Archive for the 'stone circles' 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

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

15
May
10

Friends of Grampian Stones Antiquities List Vol. XV #3 2004

DECEMBER 2004

Clatt Dolphin when it was embedded in Clatt kirkyard wall (now moved inside building)

FOGS Grampian SITES AND MONUMENTS RECORD of Antiquities submitted to HISTORIC SCOTLAND with our request for scheduling.*

*HISTORIC SCOTLAND has traditionally chosen which monuments it deems ‘suitable’ for protection (‘scheduling’). If it does not choose to schedule a monument, no responsibility is taken by this Scots state agency to protect such monuments, should any damage or disruption to such sites occur. In 2006 HS even suggested it was considering ‘delisting’ some sites. Thankfully none of these is in the Aberdeenshire area. FOGS, however, believes this is an unacceptable state of affairs in the 21st century and is doing everything in its power to change the bureaucratic view. The following list compiled by FOGS was received by Historic Scotland, but HS would not confirm whether any or all would ever receive protective ‘scheduling’.

FRIENDS OF GRAMPIAN STONES list of Scheduled (bold) and unscheduled stone monuments – with their map reference – within the former Grampian Region: the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, Moray and Kincardine (alternately known in cooncilspeak as Banff and Buchan; Gordon, Moray, Kincardineshire; since late 2006, historical county boundaries have been abolished – but only in cooncilspeak; not in the eyes of historians). The following list was presented to Historic Scotland and note taken by the keepers of the Grampian Site and Monuments Record. It is recorded here as an internet record of proceedins Perhaps a future Scots government will take more care of this irreplaceable resource. MC Youngblood 2009-2010

COUNTY-DISTRICT
[scheduled monuments appear in bold]

    MAP REFERENCE ANTIQUITY

ABERDEEN
NJ 859 044 Blacktop (Cottage) cup & ring-marked stone 190m NNW of
NJ 844 105 Clinterty Home Farm standing stone 130m N of

BANFFSHIRE AND BUCHAN
NJ 679 481 Hill of Laithers (Carlin) standing stone 490m N of Raecloch
NJ 722 498 St Congan’s Church and Class III Stone 450m NW of Bridge of Turriff
NJ 839 562 Upper Auchnagorth, stone circle 290m SE of
(A98 between New Pitsligo and New Byth)
NJ 983 415 Skelmuir Hill, standing stone 500m SW of South Howe
NJ 982 417 Skelmuir Hill, standing stone 500 m SW of South Howe
note: Skelmuir is littered with flint sherds from prehistoric workings

Afforsk Pictish Class IV cross-incised boundary stone between ancient church boundaries - Monymusk and Chapel of Garioch - at Afforsk

KINCARDINE AND DEESIDE
NJ 411 063 Blue Cairn, recumbent stone circle 320m WNW of Ladieswell Cottage
NJ 622 031 Gownieburn, standing stone 140m N of (Learney Stone)
NJ 616 036 Sundayswells Hill, ring cairn 540m W of West Learney
NJ 4865 0349 Tomnaverie recumbent stone circle, Tarland (restored) with outlier markers (solstice sun rise/sets)
NJ 504 054 Culsh Earth House, Tarland
aligned to solstitial sunset over Tomnaverie RSC in valley below; cupmarked entrance stone to passage (HS)
NJ 603 035 Balnacraig, recumbent stone circle 150m W of
NO 287 951 Abergeldie Castle, standing stone 120m S of
NO 524 990 Image Wood, stone circle 370m WSW of Mains of Aboyne
NO 503 998 St Machar’s Cross, cross 400m NNW of Dykehead
NO 780 976 Park House, Class I Pictish stone 100m N of
NO 703 957 Banchory Manse Wheel Cross, Class III stone in N wall of garden, Raemoir Road (FOGS: moved?)
NO301 962 Rinabaich Chapel and standing stone 200m SW of Bridge of Gairn Road (FOGS: Chapel Marjorie)
NO 774 794 Court Stone, standing stone 250m E of Mondynes farmhouse
NO 741 961 Milton of Crathes two class III Pictish stones
NO 706 957 Banchory-Ternan church and cross-slab in graveyard 110m S of church, corner main road and Raemoir road
NO 820 778 Moray Stone, standing stone 500m N of Mains of Barras, Arbuthnot
NO 875 895 Kempstone Hill, cairns and standing stones 500m NE of Standingstones (Muchalls)
NO 847 975 Standingstones, standing stone 250m SE of; Netherley Road, Maryculter (second stone destroyed)

Rear ogham discovery on Dyce Class II Pictish stone, retrieved and retained by HS

GORDON – Central Aberdeenshire
NJ 498 271 Rhynie Market Square, two Class III Pictish symbol stones
NJ 470 266 Brawland, cupmarked boulder 300m SW of
NJ 497 263 Crawstane, Pictish symbol stone and circular enclosure 300m NW of Barflat
see recent (2011) excavation
results from Universities of Aberdeen and Chester project
NJ 551 265 Tofthills stone circle and cross-inscribed stone 100m SSW of
NJ 549 271 Sunken Kirk (Tofthills) stone circle and Pictish Class IV cross-inscribed stone at NJ 552 266
NJ 592 255 Braehead recumbent stone circle and cupmarked stone 350m WSW of
NJ 579 251 Ringing Stone., cupmarked stone 430m WNW of Cotetown
NJ 538 259 Clatt Kirk Pictish Class I stones in kirkyard* one dolphin; other double disc
*since compiling this list one stone (double disc) has been lost, the other moved inside building, now community center with limited access
NJ 539 468 Hillhead of Avochie, cupmarked boulder 280m SW of
NJ 698 066 Balblair, standing stone phallus (Christchurch) 420m NNE of North Lurg
NJ 683 156 Deer Park, Monymusk stone circle 170m ESE of The Clyans
NJ 602 177 Castle Forbes carved stone 450m NNE of Moonhaugh
NJ 626 186 Casstle Forbes carved stone 620m SW of Moonhaugh
NJ 676 257 Gowk Stane (Max Hill) standing stone (destroyed stone circle) 220m SW of Old Westhall
NJ 664 264 Westerton of Petmathen standing stone 400m NNW of
NJ 669 326 Cairnhill Class III stone 120m ENE of cottage gatepost (Culsalmond quarry)
NJ 751 077 Dunecht House Class IV cross-incised stone 80m SSE of
NJ 738 083 Old Wester Echt (HS calls New Wester Echt) recumbent stone circe 170, SW of farmhouse New W.E.
NJ 748 096 Nether Corskie (HS: Upper Corskie) recumbent stone circle remnant with Pictish carved stone 530m SE
NJ 766 132 South Leylodge recumbent stone and flankers 150m E of
NJ 762 132 South Leylodge 2 standing stone 550m W of
NJ 761 133 South Leylodge 3 standing stone 720m WNW of
NJ 769 130 South Leylodge 4 standing stone 180m SSE of
NJ 763 129 Leylodge School standing stone 160m E of
NJ 764 128 Leylodge School 2 standing stone 300m E of
NJ 723 149 Lang Stane o’ Craigearn standing stone 45m N of Littlewood

8thC Pictish Class IV Cross-incised stone embedded in steading wall Kirkton of Bourtie

NJ 710 134 Woodend standing stone 300m N of
NJ 730 123 Braeneil standing stone 270m NNE of
NJ 760 237 East Balhalgardy Pictish Class I in N facing lintel window
NJ 800 249 Kirkton of Bourtie steading and Bourtie Kirkyard wall, Class IV 8thC Pictish incised cross stones emvedded in steading and wall
NJ 768 377 Fyvie Kirk Pictish Classes I and III stones embedded in church E wall
NJ 801 063 Gask (HS Springhill) standing stone 500m NNW of
NJ 816 138 Cairntraidlin Stone, standing stone 350m WSW of
NJ 802 146 Ferneybrae standing stone 80m NW of
NJ 821 143 Kinellar Kirk recumbent stone and flankers embedded in kirkyard perimeter wall
NJ 821 144 Kinnellar Kirk Pictish Class I stone in vestibule of disused kirk
NJ 823 106 Tertowie Nether Mains, standiing stone 100m NW of
NJ 915 146 Lochhills standing stone 310m E of Bishop’s Loch
NJ 958 304 St Mary’s Church, Ellon Class III carved stone in N wall
NJ 921 348 Candle Stane, standing stone 200m NE of Drumwhindle Croft
NJ 823 136 The Scotsmill Stane, standing stone 400m SE of Cairntradlin

Part of an eagle wing with bird's feet on an unscheduled carved Pictish stone in Forgue

MORAY

NJ 039 588 Rosebank, St Leonard’s Road, Forres symbol stone in garden wall
NJ 149 259 Balneilean Class I stone 400m N of Tomintoul Distillery (N bank River Avon)
NJ 194 504 Redtaingy standing stone 1350m SSE of Upper Glenchapel
NJ 152 683 Camus’s Stone cupmarked stone 175m SSE of Inverugie House
NJ 145 681 Gallowhill cup-and-ring-marked rocks 330m NE of Backlands of Roseisle
NJ 162 627 Knock of Alves stone circle 700m S of Newton House
NJ 209 278 Bridge of Nevie standing stone 200m NNE of

Whitestones House, Rothiemay garden wall, Drumblair bird? Also Bourtie cross-incised stones in steading and kirkyard wall
DES 1999:9 Tullo Hill, Drumblair, Forgue (illustrated) partial wing and feet of bird (supposed eaglestone), Pictish carved stone in woodland, unlisted (FOGS discovery)
DES 2002:11 Garden wall Rothiemay unlisted Pictish carved stone

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.

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

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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.

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09

Friends of Grampian Stones Autumn Equinox newsletter 2002 Vol.XIII #3

FOGS AUTUMN EQUINOX NEWSLETTER Vol XIII no.3 September 2002

Venus Pillars and Solar Dogs

Archaeoastrononomical Sunset into a horizon 'notch'

Sunset in Northeast Scotland, at equinox due West; at solstice at NNW

EQUINOX is traditionally the season for getting back to the time-old occupation of watching sunset, full-moonrise and the autumn heavens. It is onset of the aurora season when for some inexplicable reason there is more geomagnetic actiivity (related to solar flares) and, it seems, the time for other celestial phenomena. These include nacreous clouds – those wonderful ephemeral patches of rainbow light which appear and as suddenly disappear around the edges of evening cirrus. There have been seen lately a lot of what in American terminology are called sun-pillars and sun-dogs (in the case of Venus, Venus-dogs!) where the pillar describes a shaft of light extending vertically from the light body and the dog a similar extension of light in a lateral direction. With the gradual brightening of Venus, the chance of seeing this phenomenon becomes more likely.

full moonrise occurs at NNE opposite the setting sun (SSW) on winter solstice

midwinter full moonrise in the north-north-east at latitude 57ºN

Sun-pillars are a regular feature of sunset around autumn equinox, even lingering as a great shining after the sun has set. With the continuation of our spell of ‘Indian summer’ and exceptional clarity of light, we aren’t surprised to find a phalanx of photographers most evenings at the well-known recumbent circles in the Northeast and some even at those lesser-known.

On equinox night, a magnificent solar ‘roll-down’ occurred, as seen from Shieldon (non-recumbent) circle at NJ 823 249 near Whiterashes, due west to the Buck of the Cabrach where a little before 7pm (BST) the flaming orb of an equinoctial sun did its primeval tumble down the northern slope, setting into a notch of the Cabrach (Alexander Thom eat your heart out!) and flooding the Garioch with an almost ethereal light. It is no wonder that FOGS who were considered ‘fringe’ 20 years ago are now being joined by a growing number of sky-watchers: all meeting by chance in the stone circles of Aberdeenshire, Kincardine and Banffshire to witness such autumnal glory.

We think the practice is catching on!
©2002MCY

Crop Circle but not a Crop Circle

winter solstice 2002, shadows of a stone/crop circle

Hybrid stone/crop circle at winter solstice 2002

CIRCLE-watchers may have noticed a sudden straw bale sculpture appearing as if by the wave of a cosmic wand on the Garioch-dominating plateau at Kirkton of Bourtie, NJ 801 249. However, unlike the crop circle which appeared mid-morning on an August day in 1995 in a wheat crop on a Culsalmond farm, the circular structure at Bourtie is decidedly man-made. It is the inspiration of sculptor Keiji Nagahiro, combined with dowser Peter Donaldson and farmer Ian Peddie, who with broad grin from tractor cab manipulated bulky but beautiful round bales into position (no mean feat) while the ideas men looked on and directed the final shape in an attempt to replicate the circle’s original alignment. Its ultimate position – a recumbent circle in straw – is all things to all men – or at least to these three: to one it is a fleeting glimpse of what might have been, created in rustic splendour to last no more than a single season; to another, it was something fun to do after harvest but before the ‘back end’ dictates when everything is brought in; to the dowser it is a physical shape superimposed on an energy signal received by the dowsing rod. It has been a fascinating exercise in people-watching: on the day it was created – one week before equinox – two Californians strolled up the slope, utterly unsurprised by the manifestation. BBC Radio Scotland was quick to send a researcher who was transported by the site, its structure and its vista. Others have followed, often spotting the sculpture from the road and screeching to a halt, entranced. Our members have only a little time to see it in its present glory as the farming year and equinoctial gales (so far, amazingly absent) will soon dictate its being or non-being. We recommend it, if only for the presence it brings to this ancient place, in a way regenerating in the imagination how the circle must have looked to its early architects 5000 years ago. To FOGS who follow shadow casts (especially good at equinox), the bales add another dimension to shadow outlines in barley stubble while low sunlight highlights cropmarks of an avenue approaching the circle, peppered with quartz pebbles, a hallmark of NE circle design. The imagination soars.

Post scriptum on above article: Google Earth continues to display this sculptural-stroke-agricultural-energetic phenomenon: as the aerial photo used in their GoogleEarth page for Kirkton on Bourtie will show. This clearly dates GoogleEarth’s map coverage of Aberdeenshire to the autumn and winter of 2002.

Untimely death

IT IS with sadness that we have to announce the untimely death of Dr Nick Bogdan, one of the leaders of the Fetternear Episcopal Palaces Project this autumn. He will be greatly missed. At this time it is difficult to predict how the work in which he was involved will continue, but his partner and fellow archaeologist, Dr Penny Dransart has our blessing and condolences. We wish her well in continuing the work they both began and will report when future plans are further developed.

Druidsfield Saved

FOGS might be forgiven for thinking our efforts often go unseen or, more colloquially, that we spit in the wind; but occasionally, a success is eeked out through perseverence. Such is the case with the Druidsfield (known to Historic Scotland as Broomend of Crichie) ritual henge, avenue entrance and Pictish carved stone at Port Elphinstone, Inverurie NJ779 191-6. We added our voice to local opposition to a plan for development of a certain hamburger chain to adjoin the circle and ditch – visions of half-eaten buns and related waste floating in a prehistoric context made more than FOGS’ hair curl, it seems. Thanks in great part to Inverurie businessman Bob Minto and his supporters, the burger meisters will find another site and the Druidsfield will continue to provide pleasure for local walkers. It has been reported that this very field has been acquired by Aberdeenshire Council, for unknown purpose and for an undisclosed sum. Locals are again on the warpath. We shall confirm.

FOGS Dowsing Day & AGM

MIDWAY through a week of solid rain, FOGS’ AGM turned out to be one of brilliant sunshine with not a cloud in sight. Dowsers – new and experienced – were seen lurking, bending, pacing, doing all the bodily antics that dowsers do among remnant woodland near Midmar Kirk. Visitors were drawn from Dundee, Glasgow and Inverness, along with a full complement of regular FOGS who seemed to enjoy every minute. Results not all yet in, but preliminary consensus would have it that the Midmar Kirk recumbent circle may be a later progression, with its operative stones moved a few metres downslope from an original site focused on the Balblair monolith nearby. A visiting Dundee lecturer in architecture specializing for his Ph.D. in geomancy [yes] said he came because the grid between latitudes 56º and 58ºN are considered ‘most sacred and most proliferated with stone circles in the world’ (his quote) and he wanted to feel it for himself. We are grateful to Phyllis Goodall and Peter Donaldson for leading the dowsing and encouraging so many newbies. More meetings of the like were enthusiastically recommended. Printouts of the dowsed circle will no doubt appear in due course but, as our scientist-dowser is now our new membership sec, please give the man a chance! In the meantime, his consummate dowsing and mapping of recumbent stone circle and Bronze Age cemetery at Loanhead of Daviot is here.

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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.

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09

Friends of Grampian Stones 2002 Candlemas newsletter Vol.XIII #1

FEBRUARY CANDLEMAS NEWSLETTER 2002 Vol.XIII-1
Return of the Light

IMBOLC (Christian Candlemas) brings new light, the rise of spring, bird nesting activity, anticipation of the warmth and fecundity to come.

While markers within Neolithic stone circles were probably well-known to the contemporary population, we sometimes forget that each stone had its solar as well as its lunar function. We sometimes forget to experience sunset at all.

Sunset at Easter Aquhorthies one mile West of Inverurie is always a revelation. At Imbolc it is defined by a clear shadow of the recumbent ‘window’ group falling on two stones to the north of the shimmering jasper stone at the modern entrance. As sunset approaches in early February, one is mesmerized by the advancing shadow as it creeps towards the two smaller circumference stones. Precisely at the moment of sunset, they align exactly and then both sun and shadow are extinguished.

The jasper stone alone, it seems, holds a memory of the light, continuing to twinkle and gleam until dusk. Its quality of reflecting light must indeed have been revered.

Other miracles of light seem to happen at this time, significant to much later civilizations. The Hill of Barra, NJ803 257, has no known stone circle, but was an enclosed ramparted settlement of the Iron Age which continued as a hilltop stronghold in the Pictish era. From its summit, accessible via the Bourtie-Meldrum Community Walk, at least five stone circles are visible, but most compelling is the uninterrupted view of Mither Tap of Bennachie. Around 5pm, weather permitting, for 10 nights in mid-February the sun and Mither Tap do a dance. For the week of Imbolc, Bennachie’s mass engulfs the sun, swallowing the orb low into Mither Tap. But midway through this time period, a change occurs and she agrees to spit the sun back out! On February 17th, the sun starts its sunset roll into Mither Tap, is received by the mother mountain at 5pm and reappears seven minutes later on her northern crag. This rebirth, even to time-worn eyes, is a surprise. Mother mountain has given birth to the sun! One dimly understands the joy of celebration, seasonal change.The sun is almost playful in this rite of passage, setting for the next week in more of a roll than an extinction, as each of the peaks in turn along her broad back appears to rise to swallow its fire. ©2002MCY

Ringing in Changing Seasons

A FEW weeks of unseasonably fine weather called for a FOGS-run experiment at Garioch stone circles in central Aberdeenshire.

There are many 18th and 19thCC references to ringing stones at Grampian circles – among them Easter Aquhorthies, Balquhain, the Standing Stones of Dyce and Arnhill, Tillytarmont. For good measure a small group of FOGS tried to produce effects at a number of circles. Results were especially good where surrounding stones remain complete, and gave an amphitheatre of sound. One person struck or played a musical instrument within the inner ‘sanctuary’ or preciinct enclosed by the recumbent stone and flankers, while listeners stood or walked to various points within the circle.

At Easter Aquhorthies and Loanhead of Daviot, the best point for receiving the sound was on a mound [E.A.] or stone platform [Loanhead] marginally to N of centre where string chords or even voice reduced to a whisper were quite audible. At Easter Aquhorthies there is a kind of ‘tuning fork stone’ projecting inwards from the centre of the massive recumbent; it may have been set strategically as a sounding board because the human voice carries remarkably well from this stone – its vibrations spreading out and reverberating not only through the circle amphitheatre, but also creating a secondary echo resonance.

The group repeated the exercise at Loanhead, where there is no such ‘sounding’ stone, but where the recumbent is split in two. Hands clapped between the two slabs resulted in echoes felt by participants throughout the inner circle. Again the group tried the voice experiment at Kirkton of Bourtie circle – a damaged monument with much stone clearance clutter, and while they could feel resonance, much of the effect seemed to disperse, with no amphitheatre to ‘capture’ the sound.

Ultra- and infra-sound experiments recently replicated by groups in south Britain and at New Grange in the Boyne valley in Ireland, including much sophisticated equiment, gave sonic waves graphically recorded’.

The effect on our FOGS observers, to say the least, was tantalizing and exciting enough to suggest yet another side to the rituals enacted by Neolithic celebrants to mark the changing seasons.

Charting the Nation
CHARTING the Nation’ is a three year collaborative digital imaging and cataloguing project, whose primary aim is to widen access via the web to historic maps of Scotland and associated archives dating from 1590 to 1740. It is led by two researchers at the University of Edinburgh, Charles Withers and Andrew Grout.

one of 30 bull stones which ringed the Pictish promontory fort

Bull carved stone, one of 30 originally surrounding Pictish Burghead

UMOs
HENRY Moore Institute Leeds is currently showing a rare glimpse of Unidentified Museum Objects on loan from the British Museum. They include the unique phallic Portsoy whetstone, a carved ball and a Burghead bull. Sadly the exhibition will not travel farther north and so any FOGS keen to see the rarities will have until the end of the month to visit the Henry Moore Institute, Headway, Leeds. For non-travellers, details on the British Museum website.

Roman discoveries at Birnie

Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus

Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus (AD192-211)

TWO surprise hoards of Roman coins have been found in an Iron Age context at Birnie, Moray. In last year’s excavation, curator of Iron Age and Roman
archaeology with the National Museums of Scotland Fraser Hunter was delighted when a pot of Roman denarii turned up in excavations at an Iron Age settlement outside Elgin. The pot was broken, but contained some 300 coins dating to the reign of emperor Severus, last to attempt conquest of Pictish Caledonia, nearly 1800 years ago. Early this year another clay pot was unearthed – this one entire and undamaged – only 10 yards away from the former hoard. Both are in NMS undergoing conservation and examination.

‘Spiritual’ Tourism

FOGS has added its voice to two national bodies attempting to moderate the state-dominated attitude to digging up the past. It is based on our members’ respect for sacred sites in our own area and on the premise that laser scan and sonic technology [archaeoptics and infrasound] can arguably be used to better effect than digging into and disturbing a sacred space with the possibility of loss of ‘finds’.

‘Spiritual’ tourism – one which takes account of people’s need to visit a site for its sacredness in an atmosphere conducive to contemplation – is supported by the Cruithni Charter, ASLaN (AncientSacred Landscape Network) and countryside organizations, including SNH, Friends of the Earth, Council for Rural England and others concerned for the historic landscape. As ever, our view puts emphasis on education, in order to prevent degradation or defacement. Additional URLs: here and here.

Copyright ©2002-2009 FOGS & MCY

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.




Cleopas

archives from Friends of Grampian Stones webpage

stones, historical

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