The Twelve Apostles looked a little forlorn in the noon light. They seem not to be made for clarity, but for the mists that encircle them at dawn. We did have the moor to ourselves though, or so it seemed… we knew it wouldn’t last. Especially here, at the most conventional-looking of the circles on the moor. There are always people walking the ancient track, no matter what the time or the weather. It is one of the most visited… and damaged… prehistoric sites in the area. Not only have the original 20 or so stones been reduced to 12 and the central mound levelled, but the surrounding embankment has been almost worn away by passing feet. I have to wonder what it would have been called in a pre-Christian era, before the stones were reduced in number and before the damage took place. Even so, the simple fact that it is used still, keeps it ‘alive’… and used by those of such differing views, yet sharing a central respect for the world, that it seems less a designated place of worship for any one belief and more an empty vessel, open to the sky and the light, waiting to be filled.
For us it was to be a place of healing, and we sat in meditation while two of our number shared what they give while our minds became travellers on forgotten pathways. The long waiting, eyes closed, was punctuated by the voice of a child and his father… quiet, respectful and interested, yet I was conscious that while we worked, the circle was not a place others would come. When I opened my eyes and turned, it was to see St Christopher standing before me. You see strange things when you work thus, and for a moment I was taken aback… the very tall, white haired figure holding a staff and carrying a sweet-faced boy child on his back was unexpected. He watched from a distance and, against the backdrop of the iron sky, seemed a surreal figure.
It was only for a moment, but I had to wonder how the reality is woven and how much of what we see as real is not of the reality we think we know. I spoke to the man, inviting him into the circle and, if he wished, to share a final rite as we broke bread and wine together, with blessing and gratitude for these moments shared and pouring the last drops of wine and the final crumbs for the old gods and genius loci who are, after all, but facets of the nameless One that wears so many names across space and time.
Then it was time to leave, following the path to cross Backstone Beck, pausing at the poet’s rest to share thoughts and readings, greeting the ancient stones of Backstone Circle and pausing to contemplate, once again, the eroded carvings made by our ancestors and left for us to attempt to decode. A last descent by the Cow and Calf, a last glimpse of Giant Rombald’s profile as we looked up to the Pancake Stone… then back to the hotel for coffee and farewells… for a little while. It had been a wonderful weekend once again. For me, there would soon be the poignant parting from the moors… but, at least we were not heading south again… not yet….