Albion, ancient sites, Archaeology, Books, Magic, Photography, spirituality, Stuart France and Sue Vincent, travel

A Thousand Miles of History XXX: The Mystery of the Weeping Stones…

There was one more site we intended to see before we hit the road in earnest, and that was Lanyon Quoit. It is one of the best-known dolmens in Cornwall, probably in part because it is so easy to access, standing in a field right beside the road and not far from Mên-an-Tol. We were really looking forward to seeing this site and so, it was with some excitement that we climbed the stile into the field.

It looks amazing in the empty landscape. The huge capstone, weighing around thirteen and a half tons and over eighteen feet long, is supported on three upright stones. Old stories tell that a man could ride a horse beneath the capstone, but today you must bend your head to enter the chamber that would once have been encased in earth. And for once, it was not a happy place.

The ancient burial chambers that we have visited are usually warm and welcoming. There is no sense of any fear of the dead, but on the contrary, an invitation to enter and commune with the ancestors… those distant kin whose presence gives access to the Otherworld. Where the tombs are sealed by earth, stone, or archaeologists, there is a feeling of vague disappointment and yearning, for these were places meant to be visited, where the womblike darkness of the earth could lead to a rebirth for the dead and, perhaps, a spiritual rebirth for the living.

Lanyon Quoit, though, we didn’t like. It was hard to explain… it didn’t ‘feel’ right. Stuart thought it might be because one of the uprights was not in place, although we have visited dolmens a worse state of repair and not felt this sense of loss and sadness.

Still, we dutifully explored the dolmen and the surrounding area, full of stone burial cists and the traces of another dolmen, now almost gone. The stones once formed a chamber beneath a mound of earth and at least some of the cists may have been placed within the structure, whilst others may be later additions to the site. We wandered off, exploring other stones, both of us, I think, feeling unaccountably guilty that we could not like this ostensibly impressive and undoubtedly famous quoit. But we didn’t like it at all… it was an uncomfortable place and a sad one. As if the stones themselves wept. And we couldn’t figure out why…

It had everything going for it. There are still traces of the sixty-foot-long mound that once enclosed the stones, though there is a theory that this site was never completely covered and the stones may have been left exposed for ritual purposes, while the capstone may have been a site of air burial, where the bones could be cleaned by the birds. The site itself is around four and a half to five and a half thousand years old and it is an imposing monument. It is also known as the Giant’s Table, for obvious reasons, and the Giant’s Tomb because the local legends tell of a giant’s bones being found within the structure. Maybe those of Albion himself, who knows? But, no matter how much we tried… the feeling of discomfort remained, and we did not linger.

It was only on returning home and starting the research that the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. The quoit had collapsed in a storm in 1815, the ground beneath it having suffered at the hands of treasure-hunters. For years its stones lay scattered on the ground until, nine years later, enough money was raised by public donations to allow the site to be rebuilt by Captain Giddy of the Royal Navy.

While this was undoubtedly an admirable endeavour, the reconstruction was not as precise as it should have been. One of the fallen uprights was too damaged to put back in its place, so the capstone now rests on three, rather than four legs. The height of the capstone was considerably lowered and the monument now stands at right angles to its original position… which, it is believed, was once aligned with the cardinal points.

Lanyon Quoit in 1769, William Borlase (1695-1772)

Mystery solved. The megalithic builders did not simply plonk down stones willy-nilly. They were carefully sited, aligned with landmarks on the horizon, with astronomical and seasonal events, and with regard for the currents of the earth. The theory is that such sites either harness or augment the earth’s natural currents, that are not unlike those unseen lines of force that manifest when you sprinkle iron filings around a magnet.

If there is any truth to this theory… and anyone who ‘feels’ these sites or dowses them is likely to be convinced that there is… you cannot turn them around and expect them to ‘fit’ the landscape or to continue to fulfil their true role within it. But the antiquarians of the nineteenth century were as yet unaware of the hidden complexity of these sites. The interest in the stones and their builders was a nascent and unregulated study and most people still thought such structures had been built by either the faeries, the Druids or even the Romans. Our discomfort and the dissonance of the stones was explained.

We retraced our footsteps and pointed the car towards our convoluted route home. We were not planning on stopping again until we reached our hotel and that would not be for another few hours. But well, this was Cornwall… we were almost obliged to get distracted…

14 thoughts on “A Thousand Miles of History XXX: The Mystery of the Weeping Stones…”

    1. They not only did their best, given the knowledge they had at that period, but they saved the site from utter ruin. The trouble is that if the stones are not restored to their correct positions, it is like having a toddler reassemble a broken clock and expecting it to tell the time.

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  1. When I’m unable to ‘visit’ a site, and ‘feel/absorb’, but am left only to read about various places and times in history, there are so many times I have wondered, “but why do folks feel that way? Consistently? At that spot?” and at some point during my journey, I came across a long chunk of stories that showed up on my radar, regarding various atrocities, genocide and witch hunts, etc., etc., over the ages that took place in locales found in modern nation state lines of Germany.

    I remember so clearly my discussion with my Dad, who was safe to ask nearly any question of, and when I was just starting out exploring the ancient and more modern texts referring to magnetic frequencies, vector points, etc., on scientific and spiritual levels – and I asked my dad,
    after telling him about the various things I was ‘learning more on/exploring’,

    “IS there just some dark, negative force in the deep earth in this locale? Why are there so many recorded accounts of such things clustered around here ?” And I’ve been grateful, so many times, in my personal and work life paths, of the alternate ‘perspective/possibility’ he introduced to me – in his reply –

    “Well, Sis, maybe so, but it seems to me that over history, folks in that area were consummate record keepers. For example, in the final days of WWII when the allies were closing in, records were being destroyed, burned, etc., in a frenzy, but they had so many they didn’t have time to destroy all of them…. Perhaps, we just know now, more about these areas and times in history, simply because that culture/region of people were really very good at keeping records and accounts, of their own history, instead of relying on oral traditions to preserve. Right now, sounds like you are in the midst of ‘learning about all the horrific’ moments of those records – might want to try a search of records from those eras that celebrate the wins, the joys, the art and creativity, just to see how the two reporting sides line up.”

    Which is why I live live with a ‘far left, far right, moderate” and/or “Pros/Cons” checklists, just for my own amusement and to remind me, just because it was preserved and written down, somewhere, doesn’t mean it tells all the full story, for me to understand, fully, just right now….

    Excellent post!

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    1. While the earth memory may bear the imprint of the past, allowing us to ‘tap into’ a certain ‘signature’… the sense of place and its associated emotions… we are also gifted with imaginations that can take what we ‘think’ we know and cast shadows that make us serene or fearful.
      The peace in an ancient church… the frisson at the site of a massacre… Perhaps we do not need to understand everything as much as we need to be open to it.

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      1. Yup – to me, thus far, if I remain open to various perspectives/history/opinions when I ‘learn about something’ before visiting, it helps me to really be more ‘open’ when I visit – the places I feel the most at are the ones that I happen to drive by, know absolutely nothing about, but either feel called to stop and ponder/experience OR a little ‘historical point’ brown sign (here) lets me know – hmmm…interesting spot – I often try NOT to read the plaque until after I spend some time just standing there, ‘drinking it in’ – :). My love of history and reading, while enjoyable, sometimes gets in my way of ‘just showing up and feeling’ – :). Monkey chatter brain and stuff – – LOL

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