Archive for the 'Celtic saints' Category

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.

15
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Fall newsletter 2001 vol.XII #4

FOGS Newsletter FALL 2001 volume XII NO.4

Dycegoodall

5000-year old Dyce recumbent stone circle overlooks modern airport

2001 Year of Contemplation (written after September 11)

It is perhaps at times of world crisis that thoughts turn to what we have done and what we can still do for our planet.

FOGS have traditionally supported both heritage and environment and, given the possibility of public funds becoming less fluid, we in Banffshire, Aberdeenshire, Kincardineshire and Moray can be proud of our private involvement in conserving our unique cluster of sacred monuments.

While we mourn with our American brothers and sisters the loss of fellow travellers, we also spare a thought for those in Afghanistan who may have lost everything.

Our own heritage is not in immediate danger of being wiped out by a sudden coup, but we are well to remain alert to changes which may happen as a result of consolidation within Europe. Umbrellas, after all, should provide basics, i.e. shelter.

While there remains a significant gap between FOGS’ concept and that of deskbound administrators in a government department of what is of ancient and historical importance, there is still a place for us to keep our ‘on-the-ground’ vigil.

Aikey Brae recumbent stone circle and flankers

5000-year old Aikey Brae recumbent stone circle, Aberdeenshire

Stones are not only fine places to visit for inspiration and a great view, but they remind us how our founding farming communities were motivated:

to mark as sacred the changes in season, on the whim of Mother Nature who still provides us with beauty all around if we have eyes to see it;
or, like the Picts, the demarcation of land by the placing of sacred stones for all to see.

While none of us would want to return to days of invoking earth spirits with sacrificial offerings in order to stay famine or plague, it is not without purpose that the Northeast remains one of the most beautiful landscapes in which to contemplate our beginnings – and possibly even our endings.

People worldwide right now are contemplating their spiritual home; their genuine priorities, their way forward. Perhaps for us it is to show to others what Nature [with a little help from her FOGS friends] has kept alive these past 5000 years: call them sacred sites, power points, places of astronomical anomaly or community focus – what you will – they are on our doorstep, part of our spiritual heritage and worthy of our attention. ©2001MCY

Another Pictish cross-stone

simple Christian Pictish cross embedded in kirkyard wall

Pictish early Christian cross reused in kirkyard wall, Bourtie, Inverurie

While attention is focused on stones – even local press have dropped their usual confrontational items to cover the county-wide survey by RCAHMS – it is comforting to know that there are still stones to be ‘discovered’ after generations of stone-hunting.

Bourtie steading crossfront

Pictish 8thC cross stone embedded in steading, Kirkton of Bourtie Aberdeenshire

Found recently, embedded in a farm steading at Bourtie, is another incised cross-stone, similar in design and date to that sited in the coping of the kirkyard wall surrounding the ancient little church on its hillside setting E of Inverurie. The second find is yet another example of seventh/eighth century traffic of missionaries through the Northern Pictish territories at a time when the spread of Christianity was in its infancy. Such crosses are simply cut, usually in a semi-portable stone, with no other ornament. It has been suggested they mark ‘pillows’ of the saints who converted individual communities.

doormigvieb&w

Door to church at Migvie, carved to commemorate the Pictish stone in the kirkyard

Invariably, later medieval practice was to incorporate such cross-stones within church lands or, like a similar [larger] stone at Afforsk [NJ696 208], to mark church boundaries. The Bourtie stone is built into the steading in a horizontal position [NJ804 249], unlike another early cross-stone in Inverurie which is built upright into the wall of the Freemasons’ Hall [NJ777 214] on the High Street. Sadly two further cross-stones in Inverurie at the Castlleyards [Bass kirkyard], remarked on by James Ritchie in 1911, are now lost. However there are still remarkable examples of this type of sculpture at Monymusk, Cothal-Fintray, Tullich, Migvie, Dyce and Dunecht.

Dyce Symbol Stones update

Dyce Class II stone to be rehoused at Aberdeen

Dyce Class II Pictish stone with elaborate fish-tail ogham on rear

FOGS have been wondering when the Pictish symbol stones and their companion cross-stones are to return to St Fergus’s kirk, Dyce, as promised by Historic Scotland, who removed them to Edinburgh in 1997. Recent response to our request for an update indicates that Historic Scotland are providing funds for Aberdeen City Council to do the work of consolidating the kirk. FOGS have offered to assist in a small way, e.g. with the provision of an interpretative signboard, once work is completed and a new shelter is in place. According to Historic Scotland CEO Graeme Munro, this may not materialize until 2002. Dyce stones may be viewed meantime by appointment at S.Gyle Conservation Centre [HS].

RCAHMS forges on
Following exclusive coverage in our spring newsletter and your many letters to Parliament in support of RCAHMS, the unsung heroes of the Royal Commission’s ground force are continuing their massive survey of Aberdeenshire, the last county in the series begun in 1908. While much has been added to the National Monuments Record over recent decades, we await results with interest as the ‘Strathdon’ survey turns over every rock. Watch this space.

Fetternear’s bonus discoveries
Following their kind invitation to hold our 2001 AGM at the medieval Bishops’ palace of Fetternear, team project directors Drs Penny Dransart and Nick Bogdan excitedly revealed an array of new discoveries at the excavation site outside Kemnay. In addition to expected evidence on the enormous size of the palace grounds, it appears to have been the successor to a series of sacred buildings, with earlier [Bronze Age] settlement occupation on high ground at the palace rear.

Also on this plateau were found worked flint and other tools linking the site to possible earlier use of the ground in both Neolithic and even Mesolithic periods.

James Kenworthy, Paul Gerderd and a keen group of volunteers [both student and FOGS-based] assisted the progress of work on this most intriguing summer project. If further funding can be secured to ensure an eighth season in 2002, it is possible the true strategic significance of Fetternear within the history of the Pictish Church in the North may become clear.

It is also thought that its Jesuit links at the Reformation are an indication of its dominance as an ecclesiastical centre, dating not only to the time of the Norman kings, but to a place of sacred sanctuary or monastic foundation, the focus of education, pastoral care and religious works from the Pictish era, when eighth-century Class II Christian carved stones begin to appear. Because of the very few Class II stones within Aberdeenshire [by comparison with a relative bevvy of such beauties in Moray, around Elgin, Spynie, Gordonstoun, centred on Kinneddar], any discoveries of this kind of sculpture at Fetternear would make the project directors very happy indeed.

15
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones All Hallows newsletter 2000 vol.XII # 1

All Saints Newsletter Vol. XII number 1 November 1st 2000
(Includes scheduling of Auchmaliddie all-quartz stone circle by Rt.Hon. Alex Salmond, M.P. & obit for Rt. Hon. Donald Dewar, First Minister for Scotland)

stpirancross

Picts were converted to Christianity by early Brittonic saints

SAINTS AND ANCESTORS
WITH AUTUMN rolling into winter and little hope of a reprieve to help us through the impending dark, it is not difficult to see why early-mediaeval faith had its focus in the Celtic saints whose prayers, blessings and shield (lorica) could guide, protect and give light and whose relics – staff (Ir. bachuill, Lat. baculum), cloak and gospel book – held a power as potent as the saint himself to heal and give strength.

In an early Celtic society which believed more colourfully in the intercession by God and all saints with man, the faith shared by simple monks who travelled the realm to convert and preach to the people of Pictland was a tangible belief for people who already had respect for age and listened to wisdom. Ancestors were after all, only the wise ones in another place and the recitation of one’s genealogy kept that sacred connection alive.

Latin manuscripts which survive from early-Historic (or so-called ‘Dark Age’) times are redolent with terms which mean little in today’s usage, but which reveal the importance of ancestry to people then. Most of us understand the use of Lat. filius, son and nepos, grandson (sometimes used as a general term for ‘descendant’), but probably only modern genealogists would get excited about any generation further back than a third great.

It is therefore illuminating to see in the 9thC Pictish Chronicles frequent use of terms such as Lat. atavus for fifth-time ancestor, or, translated into a family history context: one’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather.

Alexander III coronation at Scone being regailed by the bard

Alexander III was greeted at his coronation with recitation of her genealogy


When John of Fordun wrote his Kronikill in 1363, he gave an elaborate account of (for him) a recent historical event: the coronation of Alexander III in July 1249. This was notable not only because the king was a seven-year old boy, but also because of a striking occurrence at Scone. After the boy was consecrated on the coronation stone and had received homage by earls and nobles, he was suddenly hailed by a ‘mountain-man’ who saluted him in his mother tongue:

‘Benach de Re Alban Alexander mac Alexander mac William mac Henri mac David mac Malcolm.. (‘blessing on king of Scots’) repeating his royal lineage back to its source.’

If we have forgotten this connection or feel no need for saints or our ancestral roots, is it not our own loss?

Elizabeth Allan & Donald Dewar
IT IS WITH sadness that we note a joint achievement by a member and our first First Minister, who both died this year, no doubt wishing their deeds to be unsung. However because of their interest, progress was made:Mrs Allan pointed out the awesome beauty of the abandoned quartz stone circle of Auchmaliddie in New Deer. [See newsletters Vol.X no.4 &Vol.XI number 1, Jan. 2000]. Following our request to the First Minister to have it scheduled, the Rt.Hon. Donald Dewar initiated the process which resulted in its becoming a priority for scheduling on Historic Scotland’s list. We mourn their passing but thank them both for making a difference.

RCAHMS to lose Royal Warrant
Following exclusive coverage in our spring newsletter and your many letters to Parliament in support of RCAHMS, within the Scottish Executive review of Public Bodies, FOGS may have been instrumental in saving the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland from becoming disbanded or ‘un-departmentalised’. However we, among hundreds of individuals and heritage groups who wrote to the Scottish Executive in support of RCAHMS, have been unable to preserve it intact. In a thank you letter received from the Royal Commission, FOGS’ support is acknowledged, along with others who appreciate RCAHMS’ unique archival status, but a national outcry [albeit an esoteric one] was unable to save the Commission from losing its royal patronage. It appears that the Scots Parliament, while maintaining the important role which RCAHMS plays in recording the archaeological and historic man-made environment, believes that ‘further consideration be given to exploring a modern alternative to executive non-departmental public body status’. Procedures are already in hand for removal of the Royal Warrant. The reason given to the Commission by Allan Wilson is that ‘Royal Commission status is, I believe, only appropriate for bodies set up to undertake specific tasks over a finite period.’ For some reason, Ministers also believe a change of name would be ‘helpful in order to achieve greater transparency for the public both in understanding the important work it carries out and to encourage wider access to valuable public facilities.’ One wonders whether the gross funding required to implement this ‘visibility’ review and name change could not have been better spent in a large grant to continue the Commission’s dedicated work. It is also worthy of note that the Scots minister writing to the Commission does not even get its title right, so perhaps a dumbing down was felt necessary for some in office. In the tone of the ministerial letter, is it only our impression that the review body could find no fault in 95 years of meticulous recording, but felt it had to change something, and so concocted the removal of Royal status? Whatever our regrets may be, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the Scots Parliament chose not to merge it with any other public body, nor to dilute its work by some other arbitrary means. RCAHMS Chairman Kathleen Dalyell feels our written support categorically made a difference. She states: ‘your support was, quite clearly, material in achieving this result and for that I offer you Commissioners’ best thanks.’

HISTORIC SCOTLAND is conducting a survey on the state of carved stones in Scotland, hoping to find solutions to prevent further decay. Volunteers may telephone 01313 668 8668 for free methodology handbook or Email cbrown.hs.scb@gtnet.gov.uk

©2000-2009MCY




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archives from Friends of Grampian Stones webpage

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