Away on the far North Western corner of the Isle of Lewis, which itself sits on the far Northwest of the UK, there lies a dialogue in stone. Written over 4,500 years ago by our Neolithic ancestors, it’s message has travelled through time to reach us here in the 21st century. However we need to tune our eyes and our senses back into nature to begin to understand any of this ancient dialogue, because at first glance it seems an unsolvable mystery.
As we wandered through the stones, sometimes we would come upon other visitors, hidden until we moved round and through the ritual space. “Why did they build it here? What does it mean? Why?” These were the conversations we stumbled into time and again on this enigmatic piece of ancient history. The stones are gathered together in a central huddle where they seem to be whispering long held secrets. They lean in towards each other, and the pink, white and grey lines of their bodies glitter and shimmer in the shifting sunlight. Your eyes will find faces morphing in and out of sight even as you hold them steadily in your sight.
Made of Lewisian Gneiss, they are the ancient bones of the earth, the oldest rock in the UK, and one of the oldest on the planet. They are aged at 3 billion years, two thirds of the age of the earth itself, and it seems fitting that these old stones were raised towards the sky as a gesture to spirit. They seem to weave the sky and the earth together in their stoney dialogue, and their bodies glitter as though filled with the stars of the night sky. The stones form windows which frame the landscape laid out around them, and split the sky into portions. The earths slow rolling movement through the stars of the night sky can be seen and measured using these stone windows, and the turning year can be timed.
We visited the stones at different times of the day, and the atmosphere changed with the light. Different faces of each stone were lit as the sun rolled over the sky, and their shadows shortened and lengthened over the day. The beautiful folds and swirls draw you in and whole landscapes can be found within the flowing lines. Each one has its own story, and if you lean back and listen for a while, these stories seep in through your pores. Magical white fairy cows walked up out of the waves of the sea, stretched out below this hill, and here on this very grass they gave milk to all who asked. Tended by the beautiful shining white goddess Bride, these white skinned, pink eared creatures sustained and nourished the people of the stones, with natures infinite bounty. Weaving the magic of the ocean, with that of the earth and the sky, the stories deepen, leading us further into the minds and hearts of our ancestors who’s hands placed these giant stones. The local people call the stones fir bhrèige (‘false men’), and with their swirling faces and leaning bodies it’s not hard to see why.
Standing on the crest of the Hill of Sorrows, they seem so much like figures of people, that I imagine they might start walking any moment. Pulling their glittering cloaks around their shoulders and hurrying in towards the centre of the circle. When you see them from a distance they look so elegant and slender, but when you stand with them you are left feeling small. There is a dialogue between the circle, placed here, and the many other stones and circles which litter this landscape. This circle is having quite a few different conversations out across the island, and in the southeast it draws our attention to the mountain range known as the Sleeping Beauty away across the moors. The Cailleach, or veiled one, lies sleeping on her back, and every 19 years the moon rolls across her body. The moon and the tides, the sun and the crops, all were woven into stories here around the circle of ancient stones.
It’s said that at Midsummer the shinning one walks here, on the beautiful green earth, and why would I not believe it…..here on the earths edge, bathed in light and washed by the blue waves and heather scented breeze, anything seems possible.
To see more dialogues in images visit this weeks WP challenge, dialogue.