THE CREATION OF BEECH HILL STONE CIRCLE
The Design and Building of a Sacred Space
The Stone Circle on Beech Hill at Nutley, in the heart of the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, UK, was first conceived in a vision in April 1997. It was in October 2000 that the right people gathered in constellation and construction began.
The prime movers were Richard Creightmore – designer, Jewels Rocka – enchanter, and Ivan Macbeth – master builder.
For one week a month over the following year a group of volunteers, varying in number from five to twenty on any given day, gathered from near and far to lend their muscle and spirit power to the project, and the Ten-Stone Circle was completed in September 2001.
THE STONES CAME FROM PORTLAND
The ten large pieces of limestone, ranging from 31/2 to 9 tons in weight and 5 to 9 feet in height in situ, were first chosen in Portland quarry in Dorset, and then transported to Sussex in four tipper lorry loads.
Portland was chosen for a number of reasons: although Ashdown Forest is on sandstone, too soft to yield long-lasting standing stones, the next geological bed below is limestone, and this same bed emerges at Portland, giving a sense of ‘ancestor’s teeth’ geologically.
Portland is also one of the few quarries still to drill and vibrate the stones loose, rather than blasting, which meant that the stones arrived rather less traumatised than they might have been. We were fortunate that none of the stones broke as they were tipped on to the field close to the construction site.
PROCESS OF DESIGNING SACRED SPACE
The design of Beech Hill Stone Circle as a sacred space involved the integration of a number of traditionally important factors, including landscape topography, geology, mountain and water dragon veins, underground water lines and domes, overground ley energy lines, global geomagnetic grid crossing points, sacred geometry and metrology, numerology, astronomical alignment, local mythology, intended usage, and serendipity.
It is traditional to dedicate a stone circle to a particular constellation, and this one is dedicated to the Great Bear – unsurprisingly as Ashdown Forest is the homeland of Winnie the Pooh.
On the first day of circle creation, the ‘Expotition to the North Pole’ was taken as the sacred text of the day, and each of the archetypal characters of the Pooh stories was clearly represented by the people gathered together – the mythology of the local landscape seemed to rise inevitably into the weave.
Beech Hill is located right on the back of the principal mountain dragon vein of the High Weald, on the watershed ridge between the river dragons flowing into the river Medway and Thames estuary to the North, and into the river Ouse towards the South coast. The circle is positioned at the crossing point of this mountain dragon vein with an overground North-South energy ley line, and with a number of underground streams of different depths.
The centre of the circle was first determined by dowsing these various crossing lines, (and in fact marks the centre of the large dome erected in 1997 as the moot hall for the first Feng Shui Society summer camp, which so helped to unite the British Feng Shui community).
The next step was the establishment of the cardinal North-South axis, by a process known as ‘drawing down the North’: on a clear starry night of astrological auspiciousness, one person stands on the centre point and another stands to the North holding a staff upright to the firmament, and is guided by the one in the centre until the staff is pointing directly vertically to the North Star. When contact is made, the blessing of the North Star is invoked, and grounded by marking the spot with a stone.
Having decided to allow the stone circle to grow organically from the Earth upwards, rather than impose a mental scheme upon the land, the number and placement of the stones was decided by raw serendipity. On the first morning of the first week’s camp, nine people and one white hound met in a circle at the centre point in silent communion, and then walked backwards out from the centre until we were impelled to stop.
The spots were then marked with small rocks from the first stone delivery, and thus were decided the number of stones – nine in the circle plus one outlier; the placement of stones – all as it transpired on the midlines of underground water veins; the perimeter of the circle – 27 megalithic yards in diameter (and therefore 34 megalithic rods in circumference); and the orientation of the outlier – on astronomic or true North.
Placing the Stone Circle
Decisions as to which stone should go where were taken with regard to size and shape, with reference to the wheel of the year – larger and more yang shapes to the Eastern side of the North-South axis corresponding to the waxing half of the solar year; and smaller and more yin shapes to the Western side corresponding to the waning half of the solar year.
There was also the aesthetic, energetic and practical decision to be taken as to which would be the base and which would be the inside face (i.e. towards the centre of the circle) of each stone.
The stones each evolved a name as a consequence of working with them in their transport and planting, communing with them shortly after their setting in place, and their location within the circle.
The flame-shaped Fire Stone located due South was the first to be planted, followed by the dragon’s head-shaped Dragon Stone to the North-East, and the squat, square Tiger or Joy Stone to the North-West. This completed the first equilateral triangle across the North-South midline, and subsequent investigation showed that these latter two stones also marked the primary seasonal astronomical alignments of the circle.
The Dragon Stone is located on the Beltane and Lughnasadh (Lammas) sunrise orientation from the circle centre, and the Joy Stone is on the Beltane and Lughnasadh sunset orientation.
A chance conversation with a Gnome in Chalice Well Gardens one day led to the realisation that in placing the stones we were following the Lo Shu or Sigil of Saturn, though beginning with 1 in the South.
This shows the movement of the Nine Stars through the Lo Shu Grid. The sequence through which the stars move is always the same. This pattern of movement is known as the Sigil of Saturn
This magic square represents the geometric order of the crystallisation of energy into matter, and instruction to continue in this order led to the subsequent placement of the fourth Soul Stone in the North-North-West.
Not wanting a stone in the middle, the fifth Mirror Stone was flown to the South-West (following the yang Ming Gua convention and being the only vacant spot for it).
The others followed, with the sixth Still Stone in the South-South-East, so named because although it had been the most dangerously volatile and precariously balanced of all during carriage, as soon as it was in place the two white horses who inhabit the fields in summer-time started spending hours standing motionless beside it.
The seventh Rising Stone went to the South-East, the eighth Goddess Stone to the South-South-West, and the ninth Joining Stone completed the circle in the North-North-East.
The northern edges of the Still and Goddess Stones were found to mark the Southern major stand-stills of moonrise and moonset respectively.
The remaining key astronomical alignments – summer and winter solstice and spring and autumn equinox sunrises and sunsets, and Southern minor and Northern major and minor moonrises and moonsets – were marked out by rocks on the perimeter of the central altar hearth.
This shallow central pit, whose diameter is defined with reference to the Ding Lang sacred proportional ruler of Feng Shui tradition, functions variously as a vase, a fire-pit, a sand-pit, and a paddling pool, thus allowing each of the elements to take centre stage in turn.
The tenth and final stone was the massive Throne Stone, planted on the Autumn Equinox of 2001. This is an outlier positioned to true North of the circle, angled backwards by its own volition to receive the energy of the Celestial North Pole into the circle, and acting not unlike the Heel Stone at Stonehenge to bring a yang dynamic to the relative yin of the circle.
This alchemical pestle and mortar coupling reached communion at the moment of final alignment of the tenth stone, when the entire circle seemed to quiver and sigh before a holy peace arrived in the landscape.
MECHANICS OF CONSTRUCTION
The circle was constructed by hand, almost unaided by modern mechanical equipment.
The stones were moved their final 20 to 50 yards using wooden rollers and levers made from old telegraph poles, timber planks for tracks, fulcrums and packing stollage, ropes, mud for swivelling lubrication, and a modern hand winch as a safer alternative to a traditional rope windlass.
The winch was anchored either to the base of already-erected stones, or to the tow-bar of a chocked Landrover, having discovered that sledge-hammering steel bars into the ground as temporary anchor-points was upsetting the earth energies.
Each stone was buried in the ground to between a quarter and a third of its height, depending on the stability of the base profile, and the holes were hand-dug using spade, soil-spike and pick-axe.
Ceremonial, meditational and devotional times were integral to the entire process
Before starting every session of work, even after every tea-break, we would spend a good while standing in circle around the stone we were working with, our hands on the stone and touching, in silence or toning, feeling the energetic polarities and centre of gravity of the stone, and visualising and communicating to the stone where we were planning to move it to next.
The process of moving a stone into place by hand is thus
First a hole would be dug under one end of the stone as it lay on the ground, just big enough to fit the end of a 20-foot telegraph pole lever.
A piece of timber stollage is then placed under the pole beside the stone to serve as a fulcrum, the other end of the pole hauled down by several people to lift the nose of the pole and hence the stone, and stollage packed under the stone to stabilise.
The height of the fulcrum is then raised, and the process repeated for many hours, at both ends of the stone, until eventually the stone is sitting on a pair of pine ‘railway-track’ planks, followed by five or six 5-foot long rollers, followed by a pair of oak planks to create a chassis, on which the stone is stabilised by further cross-member stollage.
Typically this process involves a team of four to carry or haul on the pole lever, two or more to insert stollage or move rollers, one or two to sit at a distance, hold the space and watch for any potential danger; and one to guide the nose of the pole into position under the stone and raise the fulcrum, oversee and focus the process, think five moves ahead, and issue the next command.
We found that a disciplined hierarchy in which all suggestions, warning shouts and action commands were channelled through this one ‘king-pin’, usually Ivan, was much the safest way to operate.
Once the stone is on its chassis, a rope is looped around the stone lengthways, over pieces of old carpet for protection, and the stone is then pulled, pushed, levered, or winched in the direction of its intended final position, moving rollers, track planks and winch-anchor as the stone progresses across the field. On reaching the appointed spot at the correct trajectory, the hole is dug in shifts to an appropriate depth, length and breadth for the stone.
The stone is then rolled over the hole on the tracks, and painstakingly raised up another few feet until it is eventually sitting on three strong cross-member rollers, one of which is lashed to the stone across its centre of gravity to act as a spindle pole.
A pair of rollers are dug several feet into the ground in line with the edge of the pit to act as vertical end-stops.
At this point work ceases and people spend quiet time in the hole or with the stone, making offerings, typically flowers, food, drink, crystals, clay figurines or other artefacts.
The forward cross-beam is then replaced by a thin vertical prop lashed to a rope. A circle of silent prayer and focus transforms into a crescendo of toning as the prop is sledge-hammered out and tugged quickly away, and the stone topples gently on its spindle and lands within its receptive hole, creating a sense of geomantic orgasm as it comes to stand upright.
Some fine-tuning of position and orientation is done as the hole is refilled with earth, tamped and turfed, and spare soil carted away; then a circle is held around the stone to sing it into peace.
Moving and planting a stone like this took on average five long days’ work. The heaviest, the 9-ton Throne Stone outlier in the North, took two six-strong pole teams and some other-worldly assistance in order to make the smallest lifts.
Most stones went into their rightful places easily and without incident, though three of the largest proved trickier on the final drop, one overbalancing past the end-stop, one slipping off its spindle lashings, and one snapping its telegraph pole spindle like a matchstick.
Each ended up in its hole at an awkward angle, and had to wait until the following month’s construction camp before clever winching procedures could be worked out and implemented to set the stone upright.
During these periods those closely involved with the building became aware of having to go through some hard internal processing, corresponding with the position of the stone within the design geometry of the circle, before being ready to complete the task.
WEAVING THE THREADS
The Stone Circle thus forms an enneagon of nine nodes, bisected by a tenth on the cardinal North-South axis, made slightly irregular as a result of the position of the five underground water lines passing through the circle centre and two of the stones each. At first these underground water streams did not pass exactly through the centre, but well before the circle was complete they had moved to all pass through the middle.
Within three months of completion a blind spring or water dome had also appeared in the circle, between the centre and the Dragon Stone, and nine months later an intense crop of psylocibin magic mushrooms emerged for the first time in the same patch.
The movement of a rising water line to the circle however brought up an issue of geomantic sexual politics, as a beautiful old wild cherry tree just down the hill, the queen tree on the property, began to show signs of drying up as so much attention was being paid to the erection on the top of the hill. She had lost her water riser, and we have had to do subsequent work to redistribute the water balance in her favour.
Between the centre and the North Stone lies a positive crossing point of the sixth (brow chakra related) global geomagnetic grid known as the Double Curry grid, often found at the location of Communion rails in churches. This spot has been almost invariably where the presider stands during ceremonies in the circle.
One layer of traditional symbolism that is woven into the complex is the Ba Gua or eight-fold year of Celtic tradition, with the Throne, Soul, and Joining Stones together representing winter solstice or early heaven Kun and later heaven Kan, the latter two stones playing Iachim and Boaz of the Priestess tarot card, the twin pillars of the portal to the ancestor spirits. It is at the Throne stone that we honour our ancestors in ritual practice.
The Eight Sabbats
The other stations of space and time are distributed in order around the circle
Imbolc / Candlemass / Zhen / Gen (cf. Brigid) / Dragon Stone
Spring equinox / Easter/ Li / Zhen - Rising Stone
Beltane / May Day / Dui / Xun - Still Stone
Litha / Summer solstice / Qian / Li (cf. Lugh) - Fire Stone
Lughnasadh / Lammas / Xun / Kun (cf. Kuna) - Goddess Stone
Autumn equinox / Harvest / Kan / Dui - Mirror Stone
Samhain / Halloween / Gen / Qian (cf. Diancecht) - Joy Stone
Another layer of symbolism woven in comes from a
Classical Chinese cosmo-conception
The Celestial Emperor and Empress reside in the Celestial North Pole, and issue their edicts as they rule the universe through the offices of the Lords of Karma, which are the nine stars of the Big Dipper or Great Bear constellation.
This wheels through the heavens around the Pole star, pointing to each quarter in turn in the appropriate season of the year. With Zi Wei, the Pole Star grounded in the Throne Stone, the Left and Right Supporter Stars who attend the celestial throne are thus earthed in the Joining and Soul Stones respectively.
The Lo Shu, Nine Star elements and mountain forms, and shapes of the individual stones yield the following connections:
STAR - GUARDIAN - STONE
Zhuo Fu - The Angel of wealth and happiness - Joining
Yu Bi - The Angel of vivacity - Soul
Tan Lang - The Angel of creative qi- Dragon
Ju Men- The Monarch of sickness - Goddess
Lu Cun - The Phantom of misfortune - Rising
Wen Qu - The Clever and indecent imp - Still
Lian Zhen - The Devil of ferocity- Fire
Wu Qu - The Angel of gallantry - Joy
Po Jun - The Spirit of solemnity - Mirror
From the perspective of sacred geometry
The nine-stone circle contains the transcendental number Pi (); a vesica piscis created by a second circle drawn through the Throne Stone contains another transcendental number, √3; and a pentagon also present within the circle contains the Golden Section ratio Phi (φ). These three ratios of sacred geometry all potentiate the manifestation of infinity within the form.
Geometrically the enneagon or nine-sided figure can be constructed from a six-pointed star using three centres. Numerologically, the digits of some interesting numbers add up to nine: for example 2160 and 7920, the diameters of the Moon and the Earth given in miles; 360, 666 (the number of solar divinity in gematria), and all pentagonal angles e.g. 36, 72 and 108.
All multiples of nine add up to nine, which is three times three, or three 'squared', suggesting the three faces of the goddess, and the holy trinity of many religious traditions.
Many shamanic cultures speak of nine worlds, or nine dimensions. The circle of nine speaks of the moon and of the cycles and rhythms of nature; and the number ten to perfected completion.
The creation of the circle as a sacred space was much helped energetically by the devotional and hand-built aspects of the construction process, by space clearing at the outset, and by continuous attention to spiritual and psychic hygiene during and since the building.
An integral part of the construction process was the space-clearing and harmonising work performed around the site, yin work of as much importance as the heavy lifting.
The circle has become a sanctuary for personal meditation and healing, and folk spend quiet time within it, perhaps sitting with their back to a particular stone seeking help to resolve particular issues. The central cauldron is a particularly potent spot for core process work.
Another aspect of the intended usage has been to balance, harmonise and heal the earth energies of the local landscape, and this has become an integral part of the regular attention to spiritual hygiene within the circle.
It can be used as an access portal into the dragon vein network, so that some white magic ceremonial has been performed for distant healing, for example for the foot and mouth outbreak in Cumbria.
The circle also functions as a magic circle for the performance of white magic ceremony and mystery plays.
The Sabbats or seasonal festivals of the eight-fold solar year are generally celebrated in small or large, high or low magic ceremonies, and a particular emphasis has evolved on the yearly stations corresponding with the primary alignments – Winter Solstice, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and also Autumn Equinox.
The Esbats or full moons are also celebrated, as are human rites of passage including baby naming, puberty and wedding rituals.
The Stone Circle creates a powerful and natural space for Walking meditation practices that are conducted at Beech Hill on a regular basis.
Finally, the circle functions as a style of three-ring Luo Pan (with the Heaven Pool as the first ring, and the hedges, trees and gateways and landscape horizon that surround the circle as the Di Pan) for learning and teaching geomancy and ceremony – a temple to the stars, sun, moon, earth, the underworld, the elemental kingdoms and to humanity.
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