Posts Tagged ‘sunset

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.

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17
Nov
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.

17
Nov
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




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