these rocks and stones
vessels of deep time
named and claimed
a made place
a place made
to build, dwell
ghosts and bocans
the stones over
peat bog, moss
moor and lichen.
Breathe and feel
the chiliastic serenity
of this uncanny land.
I rediscovered this photograph recently which was taken a couple of years ago at Machrie Moor on the Isle of Arran. We were on holiday and I went out at around 6.00am to go for a walk before the family were up. It’s about 2.5km to the stones from the closest road, which is long enough to immerse yourself in the feeling of the place. The photograph is of the main grouping of stones which stand amongst a ritual landscape consisting of seven stone circles, several chambered cairns and hut circles. A highly evocative liminal landscape to wander alone in the thin morning light wrapped in light drizzle. Whilst written at a different time of the day, I cannot better the feeling described by John McArthur in The Antiquities of Arran (1861):
We have never witnessed a wilder and more grandly solemn scene than these old circles on the Mauchrie Moor, looming in shadowy indistinctiveness of an autumn moonlight…as we wandered amongst the old ruins, the weirdly stirring legends of the past haunted our mind, til the wreaths of mist seemed to float about like shadowy phantoms and the circling monoliths and hoary cromlech appeared to rise from the heath, like ghosts of the heroes of old, bending around the grave of their buried chief.
On my way back to the road, I’m reflecting on the tales of local folklore and particularly the stories of the bocans (malign spirits) which are said to inhabit the area. I’m rolling some sheep trintle in my hand – those soft wisps of wool which get snagged on fences or whin. It was as quiet as a remote landscape could be. Only the occasional bird call, a tuft of wind, the soft fizz of drizzle. Amongst all the greens and browns, I’m distracted by an impressive growth of witches butter, that bright yellow, almost golden fungus and head over for a closer look. I’m just about to step over a large tuft of moor grass, when, as is their wont, a pheasant takes wing from almost underneath my foot, squawking like a banshee. As the bird ascends in that awkward, unbalanced, flapping squall a tail feather whirligigs down from the sky which I manage to catch just before it hits the ground.
A gift from the moor dwellers to soothe my pounding heart.
Now playing: Eliane Radigue – Koumé, the third part of Trilogie de la Mort.
6 replies on “This Land…”
What a beautiful sense of place past and present! I love the poem especially and thanks for the glossary. I think I only need to look up one word now!
Thanks Diana. I’m not sure how common ‘trintle’ is but its a word I love!
Enjoyed very much reading your post. I love the poem. I felt as I was there hovering above this ancient landscape, feeling the cold stone and wet air. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for the comments elimelike. Much appreciated and valued.
Beautiful. Beautiful. Haunting, even. The photo paired with the poem, and yes, paired with some new vocabulary words, was a trip into a different world I would very much like to experience.
Glad I found your blog tonight. I believe I will be back.
Thanks for the comments Emily. Much appreciated and great to hear your response.