Castlerigg at High Noon

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.

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

We are waiting for you.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

The Eye Opens #LongMeg

I woke at midnight ravenous. After tossing and turning for an hour, I crept upstairs to get the sandwich I had bought for my train ride to Cumbria. For some reason I found it wildly amusing that I was indulging in a midnight (or rather post-midnight) snack. Blame it on the jet-leg, but I couldn’t stop laughing. Until I tried to get back to sleep. Once again, all I could see was that blindfolded girl in the hallway when I closed my eyes. I knew she was trying to tell me something, but I still didn’t know if it was an actual specter I was seeing, or my higher self trying to get my attention. I suspected the latter, but sometimes the mind can wander into that realm of freakout. And, she was always in the same place. The stairwell outside the flat. Standing with her arms at her side, her head facing inward to where I was trying my best to sleep. Eyes covered in a thick, white wrap of cloth.

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Castlerigg. Photo Credit: Lara Wilson. This slightly blurry image heightens the faces in the stones.

Eventually sleep came to me, and soon after it was time to start another day. I needed to catch an early train to Cumbria, and there was a particular stone circle waiting for me, or so I thought. The stones had been calling to me since Sue Vincent had posted a photo of the hill of giants behind them, laced with snow, years ago on her blog. Castlerigg. The very words could bring the tremor of cells stirring memory through lifetimes long past followed by a wash of tears. We were both waiting for each other, I was sure of it, but something didn’t feel right.

As I mentioned in my first post in this series, I had felt a shift in the weeks after I had committed to this trip. The whispering of the land and its spirits had ceased into an uncomfortable silence.  Sometimes, when we are called to a place, we are meant to work for it. To undergo an initiation to get there. It took me two tries, wandering the haunted moors at sunset with sleet and wild winds, to get to the Nine Ladies. And that is a small circle in comparison to Castlerigg. This trip, I was reluctantly realizing, had fallen too easily into place. And, where I had imagined the rugged hills of Cumbria in winter, spring had arrived unseasonably early to England in February.

I was greeted at the train station in Oxenholme by my Cumbrian host, Steve, who is one of the directors of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness. Although I was to spend time with both Steve and Sue during this visit, I was not in England to attend one of the School’s organized workshops. I had missed the latest one in December, which was centered in Cumbria. An even that had stirred a longing so intense that I was now on my way to visit some of the ancient sites I had missed by not being able to attend the workshop.

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My new furry friends Tess and Misti

Steve, knowing I regretted missing the December workshop, graciously offered to host me for a few days in Cumbria, where he resides. After he retrieved me from the train station we headed to his home to pick up his lovely wife, Bernie, and their charming dog, Tess. We had just enough time left in the day to see Long Meg & Her Daughters before the sunset.

On the way to Long Meg, we stopped for tea at a mill where organic grains are ground into the makings of bread and porridge.

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This charming mill serves a lovely tea

We ate outside on a picnic table, enjoying the warmth of our soup, freshly baked bread, and the early spring sunshine.

Long Meg and Her Daughters is one of several stone circles in Cumbria. It sits just outside of Penrith, down a small country lane that runs through the bottom third of the large oval configuration of stones.

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The road dividing Long Meg from some of her daughters is guarded by a pair of trees.

We parked outside the stones. It does not feel right to enter them via the road inside a car. Thankfully the only other car there was also parked, respectfully, outside the “circle.”

My eyes turned first to the face. Not in the stone, but in the tree behind it. I saw it peering at me, watching. Trying to determine, it seemed, whether I was friend or foe. There was no denying I was being observed, and perhaps judged. One expects to be in these ancient places, and I was not unsettled by the guardian watching me. I found the presence of the magnificent old trees comforting as they leaned over the road in protection of the sacred energy surrounding them. It reassured me the energy was still very much alive here, despite the road and the many footsteps that went through the circle…Despite the thousands of years since it was actively used by those who had built it…

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Guardians of Long Meg

After greeting the guardian in the tree, I began to walk the perimeter of stones. At its longest point, the oval of stones measures 100 meters. It is not a small “circle,” and it takes some time to travel it with deliberation. I find these sites are best guided not with the mind, but with the heart, and I allowed my inner guidance take over as I followed a counterclockwise path amid the great rocks.

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Long Meg

The earth ripples in gentle waves rising up a slight hillside to Long Meg, who stands removed, like a sentinel, above her “daughters.” She towers 12 ft. above ground, and is 80 ft. removed from the nearest stone within her “circle.” Her face is turned in profile to the stones below her. Lips pursed into a slight frown, she faces the distant land as though she is guarding and watching.

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Stones leading to Long Meg. Some stand, some recline. My belief is that some, if not all, of these recumbent stones were meant to recline, but there are others belief they once stood.

I approached Long Meg filled with the awe of her magnificence. She has a presence that is difficult to describe. Not entirely foreboding, but also not wholly welcoming, Long Meg is majestic and emits an aura of purpose and mystery.  One almost feels the impulse to bow before her and wait for permission to rise…I approached her slowly on foot, stopping mere inches from her surface. Initially I had thought I might hug her, as I had asked my friend to do for me in December. Perhaps I would have, if I had not been stopped by her red light.  It reached toward me, pulsing red. This spiraling of light emanating from her form.

Long Meg’s eye had opened to see me, and I had seen her in return…

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One of Long Meg’s spirals, and the one that had pulsed in an eye of red light before me.

To be continued…

To read part one of this series of narrations from my recent trip to England, please follow these links: Part 1. Part 2.