The secret love life of stones
If you have a penchant for adult-themed archaeology books, allow me to recommend the newly published Stonehenge, Avebury and Drombeg Stone Circles Deciphered. The smallest of these circles being located on what was formerly our demesne, I was delighted to get my mitts on this racy little tome, which, to offer you a randomly selected quote, is all about ‘stoneon-stone action between a stone classifiable as male with an acceptor stone identifiable as female’.
‘Each circle contains a male stone (no prizes for guessing what this looks like)
Its author, Prof Terrence Meaden, proposes a new and rather intriguing theory about our own and a number of other stone circles, viz that they represent—as this is a family magazine, I will try to keep things clean—the ‘union’ between two fertility deities, the sky god (male) and the earth god (female).
According to the professor, each circle contains a male stone (no prizes for guessing what this looks like) so positioned that, at sunrise on the first day of each of the eight Gaelic seasons, it casts its giant shadow onto a different female stone. At Drombeg, he has identified certain carvings of a rather anatomical nature to back up his theory.
On Monday, I read his treatise in a single sitting and am now totally convinced that our Neolithic monument is, as he suggests, a ‘dramatic mating spectacle’. Accordingly, the twins have been banned, on the basis that it’s not age appropriate, from their regular, after-school practice of clambering all over it.
One of the stones in our own circle actually went missing in about 1909. I’m ashamed to say that it ended up outside our front gates in order to ease what my father referred to as ‘the charabanc problem’—coaches parking across the drive while their occupants tramped through the home field to ogle at what we now know are the players in a 5,000year-old, X-rated shadow act.
In 2013, the stone disappeared once more and I was interested to read that it’s been ‘transferred to a place of safety because the owner of Drombeg House did not want it’. This was news to me.
Prof Meaden hopes that it will be ‘moved again to be on land near the Drombeg stone circle’. I would have said that, before it got nicked from outside our house, that’s exactly where it was.
One never knows what one has until it’s gone and the same is as true of ancient cars as it is of ancient calendars. It may just be—i’m admitting nothing in print—that I’ve been driving an old, British-registered, seven-seater, four-wheeldrive car around Ireland for ages without paying the appropriate import duty.
If I did get away with such a thing, possibly it was because I allowed mud to cake over the numberplate, making it difficult to read. Grime may pay, but its wages are slim enough. Every time I thought of swapping my much-loved Jeep for its modern equivalent, I was horrified by the cost—both the cost of buying it and the ensuing cost to the environment.
Jeremy Clarkson was spot on when he said of my favoured replacement vehicle: ‘There’s a gallon of fuel gone there, and another there… and yet another there. The only way this car could be less annoying to ecomentalists is if its engine ran on sliced dolphin.’
Last week, my existing set of wheels finally gave up the ghost and, this week, I took delivery of my first brand-new car in two decades: Nissan’s answer to the Land Rover. I have to say that it’s comfortable, fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly. The only problem I foresee is that it may cause me a certain amount of carsickness at the end of the month when the lease payment is due.
Samhain, the Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest and beginning of the darker half of the year, is also due at the end of the month. It was seen as a liminal time when the boundary between this world and the other world could more easily be crossed by spirits, fairies and the souls of the dead.
Tellingly, the date is also associated with Crom Cruach, an ancient Irish fertility god, generally represented as a gold figure surrounded by stone figures. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Anyway, it is in a spirit of scientific study that I’m planning to get up for sunrise (which happily falls at the relatively civilised hour of 7.30am) on the morning of Samhain and nip down to our stone circle in order to see Prof Meaden’s ‘divine fecundation’ for myself.
How right the American author Jim Bishop was when he suggested that archaeology is the Peeping Tom of the sciences.
Jonathan Self is an author and raw dog-food maker (http:// honeysrealdogfood.com) who lives in Co Cork, Ireland