Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stenness


The Winter Solstice is fast approaching and I have come to love this time of year. The light is so soft and gentle, the trees are magnificent silhouetted against the sky and the fire burns bright in the hearth. It is also a time to slow down and attend to the things of the heart. If I was asked for the one place that had evoked the Goddess most clearly for me I would probably have to reply, Orkney. Those islands off the North East tip of Scotland are not only utterly beautiful but are also a treasure of Neolithic Archaeology.

The World Heritage Site at Stenness includes the Stones of Stenness, The Ring of Brodgar and Maeshowe and all are close to 5,000 years old. Maeshowe is by far the largest chambered cairn among the many in Orkney. Like Newgrange in Ireland its entrance passage is aligned on the Winter Solstice Sun (Sunrise for Newgrange and Sunset for Maeshowe). This means that for a few days each year the rays of the setting sun can shine down the passage into the womb space within. For this to happen a cloudless horizon is needed.

Unfortunately December on Orkney is often dull and wet. During December a webcam transmits images from Maeshowe and it is as well to check every day around 1445 GMT to see if the sky is clear and the chamber illuminated. The effect is quite magical.

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