A couple of years ago, my two-legses got together for the Winter Solstice, which was nice. It didn’t mean presents… unless you count my share of their cheese, ham and salmon… but it did mean I got to go on an adventure with them again! They were a bit sneaky about it this time… she packed my bag with water and stuff while he took me out for a walk in the fields. So, I didn’t even know I was going until they opened the car and told me to get in! She’d come across something, doing her rummaging on the ‘puter, so they decided to go and take a look.
I managed not to sing too loudly in the back seat this time… but every time they slowed the car, I was hoping we were there. It wasn’t long, though, and we went into a wood that smelled awesome with all the mud and leaves and stuff. ‘Specially as loads of dogs seem to go there too! She said it was s’pposed to be difficult to find, this thing, but soon she laughed and said, “I think I might have found it…”. It was, after all, a bit too big to miss…
In a neat little enclosure in the corner of the wood, we found the Ent. Now, being what you might call a literary dog, this was not the kind of Ent I was expecting, but it was a big fellow. The stones are in a village called ‘Enstone’ which some people think comes from ‘Enna’s stone’, which just means a ‘boundary stone of a man called Enna’, and she sighs and says ‘they’ always say that about names ‘they’ don’t understand. She says that another possibility is that the words ‘ent’ and ‘stan’ literally mean giant stone. I like that better.
The other name for them is the Hoar Stones and there are a lot of places with this name. She read that they might be called after ‘the Great Goddess Hoeur’… but she can’t find anything else about Her, apart from the fact that She was one aspect of the Goddess in the ancient land. But she keeps finding Her name in odd places, so she’s keeping that in mind and hoping someone might know…
The stones are all that remains of a portal dolmen, built as houses of the dead, between four and a half and five and a half thousand years ago. Standing stones, one of them nearly ten feet tall, formed a chamber, roofed with a huge capstone, whose broken remains lay nearby. According to antiquarian reports and sketches, and the evidence of similar sites elsewhere in the country, the stones were almost certainly once buried beneath a mound of earth.
They let me do a bit of ‘vestigating, cause, after all, I have the nose for it. The stones reminded me of those at Rollright, all pitted and scarred… oolitic limestone she had called it there. Only three of the main stones are standing now, and one of them is broken, but I found a load of others half-buried.
The place has a real presence and the stones want to whisper to you. One tale in the village is that they are an old man and his dog turned to stone… though no-one knows why. A lot of the old circles and stones were, according to folktales, once people before they were petrified. I think I’d be petrified too if I met a dog that size!
Another story tells how the stones come down to the stream to drink… you get that a lot too. The most interesting thing about the stories though, is the one told by an old gaffer who said that the stones were the burial place of a king, ancient before the Romans came, whose body had been carried from Ditchley, along a path called Dead King’s Rise or Dead Man’s Riding. Oddly, with all this talk of travel, there are two leys meeting at the stones… and it may be these that are being remembered in the old stories.
Not a bad way to celebrate the Solstice! I didn’t want to leave, but they said we would have to come back on a warmer day… and that anyway, we still had some more stone-hunting to do 🙂