The Scoop on Stone Circles *Video*

Standing stones are solitary stones set vertically in the ground and come in lots of varieties. They appear singularly, in small groups and in circles. They can also appear in ovals and horseshoe shapes. Of course, it’s not what they are that make standing stones so intriguing, but why they are.

I’m a little bit preoccupied with standing stones and I saw several during my 7-week tour of the UK. First off, I visited Stonehenge, where I encountered supernatural forces in the form of 70 mph winds and marble-sized hail stones. Stonehenge is roped off though, so you couldn’t really get too close to the rocks.

I also went to the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar in the Orkney Islands, and the Castlerigg Stone Circle in England’s Lake District. It was great to visit stones in a relatively remote location since you can get up close to inspect the stones. In Scotland’s Orkney Islands, my friend Moira and I were the only ones there and we could walk right up and touch the stones.

My friend Jan and I also saw some standing stones encircling a cairn, or burial mound, in the Scottish Highlands near Inverness. She remembers her son saying that the energy surrounding the stones will make a pendant move in a circle. We tried it, standing in the pelting rain for more than a half hour, but we didn’t witness any magnetic pull.

Here I am braving the elements while visiting the cairn:

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Erin at Cairn

Despite my 4-5 up-close encounters, I still didn’t really know much about standing stones. So I did a little research and here’s a little of what I found out:

What were they used for?

Most believe that the stone circles were constructed for ceremonial purposes, especially since there is no evidence of human dwelling at the sites or do they usually encompass graves. Another hypothesis is that the stone circles were a type of amulet or talisman to appease spirits that were thought to live in nature. Because the stones are crude in shape, they are not thought to have been used for astronomical observation.

How old are they?

The best known standing stones are located in the British Isles, with more than 1,000 examples. They date form the late Neolithic period (that’s more than 5,000 years ago), up until the Early Bronze age, about 1,500 BC. In general, it’s difficult to date the stones because usually there is relatively little archaeological material such as pottery shards or bones at the site to carbon date.

Are they all the same?

Stone construction improved over time. Their locations also seemed to spread, reaching beyond the first coastal areas and moving inland. Builders also seemed to grow more ambitious with both the size of the circles (from 25 meters in diameter growing to 400 meters in later years) and the numbers of concentric circles increasing.


Hmmmm, not sure my understanding of standing stones is that much better than before my UK trot. Despite my efforts, I didn’t feel any sort of mysticism or “energy” while visiting any of the stone circles. The only things I felt were cold wind and raindrops…and a little stupid for standing out in the rain!

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This entry was posted on Saturday, July 7th, 2012 and is filed under Europe.

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