Albion, ancient sites, Art, Books, Don and Wen, sacred sites, TOLL, travel

A golden gift – Seeing the details


We hadn’t paid much attention to the Pattern Stone on our first visit. The concrete replica stands where the original carved stone was once erected, close to the back ‘window’ of Bryn Celli Ddu. Sighting along the top edge of the stone, it seemed to be in direct line with an orphaned stone in the next field and we already knew that the tomb was part of a much larger area of ancient reverence. A large, natural outcrop also stands close by and we wondered what significance it would have had for our ancestors.


The curious thing was that the Pattern Stone, like the back ‘window’, would have had to have been buried inside the original  mound which was much larger than the current reconstruction. Not in a chamber, but in the earth itself. If it was a sighting stone, then who was looking? And for whom were the strange patterns carved and why, if no-one could see them? Yet again, as we have seen before at such sites, it seemed as if those who resided within the hollow hill were believed to be able to see in ways not open to living, human eyes.


The back ‘window’ was never designed to let in earthly light. It too would have been within the mound. What was it supposed to let in…or out? In every nook cranny between the stones there are limpet shells and pieces of quartz, echoing the finds, thousands of years old, of the offerings our ancestors once left there. It gives a strange sense of vibrancy and continuity to the place, yet again we have to question. Were these gifts or marks of respect to the dead? A symbolic offering of food, as we know that limpets were a food source for the islanders? Were they offered to the departed or to the gods or spirits of the place into whose company the dead had passed?


Walking around the mound, we couldn’t help being struck by the shape of the distant hills. Even though the reconstructed mound is smaller than the original, it is still the same basic shape…and the same shape as the hills on the mainland too. Was this coincidental or another example of the shadowing we and others have noted at these sites?


We had seen all these things on our first visit, but they had not registered. This is one of the reasons we always need to go back…though usually not so soon. The ancient sites can be overwhelming and several visits are needed to take note of the details, let alone begin to ponder them and get a real feel for the site. Like the tiny row of stones, poking up through the grass before the entrance. Seen but not registered. Was this, we wondered, where the young ox had been buried? And was that a sacrifice? It seems likely. A whole ox would be a significant sacrifice too, perhaps reflecting how important the site, or its occupants, may have been.


The stones that guard the entrance were some of the original standing stones from the circle built a thousand years before the mound. The earliest construction has left only post-holes and charcoal, six thousand years old. The posts were followed by the henge and stone circle a thousand years later…and a thousand years after that, the mound was built. The stones, many of which have the appearance of wood, have been confirmed as having been deliberately damaged and seem scarred by axes… yet the axes too would have been of stone. How could that happen? And why? The more we looked, the more questions were raised.


One thing I had noticed on the first visit was the guardian. Just inside the doorway of the passage, looking inwards, is an unmistakable face, seemingly shaped from wood, yet made of stone. It is oddly reminiscent of the carved wood Green Man that Ned had given us after the Leaf and Flame workshop. I had called my companion in to see and taken a number of pictures…all of them with the patch of blue at the base. I put that down to smudges or the angle of the light and cleaned the lens. An hour and a half later, I was still getting the blue patch, every time.


We know the Old Ones were using light in their constructions. Here especially, where the summer solstice sends a shaft of light down the passageway to illuminate the inner chamber…and perhaps even more precisely through a ‘light-box’ that focused the beam. Perhaps it had something to do with that? Mind, had we thought that was the only time light would make us think here, we would have been very wrong. The place oozed colour.


In the inner chamber, the light that should not be coming in, through the window that was never a window on the world, was shining full on the shaped pillar of stone that was once wood. The patch of light looked rather like a face… the face of the guardian, in fact, with the elongated headdress or hair. Or that could have been my imagination, a trait that, in spite of evolution, we still share with our ancestors. Sometimes it is hard not to see faces and feel that the Old Ones are watching, waiting to see what you will do next…



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