Trip to Callanish

Journal of Jenny’s Trip to Callanish for the Major Standstill of the Moon in 2006

My trip to Callanish was sponsored by Findhorn, a “New Age” community on the shore of the Moray Firth in Scotland. Our trip leaders were Peter Vallance and Sue Clutterbuck, and the other twelve of us were from Canada, the US, the UK, Germany, and a Japanese couple who live in France.

Before I went to Findhorn for the first time in 2000, I reread The Findhorn Garden and was reminded that the community there began in the 60s with Dorothy Maclean and Eileen Caddy writing for spiritual guidance. So I started writing for guidance myself.  These evolved into letters in which I ask for help and the “Guiding and Guardian Spirits” reply. I think I started with a group because I didn’t trust my ability to contact a particular spirit. Reading over from the past I find that they are consistently loving and supportive, and often right about the particular issue I was dealing with.

Thursday, May 4
Dear Guides and Guardian Spirits, I’m feeling a little scared about my trip, a little overwhelmed by the number of details that still have to be taken care of – I need to be connected to Spirit. Please help me.
Dear Jenny, we love you very much. This trip is important – for you to connect with Findhorn and take them the Tibetan Invocation. You, too, are one of the planetary travellers, and your work strengthens the network of light. When you are afraid, put everything into the hands of Spirit. Call on us and we will be there – yes, we have no problem staying with you over the Atlantic. When you are sad, and your heart hurts, let it rest on the Ocean of Compassion.  Remember the lovingkindness meditation, and tonglen – these will help you with any sustained bout of painful emotion, or any long
uncomfortable waits. WE LOVE YOU. DON’T FORGET.

Thrush singing, daffodils blooming, moon waxing behind cloud cover. It’s the moment of thrush, moon, and daffodil, and I’m leaving. The maple leaves have just started to open, the shadbush are not yet in flower along the Gale. I’m going to miss two weeks of this most beautiful part of spring. But it feels important/necessary to do this trip.

Friday, May 5
This is it! The big day! I’m really excited! It is excitement, not fear. The moon’s at first quarter and when it’s full I’ll be at Findhorn.

Sunday, May 7
In London, Diana and Michael’s house. We went to Kew Gardens. A lot of it was woods with beautiful HUGE trees, lots of space between. The bluebells were out, the rhododendrons just getting started. We crawled into a badger’s home, wonderful tunnels with roots  stones on the sides, as though hollowed out under a big tree.

Monday, May 8
We went to the Tate Modern, straight to the Rothko Room. Eight huge paintings in reds, blacks, greys. In the newspaper supplement there was a story about how he had gone to see the Greek temples at Paestum, and realized he had been “painting Greek temples all my life and without knowing it.”  The paintings had been commissioned for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City. Rothko commented “I hope to paint something that will ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who ever eats in that room.”  But he later refused the commission, sending back Seagram’s $35,000 check. The Tate negotiated for the paintings and finally got them. We happened to be there just as a lecturer came through with a bunch of students. He said that Rothko committed suicide on the day the paintings arrived at the Tate. He didn’t say if there was a connection. (For more information)   I’d like to know more about Rothko. I found the paintings wonderful. (The lecturer said people either loved them or hated them.) If you stared at them long enough the shapes seemed to move. There was a feeling of megaliths, of heavy stone pillars. It reminded me of the badger’s sett. When I said this to Diana, she said it was womb-like. Exactly.

Wednesday, May 10
On the train to Inverness. Got a cab just as I turned out of Chester Row. Great ride through London. I recognized Trafalgar Square and Tavistock Square.

We’ve passed York, so we’re in Yorkshire. Saw some rabbits near the track, many little lambs in the fields.

Saw a sign for the Scottish Border after Berwick and soon after the shell of a house in a green valley right on the sea. I remember seeing that house before, on another trip. I love this train ride, watching the countryside change from flat farming land to rolling hills, to high moors, to mountains with snow, and back down to Inverness at the head of the Moray Firth. I love all the little backyards with very different collections of flowers or vegetable gardens or laundry or junk. I love the old houses, the brick, stone, plaster, half-timbering. I love the fields of yellow flowers (whose seeds make Canola oil). It’s too early for the blue fields of flax. There are pastures of cows, and sheep with lots of little lambs, and the occasional deer or rabbit. Also streams of different sizes, some placid, some rushing over stones.

At Findhorn. The devas of travel were watching over me. I got to Inverness and the Forres train was right across the platform.  I walked out of the Forres station and found a cab right away – with a woman driver (my first!) She let me out at the Community Center and there was Peter! So I was in time for supper, and for dancing in the Universal Hall with Andy.

Thursday, May 11
What did we see today? A Pictish stone with carved symbols, probably clan boundary markings. Then we went to a recumbent stone circle – unmarked, unrestored, on top of a hill in the Woods (Crowthie Muir Woods?) Two huge spruces by the path on the way up. We linked them by forming a crescent between them and singing a Gaelic prayer/chant.  We went on up the hill and meditated where the path entered the circle. The recumbent stone and its flankers were to the left, so we came in from the south. Then we walked around it singing.  We entered individually, in silence, and found a place where we wanted to spend some time. Then we gathered together, singing “Deep Peace”, and then set out the picnic – a real feast.
I felt nothing, no energies, no messages. (Though I realize I
didn’t ask for anything either.) I did get one thing when we tuned
into the recumbent stone itself – “Cow”. Which could mean a lot of things: equinox in Taurus, cattle as wealth, cow as nurturing mother. According to some authorities, the recumbent stone indicates the moon’s major standstill, its lowest path through the southern sky.

Picture of recumbent stone taken by Bobbi Randall

Friday, May 12
On the ferry in Ullapool harbor. Looking up the Loch to the mountains where there are still patches of snow. Leaving soon for Stornoway on the Island of Lewis.

Saturday, May 13
Loch Roag guest house. Loch Roag itself is on the West coast, open to the Atlantic Ocean. Right next door, and now part of the same B&B is Eshcol House, where I stayed when I was here in ’99. I even found my name in the book! My room has a view south, I can see the “Sleeping Beauty” form in the hills.

Picture of “Sleeping Beauty” taken by Bobbi Randall.
The hill on the right is nearer the viewer and can change its position as one travels along the road across the moor. From one of the sites we visited, this hill becomes Sleeping Beauty’s pregnant belly.

I finished reading Jill Smith’s book “The Callanish Dance” about 10 years spent on Lewis, living a very minimal life- no car at first, cutting peats for winter fuel. It’s her experience of the cycle of the seasons at the stones, and of the extreme sweeps of dark and light.

We stopped at the stones last night- the sun just setting – beautiful and cold. I was glad to see them, they are like old friends.

Picture of Callanish at sunset taken by Bobbi Randall.

This morning we spent time at Circle III – the small one about a mile from the main site that I like a lot. As I walked around the outside it looked like the stones were dancing against the mountains to the south. There were a surprising number of shells on the grass near III. I think the gulls must drop them, as the circle is quite a distance up from the shore. I found some limpets, and then an odd shaped round one like the ones I found at Cape Cod when I was talking to God. It was like another message from a Universe that wishes me well.

I spent some time with one of the stones. I would like to have drawn it but was too tired. But I did ask for a message and it wrapped me round with love and said “All shall be well.”

Found a spot where 3 stones line up with the major notch in the Clisham Hills. Two squarish flankers and a pointed middle stone. Got a picture from a distance.

View of the south horizon as seen from the moor above Callanish. In the lefthand third of the picture are the hills that outline Sleeping Beauty. About a quarter in from the right side is the notch in the Clisham hills. This notch is significant in the astronomy of the sites, but it’s not easily visible from Callanish I and III.

In the picture below of III, a detail of the one above, the three stones in the middle of the picture line up with the sides of the notch, the V of the notch can’t be seen, it would be where the pointed stone just touches the top of the slope behind the circle. The landscape actually slopes down from the circle and up again to a low hill in the south, from which one can easily see the notch. There is a person standing on that hill, she looks a little like a mushroom just inside the right stone of the three.

We visited Margaret Curtis, an archeologist who lives near the stones and has been studying them for 30 years. She showed us how to draw circles, ellipses, and flattened circles (as described by Alexander Thom) with sand trays and loops of string. I never understood the complex geometry of the flattened rings until she showed us how simple it is to draw. It turns out that Callanish is a flattened circle, obvious now that I know. She also showed us two ways of moving big stones. One was pulling them over rollers made by logs – this turned out to be surprisingly easy, the real work is moving the rollers. There was also a method in which the stone was held up by ropes attached to a log held up by tripods. By twisting and untwisting two sets of ropes the stone could be moved over the ground.

Then we went to the main site with Margaret. She showed us several places where two or three stones combined to give a sight line. She also showed us alignments that went to stones beyond the fences – a north stone beyond the edge of the village, and places in the south right in front of the big outcrop, where there had once been stones. Also a fifth stone in the east wing that Margaret discovered, and made them restore. It necessitated moving the fence which apparently required a lot of negotiating.

She took us to Callanish III. She pointed out four stones which are inside the circle. Three were closer together: a triangular white one, a red rectangular one, and a dark striped one. Margaret told us someone had said to her that they were Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Across the circle was a dark leaning stone that looked a lot like a penis from the other side. Notice the light being just to the left of the Maiden stone, and the breasts on the Mother.

Margaret (in Wellingtons) and our group at III

I really enjoyed Margaret. I appreciate her scrupulousness in making a distinction between telling us what she or someone else has observed, and what a psychic has picked up.

At about 10:30PM we went to Callanish III to watch the moon rise behind the stones. Peter had us sit around among the stones and told us the story of how Beera (ugly old hag with blue teeth) kept Bride shut in her castle until Angus, the youngest and most beautiful of the gods, came to rescue her. They battled back and forth until finally Angus won. While Peter was talking/enacting the story, I could see the clouds of winter and the sun of summer pushing each other around, just as the weather has done for the last month. Just as he finished the story, the drummers down at Circle II began playing. They played again after the moon rose – and someone said they were at the main site later and built a bonfire.

The moon was in Scorpio, just past full. It turned out they had calculated the rising time too early. We waited a long time and got very cold, but it was clear. There was still a lot of light in the sky. Three of us gathered in a hug to keep warm – I think it was me and Roberta and Rebecca and then Helen joined us – we were standing together as close as possible, holding hands and shivering deliberately to get warm. I thought “fortress hold” so I said “Two to the right and one to the left” and started doing Omal Mektup, pulling them with me. But I found myself making up a dance, or perhaps the dance just came to me from the stones – side-close-side-close, side-together-side and step – stamp. We began to giggle and just broke up laughing. April was filming and got it all on film, I saw the replay, it was hilarious.
Finally we saw the moon come slowly up over the horizon. Because the latitude is so high, the moon moves quite a distance south during the time it takes the full disk to cross the horizon. There was plenty of time to move and get the moon silhouetted behind certain stones. It also made me aware that it’s very hard to talk of “alignment” when there’s a considerable section of the horizon involved, not just a single point.

Sunday, May 14
Walked up onto the moor from the guesthouse and found a place to sit sheltered from the wind. Watched the cloud shadows move slowly over the landscape. Because there are so many layers and no trees, each layer has its own color, dark or bright if sun or cloud shadow. Soft blue purple, dark blue purple, mixes of yellows & browns & greens. Almost wish I’d brought paint, but it was too windy and cold. Came back singing “Road to the Isles” and full of joy.

Watching a lark rise up singing and fall back down – we’ve heard a lot but that was the first time I’ve seen one while it’s singing.

We had drawn angels for each of us on the trip. Mine was “Understanding”. The overlighting angel for the group was “Synthesis”. Today it occurred to me that “understanding” is the word that, in my book (The Feminine of History is Mystery) joins the end of the left-hand pages to their beginning. “Therefore seek under/standing at the center.”

Callanish, part 2