Solstice of the Moon: The Singing Stones of Duddo…

It was a little further out of our way than we expected… and a little farther off the road too. When we parked the car, there was no sign of the stones, just a sign saying we would need to allow at least an hour. With a long journey still ahead, we almost didn’t go… but then, we didn’t know what we might miss. Donning the boots for a tramp across damp fields, we set out, hoping the projected hour was an overestimation. When the land shifted and we saw the stones crowning the hilltop, two things were immediately obvious. An hour was a gross underestimation… and it was going to be well worth the walk.

The Four Stones of Duddo are actually five… and were once seven. There were six stones standing in 1811, but by 1852, two had fallen, with one of them finally breaking. Two sockets were found in the west of the circle during an excavation in 1890, when only four of the stones were still standing. One of the fallen stones was re-erected in its original position around a hundred years ago. It seems a little sad that the circle, which has stood here for 4200 years should suffer so much in modern times.

The hill upon which the stones stand rises alone, like an island in a ploughed sea, in the centre of a wide basin. You could imagine it appearing to float above the morning mists. In the distance are the hills of Scotland and the view from within the circle is wide.

As we walked up to the stones, we thought we could discern the last vestiges of a henge in the green circle the farmer had left unploughed. Doubtless, his predecessors had not been so gentle with the land. Later research threw up a report by the antiquarian Canon James Raine in 1852 that suggests there was also an outer circle, now lost. He recorded that the circle is “36 feet in diameter. Four stones alone are standing, the tallest of which measures 6 feet 9 inches in height, by 13 feet in girth.”

Figures alone do not and cannot give a true idea of the scale and the presence of these stones. It is not until you walk amongst them and are dwarfed by them that you begin to realise just how big they are.

They are shaped stones, tapering towards the base, which is unusual.  It had been suggested that  it is this form that gave rise to one of their names… The Ladies…  which seemed most appropriate as the subject of the workshop we were on our way to attend was ‘Maiden, Mother, Crone‘.To me, they looked like ancient teeth crowning the hill.

Made of a local sandstone, they have weathered into fantastic shapes, fluted from top to bottom after thousands of years of rain and snow.

Curiously, though, and not to this extent, we see this type of fluting on many standing stones. It may be explicable in terms of erosion alone on soft sandstone, but when you see it on pillars of adamantine millstone grit, you have to wonder if, perhaps, some carving or shaping of the stones did not help the process along.

We have seen many such stones where the fluting leaves a bowl or notch in the top of a stone, perfect for leaving offerings… and in which we often find them still today… or, as in this one, perfect for catching the sun. At the time we were there, the great orb seemed to fit perfectly into the rounded notch on the top of one stone.

Each stone has its own character and it seems as if you need only spend enough time in their silence to begin to hear them whisper. Some seem alive in a way we can almost understand, others seem far beyond our reach. One stone gazes out across the land…another looks like hands clasped and raised in prayer or supplication.

In spite of the weathering, at least two of the stones seem to have their vertical faces still adorned with simple cup-marks, those strange, mysterious depressions whose meaning is still unknown. It is thought that it is the extent of the weathering that may have given the stones their other name…the singing stones. No-one appears to have heard it, yet it is suggested that the wind on this exposed hill, playing through the fluting, might create an eldritch song.  It is possible, but is, I think, more likely that this name has an older meaning. Research at Stonehenge indicates that the great stones there may have been used to create and amplify sound. Or perhaps the stones themselves once held some acoustic quality that sent the song of its priesthood across the land.

Robert Carr found and explored a pit in the centre of the circle in 1890. The pit, around eight feet in diameter, was found to contain charcoal and bone fragments, which see to indicate a cremation burial. This too we find at many sites, though unless modern archaeological dating techniques are used, it is impossible to say for certain whether the circle marks the site of the burial or whether the stones came first.

There are so many mysteries, so many questions and so few definitive answers. Sometimes that can be frustrating, yet on the whole, I like the idea that there is so much we cannot know for certain. Certainty only closes the doors of the mind. I have a feeling that these circles were meant to open them…

Photographs: Stuart France and Sue Vincent.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She has written a number of books, both alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com
This entry was posted in albion, Ancient sites, History, Landscape, mystery, Photography, scotland road trip, Silent Eye weekend workshop, Solstice of the Moon, travel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

58 Responses to Solstice of the Moon: The Singing Stones of Duddo…

  1. Rosie Amber says:

    A few years ago I read a good story which featured these singing stones. The Cunning Woman’s Cup. Enjoyed your post.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Michael says:

    Wow really enjoyed that thanks !

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A very good post and nice pictures. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Helen Jones says:

    What a lovely, yet somehow lonely, circle 🙂 I hope it sings again one day

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Cathy says:

    Lovely photos, Sue. I visited the stones after reading The Cunning Woman’s Cup. A beautiful site.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. jenanita01 says:

    Fascinating stones, Sue, and they do look just like teeth. A sore point for me at the moment, for I have just had two teeth out and your use of the word ‘socket’ found its mark!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Leeby Geeby says:

    Loved the way you finished that. Certainty only closes the doors of the mind. Indeed. That way you can participate in tbe mytery in your very own way. However you want to hear them speaking. Wonderful post sue. The kind that I love best. Many thanks for this amazing insight!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      Thanks, Leeby. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ in the mysteries… however we each perceive them is right for us at this moment in time. Personal certainty can still admit it may be wrong and be open to learning, where scientific certainty rarely does.

      Like

  8. Mary Smith says:

    Fascinating post.
    The singing has reminded me of something I wanted to follow up. I caught a snatch of a programme on the radio the other day about the resonance in ancient caves. The first experiment was when a couple went round singing in caves in France and when they hit a certain resonance they switched on their torches and, nearly always, found a cave painting. This has been repeated more scientifically and was corroborated. What totally amazed me was that the scientists were hearing the sound heard by people thousands of years ago. Maybe you already know all this?
    Looking forward to reading more about your trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      Archaeoacoustics are fascinating. I was just trying to find a video I watched about Newgrange for you…but can’t 😦

      They were showing how sound waves moved the dust when ancient instruments were played…in patterns almost identical to the carvings there.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Anonymous says:

    Duddo! John’s cousin Katherine took us to see them when we stayed with her in Berwick-on-Tweed on our way back from Inverurie. The stones do look very much like hands with those finger-like grooves.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Solstice Of The Moon – 307

  11. Lovely post of the The Singing Stones of Duddo…. Beautiful photos. I’m glad you made the trip to be able to share these unique stones. I love your analogy of the hands clasped and raised in prayer or supplication. I love that each person can see something different when they look at the stones. The photos remind me of the 140-ft. natural columns, colorful stalactites & brick walkways in a cavern in Luray, Virginia. Nature is so awesome!!! As always, thanks for sharing!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      Thanks, Joyce. This is a particularly interesting stone circle… and to think the stones were placed there by our ancestors over four thousand years ago gives a strange feeling when you are there.

      Like

  12. My first thought upon seeing the first image of the stone circle was of a “circle of hands,” a concept of unity that I have been thinking a lot about since I visited a Native American museum last week (blog post to come). At the museum they had various artwork and baskets (somehow I never managed to photograph them) depicting a circle of people joining hands. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Frank Hubeny says:

    I agree: “Certainty only closes the doors of the mind.” I didn’t know there were many of these henges.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m so glad you decided to go see them. What beautiful stones. The image with the person in front gives a sense of their size – much larger than I expected. And I love the natural striations. They do look like old teeth. What a magnificent sight/site. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Widdershins says:

    I saw fists, but not fists raised in anger, more of communion, directing Power.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Maybe this sounds strange, but they look like hands or maybe fists. Presumably a wind across the field might create harmonics. In a quieter world, easier to hear.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. dgkaye says:

    Fantastic tour Sue. I love that photo of you leaning against the stone! 🙂 xx

    Liked by 1 person

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