The Swan Stone Circle

Ivan & SwanThe Swan Stone Circle

Last week I visited the first full-sized stone circle I ever made. The day was windy with gusts that pulled on my jacket like a child trying to get my attention. The clouds were scudding rapidly overhead, and pools of sunlight raced over the countryside. This was the first time I had visited the stones since I had raised them nearly twenty-five years ago and I was nervous, as I didn’t know what I would find.

I needn’t have worried. As I approached them across the field, I felt welcomed by the spirit of the place. The last time I spent time with the stones, they were bright grey, newly extracted from the quarry, and the ground had been badly disturbed by the machines that were used to move them. Dirt covered the grass around the stones, and it looked like what it was – a building site.

As I got closer, the first impression I felt was… maturity. The stones had come of age, and I could feel that they had been through a lot over the years. They felt settled into the ground, solid, immoveable and sentient. The second impression I got was… belonging. The fresh grey stone had gone, and had been replaced by a living coat of organic greens and greys. Mosses and lichens covered the stones in layers of natural abundance, and it was as if nature itself had claimed the stones as her own. All damage to the field had healed long ago, and rich green grass covered the ground like a verdant carpet.

As I leaned against a stone, memories flooded in and I relived many of the experiences I had when building it. Camping in the corner of the field in a small geodesic dome, I was delighted to find a four leaved clover… then one with five leaves… one with six… and finally, unbelievably, a seven-leaved clover! Calling for vision, and then the golden full moon rising over the top of the hill… and suddenly the Awen descended, instructing me to design the geometry of the stones based on the major stars of Cygnus, the Swan…

And then, half way to completion, having doubts that I was doing it right. Sitting by my fire and hearing a strange, otherworldly sound, a rhythmical whistling that was getting closer and closer, coming straight at me… louder and louder. It was so bizarre and completely out of my experience, that I was starting to panic… when a flight of seven swans, in brilliant white V-formation, appeared over the hedge, flew low directly over my head, and then over the stones I was raising…

Staying awake on Midsummer’s Eve, in vigil, in the stones, under the revolving stars of Cygnus… Tara, my partner Serena’s 6 year-old daughter, blessing the last stone to enter the ground with her stuffed animal in hand… The Glastonbury Order of Druids, (the GODs) dressed in black robes, blessing the finished stone circle… the Midsummer sun rising over the stone representing the head of the Swan… hundreds of people making music, singing, and celebrating the turning of the great wheel… So many memories, all part of this powerful, sacred space I had the great fortune to build so long ago.

I realized that the circle represents far more than a simple stone circle in a field. Since Neanderthal times, at Midsummer, the clans and tribes of the land would travel huge distances, from every direction, to gather at a chosen place to meet up, camp together awhile, renew friendships, celebrate the changing of the seasons, do ceremony, play games, get married, all in the spirit of pilgrimage and celebration. This gathering was much more than a mere festival. It fulfilled a deep, instinctual urge in the psyche of a nation, a migration that moved hundreds of thousands of people hundreds of miles to unite at the center of their sacred land, at the genus loci where heaven touches the Earth – Avalon.

And somehow, unbelievably, I had been chosen to build the only permanent temple space at this gathering place of the tribes, where they could come and commune together in sacred space.

As I stood there, inside the circle – actually an egg – I suddenly remembered that, on completing the stone circle, I had completely severed all connection with the stones. I didn’t allow myself to feel what I had achieved. At that time, so long ago, I suddenly realized what I had just done and I couldn’t handle the feelings it generated. I was terrified that my ego would take me over, and so I closed down. I made a vow not to return to the stones for at least a year and a day, and that I wouldn’t even talk about it.

It felt as if I had given birth many years ago to a beautiful child and had done my best to provide for it, because I had to leave. I trusted that it had the energy and provision to grow healthily without my presence… On my return, after half a lifetime, I realized that my fears were unfounded. I could see that my child had blossomed into a beautiful, powerful sacred space with an important destiny.

All these memories flooded back, and I decided that my locked doors could open again. There was no huge firework display, or overwhelming emotional tsunami. Only a calm, deep feeling of happiness, gratitude, and a radiant sense of self-esteem. I gave thanks for my good fortune. I contemplated how much I crave, and at the same time, feel disgust, for success and recognition in my life, and I hoped that this present experience with the stones would loosen me up to receive a lot more!

From now on, I will visit the Swan Circle whenever I am in Glastonbury, and will take people there. It is an example of a powerful temple, built and integrated harmoniously into the sacred land, dedicated to the annual gathering of the tribes at Summer Solstice. And I built it!