Wednesday, 3 December 2014


There will be a Lunar Eclipse at Callanish on 28 September 2015.
I have been to Callanish twice. The first time in 1969 long before Historic Scotland even existed, let alone their visitor centre and then again in 2010. I always wanted to go back. In 1969, I was the only person there and you could walk amongst the stones and across to the other circles completely undisturbed. Now, there is a visitor centre and a souvenir shop and tour buses and elderly German tourists with cameras who haven’t a clue about what they are seeing or have any respect for the site. Maybe they think it is a Scotch Stonehenge.

I wrote a chapter about Callanish in my novel Train That Carried the Girl. This is an extract:
 I wanted all my young life to visit Callanish, to see and walk amongst the most sacred standing-stone circle in Europe. The Outer Hebrides still has the most unspoiled Neolithic landscape in Britain. Brochs in Lochs; standing-stone circles; burial cairns and Iron-Age houses and cist burials.
The natural radiation on this plateau is amongst the highest found anywhere in Britain, and the magnetic field correspondingly strong. Legend has it that the Ancient Greeks built it so that they could step from the Earth on to the Moon. It isn’t actually a circle; it’s an ellipse and follows the 5 deg cycle of the Lunar Standstill. The Lunar Standstill? That is the phenomenon that occurs every 18.5 years, when the Moon cycle reaches its lowest extremity and the Moon appears to skim the horizon. Lewis is the most Westerly and at the same time, most Northerly point of the then ancient European navigable landmass and if one were going to build a stepping-stone to the Moon, this is the place you would do it.
Only here does the Moon touch the horizon; this is where you would extend your arm and shake hands with Apollo.

I researched this. There is stuff on the web drawing attention to the archeoastronomy of the site and the discovery of the lunar alignments, but you have to get into a book called Stone Circles of Britain and Ireland which I have got somewhere in the loft to read the thesis of a woman called Margaret Curtis who realised that the whole landscape, the sea, the hills, the stones and the alignments were sacred. It is almost astonishing that ancient civilisations living at the ends of the earth 5000 years ago had the scientific knowledge to work out the 18.5 year lunar cycle and then to construct . . . what? . . . a theatre? That would capture the event; the setting winter sun, the rising winter moon and the play of light upon the axis.
Callanish is thought to pre-date Stonehenge by about a thousand years. If you do visit the site for the eclipse however, travel a couple of miles up the road and take a look at the single standing stone at the village of Ballantrushal. Almost as interesting in its own way as Callanish, this single stone Menhir is 6-meters high but is thought to be I think it is 16-meters deep into the ground. Plus, it pre-dates Callanish by around 2000 years. How did they do that? Why did they do that? When you go there it seems obvious that it is some kind of primitive lighthouse or sea-marker to guide vessels back to land. You are talking 7-8000 years ago; at the edge of the world; before the Pyramids; hunter-gatherers.

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