Archive for the 'astronomy' Category

16
Mar
12

Friends of Grampian Stones 2006 Lammas newsletter Vol.XVII#2

2006 Lammas Newsletter Vol.xvii #2 August, 2006

The Lunar Wobble

The Apprentice Pillar, 15thC Rosslyn Chapel, see below

FOGS JUNE 2004 solstice newsletter started the alert for all this wobble-watching. Now, two months after the wobble — lunar maximum occurred Sunday, June 11, 2006 when the moon reached its major standstill — we on the 57th degree parallel are experiencing withdrawal from our companion in orbit.

Orkney, Shetland and Lapland watchers are even more deprived, as the earth’s satellite barely shows her face at full above the southern horizon. This, its wildest fluctuation in the 18.6-year Metonic cycle, will continue into the autumn months. However by winter solstice we shall once again have a companion in full visibility in the night skies.

Think of it this way: in the darkest days of December, the sun at our latitude rises in the south-east and sets in the south-south-west, barely grazing the tops of some of our frostly hills.

This summer, the full moon has been doing just that: rising qnd setting (on full moon night and a couple of nights on either side) in roughly those same compass points, reflecting in amazing precision the path of our solar partner.

That is a simplification. It means if we aren’t looking in the right place, chances are we’ll miss it. It is more precise to say that on October 22, 2005, the moon was closest to full (71%) while standing at its most northerly position in our skies for 18.6 years.


By definition, quarter moons stand at the most northerly point in the sky.

For an exact calculation, check Victor Reijs and our FOGS moon standstill posting, immediately below. There is a discussion group at Archaeocosmology.

Many archaeoastronomers believe that some cupmarks on NE Scots recumbent stone circles mark the maximum moonset for this cycle. If so, then the circle-builders’ technology predated Meton (432BC) by some 3000 years.

Those of us planning to attend FOGS’ 2006 AGM at Cothiemuir on September 16th will be able to check for ourselves as the large recumbent there displqys a cluster of cupmarks on its face with a view angled farthest to the SSW — the most extreme viewing position possible from within the circle. Cothiemuir, NJ617 198, is accessed from My Lord’s Throat, and is one of the earliest of the NE’s RSCs. Contemporary neighboring Old Keig has the largest recorded recumbent stone, weighing in at 53 tons.
©2006-2012MCYoungblood

Message in a Bottle: Crichie Past

Beaker grave cremation pot and horn spoon found in 1855 by Dalrymple at Port Elphinstone henge, 'Druidsfield', Broomend of Crichie

During last summer’s excavation by Dr Richard Bradley’s team from Reading University at Druidsfield, Crichie, Port Elphinstone, Inverurie, a communication from the past was unearthed. The henge itself left a few clues to its use as a sacred processional terminus during the Bronze Age (one-mile-long stone avenue between Kintore and Crichie), but the message-in-a-bottle was far more precise in date. It was found standing upright in a spoil heap left by a previous archaeologist, and contained small fragments of window glass wrapped in a sheet of the Penny Free Press & Northern Advertiser

The glass was inscribed with the names of antiqurian Charles Elphinstone Dalrymple, his two colleagues and the local farmer of Broomend, with the date of their excavation, November 22, 1855. Victorian antiquarians frequently left small tokens for their successors to find.

Dalrymple’s family owned Logie, near Pitcaple; sometimes called Logie-Elphinstone. The Port Elphinstone excavation was one of his favourites and showed most detail: including the avenue of 72 megaliths stretching between Crichie and Tavelty, Kintore. Only two of these avenue stones remain.

Another feature now lost to the Reading team which Dalrymple was fortunate to find and record was a triple-ring circle a few metres north of the Druidsfield henge — now forming basement and foundations of a Port Elphinstone housing development. It is hoped the Reading team’s interest in the Kintore corridor will help protect it from further blanket development. The corridor sadly runs parallel with the A96 dual carriageway between Thainstone Mart and the Kintore Industrial Estate. ©MCN

Aberdeen Pictish Conference

Pictish eagle fragment found on Tullo Hill at Forgue-- DES 1999:9 first Pictish eagle-stone to be discovered in the 'Kingdom'

University of Aberdeen’s Research Institute for Irish and Scots Studies will host a conference entitled Fresh Pict: Problems Revisited at King’s College on Saturday, November 28th, 2006. At that time papers previously addressed to the prestigious Leeds International Medieval Conference will be given. The list of speakers is impressive:

Lloyd Laing, Simon Taylor, David Dumville, Gordon Noble, Nicolas Evans, Strat Halliday, Andrew Heald and Mike King. It is refreshing to see work continuing in the NE where Pictish fragments continue to be found, viz. Forgue eagle-stone, left (DES 1999:9) and a ‘creature’ found in a garden wall at Rothiemay (DES 2002:11). More information available from the Institute, Kings College, University of Aberdeen.
DES = Discovery and Excavation Scotland, whose online documentation of earlier DES publications has reached 2008.

daVinci Sparks Interest in Rosslyn
Rosslyn Chapel, south of Edinburgh, has traditionally attracted the specialist visitor interested in its alleged connection with the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. Following the release of Dan Brown’s ‘daVinci Code’, visitor numbers have tripled.

Rosslyn's 15thC barrel-vaulted ceiling divided into five compartments. The crypt has Templar carvings.

The Rosslyn Chapel Trust chose a timely moment to make a record of what is probably a unique example of late-Medieval ecclesiastical architecture of the pre-Reformation period.

The chapel was begun in 1446 at around the same time as work started on Glasgow Cathedral. It is one of the few remaining intact pre-Reformation chapels left in Scotland. It towers over the edge of Rosslyn Glen, whose layers of sand, gravel and clay have posed subsidence problems in the past. One exit from the crypt opens on to a gravel bed.

AOC Archaeology Scotland have been employed to create a laser scan record of both interior and exterior; they hope to avoid pitfalls encountered in photography, where a substantial exterior scaffolding canopy –needed for the work– masked several unique features. Scanning has resulted in remarkable three-dimensional and 2D images of the building and its extravagant architectural idiom. This includes the lavishly-decorated interior with its now-famous ‘apprentice pillar’. It is the first full high-precision record to be made on the site and will prove invaluable for research, conservation and for future generations to refer to as a baseline for the building as it now stands.

It is hoped many of the scanned images will be made available on the web.
©FOGS 2006-2012

Advertisements
29
Feb
12

Friends of Grampian Stones Candlemas newsletter 2005 Vol.XVI-1

February 2005: Candlemas Vol. XVI-1
Celebrating Life
Our readers will forgive us if we take time in this issue, time out from our personal and prehistoric preoccupations, to pay respect and show our admiration for a fellow stone-lover, nay, fellow earth-lover, and supporter of our cause — to raise awareness to our unique environment — the ancient landscape of NE Scotland.

It is with sadness that we say farewell to Ann Tweedy Savage, stones-supporter, tree-planter, philanthropist and naturalist who died prematurely in a fall in January 2005. For over 30 years, she contributed both personally and financially to restoring the natural environment, community and fen shui (‘sense of place’) of Bennachie, on whose northeastern shoulder she lived, and where (Harthill) she is now buried. In addition to her support of many local projects and enterprises, she chose to give generously to FOGS through the Brownington Foundation, and for those past annual donations — sometimes when we were in most need — we will always be grateful to her. We know of at least one other archaeological charity, the Scottish Episcopal Palaces Project at Fetternear, which also benefited from her generosity.

President of Friends of Grampian Stones, David R Paton, with friend and benefactrix Ann Tweedy

Her lively interest in her surroundings and enthusiasm for restoring the landscape she so loved will not long be forgotten. One place closest to her heart was Bennachie, a lone mountain sentinel in an otherwise flat, fertile plain. One of its honorary Baillies, she refused to give up when commercial interests threatened (and still threaten) to invade this mountain wilderness. She saw Bennachie, as do many of us, as an ancient, sacred place, and, at night, almost the last bastion of darkness (and therefore wildness) in what has become a sea of light in the Garioch. It was her wish that this wild habitat should not be threatened; should be allowed to return to its natural state. She felt its trees, heather and scrub should be supported to maintain their own unique environment, species of plants and animals, until the human race becomes wise enough to give it the respect it deserves.

There are qualities our friend embodied — amid joy and laughter — which allowed her to accomplish so much in a short life: if some of us were to emulate, we might similarly achieve great things: they are — in no particular order: generosity and the avoidance of waste, love-of-life, perseverance and determination.
Thank you, Ann, you are sorely missed.
©2005-2012MCYoungblood

Standing Still
Solstice marks the apparent standstill of the sun twice annually. After disappearing into the shortest night, a sight that Northeast FOGS from our elevated latitude can claim a special privilege, sunsets wend their way southward along the horizon. Six months later sunset reaches 223º, SSW — a legendary point on the compass captured within the earliest recumbent stone circles.

Motion of the moon too, apparently wild, nevertheless has a cycle, calculated by Meton (432BC), returning to the same place once in 18.6 years, or after 235 lunations. Major lunar standstill occurs on that occasion when the full moon closest to midsummer only barely rises above the S horizon, grazes it and sets, all within an arc of just over 45º.

A non-event, you might think; yet at the Arctic circle, the summer full moon does not appear at all.

So it is notable that early (largest) RSCs are often cupmarked, clustering on a stone in the SSW arc where the lunar standstill could be witnessed: Balquhain’s W flanker & the recumbents of Sunhoney, Cothiemuir and Rothiemay have cupmarks oriented SSW: 232, 230, 200 & 226 degrees respectively. At Cothiemuir, NJ617 198, in 2006 maximum summer full moon will seem to set right into the recumbent’s western edge.

Full moonrise closest to winter solstice, from the stone circle at Kirkton of Bourtie. Midwinter standstill moon acts like a 'midnight sun', barely setting in 24 hours.

Also in a major standstill year, the full moon closest to midwinter performs an incredible feat, swinging higher in the sky from a rising point farther N than any other in its 18.6-year cycle and setting farther N than at any other time: the full moon seen at Aberdeen/Moray latitude, 57º30′, behaves almost like the lunar equivalent of a ‘midnight sun’, rising and setting in the North, (at 27ºNNE and 333ºNNW to be precise)and spending the longest time in the sky of any appearance in its metonic cycle. In astronomical circles (and prehistoric ones) excitement is already building towards the major lunar standstill which peaks in 2006, when full summer moonrise and set reach their farthest possible southern limit and briefest appearance: at Easter Aquhorthies, NJ733 208, the full summer moon will rise at 151ºSSE and set at 208ºSSW, and, while there are no cupmarks at this RSC to show its ‘maximum’, it should be spectacular.

Equally, in the run-up to this maximum, the full winter moon can be seen from as early as November 2005 to show a huge ‘wobble’, rising and setting farther North than at any other time, swinging highest and longest in the winter night sky.
©2005MCN

A Few Hints on Standstill
FOGS inspired by lunar antics may be daunted by the profusion of information on the Web at sites such as http://www.iol.ie run by Victor Reijs who is encouraging world-wide moon-watching and gives azimuth, declination and degree at several sites with breathtaking accuracy.

So it is with gratitude that we give FOGS stalwart Trevor Allcott’s advice:
‘I think Victor is trying to measure astronomical variables to an eye-watering degree… However, if you simply extend your arm fully in front of you, with the thumb upright, the width of your thumbnail is approximately one degree. The fourth decimal place is 1/10,000. See Hawkins: Stonehenge Decoded, 1965.
©FOGS occasional newsletter updates

09
Dec
09

Friends of Grampian Stones 2004 solstice newsletter vol.XV #2

FOGS June 2004 SUMMER SOLSTICE NEWSLETTER XV-2

Dresden Codex gives Venus transits

Venus: until the end of Time

Much speculation surrounded the recent transit of Venus across the face of the sun: whether prehistoric Man was able to detect such an occurrence with no technology to help him. Reversed telescopes, bits of paper, special sunglasses were used as evidence of our advanced state of awareness of this 120-year happening, a six-hour crossing of the sun’s disc by Venus in retrograde motion.

Esoterically, Venus aligns with Isis, Aphrodite and lesser-known ancient love goddesses like Babylonian ’Athtar/Ishtar. Her crossing before the sun-throne was believed to enhance or magnify through her ‘lens’ blessings of love flooding on to the earth.

Without telescopic aid, classical astronomers were consummate calculators and the orbit and cycles of Venus were as familiar to them as those of the moon. But they had another advantage which we now appear to lack: an intuitive knowledge of cosmic influences, much of which has deteriorated into brief mythical allusion or into the much-maligned art of astrology.

By dismissing all but the rational, our society may be guilty of throwing the galactic baby out with the bathwater of the cosmos.

It is known, for instance, that transits of Venus affect the earth’s magnetic field by blocking electrically-charged particles of solar wind which can cause ‘anomalies’: between June 4-9, 2004, with the aid of a full moon, terrestrial tides were the lowest for 19 years.

Such celestial influences would not have gone unnoticed by our ancestors, as they are by us.

As a prelude to a transit, Venus’s disappearance from both evening and morning sky would also be seen as remarkable.

Dresden Codex of the Maya Long Count Calendar

Transits occur in pairs. Each is separated by a period of eight years as Venus passes, as it were, pillars of a gateway first retrograde and then direct; not to be repeated for at least a century. Transits of June 1761/ 1769 and December 1874/1882 are modern compared with those calibrated in the Mayan Long Count of cycles which have elapsed since their zero date of 3113 B.C.

The Mayas’ reputation as astronomers is unsurpassed: one of three hieroglyphic texts to survive Spanish book-burning is the so-called Dresden Codex containing precise astronomical calculation of Venus’s synodic period along with (solar) eclipse prediction tables of great accuracy. It is to the Maya we owe a debt of gratitude for a reminder – if we are paying attention – that in 8 years time, in June 2012, in their calendar, Venus returns through her gateway and marks the end of Time.
©2004-2009MCYoungblood

Standing Still

Solstice marks the apparent standstill of the sun twice annually. In June, after disappearing into the shortest night, a sight that Northeast FOGS from our elevated latitude can claim a special privilege, sunsets wend their way southward along the horizon. Six months later midwinter sunset reaches 223º, or SSW, a legendary point on the compass captured within the earliest recumbent stone circles (RSCs).

Motion of the moon, too, apparently wild and chaotic, nevertheless has a cycle. This was calculated by Meton in 432 BC, as returning to the same place once in 18.6 years, or after 235 lunations.

Major lunar standstill occurs on that occasion when the full moon closest to midsummer only barely rises above the southern horizon, grazes it, and sets, all within an arc of just over 45º.

A non-event, you might think.

Yet at the latitude of the Arctic circle, the summer full moon does not appear at all. So it is notable that early (and indeed, largest) RSCs are often cupmarked, with special clustering appearing on a circle stone in the SSW arc where the lunar standstill could be witnessed.

At Balquhain in the Garioch the West flanker is heavily cupmarked. This is also true of the massive recumbents at Aberdeenshire’s Sunhoney, Cothiemuir and Rothiemay stone circles: all have cupmarks oriented SSW: at 232º, 230º, 200º and 226 degrees respectively.

At Cothiemuir, at Keig near Alford NJ617 198, in 2006 maximum summer full moon will seem to set right into the recumbent’s western edge.

Also in a major standstill year, the full moon closest to midwinter performs an incredible feat, swinging higher in the sky from a rising point farther North than any other in its 18.6-year cycle. It also sets farther North than at any other time: it is as if the full moon at this time is the dominant orb of the whole sky. Ancestral wonder would have been piqued to see this planetary body in almost full possession of the night, rising in the north, circling the celestial pole and setting again in the north.

The full moon seen at Aberdeen/Moray latitude, 57º30′, behaves almost like the lunar equivalent of a ‘midnight sun’, rising and setting in the North, (at 27ºNNE and 333ºNNW exactly) and spending the longest time in the sky of any appearance in its metonic cycle. In astronomical circles (and it would have been so in prehistoric times) excitement is already building towards the major lunar standstill which peaks in 2006, when full summer moonrise and set reach their farthest possible southern limit and briefest appearance.

At Easter Aquhorthies, near Inverurie in the Garioch at NJ733 208, the full summer moon will rise at 151ºSSE and set at 208ºSSW and while there are no cupmarks at this RSC to show its ‘maximum’, it should be spectacular to see it graze the horizon. Easter Aquhorthies is sited in such a way that its view of the south is marginal in any event. This brief appearance of the summer moon would have set prehistoric hearts aflutter.

Equally, in the run-up to this maximum, the full winter moon can be seen from as early as November 2005 to show a huge ‘wobble’, rising and setting farther North than at any other time swinging highest and longest in the winter night sky.
©2000-2009MCY

ALMAGEST: Astronomical Clock

Antikythera or Almagest Astronomical Clock

When Romanized Greek astronomer Claudius Ptolemy wrote his mathematical compilation of the heavens in Alexandria in AD150 from a geocentric perspective, it was the Great Compilation. Seven hundred years later when it was translated into Arabic c.AD827, it became ‘the Greatest’ – Al-Majisti. It remained so until Copernicus in 1543 challenged our attitude to geocentricity, although we earthlings still look heavenward with earth-bound eyes.

FOGS' George Burnett-Stuart's Almagest

The Almagest astronomical clock, invented and lovingly reproduced by FOGS astronomer George Burnett-Stuart is perhaps the ultimate time-piece for those who love to watch the solar system from earth (is there another way?)

For devoted planet-watchers or to find current moon and planet phases, Almagest in clock mode gives a 3-D view of those orbs as seen presently on earth.In reference mode its hand-crafted brass gears can show planetary positions against a background of stars (the horizon plate) at any time or place between 1000BC and AD5000. For photographs and more detail on this British crafted timepiece, see his website.

A Few Hints on Standstill

FOGS inspired by lunar antics may be daunted by the profusion of information on the Web at sites such as that run by Victor Reijs who is encouraging world-wide moon-watching. His website is lovingly maintained and gives azimuth, declination and degree at several stone circle sites with breathtaking accuracy.

So it is with gratitude that we give FOGS stalwart Trevor Allcott’s advice:

‘I think Victor is trying to measure astronomical variables to an eye-watering degree, but simply, if you extend your arm fully in front of you, with the thumb upright, the width of your thumbnail is approximately one degree. The fourth decimal place is 1/10,000.’

See Gerald Hawkins 1965 Stonehenge Decoded, John Edwin Wood 1978 Sun, Moon and Standing Stones, Knight/Lomax 1999 Uriel’s Machine’. FOGS’ website features Knight/Lomax who built such a machine based on instructions in the Bible’s Book of Enoch.

Editor’s note, 2009: after the death of Gerald Hawkins in 2003, it is sad to see National Geographic’s manipulation of his ideas into a full-length two-hour video called ‘Stonehenge Decoded’, narrated by Donald Sutherland. It is hoped that the Hawkins family is adequately compensated for the use, not only of his title but his original idea.

03
Dec
09

Friends of Grampian Stones 2003 winter solstice news vol.XV #1

FOGS MIDWinter Newsletter’ December 2003/ January 2004: Volume XV-1

Sine umbra nihil

Well-wishing for a new year is what we do in the Northeast when the calendar points to January. It was always so. Or was it?

In Gregorian, we count this 2004. It is already 5764 Jewish time. In a month (February 2004) it will be the Chinese year of the Monkey; on February 22 Islam moves into 1425. For Sikhs, new year (536) comes just before vernal equinox when Hindus (2061) and Persians (1383) celebrate, just as we used to before the Julian calendar adjusted new year from March to January.

Ethiopia still runs on the Julian calendar, which served most of the western world until 1752 or thereabouts, depending on one’s allegiance. Russia was slow to make the change, but that is no surprise to the Clavie Crew of Burghead (Moray) or to the fireball-swingers of Stonehaven, Kincardineshire. They still run on Julian time.

burning clave on flaming fire altar in Burghead's Pictish fortress

Burning clavie atop flaming 'Doorie' (fire altar) at Burghead; running on Julian calendar time

In Burghead, lighting the eternal fire and carrying it round the town reenacts the celebration of the return of new light after the longest night – the dark of our title, without which we have ‘nothing’. To the Clavie King and torch-bearers of Burghead, this is Aul’ ’Eel, pre-Christian Yule or winter solstice. Yule becomes interchangeable with Christmas south of the border but Scotland has held to its pagan festival of Hogmanay, itself a testimony to and turning point in that Roman calendar.

On Hogmanay night Steenhivers have a street party to end all street parties. Whereas Burghead (annually January 11) only spills combustible materials over the shoulders of Clavie-bearers, Stonehaven delights in spinning fire in clumps into the unwary crowd.

When Scotland changed calendars in 1752, there was much misunderstanding in the country districts – the loss of 11 days seen as having robbed them of important events. At that time, clavie-burning and local celebrations to mark the return of the light after midwinter were commonplace in all the northern and northeastern ports. Now only two remain holding to tradition from an earlier time, Burghead most precisely still counting its lost 11 days.

Fire for the clavie is ritually kindled from a peat ember – no match is used. Clavie king and crew dispense flaming brands from burning tar-barrel as tokens of abundance to important burghers, publican included! They circle the town sunwise and the final free-for-all happens after the clavie has been fixed to its fire-altar, the doorie, on a rib of the old Pictish ramparted stronghold, and left to die. Julian indeed.

Yggdrasil:the world tree

Every culture, beginning with the Polynesians, had its ‘world tree’, a great being of life and knowledge which connected through its forever-turning axis the heavens, earth and the nether realms.

It is to Norse myth that we owe a debt for transmitting the name Yggdrasil: an ash, at whose three roots were sacred fountains ‘of wondrous virtue’, and in whose branches sit an eagle (international symbol of visionary power), a squirrel (symbolic of activity and preparedness), and four stags (innocence and return to wilderness).

In our original state of grace the world and the heavens, time and space, were one, held in hologram by this great turning spindle, but then chaos intervened.

In Scandinavia, this great gyroscope or ‘mill’ was thrown into the deep, now forever grinding sand and stones, creating whirlpools and hurricanes. Greek Kronos/Chronos the Titan, child of heaven and earth – Ouranos and Gaia – after emasculating his father and throwing the great pole into the sea, became father of the gods. Romans separated the two into Saturn and Time, but the original dual concept was intentional.

It was left to subsequent generations who believed their ancestors to have been gods, to try to make sense of a universe spinning progressively out of kilter, a fact seen in the Greek ‘royal science’ of astronomy in the steady precession of the equinoxes: a cosmic mill forever churning stars which no longer return to their ‘right time’. The tree had been uprooted by giants and only heroes with like powers might replicate the act.

In Finland and India, it is called a mill from Sampo, Sanskrit skambha, in England it is an oak or mythic Excalibur extracted only by a ‘true’ prince.

In Northeast Scotland until at least 1945, sacred wells were still complemented by the presence of an ash, though uprooting it appears not to be part of the legend until the coming of bulldozers in modern development. That aside, if the discovery of ‘Seahenge’ in 2003 off the East Anglian coast connects us to our ancestors at all, it is through the ritual of a massive oak, carefully-placed upside-down, huge roots exposed to the heavens, within a sacred precinct of guardian tree-stumps at a place where earth and ocean meet.

Might we not be seeing some vestige of that ancient rite conceived by man to right his Universe and return it to that golden age (Virgil’s Saturnia regna) before the fall, when time was eternal and heaven-and-earth were one?
©MCY2004-2009

Winter Wonders

Several years occur when midwinter full moon does not completely tie in with solstitial sunset: 2003 was one of those years*. Full moonrise nevertheless was an impressive sight at two recumbent stone circles on either side of the Garioch plain: at Easter Aquhorthies (NJ733 208) and the Barra RSC (older country name for Bourtie, NJ801 249) where FOGS stalwarts braved the winter’s first storm to witness a lunar prelude to the darkest days. On December 8th, nearly two weeks before the shortest day, the full moon rose, regular as a cosmic clock, at the moment of sunset over the whitened slope of Crocker hill (compare our solar eclipse point in June n/l XIV-2). It is the same point for each circle, as both appear to be aligned on this double axis of solstitial summer sun and winter moon.
*at 2009 archive transcribing; full moon rose at same point on December 2nd

While the sunset is obscured at Aquhorthies by the lie of the land, it has full view of rising moon. In contrast at Barra, sunset is fully visible over Mount Keen (at latitude 57ºN this is 223º), but moonrise takes another five minutes to materialize on the Crocker (at 43º or NNE).

There may be another link between the two RSCs which time forgot. From the Easter Aquhorthies recumbent an alignment towards Barra and moonrise leads the eye directly over the huge red-jasper sentinel at the modern ‘entrance’. It is not a large leap in imagination to connect its fiery red with a dyiing sun.

What has not previously been noted is the presence of pink quartz in a NNE vector-like scatter in the two fields leading from the Barra circle upslope to the ‘moonrise’ rock (the ‘Bellman’, also sunrise rock in our previously noted summer newsletter) at 600 ft/185m, Barra has substantial quantities of white quartz stones ringing it radially in all other directions, but the NNE scatter is decidedly more pink: a synchronicity perhaps unnoticed by many of us, but not without apparent significance to the circle-builders.

©2003-2009 MCYoungblood

Sacred Journey
Lawrence Main, peripatetic extraordinaire, is making a sacred journey throughout Britain. He plans to spend three nights on Bennachie in Aberdeenshire as part of his communion with the earth, thanking the Mither for her part in holding a vision of what this ancient stronghold and Pictish kingdom meant to its people. We do not publish his dates, for privacy, but wish him well on his pilgrimage.

29
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Lammas newsletter 2003 Vol. XVI #3

FOGS Lammas newsletter XIV-3 August 2003

Ups and Downs
COUNTING on the state to care for our monuments has never been the FOGS way. In the northeast we like to check matters for ourselves and have always be quick to relay information to government when an ancient site appeared under threat. We are all aware of the lack of interest shown by Historic Scotland for ‘unscheduled’ sites – a situation where the local on-the-ground network triumphs in adversity, and we continue to maintain our stance for full protection for all monuments. It is unacceptable, however, to find ‘scheduled’ monuments not being adequately conserved, simply for lack of staffing or funding.

Such is the case at the recumbent stone circle of Balgorkar or Castle Fraser NJ 715 125 where one megalith, knocked over during close ploughing, has remained fallen and damaged for over a year.

One remedy suggested by FOGS as long ago as 1989 and taken to the level of ratification in a preliminary paper by government but then shelved, is to compensate farmers for leaving a ‘set-aside’ buffer zone around a stone circle unploughed.

This not only avoids accidents such as at Castle Fraser, but allows visitor access and something close to the ‘feel’ of the original.

As we know, FOGS helped create such a ‘feel’ at Kirkton of Bourtie RSC (NJ801 249) last September with a bale circle surrounding the stones. Our offer to compensate the farmer privately to keep the resulting precinct unploughed – up to the equivalent of government ‘set-aside’ – was turned down, not because of the money, but because no other farmer was doing it! The bale circle lasted until July, but close ploughing has again prevailed, making the circle look even more derelict than before. This is an HS matter.

Thankfully many farmers leave a respectful distance around stones, but there are glaring exceptions. Is it not time for our politicians – if they profess to look after our heritage – to put their(our) money where it does most good? Every NE farmer owning or renting a field with a ‘scheduled’ antiquity would cost the state approximately £200 per site at a generous estimate. Some (single monoliths or avenues) would rate less.

Bureaucracy is welll-placed to administer such a payment (combination of HS scheduling and agricultural set-aside systems), but close ploughing continues. Fourteen years is a long time for FOGS to remain silent. It seems it may be time for us to flex our stoney muscles once more.
©2003-2009MCY

2003 AGM at Balquhain

Balquhain recumbent stone circle and quartz outlier

Balquhain recumbent stone circle and quartz outlier

BALQUHAIN in the Garioch is one of those miraculous recumbent stone circles which has been left in best care: that of the landowner – continuity assured, passing father to son in the Strachan family for three generations. Although a scheduled monument on the Historic Scotland list, its survival intact is notable: no interpretative signboards or erroneous road signs costing a fortune; no twee carparks; just a simple farm track and field boundary access with a magnificent treasure at the end of it.

The horizon is blocked only on the North by Gallow Hill; other Garioch stone circles are clearly visible and, for those who like spectacular celestial events to mark their AGM, there is the Bennachie equinox sunset roll-down as a bonus.

This is your invitation to attend FOGS 2003 annual meeting at 2p.m. Sunday September 21st at Balquhain, NJ 735 241. From A96 1m N of Inverurie take Chapel of Garioch turnoff (W) for 1 mile, passing Echo Vale; turn N (right) at Mains of Balquhain farm with its 13thC keep, follow farm track, and park at cottar houses. Access to Balquhain RSC is by field march & will be FOGS AGM signposted. The stone circle has been carefully wide-ploughed by the Strachans, although, as mentioned in our solstice news, they receive no compensation for doing this. Its main megaliths are cupmarked and, unique in the Garioch, a full-size all-quartz outlier seems to have equinoctial possibilities! All but one of its perimeter stones are in original positions. We are hoping for a good turnout, to foster our usual multi-discipline expertise in art, dowsing, astronomical alignment, geology and engineering – not to mention history, ritual and conjecture!

The MARS Effect
WITH Mars much in focus at present, at its perihelion on August 30thm 2003, three days after its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years, it is gratifying to FOGS to find even local news stations giving the red planet a mention over the usual run of social unrest. After all, the last time we humans saw it so near and clear, we were emergent Neanderthals and it was 57,538 B.C. Or was it? Actually, Mars came close enough for a flurry of telescopes to appear in London on 23 August 1924 and on 18 August 1845. On both occasions the orb was within a similar distance from earth of 56 million km (34,646,000 miles). However it won’t come so close again until 28 August 2287.

Bourtie cross saved for public view

Eighth century Pictish cross slab built into farm steading at Bourtie in the Garioch

Bourtie steading 8thC Pictish cross

A BIG THANK YOU to all FOGS and friends who wrote, emailed, telephoned government departments or approached their local politician in support of conserving the 8thC Pictish cross-inscribed stone in a Bourtie steading. Because of the overwhelming response, it has been decided not only to keep the stone in situ but to reserve a small area of ground where a path will allow visitor access. Sometimes a little stone is worth a big amount of effort.
…but what about the others?

AS LONG AGO as 1990, FOGS questioned the stance of government (serving the public) in their acquiring portable antiquities but not providing adequate access to such acquisitions. A decade ago public access was not such a hot potato as it is now and, perhaps unnoticed, certain Pictish carved stones disappeared from view in the landscape.

Notable are the ‘Rhynie Man’ (in local government HQ Aberdeen), the Tillytarmont carved stones (in storage) and the Dyce Pictish and early-Christian stones. Historically local government has made little distinction between ‘rescue’ of a stone and where it was ultimately kept; the mere act of rescue seeming to outweigh the public access consideration. ‘Rhynie Man’ was ‘rescued’ and his former farmer owner compensated within ‘treasure trove’ legislation, but he remains on view only within office hours – inconvenient if you are a weekend visitor. Tillytarmont goose stone and its companions may only be viewed by permission – FOGS were once allowed a rare glimpse. The Dyce stones still languish in Edinburgh – rather a detour for an international visitor who has made the long trek to St Fergus chapel, Dyce, only to find a plaque in their stead. A Pictish landscape we may live in, but fewer Pictish stones are being seen in their context. And the public is not always as specialist as FOGS or as patient in its demands.

Ninth century Pictish Maiden Stone on slopes of Bennachie

NInth century Pictish carved Maiden Stone on the slopes of Bennachie

A recent local government idea by some tunnel-visioned bureaucrat was to remove the Maiden Stone from its Bennachie slope to stand sentinel in an interpretive visitor centre. Local opinion was outrage; so the plan was dropped.

Whether we agree or disagree with rescue per se, Pictish stones are a kind of grid or network by which we may measure our past and they belong to us all. Public opinion is presently swinging to full transparency and non-élitism; are the public servants listening?

FRIENDS OF GRAMPIAN STONES ARCHIVES ARE HERE DISPLAYED COURTESY OF CLEOPASBE11 and WORDPRESS
They consist of a random but chronological mix of newsletters of the Charitable Society which existed to promote the welfare and conservation of Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Pictish stones and monuments in Northeast Scotland from 1988 until it was dissolved in 2008. Further information is still available on its website

29
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones 2003 Imbolc newsletter Vol.XIV #1

February 2003 IMBOLC FoGS Newsletter volume XIV number 1

Pictish Cross-incised stone – Sacred setting threatened

PICTOPHILES are aware of accepted classification of carved stones of Eastern Scotland into groups denoting a rough time period and sculpting method:

Pictish ‘class I’ for incised carving, roughly dating to AD6-7thCC (some have suggested as early as 5thC) and ‘class II’ dating from Nechtan’s national initiative to convert his people to Christianity in the 8thC.

These stones are usually carved in relief with elaborate decorated panel infill reminiscent of the illuminated manuscript art of the period, notably from anglian Lindisfarne (which influenced Nechtan’s ‘romanizing’ campaign, deliberately separated from that of Iona).

Class III Pictish stones display lords, kings, mounted horsemen

Class III Pictish carved stone of King, Lord and monastic attendant

‘Class III’ stones, usually showing mounted aristocracy plus cross art, are more numerous in Moray and Angus and less evident in Aberdeenshire, where a simpler style of conversion sculpture appears:
the plain incised cross, called ‘class IV’ by Isabel Henderson (‘Early Christian Monuments displaying crosses but no other Ornament’ in Alan Small’s The Picts: a new look at old problems Dundee 1987).
Where Aberdeenshire misses out on mounted horsemen, it certainly makes up in cross-incised ‘pillow-stones’, so called in literature of the time because of the monastic habit of sleeping with head on the cross and sometimes carrying these portable ‘pillows’ on pilgrimages of conversion.

Crosses, both elaborate (rounded terminals) and simply incised, have been found at Fintray, Deer, Monymusk, Botriphnie, Tofthills Clatt, Culsalmond, Aboyne and Dyce. They are an important record of our earliest conversion as a Pictish nation, as well as a reminder of Aberdeenshire’s conservative approach to anything new! The most recently discovered cross-stone, however, found in the wall of an early 19thC steading at Kirkton of Bourtie, adjacent to Bourtie Kirk, 4m from Inverurie (newsletter Vol.XII-4, 2001)appears not to be important enough in the corridors of Historic Scotland to assign it the protection of ‘scheduling’ (private comm. FOGS/HS 2002).

The reason given is that the cross-stone, almost identical to another carved in similar pink granite and embedded in the Kirkyard wall a stone’s throw away, is

‘not in situ’ (HS quote) and ‘best way of preserving the stone is for it to be removed from the steading wall and to be deposited with most local museum.’

While professing to protect our most fragile heritage in situ, it seems the lumbering giant of bureacracy is poised to strike again, with little thought given to the sacred context or to local opinion. It is admittedly true that the ‘class IV’ cross-stones of Inverurie kirkyard disappeared after the Ministry of Works assumed charge of the cemetery post-WWII, but the Bourtie crosses are both embedded in structures associated with and meaningful to the Kirkton and as such are more likely to survive and be appreciated where they are than in a museum drawer.

The situation is marginally complicated by the fact that the steading owner is presently considering an application for planning permission to convert it for dwelling houses, but local planning/heritage (Gordon House, Inverurie) are well aware of its significance and are meticulous and dependable on ‘delicate’ issues.

Local MP/MSPs are investigating the illogical manipulation of stones of ‘national importance’ by HS, who also unfortunately have power over buildings (to ‘list’ or not to list).

Pictish and early-mediaeval historians such as Lloyd Laing and Nigel Pennick have written deploring this cavalier attitude by a government department, and magazines like Pictish Arts/ Northern Earth have featured the threat to the stone in recent editions.

However, if we do not stand up for our own heritage locally, a fate may befall it similar to that of the Pictish stones of Dyce (still in HS vault, unlikely to be returned until money is found to do up St Fergus church, Dyce).

As it stands, a ‘catch-22’ situation exists: because the stone has not been ‘scheduled’, HS has no power to remove it; but because it is not protected by ‘scheduling’, a non-heritage-minded councillor in committee is free to overrule planning for economic gain. May we ask those of you who scan local news to keep this little stone firmly in the forefront of your awareness and either write to planners at the appropriate time and/or write to your MP/MSP asking for a change in legislation at government level. Thank you.
FOGS ©MCY2003

Sixth Dark Age Conference
THERE IS still time to register for the 6th Day Conference in this series to be held 22 February 2003 in the Purdie building University of St Andrews: ‘Landscape & Environment in Dark Age Scotland’, chair Barbara Crawford; send cheque (£15, conc.£12) to Dark Age Studies at Dept. of Medieval History, 71 South Street, St.Andrews KY16 9AL

Venus, Jupiter as ‘morning stars’
WHILE scanning the heavens, as circle-watchers do, we are currently blessed with Jupiter as the brightest orb in the night sky; but while presently at its closest to earth (even with smallest telescope, its belts & 4 largest moons visible), the planet seems still more beautiful in pre-dawn sky when it is joined by the rising Venus (SE, with Jupiter setting in W).

‘Crop Circle’ still there
FOLLOWING equinox item (VolXIII-3) on the man-made bale circle, it is pleasing to know both farmer Peddie and NE weather are cooperating in maintaining its position on this wild and exposed slope [NJ 801 249]. As a sculpture and reminder of how the original recumbent stone circle may have looked, its bales will remain until July when decisions to plant oil-seed rape will be made.

Congratulations to Meyn Mamvro

Cornish mysteries group

Meyn Mamvro magazine published since 1986

SISTER stones-loving organization Meyn Mamvro, who take care of business in Cornwall and have been instrumental in putting pressure on authorities to do a better job with sacred stones in the SW, have reached their 50th issue. We commend them on their work of 16 years. http://www.meynmamvro.co.uk/

Recommended Books
OCCASIONALLY we suggest titles from a list of recent publications: the following are recommended by our book reviewers:

Spynie Palace and the Bishops of Moray : history, architecture & archaeology by John Lewis & Denys Pringle 2002 ISBN 0-903903-21-0
Aberdeen: an in-depth view of the city’s past by Alison Cameron & Judith Stones 2001 ISBN0903-903-19-9 (both above are Soc.Antiqs monographs)
The Heirs of King Verica: culture & politics in Roman Britain by Martin Henig, Tempus 2002 ISBN 0-7524-1960-9.
Particularly interesting is his cultural commentary on Agricola, Mons Graupius (not a war historian).

Elphinstone lecture
MEMBERS may be interested in a contribution to the Elphinstone Institute’s programme for 2003 to be held in the Regent Lecture Theatre, University of Aberdeen: 18 February, 7:30pm Dr Emily Lyle of School of Scottish Studies Univ Edinburgh ‘The Guidman’s Craft & other special Places & Times’ £2.

17
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Solstice 2002 newsletter vol.XIII # 2

FOGS SUMMER SOLSTICE NEWSLETTER June 2002 XIII:2

Celestial phenomena: all change?

When beggars die there are no comets seen
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death
of princes
Calphurnia, ‘Julius Caesar’ II ii 30 W. Shakespeare

COMETS, eclipses and meteor showers all spelled some kind of heavenly portent to our ancestors, be they annually-anticipated Leonid and Perseid showers or, more ominous, a succession of lunar and solar eclipses.

The thrice-repeated Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces in 6 B.C. is well known as the presaging ‘star of Bethlehem’.

These two great planets became conjunct in 1980 and made a second appearance in April 2002, along with a myriad heavenly companions forming a line in our evening sky. A third return is yet to come (2009).

Already this year we have had two comet visitors – Utsunomiya at equinox and Ikeya Zhang, accompanied by the Pi Puppid shower for good measure, in time for Beltaine. If we were still of superstitious bent, might we not see the celestial portents in the same way as our ancestors viewed such displays: a changing of the old order; a birth of the new?

Bede d.735

Bede, author of Historia Ecclesiastica who died in AD735

‘A comet and many signs appeared in the sky’ in AD596 foretelling the deaths of Columba and Pope Gregory, according to the Annals of Ulster. In 734 another comet, ‘a great dragon’ seen in autumn, followed by thunder and a lunar eclipse on new year’s day 735, is said to have foretold the death of Bede. Charlemagne’s passing in 814 was marked by a total solar eclipse.

Closer to home, Pictish king Dubh, son of Malcolm was ambushed in Forres, his ancestral stronghold, and his body hidden under the bridge at Kinloss in July 966. His death coincided with a solar eclipse. Chronicle of Kings o Alba, the Pictish chronicle embedded within the Poppleton Manuscript stated:

‘the sun did not appear so long as he was concealed there.’

Medieval famines and plagues were invariably associated with comets and eclipses.

But there is hope. Virgil understood equinoctial precession, proclaiming (Christian) Age of Pisces a Golden Age, marked in the heavens by the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction. Pisces is presently giving way to the Age of Aquarius, long heralded as the next rung on the Earth’s ladder to ascension. He (Virgil) would no doubt have seen our troubled times, ‘working iniquity in secret’, as an inevitable prelude – again marked by the planetary giants – to a new tilting of earth’s axis, a new World-Age. ©2002MCY

FOGS Dowsing Day & July 2002 AGM
ALL FOGS are invited to attend our 2002 AGM on Sunday July 21 at 2p.m. at Midmar Kirk – carpark at kirkyard gate, map ref. NJ 699 065, approximately three miles West of Echt and within a rich prehistoric and early-historic landscape. We have never had an official dowsing day and so it is a bonus that Peter Donaldson and Phyllis Goodall have offered a ‘divining masterclass’ for members and guests with or without dowsing knowledge or experience. AGM business will be brief, so that the dowsing may begin immediately afterwards.

Recumbent stone circle within Midmar Kirk precinct, Echt Aberdeenshire

Midmar Kirk is, as many know, home to spectacular recumbent and flankers of a damaged stone circle, with a lesser-known outlying monolith a short distance north at Balblair. We have kindly been permitted to pitch a marquee at Balblair, but suggest you park at the kirk gate for convenience. Phyllis & Peter already have their own theories about this special landscape, but all will be revealed on the day. Bring a picnic or your own refreshment and be prepared to have your senses opened.

Balblair outlier of phallic shape stands north of Midmark Kirk stone circle in woodland

There is already a good set of circumstances to relate Midmar/Balblair to tree-girt Sunhoney stone circle, just one mile distant, and an avenue linking the sites has been detected. The remains of early historic ancestor to Ballogie (Midmar) Castle lie to the South on the Cunninghar motte, with tiny St. Nidan’s church nearby. Sightlines include Iron Age Barmekin of Echt and midsummer moonrise point Blackyduds of Hill of Fare, and more. This special opportunity is free to all FOGS, and guests are asked to contribute £3 to our ‘charity events’ box, but any guest wishing to join FOGS (annual membership £10 now due) is warmly welcome.

Oxford Prophets Conference

American initiative, the ‘Prophets Conference’ is an annual gathering of visionaries, sacred practitioners and speakers and authorities on ancient sites world-wide. This year it will hold its 16th congress at the famous debating chamber in Oxford Union – the first gathering in Europe – August 9th-11th 2002, with wrap-around dates of visits to nearby ancient sites Avebury, Rollright and Stonehenge [August 7, 8, 12]. In addition to a wide range of international speakers from various sacred traditions, the pilgrimages to local sacred sites will be conducted by author Paul Devereux with Templar historian Karen Ralls. Details and booking available on their website.

DUPPLIN returns to Strathearn

IN previous newsletters we have tried to keep you informed on developments surrounding the 9thC Dupplin Cross which formerly stood as guardian over the ancient Pictish capital of Forteviot in Strathearn.

Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, built of Moray sandstone

Taken to Edinburgh in 1998 for ‘conservation purposes’ [Historic Scotland], it appeared at the opening of the new Museum of Scotland as centrepiece for its ‘medieval’ collection. Now in March 2002, after some negotiation by local parishioners, it has been returned to Strathearn, not to its hillside position, but installed inside nearby St. Serf’s Church, Dunning.

St.Serf’s is a late 12thC church with original tower, on a 9thC Céli Dé (culdee) monastic site, rooted in the tradition of its founder Serf, who is notoriously hard to date, but probably 6thC. In Aberdeenshire, Serf is associated with pre-Reformation chapels at Monkeigie (Keith Hall) and Colpy and is known as the mentor of Mungo (Kentigern) who, in addition to having a cell at Kinnoir, Huntly, was subsequently bishop of Glasgow, where he died in 612.

Dupplin ninth century Pictish royal cross as it stood overlooking Forteviot


St.Serf‘s church at Dunning has a venerable tradition and, while we hope Historic Scotland will eventually place a plaque or other reminder of Dupplin‘s past on the Forteviot hillside, its new home is nothing if not welcome and local residents, aware of their heritage, are grateful at least for an appropriate reminder.

The great cross, inscribed with the name of its patron, king Custantin (d.820), founder of Dunkeld, is itself a masterpiece of 9thC Pictish craftsmanship. Its new setting is framed by an 11thC carved stone arch which supports the 12thC square tower. While two centuries separate the schools of carving , the soft lines of the arch somehow enhance the cross, carefully lit to advantage. Dunning can be proud.

CANMORE revitalized

MIDSUMMER was chosen by RCAHMS as time to unveil its new map service ‘CANMAP’- a revelation within its rather cumbersome database Canmore where searchers may access online maps of any chosen area in Scotland. A first over the rest of Great Britain.

New books
Shamanism ed. Neil Price ISBN 0-415 25255-5 a new compilation of essays: which succeeds in relating a prehistoric view of the world to modern magic.
Alba: Gaelic kingdom of Scotland AD800-1124 by Stephen Driscoll ISBN 1-84158 145-3 insight into the transitional kingdom co-ruled by Picts and Scots.




Cleopas

archives from Friends of Grampian Stones webpage

stones, historical

Blog Stats

  • 12,646 hits

NaNoWriMo 2010

October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

NaNoWriMo