Solstice of the Moon: What on earth…

“…is that?!”
I immediately went into ‘there has to be somewhere to park’ mode. You don’t just drive past a humungous mound without stopping…not when it is so very obviously man-made. And especially not when there are two of them. And in an urban cemetery, of all places! We have had a bit of trouble with mounds in the past, especially on workshops. They have a tendency to go missing. But here, we found ourselves with a brace of the things and completely unexpectedly too.

We had just said farewell to our companions after a fabulous weekend and were simply planning on getting back to the hotel, relaxing for a while and starting to process what we had seen. We wanted a fairly early start the next morning as we had a long way to go… and were fully intending on being sidetracked several times. I also had a road through the Scottish Highlands in mind that I have not driven in many a year and which is just too glorious to miss. So, instead of sensibly heading south towards home, we would first be heading north to Inverness. An early night was in order.

But, ‘back to the hotel’ went out of the window as we parked the car and read the signs on the cemetery wall and gate.I was rather intrigued by the memorial to the wives of William Thom. The surname has a certain significance to those with an interest in ancient stone, but this Thom was a handloom weaver from Aberdeen who wrote poetry in the vernacular.  He was born around 1800 and died of consumption aged forty-eight.
Then another sign caught my eye.
“Ooh, Pictish symbol stones too!”
“Bugger,” said my companion, reading a notice. “They’ve moved them.”

It was a shame. The information boards showed them to have been rather  beautiful… especially the running horse. I would have liked to have seen them. The stones are around fifteen hundred years old and were found re-used as part of the building materials for the medieval church that had once stood here.

The information board showed the designs on the stones. Some of them we had just seen at Dyce, like the crescent and V-rod and the double circle and Z-rod, for which no known meaning has been found but which seem to be amongst the most common symbols. The double disc reminds me of a cloak clasp. Perhaps it was a symbol of lairdship? Were these stones boundary markers for the lands of the local chieftain, or perhaps grave markers for burials as the official line suggests? Or was there some deeper meaning behind them? Both could be true and the combination of symbols might also be a significant  message to those who could read them.

Luckily, though, the mounds were still there…they are a bit too big to move. We wandered through the cemetery, to the path between the two mounds, watching squirrels play, seeing a dark shape dart across the grass and rather disconcertingly disappear and saying hello to an elderly gentleman who also promptly seemed to disappear. I have to say, it was a little odd. The graveyard occupies a the land bounded by the river, close to the confluence of the Don and the Ury. Two mounds, one huge, one about half its size, rise on either side of the path. We climbed the smaller one, now blanketed in moss, sporting trees and a good crop of toadstools. I had noticed a gate and a spiral path climbing the taller of the mounds, around the other side, so up we went.

The two mounds form the Bass of Inverurie, said to be a motte and bailey castle. The larger mound, the motte, would have held a timber fortification, while the other, lower mound, the bailey, held stores, stables and workshops. They were joined to by an oak walkway whose timbers were found in 1883. The site would have been well defended, rising above an encircling ditch in the marshy ground in the loop of the river. The design suggests the castle is around nine hundred years old and it was a seat of royal power, administered by the de Lesselyn family, Hereditary Constables of the Garioch. It may well be at the Bass that Robert the Bruce lay ill in 1308 after the Battle of Barra.

Not all these ‘Norman’ mounds though are Norman. Some that had been thought to date back only a thousand years have been found to be much, much older. They were centres for gathering, ritual and justice and may have been seen as sacred, like the great hill of Silbury itself. Not all have been dated by modern methods and it would not surprise me if this was one of those older hills, taken over by a later power. My reason lies on the horizon, where the two peaks of Bennachie, with its ancient presence and history, echo the shape of the hills.

It was still raining as we turned to descend from the mound, but the day had a final surprise. Once again we saw the double disc symbol, but this time, in a rather more modern and wholly unexpected form… World within worlds… and somehow, that seemed about right.

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 and on Twitter @SCVincent Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
This entry was posted in ancient mound, Ancient sites, historic sites, Photography, Poetry, scotland road trip, Solstice of the Moon, Stuart France and Sue Vincent, symbolism and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Solstice of the Moon: What on earth…

  1. Pingback: Solstice of the Moon: What on earth… – The Militant Negro™

  2. Scribbles says:

    Fascinating Sue, thank you for such a wonderful post. I am sharing x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Solstice of the Moon: What on earth… — Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo | tisgreenamongthebushes

  4. memadtwo says:

    That double circle symbol immediately suggests eyes to me. Of course I don’t know how to connect that to anything else…(K)


  5. macjam47 says:

    I love those “out the window” moments. It seems they were meant to be as you always discover such fascinating things.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. paulandruss says:

    Fascinating post Sue, really enjoyed it. thanks Px

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Like a moth to a flame Sue… two mounds… boy that was a lucky find.. thanks for the fascinating post and as an Outlander fan I wondered where those mysterious old boy and that dark shape went and to what time zone.. hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Running Elk says:

    Oh! Glad you got to see the mounds. They were on the list, mainly for the missing stones – so kind of glad we didn’t waste time hunting something that wasn’t there! lol

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We had a tel like that along the old road from Jerusalem to Rehovot. It looked very much like it, but there was a small piece of an arch that stuck up through the ground.

    I passed it every day, back and forth, on my way to work. One day, the archaeologists arrived and they started to dig. it was everything you could want in a dig. The very top was a 5th century synagogue with an astrological tiled floor. They removed it and took it to the museum. Below it was an older synagogue. Pillar upon pillar. And below that — still pillar on pillar — was a Roman temple which stood on a Greek temple which stood on a Canaanite temple. Each pillar on pillar of the one before. The left a little area with a very sharply angled stairway so you could go down and look. I don’t think they would do that now, but back then, when they were finished digging, they’d let we amateurs in for a look. Oh, and across the road, there was an old Crusader stable for a castle that must have been there, but now has vanished.

    It was amazing. You never know what is down there until someone decides to really take a look!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      That must have been incredible to be keeping your eye on, Marilyn! These days, we can’t even find anyone interested in getting out of their offices to take a look at archaeological mysteries…


      • I was surprised too. Israel — really, the entire middle east — is a giant tel. Dig anywhere, you’ll find something. I think it was that bit of arch sticking through the ground. It must have caught someone’s eye. I couldn’t even find a guide that suggested what might have been there.

        Digs are as rare there as England. It costs a lot of money and usually involves several countries and more than one sponsor, so someone had to be really interested in it.


        • Sue Vincent says:

          I can imagine, there have been so many layers of history in that land…

          Yes, it almost always comes down to the money, sadly.


          • And the potential religious importance in Israel means there is always a cross-hatch of religions involved in the dig including (of course) our own hyper super religious graybeards. Multiple universities. Multiple financing groups. Agreements about who gets to keep which pieces they find. It gets insanely complicated, which is WHY I was so surprised they picked that spot to dig. There are so many huge tels in the country. Maybe it was because that one was relatively small? It was a lot more than anyone imagined.


  10. Widdershins says:

    Turning within, and turning without, every where you look. 😀


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