For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Saturday, 24 October 2009

The Standing Stones At Calanais


One of the most remarkable sights on Harris and Lewis is the standing stone complex at Calanais (Callanish). These ancient megaliths are black, white, grey, pink, green-lichened. They are all different shapes - like people. They stand defiantly upright, but their strata strain to the horizontal. Tourists gaze uncomprehendingly in the rain.


We know the world in shorthand, through a veil. Much travelled we may be - but how deeply travelled? We tick off the landmarks - but do we look beyond? Do we really know the first thing about the places we visit?

There are many theories and suppositions about Calanais, but actually we know nothing for sure about the true purpose and significance of these haunting monoliths.

10 comments:

Susan said...

Wow. Amazing.
There is a difference between being a traveler and being a tourist. I think the travelers try to look deeper... but you're right, there is so much we'll never know.

gleaner said...

SW - where are the links in this post :) I did a wiki search of Calanais-

I love these stone symbols, yes we don't know for sure about their real purpose but we do know that they represent humans innate need of symbols and patterns. Perhaps the popularity of genealogical research today is like our ancestors building stone representations of their ancestors - all about mapping our place in the human story and touching on our need for story-telling.

Rachel Fox said...

We visited the stones on Orkney. Certainly a memory that stays with you. We have a photo of them in our hall and I almost want to touch it as I go by. Every time. Like a mezuzah or something.

Powerful.
x

The Weaver of Grass said...

What is it about monoliths Robert that moves us so much. Is it their antiquity; is it that we are puzzled by their meaning; or is it just because they are so impressive?
I do agree that there is such a difference between a tourist and a traveller - but some of us have little time left and need to be a tourist rather than a traveller if we want to see everywhere.
I always think I am a tourist when I am going from New York to Philadelphia to Washington etc. but that when I get home and sit down with my travel books, my photographs and my memories - then I become the traveller.

The Solitary Walker said...

Hi Susan! - See my 30th Oct 2008 thoughts on pilgrims, walkers, travellers and tourists...

Gleaner - will add a link. Calanais or Callanish - it all depends whether you use the Gaelic word or its anglicized version. Though I'm not going to get into the history and politics of this! I see in my posts I've sometimes used the Gaelic spelling for Scottish places and sometimes the English... I thought it right that, in the very Gaelic Hebrides, I used the Gaelic word where possible...

Rachel - yes, those ancient stones are powerful forces indeed! I thought Gleaner touched on something really important when she wrote about our human need for symbols and patterns...

Primeval touchstones, perhaps?

The Solitary Walker said...

Pat - that was such an insightful comment just now, thanks so much for it, I hadn't even considered the age factor in the traveller/tourist thing...

Re. monoliths, I think it's all those 3 things, but something more too: perhaps a feeling that, despite the veiled mystery and disputed purpose of the stones, the people who put them there were just people - like us. We all have artistic, creative, architectural, patterning, and spiritual instincts. Or so I instinctively believe.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Could it be perhaps that earlier civilizations, who were more in tune with nature, and who did not need 'proof' of everything, sensed places where certain types of energy were strong, and attempted to concentrate that energy? And to fulfil that need to make a mark, a record, when something is so wonderful?

The Solitary Walker said...

I think that's right, Raph. You are certainly conscious of an incredible atmosphere, indeed energy, at the sites of many of these ancient menhirs and monoliths, dolmens, henges and tumuli.

It's such a pity that the demands of tourism have robbed the more popular sites (Stonehenge being the obvious example) of some of their primeval mystery. That's why I love those little known, out-of-the-way spots (like the dolmens I discovered on both of my Camino walks) which lie far beyond the reach of the information board, the interpretative audio-visual display and the coffee shop.

am said...

word verification: bless

Bless the mystery of these stones.

Brett said...

Your words and photos really bring out the weight of time...

Thanks