Facing Fear With The Silent Eye, Part 7 – Fear Itself

I recently attended a workshop with The Silent Eye about Facing Our Fears, an extraordinary weekend spent among the hills and grey stone villages of the Peak District. It’s taken me a little while, as it usually does, to process everything that happened. Once again there was history and mystery, good company and tasty food, old friends greeted and new friends made. And, as always, revelations.This is part seven of my account, parts one, two, three, four, five and six can be found here… As we approached the Andle Stone its size, half hidden by the slope and vegetation, became more apparent, as did the fact that this was obviously a significant part of a larger landscape. Once again, there seemed to be a tradition of climbing attached to the stone, as someone had incised footholds as well as graffiti, and cup marks higher up indicated it had been in use for a very long time. However, it was a good four metres or so to the top so we decided to leave it, pushing through the shrubbery to the front of the stone, where an inscription lay hidden.

The Andle Stone is inscribed to the memory of Lieutenant Colonel William Thornhill of the 7th Hussars, a veteran of Waterloo, and to the Duke of Wellington, who commanded the decisive battle against Napoleon and who, strangely, died on September 14, 1852, exactly one hundred and sixty-seven years to the date of our visit. We paused for a moment to contemplate the idea of war, how a young man may have felt on the eve of conflict, and how fear was put aside in the service of one’s nation and cause. It seemed an odd place for a memorial, hidden from view as it was, and I wondered at the decision to place the inscription there (and yes, I know the trees would not have always been there).

We left the stone and sat nearby, enjoying the sunshine and talking. After our failed attempts to climb stones, we were surprised to see a young man approach and, in what seemed like a matter of seconds, make his way to the top of the Andle Stone. While we admired his prowess, we were amused when, a minute or so later, we heard him say ‘How do I get down?’…

But we had other places to go, so we left the stone and crossed the field, following the path of a drystone wall into a small wood, the shaman still clearing my path. I knew we were going somewhere special, but I wasn’t prepared for the jolt of fear I experienced when I glimpsed the small stone circle through the trees. I may have sworn. I know it was a gut thing and, despite the assurances of my companions, I found myself unable to walk past the entry stone into the glade.

It was a very strange sensation, as though there was a physical barrier holding me back. I took a moment to try and centre myself, taking in some deep breaths. Meanwhile, the others had entered the glade, the circle opening. And a message came to me, clear as day:

It is only your fear that is holding you back

This was incredibly profound, and still is, on many levels. As soon as I heard the words and accepted them, I was able to move forward and stepped into the grove. I can’t explain it – all I can do is relay it as it happened.

Doll Tor is a Bronze age stone circle consisting of six stones, with further stones outside the perimeter (including the one that ‘stopped’ me from entering). The circle stones were once connected by drystone walling, and there is a burial cairn very close to the circle (and within the outer stones), where the skeleton of a woman and several burial urns containing the ashes of children were found. It was obviously a place of significance, even though it was hidden away among the trees. It may not have always been so hidden, of course – the vegetation we see now does not always reflect how things would have been when the landscape was first laid out.

However, the trees seem to add to the magic of the place, the forest cradling, rather than overwhelming, the circle. That could have something to do with the power the place still holds, something we decided to try working with while we were there. Preparations were made, we took our places, and…

She saw…

…The ocean…

A woman in a green dress…

A stag coming to the edge of the clearing where he waited, cropping the green grass…

A darkness, womb-shaped…

And in it, gleaming, a single red point of light like a winking ruby or pomegranate seed…

It felt like possibility…

A buzzing… a cawing…

She saw all the companions, strings of light connecting them…

She saw the shaman, enveloped in a globe of light that went above and below her…

A weaving of light around the stones, all of it connected…

The green of midsummer leaves…

And then peace…

And a circular shape, like a seal upon the earth…

Once again, I can’t explain it. I can only tell it as it happened. Whatever I saw was powerful, my body bending back beneath the force of it. And, as the others concurred, it felt like a healing. In light of what had happened to me earlier in the cairn field, I could only take it as a gift, and be grateful that I had come to this place, and for the lesson it had taught me.

We talked for a little while, then paid our respects. There was some joking about the number of blog posts the trip would entail – though these weekends are only 48 hours or so, time seems to stretch and twist, each moment heavy with significance. To cover them in detail requires quite a few words. I took some more photos, then we left, leaving the grove behind. However, the magic of it remains with me now, and it’s one of my favourite places I’ve ever visited on a Silent Eye weekend.

When we got back to the car, we realised we had a bit of time before dinner, so Sue and Stu suggested we visit a place of interest nearby, not to work, but simply to have a look around. We had closed the circle for the day, so it sounded like a fun idea. Little did we know the weirdness that awaited us there…

(I know – the day had already been pretty intense. But trust me – Rowtor Rocks was weird)

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Maiden Mother Crone, Part 4 – Imbalance


I should have expected this. On the last Silent Eye weekend I’d attended there had been a place that had shaken me, unexpectedly, making my breath shorten, my heart pound. And so it is, I suppose. On these weekends we are challenged as well as inspired, and beauty can hold darkness as well as light. Still, when you reach such a place it is always a shock.

And so it was at Cullerlie. We parked by an old stone wall, and I picked a couple of blackberries to eat as we approached the gate leading to our next site. And then the guardian appeared. A bouncing ball of black and white fur, the collie seemed very pleased to see us all, bounding about on the grass, pausing at intervals on the approach to the circle. My companions (if you read their accounts), saw him as a friendly spirit, welcoming. And I felt the same way… for the most part. To me it felt a little bit as though he wasn’t sure whether or not we should be there, but he led us on nonetheless, pausing every so often to make sure we were following.

Cullerlie stone circle, also known as the Standing Stones of Echt, is described as a circle of red granite standing stones, surrounding eight small burial cairns. The cairns are also circular, and fill the interior of the circle. Hawthorn and willow ash have been found in the cairns, as well as cremated human bones placed there before smaller stones were placed over the top of them. When the circle was constructed in the Bronze Age, the landscape around it was boggy, the stones brought from higher ground to be placed there, in contrast to the other circles we had seen.

The approach to the circle was pretty enough, an avenue of tall trees on soft grass, fairy red toadstools dotting the green. But such toadstools hold poison, despite their beauty – perhaps a metaphor of what was to come. As I approached the circle I’d intended to touch the stones, to travel counter-clockwise and see where felt right, as I had at the other sites. But as I approached the circle it was almost as though I bounced off it, feeling gut-punched, my breath shallow and a pain in my solar plexus. Something, I didn’t know what, was wrong with this place.

‘…A woman, in long dress of green, crying out ‘It is wrong!” Repeatedly I heard her cries, repeatedly I saw her words ignored by the rest of the community who, seeking to emulate the power held in older sites, built this place, ignoring all but the most basic alignments, fragments of an almost forgotten past. A man of power, his face hard, turning from her, from her cries…’

This circle, our guide explained, was built about two millennia later than the ones we’d already visited. While there were some alignments in place, they were only to do with the passage of the sun – the moon had been ignored when the circle was built. The jumbles of stone in the centre felt muddy and convoluted, their placement simply wrong within the landscape. I didn’t want to touch the standing stones, nor set foot in the circle itself. And I was not alone – several of my other companions also expressed their distress and physical discomfort at the place, the feeling of ‘wrongness’.

Man and woman, sun and moon, light and dark, earth and sky. All necessary opposites on the great wheel of life, part of balance in all things. Perhaps that was what felt so off kilter about this place, the lack of balance, of care. I remarked that it felt like a Disney version of a stone circle, although at least at Disney World we know such things are done in play. Here there was still power, but it seemed broken in some way.

We did not stay long, in the end. Even those who were not initially put off didn’t want to linger, and so we made our way back up the avenue to the waiting cars. I did not look back.

This is the account of my recent weekend away with The Silent Eye in Scotland. Click here for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. ———————————————————————————————-

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Circles Beyond Time – Awakening

img_3649This is the continued account of my weekend away with The Silent Eye. Please click here for parts one, two, three and four.

(Before I begin this part of the story, I realise I’ve not said much about the companions. I suppose that’s because these posts are about my own personal journey, but it would be remiss not to mention them. Sue and Stu were there of course, leading the weekend, but there were five others on the journey, all of whom could not have been nicer. They welcomed me, looked after me, and made sure I had transport to the various sites (as I was the only one who had not arrived by car). They were lovely people, all of them, and I look forward to seeing them again one day.)

After lunch in Baslow my spirits lifted, and I was ready to explore the Bronze Age burial ground at Barbrook, our next destination. I’d finished writing my poem the night before and the notebook was in my backpack. I wondered where I’d be asked to read it. After leaving the village we went back into the hills, ending up not far from where we had spent the morning. A gate led us into the moors, a riverbed to the left of us, the sloping hills beyond home to ancient hut circles and the settlement marks of those who had buried their dead here.

Barbrook was a calm and beautiful place, small stone cairns dotting the landscape. We entered anti-clockwise, stepping off the modern access track to follow a route Sue and Stu had discovered previously. We discussed the idea of anti-clockwise, or widdershins, and it did feel like the most natural way to enter the landscape. Some of the cairns had been disturbed, their inner cists now open to the air, while others were as they had been made, grasses and heather softening the stones. Eventually, we arrived at the first of two stone circles we were to explore. This one was unusual in that it was built up, a low stone wall encircling the stones, with an entrance at one side. We took a seat around the circle, and were invited to share readings and poems (though not mine, not yet).

img_3655Wasps were a particular nuisance all weekend. Tangling in my hair, interrupting lunch. Honestly, they are the only reason I would contemplate the existence of flying spiders. And, as I sat on the ancient stone wall, trying to listen to an emotional poem being recited by one of the group, I felt a tickle and looked down to see one on my hand. I shook my hand, trying to dislodge it without disturbing the beautiful words of the reader, and the bloody thing stung me, leaving a red mark on the back of my hand. No pain though, oddly – guess I got rid of it in time.

img_3657After the readings (and a move across the circle, away from the persistent wasps), we worked briefly with pendulums, all of us remarking how certain of the stones caused them to move while others did not. Then we resumed the path, continuing in a circular fashion to loop around and back on a lower route past a calm and lovely lake just perfect for women brandishing swords, fairy toadstools dotting the nearby slope. Then we arrived at the second circle. Once again we were invited to take a seat, though this time the stones stood alone, no encircling wall around them.

img_3659This circle felt different than the other one. Reeds choked the centre, almost overwhelming the low stones. It just felt like it was there, rather than anything more profound, like a group of garden ornaments. The circle was asleep, Sue explained, and we were going to try and awaken it. Now was the time for my poem. I was to read the first verse, then we would wait, then I would read the second verse when prompted. As I was about to begin, a man and his dog wandered into the circle. We paused, then paused again as he decided to join us, taking a seat upon the one remaining stone. That made us a company of nine.

…as the ritual words were spoken, and the group began to focus, the energy in the circle started to transform. Slowly at first, but gaining in speed and power, circling around the stones in an anti-clockwise direction. There was a buzz, and a warmth like sunshine. Sleepers awake! Tell us your dreams…

After, as we waited at the base of the slope for our turn to greet the seer, our new companion stayed to talk, his beautiful white dog deigning to have her silky ears stroked as he told us he was local bred and born, and walked this ancient landscape every day. We nodded in agreement when he mentioned the burial cairns and the other stone circle. ‘But there’s another one,’ he added. ‘Up on the ridge somewhere. I’ve never been able to find it though…’

His lovely dog started growling, low in her throat. Further along the path we could see another dog, a golden retriever, white-blonde against the bracken. It seemed oddly disturbed, pacing back and forth but refusing to come any nearer. Its owner, laughing and shaking her head in frustration, waved her arms and called to it, but it just wouldn’t come. Then, as the last supplicant left the circle, the ritual complete, the dog changed, bounding along the path to rejoin its owner, who shrugged, laughing again as she headed further along the ridge.

After bidding farewell to our new friend, we walked the last stretch of the moors to where the cars waited. Dinner was beckoning, then an early night ready for an early start tomorrow. It had been an… interesting day. Three places of the dead. Three very different experiences. And tomorrow we were heading to Arbor Low. But first we would greet the dawn…


Stones lie sleeping

Where once they stood in majesty

Stones lie sleeping

Knowledge lost beyond safekeeping

Yet power here still ranges free

It beats within the heart of me

Stones lie sleeping

Where land meets sky

And all is not quite as it seems

Where land meets sky

Stones tell a tale of years gone by

Secrets revealed by sunlit gleams

Sleepers awake! Tell us your dreams

Where land meets sky