I’ve recently been using this website MegalithMap to identify standing stones, stone circles, holy wells and the like in the local area. Its very interesting to see just how many of these type of sites there are around. The big ones like Stonehenge or Avebury get all the publicity but away from the hype and the tourist trail are many little sites of Neolithic origin or ancient Pagan interest. Yesterday my husband and I went to a stone circle near Baslow in Derbyshire. It was a touch off the beaten track - about half a mile from the main road but the glorious autumn views of the heather clad Peak District saying its annual goodbye to Summer made the walk feel like a little pilgrimage through nature, a small spiritual journey in itself..
For me, these hidden away places have a real atmosphere of serenity, an almost other worldly feel to them. Out in the countryside away from the sounds of traffic and the background hum of the urban world ,you can imagine it as a place that time has forgotten, a secret sacred place sought out only by those looking for a little solace or the chance to step outside the world and be peaceful for a time.
At the site of the stones was evidence of recent pagan offerings – somebody had left a piece of rose quartz tucked against one of the stones, someone else had made an offering of pine cones and ribbons. These simple offerings showed that despite the age of the stones this is still a place very much alive and relevant to deity worshippers today.
The only other people around were a small group who, from their clothing, I would guess share similar ideology to my own. They treated the stones like we did, with a sense of reverence and respect. We moved between the stones, not exchanging any words but sharing that communal consciousness of shared belief and thought. Each person took the time to sit quietly, to reflect on why they had come, what they wanted to leave behind and what they wanted to take from the place.
I lay on my back on the stones in the fading late afternoon sun and I looked up at the sky. And as I lay there I thought of how much those stones had endured over the thousands of years they had stood there. How many people must have passed by them . How many people had come here for comfort, for purpose, for peace......?
And as I lay there I felt proud to belong to a faith and a tradition that can trace its roots so far back into the memories of mankind. A faith that is still honouring these stones for worship thousands of years after the circle was built by long forgotten distant ancestors. As these stones have endured, so has the spirit of Paganism endured. It needs no churches or temples. It needs no ornate structures to inspire the hearts and minds of those who choose to follow the Pagan path. All it took to create an enduring place of peace and worship was a small patch of earth, a few stones and a few thousand years of belief and believers.
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