The se­cret love life of stones

Country Life Every Week - - My Week - Jonathan Self

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:// hon­eysre­al­dog­ who lives in Co Cork, Ire­land

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