Article published in Brigid’s Fire magazine - Ireland at Lughnasad 2012
Regardless of where we live in the world, some geological formations are better suited for magical or creative working than others, an idea that was mooted by Dion Fortune in her novel, The Goat-Foot God. … “Now the best place to get the kind of experiences you want is on chalk. If you think of it, all the earliest civilisation in these islands was on the chalk … Avebury’s on the chalk; and St Albans is on the chalk …” Christopher Tilley in A Phenomenology of Landscape, however, gives a wider overview of the topographic features of the prehistoric landscape that attracted our distant ancestors’ attention: an affinity with the coast; mountain escarpments and spurs; the ridges, valleys and chalk downlands. Obviously, the most important aspect of each site being not what is seen above ground, but the geological formation beneath our feet.
There are, of course, many different types of rock that make up the Earth’s surface and each of them will have certain positive or negative magical/creative properties. As an example, we will look at what has been found to be the best and the worst when it comes to drawing from, or stifling magical/creative energy.
The Best: Slate is a widespread, metamorphic rock commonly found inter-layered with sedimentary strata and with rocks of volcanic origin. Once we understand that quartz is very abundant in slate and may form as much as 70% by weight of the rock, it is not difficult to see why this particular material generates so much Earth energy – quartz being one of the most powerful crystals on the planet. Magical, psychic and creative working on slate packs a very distinctive punch, especially if the slate layers are close to the surface.
The Worst: Clay - the name derives from Old English clæg meaning ‘sticky’ - is a widespread sedimentary rock with grains too small to be seen under any but the most powerful microscope, and may form in many different geological environments throughout the world. The most extensive layers are found in both deep and shallow marine deposits, in moraines (piles of debris) left behind by receding glaciers, and in zones of pre-existent rocks (especially granite) that have been altered by hydrothermal fluids. Try walking through heavy clay and it immediately becomes apparent why Earth energy is often ‘blocked’ or sluggish. Magical working on clay involves a lot of energy-generating techniques by the practitioner, and unless there is a considerable amount of experience (and knowledge) to draw on, things may take a long time to come to fruition.
Here in the Glen of Aherlow, however, the mountains are Old Red Sandstone – a tough enduring rock formed during the ‘Caledonian Foldings’, the mountain-building period of the Earth’s long history. The pressure caused the underlying softer Silurian rocks to fold into great ridges; and over millions of years the erosion dust compacted to form this magnificent range of Red Sandstone mountains. The Galtees are Ireland’s highest inland mountain range, a high ridge which rises up almost sheer from the surrounding plain. Two major Ice Age periods have affected the area, and the rounded summits of the Galtees are due to the higher parts being above the ice. This freeze-thaw action on the higher peaks gradually wore them away to form the stony, scree covered summits we see today. This glacial action also formed cirques (or corries) on the higher slopes – amphitheatres or hollows, which are now five gloomy lakes.
Despite being easily weathered, sandstone has been used by builders and sculptors for thousands of years, including the ancient ruins of Petra (Jordan), which has been described poetically as ‘a rose-red city half as old as time’. The disadvantages of sandstone are out-weighted by its natural beauty and the ease with which it can be shaped and carve into outstanding works of art such as the famous bust of Queen, Nefertiti that has survived more or less intact since it was carved during the Egyptian 18th Dynasty.
And as the author observed in Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones and The Hollow Tree: A beginner’s guide to the Tarot and Qabalah, because sandstone is highly susceptible to weathering and decomposition, and ultimately crumbling to dust, we can safely assign it to the Element of Earth. Or more precisely, the ‘Earthy part of Earth’ symbolised by the Princess of Disks in the Tarot, who represents the ‘element of the brink of Transfiguration’. She has been depicted with her sceptre descending into the Earth where the point becomes a diamond, and her shield denoting the ‘twin spiral forces of Creation in perfect equilibrium’.
Which might go a long way in explaining why, in the five years we have lived in the Glen, I’ve managed to complete eight books in quick succession, several of which had been lying dormant for several years. The energies of the Glen are ‘dark’ – not in any negative sense – but because the primitive history of the place is unchanged and unchanging. And if, like me, you are someone who is attuned to primitive energies, then the magical/creative urges will be stimulated with a vengeance when living in such a magnificent location. The mountains are never the same on consecutive days: the summits are either capped with snow, radiating in the mellow tones of sunset, shimmering in a soft blue haze, cloaked by low-lying clouds and soft rain, or (on rare occasions) crystal clear images of a hot summer day when sheep are seen as tiny pin-pricks of white against the green. And when the river is in high-flood, the Glen turns into a vast lake, just as it was before people came to inhabit this part of Ireland.The area also has a wealth of prehistoric monuments, the earliest of which, is a passage-tomb at Shrough, on the Slievenamuck Ridge (immediately behind our cottage), and south of Tipperary Town, which dates to Neolithic times (c.4000–2400BC); with many prehistoric monuments, such as standing stones, surviving in upland areas on the slopes of the Knockmealdown and the Galtee mountain ranges. In the western part of the county, around Emly (where we lived before moving to the Glen) and Lattin, there is a dense concentration of barrows, earth-built burial monuments from the Bronze and Iron Ages (c.2400BC–AD400).
In legendary terms, Darby’s Bed, located, like most Irish passage tombs is on a hilltop site, near Galbally on Duntryleague Hill - the westerly end of Slievenamuck Ridge. This great megalith is said to be the grave of Olill Olum, one of the early Kings of Munster. The name Duntryleague is derived from Dún-Trí-Liag, meaning the ‘fort of three pillar stones’, and Diarmuid and Gráinne are also said to have rested there in their flight from the angry Fionn MacCumhaill. A path through the forest leads to this amazing burial ground where one enormous rock slab rests across a number of upright stones.
But before you respond that this ‘creative stimulus’ is merely wishful thinking on the part of the writer, I would have to add that I experienced similar literary outpourings when living in my homeland of Wales, near the Preseli Mountains. These hills are also dotted with prehistoric remains, including evidence of Neolithic settlement, and in 1923 the bluestone from the hills was identified with that used to build the inner circle of Stonehenge. Archaeologists have since pinpointed the precise place from where the bluestones were removed in about 2500BC - a small crag-edged enclosure at one of the highest points of the 1,008ft high Carn Menyn mountain. The stones were then moved 240 miles to the famous site at Salisbury Plain. This discovery came a year after scientists proved that the remains of a ‘band of brothers’ found near Stonehenge were Welshmen who transported the stones. The skeletons were found by workmen laying a pipe on Boscombe Down and chemical analysis of their teeth revealed they were brought up in South West Wales. Experts believed the family accompanied the stones on their epic journey from the Preseli Hills to Salisbury Plain.
By contrast, the time between living in Wales and Ireland, was spent in the flat, reclaimed lands of Suffolk and rural Leicestershire, and produced hardly anything at all of a creative nature. To get any form of inspiration it was necessary to take the dog for a long walk to a spot that proved itself to be particularly strong on magical/creative energies, and that was the granite outcrop at Markfield (Charwood Forest in Leicestershire) that rises up from the Midlands clay plain. These rocks are more closely comparable with those of many parts of Wales and represent some of the oldest known anywhere in England. On the western side of this central plain, the magical Malvern Hills are also unlike any other outcrop in England and Wales, and may represent a slice of pre-Cambrian base-rock, which is only found at the surface in north-west Scotland. Weekends spent in the Malverns also produced a surge of creative energy that quickly diminished after returning home on the plain. The Suffolk sojourn produced absolutely nothing at all, to the point of atrophy.
· Once you have located what appears be a suitable site, try to pinpoint your own personal energy spot by using a pendulum that contains an element of quartz. Dowse the site thoroughly and calculate where the energy is the strongest from the pendulum’s reaction.
· If a location seems unsuitable for magical or inspirational working, then a short journey might make all the difference. For example: the short distance between the clay plain levels at Charnwood, and the granite outcrop was only a daily dog’s walk away from each other.
The surrounding landscape does influence the way magical and creative workings come to fruition, and also the amount of effort needed to be put into the ritual or writing project to bring about the desired effect. By understanding what lies beneath our feet will enhance our magical and creative ability, especially if we can learn to plug-in to the natural energy of the place.
An extract from Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones by Melusine Draco to be published by Axis Mundi, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing in October 2012 in paperback and e-book format.