The land runs out into the sea
It's a narrow neck of land
Where weird and grim the Standing Stones
In a circle there they stand.
The name Standing Stones refers to the enigmatic prehistoric
stone stone circles and monuments which are found throughout the British
Isles and parts of Western Europe. We perform the traditional music of
the Celtic peoples who at one time occupied all the areas in which these
monuments are found. Especially, we perform music from the Gaelic tradition
which until about 300 years ago extended unbroken from the south of Ireland
all the way to the most northern part of Scotland.
Standing Stones is also a beautiful song from the Orkney
Islands that we enjoy performing. The Orkney Islands, just off the
north coast of Scotland, are a treasure trove of archaeological sites.
Within a small area on the island of Mainland can be found the amazing
of Brodgar, the chamber tomb Maes
(second only to Newgrange
in Ireland) and the
Stones of Stenness which are described in this song. (Note: the site
www.stonepages.com, has a large collection
of photos and descriptions of standing stones sites.)
The song was recorded in 1955 from John and Ethel Findlater, within
sight of the Stones. It had been published earlier in John Mooney's Songs
of the Norse (1883), where it was called The Lovers--a West Mainland
Legend. One of the stones, called the Odin Stone, had a hole in it
through which hands were joined to solemnize betrothals. Unfortunately,
it was destroyed in 1814. For this reason, The Standing Stones (the
song, not the musicians) can be shown from internal evidence to date back
before this year. (Probably it is considerably older.)
Don't confuse us with:
The Standing Stones of Callanish, a "new age" recording
by a fellow from New Zealand named Jon Mark. (I'm been told he was formerly
a member of some well-known rock band.)
The Stones of Callanish, a folk opera by Les
Barker, who is well-known for his hilarious monologues, but writes
serious material as well. The recording features Catherine-Ann MacPhee,
June Tabor and other well-known folk performers. (Callanish is a stone
circle on the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.)
Standing Stone, a 75-minute symphonic poem composed by a titled
ex-Beatle (with the assistance of two other composers, a jazz musician
and a computer/keyboard geek), which one critic said "rambles on without
the underlying structure to sustain interest in music of this breadth".
I couldn't stand Liverpool Oratorio for more than about 20 seconds,
so I'm not going out of my way to listen to this one.
Hoit (Standing Stones Coven), an association of neo-pagans in Southern
A blues song recorded by Muddy Waters.
An English rock group, founded in the Sixties, who named themselves
after the Muddy Waters song.
A Bob Dylan song from the Sixties, featuring Al Kooper on organ.
A magazine named after some or all of the preceding three items.
The stone circles in Europe were not built by the Celts, but by the culture
that existed before the arrival of the Celts in Western Europe. The stone
circles were built about 2000 BC, and the Celts arrived around 1000 BC.
Virtually nothing is known about this previous culture. Probably they were
assimilated by the new peoples who moved into the area. This would account
for the peculiar similarities of culture among the Celts, Germans and Scandinavians.
See, for example, Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe by Hilda Ellis
Davidson (Syracuse University Press, 1988).
suggests that the ancient stone circles
and burial mounds of north west Europe may have been
designed to act as giant loudspeakers to amplify drums
being played during rituals.
I have been told about three stone circles in California. All are on
private property and have no protected status, since according to the experts
they don't exist. One in the Santa Cruz mountains is described by Barry
Fell in America B.C. (Pocket Books, 1989). Fell is not very selective
about his sources; however, I know the person who did the surveying for
the book, and he is far from being a crackpot. The existence of these circles
doesn't prove any European influence. The native peoples in California
are known to have been very knowledgeable about astronomy and constructed
other (uncontested) artifacts with astronomical alignments. See Early
Man and the Cosmos by Evan Hadingham (University of Oklahoma Press,
Go to the Standing Stones Site Map
(listing of the entire contents of this website)
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