She Who is All – The Goddess of Ten Thousand Names

December, 2017

White Buffalo Woman

(Photo Credit:

The legend of White Buffalo Woman is an old one and centers around the spiritual practices of many Native American tribes of North American. It centers mostly around the Lakota Nations, but She is also central to other Tribes, including the Sioux and the Oglala. It is important to know that the buffalo are sacred, representing abundance and harmony.

White Buffalo Woman, also known as Ptesan-Wi is a strong, powerful woman, bringing to the North American Native Americans some of their most sacred ceremonies.

The myth, as it is told, tells of two warriors sent out from a Lakota camp, looking for food. Appearing before them was a white buffalo, which transformed into a beautiful woman, dressed in white. One of the men found himself overcome with her beauty and wished to possess Her. He ran to her and they were covered with a black cloud. When the cloud dissipated, the remaining man found his fellow warrior was nothing but bones. She turned to the second man, explaining that his friend had bad intent and that she would not hurt him. She told him to go back to the campsite and build a tipi with 24 poles; adding that She would come to them in four days.

In 4 days’ time, She approached the campsite, once again in the form of a white buffalo, whereupon She turned from white to black to yellow and red before appearing again as a beautiful woman. She carried a bundle, along with a fan of sage leaves.

(Photo Credit:

She walked four times around the central fire, walking the sacred and endless circle. As She did so, She filled the sacred pipe – the chanunpa – saying that the smoke was Tunkashila’s breath, the living breath of Grandfather Mystery. She sang a pipe-filling song to the Sky and to Grandmother Earth and to the four directions.

She showed them how all things were connected and taught them about the Earth, their Mother and about Her Mysteries and urged them to always honor Her. She told them that they were to be the caretakers of the Land and to follow the Earth path and to walk it as a living prayer.

As She taught them how to pray with words and gestures, She also brought to them the teachings of the Seven Sacred Rituals, which are the following ceremonies:

Purification Ceremony/Sweat Lodge

Naming Ceremony

Healing Ceremony

Making of Family (Adoption) Ceremony

Marriage Ceremony

Vision Quest

Sundance Ceremony (the people’s ceremony for all of the Nations)

White Buffalo Woman stayed with them for four days teaching them all that She would.

She left Her sacred bundle and the White Buffalo Woman Pipe in their care.


(Photo Credit: Pinterest)

She told them that one day she would return to bring harmony, peace and balance to the world. She prophesied that one day a white buffalo calf would be born and this would be the sign that She would soon be returning.

As She left, She rolled over four times, once again changing from black, red, yellow and finally to white; it was then that a great herd of buffalo surrounded the camp, that was used as food, clothing and bones for their tools. The Lakota honored the Pipe and the buffalo were plentiful.

It was told that next time there is

chaos and disparity,

she would return again.

She said she would return as

a White Buffalo Calf.

Some believe she already has.

Words of Chief Arvol Looking Horse,

19th Generation Keeper of the

Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe

of the Lakota Nation


“A white buffalo is the most sacred living thing you could ever encounter.”

John Lame Deer


A white buffalo was born in Wisconsin in 1994. Some say this was the fulfillment of the prophesy; some not.

With Mother Earth in danger and climate change getting worse on a daily basis, when Tribal lands are ravaged to put in pipelines, when administrations dismiss scientific claims, maybe this is the time for White Buffalo Woman to return and bring balance, peace and harmony to the world, and to help save Mother Earth beneath our feet.


“Now, more than any time in history, we need the sacred feminine to balance our lives and to balance our world. We must be spiritual warriorsculling the profound and important aspects of the power of feminine wisdom and directing them toward peace within, as without, and utilizing the energies of the goddess and all mythical women and spiritual heroines to help direct the course of history.

Laurie Sue Brockway

“A Goddess is a Girl’s Best Friend”

(Photo Credit:


About the Author:

Susan Morgaine is a Daughter of the Goddess, Witch, Writer, Teacher, Healer, and Yogini. She is a monthly columnist with Her writings can be found in The Girl God Anthologies, Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak” and Jesus, Mohammed and the Goddess, as well as Mago Publications She Rises, Volume 2, and “Celebrating Seasons of the Goddess”. She has also been published in Jareeda and SageWoman magazines. She is a Certified Womens Empowerment Coach/Facilitator through She is the author of “My Name is Isis, the Egyptian Goddess”, one in the series of the “My Name Is………” children’s books published by The Girl God Publications. A Woman International, founded by Patricia Lynn Reilly. She has long been involved in Goddess Spirituality and Feminism, teaching classes and workshops, including Priestessing Red Tents within MA and RI. She is entering her 20th year teaching Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, being a Certified instructor through the Kundalini Research Institute, as well as being a Reiki Master. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon. She can be found at and her email is

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Spiralled Edges

October, 2015

Spiralled Edges – Just Be

I recently read a blog article talking about the necessity, and great difficulty, some have in holding sacred space without actively doing something. So much emphasis on our self-worth is placed on doing, on being productive. We downplay and devalue the place and purpose for just being. We use the practice of doing to hide from our selves.

Sometimes the greatest act of love we can provide is to just be and hold Sacred Space for someone without trying to do for them.

Sometimes, we become impatient when growth and change or knowledge doesn’t come as rapidly as we want it to. We mistake times of dormancy for stagnation or even a movement backwards from our hoped for goal. We forget, that sometimes the seeds of change need to lie hidden within, buried within us, just being without doing, growing in strength while the outer world moves on.

There can be power in stillness. This isn’t a time when nothing happens, it isn’t a time of death. It is a time of being without doing.

A few years back, when going through personal difficulties I went to Spirit to ask “What do I need to be doing? What can I do to become well again?” They responded by telling me, “Don’t do, just be.”

Finally, they told me to stop doing shamanic journey work even to go into my Sacred Garden, and to practice being fully physically present in my body. I didn’t realise how much of my life had been spent mentally outside my physical body until I started trying to be more fully aware and more fully present within it. Psychologists would call it disassociating. Shamans might call it journeying. I called it feeling out of sync with myself.

A lot of my work over the past few years has been towards rediscovering what it feels like, both the good and the bad, being fully present inside my own skin.

I by no means make any claim to having fully learned this lesson yet. But, I’m getting better at it and find that I am more aware of when I love outside of my physical body, and more easily able to move back into sync with my physical self. Sometimes, I do fall back into that state of thinking I should be doing… something. If I could just find that one thing that I must do. And Spirit tells me, infinitely patient, “Don’t do, just be”.

Right now, we are moving ever closer to the final harvest in the Wheel of the Year, Samhain. The veil between worlds has thinned and our focus is on the dying God who will soon be journeying to the Underworld.

Then He, and the world itself (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), will naturally move from a state of doing into a state of being. It is a time for inner reflection. It is a time for being, the most sacred and loving practice that we can do for ourselves, and for others around us.

As you sit in this time of being, let yourself just be without trying to hurry back to the Earth’s stirring and awakening. Practice being with a friend who is going through difficulties without trying to do for them, without trying to fix them, without trying to change them. Practice being inside yourself as you go through difficulties without trying to do, without trying to fix, and without trying to change. Allow yourself to just be, with acceptance and understanding.

The time for doing will come round again, in its own time.

Magickal Colors

February, 2010

Burgundy: Color of the Everyday Sacred


The moon turns a deep burgundy when it is near an eclipse, and is truly a sight to behold. This time is unrivaled for opening oneself to the flow of all energy, and scrying for life path decisions.
The wine pours from its holder, shining in the air for a moment like a jewel and beautiful in its glorious impermanence.
It is the color of red earth and drying blood, that I write of, hardening in the elements but no less true to life.
On the Rainbow Path I have walked, and learned the colors and their meanings in turn. Burgundy is the color of impeccability on this path, and I will try to impart to you some of what I have been shown.

Impeccability is the absence of original sin, often confused with infallibility and innocence. Infallibility would mean that one is without error (who?) and innocence implies that one eventually is sullied by mere exposure to the world. Impeccability falls somewhere in between. I like to say I’m im-peck-able, so peck off, all those who would peck me!

impeccability means that one is without sin. Sin is not a concept embraced by most Pagans, as most of us believe that while we may error and do things against our natures (which are, in their purest form, inherently “right”), there is no such thing as “original sin”. This of course does not mean we have no concept of right and wrong. When we are born, we are naked and beautiful, and closest to the forces we call the God and Goddess (as anyone who has looked in the eyes of a newborn can attest). We are naturally pure, and only through learned behaviour do we act in ways that do not reflect this closeness to the natural way of things.
In Christianity, one must be reborn and “washed in the blood” to be pure again. In most Pagan traditions, we have not to be washed in any blood but that of our Mother at birth. Sacred we are born, and may remain.
Rather than original sin, we can see original purity, and not just that of the newborn babe- it is a choice, an inner state that we can cultivate and carry with us throughout our lives.

A burgundy rose means a beauty that is uncontrived, unadorned, and unconscious. This natural beauty seems more to be described by what it is not there than what is. In Tibetan Buddhism, the zhen (everyday robe) is burgundy or maroon– a sign of holiness in the mundane world. In modern times this color is seen as a sign of wealth, success, and vigor. It has commonly been a color preferred by royalty.

The sacred pomegranate, associated with those Earth Goddesses of unaffected beauty for thousands of years, bears this color inside and without its womb.
Persephone, the impeccable daughter of Demeter and embodiment of fertility, ate the pomegranate seeds that sealed her fate, causing her to live below the ground for half of the year and the other half above, creating what is summer and winter for us mortals. The similarities between this story and the Christian’s Garden of Eden do not go unnoticed. Yet there is one very important difference- it is what defines us as Pagans. While Eve ate the apple of knowledge and was tainted, Persephone ate the seeds and was changed– not necessarily for the worst. She saw the darkness for what it was, and found herself seemingly trapped below the earth. Upon her emergence in the spring, however, the denizens of the greening earth found that their Fertility Goddess was also Queen of the Underworld, the sides in perfect harmony and unison with each other.

It is possible that we can be both in the world and in our sacred places at the same time. These worlds do not clash, and the sacred is not separate from the everyday. We can be Divine and mundane at once, by bringing this concept of impeccability with us and acting in accordance with our true natures, the Way of the Earth, all day in everything we do.
It is true that daily life can feel difficult on the best of days. It can be hard to feel like a Goddess with two screaming kids in the backseat of a car during rush hour! (I’ve never understood why they call it rush hour when cars are obviously doing the opposite).  Your higher thoughts perhaps might give you peaceful mantras that may either help or annoy, your instinctive side wants to get out of the car and get primal, and somewhere in the middle the “normal” side of you is twisting around under all this stress and just wants to get home.
It is this middle place that is our everyday mode of being, influenced by our higher and lower selves to varying degrees throughout our lives. It is our clay that we may shape however we choose. Neither higher nor lower self is “wrong”, as they are both necessary to our existence, but allowing ourselves to be controlled by either for too long is like riding a train in the dark. Your whole life just passes you right by while you’re staring out the window.

Burgundy is a representative of this middle state made aware, our higher selves brought down to earth and mingling with our instincts to produce a sort of everyday spirituality, one that is conscious of itself but not self-conscious.
By continuously being mindful of our instincts, thoughts, and emotions, we begin to understand from where they all arise. We find our purest instincts rising up from the earth, and our higher thoughts coming from above like rain. Where these come together we have the ruddy clay of our waking world, for us to mold and shape into whatever we wish it to be.
We remember, now, with our bellies and wombs, listening to hearts pumping blood and feet treading roads, the simple sound of voices carrying, unadorned with meaning: drums all, beating out the rhythm of our sacred Life. We remember the color of the womb, the pure light filtered through all the wonder of our Creatrix.
We need not look further than our own lives to rediscover the wonder and spirituality that is our existence on this earth. Transcendence is for the dead– Life is for the living! It is still known in some circles that the Faeries do not lament the obstacles in their way– they sing to them a song of appreciation, and dance with them until their obstacles dance back, sing to them until they awaken and harmonize.
To know is not to hope, or to believe, but to carry with you the spirit of resolve and acceptance, mingled together like clay and water. If you are rained on, soak it up and revel in the wetness. When thrown in a hot spot, harden and shine. If you are stepped on, become the grape and make sweet wine of yourself. Just don’t sit on the shelf too long, or you’ll turn to vinegar.
Drink deep, for the well of life is sweet, and give thanks to the pressers of grapes.

Elements: Earth, Fire
Tarot Card: Strength
Astrological Sign: Taurus, Capricorn, sometimes Aries
Planets: Saturn, Venus, Mars
Metal: Iron
Stones: Ruby, Garnet, Lava Rocks, dark Amethysts
Days: Tuesday/Wednesday
Plants: Many succulents (grow well with very little water in arid conditions), Henna, some Orchids, purple Clover, some Lilies, Sarracenia Pitcher Plants, Grapes
Deities: Dionysus, Persephone, Earth God and Goddess

Impeccability, Sacrifice, Presence, Natural, Vigor, Success, Wealth, Royalty, Fertility, Health

Sacred Sites

April, 2009

The Caledonian Forest – Scotland

This month for Sacred Sites I’d like to appeal to those of you who might consider taking a different kind of trip, one certainly not found in any guidebook. What I propose might not be for everyone, and I will warn you, there are no amusement park rides, no sandy beaches, and no wait staff serving you drinks with little umbrellas in them.

This destination is about uniting conservation, communities and sustainable travel. It’s called eco-tourism and it might just be one of the best things you could ever do.

Here is a little story for you…

Once upon a time… The ancient Caledonian forest covered the Scottish Highlands. These woodlands were direct descendents of the trees that first colonized the area after the last Ice Age 8-10,000 years ago. However, centuries of destruction from primitive tribes and farmers cleared the land of most of the trees, not to mention the Vikings that burned down large areas of the forest, which now have been reduced to less than 1% of the original area. But there is a happy ending to this story.

The Caledonian Forest is being reforested by volunteers, like yourself.

In 1989 a conservation charity called Trees for Life purchased land in the Highlands as part of an effort to restore Scotland’s Caledonian forests. Their organization has planted more than 750,000 trees and has helped to restore 11,250 acres of land.

National Geographic writer James Owens, states that “For the first time in 2,000 years, Scots pine, alder, birch, hazel, holly, and mountain ash are set to reclaim a large swath of the Scottish Highlands. The effort marks a nationwide move to restore the country’s lost woodland.”

With an ambitious goal of planting 250,000 new trees by the end of 2009, the organization is playing its part in the “Quarter of a Million Trees Appeal”, that supports the United Nations’ Billion Tree Campaign, which encourages people
to tackle climate change by planting seven billion trees worldwide.

In February 2009 BBC Wildlife Magazine selected the Conservation Volunteer Week Program as one of the Top 10 Conservation Holidays in the world.

The Volunteer Weeks run from February 28th to May 30th 2009, with the autumn season running from August 29th to November 14th 2009.

According to Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life’s Executive Director “Every year, people of all ages and backgrounds from across the UK and beyond see our Conservation Volunteer Weeks as an opportunity to help restore the natural environment. This year we’re running more weeks than ever before, so we’re keen to hear from more people who would like to help.”

“Spending a week among the forest, rivers and mountains of the Highlands often touches people in a profound way. It is also an educational experience, in which volunteers learn about ecological restoration and observe nature close up.”

There are many opportunities out there for the traveler who is willing to stray from the well-worn path. Years ago on one of my first trips to Ireland, I was lucky to encounter a wise man through a completely serendipitous opportunity that was afforded me through the not so seemingly unfortunate occurrence of a flat tire.  In other words, we had a flat and pulled off the road.

The wise man told me that what we were seeking was not to be found on the highways and the main roads, he explained that we needed to take the back roads (which is by the way how we got a flat tire) and meet the land, meet its people and spend the time listening to what both had to tell us.

So for those travelers who consciously wander the world with the goal of meeting other people and trying to leave the world a better place than they found it, I encourage you to take the back roads and listen to the land. There are opportunities out there for you. I recall an offer once made by the steward at Charleville Forest Castle in Tullamore Ireland,….. If you’d like to come stay the summer, there is a room waiting for you, provided you lend a hand and help with the castle restoration. Seems like a decent offer.

So instead of leaving a trail of debris behind us on our next trip, why not give something back?

Individuals and companies can also support Trees for Life by having dedicated trees or groves planted for themselves or as gifts.

Details about the Conservation Volunteer Weeks are available at


Sacred Sites

March, 2009

Hill of Tara – County Meath, Ireland

The Hill of Tara was the Coronation place of Ireland’s kings, and is one of Ireland’s most famous sites. An ancient seat of power, more than 140 kings are said to have reigned there. It was the sacred place of dwelling for the gods, and was the entrance to the Otherworld.

This was where Ireland stood its ground and ruled for hundreds of years, and where today it remains a spiritual center for those in Ireland, with pilgrimages taking place on special Pagan and Christian holidays.

The Hill of Tara known as Teamhair Na Rí, “Hill of the Kings” forms an archaeological complex that runs between Navan and Dunshaughlin. Located near the River Boyne, in County Meath.

Rich in history, its neighboring sites are scattered about the landscape, and on a clear day it is claimed that half the counties of Ireland can be seen from atop Tara. To the west are the hills at Loughcrew, in the distance to the northwest is Newgrange and further to the north is the Hill of Slane.

An aerial view provides a stunning display of just how large a complex this is. With over 30 monuments visible at Tara, there are as many more beneath the surface. Although no buildings survive there are a number of large earthworks still remaining on the hill. The most prominent earthworks within are the two linked enclosures, to the East is Cormacs House and to the West is The Royal Seat.


Aerial view of the hill of Tara and surrounding region
Image provided by Mythical Ireland

Tara boasts many points of interest in the form of Hill Forts and Raths (ring forts consisting mainly of a ditch and an earth wall). Some of these are named after prominent figures in Ireland Mythology. Rath Maeve is named after the legendary goddess-queen Maeve or Medbh. Ráith Laoghaire (King Laoghaire’s Fort) is a Ring Fort where it is said that the King was buried in an upright position in order to watch for any invading armies.

Other sites include the stone of Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny, and a long rectangular area with banks on either side is known as the Banquet Hall (Teach Miodhchuarta). Some believe that this was used as a ceremonial avenue or cursus monument approaching the site.

Only two monuments have been excavated at Tara, the first is The Rath of the Synods (Rath na Seanadh). The Rath is a very elaborate structure with four concentric banks and ditches and is built around an earlier burial mound known as the King’s Chair. The second monument excavated in the 1950’s is the “Mound of the Hostages”.

The Mound of the Hostages

The Mound of the Hostages (Dumha na nGiall) is a Stone Age passage-tomb, dating to between 2500 B.C. and 3000 B.C. The length of the passage in the tomb is quite short and is subdivided into three compartments each containing evidence of at least 200 individual cremations.

The tomb, which is the oldest monument at the Hill of Tara, is just one part of a large grouping of monuments. The tomb gets its name from the custom of Irish kings taking important people hostage, one of these kings was known as Niall of the Nine Hostages who had taken hostages from all of the provinces of Ireland and from other countries.


The Mound of the Hostages, in 2003 a small wooden fence had been built around it.

Lia Fail – The Stone of Destiny

In the center of the Royal Seat stands a stone, which is believed to be the Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny also known as the Coronation Stone. The stone originally stood in the Northern part of the enclosure near the Mound of the Hostages.

According to legend, the stone was brought to Ireland by the mythical race of people known as the Tuatha De Danaan and the legend states that when the true king of Ireland stood on the stone, it would do any of the following:

* The stone was said to sing when the proper king of Ireland was crowned.
* The stone would scream when a series of challenges were met by the King.
* The stone would roar three times if the chosen one were a true King.
* On the inauguration of a worthy High King the stone would roar its approval.
* When the proper King touched the stone, it would let out a screech that could be heard all over Ireland.


Standing with Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny, Hill of Tara – County Meath, Ireland

Atlantis and the Lost Ark of the Covenant?

Throughout the years there have been some amazing claims made of the land at the Hill of Tara and about Ireland itself. Early in the 20th century, a group of British Israelites partly destroyed the land while searching for the Ark of the Covenant. They came to Tara convinced that the Ark was buried on the famous hill. They dug the Mound of the Synods, but all they found were Roman coins.

As recently as 2004, a new theory suggests that Tara was the ancient capital of the lost kingdom of Atlantis, and that the mythical land of Atlantis was Ireland.

Visiting the Hill of Tara

Standing on the Hill of Tara, you will notice its undulating hills and valleys on the surface of the land. You will not find towering monuments, or large museums, but you will find an incredible landscape as unique to the area as the people who inhabited it.

Visitors can be dismissive of the site, if they haven’t had the benefit of an aerial view of Tara beforehand. I’ve heard there is an excellent audio-visual presentation in the Visitor Center, which will help you to put this site into perspective so you’ll have a better idea of what you’re viewing.

The Visitor Center is located in a church on the property surrounded by a cemetery. The official opening times are Mid May – Mid September 10:00 to 18:00. These hours are for the Center only but visitors may still enter the Hill of Tara by walking around the wall of the cemetery and out onto the hill.

NOTE: Having only visited Tara in February and November, I have to tell you that it’s never been open when we’ve arrived. Fortunately, we found a short cut onto the hill by closely watching the other local visitors.

If you would like to get into the courtyard of the church and take a walk through the cemetery you may do so by walking to the far end of the parking area and entering through a gate. As you walk up the hill towards the church gates (which will be closed) you will notice there is a narrow break in the stone wall to the right of the gates and you can enter through that opening into the cemetery. Here is a link to a short video that shows this entrance and worn path that leads to a narrow break in the rock wall that borders the cemetery.

You may also enter the Hill of Tara through the cemetery by walking to the far back wall where there is another gate that will lead you out onto the hill. I believe this short cut to the Hill is much easier than walking around the cemetery as you have to take your chances with a potentially rain dampened grassy incline.

For visitors with mobility issues, navigating this Sacred Site can be difficult. The ground is uneven; many areas are hilly due to the landscape itself being comprised of concentric rings. There are no proper paths and visitors will have to negotiate banks and ditches, often in inclement weather. There will also be sheep and with sheep, come sheep droppings. It’s a great day to wear your hiking boots.

Weather can be unpredictable, forget the umbrella and leave it in the car; it will be completely useless on a windy day at Tara. Opt for a hat or earmuffs, the wind can be deafening on the Hill. I’ve often wondered if the ancient people mistook the roaring of the Stone of Destiny, for the roaring of the wind in their ears.

Located off the M3 Motorway. Watch closely for signs, as of the last visit it was not well signposted and there is road construction, which can be confusing to the first time visitor. Here is the equivalent of map quest for Ireland.

The Hill of Tara was included in the Worlds Monuments Fund’s 2008 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world.


Hill of Tara Web sites:

Sacred Sites

February, 2009

Knowth, County Meath, Ireland – Passage Portal Tomb

This month we travel to Knowth, a Neolithic passage tomb that is part of the Brú na Bóinne complex in County Meath, Ireland. While Newgrange is by far the most famous of the three Boyne Valley passage-tombs (Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth), it is probably Knowths astonishing quantity of art, which makes it more impressive than Newgrange. Knowth contains one quarter of all known megalithic art in Europe and is by far the most significant find in terms of art, scale and history.

Surrounded by 17-18 satellite mounds, Knowth, also known as the Great Mound, is itself decorated with 127 Kerbstones. Interestingly, some of the Kerbstones have carvings on the backs of the stones, this has become known as hidden art.  Perhaps the decoration facing inward held special meaning to these ancient people or due to the difficulty in finding, hauling and etching the stones it made more sense to re-use them.


A path that winds between the mounds at Knowth, October 2008


A brief excavation of the site was carried out in 1941, but full-scale excavations began on the site in 1962 and were undertaken by Professor George Eogan of the University of Dublin College.  When the excavations began, very little was known about the full extent of the site. The entrances to the western and eastern passages were discovered in 1967 and 1968 respectively and slowly the layers of activity at the site of Knowth were uncovered.


Dating from about 3000 BC, the portal tomb has two passages one eastern and another western. The western passage is significantly shorter then the eastern and neither connect, but the eastern passage ends in a cruciform shape, much like it’s neighbor Newgrange. Upon entering the great mound and you can see down the eastern passage from inside the tomb. There are three recesses that held basin stones into which the cremated remains of the dead were placed. Both passages are lined with decoratively carved stones known as orthostats.


Looking down the eastern passage of the Great Mound at Knowth

Visitors to Knowth cannot currently enter either passage due to safety reasons, but can enter a chamber created by archaeologists just south of the eastern passage. Visitors are able to see down the eastern passage, but do not see the interior of the chambers.

Megalithic and ifacts

Many significant artifacts have been found over the 40 years of excavations at Knowth. Found in the right hand recess of the Eastern passage was a giant basin, also known as Dagda’s cauldron, the passage also contained a beautifully engraved mace head carved from flint. In the Western passage a small stone phallus was found (and no, I don’t have a picture of the phallus – sorry). The artifacts are currently on display in the National Museum of Ireland.


Over 200 decorated stones were found during excavations at Knowth.

Solar or Lunar Alignment

Over the years many theories on the astronomical alignments at Knowth have been investigated. It has been thought to align with the equinoxes, and later it was believed to have a lunar alignment. Its sister site at Newgrange aligns with the sunrise at the Winter Solstice so it seems likely that the passages were intended to align in some way.

Regardless, the alignment at Knowth does not occur today. This is due to the passages either being destroyed by those who settled the land or the passages were incorporated into souterrains (man made tunnels).

The Woodhenge

Just east of the eastern passage is a timber circle or “woodhenge” that was constructed between 2800 and 2500 BC. Using the post-holes that were discovered fairly recently, archaeologists have reconstructed the woodhenge to show what it would have looked like then.


A reconstruction of the Woodhenge

Evidence of the late Neolithic and Bronze Age is suggested by the presence of grooved ware found near the timber circle, (Woodhenge). Grooved ware is a type of earthen pot that has been found at Henge and burial sites.

Archeological evidence suggests that Woodhenge was used as a ritual or sacred area after the Great Mound had already fallen into disuse. A large number of votive offerings have been found in and around the immediate areas of the timbers that formed the circle.

Visiting Knowth

There is no direct access to the Knowth site, access is by guided tour from the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre located close to the village of Donore on the south bank of the river Boyne. Guided Tours of Knowth are from April to October, the last tour is 90 minutes before closing time of the Visitor Centre.

It is highly recommended that you tour both Knowth and Newgrange; the combined tour is about 3 hours, with the tour of Knowth lasting about 45 minutes. There is time at the end (about 15 minutes) where you can wander on your own and if you wish, you can climb to the top of the Great Mound where there are amazing views of the Boyne Valley and surrounding countryside.

In between the tours take the time to visit the permanent exhibitions of artifacts on display. All of the artifacts are replicas; the originals are now in the National Museum of Ireland.

Knowth and the other megalithic sites of the Boyne Valley were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993.


Sacred Sites

December, 2008

The Ring of Brodgar – Orkney Islands

“We cannot fully live without the treasury our ancestors have left us. Without the story – in which everyone living unborn, and dead participates – men are no more than ‘bits of paper blown on the cold wind”

George MacKay Brown, Winter Tales 1995

Once again we journey to the island of Orkney for our final look at one of the most spectacular and well preserved prehistoric monuments in the British Isles, The Ring of Brodgar.

This series of standing stones is not just a stone circle and henge but a focus for the other standing stones and many Neolithic and Bronze Age burial mounds that survived alongside the modern road passes by.

The definition of a henge is a prehistoric architectural structure, a nearly circular or oval-shaped flat area in diameter that is enclosed and delineated by a boundary of earthwork that usually comprises a ditch with an external bank.

The Ring of Brodgar is a near perfect circle measuring over 130 meters (426 ft) in diameter including its ditch. There are 36 remaining stones left of the 60 original. It is difficult to know whether the Neolithic people ever finished erecting the 60 standing stones.  Archaeologists tell us that there was room allotted for them. Of the 36 stones that remain, half are standing. Thirteen of these were re-erected shortly after the monument came into state care in 1906.  Several have been struck by lightening in the passing years and another thirteen have survived as stumps only.

The early Orcadians constructed this henge sometime between 4500 and 4000 years ago. The builders of the henge transported stones with ropes and timber rollers over land and on boats across the lochs. We can imagine the preparation of food and feasting along the way, processes which took place at the stone circles themselves.


Walking the Ring of Brodgar


Archaeologist, Caz Mamwell at the Ring of Brodgar showing us rune carvings on one of the stones.

Carvings of Twig Runes found on one of the broken stones in the ring.

The Stones of Stenness, a nearby neighbor to the Ring of Brodgar is perhaps the earliest henge in the British Isles. According to the Guide to Historic Scotland, this would date the Ring of Brodgar slightly later then the Stones of Stenness.

The Historic Scotland guide states that, “Like Stenness, Archaeologists think that the Ring of Brodgar fulfilled social and ceremonial functions associated with the commemoration of the dead”.

Walking the Ring

As we enter the ring through one of the two causeways, our guide tells us that the common practice is to walk the ring in a clockwise manner. Against the sky, the standing stones rise out of the barren landscape. The shadow they cast across the land seems to represent a human form. The association between standing stones and ancestral lines seem woven together and imprinted on the landscape. Much in the way we use headstones in graveyards to memorialize our ancestors.

These Neolithic people went to a great degree of trouble to raise these stones and we have to wonder at their significance. Are they a monument to the dead?  Do they represent a clan or group of individuals? Or is it a barrier separating the inner and outer, sacred from the ordinary?  It may have been regarded as a fence, keeping outsiders from entering?  Perhaps it was a warning to those not from the community.

When Visiting Orkney

The standing stones found in Orkney are numerous; The Stones of Stenness, The Watchstone, The Comet Stone and The Odin Stone.  Unfortunately The Odin Stone was destroyed by a farmer in 1814, when he became distraught over people trespassing on his land. Keep in mind that some of the Standing Stones are located on private property; however there are allowances made for visitors and a protocol to be followed if one wishes to view them. Once again it is recommended that a guide be hired to accompany you for it will be easier to find the stones and the knowledge of history is invaluable when visiting these locations.

Visitors to the Ring of Brodgar may walk around the site, but it will help to protect this fragile area if you keep to the mown patches and do not climb the mounds. From the Ring of Brodgar you can take a circular route through the land owned by the RSPB (the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) or if on foot from the Stones of Stenness you can join the path just north of Brodgar Farm. Historic Scotland recommends allowing an hour to enjoy this route, which passes along the shores of Loch of Stenness, providing access to the wildlife as well as very different views of how the monuments sit in the landscape.


May 2007, the heather that covers the surrounding countryside was brown and had yet to bloom.


The landscape is still largely untouched by modern man, whom is kept at a distance, and preserved by the heritage trust in which lies in its care. Here is one of the broken stones that had been struck by lightening.

The Ring Of Brodgar Is a World Heritage Site. Inscription on this list confirms the exceptional universal quality of a cultural or natural site, which deserves protection for the benefit of humanity


Historic Scotland – The Heart of Neolithic Orkney – Official Guide

Visitor Center and Guided Tour

Sacred Sites

October, 2008


Orkney Islands, Scotland

Our Pagan pilgrimage begins with a drive to the northernmost part of Scotland, were we board a ferry that will take us across the North Sea to Orkney. You can imagine stepping back into time as you cross the water to the small set of islands in the north. It’s barren landscape due to the fact that Orkney has been largely treeless for over two thousand years, this feature adds to the striking quality of the land.
Orkney has been inhabited for at least 5,500 years, originally by neolithic tribes and then by the Picts. Invaded and settled by the Norse, it is now considered part of Scotland. However most Orcadians regard themselves as Orcadians first and Scots second.
Home to several sacred sites such as the Ring of Brogar, The Standing Stones of Stenness and Skara Brae, we begin our journey with one of the most intriging, the portal passage tomb known as Maeshowe. The origin of the word Maeshowe can be translated to a bit of Old Norse meaning Hill or Howe, the translation for Maes is still uncertain.
In last months Pagan Pages, we examined Newgrange a passage tomb in Ireland which was built around 3500BC. Maeshowe was built around 2,800 – 2500 BC about 800-1000 years after Newgrange. We find that the builders of both tombs had the same motivations, a shared community interest in the construction of the passage tomb and a common belief that the solstice played a part in the transition between life and death.
Like Newgrange, one of Maeshowe’s most famous attributes is its midwinter alignment – The difference between them is that, Maeshowe is illuminated at sunset while Newgrange uses the sunrise.
The Living and the Dead
Ancestors played an important part in the daily lives of these people. From what we learned about Newgrange, ritual and celebration were woven together. Here we have ancestors who constantly moved the bones of their dead in and out of chambers at frequent intervals.
According to the Guide of Historic Scotland, in the western isles there was evidence of Bronze-age people circulating generations of mummified bodies  before burying them under their houses.
“The assertion of ancestral connections to a particular place was common to most prehistoric societies including Neolithic Orkney, communal tombs were one visible way of associating a local community with a given area, weaving the remains of the dead into the fabric of daily life”, Mamwell, Caz.
Building on the similarities at Newgrange we can tell that the builders of both had a common link to the dead, but what makes this passage grave even more intriguing, are the VIKINGS.
The Norse Discovery
According to our guide at Maeshowe, the initial excavation was in 1861; the entrance passage was inaccessible so they made an access shaft through the top of the mound and what they discovered was that they were not the first to break into the tomb.
What makes this passage tomb so unusual, is what amounts to Viking vandalism, with the graffiti they left behind. Runic “graffiti” was found on the inner walls and it confirmed the “Orkneyinga Saga” that several groups of Norsemen had entered the tomb – known to them as “Orkahaugr” – in the middle of the 12th century and recorded their presence on the ancient stone.
As the story goes, a group of Vikings seeking shelter from a storm, they broke into the tomb through the roof. It was here that they whiled away their time in a drunken booze fest. Alright, I admit that the booze fest is an assumption on my part. Mostly I wanted to see if you were paying attention.
To pass the time, they carved on the walls of the chamber, over 33 runic inscriptions and 8 sketches. This is the largest collection of runic inscriptions that survive outside of Scandinavia.
Some of the carvings boast of women “Ingigreth was the most beautiful” the sketch of a slavering dog carving next to this inscription suggests an appreciation of her charms. There was also talk of a treasure that they found in the tomb, and more bragging about which man was the best rune carver in all the land.
Understanding the Runes

The letters used in the carvings belong to runic alphabets developed by the Germanic peoples from the 2nd century AD. These letters could be quickly cut into stone, wood or bone. They are used as an alphabet, a language and they have magical meaning.
The standard runic alphabet as used by the 12th century Norse consisted of 16 letters. If the Norse wanted to be clever and tease their readers they wrote in twig runes. This is a combination of standard runes and staves (or Oghams). According to the Maeshowe visitor guide, it is one thing to know the runic characters, but quite another thing to work out which letters are represented on the walls of the tomb and to make sense of what they say in Old Norse. Often the translations can be, at best, tentative.
Has Society Really Changed?
It strikes me that society hasn’t changed very much in all these years. Men still speak of their conquests of beautiful women and they tell the tale of it by writing on walls about them, “for a good time call”.   Ah another link to our ancestors.
World Heritage Site

It’s designation as the “Heart of Neolithic Orkney” a UNESCO World Heritage Site makes it one of the best reasons to traveled there. Orkney contains some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe.
Unless you plan on staying several days in Orkney, it’s recommended that you leave your car behind and take the ferry over. Do yourself a favor and hire a guide, better yet an archaeologist. They will pick you up at the ferry and drive you to the sites. This saves time trying to navigate these small islands, and provides a wealth of knowledge by having your own personal archaeologist with you.
Maeshowe and The Heart of Neolithic Orkney – The Official Guide of Historic Scotland.
Maes Howe Web sites: – Archaeologist Caz Mamwell