Recently I went with a group of geomancers for a weekend in (and around) Dartmoor. While I don't have room to mention all of the places we visited, two at the NorthWestern edge of the moor, and one site near Princetown in the middle of the moor were especially memorable.
Like the Michael tower on the Glastonbury Tor that towers above the Somerset Levels, St Michael de Rupe on Brentor is a church that can be seen from many different places on Dartmoor. It sits right on the NorthWestern edge of the moor and is on John Michell's Michael Line. While this line is actually a wide geomantic corridor, this isolated church on Brentor, along with Burrow Bridge Mump, Glastonbury Tor and the henge at Avebury are all on an actual ley.
| St. Michael de Rupe
From a distance, looks like the tower
on the Glastonbury Tor,
another Michael church.
above the Altar.
Lydford Gorge on the river Lyd to the north of Brentor offers several spectacular visuals - at one end is the Devil's Cauldron where the Lyd has carved deep channels and a whirlpool in the rock. At the other end is the White Lady Waterfall. She, as the mythtory goes, was apparently a bride who was jilted at the altar and, in the trauma of it all, threw herself over this 90 foot high water fall. It is the highest falls in southwestern England, and the falls are said to be her bridal veil. Now here's the good part: They say that if you choose to jump from the top of the falls, AND you see the White Lady on your way down, you will not die when you reach the relatively shallow pool at the bottom. Oh, ok.
When I heard the name of the falls, it reminded me of a lady who is found in a number of places in Eastern Central Netherlands. Witte Wieven (old Dutch for White Women) were wise women who took care of the people's physical or mental ailments. Like the White Lady waterfall, sites that commemorate the Witte Wieven are also quite magical.
|White Lady Waterfall
Lydford Gorge, Devon
|Witte Wieven Mound
in Eastern Central Netherlands
I have found that certain sacred sites are what I would call my teaching sites. Every time I go to them I learn something new. Calendar II in Central Vermont was such a site in the late seventies and early eighties when I was working on my Masters' Degree. Since I have been living in England, in addition to Glastonbury, the Avebury Megalithic Complex is a place that also always shows me something new. Merryvale Stone Rows in Dartmoor is another one. It is perhaps the most complete sacred site I know of - animal compounds, numerous hut circles, depending on how one counts them six stone rows, several cists (small stone coffins), a small stone ring, and one very tall standing stone - and that isn't everything! At first when I went there, I felt some resistance from the Spirit of the Place. But I persisted and respectfully greeted Her each time I go. Now she shows me something new almost every time I'm there. This past trip was no exception.
There are two major pairs of stone rows (North and South) with a leat, a man made channel of water with a very shallow gradient built to carry water over long distances. This leat runs between these two major pairs of rows. There are a number of leats on Dartmoor. Most were built for industrial purposes while mining tin - though in the case of Merryvale, when and why this leat was built is not clear.
We went to Merryvale Stone Rows on two occasions. The first day, it was blowing up a storm, and raining horizontally (as it does on Dartmoor).
|The South Rows at Merryvale.
Note the cairn with curb stones
in the middle of these rows.
|Standing in the cist
whose ceiling slab has been split in half.
Note the blocking stone
of the South Rows in the background.
When we returned the second day,
The weather was much more welcoming on our second arrival. I have rotated the map to show how we entered the site from the North. The road from Princetown to Tavistock is to the North, and the map doesn't show this road, but mentions the habitation site - animal compounds and hut circles to the North of the stone rows.
|Sig's hand drawn plan of
The Merryvale Ceremonial Centre
We approached the rows from the North. After walking through the animal compound with its interesting "apple-crusher stone" - obviously an essentially much more modern addition at the site, we encountered the many hut circles. Imagine the stones make a low circular wall then teepee poles covered with straw or reeds are used to make the thatched roof. The doors of the hut circles faced the stone rows to the South. Closer to the rows, there was a much smaller solitary hut circle. Because of its proximity to the sacred area of the site, I think of it as the the shaman/shamanka's hut.
Typical hut circle at Merryvale.
Shaman/Shamanka's hut circle
As you can see on the map above, Stone Row 3 goes off from Stone Rows 2 to the SouthWest. It begins next to Stone Rows 2 with several stones (B), and goes in the direction of the people in the background. You can see how the moor has eaten two of the stones in Stone Rows 2 in the foreground. Merryvale Moor has really swallowed most of the stones in Row 3. In fact many of them have disappeared, but there are enough of them just peeking above the ground to see that it is/was a stone row.
|Stone Row 3 takes off to the SouthWest.
(B on the above map.)
| The final stone on Row 3 (C) is clearly visible
under my right elbow. I am sitting at its base
and looking to the SouthWest toward
the Stone Ring and tall standing stone.
When I was looking between several geomancers, and in the near horizon, I saw the tall standing stone behind the stone circle.
Beyond it, you can just make out a tall stone.
Merryvale Stone Ring
I feel that I have just begun to work on the implications of Stone Row 3. Merryvale calls me to return with my compass and follow Row 3 in both directions. For example, I am reasonably sure that if one follows that same azimuth to the NorthEast, it will go through the Shaman/Shamanka's hut, and I want to trace it back to the road that runs from Princetown to Tavistock (the B3357) to see if the energy ley runs through any other hut circles.
Every time I go the Stone Rows at Merryvale, I learn something new.
Every time I go, I find reasons to go back again.
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