Putting the Stones to Bed

Killin circle in the Scottish Highlands

Welcome – and thank you for joining me. This new blog is a continuation from my old, now defunct blog ‘Walking With A Smacked Pentax‘ – which if you have viewed it’s last post you will know why I have started this one. More info can be found in the ‘About’ Page. I hope you like this new one as much as you have enjoyed the last one, and will stay and accompany me on my new journey. Anyway, on with the show!

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Scotland has many ancient remains.

During my frequent excursions to this wonderful land, I come across – nay, actively seek out the ancient and mysterious. Stone circles are my favourite, and scotland has some of the finest. This is Killin circle, nr. Loch Tay. It isn’t actually the subject of this particular post, but it serves to illustrate just one of Scotlands Bronze Age circles. There are plenty more!

It was on one of these visits that I heard this tale. I know the person who related it to us very well, and I have no doubts as to the authencity of the story.

This person was hiking in a remote part of the highlands in early winter several years ago. It was getting dark and decided to stop in a local pub for the night. After a few ‘drams’ with the locals, he asked if there were any ancient artifacts about he might visit in the morning. He was told that there were ‘some stones’, but they were ‘tucked away’ for the winter.

Asking for clarifcation, he was told that locals from the next village unearthed the stones when winter arrived. They were then very carefully wrapped in old cloths ‘to keep them safe and warm during the cold’, and placed snugly in hay in a barn. Come Beltane (Gaelic May Day) they were brought out and replaced in their holes. Fires were then lit and people danced around the stones. Beltane rituals are performed throughout the British Isles, so this was nothing new – but he had never heard of putting the stones to bed for the winter.

The beautiful circle of Croft Moraig in the Highlands

Astonished, my friend returned to the same place in summer and the stones were in a field where he was told they would be. Examining the stones, he noticed that holes where the stones were put had fresh earth around it, the obvious conclusion was that they had been rehoused recently!

A similar tale concerns another stone circle, again in Scotland, but this time near a large village. Two friends of ours were looking for directions and chanced upon an elderly lady tending her garden. Striking up a converstion, my friend asked if she knew of any ancient artifacts nearby. Surprisingly, she told him there was a ‘Druids circle’ at the back of her house! She and her sisters used to play in it as children.Ā  Asked if they could see it, he was led to the circle – and it was a genuine, unrecorded Bronze Age stone circle.

He said he was surprised that no one had recorded it before, and she said that some people from the Royal Commission had unexpectedly showed up several years ago asking about it, and because they were rude to her she said she had never heard of it and promptly shooed them off her property! Some of the older people in the village knew about it, but rarely spoke about it to outsiders.

Even in the 21st century, there are still old legends and ways known only to locals in the remote places of the Dales, deep moors and Scottish Highlands.

It is these tales that I will try to convey in this blog.

 

 

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13 thoughts on “Putting the Stones to Bed

      • Yes, when I first read that you were quitting the blog, I thought it meant you were quitting The Silent Eye and other related posts, and I too was panicking as I always read your posts, and would indeed have been very sad to not read what you have to say anymore. I too look forward to reading these posts. I did not know that there were more of these stone circles, for instance, so this is a great adventure for me. I am not able to go there in person at least for now, so I am always thrilled to journey in any alternative way I am able to go. Thank you so kindly. You are truly appreciated. When you said you have turned professional, I hope it is OK for me to ask what this means – a job working for someone else, more book writing, etc.? Somehow I don’t remember reading before about it. I am glad for you whatever it is, and I wish you the very best in endeavors that make your life full in the ways you want to have it.

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      • Thank you for your kind words, and I hope that the new blog won’t disappoint. There are approximately 1200 stone circles in the UK – some consist of only a few stones, some are part destroyed but some are quite big. I am fascinated by them, and they are really beautiful. There are so many artifacts in this island, but new finds are popping up all the time. My friend James Turner and I found a new 5ft high prehistoric standind stone only last year https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/james-stone/
        I had planned to retire, but the photos are selling well so as it its my only regular income I guess I am a professional photographer. I work for myself and don’t have a boss. My work is sold through my website jameselkingtonphotography.com and through agencies šŸ™‚

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  1. Thank you kindly for the great info, and I apologize for my confusion once again with thinking you were writing as Stuart France. I have to look at the names more closely. That is great that you can work and do something you love on your own. That is quite interesting about the many stone circles. Although my first major was in archaeology, I never studied your area, which is why I am unfamiliar with it. So wonderful to learn so many new things! Thank you again.

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    • I wish you, as an archaeologist could come over here. There is just so much stuff here that the archaeo’s don’t seem interested in touching. We have found 200 Bronze Age carvings, 3 huge settlements, and several stone circles – we have written to the local archaeo’s and no one replies – they just don’t seem interested…it is so frustration, I have no idea why…

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      • Thank you very kindly. I think it is likely because they cannot get funding for the projects, but I am actually shocked that no one has at least responded. That is downright rude. I would need years of historical, geological, and geographical knowledge of the area to even begin to study the areas in question, and likely by then I would be too old or perhaps living in another lifetime. I did most of my archaeological work in Arizona, New Mexico (very little there) and also in Mexico, and even in those areas, there are still things that are being re-examined because we know more all the time and assumptions that were made earlier are not necessarily correct anymore. Archaeology is very much like some of the other aspects we are studying of the land, etc. It is easy to come to conclusions as we don’t always have all the facts as we are going along. And then we gain more knowledge, and we realize that some things we had concluded are very different.

        It could also be (and again, I am not all that familiar with how your local governments work in an area), the government that is responsible for the lack of work being done because sometimes they will not allow sites to be worked unless there is an immediate need, such as to preserve what is there when they are going to build roads or structures in the area.

        I suspect money is a major issue as it is for a lot of sites unless they get private financing from a strange brand of investors, who invest not because they will own anything, but just to be able to say that they were responsible for helping.

        It seems to me that Sue, Stuart and Steve are very good at telling us so much from which to draw a lot of conclusions, using mythology and many other resources. Mythology is often based (in fact probably almost all of the time) on some aspects of real events, perhaps colored to make them more important for the present folks.

        You might want to go to a local museum that seems to have a strong interest in the archaeology of an area and talk to the people in charge about what needs to be in place for the sites you are mentioning to begin to be mapped, etc. or find out if they ever have been. Sometimes things have lain quietly in museums, etc. and have been lost so to speak to the public because people have forgotten them, and unless something comes up in the news about the area, they remain lost.

        I had some very unique experiences in my working. A lot of the work I did was during a time when I was married to a genius anthropologist who had discovered some very unique potters down in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico (not near the city by the same name). One of the things I got to witness was the evolution of the design in the pottery from a very geometric based type of designs to one that was very anthropomorphic. Also, the rounded bottoms of the pots were originally very separate from the designs around the sides of the pots. The tops were graphically exactly alike when you looked down on the pots, and the original artist who began to work with the pots made his brushes from his children’s hair, and dug the clay out in the wild. There was no preplanning of the designs, and yet they were perfectly matched from side to side. All the pots were fired with grass-fed cow dung, and that is important to have that material rather than hay as it causes a very high firing and one that is fairly smooth in results. And they were fired one at a time and a bucket placed over the pots as the fire was ready. The only things we showed the potters as more of them began making the pots was how to sign their names or special marks on the bottoms to prevent unscrupulous dealers from antiquing the pots (and it happens a lot down there) and paying the potters virtually nothing and then charging tourists a huge amount. So that got stopped, much to the dealers’ aggravation. Then a very good potter showed them how to get rid of pock marks in the pots by adding some other minerals. All the pots were poly-chromatic; that is they were all within a certain color range but in different colors that were all natural – reddish brown, cream, and black.

        Well, I could go on and on once I get started, for it IS a very interesting study of cultures and how things happen or begin to happen, and how they come to evolve. But I have to say that probably the most fascinating thing I observed, much to my dismay, was the evolution of the society in the town where the potters lived. It had to do with how quickly their values and ways of living totally changed once they began to benefit from the co-op started to help them by the anthropologist genius. Unfortunately he also trusted that they did not need any agreements in writing, so they had no problems selling to dealers without our knowledge when they were being given a stipend so that they did not need to do any other work than to create the pottery. He was amassing a museum collection over time to show the evolution of the styles, something that does not happen before our eyes. Usually we find pottery that has changed over a long period prior to our lives.

        To end the adventure, first I got one of the diseases that archaeologists are prone to, some which are fatal. In this case, it was valley fever, followed by paratyphoid, so at that point, I decided that might not be a good practice to continue, and hence turned my skills to other arenas. Thank you kindly for your interesting note, and I hope my longish response is not too boring for everyone. It is the most likely reasons why nothing is being done. You can strike an interest with the public by writing about these areas, or perhaps Steve, Stuart or Sue will be addressing them, thereby helping people to want to have them preserved, etc. Just a thought.

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