Castlerigg at High Noon #castlerigg #stonecircles #cumbria

I had been forewarned. Silence can speak volumes, and the early spring was impossible to overlook. Yet, there was that glimmer of hope that the mysteries of Castlerigg would somehow be open to me.

The Welcoming Information at Castlerigg, which sits atop the charming town of Keswick.

We are waiting for you.

Unlike some stone circles, Castlerigg is easy to find and access, and with unbeatable vistas it’s nearly impossible to have the place to yourself.

I had heard the ancestral call. I had felt the cells stir through centuries past with a visceral memory that fired my body into deep longing in the weeks, months, and even years before I made this journey. Yet it was not to be. Not this time anyway.

The stones felt lifeless to me, as though their energy had retreated deep within their forms.

We drove up the hill that holds the stone circle known as Castlerigg at high noon on a brilliantly warm spring-like Sunday. Cars flanked the roadside, and at its crest an ice cream van sat in wait for the throngs of hungry tourists. The urge to turn around and hop back into the car nearly consumed me. You can’t erase first impressions.

Castlerigg is an undeniably beautiful place any time of the year.

Sometimes, though, we must face our must crushing moments head-on and take the lessons they give us. Disappointment can be a gift, leading to surrender and acceptance. And so I climbed to the top of the hill and met the stones filled with visitors.

I wanted to spend some time with this stone in particular, but as you can see it was a popular spot.

It’s a beautiful place, I am sure, in any season, and that day Castlerigg shone with the light of the noonday sun. Bright and golden. It lit the faces of the picnicking family having lunch in the sanctuary (hence the absence of photos of this intriguing area of the site). Its rays played through the shadows of bodies as they wove in and out of the standing stones, and lit the smiling faces of selfies posed amid the inert bodies of rocks.

Although I didn’t do a great job capturing it, the stones of Castlerigg shadow the contours of the surrounding landscape.

The site was filled with energy, but it was not coming from the stones, or the distance hills that rim the landscape. Instead, it came from the revelers of humans visiting the site.  It was, in many ways, the antithesis of the encounter with Castlerigg I had envisioned.

Even the faces one expects to find in ancient stones were virtually absent during my visit.

If I could, I would take it all back. I know that this may be the wrong response, but it’s the truth. There’s no point in lying to oneself, it merely pushes the truth into dark corners where it festers for light. It is not an easy thing to do, writing this post. It would be impossible to describe the full impact of my first encounter with Castlerigg, and its effects on me. Yet, it is for me, and me alone to process as I attempt to dig inside and find the gifts from this experience. Not the “why,” as much as the acceptance of the “is.”

It was as though the spirits in the stones had turned their backs to me.

What felt, in the moment, as the ultimate betrayal and rejection — a date to meet the beloved, only to find the beloved had receded back inside the the distant hills — led to the inevitable acceptance that the beloved resides within. Always present. Yet, this is not an easy acceptance. I still long for that promised (re)union. To place my body supine upon that open hillside in the middle of the ancient stones and hover in the liminal space that bridges the Earth to the heavens. I still long for that moment where I can open myself completely to the spirits of the land and listen to all they have to say. To feel the wild wrap of the elements and the stirrings of a long held magic waiting, just waiting, to be brought to life in that perfect moment of union.

Below Castlerigg, the lakes of Cumbria mirror the glory of the land.

There is, though, a comfort in the mundane, and the knowing that I made it through this trial. This test, of which I am still unsure of the answers. That I am unscathed, albeit a bit heartbroken. My beloveds surround me in physical form back home in New Hampshire, and little, in the greater vista of life, has been lost.

Later that night, when I closed my eyes to sleep I saw the girl standing in the hallway and the wrap of cloth around her eyes had disappeared. I still had two full days ahead of me, and I was determined to make the best of what was offered to me.

To be continued…To read the previous posts in this series about my recent visit to England, please follow the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

I Journey from Long Meg to Little Meg #longmegandherdaughters #longmeg #littlemeg #stonecircles

The pulse of red spiral of light emanating from the Long Meg stone lasted mere seconds. As the stone returned to its outer stasis, I found myself catching my breath in wonderment. Had I imagined the red eye? I examined the place where it arose, and before me was a spiral, inlaid in the stone. Surely I had not, but what did it mean? I am not, by nature, prone to seeing the unseen with my eyes open. Each time it happens it feels like a rare and precious gift, and this was no exception. I had not expected to have a connection such as this at Long Meg. Rather, I had thought my moment was intended for Castlerigg.

Long Meg looks over her daughters

Like with each visit to these sacred, ancient sites, I found the time passing all too quickly. Time that could not be spent with each individual stone, whereby it might offer some of its secrets. Instead, I felt the whole of the landscape as best I could. Opening to whatever it had to offer. As I looked from Long Meg’s vantage, down the rippling slope that held the oval wrap of her daughters in stone, I felt the blindfold slip from my eyes. There was a longing within me, but the longing was not mine alone. It came from the stone standing beside me, and in chronicled a time that stretched through thousands of years. It was filled with loss, but not the same ravishing loss that I had felt at the Raven’s Nest.  This was not the feeling of sudden, violent pillage and desecration. This was the loss of a slow diminishing of the magic held within. A loss spread out over centuries. And a longing for it to be returned. To be remembered and revered once again.

I would have liked to have spent more time with this large stone, which shows a bird-like face rising from its left side in the photo.

There are stones in the oval below Long Meg that appear sad and forlorn. Others feel empty and forgotten. And then there are those that stir with life still held within. Some watch, while others wait. Some feel like they are missing entirely, and now only empty space remains.

Some of the gaps, such as this one, feel purposeful, as though they mark an entry to the “circle” flanked by recumbent guardians.

As I relaxed my gaze to take in the landscape before me I saw the ghosts of a distant past. A ceremony filled with life and purpose played through the sacred space. I saw our ancestors walking through grass that rippled like water, the heavens arching above. I saw a merging of the sacred. Each element aligned within and without. As natural as the breath that is not held back. And I saw a path leading to a smaller circle down below.

You cannot see Little Meg from Long Meg, at least not now, but it is not far away.

When we left Long Meg, I asked Steve about Little Meg. “It’s not far from here,” he told me. “I’ll take you to it if you’d like.”

Little Meg is tiny in comparison to Long Meg. The stones arranged intimately, as though to contain a fire. Not an outer fire, though, as much as an inner. Whereas Long Meg feels open and exposed to the outer, sharing its magic to many in a larger ritual of ceremonial reverence, Little Meg seems to represent a space for the individual relationship to the “teacher” within and without.

Little Meg in its present state.

The path, if there once was one, which I feel strongly there was, is no longer marked from Long Meg. Instead, one must either wander through farmers’ fields and over stone walls, or drive as we did. The distance between the two sites is only 0.5 kilometers. Situated in a farmers field amid a rubble of smaller rocks, the circle of stones that is called Little Meg looks and feels disrupted. But, it has not entirely lost its magic.

The stones of Little Meg are not likely placed as they once were, but they still hold a magic of the past.

It is still being used, and honored in individual ways. Most likely not the same as it once was. When I was there, I saw crow’s feathers arranged in its center, and the offering of a polished pillar of quartz. It did not necessarily feel misused, so much as neglected.

The more you peer at each individual stone, the more faces and figures you see. These stones hold stories for those who wish to hear them.

During my brief visit to Little Meg, I had the impulse to sit in her center and open to the inner world that might be revealed to me. Yet time did not permit this. There was also the impulse to clear away the debris that didn’t feel like it belonged. The litter of smaller stones…the fallen branches…but there was also the feeling to let it be. That although in some ways forgotten and neglected, Little Meg was living out her legacy as a part of Earth and there was a feeling of peace to this acceptance.

This stone looked as though it was missing a part, perhaps chiseled off years ago, but one cannot mistake the connection to Long Meg with its spirals.

It reminded me of circles I had seen in landscapes that were both intimate and vast. Like Barbrook and the Nine Ladies. It offered an inner wisdom for those who wished to find it. A union of energies. The outer to the inner. The masculine with the feminine. And, the human with the animal nature of self. It was both lovely and serene. And it offered a peace and acceptance I would soon need.

The faces in this stone are hard to miss. A human face intimately joined to a feline/animal form hints at the melding of these energies that exist inside all of us.

Once again, I left with the pull of longing to stay.  Both Little Meg and Long Meg had offered gifts, and I was filled with gratitude for their presence. Tomorrow would not be easy to accept, but in the meantime, I had the companionship of my lovely hosts and their furry friends, as well as a delicious and grounding dinner awaiting me.

To be continued…

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3