Towards the setting sun from the centre of the circle
The day i went to take moulds from the rocks at Brisworthy Stone Circle on Dartmoor was a beautiful sunny winters day. A light ground frost had laid over night and haw crystals had gathered on the edges of each leaf. My partner and I had wrapped our young son in warm clothes and waterproofs and begun the trek to the Circle. We had stayed the night before in the beautiful, warm, cosy Callisham Farm just outside Yelverton, where we had been to a wedding. Being car-less as part of our low impact lifestyle we had decided to take advantage of being so near the moor and go for a walk to the nearest stone circle the next day.
Leaving the farm we crossed over an old clapper bridge and into the slightly swampy frosty woodland. The sun spilled softly down over the rise above us. Filtered through the branches of the trees it hung in beams that seemed to stroke my sons hair as he passed through them. We wondered there for a while, our small son wanting to practice his knife craft on almost every fallen branch, until at last we picked our route up over the brow of the short but steep hill and found ourselves high, looking down over a little village. Mighty oaks and beeches stood proudly in the open field. The church bells of the near by village rang in the distance, calling people to church as though echoing our journey to our church in the wilds of the moor.
The open moor with a Tor in the distance.
Our little boy marvelled at the tors his fascination with volcanos feeding his interest in those cooled cores. Up further still we found ourselves out in the sunshine by the roadside, but here on the moor even that feels wild. The grass is closely cropped by sheep and littered with evidence of the result of that feeding. We stop to feed ourselves, our little boy is just three so we must rest and walk at his pace. After that we carried onwards towards our destination.
Elegantly twisted gorse tree.
We follow the road amongst the twisted gorse and rugged hawthorn which graces the clipped patches of grass on either side, and I am amazed at one point to find something hanging from a Hawthorn tree and glimmering in the sunlight like threads of moon. A clump of blonde horse hair blowing like a spindles worth of cloud in the breeze. I take it as both a sign and a gift for my altar. I'm struck by this find as a few weeks before i had been on Dartmoor at a women's weekend workshop of drumming, chanting and spell craft with Carolyn Hillier. Carolyn is a witch of ancient and modern magic, deeply connected to the moor, she helps others find their way to it through her work. She has many magical objects in her keeping, some made by her and others gifted. One such object is a bundle made, by her, in memory of the bundle found in the White Horse Hill cyst. She names this bundle White Horse Hill Woman. Holding her bundle and hearing the little bit of story that can be imagined from what was found in the actual burial bundle, connected me to the idea of ancestry more than i have ever been able to muster before. I took the hair, carefully added it to my pack, and walked on.
For some time we walked over the short green springy grass. We passed some white vans and people standing around readying themselves to take part in what is apparently a new sport - riding bike like chariots pulled by husky dogs over the moor. We walked past both curious and disinterested sheep, into a wider, bumper piece of land, our little boy trotting along chattering and calling to us. We walked towards a patch of conifer and beech enclosed with a bank, a ditch and a tumbling down fence. The road was quite a way from us now, but we could see more white vans that had brought other humans, this time to enjoy another modern sport - the flying of drones. As we neared the copse, we heard the sound like giant mosquitos whining. As we entered the woods they flew into the trees, zipping amongst them, so low i was concerned it might hit one of us. I ran to my son and surrounded his body with mine. My partner yelled "HEY TOO LOW!" and they whizzed off, though we could still hear their out of place whine near to the trees. After my partner had spent some time on the phone talking to the police (to report this danger) we continued our journey out of the copse and into the open field next to it. This was the field in which we would find the circle, and regardless of the invasive feeling of those drones, i felt a shift as i entered that field. The grass was golden and moved like a gently buffeted lake surface, it's peaceful just being-ness affected me instantly - i felt i was on sacred ground.
On the way to the circle my senses were heightened by the anticipation, my eyesight keen to the sight of stones. After a while we came to a place littered with granite boulders, but these looked like they had been thrown to the ground by a mighty hand, not organised by many smaller ones, heaving and hefting them carefully into position. However, tuned to the visual magic of stones i was fascinated by them and the amazing lichen filled worlds that inhabit the cracks and crevices. Again we had found a place to linger, drink hot tea, eat snacks and take photographs.
My son read the map - telling us we were in 'Chang' and needed to go "That way, then this, then the other!" running his finger wildly over the map, a humorous parody of belief in this way of finding things. We knew the way now though, could feel the pull of the Tor in the distance, this was the mythic landscape we sought and though we could not see the circle which was hidden by the high grass, the Tor in the distance reassured us it was near and in this direction.
The land rose slightly then dipped down and we could see the circle not far from us. My tiny son and i joined hands to run with excitement all the way down the slope, but, although he is young, he somehow also felt that we would not run right into it, so we slowed our pace as we grew nearer. Interestingly he chose not to enter, he wandered a small way away and sat down in the grass with his back to us, cutting grass stalks with a small knife, he was quiet and meditative. I walked around the circle and entered it at the two stones that seemed a gateway to me.
Walking through what i felt were gateway stones.
Moss on one of the standing stones.
Although the circle is said to have had most of it's stones fall and then be resurrected, it's presence was no less remarkable. Each stone a character, standing as if for a ceremony at the centre. Each of us found ourselves in private activity, my son playing in the grass, my partner making a small fire and myself studying the stones with my hands and eyes. I seek texture, the texture of these stones might be said to be like the grooves in a record or CD, they mark the movement of winds and have seen the things that happened and continue to happen with in this circle. Mosses and lichens grow over them. Each stone houses a different world of slow steady growth.
Quartz crystals and moss on one of the standing stones.
Brisworthy Stone Cricle
Brisworthy Stone Circle
Rock of the serene sister.
After a while my son becomes restless to climb the Tor in the distance and he and his father go off hand in hand to ascend the rocky path into the clear azure sky. I am alone with the circle. I remove all i need to take moulds out of my bag and walk around the circle, staring closely at each rock, my eyes seek to see in macro, unlike my companions who wish to climb high and see afar. It is not until i reach a particular stone that i choose to look at it from further away. It's so interestingly shaped like a hunched figure with a very small head, or a bird of prey resting. I take out my camera and through it's lens i see a woman's face in the pale lichen that grows on the rock. I look with my own eyes too, i can still see her…can you?
In my deep searching i have taken moulds from a few rocks, i finish with this one, a mould taken from the woman's face i so clearly see. She is smiling, serenely, gently telling me "Yes…I see you too."
I laid down in the centre of the circle to look at the sky. It's mostly blue, yet the few clouds that gather and interact speak to me in symbols, my soft scrying eyes taking in their philosophies with out conscious filtering. I hear a shout and look up to see father and son atop the Tor waving frantically at me. I wave back and lay back into the circle, It's peaceful and i am just a thing of nothing for quite some time.
Within the circle behind the 'hunched figure' rock.
Eventually i begin to grow cold and realise the sun is going down. My partner and son come down from the Tor just at the right time and we head off on the long walk back to our bed and breakfast, satisfied that we have not only done what we set out to achieve but each filled our souls with something wild and numinous. Our little fellow sleeps in the sling on the way back and his father and i pick up rubbish from the road side, in active silent homage to the spirit that has touched us in this place.
Dancing with the wind.
That day i journeyed from the modern to the ancient, from the mundane to the mystical, from immediate kin to neolithic ancestry, and from the outer world to the inner. I came to see that, like any individual, i am a bridge from one place to another. No matter how i think humanity should be i have this life to build a bridge that goes from where we are to where i feel we should be going. I must know where i am to know how to get there, how to best use my life to advance what i believe in for humanity. I must relate to this world, here and now, and connect to a path from the past where a knowledge of the numinous dwelt in a state of more innocence and awe. However, my modern mind is the key to understanding it more deeply and therefore how i might bridge from it to now adding strength to the bridge i create with my life into the future.
My connection to both ancestry and modernity was strengthened on this journey yet your personal experience may be very different...i highly recommend a visit!
However, without removing anything physical from the site i have brought something back for you. The shapes of the tiny patches of these vast stones are recorded in my moulds and my tale of my experience in this place. I feel that in the valleys and peaks of these textures echo the singing voices of the people who have attended here. You may run your finger over them like a padded record players needle and hear those celebrations and laments. If you choose you may stand near the warmth of the ritual fire of in the wind blown treeless silence. You may journey from the modern to the ancient, from the mundane to the mystical, from the outer world to the inner.
I have made these beads so far, which have already been claimed, but many more pieces call to be birthed from these textures..so if you are interested watch this space...or if you are inspired and would like something made contact me and we can discuss your ideas.
The circular bead on the dangles of Journey of the Ancestors ritual knife wears the texture of one of the stones at Brisworthy.