Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Faery Rings, Standing stones, and Druids.

Imagine falling through the stones to a different time? For that matter, being from a time where Druid priests were worshipping in standing stone circles? I think thanks to "Outlander", we may all have.

"Some say the hill is enchanted, others say it is cursed. Both are right".

In English, Scandinavian and Celtic traditions, it is said that the rings on the hills were created by the elves or faeries dancing.

In Victorian times folklorists believed that the fairies and witches were related, partially because they were both said to dance in the circles.

Entering the rings on May Day (the Celtic festival of Baltane) and Halloween night (the Celtic festival of Samhaim) is especially dangerous.

Mortals that dance in the circle often find that what seemed like a very short time has actually been weeks if not YEARS. They often have no memory of their time in the "fairyland".

Fairy Rings are eerie, whether they are made of mushrooms that appear overnight or stone.

While sometimes the rings are seen as dangerous, they can sometimes be linked with very good fortune.... Look at Jamie and Claire Fraiser for example.


 OUTLANDER references to the standing stones at Craigh na Dun

Outlander chapter 2 Standing Stones

“What’s up there?” I asked, gesturing with a ham sandwich. “It seems a difficult place for picnicking.”“Ah.” Mr. Crook glanced at the hill. “That’s Craigh na Dun, lass. I’d meant to show ye after our meal.”“Really? Is there something special about it?”“Oh, aye,” he answered, but refused to elaborate further, merely saying that I’d see when I saw. I had some fears about his ability to climb such a steep path, but these evaporated as I found myself panting in his wake. At last, Mr. Crook extended a gnarled hand and pulled me up over the rim of the hill. “There’tis.” He waved a hand with a sort of proprietorial gesture.

“Why, it’s a henge!” I said, delighted. “A miniature henge!” Because of the war , it had been several years since I had last visited Salisbury Plain, but Frank and I had seen Stonehenge soon after we were married . Like the other tourists wandering awed among the huge standing stones, we had gaped at the Altar Stone (‘ w’ere ancient Druid priests performed their dreadful ’uman sacrifices,’ announced the sonorous Cockney tour guide accompanying a busload of Italian tourists, who all dutifully took photographs of the rather ordinary-looking stone block). Out of the same passion for exactness that made Frank adjust his ties on the hanger so that the ends hung precisely even, we had even trekked around the circumference of the circle, pacing off the distance between the Z holes and the Y holes, and counting the lintels in the Sarsen Circle, the outermost ring of monstrous uprights. Three hours later, we knew how many Y and Z holes there were (fifty-nine, if you care; I didn’t), but had no more clue to the purpose of the structure than had the dozens of amateur and professional archaeologists who had crawled over the site for the last five hundred years. No lack of opinions, of course. Life among academics had taught me that a well-expressed opinion is usually better than a badly expressed fact, so far as professional advancement goes. A temple. A burial ground. An astronomical observatory. A place of execution (hence the inaptly named “Slaughter Stone” that lies to one side, half sunk in its own pit). An open-air market. I liked this last suggestion, visualizing Megalithic housewives strolling between the lintels, baskets on their arms, critically judging the glaze on the latest shipment of red-clay beakers and listening skeptically to the claims of stone-age bakers and vendors of deer-bone shovels and amber beads. The only thing I could see against that hypothesis was the presence of bodies under the Altar Stone and cremated remains in the Z holes. Unless these were the hapless remains of merchants accused of short-weighting the customers, it seemed a bit unsanitary to be burying people in the marketplace. There were no signs of burial in the miniature henge atop the hill. By “miniature,” I mean only that the circle of standing stones was smaller than Stonehenge; each stone was still twice my own height, and massive in proportion. I had heard from another tour-guide at Stonehenge that these stone circles occur all over Britain and Europe— some in better repair than others, some differing slightly in orientation or form, all of purpose and origin unknown. Mr. Crook stood smiling benignly as I prowled among the stones, pausing now and then to touch one gently, as though my touch could make an impression on the monumental boulders.

Some of the standing stones were brindled, striped with dim colors. Others were speckled with flakes of mica that caught the morning sun with a cheerful shimmer. All of them were remarkably different from the clumps of native stone that thrust out of the bracken all around. Whoever built the stone circles, and for whatever purpose, thought it important enough to have quarried, shaped, and transported special stone blocks for the erection of their testimonial. Shaped— how? Transported— how, and from what unimaginable distance?

Dragonfly in Amber from prologue

The sight of the stones was fresh in my mind. A small circle, standing stones on the crest of a steep green hill. The name of the hill is Craigh na Dun; the fairies’ hill. "Some say the hill is enchanted, others say it is cursed. Both are right". But no one knows the function or the purpose of the stones. Except me.
Claire Fraser

Dragonfly in Amber chapter 1 Mustering the roll...

the Reverend told him that there was a local group of— well, modern Druids, I suppose you’d call them. I’ve no idea how authentic they might be; most likely not very.” Brianna was leaning forward now, interested, the glass of whisky forgotten between her hands. “The Reverend couldn’t take official notice of them— paganism and all that, you know— but his housekeeper, Mrs. Graham, was involved with the group, so he got wind of their doings from time to time, and he tipped Frank that there would be a ceremony of some kind on the dawn of Beltane— May Day, that is.” Roger nodded, trying to adjust to the idea of elderly Mrs. Graham, that extremely proper person, engaging in pagan rites and dancing round stone circles in the dawn. All he could remember of Druid ceremonies himself was that some of them involved burning sacrificial victims in wicker cages , which seemed still more unlikely behavior for a Scottish Presbyterian lady of advanced years.

“There’s a circle of standing stones on top of a hill, fairly nearby. So we went up there before dawn to, well, to spy on them,” she continued, shrugging apologetically. “You know what scholars are like; no conscience at all when it comes to their own field, let alone a sense of social delicacy .” Roger winced slightly at this, but nodded in wry agreement. “And there they were,” she said. “Mrs. Graham included, all wearing bedsheets, chanting things and dancing in the midst of the stone circle. Frank was fascinated,” she added , with a smile. “And it was impressive, even to me.” She paused for a moment, eyeing Roger rather speculatively.

Dragonfly in Amber chapter 49 Blessed are those.....

In a parody of the scientific method, the first section of the book was titled “Observations.” It contained disjointed references, tidy drawings, and carefully numbered tables. “The position of sun and moon on the Feast of Beltane” was one, with a list of more than two hundred paired figures laid out beneath. Similar tables existed for Hogmanay and Midsummer’s Day, and another for Samhainn, the Feast of All Hallows. The ancient feasts of fire and sun, and Beltane’s sun would rise tomorrow. The central section of the notebook was titled “Speculations.” That was accurate, at least, I reflected wryly. One page had borne this entry, in neat, slanting script: “The Druids burnt sacrificial victims in wicker cages shaped like men, but individuals were killed by strangling, and the throat slit to drain the body of blood. Was it fire or blood that was the necessary element?” The coldblooded curiosity of the question brought Geillis Duncan’s face before me clearly— not the wide-eyed, straight-haired student whose portrait adorned the Institute, but the secretive, half-smiling fiscal’s wife, ten years older, versed in the uses of drugs and the body, who lured men to her purposes, and killed without passion to achieve her ends. And the last few pages of the book, neatly labeled “Conclusions ,” which had led us to this dark journey, on the eve of the Feast of Beltane.

Web Search of Standing Stones

Astronomical observatory?
Why did our Stone-Age ancestors build Calanais? Our best guess is that it served as a kind of astronomical observatory. Patrick Ashmore, who excavated at Calanais in the early 1980s, writes in his insightful guidebook Calanais: The Standing Stones, published by Historic Scotland in 2002: ‘The most attractive explanation … is that every 18.6 years, the moon skims especially low over the southern hills. It seems to dance along them, like a great god visiting the earth. Knowledge and prediction of this heavenly event gave earthly authority to those who watched the skies.’

Standing stones and stone circles

Scotland’s dramatic landscapes have witnessed millenniums of human history. The first settlers arrived over 10,000 years ago and these early inhabitants began to erect incredible monuments in the eras that followed, some of which can still be seen today. But for what purpose is something that modern day archaeologists can only speculate; these ancient sites may forever remain shrouded in mystery. Discover them for yourself and let your imagination take you back thousands of years in time.

One of the most famous stone circles is the remarkable Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Built around 5,000 years ago, this fascinating structure is thought to pre-date Stonehenge.

The stones are visible for miles around and form a circle, with a single monolith at the centre standing almost 5 m high. From the ring, lines of stones extend outwards in four directions. Like many stone circles, the stones’ positioning may relate to specific cosmological or lunar events, although it’s near impossible to determine which ones they may be.

Go to site for video explanation

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site is recognised as one of the most important historical sites in the world and includes the Ring of Brodgar, a circle of 27 tall stones which encompasses a large ceremonial space and dates from 2,500 to 2,000 BC. Try to visit at either sunrise or sunset, when this circle is at its most majestic and mystical.

From the Ring of Brodgar, you can walk to the nearby Standing Stones of Stenness which are thought to be among Orkney’s oldest Neolithic relics. Only four stones remain, all of which are considerably taller than those of the Ring of Brodgar, with some as high as 6 m. Both sites are surrounded by a round circular ditch, called a henge.

East of Inverness, the Bronze Age cemetery of Clava Cairns is set within an enchanting small woodland area close to the River Nairn. In this sacred prehistoric site you’ll find three stone burial cairns, each surrounded by a stone circle, and look out for a split stone near its south west passage grave.

There is little clue to who built them and why, but it’s thought that they have been constructed to align with the setting of the midwinter sun. Try to spot the mystifying cup and ring carvings on some rocks.

In Argyll’s heartlands lies the lush expanse of Kilmartin Glen, considered to be one of Europe’s most concentrated areas for prehistoric remains with hundreds of monuments, cairns, standing stones, stone circles and rock art.

Walk through the valley following the line of five well-preserved burial cairns – in some of the cairns, you can look inside and see the stone slab burial chambers. Lying at the end of the cairn trail is Temple Wood Stone Circle, set in a leafy copse where two circles are marked by short stone stumps and small boulders, with burial cists at their centre. Thought to be used originally for rituals, and later on for burying the dead, you can’t fail to feel that this site is a spiritual place.

On the pretty Isle of Arran lies the mysterious Machrie Moor. Its most prominent feature is a curious series of stone circles. Some of these are fragmented, while others are formed by impressive, slender stone pillars, the tallest of which is over 5 metres. Dating from 3,500 to 1,500 BC, this site may have been used for religious and ceremonial purposes, which might have included observing the sky for astronomical activities.

More on Scottish standing stones and their locations

Book reference

Faeries and the myth

Journey Into Fairyland With Reverend Kirk

Reverend Kirk’s Fairyland site Doon Hill, near the small town of Aberfoyle, gateway to the beautiful Trossach region in Perthshire.

Doon Hill - Scotiana.com - 2006

Aberfoyle is only 30 miles away by road of Glasgow and as such, there is no reason one should not stop by to contemplate splendid views and discover the area that inspired Walter Scott ‘s Rob Roy novel.

But coming back to the 17th century and to Reverend Kirk, he was a firm believer of faeries. In 1681, to express his beliefs, he wrote a book : “The Secret Commonwealth Of Elves, Fauns and Faeries“, an essay on the nature of supernatural beings. This book was neither fiction and not for children.

The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns & Fairies by Reverend Kirk, 1681

To give a brief overview of the life and work of Reverend Kirk, it was said that being born in 1644, the 7th son of a 7th son, it gave him psychic powers. He had the ability to call upon the supernatural beings at will.

Like his father, he became a minister, preaching at Balquhidder and then taking on the Aberfoyle ministry. His fascination for the magical world of Fairies is what he is remembered for even though he provided the first translation to Gaelic of the book of Psalms.

As per the legend, the inhabitants of the Secret Commonwealth, Fairies and others, were not happy about Reverend Kirk disclosure to their secrets and they planned revenge.
Each day, Reverend Kirk walked from the manse to Doon Hill and one day, in May 1692, very mysteriously, he did not return.

The story tells us that he was taken to the underground world of the Fairies through the pine tree that still exists at the summit of Doon Hill.
It is said that the tree contains his imprisoned spirit.

Druids and their ancient history

In the Celtic religion, the modern words Druidry or Druidism denote the practices of the ancient druids, the priestly class in ancient Celtic societies through much of Western Europe north of the Alps and in the British Isles. Druidic practices were part of the culture of all the tribal peoples called Keltoi and Galatai by Greeks and Celtae and Galli by Romans, which evolved into modern English "Celtic" and "Gaulish". Modern attempts at reconstructing practicing Druidism are called Neo-druidism.

From what little we know of late druidic practice it appears deeply traditional, and conservative in the sense that the druids were conserving repositories of culture and lore. It is impossible now to judge whether this continuity had deep historical roots and originated in the social transformations of late La Tene time, or whether there had been a discontinuity and a druidic religious innovation. The etymological origins of the word druid are varied and doubtful enough that the word may be pre-Indo-European. The most widespread view is that "druid" derives from the Celtic word for an oak tree (doire in Irish Gaelic), a word whose root also meant "wisdom."

Their influence was as much social as religious. Druids used not only to take the part that modern priests would, but were often the philosophers, scientists, lore-masters, teachers, judges and councillors to the kings. The Druids linked the Celtic peoples with their numerous gods, the lunar calendar and the sacred natural order. With the arrival of Christianity in each area, all these roles were assumed by the bishop and the abbot, who were never the same individual, however, and might find themselves in direct competition.

Continue reading about Druids

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