The dew was accumulating faster the more we stood there, and my feet were pretty wet, yet I did not care. The cold June air was pierced by the sounds of a wind from the channel and a couple of didgeridoo players under a dim spotlight through the midsummer’s moon. Around us in the wet, ankle-deep grass, stood the oblong shapes of the Merry Maidens, a circle of stones placed here who-knows-when by who-knows-who. This might have been an occult gathering, the 5 of us drawn magically to talk about a prehistoric ritual on one of the high days of the Pagan calendar. In reality, my spouse, our cab driver, and I just happened to run to the two musicians when we decided we wished to see the stones at night. True, I was riveted to that damp spot. Was it the songs, the rhythm of wind and primal instrument? Or could it happen to be a fantastic disclosure, as some long-buried memory surfaced? It was neither; I was transfixed, as was numerous others before and after me, by the mystery of the stones.
England is loaded with these Interesting Legends, put into deliberate patterns, generally circles, and left on the plains from one end from the island to the other. They are generally in serene, isolated places, and rarely attract crowds of tourists. These locals, along with the ongoing mysterious atmosphere caused from the stones, means they are wonderful places to travel when getting away from the noise of civilization is foremost within your plans. On my first holiday to England in 1989, I needed a vague information about Stonehenge, and even less desire for it. But our visit began in Cornwall where lives, my novelist wife informed me, the soul of mystery and romance. She had come to do historical research for a novel placed in 1807, but we soon became captivated by a far older story.
Subsequently, we have joined the ranks in the lots of people who may have visited Neolithic stones throughout western England, and remain more fascinated than in the past. Even better, coming from a tourist standpoint, many of these sites are freely available. The majority are on private property, so that as landowners might not alter historic sites, it is customary to question permission from your landlords before trodding to examine their charges. Stonehenge remains one from the few sites for which one must pay an admission fee; it is additionally one of the few sites that one may not approach closely.
The first question asked by visitors or armchair Indiana Joneses is either “who built these structures,” or “what exactly are they for?” Archaeologists have a variety of techniques available that let them give us a variety of clues. For instance, the most famous prehistoric monument of these all, Stonehenge, is situated atop a chalk formation. Experts tell us that in case you haul heavy objects, such as, say, twelve-ton stones, across chalk, it can shatter. According to their examinations in the chalk round the monument, these archaeologists tell us that all the stones were hauled in from one direction, over the same path, that has been called “the avenue.” The stones are certainly not local, but originate from 35 or maybe more miles away. They had to be cut carefully, shaped, and moved, all at considerable effort, suggesting both aesthetic sense and careful engineering. (I would also think “strong backs” goes listed, but while we really don’t understand how the stones were cut or transported…)
Stonehenge had been abandoned well before the Roman conquest of Britain, and lay unknown until rediscovered in 1130 A.D. With each passing century, hypotheses about its use and builders reflected much more about the ideological biases in the questioners compared to identity in the architects. A pervasive and popular explanation held that the circle was built by Druids, and utilized for human sacrifices. Alas, this explanation is another case of exaggerated anachronism (as is also Robin Hood’s Friar Tuck, a Franciscan in England about 150 years ahead of the founding in the Order), for that Druids emerged thousands of years after Stonehenge was built. This will not, however, mean they might not have access to used the ruins long after their creators had disappeared. Other colourful ideas suggest the circle had been a terminal building for UFOs, or even the tomb of the truly great leader.
Smaller stones have a variety of forms. Some, called quoits, are now considered to be burial places. But others remain enigmatic despite all tries to buy them to reveal their secrets. One, the Men-el-Tor in Cornwall is unique, the only real hollowed-out, round stone known in Europe. Nearby is definitely an upright spire. Legend has it that by passing from the circle 3 x, you can be healed from many different ills. I will vouch that it fails to work with all ills. My favourite explanation for this structure (as well as, my very own hypothesis) is that, back around 7333 B.C., Grog invented the wheel. He showed it to his brother in law, who replied, “what are you gonna do with that?” Grog thought a bit, shrugged, and tossed the prototype inside the trash, close to another aborted invention, the axel (ah, had he but built two wheels first, how different might history be). More scholarly thinkers advise that these paired stones were utilised in fertility rights. In reality, no one knows for sure.
If you love a mystery, you are able to hardly do much better than make an effort to fathom the stones. I had no fascination with them until we actually came to a circle in 1989. The Merry Maidens, where my feet became dew-soaked, is actually a circle where my spouse and that i spent lots of time, mainly since it is so accessible. Additionally it is in the middle of a really casual attitude from your locals, who don’t seem interested in commercializing the ruins. Our cab driver, a local of Penzance, was loaded with lore about these prehistoric relics. My favourite was the tale regarding the farmer who, around World War I, made an effort to eliminate the stones from his field. He hitched strong ropes around a stone, thence his plow horse.
Since the stone begun to move, the horse dropped dead from a cardiac event. Fascinating because this sounds, it is, like so many legends, unsubstantiated by facts. In my first visit, I noticed a set of stones outside of the circle that were not mentioned in the guidebook. They lined up with a stone inside the circle to point almost exactly north-northeast. I do not know what significance which has, having said that i used a compass to ensure the direction. Entering the circle, my compass spun slowly in most directions, a phenomenon observed by my wife and our guide. Away from circle, it worked fine. Whenever we tried a much better compass 2 yrs later, the results were different, the needle pointing just a couple degrees east of magnetic north. Up to now, that is the most mysterious thing we’ve encountered in a stone site.
Across the road and a short walk away from the Merry Maidens are the standing Pipers. Legend has it that this Maidens danced towards the Piper’s music around the Sabbath, that indiscretion they were struck into stone. Vengeful gods notwithstanding, one approaches the Pipers with great care; every now and then a bull is grazing within their field. As the Maidens form a well-defined circle (with two outer boulders creating a “gun-sight”), the tall, rectangular Pipers have been in a straight row, bandsmen eternally at attention. As if ttknrn early Briton had engaged in a prehistoric version of urban planning (“boy, five thousand years from now the tourists are gonna eat this up!”), there is also an early burial chamber just to the west of the Maiden’s circle, and easily viewed from the middle of the circle. Face for the east, and also you begin to see the Pipers. Were they erected from the same people? Were their functions related?