Archives

Time Traveler’s guide to Christmas: Pre-Christian roots

Music to accompany your holiday time travel journey: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/musical-inspiration-christmas-music/

 

 History of Christmas in early England

Previous post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/time-travelers-guide-to-christmas-part-one/

yule3

As I mentioned in the previous post, this next discussion will focus on earlier forms of celebrating Christmas. As we work through the history, you will find that many of the customs and traditions you follow now as Christmas celebrations are passed on from much earlier pre-Christian winter Solstice celebrations.  Some of them are remnants of Roman traditions but the majority of them that we are most familiar with stem from ancient Germanic and Nordic beliefs and customs. As we saw in the previous post, the earliest Norse migration into northern Scotland and the later Saxon and Viking migrations into the southern portions of the British Isles infused the cultures there with those Germanic and Norse traditions.  The earliest Romans also left their mark in some ways, but towards the end of their occupation of the land, they had become Christians and would eventually bring Christianity to the land.

 

 Roman traditions and beliefs

The druids, the Celtic priestly caste who were believed to originate in Britain,  were outlawed by Claudius,  and in 61 they vainly defended their sacred groves from destruction by the Romans on the island of Mona (Anglesey).  However, under Roman rule the Britons continued to worship native Celtic deities, such as Ancasta, but often conflated with their Roman equivalents, like Mars Rigonemetos at Nettleham.

The degree to which earlier native beliefs survived is difficult to gauge precisely. Certain European ritual traits such as the significance of the number 3, the importance of the head and of water sources such as springs remain in the archaeological record, but the differences in the votive offerings made at the baths at Bath, Somerset, before and after the Roman conquest suggest that continuity was only partial. Worship of the Roman emperor is widely recorded, especially at military sites. The founding of a Roman temple to Claudius at Camulodunum was one of the impositions that led to the revolt of Boudica. By the 3rd century, Pagans Hill Roman Temple in Somerset was able to exist peaceably and it did so into the 5th century.

Eastern cults such as Mithraism also grew in popularity towards the end of the occupation. The Temple of Mithras is one example of the popularity of mystery religions amongst the rich urban classes and temples to Mithras also exist in military contexts at Vindobala on Hadrian’s Wall (the Rudchester Mithraeum) and at Segontium in Roman Wales (the Caernarfon Mithraeum).

 

Fourth century Chi-Rho fresco from Lullingstone Roman Villa, Kent, which contains the only known Christian paintings from the Roman era in Britain.

It is not clear when or how Christianity came to Britain. A 2nd-century “word square” has been discovered in Mamucium, the Roman settlement of Manchester.  It consists of an anagram of PATER NOSTER carved on a piece of amphora. There has been discussion by academics whether the “word square” is actually a Christian artefact, but if it is, it is one of the earliest examples of early Christianity in Britain.  The earliest confirmed written evidence for Christianity in Britain is a statement by Tertullian, c. 200 AD, in which he described “all the limits of the Spains, and the diverse nations of the Gauls, and the haunts of the Britons, inaccessible to the Romans, but subjugated to Christ”.  Archaeological evidence for Christian communities begins to appear in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Small timber churches are suggested at Lincoln and Silchester and baptismal fonts have been found at Icklingham and the Saxon Shore Fort at Richborough. The Icklingham font is made of lead, and visible in the British Museum. A Roman Christian graveyard exists at the same site in Icklingham. A possible Roman 4th century church and associated burial ground was also discovered at Butt Road on the south-west outskirts of Colchester during the construction of the new police station there, overlying an earlier pagan cemetery. The Water Newton Treasure is a hoard of Christian silver church plate from the early 4th century and the Roman villas at Lullingstone and Hinton St Mary contained Christian wall paintings and mosaics respectively. A large 4th century cemetery at Poundbury with its east-west oriented burials and lack of grave goods has been interpreted as an early Christian burial ground, although such burial rites were also becoming increasingly common in pagan contexts during the period.

The Church in Britain seems to have developed the customary diocesan system, as evidenced from the records of the Council of Arles in Gaul in 314: represented at the Council were bishops from thirty-five sees from Europe and North Africa, including three bishops from Britain, Eborius of York, Restitutus of London, and Adelphius, possibly a bishop of Lincoln. No other early sees are documented, and the material remains of early church structures are far to seek.  The existence of a church in the forum courtyard of Lincoln and the martyrium of Saint Alban on the outskirts of Roman Verulamium are exceptional.  Alban, the first British Christian martyr and by far the most prominent, is believed to have died in the early 4th century (although some date him in the middle 3rd century), followed by Saints Julius and Aaron of Isca Augusta. Christianity was legalised in the Roman Empire by Constantine I in 313. Theodosius I made Christianity the state religion of the empire in 391, and by the 5th century it was well established. One belief labelled a heresy by the church authorities — Pelagianism — was originated by a British monk teaching in Rome: Pelagius lived c. 354 to c. 420/440.

A letter found on a lead tablet in Bath, Somerset, datable to c. 363, had been widely publicised as documentary evidence regarding the state of Christianity in Britain during Roman times. According to its first translator, it was written in Wroxeter by a Christian man called Vinisius to a Christian woman called Nigra, and was claimed as the first epigraphic record of Christianity in Britain. However, this translation of the letter was apparently based on grave paleographical errors, and the text, in fact, has nothing to do with Christianity, and in fact relates to pagan rituals.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Britain#Religion_2

While this may not seem related to our discussion of early Christmas traditions, it is important to know some of the early history of the land in order to better understand how the various beliefs and traditions came to merge together and become what we observe and practice today. It is of course, extremely important to any time traveler who might find themselves in such an earlier time period either by choice… or as the result of any miscalculation or error in the time travel mechanism! While Crag na dun Time Travel has perfected it’s travel, there is always the slight chance of malfunction resulting in a misplacement in time. In these rare cases, Crag na dun Travel will offer full refund and reimbursement upon your return. Please keep some receipt of travel to the time period as your proof of error on their part! Now, back to our discussion…

During the Roman occupation of the British Isles, they most likely left traces of their own midwinter celebrations. Their occupation of the area lasted for some time, from about 45Ad to the late 5th century.  Over those centuries, they made the transition from paganism to Christianity but many still practices and observed their Pagan festivals even after turning to Christianity. One such festival was that of Saturnalia.

Saturnalia

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honor of the deity Saturn, held on the 17th of December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to the 23rd of December. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves. The poet Catullus called it “the best of days.”

In Roman mythology, Saturn was an agricultural deity who was said to have reigned over the world in the Golden Age, when humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labor in a state of social egalitarianism. The revelries of Saturnalia were supposed to reflect the conditions of the lost mythical age, not all of them desirable. The Greek equivalent was the Kronia.

Although probably the best-known Roman holiday, Saturnalia as a whole is not described from beginning to end in any single ancient source. Modern understanding of the festival is pieced together from several accounts dealing with various aspects.  The Saturnalia was the dramatic setting of the multivolume work of that name by Macrobius, a Latin writer from late antiquity who is the major source for information about the holiday. In one of the interpretations in Macrobius’s work, Saturnalia is a festival of light leading to the winter solstice, with the abundant presence of candles symbolizing the quest for knowledge and truth.  The renewal of light and the coming of the new year was celebrated in the later Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun,” on December 25.

The popularity of Saturnalia continued into the third and fourth centuries AD, and as the Roman Empire came under Christian rule, some of its customs have influenced the seasonal celebrations surrounding Christmas and the New Year.

The poet Catullus describes Saturnalia as the best of days. It was a time of celebration, visits to friends, and gift-giving, particularly of wax candles (cerei), and earthenware figurines (sigillaria). The best part of the Saturnalia (for slaves) was the temporary reversal of roles. Masters served meals to their slaves who were permitted the unaccustomed luxuries of leisure and gambling. Clothing was relaxed and included the peaked woollen cap that symbolized the freed slave, which looks an awful lot like Santa Claus’s peaked red hat . A member of the familia (family plus slaves) was appointed Saturnalicius princeps, roughly, Lord of Misrule.

So, the tradition of Saturnalia left us with gift giving, candles, Santa’s red hat… and the Lord of Misrule!

 

Lord of Misrule

In England, the Lord of Misrule — known in Scotland as the Abbot of Unreason and in France as the Prince des Sots — was an officer appointed by lot at Christmas to preside over the Feast of Fools. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant or sub-deacon appointed to be in charge of Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness and wild partying, in the pagan tradition of Saturnalia.

The Church held a similar festival involving a Boy Bishop. This custom was abolished by Henry VIII in 1541, restored by the Catholic Queen Mary I and again abolished by Protestant Elizabeth I, though here and there it lingered on for some time longer.[1] On the Continent it was suppressed by the Council of Basle in 1431, but was revived in some places from time to time, even as late as the eighteenth century.

 

In the spirit of misrule, identified by the grinning masks in the corners, medieval floor tiles from the Derby Black Friary show a triumphant hunting hare mounted on a dog.

While mostly known as a British holiday custom, the appointment of a Lord of Misrule comes from antiquity. In ancient Rome, from the 17th to the 23rd of December, a Lord of Misrule was appointed for the feast of Saturnalia, in the guise of the good god Saturn. During this time the ordinary rules of life were subverted as masters served their slaves, and the offices of state were held by slaves. The Lord of Misrule presided over all of this, and had the power to command anyone to do anything during the holiday period. This holiday seems to be the precursor to the more modern holiday, and it carried over into the Christian era.

In the Tudor period the Lord of Misrule is mentioned a number of times by contemporary documents referring to both revels at court and among the ordinary people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_of_Misrule

 

Boxing Day

In addition to the already listed contributions, the Romans were also responsible for the eventual tradition and holiday of Boxing Day, which is celebrated throughout the British Isles.

The exact etymology of the term “boxing day” is unclear. There are several competing theories, none of which is definitive.  The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It is believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in places of worship to collect donations to the poor. Also, it may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen, which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.

In Britain, it was a custom for tradespeople to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year.This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys‘ diary entry for 19 December 1663.  This custom is linked to an older English tradition: since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and maybe sometimes leftover food.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing_Day

 

Anglo-saxon  period, traditions and beliefs

The Romans left the British Isles around the end of the 5th century and were replaced by the Angles/ Saxon invasion and migration into the area. They arrived during the 5th century and remained a dominant force until 1066 and William the Conqueror took over the land.

The Anglo-Saxons were a people who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century. They included people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe, and their descendants; as well as indigenous British groups who adopted some aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language. The Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period of British history between about 450 and 1066, after their initial settlement, and up until the Norman conquest.

The Anglo-Saxon period includes the creation of an English nation, with many of the aspects that survive today including regional government of shires and hundreds; the re-establishment of Christianity; a flowering in literature and language; and the establishment of charters and law. The term Anglo-Saxon is also popularly used for the language, in scholarly use more usually called Old English, that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons in England and eastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century.

The history of the Anglo-Saxons is the history of a cultural identity, and how this developed from divergent groups, grew with the adoption of Christianity, was used in the establishment of various kingdoms, and, in the face of a threat from Danish settlers, re-established itself as one identity until after the Norman Conquest.  The outward appearance of Anglo-Saxon culture can be seen in the material culture of buildings, dress styles, illuminated texts and grave goods. Behind the symbolic nature of these cultural emblems there are strong elements of tribal and lordship ties, and an elite that became kings who developed burhs, and saw themselves and their people in Biblical terms. Above all, as Helena Hamerow has observed, “local and extended kin groups remained…the essential unit of production throughout the Anglo-Saxon period”.

Use of the term Anglo-Saxon assumes that the words Angles, Saxons or Anglo-Saxon have the same meaning in all the sources. Assigning ethnic labels such as “Anglo-Saxon” is fraught with difficulties, and the term itself only began to be used in the 8th century to distinguish “Germanic” groups in Britain from those on the continent.  Catherine Hills summarised the views of many modern scholars that attitudes towards Anglo-Saxon and hence the interpretation of their culture and history has been “more contingent on contemporary political and religious theology as on any kind of evidence.”

The history of the Saxons is far too in depth and extensive to delve into here and does not pertain all that much to our discussion of early Christmas traditions and beliefs. The most important thing to keep in mind and consider is that they were made of a variety of northern Germanic tribes. While some of these tribes were early converts to Christianity, many of them were not and brought with them their more Norse beliefs.

800px-Anglo_Saxon_migration_5th_cen

Many of the early Saxons had similar beliefs to the later Viking invaders, though as time passed they became the minority and were eventually over taken by those who had converted to Christianity.

For a more detailed and in depth look at these early Saxons, their struggle to hold on to their old ways and their eventual demise under the Christian influence, I would highly suggest you read this series of books by Octavia Randolph. I suggest here mainly because she deals with the early Saxon beliefs and how closely they were connected to the Norse/Vikings beliefs of the time. She also has excellent descriptions of some of their traditions and celebrations! It is a series of four books that tell a young woman’s journey through the Viking conquests of early England and then her life in the northern lands of  Danemark, and Gotland.

circle of ceridwen1

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23123223-the-circle-of-ceridwen

In Circle of Ceridwen, Octavia Randolph discusses in great detail, the Saxon belief in Woden and  it’s close connection to the Viking belief in Odin.

 

 

Woden in Anglo-Saxon England

“If a West Saxon farmer in pagan times had walked out of his bury or ton above the Vale of Pewsey some autumn day, and looking up to the hills had caught sight of a bearded stranger seeming in long cloak larger than life as he stalked the skyline through the low cloud; and if they had met at the gallows by the cross-roads where a body still dangled; and if the farmer had noticed the old wanderer glancing up from under a shadowy hood or floppy brimmed hat with a gleam of recognition out of his one piercing eye as though acclaimed a more than ordinary interest, a positive interest, in the corpse;… and if all this had induced in the beholder a feeling of awe; then he would have been justified in believing that he was in the presence of Woden tramping the world of men over his own Wansdyke.”

Anglo-Saxon polytheism reached Great Britain during the 5th and 6th centuries with the Anglo-Saxon migration, and persisted until the completion of the Christianization of England by the 8th or 9th century.

For the Anglo-Saxons, Woden was the psychopomp or carrier of the dead,  but not necessarily with the same attributes as the Norse Odin. There has been some doubt as to whether the early English shared the Norse concepts of Valkyries and Valhalla. The Sermo Lupi ad Anglos refers to the wælcyrian “valkyries”, but the term appears to have been a loan from Old Norse; in the text, it is used to mean “(human) sorceress”.

The Christian writer of the Maxims found in the Exeter Book (341, 28) records the verse Wôden worhte weos, wuldor alwealda rûme roderas (“Woden wrought the (heathen) altars / the almighty Lord the wide heavens”). The name of such Wôdenes weohas (Saxon Wôdanes with, Norse Oðins ve) or sanctuaries to Woden survives in toponymy as Odinsvi, Wodeneswegs.

Royal genealogy

Woden listed as an ancestor of Ælfwald of East Anglia in the Textus Roffensis (12th century).

As the Christianisation of England took place, Woden was euhemerised as an important historical king  and was believed to be the progenitor of numerous Anglo-Saxon royal houses.

Discussing the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain, Bede, in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People (completed in or before 731) writes that:

The two first commanders are said to have been Hengist and Horsa … They were the sons of Victgilsus, whose father was Vecta, son of Woden; from whose stock the royal race of many provinces deduce their original.

The Historia Brittonum, composed around 830,  presents a similar genealogy and additionally lists Woden as a descendent of Godwulf,  who likewise in Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda is said to be an ancestor of “Vóden, whom we call Odin“.

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, composed during the reign of Alfred the Great,  Woden was the father of Wecta, Beldeg, Wihtgils and Wihtlaeg  and was therefore an ancestor of the Kings of Wessex, Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia. As in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, a history of early Anglo-Saxon migration to Britain incorporating Woden as an ancestor of Hengist and Horsa is given:

These men came from three tribes of Germany: from the Old Saxons, from the Angles, and from the Jutes … their commanders were two brothers, Hengest and Horsa, that were the sons of Wihtgils. Wihtgils was Witta’s offspring, Witta Wecta’s offspring, Wecta Woden’s offspring. From that Woden originated all our royal family …

Descent from Woden appears to have been an important concept in Early Medieval England. According to N. J. Higham, claiming Woden as an ancestor had by the 8th century become an essential way to establish royal authority. Richard North (1997) similarly believes that “no king by the late seventh century could do without the status that descent from Woden entailed.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C5%8Dden

Pre-cursor to Santa Claus

The reason that Woden and Odin become important in our discussion of Christmas is that they are both considered pre-cursors to Father Christmas and Santa Claus!

Throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern period, Woden persisted as a figure in folklore and folk religion, notably as the leader of the Wild Hunt found in English, German, Swiss, and Scandinavian traditions.

Woden is thought to be the precursor of the English Father Christmas, or Father Winter, and the American Santa Claus.

A celebrated late attestation of invocation of Wodan in Germany dates to 1593, in Mecklenburg, where the formula Wode, Hale dynem Rosse nun Voder “Wodan, fetch now food for your horse” was spoken over the last sheaf of the harvest.  David Franck adds, that at the squires’ mansions, when the rye is all cut, there is Wodel-beer served out to the mowers; no one weeds flax on a Wodenstag, lest Woden’s horse should trample the seeds; from Christmas to Twelfth-day they will not spin, nor leave any flax on the distaff, and to the question why? they answer, Wode is galloping across. We are expressly told, this wild hunter Wode rides a white horse.

A custom in Schaumburg is reported by Jacob Grimm: the people go out to mow in parties of twelve, sixteen, or twenty scythes, but it is managed in such a manner that, on the last day of harvest, they are all finished at the same time, or some leave a strip that they can cut down at a stroke, or they merely pass their scythes over the stubble, pretending that there is still some left to mow. At the last strokes of their scythes, they raise their implements aloft, plant them upright, and beat the blades three times with their strops. Each spills on the field a little of his drink—whether beer, brandy, or milk—then drinks it himself, while they wave their hats, beat their scythes three times, and cry aloud Wôld, Wôld, Wôld!. The women knock all of the crumbs out of their baskets onto the stubble. They march home shouting and singing. If the ceremony was omitted, the hay and corn crops would be bad in the following year. The first verse of the song is quoted by Grimm,

„Wôld, Wôld, Wôld!
Hävens wei wat schüt,
jümm hei dal van Häven süt.
Vulle Kruken un Sangen hät hei,
upen Holte wässt manigerlei:
hei is nig barn un wert nig old.
Wôld, Wôld, Wôld! “

“Wôld, Wôld, Wôld”!
Heaven’s giant knows what happens,
He, looking down from heaven,
Providing full jugs and sheaves.
Many a plant grows in the woods.
He is not born and grows not old.

“Wôld, Wôld, Wôld”!

 

Wodan_heilt_Balders_Pferd_by_Emil_Doepler wodin saxon god wodin

 

As the Saxons became Christians, their beliefs in the old Gods and old ways were considered Pagan by the Church. It was a constant struggle  for the Church to eliminate the Pagan beliefs and traditions so they began to incorporate the Pagan beliefs into their preaching as a way to draw the people in. This took place from the beginnings of the Church as an organized powerful and political force. No matter how they tried though, they were unable to get people to give up many of their long held traditions and celebrations of the mid-winter Solstice.  Their earliest means of  incorporating the mid-winter Solstice was to set the birth of Jesus at the same time, referring to him and the event as the “Sun of Righteousness”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas

The Saxons became Christians and the lower portions of the British Isles were  settled into small separate  kingdoms and territories ruled by newly Christian overlords who fought amongst themselves for power and control but  generally followed the laws of the Church, which held most of the power at the time. If they still practiced or observed Pagan traditions, they did it privately.

The arrival of the Norse Vikings brought back old ways, beliefs and traditions.

It is important to note here that the Saxon migration, as well as the later Viking migration only applies to the lower portion of the British Isles. Scotland was not really involved in this restructuring of the land and was dealing with it’s own changing dynamics. As I have previously mentioned, there was already a Norse migration and influence on the Northern portions of Scotland, the Church was also making it’s way into converting the Scottish lands, and there was what might be considered as a form of genocide of the remaining Druids and Picts of the areas. Little remains of either culture to determine what their traditions or beliefs might have entailed.  what we can note here is that the inhabitants of the Highland areas had a clan or tribal system that might be similar to those of Germanic or Norse tribal or clan systems.

For a better feel and sense of what was taking place in the northern areas of Scotland during these early times, I would suggest reading

 

For our purposes, we are focusing on the beliefs and traditions that we can more easily trace back to their original roots.

 Maggie Griggs makes the trip back in time in Veil of Time  by Claire R. McDougall.

Veil of Time

A compelling tale of two Scotlands-one modern, one ancient-and the woman who parts the veil between them.

The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18144050-veil-of-time

Now, while the area of Dunnad and Kilmartin are filled with ancient Stone circles and Standing Stones, Maggie did not make use of them for her trip through time. They were an integral part or mechanism for her travel though as she had not experienced the time travel previously to her visit to Dunadd as an adult.  Also, the Druidess priestess and others she met in the past seemed to feel that the Stones were responsible for her travel as well as for any number of other events. Maggie was suffering from a number of traumatic events in life and decided to spend some time by herself in an isolated cottage at the base of the Dunnad hill fort.  She is working on her doctoral thesis- on the history of Witchcraft in Scotland and trying to finish it before facing a life altering and possible mind altering major operation to cure her of her epileptic seizures. It seems that the combination of the seizures and what ever mystical properties might be at this area are initially the trigger to send her back through time to the year 735 when Dunnad was at the height of it’s importance in history.

The book gives a very good description and visualization of  Mid-winter solstice celebrations as they might have taken place during that time! It also references the Druidic influences and Pict representation in that area and time.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/?s=veil+of+time

 

In our next segment, we will explore what happens when the Saxons of England face their past and their future with the arrival of the Norse Vikings who bring with them the old beliefs and traditions once more.

 

Settled Christian Saxons face their past and their future with arrival of Vikings

King Ecgbert of Wessex

King Ecgbert of Wessex

 

Beyond Crag na Dun: Crag na dun Time Tour options!

 

 

Achhhhh, alright, Mrs. Graham has requested that we post this advertisement here along with additional information on her business?

 

 

 

craigh_na_dun_time tours

Mrs. Graham is of course the housekeeper for Reverend Wakefield of Inverness, but she has a number of other small business interests as well. She is the leader of the local chapter of Druidic Dancers and Callers, runs a part time business of fortune telling- for more information on personalized tea leaf readings contact her at her private residence in Inverness, and it seems that she is the owner of a small but thriving tour business that specializes in very specialized and unique travel packages. She was quite upset with our initial insistence that Crag na dun does not exist. She has went so far as to threaten us with a libel suit and states that our information could damage her business as well as her professional reputation.

Because of this pending litigation, we feel obligated to give Mrs. Graham equal space in which to defend her claims and thereby promote her business…

Mrs Graham tries to tell Frank

Mrs. Graham insists that Yes, indeed Crag na dun does exist but that it’s secret location is a crucial key to the success of her business. She compares the secrecy of location to that of secret recipes and formulas used by Chefs, food, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturers. For some time, Mrs. Graham has run a small tour agency that specializes in a very unique type of travel package. Recently, her business has become so popular that she had to take on a number of affiliates and partners to keep up with the enormous demand for these tours.  She is happy to announce that the business has become a huge success, so much so in fact, that even with the addition of these affiliates, they are unable to fulfill some of the requests.

Crag na dun Time Tours would like to apologize for the delays and backlogs in meeting some of their customers’ inquiries and requests. If you are having difficulty contacting them, please be patient and understand that they are making every attempt to expand their business to meet your needs. They would also like to advise that at this time, due to an extremely high volume of travel requests to 1700’s Scotland, they are unable to accept any more reservations for that time period. The waiting list is already quite lengthy and the company has temporarily put a hold on any further travel to that time frame. An added advisement concerning this time frame, and the trips in general: Please read your pre-travel package and contract thoroughly before traveling. Crag na dun Time Tours does not promise or guarantee in any way that you will meet or encounter specific individuals… namely one James Malcom Mackenzie Fraser or any of his various relatives. It seems that a few customers have returned from their trips rather disgruntled and demanding their money back… Crag na dun time Tours has a no refund policy which is spelled out very clearly in the contract!

The company would like to take a moment here to inform travelers that they have refined their travel techniques over the years and successfully managed to break the 200 year time constraint that has plagued travelers for years. They are now able to send you as far back as any stone’s original building. They would like to advise however, that there is a great deal of risk the further back one goes, and they can not make any safety guarantees should you choose to go all the way back to the very beginnings.

The company does regret that it can not provide more 1700’s trips right now but is offering discounts on some other packages that might be of  just as much interest to travelers. While they can not send you to the mid or later 1700s, they do have some limited packages available for late 1600s-early 1700s…this time frame would put you in the era of the first Jacobite Risings and one other somewhat famous rebel… Rob Roy MacGregor?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Roy_MacGregor

rob-roy rob roy 2 Rob roy2 rob_roy_13

They are running a special on early 1300’s packages right now which include the time period of  some other famous Scots, Robert the Bruce and of course, William Wallace.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_the_Bruce

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wallace

Robert_The_Bruce_Crowned_King_of_Scots Robert_I_and_Isabella_of_Mar Robert the Bruce

braveheart

In addition to these packages, the company is running some special promotions in honor of their newest affiliate, Castlerigg Stone Circles near Keswick, England! The Castlerigg circle and nearby town of Keswick have a long and rich history dating back to 3000 BC. Their varied history includes pre-history Druidic times, Roman occupations, Picts, Angles and Saxon invasions, Viking conquests and early Christian monks and monasteries as well as William the Conquerer’s son, William II.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keswick,_Cumbria

lakes castlerigg cumbria

king arthur movie king arthur movie2 King-Arthur-2004-king-arthur-875459_1000_674 king-arthur-sagaci-sassoni saxons

Moragsoorm long boat Lindisfarne-ep2 vikings-linus-roache-history vikings_gallery7_4-P vikings_gallery7_2-P

Now hopefully this blatant plug for Crag na dun Time Tours will satisy Mrs. Graham and she will drop her pending litigation against us… Please take note, Mrs. Graham that we have even changed the title of the article to include a plug for your company!

 

 

 

First of all before we embark on this journey, we all need to be very clear on one important point. Crag na dun is a fictional Stone Circle created by Diana Gabaldon specifically for the Outlander series! It does not exist anywhere other than in her very creative imagination and the pages of the book. If you are planning to book a tour which includes a visit to “crag na dun”, please be advised in advance that the “crag na dun” you will be visiting will only be a representation of that place.

excerpt from Outlandish Companion regarding whether craigh na dun is a real location.

excerpt from Outlandish Companion regarding whether craigh na dun is a real location.

 

The Stones depicted in the show are Styrofoam and built as part of set design for location shooting.

craigh na dun in show3 Outlander 2014 OUT-101_20131011_EM-0630.jpg

What we are going to explore is some of the many real Stone Circles and ancient sites throughout Scotland and Britain. We will also delve into some other options for time travel… yes, there a great many of them out there! It is speculated an rumored that one could make the trip using various different methods? We’ll touch on a few of them later.  Lastly, we will look at some other time periods that one might end up in when traveling… since that is a truly massive endeavor, we will limit the travel to time frames within the vicinity of Standing Stones or circles in more ancient Britain.

 

Let’s start our journey with the places that Diana mentioned in her references to Craigh na dun.  She mentions Castlerigg, the Clava Cairns near Inverness, and Tomanhurich hill. Now, we are all aware that the mythical craigh na dun is located in the highlands of Scotland somewhere near Inverness? The first circle mentioned is not in this area, but well worth looking into.

 

Castlerigg Stone Circle

 

Castlerigg stone circle is located  in Keswick in  Cumbria  North west England. One of  around 1,300  stone  circles  in  the  British  Isles  and  Brittany, it  was constructed as a part of a  megalithic  tradition that  lasted from 300  to 900 BCE, during  the Late Neolithic and  Early Bronze Ages.

Aside from the more famous Stonehenge, Castlerigg is a site that most of us would immediately identify with when we think of Stone Circles.

You can find more information on it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castlerigg_stone_circle

 

CastleriggStoneCircle(SimonLedingham)Jul2005 Castlerigg_A_Outlier Castlerigg The_Wonders_of_the_World_in_Nature,_Art_and_Mind_Robert_Sears_1843

It is located near Keswick, Cumbria northwest England, so it would not be a plausible location for Craigh na dun. You can see it’s location on the map below, with the Keswick area starred.

Cumbria on map kenswick marked with star

castlerigg-stone-circle2 Druidical_Circle_near_Keswick_in_Cumberland

As I mentioned, while it is not a location for Craigh na dun, it is an excellent representation of a Stone Circle. You might want to keep this site in mind if you prefer to travel back in time to England rather than the highlands of Scotland! It is still well formed with many of the Stones remaining, if that has any bearing on accuracy in determining one’s destination to the past? In fact, it is said that the number of stones is constantly changing. There is a tradition that it is impossible to count the number of stones within Castlerigg; every attempt will result in a different answer. This tradition, however, may not be far from the truth. Due to erosion of the soil around the stones, caused by the large number of visitors to the monument, several smaller stones have ‘appeared’ next to some of the larger stones. Because these stones are so small, they are likely to have been packing stones used to support the larger stones when the circle was constructed and would originally have been buried. Differences in opinion as to the exact number of stones within Castlerigg are usually down to whether the observer counts these small packing stones, or not; some count 38 and others, 42. The ‘official’ number of stones, as represented on the National Trust  information board at the monument, is 40. 

If you could put this site in some context to places and events within the Outlander series, it would be of interest in that is lies in the Lakes district where Jamie Fraser resided as a groom after his release from Ardsmuir Prison. Helwater Estate is located within the Lakes district. It’s location is also in a reasonable vicinity to Northumbria and Hadrian’s Wall, where Roger Wakefield’s Father, Jerry MacKenzie disappeared during World War II while testing a plane for Frank Randall and MI5, the British Intelligence force. 

If one wanted to think about it’s other possible time travel connections to the more ancient past, it is considered much like Stonehenge, a most ancient Druidic worship site. If we look at the nearby village of Keswick and it’s history we can piece together the area’s history from those ancient and unknown druids to it’s strategic importance during Roman occupation with Hadrian’s Wall being in the western part of the county. There are Roman road passing by the present day town.  Several Christian saints preached the Gospel in the north of England in the late 6th and early 7th centuries AD; in Keswick and the surrounding area the most important figures were  St Herbert of Derwentwater and his contemporary St Kentigern.  The former, the pupil and friend of St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, lived as a hermit on an island in Derwentwater, now named after him.  Kentigern, who lived and preached in the area before moving to Wales, is traditionally held to have founded Crosthwaite Church,  which was the parish church of Keswick until the 19th century. 

Keswick’s recorded history starts in the Middle Ages. The area was conquered by the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria in the seventh century, but Northumbria was destroyed by the Vikings in the late ninth. In the early tenth century the British Kingdom of Strathclyde seized the area, and it remained part of Strathclyde until about 1050, when Siward, Earl of  Northumbria, conquered Cumbria. In 1092 William II, son of William the Conqueror, marched north and established the great baronies of Allerdale-below-Derwent, Allerdale-above-Derwent, and Greystoke, the borders of which met at Keswick.   In 1181 Jocelyn of Furness wrote of a new church at Crosthwaite, Keswick, founded by Alice de Romilly, the Lady of Allerdale, a direct descendant of William II’s original barons. In 1189, Richard I granted the rectory of Crosthwaite to the Cistercian order of Fountains Abbey.

During the 13th century, agricultural land around the town was acquired by Fountains and Furness Abbeys. The latter, already prosperous from the wool trade, wished to expand its sheep farming, and in 1208 bought large tracts of land from Alice de Romilly. She also negotiated with Fountains Abbey, to which she sold Derwent Island in Derwentwater, land at Watendlath, the mill at Crosthwaite and other land in Borrowdale. Keswick was at the hub of the monastic farms in the area, and Fountains based a steward in the town, where tenants paid their rents.  Furness also enjoyed profitable rights to the extraction of iron ore.

Now, knowing some of it’s history, you will be a bit better prepared should you decide to use Castlerigg as your time travel portal. If it is extremely powerful, and you are well versed and equipped in the navigation of travel, this portal could land you in the time of Druids, put you close to a Roman Outpost along Hadrian’s Wall, deliver you into the hands of Viking conquerors, or place you in close proximity to early Normans or Christian Monks… take your pick but choose wisely because all of those times could be quite dangerous for an unknown traveler.

 

The second place mentioned by Diana Gabaldon is Clava Cairns near Inverness. This the one more familiar to Outlander fans and followers. 

Clava Cairns near Inverness

The Clava cairn is a type of Bronze Age circular chamber tomb cairn, named after the group of 3 cairns at Balnuaran of Clava, to the east of Inverness in Scotland. There are about 50 cairns of this type in an area round about Inverness. They fall into two sub-types, one typically consisting of a corbelled passage grave  with a single burial chamber linked to the entrance by a short passage and covered with a cairn of stones, with the entrances oriented south west towards midwinter sunset. In the other sub-type an annular ring cairn encloses an apparently unroofed area with no formal means of access from the outside. In both sub-types a stone circle surrounds the whole tomb and a kerb often runs around the cairn. The heights of the standing stones vary in height so that the tallest fringe the entrance (oriented south west) and the shortest are directly opposite it.

Where Clava-type tombs have still contained burial remains, only one or two bodies appear to have been buried in each, and the lack of access to the second sub-type suggests that there was no intention of re-visiting the dead or communally adding future burials as had been the case with Neolithic cairn tombs.

These Stone sites around Inverness would be the most plausible locations for Craigh na dun as they are also located close to Culloden.

Culloden battlefield, a few miles to the east of Inverness attracts a huge number of visitors every each year. But only a few of those visitors realise that only a mile to the south east lies a very different link with the past, every bit as evocative as Culloden and in many ways more tangible, despite dating back to around 2000BC.

The Clava Cairns lie not much more than a cannon shot away from Culloden, and Jacobites fleeing the carnage of the battle may well have passed this way. Yet it is worth remembering that the seemingly huge distance in time back to the very different world of Culloden, some 250 years, is just one sixteenth of the distance we’d have to travel back in time to meet the builders of these cairns.

http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/inverness/clavacairns/index.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clava_cairn

2_clava-mc-03_III_05_stone-III_nickb_surrounding-middle-cairn_tma_37429 Balnuaran of clava Clava Cairns clava cairns2 clava cairns3 clava cairns4 Clava20East20Cairn20nr20Inverness-Archaeology- cupandring splitx

 

The third site mentioned by Diana is Tomnahurich Hill.

Tomnahurich   Hill


Tomnahurich Hill – which  means hill  of the  yews -is a rounded tree covered hillock on the outskirts of Inverness, the hill has a wealth of traditions associated  with it, and it is famed as an abode of  the fairies. A modern cemetery now  covers the  hill.

The most enduring tradition connected with the hill is that fiddlers (or a fiddler) were lured into playing at fairy revelry, and emerged after one night beneath the hill to find that hundreds of years had passed in their own world. The story has two basic forms, in one a solitary fiddler falls asleep on the hill and wakes up in an underworld palace. He is made to play all night for the entertainment of the fairy queen, and finally awakes on the shores of the River Ness, later to discover that a hundred years have passed. The other story features two fiddlers and is outlined below:

The Fiddlers of Tomnahurich
Two travelling fiddlers were visiting Inverness looking for places where they could play, while searching for a suitable venue they met an old man in strange clothes, who asked them if they would perform for him. They agreed and followed the old man to the wooden hill of Tomnahurich, just as the sun slipped out of view over the Western horizon. There was an opening in the side of the hill through which they followed the old man into a brightly lit cavern hall, where a great feast was underway. The feast was attended by a host of people, all dressed in colourful finery, and each seeming to have an air of enchantment and beauty about them. They sat down at one of the many tables and preceded to enjoy the fine wine and the rich food served before them.

Tomnahurich HillTomnahurich Hill When it came the time for dancing they played their fiddles and the party got into full swing, each fiddler playing better than they had ever played before. Finally, in what seemed like no time at all, the feast was over and it was time for the fiddlers to leave. Their noble company thanked them, and the old man who had led them into the hillside paid them with a bag of silver and gold coins. The fiddlers left the hill in a fine mood, and walked back towards the centre of Inverness. As they neared the town they saw that everything had changed, where there was once dense woodland buildings now stood, as if they had appeared overnight. All the people they met along the way were dressed in strange looking clothes, and poked fun at the fiddlers ‘old fashioned’ clothing.

The fiddlers decided that they had been enchanted in some strange way and made the return journey to their town. When they arrived they were dismayed to find that everything they knew here had also changed; their homes were no longer occupied and they recognised no one. In despair they ran into the local church where the local priest was in the midst of delivering a sermon. As soon as the priest spoke the word of God both fiddlers crumbled to dust in front of the eyes of the horrified congregation.

The difference in time between this world and the world of the fairy races is an important folklore motif found in many tales about the otherworld. The way the unfortunate fiddlers crumbled to dust after returning to their own world is also often found in folk tales such as that of King Herla.

There are many more traditions associated with the hill, Thomas the Rhymer is said to be buried beneath it, or to live within it, ready to lead an army of men and white steeds to rally Scotland in its hour of need. In Celtic myth Fion trained his dog to lead two of every species of animal around the hill in pairs to unravel enchantment by an Irish enemy.

Directions: The hill is just off the A82, to the West of the River Ness.

http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/scotland/invernesshire/featured-sites/tomnahurich-hill.html

https://graveyardsofscotland.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/fairy-hill/

Besides Thomas the Rhymer’s supposed connection, the Brahan Seer is also connected to this Fairy hill, now cemetery. So, while there are no Stone Circles to be found here, you may still be able to travel through time at this site due it’s Fairy connections… I would be hesitant about using this one however, as the Fairy connection might even more risky than just time travel? I do suppose though if one was brave enough to try it, it might be an enlightening experience. 

305BrahanSeer

tomnahurich-graveyard-inverness-83 tomnahurich-graveyard-inverness-11 tomnahurich-graveyard-inverness-19 Tomnahurich Hill

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_the_Rhymer

Of course we can not bring up Thomas the rhymer without mention of the fairy realm!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairy

Thomas the rhymer be Katherine Cameron

Thomas the rhymer be Katherine Cameron

The Eildon Hills where Thomas the rhymer supposedly met the past

The Eildon Hills where Thomas the rhymer supposedly met the past

In some legends, Guinivere is referred to as a fairy

In some legends, Guinivere is referred to as a fairy

faerie_forest__the_radient_pool__by_makinmagic-d4q70ka 640px-SophieAndersonTakethefairfaceofWoman 800px-Johann_Heinrich_Füssli_058 11107 Sir_Joseph_Noel_Paton_-_The_Quarrel_of_Oberon_and_Titania_-_Google_Art_Project_2

 

The next site on our journey keeps coming up in any search for Craigh na dun or Standing Stones so I am going to include here as well. If you search the internet for Craigh na dun, one of the first sites listed is a link to Megalithic Portal and Callinish4.  The link is a bit of a let down as it is just one quick picture and an answer to the query of what Craigh na dun looks like?

Callinish  Standing Stones

 

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=1146411369

callanishiv1a

The photo posted on Megalithic Portal was impressive and led us to visit the Callinish Stones directly!

The Callinish Standing Stones are located on the Isle of Lewis and are one of several stone sites on that island. The Isle of Lewis is located in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

The Outer Hebrides (Scottish Gaelic: Na h-Eileanan Siar, IPA: [nə ˈhelanən ˈʃiəɾ]) also known as the Western Isles and the Long Island, and as Innse Gall in Gaelic is an island chain off the west coast of mainland Scotland.   The islands are geographically coextensive with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, one of the 32 unitary council areas of Scotland. They form part of the Hebrides, separated from the Scottish mainland and from the Inner Hebrides by the waters of the Minch, the Little Minch and the Sea of the Hebrides. Scottish Gaelic is the predominant spoken language, although in a few areas English speakers form a majority.

Most of the islands have a bedrock formed from ancient metamorphic rocks and the climate is mild and oceanic. The 15 inhabited islands have a total population of 27,400  and there are more than 50 substantial uninhabited islands. From Barra Head to the Butt of Lewis is roughly 210 kilometres (130 mi).

There are various important prehistoric structures, many of which pre-date the first written references to the islands by Roman and Greek authors. The Western Isles became part of the Norse kingdom of the Suðreyjar, which lasted for over 400 years until sovereignty was transferred to Scotland by the Treaty of Perth in 1266. Control of the islands was then held by clan chiefs, principal of whom were the MacLeods, MacDonalds, Mackenzies and MacNeils. The Highland Clearances of the 19th century had a devastating effect on many communities and it is only in recent years that population levels have ceased to decline. Much of the land is now under local control and commercial activity is based on tourism, crofting, fishing, and weaving.

Sea transport is crucial and a variety of ferry services operate between the islands and to mainland Scotland. Modern navigation systems now minimise the dangers but in the past the stormy seas have claimed many ships. Religion, music and sport are important aspects of local culture, and there are numerous designated conservation areas to protect the natural environment.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Hebrides

hebrides-map callinish stones

map isle of lewis2 map isle of lewis lewis mapka callinish stones

The Callinish Stones are one of the most famous Stone sites in Scotland and closely comparable to Stonehenge in England.  They date back as far as 3000 BC. 

There were limited excavations in 1980-1 which provided some information on the development of the site. The first traces of human activity are indicated by a broad ditch (no longer visible above ground) which appears to have belonged to some structure or enclosure.  This may have been ritual, but could instead have been domestic.  In the centuries around 3000 BC, however, the site was turned over to agriculture which obliterated most of the earlier traces.   After this, the site was allowed to grass over for a time.

The stone circle was set up between 2900 and 2600 BC.   It is not clear whether the stone alignments were constructed at the same time as the circle, or later.  Some time after the erection of the stones, a small chambered tomb was inserted into the eastern part of the stone circle.   The many pottery fragments found indicate that the tomb was used for several centuries.  These pottery fragments included not only the local Hebridean pots, but numerous sherds of beaker vessels (dating to around 2000-1700 BC) and sherds of grooved ware.

Around 1500-1000 BC the complex fell out of use and was despoiled by the later Bronze Age farmers.  Fragments of pots appear to have been cast out of the chamber.  This may have been just ordinary agriculture, but it may conceivably have been ritual cleansing.  There appears to have been a later rebuilding of the tomb, but this may have been for domestic use as there is no evidence for any later ritual use of the monument.  Between 1000 BC and 500 BC the stones were covered by a thick layer of turf. It is estimated that the place was abandoned around 800 BC.  Only in 1857 was the overlying 1.5 metres of peat removed.

callinish stones2 callinish stones3 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA callinish stones6 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA stones-of-callanish-lewis1

The Callanish Stones consist of a stone circle of thirteen stones with a monolith near the middle. Five rows of standing stones connect to this circle. Two long rows of stones running almost parallel to each other from the stone circle to the north-northeast form a kind of avenue. In addition, there are shorter rows of stones to the west-southwest, south and east-northeast. The stones are all of the same rock type, namely the local Lewisian gneiss. Within the stone circle is a chambered tomb to the east of the central stone.

Centre stone

The central monolith stands 0.8 metres west of the true centre of the stone circle. The stone is 4.8 metres high, 1.5 metres wide and 0.3 metres thick.  The largest sides of the stone are almost perfectly oriented to the north and south. The monolith has the shape of a ship’s rudder and probably weighs about seven tonnes.

Stone circle

The stone circle consists of thirteen stones and has a diameter of 11.4 metres. The stone circle is not a perfect circle, but is a ring with a flattened east side (13.4 metres north-south by 12 metres east-west). The stones have an average height of three metres. The ring covers an area of 124 square metres. This is quite small compared to similar circles, including the nearby Callanish II which is 2.5 times as large.

Northern avenue

The avenue connects to the stone circle from the north-northeast. The avenue is 83.2 metres long.  The avenue has 19 stones remaining: nine stones are on the eastern side, ten on the western side.  The largest stone is 3.5 metres high and stands on the western end of the row. The two rows are not exactly parallel to each other but fan out: at the north end the rows are 6.7 metres apart, while the distance between the rows is 6 metres at the south end.  From the circle the height of the stones decreases towards the middle of the avenue; from there the height increases again. The stones of the eastern side of the avenue have only three-quarters of the height of the stones on the western side.

Stone rows

As well as the two stone rows of the avenue, there are three stone rows connecting to the circle. One comes from the east-northeast, one from the south, and one from the west-southwest. The east-northeast row today consists of five stones and is 23.2 metres long.  The southern row consists of five stones and is 27.2 metres long.  The west-southwest row consists of four stones and is 13 metres long.

None of the stone rows is aimed at the centre of the stone circle. The east-northeast row is aligned to a point 2 metres south of the centre; the south row points to 1 metre west of the centre and the west-southwest row points to 1 metre south of the centre.

Chambered tomb

 Chambered tomb

Between the central and the eastern monolith of the stone circle is a chambered tomb 6.4 metres long.  This was built later than the stone circle and is squashed in between the eastern stones and the central monolith.

There is another stone cairn just on the northeast side of the stone circle.  It has been reduced to ground-level and the outline can barely be traced.  It is not necessarily an original part of the site.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Callanish_Stones

Callanish I is just one of over twenty megalithic sites on Lewis.

The stones are intricately connected to the landscape, as with many megalithic ceremonial complexes.  in the case of Callanish I, the stones share  an intimate relationship with both the range of hills known as the ‘sleeping beauty’ or the ‘old woman of the moors’. When the moon reaches it’s southern extreme each 18.6 years it is seen to rise from behind the sacred hill range and skim the horizon for four hours till it gently sets again behind the Harris hills. This range of hills are as much a part of the monuments as the stones themselves.

http://ancient-wisdom.co.uk/scotlandcallanish.htm

The Callenish Stones, their history and their location make them an excellent candidate for any type of  ancient time travel. A few things to consider about traveling through at this site… They are probably quite powerful and would most likely take you very back in history.  There is most likely a Druidic connection to them, as with many of the circles? If you are choosing this site, you should prepare for the travel by brushing up on your most ancient Gaelic languages along with your Gaelic and Celtic history. A study of ancient Norse traditions and their migration to this area would be highly advised as well. When I talk about ancient Norse, I am not referring to the Viking migration… I am referring to the Norse migrations that took place even earlier than that!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/?s=Norse+migration+to+Scotland

 

Now, obviously with over 1300 ancient Stone site throughout the British Isles and Brittany, there is no possible way that we can touch on all of them here! I am going to present two more sites that I feel are important and worth considering as possible transport points for any time travel destinations that you might have. I am not going to touch on Stonehenge here because it is so obvious and famous that it really needs no further detailed exploration by us!  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge

As you can see on the maps, Stonehenge is located in southern England and if you are a well experienced and trained time traveler, you could probably use this portal to get to any time period in England that you are interested in traveling to!

stonehenge Stonehenge-Map-United-Kingdom-2la3ar5 StonehengeMap

 

If you are looking for another spot that might be connected to Outlander, I would highly suggest that you head to the isle of Orkney. There is much mystery surrounding this isle in the books. It is speculated that Geillis Duncan was involved in archaeology research there along with Rob Cameron.

Rob Cameron and the Orkneys Echo in the bone

Excerpt from Echo in the bone regarding Rob Cameron’s connection to the Orkneys

 

There are rumors that Master Raymond may have some connection to the isle as well! Diana Gabaldon has given clues to Master Raymond’s past in sharing some of her writings on her facebook page. She also commented on her interest in Orkney Isles in an interview with National Geographic.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140808-outlander-scotland-orkney-islands-stonehenge-neolithic/

 

Orkney Islands

 The Orkney Islands have a long and colourful history. It is no exaggeration to say that the isles are a place where this history remains a part of everyday life.

Every corner of the islands has its ancient monuments, most of them in a remarkable state of repair.

For thousands of years, people have lived and worked in Orkney.

From the stone age Orcadians, who left a legacy of monuments that continue to inspire today, through to the Vikings, who took the islands in the ninth century and made them the centre of a powerful Earldom and part of the kingdom of Norway, and beyond.

The Orkney islands are covered with monuments that stand as constant reminders of the events and people that have gone before.

Houses and tombs dating back 5,000 years share the landscape with Bronze Age cemeteries, standing stones, 2,000 year old brochs, viking ruins, medieval churches and Renaissance palaces.

Our history is therefore not something that exists only in schoolbooks, or in the thoughts of academics.

Orkney’s history and heritage is everywhere – an intricate tapestry of events stitched into the very fabric of the islands themselves. Orcadians have a connection with this history – events that were witnessed by their ancestors many generations ago.  The past is alive and remains part of everyday life, albeit unconsciously.

http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/

Skara bra orkney Orkney island skara brae map Skara bra orkney orkney_1 Orkney standing stones

The entirety of Orkney is filled with ancient sites which deserve much mention but for right now, we will concern ourselves with Standing Stones and Stone Circles. On the main island you will find the Ring of Brodgar.

Ring_of_Brodgar,_Orkney

The Ring of Brodgar (or Brogar, or Ring o’ Brodgar) is a Neolithic henge and stone circle in Orkney, Scotland. Most henges do not contain stone circles; Brodgar is a striking exception, ranking with Avebury (and to a lesser extent Stonehenge) among the greatest of such sites.  The ring of stones stands on a small isthmus between the Lochs of Stenness and Harray. These are the northernmost examples of circle henges in Britain.  Unlike similar structures such as Avebury, there are no obvious stones inside the circle,  but since the interior of the circle has never been excavated by archaeologists, the possibility remains that wooden structures, for example, may be present. The site has resisted attempts at scientific dating and the monument’s age remains uncertain. It is generally thought to have been erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC, and was, therefore, the last of the great Neolithic monuments built on the Ness.  A project called The Ring of Brodgar Excavation 2008 was undertaken in the summer of that year in an attempt to settle the age issue and help answer other questions about a site that remains relatively poorly understood.  The results of the excavation are still preliminary.

The stone circle is 104 metres (341 ft) in diameter, and the third largest in the British Isles.  The ring originally comprised up to 60 stones, of which only 27 remained standing at the end of the 20th century. The tallest stones stand at the south and west of the ring, including the so-called “Comet Stone” to the south-east.  The stones are set within a circular ditch up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) deep, 9 metres (30 ft) wide and 380 metres (1,250 ft) in circumference that was carved out of the solid sandstone bedrock by the ancient residents.[7] Technically, this ditch does not constitute a true henge as there is no sign of an encircling bank of earth and rock. Many archaeologists continue to refer to this structure as a henge; for example, Aubrey Burl classifies the ditch as a Class II henge; one that has two opposing entrances, in this case on the north-west and south-east.

The ditch appears to have been created in sections, possibly by workforces from different parts of Orkney. The stones may have been a later addition, maybe erected over a long period of time.

Examination of the immediate environs reveals a concentration of ancient sites, making a significant ritual landscape. Within 2 square miles (5.2 km2) there are the two circle-henges, four chambered tombs, groups of standing stones, single stones, barrows, cairns, and mounds.[9] The immediate area has also yielded a number of flint arrowheads and broken stone mace-heads that seem to date from the Bronze Age.  Although its exact purpose is not known, the proximity of the Standing Stones of Stenness and its Maeshowe tomb make the Ring of Brodgar a site of major importance. The site is a scheduled ancient monument and has been recognized as part of the “Heart of Neolithic OrkneyWorld Heritage Site in 1999.

The Orkney Isles are connected to the Norse migration and are mentioned in more ancient texts by the Romans as well.

Nordic rites

 Invaders from Scandinavia reached Orkney by the 9th century, bringing a complex theology that they imposed on the preexisting Orcadian monuments; at least according to local legend. For example, the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness were allegedly known as the Temple of the Sun and Moon respectively.  Young people supposedly made their vows and prayed to Wōden at these “temples” and at the so-called “Odin Stone” that lay between the stone circles until it was destroyed by a farmer in 1814.  Others view these fanciful names with scepticism; Sigurd Towrie suggests that “they were simply erroneous terms applied by the antiquarians of the 18th or 19th centuries – romantic additions, in the same vein as the infamous “Druid’s Circle” and “Sacrificial Altar”.”  At the very least, several of the stones at Brodgar contain runic carvings that were left by Nordic peoples.  These include the name “Bjorn” and a small cross as well as an anvil.
One other important site to mention in regards to the Orkney Isles is Skara Brae. While it is not a Stone circle, it is one of the most ancient sites on the isle and probably one of the most intriguing and fascinating sites for any historian!
Orkney island skara brae mapSkara bra orkney
skara brae5 skara brae4 skara brae3 Skara bra orkney
The history and research of Skara Brae are so interesting and there are so many unknown facts surrounding that even I would love to travel through time to see it’s past!
Further excavations followed and, between 1928 and 1930, the dwellings we see today were released from their protective cocoons. At the time, the village was thought to be an Iron Age settlement, dating from around 500BC — but this was no Pictish village.

Radiocarbon dating in the early 1970s confirmed that the settlement dated from the late Neolithic — inhabited for around 600 years, between 3200BC and 2200BC.

There is no way that I can cover all of the history and research going on at Skara Brae here but it is so important that you really should check it out!

You may have noticed that all of these sites have connections to a far more distant past than Claire or other travelers in Outlander were able to go to… other than possibly, Master Raymond or Comte St. Germain. References were made in the Novella, The Space Between, of both of them having traveled further into the past- though just how far, we are not sure of as yet? Or, it could be a case of them traveling back and forth between more ancient pasts and futures. The standard ability within Outlander was cited as about 200 years, though it was thought that perhaps the use of stones, fire or other such tools might take one further? There was also a thought that one could travel easier if they had a particular person set in mind when making the trip. That could be confusing and not so reliable though either. Roger Wakefield had the thought of his son, Jemmy- Jeremiah MacKenzie when he set out on one of his travels… he inadvertently ended up in the far long past where his Father, Jeremiah MacKenzie was!

I believe that we need to consider the thought that it would be possible to travel all the way back to any time that the specific Stone site was already there. Most of the sites are truly ancient so that includes a vast amount of time to choose from. In planning one’s trip back to the past, it is important to be well versed in the various stones and or other tools that might refine one’s destination time. I would not advise a casual trip yet at this time as most of us do not know enough about those tools so it would be difficult at best to precisely determine when we would land?  The majority of us also do not have the time travel genetic trait that those in Outlander are endowed with, so travel through the Stones might not be our best option at this point.

In the beginning of this journey, I did mention that we would touch on a few other options that might be available as far as time travel. Let’s discuss one of those theories now, since it does involve ancient sites in Scotland and it also makes reference to some of the Standing Stones and circles.  for this exploration, you will need to set aside your Outlander frame of reference and belief system because we are going to look at from a completely different focus. While this exploration of time travel approaches it from a different perspective, the results are still the same in that you land back into a long ago past.

This journey involves another of ancient sites in Scotland- one that perhaps does not get quite so much famed attention as others- but should! We are going to visit Dunadd Castle and Earthworks. Dunadd, (Scottish Gaelic Dún Add, ‘fort on the [River] Add’), is an Iron Age and later hillfort near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute, Scotland and believed to be the capital of the ancient kingdom of Dál Riata.

Originally occupied in the Iron Age, the site later became a seat of the kings of Dál Riata. It is known for its unique stone carvings below the upper enclosure, including a footprint and basin thought to have formed part of Dál Riata’s coronation ritual. On the same flat outcrop of rock is an incised boar in Pictish style, and an inscription in the ogham script. The inscription is read as referring to a Finn Manach and is dated to the late 8th century or after.

Dunadd is mentioned twice in early sources. In 683 the Annals of Ulster record: ‘The siege of Dún At and the siege of Dún Duirn‘ without further comment on the outcome or participants. In the same chronicle the entry for 736 states:  ‘Aengus son of Fergus, king of the  Picts,  laid waste the territory of Dál Riata and seized Dún At and burned Creic and bound in chains two sons of Selbach, i.e. Donngal and Feradach.

The site was occupied after 736, at least into the 9th century. It is mentioned twice in later sources, suggesting that it retained some importance. In 1436, it is recorded that “Alan son of John Riabhach MacLachlan of Dunadd” was made seneschal of the lands of Glassary; the chief place of residence of the MacLachlans of Dunadd lay below the fort. In June 1506, commissioners appointed by James IV, including the earl and bishop of Argyll, met at Dunadd to collect rents and resolve feuds.

The site is an Ancient Monument, under the care of Historic Scotland, and is open to the public.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunadd

http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/kilmartin/dunadd/index.html

argyl 1024px-Dunadd-Hillfort-DescriptiveAndMap 1024px-Dunadd-Hillfort-CarvedPathway 800px-Scotland_Dunadd

The area of Kilmartin and Dunnad are rich in Celtic history and have connections with the Norse migration, the Picts early residence in the area, the migration from Ireland/Erin to Scotland, as well as Druidic history. If one wanted to learn more about how all of those events interconnected and shaped the future of Scotland, one would certainly want to explore the history of this area!

We are able to do this with the assistance of another time traveler who made the trip back to Dunnad’s highpoint shortly before it’s destruction and takeover by the Picts.  Maggie Griggs makes the trip back in time in Veil of Time  by Claire R. McDougall.

Veil of Time

A compelling tale of two Scotlands-one modern, one ancient-and the woman who parts the veil between them.

The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18144050-veil-of-time

Now, while the area of Dunnad and Kilmartin are filled with ancient Stone circles and Standing Stones, Maggie did not make use of them for her trip through time. They were an integral part or mechanism for her travel though as she had not experienced the time travel previously to her visit to Dunadd as an adult.  Also, the Druidess priestess and others she met in the past seemed to feel that the Stones were responsible for her travel as well as for any number of other events. Maggie was suffering from a number of traumatic events in life and decided to spend some time by herself in an isolated cottage at the base of the Dunnad hill fort.  She is working on her doctoral thesis- on the history of Witchcraft in Scotland and trying to finish it before facing a life altering and possible mind altering major operation to cure her of her epileptic seizures. It seems that the combination of the seizures and what ever mystical properties might be at this area are initially the trigger to send her back through time to the year 735 when Dunnad was at the height of it’s importance in history.

Maggie’s account of her travel through time- whether in her mind, or in actual travel- is an excellent in depth account of  early history that includes Druids, Picts, Norse, Scots, Irish and also the early Christian Monks as they all fought to maintain their long histories and gain control of this area. It provides a well thought out and highly detailed description of  the epileptic seizures and their affects on one’s brain. The book also brings up the controversial thoughts on the idea of time itself and whether it would even be possible to travel through time. It leaves one with thoughts of whether she had actually traveled or whether she was experiencing it all in her mind and fabricating it. She came back from each trip though knowing far too many little known facts about the history of the area to have simply imagined it all as she first thought.  One possible explanation- in my mind- is that in some ways it felt as though she was experiencing a form of past life regression or dreams. While many would argue that the past life regression theory would not constitute time travel, my personal thought is that it is indeed a form of time travel, in the most personal of ways.  Many people scoff at the notion of reincarnation or past lives, but as far as this discussion goes… it is no more impossible, improbable or implausible than the entire notion of time travel!  As far as this form of travel goes, it would be limited to those times and places which we have already experienced at some point and there would be no opportunities to truly change the outcome of that history? Unless of course, we went as Maggie did, and retained some of our present time consciousness.

What ever your personal thoughts on all of it are, I would still recommend that you make the journey with Maggie back to the pre-history days of Dunnad. The historical information within the book is well documented and researched, and it provides us with a highly detailed picture of the place. As to her work on her thesis in the present day, I was just as fascinated with that research as with the history of Dunnad!

site record for dunadd fort

standing stone sites near Dunnad

standing stone sites near Dunnad

Kilmartin pre-history tour

Kilmartin pre-history tour

Kilmartin ancient grave slabs

Kilmartin ancient grave slabs

ancient footprint at Dunnad

ancient footprint at Dunnad

Standing Stone at Dunnad

Standing Stone at Dunnad

carved rocks at Dunnad hill fort

carved rocks at Dunnad hill fort

dunadd-fort4 Dunadd_Seat_of_Dalriatic_Kings_by_younghappy

dunadd fort water well dunadd boar carving

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

artifacts from dunadd excavations 1024px-Dunadd_Fort_Pictish_type_boar_carving

 

stone with cup and ring marks near by Dunnad

stone with cup and ring marks near by Dunnad

 

Now you have some idea of  places  that you could feasibly travel through the Stones on the British Isles, if using the Stones is your preferred method of travel. Maggie Oliver provided us with another possibility for travel options… I am of the opinion that you would not necessarily need to be afflicted with Epilepsy to experience this method? Possibly, you just need to go deep into your mind dig through what’s there hiding and then place yourself in some area that calls to you for the subconscious reason that you should answer that call? It would be a matter of placing yourself at the right place and then letting your mind focus on where and when it wants to go.  There are so many numerous other options mentioned out there that it would be impossible to list them all! Some options require being involved in a traumatic event that places your current life in danger, thereby reeling you into some past, “safer” life… though from everything I have read, that “safer” past is always debatable and highly questionable! Other methods of travel depend on natural phenomenon or disasters as a trigger mechanism, once again rather dangerous and with little means of control over when you leave, and no control over where and when your destination is! There are theoretical methods which involve the use of machines for transport… if you happen to find one of these, please let the rest of us know! And, of course, some methods involve spells, magic and the help of fairies… again, if you find those, please let us know so we can sign up!  So, it would seem that as far as plausibility goes, the Stones or the mind travel connections might actually be your safest chance!

 

Once you have made your decision to go, you need to think about your destination… both the when and the where would be highly advisable! As I’ve mentioned before, Various time periods around any given site could land you in vastly different circumstances. You should do as much research as possible  into the history of what ever site you choose.  This way, if your timing is not quite as accurate as you expected, you will at least have some idea what you are facing in the area.  This guide is specific to the British Isles, so you should prepare yourself by knowing as much as possible about the history of the British Isles- from the earliest pre-history of when the Stones were presumably created, through the various time periods significant to a Stone site’s general area. You could theoretically encounter anything from early stone age, to Druids, Picts, early Norse inhabitants, Roman conquerors,  Angles and Saxons in conquest, later Viking conquests, on to  Norman invasions, any number of upheavals and unrest as later rules sought control over the Isle… It is a vast array of historical events that you could mistakenly arrive in and you should be somewhat prepared!

My observations have led me to the thought that it always the unprepared ones who have the most difficulty and at times cause the most calamity or chaos… One other thought to remember? Do not go with assumptions or ideas that you are going to change the course of history! That idea seldom works has the most potential for harm to yourself or your future… you do plan to eventually return to the future, don’t you? Well, then again, maybe not… maybe this is going to a permanent move for you. If it is going to be permanent though, that does not mean that you should have no regard for the future of everyone else!

 

This concludes our guide to Stone Sites and travel options. For those of you still debating on an era to travel to, I will be providing an additional information session on some early time periods that you might be interested in viewing. In our next upcoming guide to the early history, we will be exploring the Norse migration into England…. No, not the earliest Norse migration into outlying Scottish Islands, but the later migration of the Vkings. There is a difference, and we will focus on the Viking experience! The best way to experience it is to immerse yourself in it from their point of view!

http://www.history.com/shows/vikings

vikings_ragnar_4-P vikings_gallery9_1-P vikings_gallery8_3-P vikings_gallery_1_4-P rollo vikings__infographicvikings_season1infographic_final