Brithdir Mawr - the Raising of a Stone Circle

Ros Briagha

This is an account of the creation of Brithdir Mawr stone ring in SW Wales, taken from the construction diary of member Ros Briagha. The stones were found more or less ‘in situ’ on the land, all of them fallen and partially buried beneath the topsoil. It is not known if they were originally standing stones as it is not an archaeologically recorded site.
This is an excellent example of the geomantic creation of a stone ring using traditional techniques without the use of heavy machinery.

Brithdir Mawr construction diary

9th September 2000

We started on Friday evening with a brief inspection by Jon, Jamie, Jim and Ros, to see the place and the stones. All except Ros had not seen it before, and they all agreed that it had the look and feel of a potential stone circle.
That evening we had a ceremony there, to connect with the ancestors and the stones. We lit a central fire, then sang and touched each stone, tuning in to them, and visualising our intent to raise them upright. A very beautiful evening.

The first day of practical work started by establishing an East-West base line right through the circle, and then measuring the approximate position of each stone, bearing in mind that they were all still partially covered. Jamie and Pete Bodger uncovered stone 1 (Beltane), which turned out to be huge! Probably 7-8 tons. While Ros drew the stone positions onto graph paper (Fig.1), Jon drew a 360 degree horizon.picture showing significant outcrops etc., (Fig. 2), and measured the angular positions of the stones, to see what celestial events they could mark (Fig 3). The rest of the stones were uncovered to their apparent edges, and all proved to be quite big, approx. 1.50 x 1.30m on average.

On the second day digging continued round the South stone (6) and it was fully exposed, measuring 1.30x 1.15m x .50m deep. Probably about 4 tons. As we had not known what sizes the stones would be, there was a limited amount of stollage (name given to the odd selections of timber and logs used to pack, lever and support the stones during movement) prepared, and two quite short levers, not really long enough. We did lift the stone though, to a 45 degree angle, and then tried to pull it upright with the big horse, Samson. This was NOT effective, being too big and too dead a weight for him to manage.

We then decided to bring the stone up horizontally and pivot it into its hole. We got it as far as ground level, with the pivot log in place, and then ran out of stollage, so it was agreed to stop at that point and continue next month, October, when more of the equipment is ready. Because the stones are set in the ground, we have various different approaches to work out on how and where we move them. We are looking at what shape the circle needs to be, and we will try to mark a potential outline in October, with the help of dowsers.

6 October 2000

We met up again on the evening of 6th October, informed new folk of progress so far, and checked out all the new equipment prepared by the Brithdir folk in response to Pete Bodgers’s list, sent after the first weekend.

Saturday morning we all went up to the circle, and the first job was to replace all the wobbly stollage under the stone, using the new ash pole levers and railway sleeper stollage. We then continued levering the stone up until it could go onto the tracks and rollers needed to move it to its correct position. Meanwhile several dowsers had checked out the energy and water lines in and around the circle, and they agreed that energy and water lines both went through true North and South, and that the stone would sit well on the spot where these lines met and passed the circle perimeter. This meant moving the stone approx. 6ft. The dowsing also showed a major energy ley along the Beltane/ Lammas sunset line, which Jamie and Ros had both felt was the major axis of the circle. Jamie had drawn up a plan of the circle which showed it could be marked out to form a Type 1 egg shape, like Prof. Thom had found in ancient circles (Fig. 4). By Saturday afternoon we had the stone up to the right height for putting on the rollers, and as it was cold and rainy, we stopped at that point.

Sunday morning, and the rain cleared as we put the stone on rollers, and easily pulled it the few feet it needed to move. We then tried to gently pivot it into its new hole. However the rope holding the pivot log to the stone slipped, and it slid into the hole at a funny angle. We then discovered that, after tightening and securing the pivot log, we could lever the stone by taking a “bite“ on the pivot, and it smoothly went up to a vertical position and was in! This seems to be a very useful discovery, as previously moving the stones from 45 to 90 degrees has proved the most difficult part, and has needed a windlass, a very dangerous bit of gear!
A small bit of hand blown glass was found, and some other bits, which Jon has got for future reference.

April 2001

When we arrived at the start of our week-long session, it felt quite mind-boggling. So many stones to work on – another 13 to arrange and adjust – and two up so far (Jamie had done a lightning trip up in November and put up a little stone (10) in the North- West). So we decided to start with a little one (9), about 3 tons, and put it in the right position to mark mid-summer sunset, a setting point actually made invisible from the circle by a little grove of trees about 40 yards away. As with all the stones, the initial chunky appearance of the stone in the ground made it hard to know how it would look when upright, and harder still to know which bit to have as top or bottom. But when it was fully uncovered, and the process of moving it had begun, sliding it uphill approximately eight feet, the appropriate placing became clear. The rather small initial team of seven proved perfectly able to move it, and it was upright and in place after only a day and a half’s work.

The next stone we decided to do was the Beltane stone (1), one of the biggest we’d uncovered so far, at least 7ft. long by 3ft. wide by 2-4 ft. thick. Happily, it had a interesting “shelf” at one end, which made an ideal leverage point, and the great thickness at the other end made a good counter-balance. We did not need to raise the whole stone above ground level, or move it in any direction other than up, so two days of levering and propping and our bulky, misshapen giant was sitting comfortably with its huge bottom mainly below ground, and the shelved top standing proud; its flat face and height a lovely match for the South stone erected last September.

With team spirit and numbers building up well, we turned our attention to the North stone (11). This was another huge, chunky block around 6 tons in weight, and almost a cube in shape, approximately 4ft. square. As we started to lever it up, many discussions were held as to Which Way Was Up? A decision was almost reached, but then a strong message from the stone during a tune-in session led to a re-think, and a decision to turn the stone through 90 degrees and expose the bottom as the side to face into the circle. And then a small miracle occurred; as we applied the levers, this enormous lump started to turn itself, swivelling on some hidden point, and gently placing itself into the hole we’d prepared. So no need for complex manoeuvres, as we levered, it turned, and with remarkable ease erected itself into the right position, marking the North- South axis and a major energy ley running through the circle. Most amazingly of all, the chunky cube became a perfect match for the Beltane and south stones, of similar height and with a lovely flat face showing inwards to the centre.

With each stone only having taken 2 days, we still had time for one more and so, after a lovely day trip to the coast and seeing Carreg Samson, a beautiful dolmen, we considered using the three small stones in the North-east (12ab) to make a small “cove” to receive the suns rays at midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset. But once again during our tuning-in session inspiration came, and we decided to move the largest of the three to the point marking the Moon’s major Northerly standstill, between the North and Beltane stones. This meant moving it quite a long way, about 15ft., but as it was quite small, around 1.5-2 tons, this was quite easily accomplished, lifting it onto tracks and then pulling it along with a rope. We reached the hole, raised the stone a little higher and Hey Presto, it did a lovely balancing act as the stollage was removed, then dropped neatly and exactly into its hole! Once up, it made a pleasing symmetry with the midsummer sunset stone, and we had a whole arc of the circle up and looking good.

So, four stones in a week, and the weather really smiling on us – no rain at all, though the Northerly wind kept us pretty cool. The team left, well pleased with our work, and hoping to return in the autumn to carry on.

east stone

The East stone ready to move

September 2001

This was a time of huge upheaval, five days after the New York plane attacks, and we started the week with only three of us able to work, so the first day it seemed as though we were on a hopeless mission. However the sun was shining and our spirits were keen, so we decided to tackle another of the small stones in the North-east (12b).

On tuning in it became clear that one of them was ready to move right across the circle to mark the potential point of Imbolc-Samhain sunset – potential because this is the direction of Carn Ingli, the holy mountain, and the sun disappears behind it long before it actually sets. So, having levered the stone up, we set the tracks and the 3 of us moved a ton or so of elegant rock approx. 40ft across the circle. Although it was a lightweight stone, it was about 3ft. tall, so we carefully placed it so that its sloping top echoed the shape of the mountain behind it, when seen from the centre of the circle.

The next day more folk arrived, and we set to work on the stone for the East (2). This one was about 10ft. outside the circle in the east-north-east, so we had to raise it out of its hole onto rollers, then move it about 15ft. to its new location. As it must weigh around 6 tons, is about 5ft. by 3ft. by 2ft., and had to be rolled uphill initially, this was quite an effort, with five people pushing VERY hard! Still, we did it, and at a ton or more each, those pushers certainly showed their true strength! Then we tried to drop it into its socket nice and neatly, but alas, its starting level was too low, and it went at a 45 degree angle, so we had a day of levering and stollage moving, and final sideways tweaking, before it sat tidily upright in the right spot. This was just a couple of days before Autumn Equinox, and the next morning at dawn, one of our team had the pleasure of seeing, and photographing, the sun rising neatly behind the stone. This is a particularly beautiful stone, a blunt triangle, that once again matches the other large stones in both height and its flat inner face.

East stone up

The East stone in position

The next day we had the privilege of having a geoligist visit us, and check out what the stones are, geologically speaking. They seem to be a mixture of Dolerite and Rialite, created by underwater volcanoes – a true blend of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. They are first formed underwater, then deposited on land and compressed under the mile-thick ice formed in this area during the last ice age. This is perhaps why they nearly all have these lovely flat bottoms, which we are now using as the faces into the circle.

Our last stone of the week was a really big, heavy one, over in the West-north-west (8). It is a sort of diamond lozenge shape, around 7ft. long, at its widest 4ft. and 2-4 ft. thick. Luckily it was already in the right place to mark the Beltane-Samhain sunset, and so all we had to do was raise its 8-9 tons of weight upwards! This was an intense and fraught procedure, with our numbers low again, and 3 or 4 people trying to lift such a heavy being; but we pressed on, gathering extra folk at crucial moments, and finally had it upright and correctly aligned after 2 days of very hard work. The next morning, we came up to fill the hole around it, with earth and then turves, and had to go the side of the field to strip turves as we had run out (the larger a stone, the bigger the socket hole left behind, and the more extra turves needed to fill it in). As the final piece was laid, around 2pm. on a beautiful sunny day, a barn owl flew out of the hedgerow trees beside us, flew in a circle above our heads and the stone before silently disappearing into the grove. A Magical moment, and a wonderful reward for all our efforts!

That night, 22nd of September, the Brithdir folk and us joined up in the circle to light a fire and celebrate the Equinox. It was lovely to see the stones by firelight, and sing and dance amongst them, under a starlit sky. The circle is now 2/3 of the way to completion, with nine stones up and four to go, and we hope to do our last session in the spring of 2002.

5 April 2002

We started work once again on the circle in mid April 2002, with a good team of people and pretty reasonable weather, plus the very exciting and spectacular lineup of five planets in the western evening sky; Mercury, Venus, Mars and Saturn all in Gemini, and Jupiter in Cancer.

April 2002

The circle at the start of April 2002

It was decided to start work on the stone in the south-west (7) and, having completely exposed it, we started levering away to bring it out of the ground. The first day went well, and we started the second day full of cheerfulness and confidence that all was going fine. However, at mid morning, as Jamie and I stood each side of the stone and the others gently levered one end upwards, there was a great noise and the stone split neatly in half! We were stunned. What had we done?

So, we had a cup of tea, and sat and thought and talked for a while, and finally decided to move the two halves of stone apart, as they were still only half an inch away from each other, and see what the newly exposed area of stone looked like. Once we separated the pieces, we could see that they had actually had a major split long ago, since earth and roots had covered the whole area apart from a hand sized bit where they had still been joined – rather like the hinge on an oyster shell. It was quite a relief to see that we had not actually split her ourselves, just put in the last bit of energy to help a process finish itself off. It also seemed very relevant to all those planets in Gemini, the sign of the twins, that we should end up with two stones instead of one.

We put one of the stones in the ground where it had been in its hole, and then agreed to roll the other half over to the gap in the west, next to the Owl stone. This went very smoothly, and we had that stone in a new socket and upright by Wednesday afternoon, with the newly exposed side of it hardly different in appearance to the rest of it, and both stones seeming happy in their new life apart!

Some of our crew had to leave on Friday morning, so on Thursday we had an expedition out. First we went to Nevern churchyard where there is an astonishing avenue of yew trees, gnarled and ancient, and one of them bleeds; very red, strong smelling blood, a real Goddess tree. There is also a lovely phallic standing stone right outside the church door at the end of the avenue of yews, a carved stone from around 1000CE, which is beautiful too. We then visited a cup marked stone, which was very amazing, and we found that it was possible to see our circle from there with binoculars, around five miles away, which was great. And finally on to the Witches Cauldron, a magnificent place on the coastal path, where there is a huge hole in the cliff, and in the bottom a chalybeate (iron) spring meets the sea, which rushes in through tunnels and boils and swirls about in the “cauldron”. These trips seem to be an important part of our work, they recharge our batteries, re-inspire our awareness and strengthen our connection with the land (and sea, of course!).

On Friday, some folk left and some arrived, an interesting energy shift. We had chosen the middle of three stones left in the south-east to work on (4), and as we dug around it, it became clear that it was one of the biggest so far, at least as big as the owl stone over in the north-west. We finally had the edges clear and tried for a lift, to break the suction with the earth. And our trusty pole cracked! So, we used the other pole, the smaller one, and that cracked too, though we did break the seal and get an inch of movement. What to do?

By now it was nearly 3pm, as we had had a late start, and getting on in the day, so we agreed to leave the big one and uncover the one beside it (5). What a difference! It was about the size of the south stone, say 5x3x2 feet, and within half an hour it was clear of earth, out of the ground and ready to go on rollers, to move a little closer to the south stone. Every move has been based on what felt right and looked right in terms of each stone and also the whole circle, without any measurement to direct us; so it was interesting that when Jon did measure, he found all the stones to be 16 megalithic yards from the centre! One wonders if those early people were like us, and if we are all using a intuitive measure like the rest of nature, a natural sense of rightness that is truly eternal.

Saturday we had planned to have a big fire and party in the circle, so in the morning some of the team collected wood while we gently but quickly got her ready to roll. All hands on the rope and up the field she went to her new home, where she dropped in nicely at the usual 50 degree angle. At this point we had to break for lunch and shelter as the rain had finally arrived. However, everyone was so keen that after lunch we all went back to work, where we used a technique seen on Rob Roy’s video Stone Circles: A Megalithic Workshop the night before, which entailed pulling the stone up with a rope that went over a pole, thus magnifying the force exerted by quite a lot. There were also two people pushing with wooden levers from the other side to the rope-pullers. It was truly astonishing to see this stone go up in about 20 minutes, as though it was so eager to be up and not miss the party! Some hasty packing with rocks, and secure tamping with earth and by 5pm it was up, the fastest stone ever!

We finished our session with a lovely party and singsong and a big fire. Another three stones in place, and it is really a circle now, with a lovely energy to it. Once again we have all learnt so much and felt so much, and shared with lots of good folk. We hope to work on the last two stones in September, with a new big pole, though it will be sad to finish – what will we do then?

September 2002

The final session started on September 14th, and was the week leading up to the full moon on the 21st, and the Equinox on the 23rd. We had roughly the same crew as in the spring, so it was not too hard to get organised as everyone knew what to do. We knew also that we had to try and shift the big mother who had broken two of our poles in the spring (4), and that we needed a new pole to do so. The folk at Brithdir had a new one for us but when we saw it, it was obvious that it would be no good, as it was the same size as the broken ones. So an emergency mission went to a nearby friend’s place where there was a large conifer forest, and there we were given a splendid 20ft larch pole, perfect for the job.
The first stone that we decided to work on was, in fact, not the big one but its next door neighbour (3), almost as big and the usual strange shape. By now we knew that these stones are quite hard to see when in the ground, so we felt OK to put this one up where it was, marking the rough direction of Imbolc and Samhain sunrise – the horizon is not level here, in fact the Prescelli mountains are the backdrop at this point. The stone responded well to our new pole, and was up within a day and a half, ending up almost a double to the East stone beside it. And so on to the BIG one, the last stone (4)!

We were up and ready to go nice and early, full of confidence that we were going to do this one at last. And the pole broke again! What a blow! We did a bit of searching to see if we could find another one in the woods around Brithdir, and meanwhile cut the broken end off, and did a whole lot more digging around the stone, as it seemed that part of our problem was that there was still a part of it underground, creating a suction on the stone. By lunchtime it seemed we could not locate a better pole, so we tried again with the larch one and lo and behold, it did it! The extra digging had broken the earth’s hold on the stone and finally it was willing to get up and dance. The big debate on where it should go now started, and we had quite a few tuning in sessions as we worked, during which it became clear that bringing it straight up would be the right thing to do, where it would be a rough guide to the Minor Southerly moon standstill. This part of the circle is the flattened egg shape bit, where the energy goes outward slightly, and the major ley runs through. This last bit of the work we had most of the Brithdir folk with us, and the stone went up at last, smoothly and clearly. Many barrows of earth were needed to fill in the holes left by these two stones, and the rest of the day was spent digging and turfing.

The next morning we went up to finish the turfing, aware of a rather strange feeling to it all. There was a small stone left in the ring, part of the group of three that had been lying on the ground in the north east of the circle. Somehow we had all managed to ignore this one, though we had erected the other two. At one point earlier in the week Libby, one of the team, had asked if it could go to her place to cap a mini dolmen her neighbour had made. This had seemed a good idea at the time, and George had offered to take it there for her. So he attempted to get it into his car. Looking back, it becomes obvious that we had got so used to moving big stones quite easily, that this little one looked really easy. However, it must still have weighed 700lbs, and lifting it was not so simple. George struggled on for a while, but then it suddenly became clear that we needed to give this stone some proper attention, and so we tuned in around it to see what exactly it wanted to do. As soon as we did so, it let us know that it wanted to stay right there, with all its friends, and not go off anywhere else, and the right place for it was in the gap (we hadn’t noticed this gap till now) in the northeast. Once this was established, the stone was SO easy to move it was funny! We put it up on rollers and rolled it over to a nice neat little socket hole we had dug for it and in it went. There was some debate as to which way up it should go, but in the end the stone decided, in fact going on its ‘side’ and neither up or down. At this point we all felt so much better, as the circle was now truly finished.

That night there was a lovely ceremony in the circle, with a blessing of every stone, just as we had done when we started. The fire was tremendous and all the stollage was burnt, and some of the short poles and all the wedges etc. The stones were so beautiful in the firelight, and seemed to be as happy as we were to be there and upright again after so long. Our hope is that this lovely place will be used by many folk in years to come, as a place sacred to the Earth and to all Her children.

Brithdir complete

The completed circle looking ESE towards Pentre Ifan and Frenni Fawr

© 2004 Ros Briagha Foskett


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