What The Architecture Tells Us

Marianne Elizabeth and Book

Marianne, Elizabeth and Book (B Bell)

By Bernie Bell

Mike and I went to the Pier Arts Centre on Saturday afternoon, for a book presentation and talk about Marianne Pollich’s book ‘What The Architecture Tells Us’.  The book and its illustrations are the combined work of Marianne and her friend Elisabeth Holder, who has been an artist in residence at the dig at the Ness of Brodgar this year.  The initial book launch was at the Orcadian bookshop on the 4th August, and the exhibition of Elisabeth’s art-work is still to be seen there, upstairs, until Thursday the 24thAugust

This got me thinking about when we first met Marianne and Elisabeth at Maes Howe in 2009.

We’d seen a piece in the ‘Orcadian’, about an event due to take place in Maes Howe on the 27th, 28th and 29th December.  The idea was, that  people would do toning and singing in the cairn.  There was also an exhibition of art-work in Tormiston Mill.  The music concept was the idea of a lady called Marianne Pollich, and the art-work was by her friend Elisabeth Holder.  We booked for the 27th, and went along, but it couldn’t take place, as the path to Maes Howe was, literally, a sheet of ice.  This did mean, however, that we got talking with the two ladies involved, Marianne & Elisabeth.

Thing is, Mike & I both have a strong interest in the use of sound at the ancient sites.  Not just the cairns, some of the stones have resonance too.  (If you’re interested, check out Paul Devereaux‘s work, and Aaron Watson’s work.)

Everything has its own frequency.  Vibration is sound, or vice-versa.  So, Healing comes into it when something in a person has lost its frequency balance, and, for those that can do it, Sound Healing can help to restore that balance, and restore a person’s natural frequency.  Maybe sound was used at the ancient sites for other purposes, maybe to achieve altered states of consciousness (who needs drugs?!), or to achieve altered states of consciousness to achieve healing, or for something else, who knows?

What Mike & I, and quite a few other folk, are sure of, is that sound was an important factor in the construction of the ‘stony places’.  So…. What happened in Maes Howe, was astounding.  I believe that it’s the nearest we can get to how it used to be.  My ‘vision’ of this, was a person in each of the side chambers, each with their own tone, then 4 people in the centre, with one tone.  The people in the side chambers, make their own sounds, and the people in the centre joined in, to make one, big sound.  This is how I’ve ‘seen’ it.

This wasn’t what happened at the cairn on that Monday.

Before I continue, on Sunday night, when I went to bed, I asked for the path to be clear, if that was for the best, and if that was what was needed.  The answer was, simple, “The Path is clear”, repeated, twice.  So, Monday, we got to Maes Howe, and a fresh layer of light snow had fallen, so we could walk there with ease.  They don’t call me a weirdy lady for nothin’!

So, The Mayfield Singers started toning and singing.  The stones of the cairn, took up the sound, and held it, whilst also pouring it back to us.  It was just stunning.  Mike has a recurring back problem, during the toning, the sound brought the pain to the surface, and he says it hurt like hell!!  It then dispelled it.  Healing sound indeed.  It just about beggars description.

What I’ve written above, is an attempt.  In ‘The White Goddess’, Robert Graves suggests that, possibly the beginning of poetry was incantations and spells.  I wonder if the beginning of what we call music, was the toning and sounds used at the stony places.  Though those sounds are music in themselves.

After the music, we went back and had a proper look at the exhibition of Elisabeth’s paintings, and the script which accompanies them, which is a wonder in itself.

It was an amazing experience, and, once again, we felt how we can only experience such things because we live here, on Orkney.  There are plenty of sites, and plenty of people aware of what those sites were about, but how often does someone get the chance to bring their concept to life in this way?

Marianne, Elisabeth, Mike and I have kept in touch since then.  When they visit Orkney they come and walk the spiral in our garden ( see ‘I can hear the grass grow’ in ‘The Orkney News’), and have tea and biscuits and a catch up.  So, Mike and I have been aware of Marianne’s plans for her book for some time, and now that the plan has come to fruition, we can buy the book and read what she has to say.


Poster (B Bell)

Marianne and Elisabeth have visited numerous ancient sites – mention somewhere, and they’ve been there.  It should be an interesting read. And, Elisabeth’s illustrations? Well, a couple of years ago Elisabeth gave us  a small print of one of her images of the entrance to Taversoe Tuick.  We have it framed and placed in quite a dark corner in the room we call the office – why in a dark corner? – because it brings light, into the darkness.

Marianne Pollich text

Elisabeth Holder text

Bernie Bell is a regular contributor to The Orkney News


6 replies »

  1. Really interesting article. If memory serves,there’s also an ‘acoustically perfect’ cell in Crossrageul Abbey in Ayrshire…
    Thanks for the article…

  2. Thank you , Fiona. This means that folk still have time to go and see the exhibition.
    PS – as Marianne read an extract from her book, telling of when she went into a cairn on Eday, she took us with her – I look forward to reading it for myself, and going there again!

Leave a Reply