Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Rock and a Hard Place

Traces of ancient people dot this landscape -- men and women whose lives we know little about and whose customs leave only questions, no answers -- their presence noted by megaliths of mysterious meaning. Early Christian fathers sometimes used them as object lessons explaining the stone circle near St. Buryan as women who danced on Sunday and were turned to stone for their sins. These are the Merry Maidens, 19 standing stones in a circle -- much smaller than Stonehenge with no capstones -- one of England's best preserved stone circles. No such easy explanations exist for the Lanyon Quoit or Men-An-Tol, both between Madron and Morvah. The Lanyon Quoit consists of three standing stones and a 13 1/2 ton capstone. It's also been called The Giant's Table. The quoit, or dolmen, originally stood tall enough for a mounted rider to pass beneath but it collapsed in 1815. Re-erected by local people, the monument lacks one of it's original supports, is shorter and is improperly oriented. Still, it is an impressive sight and easily accessible from the road. I'm the one who suggested this outing so I couldn't whine when we found ourselves walking, walking, walking up the public footpath, at least a half a mile from the road, to find Men-An-Tol. This site comprises an upright, circular, holed stone (men an tol is Cornish for stone with a hole) and two standing stones. The circular stone stands just under three feet tall. Experiments have been done showing the alignment of sun and stones on significant dates. In earlier years, superstitious people believed that passing an infant through the hole would prevent certain diseases and for adults, crawling through the hole nine times would cure backache -- but probably kill your knees. For me, the Merry Maidens had the "best vibes" -- don't know why -- it was just a compelling spot. When we visited Men-An-Tol, there was a family with three small children and two dogs spread out for a picnic. It was difficult to get a good picture because one or more of the children were darting in and out and the parents were completely oblivious. Human sacrifice was out of the question, but it did cross my mind.

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