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spelling and format editing has occurred within these posts; some email addresses may be out of date. ------------------------------ MEGALITHIC STONE RINGS Date: Sun, 22 Aug 1999 23:45:47 -0400 From: Dan Washburn (email@example.com) I have been dipping into the following book: John Edwin Wood (Deputy Director of the Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment), "Sun, Moon and Standing Stones," 1978, Oxford University Press. He gives an excellent summary of Alexander Thom's work on measuring megalithic monuments and reviews the several types of stone rings that have been discovered -- circles, flattened circles, ellipses and eggs. For example he says on p 40 that more than 20 stone ellipses have been discovered, with a very wide geographical distribution. P 53 Whatever the period of construction the majority of stone rings were truly circular. The rough proportions for the different shapes are 2/3 true circles, 1/6 flattened circles, 1/9 ellipses, and 1/18 eggs. The earliest rings are true circles, as one would expect since these are the easiest to set out. A few flatteneed circles may have been built in the Late Neolithic Period, but the other developments, ellipses and eggs, belong to the Early Bronze Age, with most of them later than 2000 BC. With the development of the more elaborate shapes there was a general reduction in size of stone circles, and the Early Bronze Age circles include a much smaller proportion of large ones than do those from the Late Neolithic Period. There are two types of flattened circle, Type A and B, and two types of egg, Type I and II. We are going to ignore these differences here, though. The overall question is why are there stone rings at all? This leads to the question as to why some stone rings are non-circular? Why are there flattened circles, ellipses, and eggs? In my essay, The Original Religion of Mankind, I extracted from a wide variety of mythological traditions the elements of a proto-religion of humankind, that possibly goes back to the hunter-gatherer societies of the Upper Paleolithic. One of the elements of that proto-religion was a concern with the center of the sky, the point around which all the stars revolve. Meditation on the center of the sky led me to speculations about the cup and ring and the spiral decorations on megalithic monuments. (A 'Cup and ring' was formed by a small central depression surrounded by concentric circles, there was usually a channel from the outside to the central depression, as well.) Quoting from myself: _________________ I have been meditating on the axis mundi and the still point at the center of the sky and what has been persistently coming to me is the form of the spiral. The still point is eternity, the place beyond time, out of which everything emerges. As Consciousness moves out from the center in the creation of the heavens, the combination of movement outward and the circular rotation of the sky produces the spiral. Megalithic monuments are covered with [cup and ring and] spiral forms. No one has been able to give a good explanation of their meaning and I've puzzled over their interpretation. As the product of a sky religion that is concerned with the astronomical alignment of monuments, I would now say that they represent the spiral of creation from the center of the sky. There is usually a straight channel that connects the outside with the center of the [cup and ring] as well. This is a representation of the axis mundi. The spiral could have functioned as a ritual. If you have a particular wish, hold it in mind while carving the spiral of creation into a sacred stone. You will then magically create whatever it is that you wish for, since you have aligned your mind with the creative power of the sky. _________________ If the spiral and the cup and ring decorations represented the center of the sky and its creative power, then perhaps the larger stone rings themselves also represented the center of the sky and its creative power. Regular circles represent the whole sky. But it was the center of the sky, which was not overhead but further down toward the horizon in the north, that was most sacred. A flattened circle is an attempt to represent a picture of the sky in which part of the circle of stars around the center is truncated. We see the full circle overhead heading out from the center, but heading in the other direction toward the horizon the circle is flattened. Ellipses represent a next step. The center of the sky is one foci of the ellipse, the pole of the ecliptic or the point directly overhead is the other foci. But the ellipse misrepresents the shape of the sky. The circle of the point directly overhead is larger than the circle formed by the center of the sky, hence the egg shapes were developed. It seems to me that these speculations might be checked by a careful consideration of the proportions of a stone ring in relation to the lattitude of its location, the time of year, and the positions of the overhead, pole of the ecliptic, and center of the sky. Plus the orientation of the stone ring. Another thought occurs to me: The flattened circles, ellipses, and egg-shapes are all directional. You can draw a straight line through each one along a well defined axis. Has anyone taken a large scale map and drawn in the axis lines of the irregular stone rings? Do they meet at significant spots? Do they form some sort of pattern, geometric or astronomical or mythological? Interesting questions! If anyone has the time to pursue them, or knows if they have already been answered, please let me know. Dan W.
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