Monday, 30 July 2012

The Druid Stones

This small stone circle is also known as the Druid's Circle and is situated just beyond the northeastern edge of the southern end of Harwood Dale Forest on Standingstones Rigg close to several cairn and barrow. There are originally thought to have been around 24 stones here with the 15 that remain set into a low 14 metre earth bank, the circle itself having a diameter of 8 metres - it is possible that the earth mound extended over, and covered the stones but has since been eroded away leaving the circle visible. The tallest of the stones measures just over a metre in height while most of the others are much shorter and many are leaning outwards. In the centre of the circle are three uprights which are believed to have formed part of a burial cist - four of the stones from this cist were decorated with cup and ring marks and have since been removed to Scarborough Museum. Harwood Dale probably dates from the Bronze Age.

The majority of stone circles found in Britain are often situated on open ground - this may be due in part to the relativly modern practice of de-forestation and land cultivation. The fact that this stone circle stands on the boundaries of Harwood Dale forest gives the visitor the opportunity to easily imagine what the site may have looked like when is was completely surrounded by dense woodland. 

This image shows three stones on the outer edge of the circle - the one in the centre has what appears to be a large pre-Christian cross carved into it, whilst the large stone on the left has a small hole running diagonally from North to South through it's centre.

In the foreground of this picture are the three stones at the centre of the circle, which are believed to have made up part
of the burial cist.

This elongated stone is all that remains of the cist burial chamber - the depression to the right is probably where the body would have been laid out.

The Silver Birch tree ( like the two pictured above ) may have played a part in some of the rituals and ceremonies performed on this site in ancient times. The tree has strong fertility connections with the celebrations of Beltane, the second, summer, half of the Celtic year (nowadays celebrated as May Day). Beltane fires in Scotland were ritually made of birch and oak, and a birch tree was often used as a, sometimes living, maypole. As birch is one of the first trees to come into leaf it would be an obvious choice as representation of the emergence of spring. Deities associated with birch are mostly love and fertility goddesses, such as the northern European Frigga and Freya. Eostre (from whom we derive the word Easter), the Anglo Saxon goddess of spring was celebrated around and through the birch tree between the spring equinox and Beltane. According to the medieval herbalist Culpepper, the birch is ruled over by Venus - both the planet and the goddess. According to Scottish Highland folklore, a barren cow herded with a birch stick would become fertile, or a pregnant cow bear a healthy calf.
Trees Of Life - Mythology And Folklore Of The Birch

Genus Loci - The spirit of place

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