Object of Mystery

Scattered all across the British landscape are stone objects, wreathed in the swirling mists of the Bronze Age, or perhaps even the Stone Age. 4,000 to 6,000 years ago our ancestors raised these huge blocks of rock at sites which held meaning to them. This meaning is perhaps now lost, but the mystery of the stones still haunts us to this day. Generation after generation we have woven layers of tales around these mysterious objects, which sit so still and certain of their place upon the green earth. They make a bold statement even today, and draw some of us like moths towards to the light.

This solitary stone stands watch, as it has done for thousands of years, placed in rolling golden wheat fields at the edge of a range of hills which is peppered with ancient hill forts. It looks out across the plain to a further set of hills which hold one of the largest collections of stone rock art in the country. None of this can be by accident, an object of this size and presence doesn’t land by accident at its resting place. In fact it has a brother, another stone placed about 4 miles away, and between them they seem to ring the hill which is home to the ancient Brythonic capital of Yeavering Bell. Both stones bear the same name, the Battle Stone, but this is a recent story woven around the rocks a mere 600 years ago.

Here you can see the stone resting in its larger context, looking East towards Dodd Moor and it’s enigmatic cup and ring carvings. This landscape held a deep sense of meaning to the the people who called it home, and these huge stone objects are clearly marking something of that meaning. A bold statement in stone which has watched the waves of history roll through this often disputed land. All feels peaceful now as we look out towards the distant horizon, and when the Romans arrived and then left, these lands remained part of a British Kingdom ruled by the Goddodin tribe. Lying north of Hadrian’s Wall, these people were never tamed by the Roman yoke, but conflict and division would come soon enough in the shape of the Angles. This stone has seen it all, and remains yet, watching the land of Northumberland as history rolls through.

This is the view to the North West, and you can see the slopes of the Cheviot Hills rising towards the clouds. All along these hill tops our ancestors lived out their lives, having children, tending their animals and sharing meals together. We might live now in the fertile lowland valleys, in towns and cities of ever growing proportions, yet the basics of life remain, if we remember to look. The green earth is still our home, our source of nourishment and shelter, our source of health and fertility, our source of nationhood and belonging. Sometimes this gets obscured by the very recent layers of modern history, and we forget our sense of place. Perhaps these huge enduring stones can guide us to be still, to feel our feet upon the earth, and to know our place. To belong, is to rest a while and the stones can teach us this, if we let them.

See more responses to the theme of Object at the weekly Photo Challenge

Read about the mysterious history of the stone here

About greenmackenzie

Hi, I'm Seonaid, and I share my home on the shores of Loch Ness deep in the Scottish Highlands with my husband, my son and a couple of dogs. I love art which is here now and gone tomorrow...like food and nature...but also have a passion for vintage and the ancient past! Nature is my favourite muse, with her wild ever shifting seasons. I have been using and teaching mindfulness and relaxation for over 12 years, and have yet to become any sort of expert :-) I'm a Psychotherapist and Cancer Support Specialist in Maggies Highlands
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65 Responses to Object of Mystery

  1. Absolutely amazing and quite beautiful. Being a rock hound, I naturally love anything to do with interesting rocks. And that sky in your first photo is so spectacular, it took my breath away. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Paula says:

    Dear Seonaid, I am mesmerized with these captures. They are WOW!

  3. tree girl says:

    I always feel a sense of awe from the standing stones regardless of their size, number and formation. They ooze meaning, story, and spirit.

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  6. restlessjo says:

    That leading photo is so beautiful, Seonaid! Really sets the scene. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Gallivanta says:

    Fascinating. When you approach these stones, do they have a feeling of comfort about them? This one looks as though it should be touched and leaned upon. You write of the stones helping you to know your place….this suggests to me that they are comforting, welcoming stones rather than guardian, territorial stones to keep the stranger out.

  8. icelandpenny says:

    Thank you, thank you for the standing stones. Such power and beauty.

  9. I love how it’s set so simply under such dramatic skies ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Lynne Ayers says:

    Did you plan your day for those clouds? They set everything off so beautifully. I’ve seen some of these stones and they are haunting. And I have to admit i would never walk between two close together lest I disappear and time travel back to heaven knows when. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Ha Lynne, that would make me very clever indeed!
      I must admit that as soon as I started lining up shots I got very excited about the clouds and their wonderful drama. I thought it looked like they were swirling up away from the stones in some of the shots! All luck, and natures helping hands!

  11. ladyfi says:

    How lovely with that immense sky! They look like rune stones, but without the runic writing…

    • The sky and clouds really were immense that day!
      That’s interesting to hear they look like rune stones. I looked for markings, sometimes they have Pictish symbols, or cup and ring markings….and even sometimes runes….but I had always thought the runes were a later addition…..yet more mysteries!

  12. craftschen says:

    Photos great! The Buddha said, boulders suggesting to us the message that the “eternal and great moral energy.”

  13. Wonderful post on these fascinating and mysterious stones – thanks!

  14. Xin Chen says:

    Photos great! Buddhist scriptures say that these boulders are revealed to us the eternal moral energy.

  15. Suzanne says:

    What a great object to focus on. I am fascinated by standing stones and stone circles and have been to a few in Ireland. Some of them feel quite freaky while others really command attention. The one you have chosen looks like a beacon or a stabilizing point. I wonder if it marks the intersection of two ancient ley lines.

    • Suzanne, that’s so true about the different energies and feelings from different sites. Somehow I connect with your idea of these looking like stabilising points….there was a settled stable feel, and it was in a very open position, but with hills around it looking down on this spot. We will never know for sure, but it’s fun guessing ๐Ÿ™‚

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  17. kerlund74 says:

    Great photos and colors, I like the last one the most with the stone close, and of course the first one with really dramatic skies:)

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  19. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I love standing stones, there are a good few on Dartmoor, all have an air of mystery and magic. You chose a special moment of light and colour when you captured this one.

    • Me too Gilly, I love the stories which seem to seep out from the ancient stones into the landscape. I must visit Dartmoor soon….
      I took these shots back in July, so the colours are full of the richness of summer, and the clouds were a wonderful extra gift adding even more drama to the scene!

  20. Gaye Abbott says:

    Standing stones have always held a fascination for me. Through these images I can almost hear them talking to me….and feel the solid wisdom of centuries of simply being present to the passing of time. Oh, they do have stories to tell us and if we can’t quite hear them we shall make some up of our own! I have never had the honor of being in the location of the stones, but would love to know the source of the other photos of Mike A. Thank you Senoaid for once again leading us into the mystery, beauty and lore of this world we live in….

    • They are such fascinating objects Gaye, and I’m definitely drawn moth like to their mystery. There really is such a feeling of age and the passage of much time around them, and then there is the way they seem to link out to the landscape around them in all directions.
      If you click on the link to Mikes blog you will find his last post which links directly to a website of gorgeous photos, mostly of Wales…..he is a really talented photographer ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Gaye Abbott says:

        OK! Now I know that I must take a trip over to Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England just to be with the natural landscape and the standing stones. My family heritage and “sacred being” roots are here…. Thanks for Mike’s website link Senoaid- amazing images!! This U.S. gal is yearning for new travel adventures!

  21. wildsherkin says:

    Standing stones are so fascinating! I’d love to be able to pop back in time to see exactly what their significance was. Lovely images, particularly that dramatic cloud at the start but also the close-up of the rock with all of its lichen, moss and texture.

    • Oh me too, perhaps we could time travel together.
      The clouds were a great backdrop, and who can resist the weathered moss covered look. Those two were also my two favourites, but it’s hard to show an idea of the size or scale of stones like this…..hence lots of different angles!

  22. LB says:

    I am in photo envy ๐Ÿ™‚
    Love the way you said “watching the waves of history …”

  23. Standing stones seem to have great pulling power – you can’t help but investigate. Reminds me of clambering up to the one above Dunvegan – I felt a bit cheated – it was put there in 2000 ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I don’t think I’ve seen that one, but the newly placed stones don’t have the feel of mystery and awe……very disappointing if you did a strenuous scramble to reach it!
      This one was quite hard to visit as it’s on the main road between Scotland and England, so the traffic is fast….lots of lorries….and there was no parking nearby. I had to walk back along the grass verge around a bend, which didn’t feel very safe…but the pulling power of the stone drew me on!

  24. Wonderful photos of this mysterious old stone, Seonaid. I also find them really fascinating. ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. vastlycurious.com says:

    Really an interesting story and just great photos !

  26. To be at home in place is to live in the wider world. Marvelous post!

    • What a lovely comment, I’m delighted you enjoyed the post.
      I can only agree that we have to first feel at home in place and in self….then the rest just seems to fit fine ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. the cloud so magic ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. Seonaid – we truly did sister posts here for this topic! As usual well written and thoughtful musings paired with I-want-to-be-there pictures and historical info!
    I was very much drawn to these ancient rocks when I was in Scotland last year and did a post on a bronze age stone site that you may not have seen: http://beautyalongtheroad.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/clava-cairns-a-bronze-age-cemetery/

    • Sister posts again….this is becoming something of a habit ๐Ÿ™‚
      Hopefully a case of great minds thinking alike!
      I love your Clava Cairns post….it’s such an enigmatic site, thanks for adding the link.
      Glad you enjoyed this post, but apologies for stirring desires to be back here in the UK!

  29. These are great. Both the photographs and the images … if you know what I mean. I liked your closing sentiment regarding what the stones tell us about our place in all of this … and, I agree … and, perhaps the plants, animals, and fungi do the same in their ways. But these stones … having been erected by the hands of our ancestors have a particularly direct connection. As I scrolled back to take one more look at especially the first image I thought how easy it would have been, over the years, for one or another developer or narrow-minded farmer to have removed these form the landscape. To remove a stone …what harm could that have done? I once read an essay about ‘authenticity’ which discussed the different sorts of authenticity (authenticity of object, authenticity of place, and authenticity of use) and it argued that we feel awe in the presence of the truly authentic. Now that I think of it, these stones … in their proper place … and perhaps still functioning as they were intended to (as boundary markers, sentinels, beacons, or conduits) are, in every sense of the true meaning of the word, awesome. Thanks for capturing these beautiful pieces of ancient (and not so ancient) history. D

    • Thanks David, and I agree that the plants, animals and fungi can also serve to help us recognise our place, each carry their own tales, their own pace and rhythm of life…..
      Many of the ancient stones were broken up by farmers and used to build walls and houses. Lots more were moved to more convenient locations so they didn’t get in the way of the plough……but this stone is pretty big…taller and wider than me, and I’m not as dainty as Joanna ๐Ÿ™‚ Maybe it’s size helped? Also this is quite an undeveloped part of Northern England.
      Lots of old stones and monuments were also broken up by zealous priests who wanted to rid the land of old sites of pagan veneration…..
      So I always think that we’re lucky that any survived at all. 6,000 years is a long time for something man made to last!

  30. Rachael Charmley says:

    Stones are magical. Lovely photos and the narrative drew me in immediately. ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. dadirri7 says:

    Another rich post, rich colours and history, wonderful evocative storytelling and remembering, I would love to see those stones in the golden fields of wheat … eighteen months ago we visited quite a few sites in Ireland, they were all brilliant green, so gold looks very bright!

  32. colonialist says:

    Stones like those really tease the imagination. Speculations on why they are there range from ‘It seemed a good idea at the time’ to wondering whether they are tied into some lost scientific principles.

    • They really to tease and tickle our imaginations don’t they….but then I live a good mystery ๐Ÿ™‚
      The ‘it seemed like a good idea’ just doesn’t hold water for me. There is something very deliberate about the placing of stones and monuments in the landscape. When you visit and experience them in their context they tease even more……

  33. Mike Howe says:

    Fascinating post Seonaid and absolutely wonderful photos

    • Thanks Mike, I’m especially delighted that you enjoyed the photos given the fact that you’re treated to the ‘other Mikes’ wonderful photos regularly. Loved the new website your brother created for his work ๐Ÿ™‚
      The stones are so enigmatic, and the stories of our ancestors even more so. It was Goddodin ancestors who moved to North Wales and expelled the invading Irish Scoti 1,500 or so years ago…..Cunedda who founded the kingdom of Gwynedd came from the Lothians ๐Ÿ™‚ Small world!

      • Mike Howe says:

        The stones are monuments to a fascinating history it seems, and your photos really capture their mystery and their beauty in the landscape of today. Glad you like the website, Mike A deserves a good showcase for his beautiful work ๐Ÿ™‚

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