‘Callanish’ has always been an evocative word for me since I first read about the place many years ago. ‘Callanish’ – a magical, mythical place, the Stonehenge of Scotland with overtones of Lord of the rings and maybe Narnia; I knew it was a special place. Although the North West has felt close in my heart since I was shown it years ago as somewhere my spirit guide said he would meet me, it’s geographically so remote it had always been inaccessible to me due to financial and time constraints.
But not this year. This year has been emotionally exhausting for me and spiritually hard going, and here, now, was a call and an opportunity.
I started making plans and plans started falling through – everything from not being sure if the car would be up to the 600 mile round trip to the ferry being fully booked to an unexpected guest arriving.
When I finally got on the road my biggest thought was ‘I must be mad!’ – a change of route due to having to take a different ferry, a long drive in unknown territory on my own in a car with a couple of unresolved issues and a dodgy android navigation app, and no accommodation booked…..
However the drive north was incredible, Glen Lyon, Ben Lawers and Scheihallion embraced me and sent shivers down my spine, and when I finally got to Ullapool the CalMac crew were helpful and reassuring, which as a woman travelling so far alone, and taking a car on a ferry for the first time I was very grateful for.
On arrival in Stornaway there was no data connection for navigation, so I had to rely on a map the girl in the on board coffee shop had drawn for me on the back of a till receipt. I missed a turnoff and after miles of driving in the foreign windswept landscape of peat bog and little crofts that is Lewis, I found myself at the end of the road in a place called Nis, which I reflected is sin spelled backwards. Sad to say I found this mildly amusing in such a strongly Christian community ! Nis is right at the northernmost tip of the island and there was no sign of any stones so I turned round and headed back, noticing that many of the local ancient monuments are signposted for the tourists, but nothing for Callanish. By the time I found one (and there was only one!) it was 11pm, and I arrived at the visitor centre car park shortly after, hoping that the silver lining to such a late arrival might be having the site to myself – no such luck though! The pale light of dusk revealed a dozen or so assorted cars and camper vans in the car park and another thirty plus beyond the site, as well as twenty or more tents pitched randomly in the peat bog surrounding the area, so the internet had been wrong about the promise of merely encountering ‘ a few respectful wiccans’ . However it had happily been right about the visitor centre toilets being left open all night, and better than that there was a large gazebo with picnic tables so folk could shelter from the rain. As I headed over to get orientated I was greeted by a friendly Irishman who explained where everything was and directed me to the stones. There were people walking back down the path who offered a polite greeting along with interesting odours of patchouli and other things….
As I approached the stones in the half light some of them appeared to move, and I realised the site was thronging with people. Getting closer I could hear someone playing a guitar, and from the centre of the inner circle of stones someone else joined in with a drum,and a girl could be seen among the stones dancing and rattling maracas.
The centre of the stone circle was crowded with people and dogs so I walked meditatively round the perimeter a couple of times, and was approached by a woman my own age with a drink in her hand, who offered me a drink and introduced me to her husband. We engaged in some small talk before I excused myself and headed back to the car to meditate and perhaps grab a couple of hours sleep before dawn. Friendly though everyone was, I hadn’t come to party!
Just before dawn on Sunday morning I wandered back to the stones hoping the revelers might have gone to bed, but the party was still in full swing and the first musicians had been joined by a somewhat inebriated piper, and the music, drunken shouting, swearing, and dogs barking would have drowned out anything the gods had to say. People were urinating at the edge of the site and dogs were humping each other within the circle. Sunrise came and went with nothing more significant than a slight lightening of the grey sky, and I went back to the car for some more sleep.
I awoke later in the morning to the arrival of a coach load of Japanese tourists. By the time I’d had coffee from a flask and visited the toilets they had mostly returned to the coach, so I walked back up to the stones.
For the third time I walked round the circumference of the site, and as I passed the western approach I realised there was silence. I looked to the northern approach, to where He walks into the circle on midsummer’s morning, heralded by a cuckoo. People were backing away from the avenue of standing stones; and then I heard it, everyone actually heard it! The cuckoo call, four times, loud and clear announcing to the four directions – behold The Shining One! I entered the circle and sat down facing Him. No archangel trumpeted his way down between the stones, no bright sun god or alien presence. Just a gentle flicker of golden light which danced into the circle and stopped by my side. A stillness fell over the site and I felt enveloped in radiance, chest vibrating and fingers tingling. Precious moments in the presence of the One, The Golden one who initiated me so many years ago, the still small voice that whispers through the eons to those with ears to hear. A holy moment filled with deep understanding and joy. All things are one. And the request I hadn’t been able to express in the weeks beforehand suddenly found it’s words, and was asked and answered.
As the presence faded I opened my eyes and raised my head to find I was sitting in a single beam of sunlight that had broken through the clouds. I heard a rustling to my left and there was a lady at the the west quarter turning to walk away. Her partner on my right in the east quarter was still standing with his arms outstretched, and as I turned and left the circle I saw the friendly Irishman from the night before standing to the south with his arms raised. As I approached him from behind he dropped his arms and turned to smile at me with a bright ‘Good Morning’
‘Morning’ I replied, my voice unexpectedly gruff – and yes, it was, an exceedingly good morning