By Bernie Bell
4) Sent to one of my favourite archaeologists – May 2015
“We’ve just been to Ireland for nearly 3 weeks, mostly in the Bru Na Boinne area.
Newgrange – is Newgrange. I’ve been there before, a couple of times, many years ago, when it was a much more ‘real’ experience, refused to go, last time, when I saw the circus it had become. This time, I prepared myself, by telling myself I was going, for the cairn, and not to pay any attention to the rest of it. That worked, and it was a good visit, except, they had too many people in the cairn. It was crazy, folk couldn’t see the carvings, as we were in there, like sardines. Mike actually had his back pressed against the triple spiral ( lucky Mike!). The guide was good, and did what she could, but…………..
(NB The big stone in front of the entrance to Newgrange, looks awful like the carved stone found at Pierowall, on Westray. I know, it’s Westray, not Brodgar, but….well….)#
Then, Knowth….never been there before. What can I possibly say, about Knowth? Many souterrains, which, if they are for initiation, could fit with the whole idea of the place being such a big deal, over such a long time – linked to kings and all that. See what I mean though? Many souterrains – it may have been a status thing, to have your initiation ( or your child’s initiation) at Knowth rather than anywhere else, because the whole place, was such a big deal. An idea.
Another thing, which folk must have noticed…..there’s a kerbstone with a quadruple ‘horseshoe’ shape carving on it. A double horseshoe shape, with its own mirror image.
(N.B Officially, it known as a horned spiral – I didn’t know that when I wrote this)
It’s very, very like the carving found at Smerquoy.
To Andrew Appleby – July 2015
“You tell me that ‘Finger Stones’ have been found under some of the thresholds at Smerquoy, and liken them to the phallic stones, which are sometimes found at ancient sites? ‘Finger Stones’ / ‘Phallic Stones’. In the film ‘Letter to Breshnev’, one of the characters, when asked if she fancies someone, replies “I’d rather sit on my finger”. Say no more. The weird thing is, that today, all things sexual have become so ‘open’, or, supposedly so, while there’s a strange prudery about, parts of the body, and basic aspects of life. It’s another thing, I thought, while reading ‘Skara’…….haven’t they made a strange and tortuous business, of things sexual, these days? It looks like it’s all to do with appearance, and, I don’t quite know the right words………..show, brashness, pushiness, loudness – all very strained, somehow. Do you know what I mean? The mating, in ‘Skara’ is always straight-forward, done because of attraction, a connection, just because folk ………….want to ( and, it’s good for the blood-lines). Today, there are blatant images, everywhere, a kind of rabid impulse ( maybe knowing the end may be near?). I don’t know………but, at the same time, a ridiculous prudery about totally simple, natural things.
Again, I suppose I grew up differently, with animals mating, giving birth, people giving birth – it’s all part of life. Now, the children often don’t appear to have any idea about the basics, the real basics, whilst having horribly technical, sanitized ‘sex education’ at school.
When we lived in Suffolk, I was appalled at the ‘sex education’ my friend’s girls were being given in school. It was completely devoid of feeling…..text book learning. Thankfully, they were a farmers children, so I thought they’d probably get a good idea, anyway.
There are two kinds of cock-rock – the kind folk find at ancient sites, and the kind that Robert Plant did, in his hey-day!”
And, to a very patient archaeologist……………..
“Roo and I have been discussing cock-rocks, recently – what’s a cock-rock? This is a cock-rock……………………..
Here’s a picture, from the Bru Na Boinne visitor Centre exhibition, of what is, in fact labelled a ‘Phallic Stone’ which was found in Knowth. I call it the Cock Rock!
Notice the ‘horseshoe’ shape ( I’m told it’s known as a horned spiral), which is also present on one of the kerbstones at Knowth, and….in my view, on that stone which was found at Smerquoy, recently. The Irish Connection!”
The idea that these folk were connected to each other, is more than in idea. Knowth – what a place. We could have stayed there even longer – so much of interest – but – it all gets a bit over-whelming, and at a certain point, enough was enough, for that time. Knowth…..I really can’t even begin.
Talking of over-whelmed………we also went to Dowth – which is simply home. The day that we went, was fine and sunny. Utterly peaceful. An utterly peaceful place. In fact, I ended up, in tears. You know when you walk round, and there’s a big tree? I was standing by the kerbstones, down from the tree, and I felt a huge surge of love, that’s the only way to describe it, a huge surge of love, and found myself standing there, in tears. Good tears, though, not distressed tears, very good tears. It’s home.
At the other end of the spectrum – we went to Loughcrew. I love the situation, the position and it’s aspect. The carvings, I felt were slightly hysterical – a bit head-ache making, like an over-excited 5 year old, telling you about their day out.
I can’t help thinking that the people who carved them, needed to calm down a bit. It got me thinking, though…….we tend to say “Neolithic” people or ‘Bronze Age” people or whatever. But, like us, they will have been different. Across Europe, across the world,, and even within what’s now known as the British Isles, they will have been very different from each other. A Yorkshire person, is very different to a person from Somerset, an ‘English’ person, is usually quite different, from an Italian person, in general way of being. So, these ancient people, were all people, as we are, but different in character, in different groups, as we are. The ones at Loughcrew, in my opinion, were slightly hysterical and I don’t know if I could cope with spending much time with them. The same, could apply to various different cairns and sites. Anyway. I very much liked being there, outside, but, inside – all a bit crazy, for my liking.
And………………….Fourknocks. Fourknocks. It’s joined Bryn Celli Ddu , as one of my very, very favourite places to be. ( Not that that matters particularly). We went in, we met The Lady there, in the carving.
And…….Mike did his ‘didgeridoo’ noises in the side chambers, and…..the resonance was wonderful. I know that may be because of the ceiling which has been put on, but….it was great, anyway. What a place. What a place.
Another carving bit…….as you go in, on your left, there’s a carving which is just like the ones on the Brodgar stones. Parallel lines, with diamond shapes inside. Again, to ignore the fact that these folk were in contact with each other, just makes no sense at all.
I had a wonderful dream about it, a few nights later, of people coming out of the stones, and dancing round inside the cairn, to humming music.
And there’s more…………….
We went to Tara, where we sheltered from a hail shower, under a lone Hawthorn tree, and also encountered one of the wells. This is fed from a spring coming straight out of the hill of Tara, and is a very magicy place, indeed. Whoooo-hoooo. Imagine the procession, going up the cursus, to the henge – before the cairn was even there……..”Bernie Bell: Orkney Walks (with Stories) – ‘The Procession’
Related story: Re. the ‘Boyne to Brodgar’ programme. I
Part III to follow shortly
Thanks for the nostalgia tour, brought back pleasant memories.
And for me, too, Charles. We went on our ‘pilgrimage’ to mark my 60th birthday – couldn’t be better.
Note the ‘rosette’ carving at Loughcrew – and then….one turned up at the Ness!
Re. ‘cock rocks’……