N

15 m analysis of the Ordnance Survey data suggest that the extreme Southern setting position of the major standstill Moon could have been observed at this site. The 173d periodicity in the variation of the lunar inclination could have been noted through the interaction between the setting Moon and the terrain near Mt. Clisham in the Harris region of the island because at the range of declinations (-29°11.3' to -29°26.8'), the Moon would alternate between skirting the top and the bottom of the undulating horizon. Ponting and Ponting strongly challenge this observation and state that an intervening hillock would have prevented this observation from this site, although not from sites in the vicinity. Thom also noted that the limits of the short-term perturbation in i could have been determined more easily at another nearby site, at moonrise, against a foresight with more variation. Stellar alignments claimed for Callanish are more problematical. The avenue was said to have been aligned on Capella, for example, by Lockyer (1906/1909, p. 377), Somerville (1912), and Thom (1967, p. 98), but for dates between 1800 and 1790 b.c., in the Middle-Bronze Age, most likely well after the monument was constructed and when the tradition of standing stones was into decline. The history is discussed by Burl (1982, p. 144).

Callanish illustrates the difficulties of reconciling archaeological and astronomical evidence. Hawkins (1965b) determined 12 alignments based on Somerville's map. Unfortunately, five of these depend on stone 35, which was reerected ~1860, almost certainly not at the original location (Ponting and Ponting 1984, p. 47). On the other hand, Thom thought that a number of other stones had been reerected, based on early descriptions of some of them as "fallen." In fact, they were all in position, buried in 5 ft or more of peat in early photographs, with only the upper part showing, sometimes mistakenly giving the impression of much smaller fallen stones. At that time, the cairn was completely covered. The peat began forming about 1000 b.c., with changing weather conditions, and thus establishes a minimum age for the site (Ponting and Ponting 1984a, p. 7). Archaeological materials that were recovered in excavations in 1980 and 1981 indicate that the circle was built ~2200 b.c. The Pontings think that the tall standing stone now at the circle's center was put up still earlier. Stone 33A was visible in 1857 but then covered; it was rediscovered by the Pontings in 1977, by probing, then excavated in 1980, and reerected in its original hole in 1982. A Glasgow University survey in 1974 determined that the azimuth of the east row was 76°5' rather than 77°8' as recorded by Somerville and used in all studies prior to the survey. According to Burl (1993, p. 180), the east row would have been aligned on the rising of the Pleiades ~1550 b.c.

There is a suggestive similarity between what has been determined about Callanish and a famous description of a Hyperborean temple by Diodorus Siculus (1st century b.c.) derived from Hecataeus of Abdera (~500 b.c.). The description has frequently been applied to Stonehenge, but Burl (1993, pp. 64-65, 179-180) shows that interpretation to be highly unlikely. Diodorus wrote

Of those who have written about the ancient myths, Hecataeus and certain others say that in the regions beyond the land of the Celts there lies in the ocean an island no smaller than Sicily. This island, the account continues, is situated in the north and is inhabited by the Hyperboreans, who are called by that name because their home is beyond the point whence the north wind (Boreas) blows; and the island is both fertile and productive of every crop, and since it has an unusually temperate climate it produces two harvests each year. Moreover, the following legend is told concerning it: Leto [mother of Apollo] was born on this island, and for that reason Apollo is honored among them above all other gods; and the inhabitants are looked upon as priests of Apollo, after a manner, since daily they praise this god continuously in song and honor him exceedingly. And there is also on the island both a magnificant sacred precinct of Apollo and a notable temple which is adorned with many votive offerings and is spherical15 in shape. Furthermore, a city16 is there which is sacred to this god, and the majority of its inhabitants are players on the cithara; and these continually play on this instrument in the temple and sing hymns of praise to the god, glorifying his deeds.

The Hyperboreans also have a language, we are informed, which is peculiar to them, and are most friendly disposed towards the Greeks, and especially towards the Athenians and the Delians, who have inherited this good-will from most ancient times. The myth also relates that certain Greeks visited the Hyperboreans and left behind them there costly votive offerings bearing inscriptions in Greek letters. And in the same way Abaris, a Hyperborean, came to Greece in ancient times and renewed the good-will and kinship of his people to the Delians. They say also that the moon, as viewed from this island, appears to be but a little distance from the earth and to have upon it prominences, like those of the earth, which are visible to the eye. The account is also given that the god visits the island every nineteen years, the period in which the return of the stars to the same place in the heavens is accomplished; and for this reason the nineteen-year period is called by the Greeks the "year of Meton." At the time of this appearance of the god he both plays

15 In Greek, afaipoeiSrj.

16 "Community" may be a better rendering of the Greek poliv in this case.

on the cithara and dances continuously the night through from the vernal equinox until the rising of the Pleiades, expressing in this manner his delight in his successes. And the kings of this city and the supervisors of the sacred precinct are called Boreadae, since they are descendants of Boreas, and the succession to these positions is always kept in their family (Loeb Library, Book II, §47). [Bracketed material added by present authors.]

Burl, with the Pontings, supposes that the "Moon being nearer the Earth" refers to the appearance of the major standstill Moon above the Callanish horizon. At its southern maximum (8 ~ -29°), the Moon never rises more than ~3° above the horizon and the "big moon" effect (see §3.1.3) would enhance the illusion that the Moon appears closer to the Earth at that time. This is a result of the high latitude of the Callanish site (f ~ 58°10') and the circumstance that the altitude of an object transiting the celestial meridian is equal to the sum of its declination and the site's colati-tude: 8 + (90 - f). The effect is far less striking at Stonehenge (f = 51°11'), where the altitude of the Moon would be greater. The seemingly sharper details are more difficult to explain, because the greater air mass of the lower altitude Moon at Callanish would tend to obscure details rather than enhance them. Perhaps, in this case, the local observer's visual acuity played an important role. It is interesting that the Greeks adopted the cult of "Hyperborean Apollo" in about 470 b.c. and that Abaris, possibly a mythical figure, is alleged to have taught Pythagoras (Burkert 1972, pp. 149-150).

Another different line of evidence for Callanish as the island of the Hyperboreans involves the reference to the birth of Leto, mother of Apollo, on the island. If we transfer this into Celtic terms, Mac nOg, the equivalent of Apollo, was a son of *Bu-vinda, "White Cow," the goddess who gave her name to the Boyne River. Ponting and Ponting (1984, p. 30) relate a legend about the arrival of a Gaelic-speaking white cow, which emerged from the sea during a famine. The cow told the people to come to the Callanish stones and she would give them each a bucket of milk. However, a witch brought a bottomless bucket and milked her dry. DHK thinks this is a version of the cornucopia myth, the horn taken from Amaltheia by Zeus and given to the nymphs Io and (her sister) Adrasteia. Io was a name of the moon goddess in Argos and the name given to a woman beloved of Zeus, who turned her into a white cow to evade Hera's jealousy. The various motifs linked by the story from Callanish look more like scraps of ancient mythology than most such stories.

Another legend given by the Pontings (1984a, p. 27) says that the Stones were brought to Callanish in ships and erected by black men under the direction of a priest-king, who was always accompanied by wrens. He and other priests wore feather cloaks (which was true of some Gaels in the pre-Christian period). The reference to wrens suggests the golden-crested wren, king of the birds. As sacred birds, wrens could be killed only once a year by the "wren-boys" on St. Stephen's day (Dec. 26) just after winter solstice (Frazer 1912, Part V, Vol. 2, pp. 317-320).17 Sometimes the

17 The wren appears as BadliaKOQ or "little king" in classical Greek, as Regulus and rex avium in Latin, and similarly in Italian, Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, English, and Welsh.

killing was done by piercing the bird with sticks, fastened to make a kind of armillary sphere18 (see Figure 6.26). It has always been assumed that Diodorus's "spherical temple" was merely some curious error for "circular temple," but the association of Callanish with wrens and the winter solstice raises the possibility of a different meaning, involving an actual spherical structure such as an armilla; certainly one would expect educated Greeks of the 1st century b.c. to be able to distinguish a sphere from a circle.

The wren king is known in Devonshire as "the cuddy vran," "Bran's sparrow," and Bran is another important bird, "crow, raven" as well as a figure of Welsh traditional legend, King Bran. In the Romance of Branwen (named for Branwen, "white crow," sister of Bran), it is said that Bran's decapitated head was buried at Tower Hill in London to guard the city from invasion. Decapitation is associated with eclipses in other culture areas. The decapitation and other associated motifs suggest a solar identity for Bran. Apollo's bird was the crow, and the traditional phrase "as the crow flies" implies a recognized analogy between the crow's flight and the movement of the Sun along the ecliptic.

It is reasonable to suppose that the Greeks had already defined the "four winds" as direction markers at an early date; two sons of Boreas are included among the crew of the Argonauts. We may say, therefore, that the line south of the circle, which has a true north-south alignment,19 was, in Greek terms, a line to Boreas. The movement of the Moon in the sky and in the 19-year Metonic cycle, the winter solstice alignment, the "north pointer," the equinox alignment, the possible Pleiades alignment, the size of the island group (the Hebrides), and even the reference to the sphere all seem to fit Callanish far better than Stonehenge.

Burl has repeatedly emphasized that groups of sites that show similar alignments provide much better evidence of intent than any single site can, however great the apparent precision at a single site. On the Isle of Lewis in the near vicinity of Callanish, three stone circles are also oriented to the southernmost setting of the major standstill Moon, and other monuments suggest the same orientation. Ruggles (1984, 1985) demonstrated that north-south lines were common in SW Scotland. There is also a rarer alignment at Callanish that is seldom mentioned.

Looking from the main site (Callanish I) to the east, Callanish XIV, a single standing stone, becomes a remarkably good marker for the equinoctial sunrise (Ponting and Ponting 1985b, p. 37).

0 0

Post a comment