sue then told us that excavation had shown the stone was deliberately placed and propped at this angle, with one side staying dark throughout the northern Winter, as though to mark the length of the season. We were invited to look at the stone from all angles, to find the ‘devil’s face’ (I think I caught it in the photo below), and also to explore the outer rings of stones, half hidden in the grass, that encircled the clearing. There were at least two rings, if not three, and I headed straight through to the edge, standing in the shade of a silver birch as I marked the low grey shapes curving in both directions.
…as she closed her eyes she could feel the stone as a warm presence, all gentle enfolding heat like a hug, or a warm fire on a cold day. Midges danced along her skin but didn’t bite, as she fought to ignore their tickling touch and focus on the meditation. But it didn’t really matter.
‘All is well. You are welcome here.’
She knew she was supposed to be thinking about the ancestors, or time, or something, but instead all she could focus on was the warmth, the feeling of being greeted. Of being acknowledged. As though after the suffering on the cliff edge the stone wanted, somehow, to offer comfort. Her nausea subsided, and she felt a pull from behind her, as though she had to go towards the large bank of bracken. Something was there…
The meditation ended, we were then given the opportunity to dowse with rods or pendulums. Having never done that before, I thought I’d give it a try, Sue being kind enough to lend me some rods for the purpose. I knew I was supposed to hold them loosely in both hands, and to focus on what I wanted to find. But I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for, other than that Sue and Stuart had mentioned a special stone, and that we were to look for it.
So I stood there, the rods wiggling and crossing in my hands, then uncrossing. I really had no idea what I was doing. Everyone else was wandering about looking serious, various rods and pendulums in their hands. But I couldn’t really pick up anything. That strange compulsion to head towards the bank of bracken was still there, though, so I thought I may as well go that way. I headed off, and was surprised to hear Sue say from behind me ‘Let’s all follow Helen.’ Ha ha, I thought, the rods at this point so useless I just held them both in one hand, sure, everyone follow me. I have no idea what I’m doing. After a few moments Sue came up beside me.
‘There’s something in the bracken,’ I said.
She grinned. ‘There certainly is.’
As we kept going, a pale grey-white curve appeared up ahead, like the back of a whale breaching the water. We drew closer, and the curve eventually revealed itself as an unusually shaped stone, the pale lichen covering it unlike any we saw elsewhere along the ridge. It wasn’t the specific stone Sue and Stu had wanted us to find, but it was pretty special.
…she could see a child being laid in the dimpled centre of the stone, naked, small limbs curled, their mother bending over to smile at them, reassuring, hands gentle on the tiny form…
Apparently, we were told, archaeology supported the idea that nearby was a place of death rites. It made sense to me that birth would be celebrated here as well, the circle of life completed, just as our modern churches and temples are places to celebrate all the passages of life.
We left the pale stone behind to go further in, pushing through waist-high bracken until we reached the very special stone. And special it was, carved and set into the ground, the curved markings a mystery. Sue banged on the stone with her staff to reveal its secret. A hollow booming sound took us by surprise. It was fake. A clever fake, crafted to protect the original stone underneath from the depredations of atmosphere, and to allow us to touch the carvings without fear of damaging them. We were invited to discuss the carvings and what we thought they meant. I immediately saw a map. Two enclosures of circular huts, the three ringed circle and smaller sacred space marked nearby. I was a little irreverent then, I confess, stating to one of the companions that perhaps this was a Neolithic ‘buy-off-the-plan’ sign board, and that there had probably once been a display hut nearby for prospective buyers to view. I suppose I needed a bit of levity at that point – still, I did feel quite strongly that the stone was a description of the place, a map of the community. Such things are open to interpretation though, and everyone had their own view on the matter.
Then we were offered a stone of our own, each of us taking our turn to select with eyes closed. Mine was pale, pearlescent white, which fitted quite well with the name I’d been given the previous night. Even though I was the last to choose, it still felt as though I received the stone that was right for me. Interesting how these things work out.
My stomach started to roil again at the thought of going back along the cliff edge, but the boggy paths meant there was no other way. Still, I hung back at the gate as the other companions went ahead. Sue had suggested thinking light thoughts as we passed through, in an attempt to soothe the energy of the place. Eventually, I just went for it, thinking ‘sorry, sorry,’ and imagining myself scattering sparks of light as I raced along the shortest path through the stones until I reached a place where the fear subsided, further along the cliff edge. As a group we took a moment to sit, then made our way to the cars parked beyond, stepping back into the real world once more.
At lunch I was quiet. I really couldn’t speak. It wasn’t until I’d eaten my fill that I felt sufficiently energised to join back in with the conversation. That was one of the nicest things about the group, the way we were all given space to experience things as we needed to. I was asked if I was all right, I replied in the affirmative, and that was all that was needed.