Romancing the Stones
Dowsers, druids, geomancers, mystics and a lot of big old rocks.
Since moving to Caledon I’ve become a stone mover of sorts, hauling boulders around our property to create gardens, ponds and walls. In the process I have gained a cautious respect for the curious power that seems to emanate from those rocks. But until recently I had no idea I was dabbling in the realm of magic and mysticism, a realm that includes druids, dowsers and spiritualists.
Mystical is not the first word you’d use to describe Doug and Jane Rowan. Both are grounded, hospitable people whose home sits on twenty-five rolling acres in Caledon. Since 1969 they have planted trees, built their house and moved rocks artistically around the property to create tidy walls, benches and massive gardens. Last year, with the chants and blessings of a Druid, they added a stone circle.
The idea started in 2oo4 when Doug Rowan was contemplating how he might use a pile of massive boulders that had once split two fields on his property. His neighbours, Bill and Shawna Colclough, both “energy workers” tuned into the earth’s natural energy grid, offered suggestions. Shawna has a business providing courses and consultations on spirituality, energy and the connection between earth and self. Bill is a retired teacher and a dowser, a person who can detect the energy field generated by underground water.
“Dowsing is an extension of your body,” Bill explains. “I use intuition more often than a dowsing rod.” Traditionally a forked willow branch, the rod can also be something as simple as a bent coat hanger.
“The Rowan property is unspoiled and has not been disturbed much in fifty or sixty years,” Bill says. Along with a stream – a natural source of energy – this makes for a “high energy” property. At the location of the stone circle, the energy line is so strong that Shawna says she is able to see its blue aura.
Bill is a member of the Toronto Dowsers and was instrumental in arranging for Druid Ivan McBeth to speak to the organization about stone circles in October 2oo4. The Rowans attended the meeting. Their lives were about to take an unconventional turn.
Ivan McBeth, a large, six-foot-four man with bushy white hair and painted fingernails, is as physically impressive as he is fascinating. Originally from England and now living in Vermont, he holds a long list of titles, including Druid in the Order of Bards and teacher for the Mid-Atlantic School of Geomancy.
Druids train to discover the sacred through the magic and mysteries of nature, particularly through trees, stones and stars. Geomancy is the science of communicating and consciously working with the spirit of the land to monitor and “heal” when necessary. Creating stone circles was, for Ivan McBeth, a natural progression.
“I was from Missouri on this at the beginning,” Doug Rowan says, using a favourite phrase from the “show me” state’s licence plate to indicate his scepticism. However, with the Colcloughs’ encouragement and the Druid’s conviction and keen connection to the earth’s voice, the process began.
The Rowans invited Ivan McBeth to their property and showed him the proposed site for the stone circle. He immediately loved the size and nature of the massive granite rocks, some which bear the chiselled holes from years ago when they were moved on the property by horses and stone machines. Ivan felt they should relocate the circle site slightly to incorporate the energy line.
“Over the next year Jane and I used broken hockey sticks to mark the rising and setting of the sun on equinoxes and solstices as well as birthdays and other significant days,” Doug says. They also marked the energy line that cut its way through the site.
At the Rowan’s invitation Ivan returned in September 2005. Together they walked the site, marking stones Ivan intuitively felt were most suitable. The Rowans had decided on an elliptical, rather than circular, shape and had levelled the hilltop in preparation.
For a week Ivan, Doug and Bill, along with backhoe-operator John Kersey and bulldozer operator John Dick, moved the rocks to their locations. The four largest stones mark north, south, east and west, the north stone aligned with the north star, and east and west aligned with the rising and setting of the sun at spring and fall equinoxes (March 21 and September 21).
Twenty-one rocks form the forty-two by forty-nine foot ellipse. A seven-foot flat rock – designated the “podium stone” – marks one of the elliptical focal points. Several smaller smooth bluestones within the circle trace the energy line and a bonfire pit marks the second elliptical focal point.
“Ivan was very particular about the way he placed each stone, deciding on which ‘face’ went to the inside or outside of the circle and making sure each was precisely straight,” Doug says. Before settling each stone permanently, Ivan placed items beneath in keeping with tradition – tobacco as gratitude, or herbs to clear negative energy – then gave a hands-on blessing.
On September 17 the stone circle was completed and the Rowans held an inauguration ceremony.
“Ivan had a highly structured program of events for the blessing,” Jane Rowan says. Dressed for the ceremony in a cape and wizard-like hat that gave the impression he might have sprung from the pages of a Harry Potter novel, Ivan welcomed the guests and invited them to join together by touching or sipping from a vessel of water.
He called on people to represent the north, south, east and west stones and to read a short prayer of sorts he had written for each. Joining hands they chanted, at first self-consciously and then with more conviction and energy, their voices rising and culminating with a great “whoop.” The event ended with the Druid’s blessing of the new Rowanwood Stone Circle.
Photographer Pete Paterson attended the ceremony to record the proceedings. The event captivated him: “It was a beautiful mix of calmness and energy.”
The first time the Rowan’s three-year-old granddaughter, Olivia, entered the circle she found an indentation in the north stone the size of her hand. Immediately her father initiated an entrance ritual of rubbing a section of the stone’s quartz and placing a hand in the indentation, a ritual I was happy to participate in during my visit.
Since the circle’s completion last fall, word of mouth has brought visitors to experience the high energy that emanates from the circle – some in groups of twenty or thirty.
There appears to be a genuine local interest in this phenomenon, possibly fed by the abundance of magnificent rock in the region.
Erin-area residents Peter and Jan Coles are both members of the Toronto Dowsers. They attended Ivan McBeth’s presentation in 2oo4 and he helped them create a stone circle the following year.
“I already knew I had to have a stone circle before the meeting,” Jan says. Stone circles in Scotland and Ireland had inspired the Coles during their honeymoon and they could not pass up this opportunity to have one on their property.
The twelve granite stones for their thirty-six foot diameter circle came from a supplier in Schomberg. The stones, weighing between 700 and 1,500 pounds, were put in place manually with wooden planks, wooden rollers, a lever and the help of about twelve people, mostly women. The work took seven days during a July heat wave.
Constructing the circle with the same reverence and tradition as the Rowan’s circle, Ivan McBeth helped site the stones according to the Coles’ priorities. One stone faces their gate, another the doorway to their house, to ward off unfriendly spirits, some are situated according to the sun’s position on certain special days, and one faces the spot on the property where, “on a full moon, the fairies are most likely to come to dance,” says Jan. The location is visible from most rooms of the Coles’ house, including Jan’s healing/treatment room where she works as a cranial sacral therapist.
Moonmaiden Stone Circle has had a subtle impact on the Coles. “As I look back over the past two years so much has changed,” Jan says, “I feel richer and held to my path.”
Druid McBeth has created two or three stone circles yearly since 199o and believes that their effect on the earth is similar to that of acupuncture on the human body – the stones acting like “mega-needles” on the earth’s crust to create healing. Indeed, Shawna Colclough says that the blue aura emanating from the energy line within the Rowanwood Stone Circle has strengthened since the circle’s construction.
Thousands of stone circle remains are visible throughout the world, ranging in size from a few yards in diameter to Britain’s Avebury megalithic complex that spans eleven hundred feet. Created with advanced methods of geometry, astronomy and engineering, they provided an accurate solar calendar and lunar observatory. What other purposes these circles served can only be guessed; however, entering them with an open mind is purported to create a heightened sensitivity that might lead to enhanced intuition and flashes of guidance.
If it is true that all stone circles on the earth are spiritually connected through energy lines beneath the earth’s crust, the Burdette Gallery near Orton is part of the local connection. The gallery has had its own stone circle since 2002, built at the request of the owner, Dr. George Cormack.
“Dr. Cormack is of Irish descent,” says gallery director Samantha Routledge, “so it was not surprising that he would eventually want a stone circle in keeping with his Celtic heritage. This circle was inspired by the Drombeg Stone Circle in Ireland.”
Samantha and Peter Salisbury, who maintains the property, built the structure from stones on the grounds. They prepared the site in Lakota tradition with sacred herbs and placed the stones carefully, mindful of their shape and markings. However, both were convinced the stones often had their own ideas about where they should be.
The Burdette Gallery stone circle was created with the intention of inviting gallery visitors to step within and dance, heal, connect, explore or celebrate – and leave with a lighter heart.
With each new season, Doug and Jane Rowan delight in their new structure.
“I’ve had the opportunity to check the sunrise and sunset lines on December 21st and March 21st and so far the stones are all spot on,” Doug says proudly.
They view Rowanwood Stone Circle as a celebratory spot and a destination for walks on the property.
“You go up there when the spirit moves you,” Jane says. “There is a feeling of strength in there, partly because it is a beautiful spot.”
Asked if they had any special plans for the summer solstice this year, Jane replies, “We’ll probably have a bonfire and enjoy a glass of wine with family and friends, but we won’t be sacrificing any virgins.”
Some rituals are best left in the past.
“It is said that whatever is dreamed this night will come to pass.” Shakespeare
Solstice means “standing-still-sun.” As the summer solstice approaches, the noonday sun rises higher in the sky on each successive day. This is the time of year when the sun’s maximum elevation occurs, typically on or within a day or two of June 21.
Celebrated as both a religious and pagan event, the summer solstice is reckoned as a time of fertility and rebirth. Midsummer marks a change in the farming year, the break between the completion of spring sowing and the hard work of summer haymaking. This season was traditionally the time for weddings. The first (or only) full moon in June is called the Honey Moon, when honey was harvested from the hives. Newlywed couples were fed dishes that featured honey for the first month of their married life to encourage love. This tradition became known as the “honeymoon” period.
Since ancient times midsummer’s eve has been linked to the summer solstice. People picked mid-summer plants on that night with the belief that they held miraculous healing powers.
Ancient China celebrated the earth yin forces during summer solstice, complementing the winter solstice, which celebrated the yang forces.
Summer solstice was a time of cleansing by fire and water, a time when enchantments of love and wealth were most potent and a time when earth and nature spirits crossed into the human realm. Young girls sought the identity of future mates through magic spells.
The folkloric ritual of jumping over a lit bonfire was said to guarantee prosperity and avoid bad luck. The fire also frightened away the mischievous spirits, thus ensuring a good harvest.
An astounding array of ancient cultures built their greatest architecture to align with the solstices and equinoxes. England’s famous Stonehenge precisely marks both the summer and winter solstice.
Ancient astronomers feared that at this mystical time of year nature might deteriorate into chaos without intervention. Sacrifices of animals or first-born children were made to appease the fearsome sun god. Fires fed with bones and bad smelling refuse were ignited in hope of driving off dragons that would otherwise contaminate wells and water sources. Torches were carried through fields to drive disease from crops. Burning wheels meant to represent the sun were rolled down hills.
This is the fairies’ merriest day. They might be willing to do you a favour, but they also like to play pranks now that they are loose, so remember to wear a sprig of thyme in your hair.
In these hills, the Summer Solstice Trail Run through Mono Cliffs Provincial Park has been hosted for seven years by Kim and Karen Gillies, because “we wanted to share our love of running.” About 120 runners took part in the five- or ten-kilometre run this year on June 16. A running clinic for beginners is part of the annual program. For information: www.healthyresults.ca