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The Bad Witches Guide

October, 2017

 

 

Bad Witches Guide to Pinterest

 

I am a bad witch. There are a long list of reasons why I am a bad witch. Having been out of the broom closet for some considerable number of years I would on occasion get asked “but you’re a good witch though?” My response to that depending on the person asking but I found I started to say “yes, a very, very good witch” rather darkly as it usually got the point across.


It might surprise you to find out I like Pinterest. However my major problem with it is the “magick” and spellcraft on there is often utter twaddle. I like collecting (rather nerdy) art, food and crafting ideas, positive quotes to get me through those grey damp days. Magickally though it’s often pretty but not effective. If you’re going to write a chant, and enchantment (to be sung or spoken aloud, which is what enchant means) it has to have a good tone and rhythm to it. It has to be a jingle, an ear-worm, something that has the power and dynamism to buzz around your skull and out into the universe.

 

(Primitive Altar from Pinterest.)


I grew up in with ugly but effective magick. Really on the farm that was the sort of aesthetic. If it worked it didn’t matter what it looked like (but odds are it would look dangerous and sort of a mess). My first cauldron was an empty white animal feed bucket. My wand a stick. The things I made look crude but worked. The woven herbs and grasses had a grace but I’m not sure they’d pass the Pinterest standard. Maybe with the right filter.

 

(Hanging Herbs on Pinterest.)


Of course it is gorgeous to make pagan artworks, pagan aesthetics and so on. From crystal mandalas to circles of herbs and flowers, I’m just not sure my practical witch brain is wired to wasting so much time energy and supplies on one thing. Some of these images are glorious but you’d need a bail of lavender! I have a lot of herbs, I don’t have them in that kind of quantity. I also have a dog, child and husband and odds are taking up a whole room in our tiny house, on the floor or otherwise would not end well. Wonderful for a photo, not practical witchin’. I don’t hang my herbs up for how they “look” (I don’t even have a drying rack or anything it’s just a series of make-shift jute clotheslines and bundles) I hang them so they don’t rot so I can use them when they are out of season.

 

(White Dress Women in Forest from Pinterest.)

 

Again wearing a lot of interesting make-up and standing in a thin white dress in some moody woods looks awesome, you’ll catch your death if you try it though! Outside witch work requires sturdy hiking boots, sunscreen and good thick coat.


My point is that this sort of aesthetic over function exclude those who don’t or can’t match how these things look. Don’t have a bail of lavender, can’t do magick! Not thin, white and gorgeous? Can’t do magick! Not got five tons of crystals? Can’t do magick! All of which is the reverse of the truth.


Magick is in the ordinary. In the ugly. In the old and odd and hairy. It’s in the bones, the cherry stones, the dirt, and clay and mud. It’s in the scars, the dance, the feeling of it. There is power in the beautiful but that is not the only place there is power.


The utter twaddle on Pinterest in terms of spellwork and chants is so poor as to make me physically wince on occasion (and don’t get me started on some of the utter rubbish that passes for “sigils”). It shows a lack of understanding of the basic mechanises of spellcraft. It’s either over wordy, or not specific, or drawing from all kinds of places I would NOT mix together and calling on things in ways that are dodgy at best, and wildly unsafe in others. A spell tends to work best when it’s short, sharp and pithy.


A “get well soon” card is a healing foci. More specific ones like:
Root, shoot, bud, flower. Grant me now your healing power. Heal________.
You can easier charm this over a bunch of flowers, or even a healing soup. Not pretty (or might be) but effective. Of course having a root, a shoot, a bud and flower added to what you are chanting over helps and for the love of tea, please don’t do it “in your head”. Enchanting mean to sing, to sing into being. It is a powerful and amazing magick that might be odd to do on the bus works wonders almost anywhere else.

 

(A Large Pinch of Salt!)


While free resources can be amazing take what you find on Pinterest with a large pinch of salt. Do your own research, preferably offline and turn off your phone. A lot of the “healing” spells I looked at were binding spells and not very “healing” at all. While I am not “anti” left-hand work, left-hand (or darker) is what it is. Read between the lines, and look at things like a witch. Look at what is missing, what is not said. Oh the sigils are just completely made up, which is not to say they won’t work they are just not based on any ancient system I’ve seen and seem to based more on the Mortal Instruments book series instead.


Make a mess with your magick. Hexperiement, with what works for you and it doesn’t have to be pretty. Make a mess. It’s how it feels that matters, not how many likes it gets!

 

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 www.treesforlife.org.uk/tfl.ww.html

Resources:

www.Ecotourism.org

http://www.tflvolunteer.org/

http://www.caithness-business.co.uk/article.php?id=1136

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/02/0207_030207_scotforest.html

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

http://www.lookaroundireland.com/celticinteractive/tara.htm

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.

http://www.aaireland.ie/routes/

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

Resources:

Hill of Tara Web sites:

http://www.knowth.com/tara.htm

www.answers.com/topic/hill-of-tara

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hill_of_Tara

www.mythicalireland.com/ancientsites/tara/

http://www.mythicalireland.com/ancientsites/tara/taramap.html

http://www.lookaroundireland.com/celticinteractive/tara.htm

http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art5375.asp

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.

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

Excavations

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.

Passages

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Resources:

www.knowth.com

http://www.mythicalireland.com/ancientsites/knowth/equinoxwest.html

http://www.mythicalireland.com/ancientsites/knowth/index.html

http://www.megalithicireland.com/Knowth.htm

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.

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Walking the Ring of Brodgar

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

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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.

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

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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

Reference:

Historic Scotland – The Heart of Neolithic Orkney – Official Guide

Visitor Center and Guided Tour