On Saturday I went up to the Perth and Kinross area of Scotland and visited two stone circles with a dear friend. Neither are of these sites are marked by signs and although both are relatively near roads they are off single track roads.
The first one in particular, Blackfaulds stone circle, looked as if it hadn’t had any human visitors for a very long time. The circle is in an area of woodland with your birch and oak trees surrounding it and within the circle. Although it is close to the road it is not easy to spot as the stones are low and almost entirely covered in moss and lichens. Over the past few months I’ve been able to visit many stone circles and each one has it’s own atmosphere and energies which is as you would expect. Standing in this one I felt a tremendous sense of the age of the land. I also felt stretched out between the land beneath me and the sky above me. The day was fine with blue skies and mild temperatures. There was barely a breath of breeze but the quality of light was just amazing. As I looked around me I could see threads of light glinting and glimmering between the surrounding trees. The area was surrounded with fine webs and as the sky breathed around us they shimmered with the light of the sun.
One of the most striking things about this particular place is that it is at this time of year that it will see the most light surrounded as it is by trees. In the spring and summer months it may well be almost impossible to spot and much harder to visit too. What light reaches the stones at that time of year will be patchy and dappled green. But now with the last few leaves still clinging onto the branches, in a time of growing darkness this stone circle sees the winters light.
From that circle we went just a short distance to another in a clearing within forestry commission forest off a track better suited to tractors and land-rovers than cars. This circle is called Druids’ Seat. It’s further away from the road and not easy to spot from it but the clearing is visible through the trees and when you start moving towards it you can see the largest of the stones reasonably easily. This area was once much more overgrown and the signs of tree stumps are all around the clearing. The grass round and in the circle itself was shorter and flatter than that in the surrounding area leading us to think that this site got a few more visitors. Again the quality of light was just amazing but one of the strongest features of this circle was the smells. The air was rich with a scent very similar to good quality mushrooms cooking. I tracked this scent down to a type of fungus growing on the tree stumps. Again the energies of this place were strong. When I stood on the outside of the largest of the stones the energies seemed to be flowing up from the ground into the air with a tangible resistance in the air about six inches away from the surface. When I stood on the other side the energies pulled me in so I practically fell forward with hands outstretched to make contact with the top of the stone. From the inside of the circle it felt as if energy was being drawn from me and everything else on that side and then channelled up and out of the other side of the stone. I couldn’t stand there for long as my hands got incredibly cold. This wasn’t hostile in any way just a powerful sensation.
As has become our custom before we departed these circles we made our own offerings of energy for the spirits of land in those places to use as they willed.
We looked for a couple of other stone circle sites but were not as successful in finding ones that we could visit even with the aid of the sat-nav. So we headed off to another site near Loch Tay – Acharn Falls. We weren’t sure what we would find here as the site was listed under megaliths but the name suggested waterfalls. Now I’ve looked at the records of the area I can now see why. There is a stone circle in the area but we didn’t find that but we did find a sign pointing us in the direction of a circular walk for the Falls of Acharn.
What we didn’t know is that the walk also led to a place the sign calles the “hermit’s cave” which turned out to be a wonderful place to view the waterfall. We walked up a steep track and went through hermit’s cave (a man made underground passage) which has an exit overlooking the waterfall. We got there just before dusk and stood there listening to the sounds of the water and nature around us and watching the light fade as the clouds gathered and dusk began to envelop us. It was a simply magical place and to be there at a such a liminal time just added to the whole effect.
Finally, after we had walked down the hill back to the car in the growing dark we stopped by Loch Tay itself and watched for a while as the darkness grew. There was a patch of lighter sky visible through the clouds which reflected in the water. As the dark grew and clouds moved across the sky so the reflection moved over the water. There were barely any sounds of traffic although you could see the sporadic passing lights of cars on the road by the other side of the loch reflecting in the water. We stood there by the Crannog Centre (which is well worth a visit by the way) listening to the sound of the water lapping the edge of the shore. It was very easy to understand why our ancient ancestors seemed to think of rivers and lakes as living presences standing there.
Finally we returned to Glasgow in the darkness of a mild wintersnight.
Later in the evening we reflected on the words Heron wrote on the Caer Feddwyd Forum for Wintersnights and shared a toast in honour of the changing season. The whole day had turned out to be one of reflection on the changing season, of the growing dark and of the hope of light within that darkness. Wintersdays and wintersnights.