Sacred Places, Sacred Spaces

September, 2015



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There are not many places on this earth that evoke more emotion amongst Pagans, Wiccans, Druids and Witches than Stonehenge.

It has become a place to gather on the Solstices, and other sacred holidays. It is a place of healing, a place of powerful energies. Several thousand gather on the Summer Solstice annually to watch the sunrise through the stones. It has become a place of pilgrimage for many.

Theories abound as to who built it and why. How was it built, considering that the bluestones come from 250 miles away in South Wales, and the upright stones are 7 feet tall, weigh 50 tons each and come from 20 miles away in Marlboroughdowns?

We may never know the exact origins of Stonehenge, but there are things that we do know.

The Mesolithic posts were raised northwest of the site in 8500-7500 BCE;

just north of the Stonehenge location, a causeway enclosure is built with several long barrows in 3000 BCE. In 2500 BCE, stones are raised in the center using the larger sarcen stones in two circular arrangements with smaller bluestones in between them, followed by the central bluestones being arranged in a circle and inner oval in 2300-2200 BCE. Throughout the years from 1800 BCE to 1500 BCE, pits are dug, sarcens are decorated with axe heads and daggers.

The land that Stonehenge sits upon was owned by Sir Edmund Antrobos, who sells it to Cecil Chubb, who gives it to Britain.


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No one is sure if all of the building was done by the same tribe of peoples who lived there or if different tribes of people built on to what was previously there. It is agreed that the temple was built to align with the movements of the sun. From the Heel Stone in the northeast of the circle, looking within, you can see the sun rise in the direction of the Heel Stone.

One folktale surrounding Stonehenge is that Giants brought healing stones called the Giant’s Dance from Africa to Ireland. King Aurelius Ambrosius (he of the hur tale) wanted to make a memorial to the slain from one of the many battles with the Saxons. He chose the Giant’s Dance in Ireland and sent his many knights to Ireland to move it to England, but to no avail — the stones could not be budged. Coming to the rescue was the Wizard Merlin, who easily brought them to England where Stonehenge was dedicated. Some say he sang the stones across the sea from Ireland. Singing also plays a part in the story that the survivors of Atlantis built Stonehenge, singing the stones into place, which I believe is a lovely tale.

That Stonehenge was, and is, considered a place of healing would account for the more than 350 burial mounds found there so far. Was it built just as a burial place, or was it more than that?

It is apparent that the ancient peoples of Britain considered this monumental temple to be an important part of their spiritual and religious lives. What it was exactly has been lost in time; however, Stonehenge once again became a place of spirit in the 20th century. In August of 1905, the Ancient Order of Druids used Stonehenge as the place of a mass initiation, bringing 259 new members into their order. This, apparently, was the beginning of bringing Stonehenge back to the attention of Pagans and Witches.

As was mentioned earlier, several thousand gather annually at Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice. The truly awful part is that they leave this sacred place a mess, as you can see. As one of those who revere the earth as the Goddess, this brings a great sadness to me, and those who attended, who call themselves Pagan and children of the earth should be ashamed, as this would be a perfect opportunity to show others what Pagans believe and how we care for Mother Earth. Stonehenge is not the only sacred place on the Salisbury Plain.


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Sillbury Hill – This is the tallest Neolithic structure in Europe. It is believed to be built around 2700 BCE. It was thought that people used these mounds to reach up and touch heaven.


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Stone Circle of Avebury – You can still come here to celebrate the old Pagan festivals, although on a much smaller and quieter scale – sounds lovely!

If you walk through an avenue of stones from the ritual circle, you will come to The Hilltop and The Sanctuary.


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There is also Woodhenge one and half miles away. It is thought that Woodhenge was built around the same time(s) as Stonehenge. It is unfortunate that all that remains are stumps.


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These are just a few of the Sacred Spaces and Sacred Places in Great Britain, and England, specifically. There are many more throughout the English countryside and into Ireland and Scotland. Speaking only for myself, they are all on my bucket list.

May you all have your special spiritual places in which to feel relaxed, renewed and rejuvenated.


Hally’s Hints

June, 2010

Travelling in Dreams

I never really thought that much about the impact of my dreams. I understand the varying levels of what is reflected; when something is being communicated from a different plane and the subtle premonitions of the oncoming future. However, there is another aspect to dreams which leaves me wondering.

The Native American Indians believe that our dreams are the portal to the spirit world. This is such a passionate belief of theirs that there is strict protocol of what to do and what not to do when waking from sleep.

There are four to five stages of sleep. This varies generally based on whether it is a female or male’s sleep pattern. This particular statement is not diminishing the myriad of other contributing factors to sleep patterns. For all intense purposes we will focus on the basic fundamental because this really, is a whole other topic for discussion.

The Native American Indians believed that one must not eat breakfast when first waking up. It must be done in stages of waiting at least thirty minutes before consuming a beverage and an hour before ingesting food. This is because your astral self is still in the process of re-connecting to your physical self. If food is eaten it will rush the process which compromises the journey of the dream and the benefits gained.

With this said, it is very important to ensure food is consumed after the specific duration to solidify the connection and in no better terms, to ground oneself, which prevents forgetfulness and that light headed sensation.

Upon reflection, I recall numerous times feeling as though I have been somewhere else but it was different to being somewhere else physically. There is a sense of authenticity which is unlike to the conscious version. It is surreal and the conscious mind has trouble interpreting what really is going on. It is something that must be experienced to be understood. In essence, it is irrelevant because it happens on another level and the conscious mind benefits from behind the scenes.

When I then would wake up I would feel exhausted with the impression that I had travelled very far and wide. There is always that sense of overwhelming happiness, yet I rarely remember the specific details until I return into the dream state.

Physically I would feel flighty and removed from my body where even the simplest process would be done in automation. It is like watching someone else performing something on my behalf.

Earlier today I had that sense of being somewhere else however, I did not make it back in time to reconnect to my physical self so I was still in the in between. When it is a lazy day it is a beautiful, peaceful feeling. On a busy day it can be very daunting. Consequently whilst rushing to catch the train I ended up falling over onto some train tracks as a train was approaching and the gate was closing. Not really a great place to find yourself. It was this shock that got me wondering more about where I had been and why I was still sitting in the in between for some time after.

As the day progressed I realised how much I travel and the impact this has had on my spiritual journey and evolution. It is amazing.

I had read a lot about astral travelling and how this occurs. I however, have never read about it happening from a dream state. Perhaps astral travelling is the wrong term as my understanding of astral travelling is that it does not reflect back to varying times, places, planes and events. I will leave the technical details for those that are better versed in this.

Consider if your dreams take you on a literal journey.

Consider how you feel on the occasion where you find yourself not being present, yet have this amazing sensation running through your ethereal being.

Perhaps you too have been travelling in dreams.

Sacred Sites

July, 2009

The Burren, Co Clare, Ireland

The word Burren derives its name from Boireann, which means ‘rocky land’ in Gaelic. This region of naturally interlocking limestone slabs was formed 320 million years ago and it contains a wealth of rare flowers growing in a unique botanical environment in which Mediterranean and alpine plants rare to Ireland growing side by side.


Glaciation and wind and rain erosion have formed limestone pavements with deep crevices known as ‘grykes’.  The porous rock is easily penetrated by rainwater, which has gouged out an extensive cave system beneath the rocky plateau.

The geology and archaeology of The Burren make it place of great mystery and beauty, its combination of many unusual features, make it unique in Europe. Extending over more than a hundred square miles, the limestone area contains round towers, dolmens, churches and high crosses. The visitor should set aside a few days to explore this area for you’ll want to see the many tombs, monasteries and holy wells that also exist in this region.

Poulnabrone Dolman

Within the Burren are many Dolmens, one of the better known is the Poulnabrone Dolmen. In Irish it means “hole of the sorrows” and the word Dolmen means “stone table.”

Considered a Portal Tomb, some sources date the Dolmen from 2500BC to 3800BC. Remains were found in the chamber when it was excavated in 1968 and they are thought to be that of 16 – 22 adults, the majority of them were thought to be in there 30’s with only one over the age of 40, the remains of the rest were 6 young adults and 1 newborn baby.

Radiocarbon dating suggests that the burials took place 3800 and 3200 BC.  As we understand it, the Neolithic community would have been fairly large and since there were easier ways to deal with the remains of the dead, it is thought that than these remains must have been people of importance within the community and that this must have been a special place of ceremony.

It was further proved that the bones were naturally de-fleshed elsewhere (by exposure, burial or picked at by animals, namely crows) and only then moved within the chamber at Poulnabrone.


At last, the Poulnabrone Dolmen is found!

In the past my attempts to find the Dolmen had been unsuccessful, so I consulted a few Irishmen as to the whereabouts of this Dolmen. Oddly enough, they had never actually seen the Dolmen, but had heard about it. After much discussion and a few Guinness I was able to secure the directions to The Dolmen, (it was written on a coaster from the pub, scrawled in faded blue ink from a worn out pen). As we headed out the next morning to find the Dolmen, my navigator asked me if I remembered to bring the directions, and the dialog went something like this.

“Do you have the directions?”


“Well where are they?”

“I have them.”

“Can I see them?”

I withdrew the ratty Guinness stained coaster from my pocket and handed it to her. Her icy stare made me wither in my seat.  It was a very quiet ride to the Dolmen.


Withering stare from our navigator as she realized the directions to the Dolmen may be a bit sketchy.

I’m told that in the past you were able to walk across the limestone surface and walk right up to the Dolmen, Unfortunately, there is a rope fence around it now that prevents anyone from getting too close to it.  There is a path that you must follow and there is even a “guardian” on duty for security, a shame, but I’m afraid it’s necessary.  Tour buses frequently visit the Dolmen and it is best to wait them out as they have a regular schedule to maintain and the groups don’t linger long.
Comments from our travelers:

“The Burren on the Western coast of Ireland is a windswept rocky area with few trees. I think Stark beauty is an accurate description. Even today the area is sparsely populated and mostly undeveloped. It is hard for me to grasp why the ancients would spend so much time and energy to erect the dolmen. Perhaps the land provided enough for decent survival so these people could spend time addressing their beliefs about death and transporting to the next life. Perhaps they believed their bounty was directly tied to their reverence for the dead.”


“The Burren has a wild beauty carved by nature that takes your breath away”.

It was an amazing experience to be able to see an ancient structure, still standing unscathed after thousands of years. Against the beautiful backdrop of the Burren, it is an absolutely magical spot.


The Burren National Park Burren, Co Clare is Located in the Burren Region on the R480 not far from the Cliffs of Moher.


Sacred Sites

March, 2009

Beltane in Ireland

For this issue of Sacred Sites we begin by wishing you a Happy Beltane! This month we are in Ireland with a group of travelers exploring sacred sites. We hope you’ll journey with us in spirit as we make our way across the mystical emerald isle.

This will be an interesting opportunity to experience the difference in celebratory styles, not only culturally speaking, but from within the Irish community itself. We will meet a transplanted American living in County Kerry, a solitary Witch, in the heart of Ireland and a member of Teampall Na Callaighe that lives in Kells.

In the upcoming issues of Pagan Pages we will share with you the details of our Pagan pilgrimage, along with interviews from local Pagans, photos of the rituals and ceremonies we attend, as well as insights from the travelers themselves.

Journey with us as we travel across Ireland to celebrate the Celtic Festival of Beltane. Here are a few of the ancient sites and windswept landscapes we will be visiting.

The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare – (Irish – Aillte an Mhothair, lit. cliffs of the ruin) an impressive wall of rock rises to a height of almost 700 feet above the churning Atlantic Ocean. The view from Hags Head overlooks the sea, standing to greet the fierce wind.

Special Note: For any movie fans out there – The Cliffs of Moher were filmed as the “Cliffs of Insanity” in the 1987 movie, The Princess Bride.

The Burren National Park, County Clare – The word Burren derives its name from Boireann, which means ‘rocky land’ in Gaelic. This region of limestone hills contains a wealth of rare flowers and prehistoric stone monuments. The Burren is a unique botanical environment in which Mediterranean and alpine plants rare to Ireland grow side by side. Its geology, flora, fauna, caves, archaeology, and history set it apart as a place of great mystery and beauty.

The 100 square mile area boasts rivers, castles, lakes, towering cliffs, lush green valleys, barren rock mountains, and constant relics of ancient civilization; round towers, stone arches, dolmens, ancient churches and high crosses.

Within the Burren exists the Poulnabrone Dolman, one of the most dramatic stone grave markers, said to be about 4000 years ago. Like a piece of sculpture, it is one of the most photographed in the world.

Special Note: Our intrepid group of travelers will attempt to locate the Poulnabrone Dolmen. Admittedly, it has eluded this traveler in previous attempts. Apparently obvious to many a tour bus driver, this American has not yet learned the secret handshake and special password that is required to locate this structure. Well hidden from the road, it seriously needs some sort of marker, of course that would ruin the beauty of the Dolmen – sigh of angst.

Druids Stone Circle, Kenmare, County Kerry – An ancient ring of stones said to be a druidic site just outside Kenmare.

Torc Waterfall, County Kerry – Just one of many in the Killarney area and is known as the most famous. The roar of the falls can be heard as you approach, the source of the water comes from a place called the “Devil’s Punch Bowl” and falls 70 feet onto the huge boulders below.


Torc Waterfall – County Kerry

Ogham Stones – A set of eight stones situated near the side of a road near Beaufort Village. Ogham stones are usually gravestones and bear the name of the deceased and often details of his descent.

Charleville Forest Castle, County Offaly, Tullamore – Surrounded by a 700-year old Oak forest (the oldest in Ireland), stands Charleville Castle, known for generations as one of the world’s most haunted castles.

Legend states that Charleville was built on the site of an ancient druid burial ground and it is said that Druids conducted ceremonies here. There is a grotto on the property that we’ve yet to see, hopefully some fairy rings – keeping our fingers crossed.


500-year-old Oak Tree at Charleville Forest Castle

We have been invited to celebrate Beltaine at Charleville with a Maypole Dance, Ceremony, and the lighting of the Bale-fire with our host Mary Alagna.

Brigids Well Kildare – (Cill Dara in modern Irish originally derived from Cell Dara in Old Irish, meaning “Church of the Oak”) One of the many wells named after the Goddess Brigid also known as Saint Bridget. I’m told that at this location there are two Wells, one just off of the car park that is a Pagan site and one farther away that is a Christianized site.

Loughcrew Cairns & The Hill of the Witch (Irish – Sliabh na Cailligh) Onto the Boyne Valley in County Meath, as we step back in time to visit the passage graves of Loughcrew. We join our local guide Gemma McGowan as she takes us on a tour of Loughcrew as well as other historical sites where they celebrate the Ancient Celtic Festivals of Lughnassa and Samhain. Gemma is an Irish member of Teampall Na Callaighe.

Monasterboice – An interesting monastic site near Drogheda in County Meath. The impressive ruins include a large cemetery, two churches, one of the tallest round towers in Ireland and two of the tallest and best high crosses.

Looking forward to reporting back to you in June.

Brightest of Blessings

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