Sacrifice made at Druid’s Seat reaps no earthly benefits ... yet
YOU cannot move for druids on the winter solstice at Stonehenge, but if you are a shy kind of druid, looking for a pagan ceremony off the beaten track, why not try Kilninver?
Out of curiosity, early(ish) one morning, I made a pilgrimage to the Druid’s Seat: a chair carved thousands of years ago into a rocky outcrop below the Toad of Lorn, just before the Bridge Over the Atlantic to Seil.
Anyone sitting in the Druid’s Seat at dawn on the shortest day, December 21, is lit by the sun rising through a natural col in Raera Hill across Loch Seil, and, it is theorised, Bronze Age tribes used the chair as a calendar to calculate the date of the winter solstice.
In view below on the fertile plateau of Duachy (Gaelic for ‘meeting place’), lie four standing stones (though only one now still stands), which also line up with the summer solstice. During the winter solstice, the sun reflects off the chair, clearly visible from the standing stones.
All, it appears, are carved from a basalt dyke running down the hill, with apparent cut marks in the seam above the chair, and a discarded standing stone littering the croft below.
Today the landscape is empty save for ruminants, but, like so many now remote corners of Argyll, there are signs of millennia of human inhabitation, from a Bronze Age village by Dubh (black) Loch, and an Iron Age crannog on Loch Seil.
The chair, or more accurately throne, measuring 0.8m wide by 0.5m deep, with a comfortable cushion of soil, grass and sheep droppings, and smoothed for the back of the knees, sits at the centre of a natural amphitheatre.
When Christianity came to Lorn, displacing – or, rather, absorbing – the local pagan Celtic religion, the Druid’s Seat was named St Brendan’s Seat, after Brendan the Navigator, the patron saint of mariners, elderly adventurers, whales and canoes.
Here, according to legend, the Irish saint dispensed advice to his followers, on the hill called Suidhe Bhreanain (the Seat of St Brendan) that stretched into the sea where only one ship could enter – the Clachan Sound separating Kilninver and the island of Seil. And so it was last December 21, with no ceremony or wisdom to impart and no flock to observe (except sheep), I parked my chariot (a Renault Clio) to process (trudge) past the thousands of years of human history, and battle the elements (mud, hail and wind), up to the Druid’s Seat.
The fateful hour, or minute, of 8.55am arrived. The sky pinkened, but the Celtic sun god, Lugh, did not make an appearance.
What omen did that spell for 2017? For all your sakes, I sacrificed a bacon roll, but two months on, I’m sorry to say I don’t think it has worked – so far.
The Druid’s Seat was renamed St Brendan’s Seat after Christianity came to Lorn.