On the 21st January 2003 I met with Lucy Mellor, wife of the music legend Joe Strummer. He is probably best known for his pivotal role in The Clash, although his music has evolved a long way since then. He was in the process of recording a new CD with his current group, The Mescaleros, when he tragically passed away on the day of the Winter Solstice, the 22nd of December 2002.
|It was a great shock for everybody, especially
as he seemed to be in good health at the time. I met Lucy for the first
time in January; she was eager to start a project to both honor Joe’s memory
and to celebrate his life. Apparently he had wanted to build a stone circle
while alive but never actually got round to it; Lucy felt that building
a stone circle in his honor would be very appropriate.
Lucy owns a farm in the Quantock Hills near Taunton, Somerset. It nestles in a green valley with wonderful views over the Somerset levels to the south. A happy little stream flows down the valley. The water is particularly clear and delicious; it rises in the next field four hundred yards up the hill. Lucy showed me around her land, and in my opinion, there was only one place to build the stone circle. That was a flat area of ground only one hundred yards from the farmhouse, next to the stream, with good solid access for large vehicles. Lucy agreed with my recommendations.
We decided to make the stone circle by hand. I was to come up with a design, find the stones, and assemble a team of “megalithic engineers” to build the circle. A dream come true! To start the ball rolling, I arranged a visit to the Torr Works, a huge limestone quarry near Frome, Somerset, and soon Lucy, myself and friends were being driven around the massive hole in the earth by Bob the quarry manager. We found about half the stones we were looking for, but it soon became apparent that there were not enough stones the right size or shape for all our needs. A few days later we found the other stones in a sister quarry near Cheddar (yes, the place where the cheese comes from!). All the stones came from the same range of hills called the Mendips, and were a lovely dark grey limestone, stained by mineral deposits, and were shot through with large clusters of calcite crystals.
I spent a lot of time on site, being silent and receptive, and making contact with the Spirit of Place. It was all incredibly exciting and challenging. I asked the questions: “Why are we here? How can we serve you best?” and “What does the temple we are going to build here look like?” Over a period of a few days I was given the information I needed. This was to be the first full-sized stone circle I had ever built by hand, in one continuous session. As the team arrived, we built a “portable village” on site. It consisted of two canvas structures for sleeping, a kitchen (affectionally called “the pigsty”, because it used to house twelve pigs), a hot shower unit, and a hot tub.
Our task was to build a stone circle dedicated to the spirit of Joe Strummer, a sort of “spirit house” that he would inhabit from now on. His destiny was to input his extraordinary, unique energy to become the guardian of a new sacred space here on the Earth.
|I was very aware that this was to be a very
special project for two main reasons. Firstly, Joe died at
sunset on the day of Midwinter Solstice. He crossed over at the
instant the sun dies on its yearly cycle; he was synchronized
and at-one with the rhythms of Nature. Although he was a man,
this merging with the spirit and rhythms of Nature raises him
from his original humanity into the realms of myth and
archetypes. Solar Gods such as Jesus and Osiris are such
beings. Secondly, the site of “Joe’s Stones”
is three miles from the St. Michael Line, or “Great
Ley”, the major leyline that enters England in Cornwall,
traverses the land through strong energy centers such as
Glastonbury and Avebury, and leaves the country just south of
Lowestoft. It is said that the Great Ley is one of twelve such
giant currents of earth energy that circumnavigate the Earth.
These lines of energy can be understood to be the planetary
equivalents of the “meridians” on the human body,
which are tended and balanced by acupuncturists in the name of
harmony and healing. It makes sense that there are people who
are trained in healing and balancing the Earth in similar ways
as acupuncturists who do the same for the human body. In fact,
it seems to be the case that once certain acupuncturists have
been trained to work on the human body, they are then
“recruited” by the Earth. I personally know of
three such people, and I suspect there are many more.
It is very auspicious to build a sacred space so close to such a strong leyline. It must be understood that leylines are sentient. Whenever anything of power is performed, or created, on the Earth’s surface, it is included and absorbed in the Earth’s energy field. Gaia, the planet Herself, creates “new” leylines to connect any new ’power spot” into the existing network. Regarding Joe’s Stones, I knew that as soon as our intent was picked up by the planetary intelligence, connections would be made to the existing network of leylines and earth energies. The Great Ley, a huge hyperspace bypass (to quote the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) ran only 3 miles from the site. I knew that our stone temple was energetically powerful and “interesting” enough to be directly “plugged in”. This meant that everything we did, and all the energy we generated, would very quickly find itself being channeled into the land as a whole, and from there, around the whole planet. At the same time, we would soon be absorbed into a huge current of energy. What a responsibility! It was incredibly exciting, yet I knew that our project would need extraordinary measures in order to be successful.
Standing stones can be seen to be huge acupuncture needles that profoundly affect the life-force of the Earth. I believe that the Earth gives “instructions” to those with ears to hear, whenever she wants her energy body to be tweaked into new configurations, and I feel very honored to be a person she contacts from time to time. The construction of Joe’s Stones was such an occasion, and I knew that whatever we did there in the Quantock Hills was likely to affect the world, and beyond.
|All this time I was receiving guidance about its design. In order to construct a powerful working temple, it is important to get clear about its intent. By understanding the true meaning behind the project, I felt it would be possible to create a stone circle that would do justice to Joe’s spirit. The design of such temples is multi-dimensional, with layer of meaning laid upon layer of different meaning, on yet another, all working together with harmony and clear intent.||
| Each individual element of a sacred space
needs to be positioned meaningfully and harmoniously with every
other element. The job of a stone circle builder is similar to
a conductor in a choir: to assemble all the elements of a
choral piece together in a harmonious way, so that the meaning
and words of the song ring clear and true.
The basic design would be a stone circle surrounding a fire pit. Joe, after being a famous musician, was best known for organizing and attending festivals where he built huge fires, inviting people to join him to enjoy warmth, companionship, and good music. Joe’s Stones would continue to provide this service, the only difference being that Joe would be there in spirit, rather than in body.
Then there was the positioning of the stones. I usually like to position a large stone in each of the four directions. They provide stability and harmony for the growing sacred space. They honor the four directions, and the four elements. The North stone is always aligned to Polaris, otherwise known as the North star, for this scintillating point in the heavens is the only still point in our spiraling journey through the universe (in the northern hemisphere). It shows True North, and the true direction towards wisdom and balance. Magnetic North is never used in orientating sacred space, for its position is always changing. It lies about 120 miles north of Canada at the moment, and looks as if it will intersect Siberia in a few years.
Stone circles are also known as “Shadow Temples”. Individual stones in stone circles are usually aligned to the rising and setting positions of celestial objects such as sun, moon or stars on the horizon at specific points, or dates, in their cycle. These alignments cast meaningful shadows, embodying the intent of the temple like cosmic fingers that point towards and touch the centre of the sacred space. Whenever the Centre is touched in this way, the entire temple becomes activated with the quality of that specific alignment. The qualities, deities or ancestors to which the temple is dedicated will remain alive, happy and potent as long as they are regularly remembered, are spoken about in loving, respectful ways, and honored in this way.
This stone circle would be individualized as Joe’s by the positioning of three particular stones in the ring. The first would be aligned to the sunrise on his birthday (August 21st), resulting in a shadow that would be cast, on that special day, into the centre of the circle. This stone would be called as Joe’s Birthstone. The second stone would be aligned to the sunset on the day he died (December 22nd, the Winter Solstice). It would be called Joe’s Deathstone. The third stone, at Lucinda’s request, would be placed to align with the sunset on the day they first met, at the fire festival of Beltaine (May 8th). It would become known as the Joe and Lucy stone.
|The circumstances around Joe’s Stones
created a particular problem for me as a designer. With all my
former stone circles, I had plenty of time to observe the
movement of the sun as it rose and set on specific dates
throughout the year, enabling me to simply mark the alignments
I needed with a wooden stake, or a stone. I had had only one
month’s warning in this case, and so had no time to make
visible sightings. There are official tables, which show the
position of the sunrises and sunsets throughout the year, but
only if the horizons are flat. Unfortunately, the site
lay in quite a steep valley, and so working out the exact
alignments we needed was very complicated.
The solution lay in an interesting bit of computer software my friend Sig has developed called Sunfinder. This programme calculates the azimuth (degrees clockwise from True North) of any sunrise or sunset, given the position on the earth’s surface (latitude and longitude), the date, and the angle of elevation to the horizon.
Joe & Lucy Stones
|The instrument designed to measure the
angle to the horizon is called a clinometer: Sig lent me his
very own. I had to undertake the nerve-wracking job of
calculating the positions of all the stones which were to be
aligned to the rising and setting points of the sun.
At this point in the proceedings we had accounted for seven of the stones. Often you have to start construction with only part of the design sorted out, and trust that the remaining features of the circle will reveal themselves in their own good time. It was time to start constructing Joe’s Stones.
|Finding the Centre|
|Before anything else could be done, we had to find the Centre. Finding the Centre is the first step in manifesting a new sacred space on Earth, and is a particularly magical event. It needs to be done with sensitivity and respect. Different people have different ways of finding this spot of spots. In my experience, there is only one possibility for the Centre, and I embark on a process of elimination until I find it. In this case the site was bounded on three sides by the edges of the flat area, and on the fourth by some low-tension overhead electric cables. The only possible space left for the Centre was a circular area about ten feet in diameter. While working on Joe’s Stones I used to dance every day at sunrise, and in the centre of this available space was the small flattened area of grass which was my special dance spot. I had found the Centre.|
|The Size of the Circle|
|The diameter of the circle is important. It needs to harmonize with the area available, and the size of the stones. In addition, the units used must be the Megalithic Yard, an important consideration in creating sacred space. If one uses the Megalithic unit of measurement, there are only a few sizes of diameter that can be used, if the Megalithic rule is to be observed. We chose the diameter to be 16MY (Megalithic Yards), or 43.5ft.|
|Inviting in the Dragons|
|Once we had been given the go-ahead to
construct Joe’s Stones by Lucy, I started having dreams,
both while sleeping and also while awake, concerning the finer
elements of Joe’s Temple. I started to receive
inspiration, and began to understand what was needed to create
the invisible, energetic temple that would act as a blueprint
for the physical stone circle we were about to build.
I was also informed in no uncertain terms that this was an important project and that I was way out of my league as far as my ability to hold and protect the sacred space was concerned. I was instructed to request the help of the dragons, and only then would we have a good chance of manifesting what was required of us.
Once the Centre had been found, we set our magical process in motion. Dragons are powerful, dynamic forces of nature experienced as large movements of conscious energy. There are many types of these amazing otherworldly creatures, but I was mostly concerned with the earth dragons. They are particularly involved with the energetic health of the earth. Because they had regularly been visiting me in my Dreaming, offering their services, I knew exactly what I had to do.
The day before we had all taken part in building four altars at the edge of the space, marking the four cardinal directions. They were to be homes for the dragons during their stay, and would be regularly tended. We gathered as a group at the centre of the space, and I smiled to myself when I noticed there were thirteen people present. My favorite number. We held hands, tuned in, and prepared the space. Then we called the dragons, inviting them to come and take up their positions in the four directions of our sacred circle, and at the Centre.
We let go of each other’s hands, and four teams of three went to their respective altars. I stayed in the Centre. The teams were to remain by the altars for a few minutes, observing the arrival of the dragons with their ’inner eyes’. What sort of dragons would come? What colors? What sex? Old or young?
Stillness reigned for ten minutes. I watched spellbound as an ephemeral golden dragon approached, sparkling rainbows, which started to hover above the centre of Joe’s Stones. What a beautiful spirit! When it felt right, I called the four teams back to the Centre. They reported their observations, and it seemed that all four directional altars were now occupied by dragons.
In the North there was a huge silver male dragon in his prime. In the East an orange female dragon and her blue male son had taken up residence. In the South there was an elderly turquoise dragon, and in the West a huge orange female. I shared my sighting of the rainbow dragon. Our team of Otherworldly helpers had arrived, and I felt very relieved that at least on the psychic and magical levels, we were safe and supported. From that day onward they were in position, and on duty. They were to be seen either sitting or lying motionless at their positions, pointedly facing outwards, or soaring and gliding above the countryside, being careful to remain within sight of the stone circle. Every day without fail we “fed” and spent time with them. We all felt safe and supported. There was a real and tangible relationship growing between us, and it felt very good.
We were now ready to start moving stones. And then the rains came.
|In dismay we attempted to do our job while
a record amount of rain fell on the Quantock hills. The stones
arrived and we started to move them away from their positions
by the concrete road towards their new homes. Within a couple
of days we were moving in slow motion, sunk up to our shins in
glutinous mud. Everything became slippery and slidy, both
difficult and dangerous when moving heavy stones.
Everything took twice the usual time and effort as we persevered. In desperation we ordered a large circular bale of straw to be delivered, to bind the mud. As the local farmer delivered it I looked at it in wonder. It looked just like a golden spinning sun. Somewhere deep inside I knew things would change. And they did. The day the straw arrived was the last of the rain. With solidifying earth beneath our feet, we found our direction again. Full speed ahead!
So far we had found the Centre. Now we needed to orientate the circle, mark out the four directions, and then erect the North Stone. After the rain stopped there was a clear night. We were easily able to find Polaris, the North Star, and bring it down to cut the circumference of the circle. This is more of a ceremony than a physical operation, and it went very well. We had found the position of the North Stone in our circle! After this had been done, it was simple to find South, then East and West. The next day we marked out these positions carefully with flags on sticks.
It was time to choose the North Stone. This turned out to be simple: there was only one that was suitable. It was beautiful, long and thin, very dark, with its top a mass of white calcite crystals. Without further ado we raised it upon rollers and dragged it close to its final position. We then measured its dimensions at the base, and dug a hole slightly larger. It was very good-natured and moved like a dream. We then raised it about three feet above the level of the ground, and prepared it for dropping into the hole.
This was a very poignant moment for all present. It was less than two months since Joe had died. Lucy, family and friends assembled to honor both Joe and also their own journey through grief into new beginnings. Offerings were left under the stone, prayers made, and then the stone was dropped into the hole. What a statement of intent! We all felt that something very special was happening.
When the earth had been packed around the North stone, we all stood back. It was a very impressive sight. It stood eight feet above ground level, and was dark grey with a topping of shimmering white crystal. It had a majestic presence, and looked exactly like a giant phallus.
We shifted our attention to the South Stone. Where the North stone was long and thin, this stone was like a graceful elongated teardrop. At this stage of the proceedings the southern end of the site was still very muddy. While moving the South stone we were always alert for dangerous conditions of gloopiness. We would describe the conditions - known as Suck Factor - on a scale of one to twenty. I still have nightmares when I remember one of our delightful children in tears, stuck in the mud, calling desperately for her mum. She was one of the lucky ones, and was saved. Then there were the brown holes... what lurked below the surface was not only invisible, but malevolent too. One thought one was simply stepping into a wet patch on the field... not so! A ravening entity of sticky, sucking gloop would be waiting patiently, invisibly, for any unsuspecting foot to enter its domain. If one entered, the brown hole monster would drag it, swiftly and ruthlessly, past its event horizon into a bottomless eternity of suck. If anyone stepped into one of those, it would be touch and go if they would ever appear again...
The South stone soon appeared erect above the mud, and the two stones looked beautiful in their north-south alignment. The next was the East stone. Again, it seemed eager to move from its position at the west of the circle where it had been unloaded by crane from the truck, to the far side of the site. Soon it was standing proud and erect.
We dragged the West stone into position, and started to dig the hole. The next day, after the hole had been dug, Beetle, Joe’s dog, had to be put down as she was old, ill, and not happy. She kept on falling into the stream and was unable to look after herself. She was laid in a grave under the West stone. She had come to join Joe in his new home. Very fitting. After Beetle had been buried, the stone was dropped in, and suddenly we all realized that the four foundation stones had been placed in position. The four directions, and the four elements, had been honored. Whoever entered the circle from now on would find their way, and would never become lost. This is the stars’ promise.
|The Completion of the Design|
|Now that the four directions stones were
in position, it was time to complete the design. First of all, we had to
determine how many stones there should be in the circle. The physical size
of the space available dictates the number of stones; in this case, given
that the diameter was 16MY or 43.52ft., it could accommodate about twelve
stones of the size we had chosen.
Another important consideration in stone circle building is to create a circle of stones with alignments that fulfill its intended function, while placing the stones in such a way as to engender harmony and a pleasing proportion. Visual balance is achieved when there are stones standing on the circumference roughly equidistant from one another, without too great a distance between each.
So far we had decided the positions of seven stones: the four direction stones, Joe’s Birth stone, Joe’s Death stone, and the Joe and Lucy stone. The remaining gaps had to be filled in a meaningful way, for one of the most important rules of creating sacred space is that every element of that space must be in meaningful and conscious relationship with one another, unless the circle is specifically dedicated to Chaos.
There was a gap in the S.E. of the circle for a stone aligned to Winter Solstice sunrise, a good balance to Joe’s Death stone in the S.W. of the circle. There was a space in the N.E. of the circle for the Summer Solstice sunrise, a very important alignment in the sun’s cycle at the height of its earthly power. Unfortunately there wasn’t a corresponding space in the N.W. of the circle for the Midsummer sunset due to the necessary positioning of the Joe and Lucy stone. There were unacceptably large gaps on both sides of the North stone, but we would deal with them later.
So far we had chosen places for nine stones. Lucy suggested that one of the empty spaces would be ideal for a stone dedicated to the children. Joe and Lucy’s lives were intertwined with those of their kids, and one of their most favorite places on the planet where they spent holidays was the area around Almeria in southern Spain. The spare space in the S.W. of the stone circle pointed towards Spain, so it was perfect. The whole megalithic workforce found the exact spot for the stone by mutual consensus. It was great to have a stone dedicated to the children as part of our sacred circle!
That left spaces for two stones (see diagram of Joe’s Stones). In those two positions on either side of the North stone, there were no sun, moon, or star risings or settings. These two remaining stones had to be aligned to other phenomena. I spent lots of time calling for inspiration. And then it came. I was at the centre the circle, looking out of the circle to the right of the North stone, when I became aware of something vitally important. It was as if the mist rolled back and there on the horizon was an energetic feature that needed to be part of our sacred circle.
The lane that entered the valley and ran down the hill to the farm made a definite notch on the horizon. Not only that, it was flanked on either side by an ancient oak tree. Oaks are especially sacred to Druids, and represent doorways into the secret realms of nature. We were being guided to invite the oaks, sacred gateways to the Mysteries, to bless Joe’s Stones.
Soon after, I was standing to the west of the North stone, looking over the centre of the circle into the valley where the stream tinkled merrily. I suddenly realized that one of the strongest features of the whole landscape was this valley, and the stream that flowed through it. If a stone was placed where I was standing, the spirit of the valley would be honored, and its essence brought into the circle. I felt a great feeling of rightness, and completion. I realized in that moment that all of the stones had found their places.
|Construction by Machine|
|Due to the late delivery of the stones and
the terrible weather, the stone circle was taking longer than
anticipated to construct. Lucy had to leave the country just
after Spring Equinox, and wanted it to be completed before
then. Although the land had dried out and we were making good
progress, there was no way we could complete by the Equinox.
Lucy thought it better if the remaining stones were moved and
put into the ground by machine. After we had adjusted to the
new circumstances, it actually felt fine.
On a sunny Thursday a JCB digger (backhoe) arrived on site. The driver was a friend of Joe’s, and when we had described what was needed, he got to work. He was a complete wizard and dug the holes with a sensitivity and accuracy that took our breath away. What an expert! The remainder of the holes were dug by early afternoon, and the JCB roared away.
The next morning the mobile crane arrived. The driver parked just outside the circle and moved all the stones closer. He then drove into the centre of the circle and proceeded to pick up the stones one by one. We would place gifts into each respective hole, in turn. The crane operator would then lift the stone into position and drop it in. There we would adjust it until we were satisfied it was in its exact position, and then fill the earth in around the stone. We compressed the earth using long poles (called ‘tamping’) until satisfied the stone was secure. Then we would secure the lifting rope onto the next stone, pick it up and so on until all the stones were positioned to our satisfaction. Once the crane had gone we filled each hole and completed the job properly, replacing the turfs and tidying up. What an amazing feeling it was to have all of the stones in position!
|When all the stones were in place, it was time to create a suitable fireplace. Using some of the excess earth left over from digging the holes, we created a shallow dome in the centre. There were many quartz rocks occurring naturally in the area, and we gathered some of the larger ones to create a beautiful edging to the fireplace. We then collected clay from the banks of the stream and mixed it with water. Two of the more creative members of the team smeared the clay over the raised earth to make a smooth surface in which to inscribe a medicine wheel. The symbols they felt were appropriate included a dragon, a spiral, the “Rainbow Man” from Almeria, cactus from the Spanish desert, and intertwining snakes. The sun baked the clay, ready for our first fire at the Equinox Ceremony that evening.|
|All the stones were in place, and the medicine wheel seemed to spin and radiate good energy out from the Centre. The sun was shining, and the members of the team were quietly going about their business tidying up. All at once everything went very still and the hairs on the back of my neck rose. I could feel the presence of the sacred and became very alert. I was aware of the dragons at their stations. They were vigilant yet relaxed, telling me that everything was OK. All at once the space above the stone circle became luminous and filled with gold and silver sparks of light, easily visible in the sunlight. They floated lower and lower, filling the circle with beauty and a feeling of indescribable joy. They moved slowly outwards from the centre, and over a period of a few minutes entered the stones. The megaliths seemed to start shaking themselves out of their millions of years’ slumber, gently stretching and moving, awakening. I could feel they were very happy and accepting of their new circumstances, and open to receiving this influx of new life. I experienced the sparks as angels, coming from heaven to earth, taking up their new tasks as guardians of this sacred space. What a wonderful visitation!|
|We did as much tidying up as possible, and then started preparing for our Equinox ceremony. It was March 21st, and time to celebrate the change-over from darkness to light in the solar year and the burgeoning beauty of Spring. It was to be a simple ceremony with just stone-movers, family and friends. In choreographing the ceremony we wanted to focus on renewal: the changeover from dark to light, from stillness to dance, despair to optimism, from mourning to joy. And so it was.|
|Joe’s Stones were inaugurated and connected with the energetic network of the land on March 26th, just after Spring Equinox (see ceremony below). When this was done, we celebrated by setting up and walking a fire labyrinth within the stones. Spectacular! Joe’s Stones are a fitting home to honor his memory, and his spirit. They are now a powerful addition to the sacred nature of these lands, and ultimately, the world.||
Joe's Stones Fire Labyrinth
|Ceremony to Inaugurate Joe’s Stones|
(Piper pipes the celebrants
into the stone circle)