The dew was collecting faster the longer we stood there, and my feet were pretty wet, yet I didn’t care. The cold June air was pierced by the sounds of a wind from the channel and a pair of didgeridoo players under a dim spotlight from the midsummer’s moon. Around us within 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 could have been an occult gathering, the five of us drawn magically to share a prehistoric ritual on one of the high times of the Pagan calendar. In fact, my wife, our cab driver, and I just happened to run to the two musicians when we chose we desired to view the stones at night. True, I was riveted to that damp spot. Was it the music, the rhythm of wind and primal instrument? Or could it have been a fantastic disclosure, as some long-buried memory surfaced? It was neither; I was transfixed, as had been many others before and after me, by the mystery of the stones.
England is filled with these Interesting Legends, put into deliberate patterns, usually circles, and left on the plains from one end of the island to the other. They are usually in serene, isolated places, and rarely attract crowds of tourists. These locals, along with the ongoing mysterious atmosphere caused from the stones, ensures they are wonderful places to travel when getting out of the noise of civilization is foremost inside your plans. In my first visit to England in 1989, I needed a vague information about Stonehenge, and also less interest in it. But our visit began in Cornwall where lives, my novelist wife informed me, the soul of mystery and romance. She had visit do historical research to get a novel occur 1807, but we soon became captivated by a far older story.
Subsequently, we have joined the ranks in the countless people that have visited Neolithic stones throughout western England, and remain more fascinated than in the past. Better still, coming from a tourist standpoint, most of these sites are freely available. Many are on private property, and as landowners might not alter historic sites, it really is customary to inquire about permission through the landlords before trodding on to examine their charges. Stonehenge remains one of the few sites that one must pay an admission fee; additionally it is one in the few sites that one might 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 many different techniques available that allow them to give us a number of clues. For instance, the most famous prehistoric monument of these all, Stonehenge, is located atop a chalk formation. Experts tell us that if you haul heavy objects, like, say, twelve-ton stones, across chalk, it can shatter. Based on their examinations of the chalk around the monument, these archaeologists tell us that all the stones were hauled in from one direction, over the same path, which was called “the avenue.” The stones are not local, but result from 35 or more miles away. They must be cut carefully, shaped, and moved, all at considerable effort, suggesting both aesthetic sense and careful engineering. (I should also think “strong backs” goes on the list, but since we really don’t know how the stones were cut or transported…)
Stonehenge have been abandoned well before the Roman conquest of Britain, and lay unknown until rediscovered in 1130 A.D. With every passing century, hypotheses about its use and builders reflected more about the ideological biases of the questioners than the 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 yet another case of exaggerated anachronism (as is also Robin Hood’s Friar Tuck, a Franciscan in England about 150 years ahead of the founding of 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 a long time after their creators had disappeared. Other colourful ideas suggest the circle was a terminal building for UFOs, or even the tomb of the truly great leader.
Smaller stones have a number of forms. Some, called quoits, are now considered to be burial places. But others remain enigmatic despite all tries to have them to disclose 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 through the circle three times, you may be healed from a variety of ills. I could vouch which it does not benefit all ills. My favourite explanation for this structure (and in addition, 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, “exactly what are you gonna do with that?” Grog thought somewhat, shrugged, and tossed the prototype in 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 claim that these paired stones were utilised in fertility rights. Actually, no one knows without a doubt.
If you love unknown, it is possible to hardly do much better than attempt to fathom the stones. I had no desire for 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 partner and that i spent considerable time, mainly since it is so accessible. It is also encompassed by a very casual attitude from your locals, who don’t seem interested in commercializing the ruins. Our cab driver, a local of Penzance, was filled with lore about these prehistoric relics. My favourite was the history regarding the farmer who, around World War I, made an effort to remove the stones from his field. He hitched strong ropes around a stone, thence his plow horse.
Because the stone began to move, the horse dropped dead from the cardiac event. Fascinating since this sounds, it is actually, like a lot of legends, unsubstantiated by facts. In my first visit, I noticed a couple of stones outside of the circle which were not mentioned within the guidebook. They arranged using a stone inside the circle to point almost exactly north-northeast. I do not know what significance which includes, having said that i used a compass to ensure the direction. Entering the circle, my compass spun slowly in every directions, a phenomenon observed by my partner and our guide. Outside the circle, it worked fine. Once we tried a better compass a couple of years later, the outcomes were different, the needle pointing just a couple degrees east of magnetic north. So far, that is the most mysterious thing we’ve encountered at a stone site.
Across the road as well as a short walk away from the Merry Maidens would be the standing Pipers. Legend has it that this Maidens danced for the Piper’s music around the Sabbath, in which indiscretion these people were struck into stone. Vengeful gods notwithstanding, one approaches the Pipers with great care; every once in awhile a bull is grazing in their field. While the Maidens form a highly-defined circle (with two outer boulders making a “gun-sight”), the tall, rectangular Pipers are in a straight row, bandsmen eternally at attention. As if ttknrn early Briton had involved in a prehistoric version of urban planning (“boy, five thousand years from now the tourists are gonna eat this up!”), additionally there is an early burial chamber simply to the west from the Maiden’s circle, and simply viewed from the center of the circle. Face for the east, and you view the Pipers. Were they erected by the same people? Were their functions related?