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.
The Spouse and I spent a wee time in Scotland and adore the place (and the people~!). Once at the top of a hill (Cullen, from memory) we found some stones with carvings on them, old but not ancient. Possibly a ‘folly’ of some kind.
The lighting there is special, soft, liquid … and at Findhorn the very atmosphere seemed charged (and we aren’t ‘New Age’ folks). Here in NZ the lighting is hard and direct—no magic at all. You have wonders at your fingertips, cherish them 🙂
Oh I do….the ever shifting light, the landscape and the thick layers of thousands of years of history 🙂 it’s all pure magic!
This is possibly irreverent and perhaps in poor taste—but The Spouse and I just love Billy Connolly’s ‘stones’ scene in his ‘World Tour Of Scotland’.
And given my time again I’d come back as a Scot to be an archaeologist (in Scotland) …
Neither irrelevant nor in poor taste! I will join you in a reincarnation as a Scottish archeologist 😉
Wonderful and the way you captured the light is marvelous!
The light was so beautiful, and it bounced around the stones making everything look magical 🙂
Bravo I noticed 🌷
Those are spectacular Seonaid. I recently did a post on the Devil’s Quoite henge, in our neighbour village Stanton Harcourt. Not as majestic, but magical none the less. 😀
Ancient sites always have such a great atmosphere…..and when the light comes out it bounces around beautifully 🙂
I’m off to take a look at your Harcourt shots…..
Fascinating! Why, why, why indeed! So full of mystery.
Your photos are incredible, Seonaid, with that last one especially so.
Jeez Seonaid, didn’t realize this was you until I clicked on your name in my comment log. Should have known by the wonderful text that went with the amazing photos!! Sorry about that 🙂
Really cool – especially love the last shot.
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Your interpretation is enigmatic, and so are the stones…or/and the reverse. No words to express the wonder of these old stones and symbols. I just wish I had been there – and I understand completely that smile on your face.
Those stones seem even more dramatic than the celebrated ones in the south of England – which I found impressive enough!
Wonderful shots Seonaid!!!!! Congratulations!
Of course the shining one’s path goes that way, and I’m sure you’ve had a wee glimpse . . .
This is phenomenal–the writing and the photographs. The pillars seem so packed with personality and movement! Thank you for letting us travel with you.
Wow, mysteriously beautiful.
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Truly a magical place!
I look at old barns in my part of the country and wonder about the stories they could tell but what a thrill it would be to hear the story about the creation of this amazing area. Wonderful.
Such mystery. Thanks Seonaid. D
Beautiful! And thank you… while I wait to see them for myself this is the next best thing. Your love of the land and mine are not so far apart 🙂
Fantastic images, Seonaid. You’re so right about the ancient stones looking like elegant figures of people who are just about to start moving and talking together. Your wonderful storytelling gave me goosebumps. Thank you for yet another awesome post. 🙂
What a magical dialogue! Your superb storytelling brought it all alive. Now i want to see for myself! 🙂
It’s a wonderful place to visit, but does involve quite a trek, over sea and mountain, across islands and wild moors….as any good pilgrimage should 🙂
Aah, you make it sound more and more intriguing 🙂
It really is….perched on the edge of Britain brushed by winds which travelled across the ocean from Canada…. And on this island Gaelic is still the first language of most of the inhabitants. It sounds so beautiful….
I can imagine.
Beautiful photos, which together with your words, bring the Stones alive. Thank you.
Delighted you enjoyed the read…..the stones are so full of character 🙂
The sky is making the Dialog perfect 🙂
That is so true…..the dialogue weaves the sky and earth so beautifully. One of the days the sky was so clear and empty of clouds that it made far less interesting photos….but lovely for visiting a beach!
I found this post really moving, Seonaid. It feels good knowing something so beautiful, mysterious and ancient exists–far away as it is.
Your writing and images are magnificent. Thank you for sharing both with us. 🙂 🙂
Sharon, you chose the perfect description words for this wonderful old site…’beautiful, mysterious and ancient’….and it pulls you back. Just the flutter of an eyelid and I’m transported to the sun soaked, wave washed and wind brushed slope of the hill, held by the stones and gazing out across the earth 🙂
Delighted you enjoyed the share.
Very interesting post. Great photos!
Delighted you enjoyed it…..I was grinning ear to ear as I wandered around with my camera!
Brilliant interpretation of the theme and gorgeous photography! 🙂
I had been struggling a little with where to start and what focus to take for a post about this beautiful site…..Wordpress picked what seems a perfect theme for my visit!
They were a joy to photograph with all those lovely angles and shadows 🙂
Great entry. Beautifully done! Thank you for sharing.
Thanks Amy, it was hard to choose which photos to use….and where to start with the stories and words. Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed the post 🙂
A magnificent post, Seonaid! I think you did the old stones justice
with this supreme tribute. The wide variety of lights, colors, shadows,
and angles make your photographs a dream to behold, and your words
are more than fitting. They draw us into the ambiance of these sacred places.
Thank you so much for sharing with us! 🙂 Peace and luvz, Uncle Tree
Thank you so much for such glowing praise, what a great start to a Monday morning!
There is so much to say about these beautiful old stones and the sacred ritual landscape within which they are placed, so that was the challenge….to be concise and chose what to focus on. They were a joy to photograph in the shifting light, and of course this is a small selection of the many I took….it was hard to resist 🙂
It’s quite a journey to reach these remote stones, but worth every step!
How wonderful to read that – you lifted my spirits on a dreary Monday morning and reminded me of the wonder of life and of the beauty and mystery of planet earth. Thank you so much.
Suzanne, what a lovely comment. Visiting these stones definitely lifted my spirits. I found myself grinning wildly from ear to ear as I wandered through the lines and circles, touching and pausing in wonder from time to time.
Despite the name, ‘the hill of sorrows’, I felt no sorrow here. Deep joy and peace were the energies flowing through the earth. We do know it was used among other things as a place to bury important bones, which had been picked clean by birds….but my thoughts are still not clear 🙂
It sounds like one of those experiences that don’t reveal the deeper meanings until much later. Going on the feelings you had there is always my way into understanding the experience but sometimes it takes ages to fully understand it all – it took me two years before I came close to understanding the experience I had at Aphrodisias. 🙂
Wonderful blog post.
Thank you Bruce, there is so much about these enigmatic stones which I would love to share….this is a small taste 🙂
What a totally beautiful post! Poetry in photography. Callanish is one of my favorite places on earth. They ARE so much like people, I thought that, too, when I was there. Thanks so much for all you do.
I’m delighted that you enjoyed the ‘poetry in photography’, thank you for such a generous comment, it’s always lovely to share when such lovely comments appear 🙂
It’s my second visit to Callanish, and I think it’s rather addictive. The stones seem to pull me back, and I heard that from quite a few other people we met within the stones!
Fascinating witnesses and we still have not been able to translate their messages to us. You developed a wonderful story line around them.
They are so intruging, and full of stories and presence. A very special site!