Long Meg and Her Daughters is a Bronze Age stone circle near Penrith in Cumbria, North West England. It was constructed as a part of a megalithic tradition that lasted from 3,300 to 900 BCE, during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. The stone circle is the sixth-biggest example known from this part of north-western Europe. It primarily consists of 59 stones (of which 27 remain upright) set in an oval shape measuring 340ft (100 m) on its long axis. There may originally have been as many as 70 stones. Long Meg herself is a 12ft (3.6 m) high monolith of red sandstone 80ft (25 m) to the southwest of the circle made by her Daughters.
The monument is 109m x 93m in diameter. Long Meg herself stands 25m outside the circle, 6m above the farthest stone in the circle, " and is the tallest of the 69 stones at c.3.8m high and weighing c.9 tonnes." The Long Meg monolith is of local red sandstone, most likely from the River Eden or the nearby Lazonby hills, whereas the circle stones are of rhyolite and are glacial erratics. Two large blocks stand to the east and west and there are two extra 'portal' stones placed to the south-west. The placement of Long Meg is in the alignment between the centre of the circle and the point of the midwinter sunset. The south-west face of Long Meg has crystals in it, whereas the face looking towards the circle has spirals and other rock art inscribed on it.
Sir William Dugdale reported that there were 'two barrows of cobble-stones, nine or ten feet high' in the centre of the circle. It is thought that these were later burials using cobbles from the surrounding area.
Four of the stones in the circle appear to be non-local and are formed of quartz crystal. They seem to have been deliberately selected and placed at specific points in the circle that mark certain calendrical events (sunsets and solstices related to the four seasons, for example). They work by standing outside the circle at the stone directly opposite to the quartz stone concerned. One alignment, at Samhain / All Souls' Day, may involve Long Meg herself, a portal stone and one of the quartz stones.
The use of different coloured stones also seems to be significant - red, white and blue/gray predominate. There might also be a red 'equinox stone' on the east side of the Long Meg circle (as at Swinside and Castlerigg), involved in the Autumn and Vernal equinox sunrises and sunsets. The Long Meg stones may be involved not just with Solar timings, but also with Lunar ones as well (most northerly/southerly Moon rises and sets).
The Long Meg monolith has motifs on the face looking towards the circle arranged in three sections. The markings include: in the centre, a cup at the centre of three rings, a spiral of four turns and various concentric arcs; in the lower section, three faint figures at the left-hand corner, an anti-clockwise spiral, cup and ring and various concentric arcs; in the upper section are faint rings, ovoids, spirals and other markings. Some of the stones in the circle itself have artificial markings on them as well.
Dating and purpose
The large ditched enclosure lying immediately to the north of the circle is probably Neolithic. In this respect, it may be of the same date as other enclosures found in Cumbria that include: Carrock Fell, Skelmore Heads, Howe Robin, and Green How. If the stone circle is later than the enclosure, it is likely to be of early Bronze Age. There is the possibility that the Long Meg monolith was not contemporary with the stone circle.
Long Meg was something more than a burial place. However, the exact nature of the purpose of the monument is still a matter of conjecture. Clare summarises the various arguments concerning types, purpose, construction, size, layout, origins and dates, of Cumbrian stone circles and other monuments. His conclusion seems to be that the nature of the monument, and others like it (such as at Swinside), suggests that they are "places where people came together, probably at certain times of the year. Amongst activities at such times, we might envisage ritual, social exchange and trade." The "certain times of the year" mentioned here would probably have been calculated using the suggested predictive calendar as outlined by Hood. The actual building of the circle, perhaps taking place in stages over time, might in itself have been one of the purposes of the monument.
There a a few legends that surround the stones. The most well known is that they were once a coven of witches who were turned to stone by Michael Scott, a wizard from Scotland. It is said the stones cannot be counted - however if anyone is able to count them twice and come to the same total - the spell will be broken or it will bring very bad luck. Another legend states that if you walk round the circles and count the number of stones correctly, then put your ear to Long Meg, you will hear her whisper. The name is believed to come from a local witch, Meg of Meldon, who was alive in the early 17th century. It is said that from a certain angle, the Long Meg stone resembles the profile of a witch. A giant's bone and body believed to be buried there is though to have been large animal bones found at the site.
Stachys is a genus of about 300 species of annual and perennial herbaceous plants and shrubs in the family Lamiaceae. The distribution of the genus covers Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia and North America. Common names include Heal-all, self-heal, woundwort, betony, lamb's ears, hedgenettle, Stachys betonica, lousewort, purple betony, bishopwort, bishop's elder, spiked betony, and St. Bride's comb. There are five species of Stachys growing wild in England - the once much-valued Betony (S. Betonica); the Marsh Stachys, or Clown's Woundwort (S. palustris); the true Woundwort (S. Germanica), a doubtful native, occurring occasionally on limestone soils in England, but very common on the Continent, where the dense covering of its leaves was at one time in rustic surgery employed in the place of lint for dressing wounds, the low-creeping Field Stachys (S. arvensis); and the Hedge Stachys, or Hedge Woundwort (S. sylvatica), perhaps the commonest of them all. This plant can still be found growing wild in New York and Massachusetts, but it is protected some places, like in Northern Ireland.
The blackthorn has a long and often sinister history, associated with witchcraft and murder, but it is also associated with the concept of the cycle of life and death and protection not to mention its practical physical uses. Prunus spinosa. Deciduous. Family Rosaceae (the large rose family).
Tomnahurich is a steep wooded hill just on the outskirts of Inverness. It is said to be a fairy hill into which people could be lured often never to return. This tale of two fiddlers recounts the story of just such an unfortunate pair…
The two travelling Fiddlers were staying in Inverness and they made their living by playing in pubs or at social events. They were very good at what they did but had been having a hard time making ends meet, when they were approached by an old man who offered to pay them well for a nights work. Naturally delighted the two fiddlers accepted and followed the old man to Tomnahurich, coming to a stone doorway that they had never seen before, which appeared to lead directly into the side of the hill. A little worried but thinking of what they would earn the two fiddlers followed the old man through the doorway and down winding, torch lit, passages, arriving in a huge and beautiful hall filled with young, beautiful people.
A Story from Celtic sources
As retold by Beth Vaughan
The King, Sir Orfeo, could play the harp like no one else. When he played, birds stopped singing, just to listen. It was a small harp, one he could tuck under his arm and take with him wherever wanted.
There are many tales to explain the origin of the spectral wild hunt, this one is from the Parish of St Germans in Cornwall. It explains how a priest with low morals became a demon huntsman.
In the medieval period the priest of the parish of St Germans was called Dando. Dando was not a figure of priestly virtue but abused his powers to enjoy earthly delights.
This particularly sinister folktale of the wild hunt is from Devon, and is based in the Dartmoor area, a place full of tales of the supernatural, especially the wild hunt.
One wild stormy night a farmer was returning home from Widecombe, somewhat worse the wear from the strong local beverages brewed on-site. The wind raged, and the rain beat down on him, forcing him to pull his hood over his face, and to wrap his jacket tight around him.
The story of the Lambton worm is perhaps the most famous of the dragon/worm/wyvern stories that abound in the north of England, alleged to have inspired Bram Stokers final novel “The Lair of the White Worm”. There are many similar stories from the region including the Laidley worm of Bamburgh, the Longwitton Dragon of Northumberland, The Dragon of Loschy wood near Stonegrave, Helmsley, the less well-known Handale (near Loftus) serpent, the Sexhowe dragon and the Sockburn worm which inspired Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” written in Croft in 1855.
The King of the Fairies - From J. Bowker, Goblin Tales of Lancashire, p. 52.
On the high road from Manchester to Stockport, where Levenshulme Church now stands, there lived many years ago an old man named Daniel Burton. (His grandson was afterwards for many years Rector of All Souls' Manchester.) "Old Dannel" was amazingly lucky. All that he did turned out well, so that in time it began to be said that he must be in league with the Devil.
Jamieson's Northern Antiquities gives the story of the most famous of the Crodh Mara, the cow bred by the visit of a water-bull and of the farmer too mean for gratitude.
The elf-bull is small, compared with earthly bulls, of a mousecolour; Mosted [crop-eared], with short corky horns; short in the legs; long, round, and slamp [supple] in the body, like a wild animal; with short, sleek, and glittering hair, like an otter; and supernaturally active and strong. They most frequently appear near the banks of rivers; eat much green corn in the night-time; and are only to be got rid of by certain spells .
Giraldus Cambrensis in ITINERARIUM CAMBRIAE, the account of his journey through Wales in 1188, gives a remarkable narrative of a boy's visit to Fairyland. It contains so mush information in so short a space that it deserves to be included in full. It is one of the best of the early fairy anecdotes:
" Some time ago I heard about a priest called Elidor, who had had a strange event, when he was a boy. 12-years old Elidor, who wanted to avoid his severe teachers hard discipline and beating, that continued on an on, ran away one day, and hide in river´s cliff. He had been there for 2 days, when 2 dwarf´s size men came to him and said:
" If you want to come with us, we´ll take you into a kingdom, wich is full of joy and fun." Elidor consented the men´s suggestion and left with them.
Late one night, so the story goes, a great doctor, who lived near Lough Neagh, was awoke by the sound of a carriage driving up to his door, followed by a loud ring. Hastily throwing on his clothes, the doctor ran down, when he saw a little sprite of a page standing at the carriage door, and a grand gentleman inside.
"Oh, doctor, make haste and come with me," exclaimed the gentleman. "Lose no time, for a great lady has been taken ill, and she will have no one to attend her but you. So come along with me at once in the carriage."
When Lanty M'Clusky married he set about building a house for his bride, and chose for it's site a beautiful green circle such as the faeries might choose as a playground. Although he was warned against this he thought the place was much too nice and he had no intention of building elsewhere no matter what the faeries thought of it.