Here’s something a little off-faerie kilter, but actually intimately connected to them. My colleague in all things esoteric, David Halpin, has just published some of his recent research into prehistoric stone circles on the Ancient Origins website. His intriguing hypothesis is that, amongst other uses, the stone circles acted as pregnancy calendars for the communities that used them.
Stone circles were almost certainly used for a variety of purposes, both metaphysical and practical. In a previous post, Going Round in Circles: The Faerie Dance, I suggest that they were partly utilised for shamanic dance rituals, designed to alter the state of consciousness of participants. We cannot find a direct archaeological route into prehistoric ritual dance, but the Neolithic and Bronze Age stone circles of Western Europe are highly suggestive of monuments built for a ritual that involved circular movement. In the mind-bending 1977 TV series Children of the Stones (the sort of crazy 1970s children’s television that will leave you dropping your jaw if you’ve never seen it… you can give it a try here: Children of the Stones, full series), a secret sect uses the energy of the
Neolithic stone circle at Avebury to create power for their own nefarious purposes. The painting shown here hangs on the wall of the sect’s leader, and is constantly referred to visually in the series. It shows the stone circle in its prehistoric heyday, a beam of light being generated from the centre by the whirling circular dancing of people. This might be a case of fiction getting close to the truth, with the idea that frenetic circular dancing was a technique to unlock an energy, whatever that energy might be. Folklore certainly embeds the notion that dancing is intimately associated with stone circles. Many stone circles come complete with a legend that the stones are petrified dancers, a pagan theme christianised by stating that the dancers were punished for dancing on the Sabbath. The Merry Maidens stone circle near St Buryan in Cornwall is a good example, where the story tells us that the nineteen stones are young girls turned to stone for non-observance of the Sabbath. In this case there are even two outlier stones, that take the part of pipers in the story. These petrification stories can be multiplied many times at other stone circles, especially in Britain. It’s not too much of an interpretative stretch to suggest that these folktales represent a mythic memory of one of their original purposes – circular sacred spaces for circle dancing. For whilst the stone circles would have been used for various purposes (including David’s pregnancy calendar), their shape suggests rituals that saw the circle as sacred – a representation of wholeness and infinity that would have found manifestation in physical activity in and around them. A place to dance to music and singing may have been one of the main reasons for their construction. And in shamanic cultures such dancing was just another method (either alongside or instead of ingesting psychoactive plants) to alter states of consciousness so as to be able to interact with the otherworld of spirit. One neat theory is that the faeries are one and the same as our psychedelic prehistoric ancestors. Their intense circular dances have embedded themselves into certain parts of the landscape through the latent emotional energy they generated, to be tapped into by sensitive or stoned individuals in touch with the Collective Unconscious of humanity. The common folkloric motif of people finding themselves trapped within the circles is nothing less than a shamanic experience of travelling to a dimension of reality separated from our own only by a malleable membrane. The sense of unreality and time distortions that usually occur to the protagonists in these stories are very suggestive of an altered state of consciousness. They interact with otherworldly beings, they hear supernal music, and they become caught up in this world completely, to the extent that their perception of the passage of time is altered radically.
Anyway — here is David’s excellent article, linked below…
Even today, giving birth can be one of the most dangerous moments in a woman’s life. In ancient times it would have been even more so. Matriarchal societies would have tried to ensure the safest environment possible for expectant women. By placing individual marker stones or stakes within a permanent calendar circle of immovable stones aligned to yearly points, a due date could be predicted and prepared for. But how could this knowledge have been forgotten?