SACRED SITES IN ENGLAND, Part 5 - Cornwall (continued)

Updated: Jan 25, 2021


Men-an-tol

As our tour group drove into Cornwall, I could feel as well as see a shift in the natural character of the land, watching the beautiful, almost supernatural, countryside from our van’s window, misty-eyed with emotions elicited from an unknown source. Even thinking of it now from my desk in America I remember the magical energy and find myself floating in spiritual reverie. The Cornish people appear to be still deeply connected to their mystical, Celtic roots and continue to celebrate ancient holidays. Perhaps their adherence to old traditions is due to the wild moors, sparsely populated Cornish landscape, rocky and rugged coastline, and literally hundreds of sacred sites. Whatever its source, the "air" is definitely different in Cornwall.

Starting near Land’s End, the Michael ley line of earth energy runs northeast through Cornwall. Aligned and nearby on this ley line are numerous cairns, quoits, fogous, standing stones (menhirs), stone circles (dolmens) and holy wells. The first stone circle on this energy line is Boscawen-un, hidden within a field, consisting of nineteen stones, one of which is composed of quartz, a highly sacred stone to ancient people. The circle was mentioned in the medieval Welsh triads as one of the three principal gorsedds (Druidic meeting-places) in Britain.

Trevethy Quoit

Merry Maidens

Further along is the famous Merry Maidens stone circle, the most accessible and best-preserved site in this area. Five separate leys have been detected crossing this circle. Circles were used as sacred geometry. Sacred geometry is the geometry inherent in nature, whether it be the energy dance of atoms and molecules, the formation of a crystal, the growth of a plant or human skeleton, the motion of weather systems or galaxies. Certain patterns and ratios are used by nature in the formation of the manifest universe: the process of becoming is governed by this implied geometry. The builders of the ancient sacred monuments observed the ways of nature closely and encoded its architecture into their structures so that the holy places would act as microcosms of the whole universe.

St. Michael's Mount

Several miles from the Merry Maidens is St. Michael’s Mount, an island considered holy by both ancient people and Christians, which can be viewed most spectacularly on the road from Penzance. St. Michael’s Mount is purported to be connected through the St. Michael’s ley line to the Mont St. Michel in France. One can visit either place only at low tide.

Standing stones or menhirs are dotted over the Penwith landscape like acupuncture needles on the body of the earth...They seem to call to us to follow a trail across the country…not dissimilar to that followed by the aboriginal Australians as they walked their ‘dream-path.

Men-an-Tol, determined to be the remains of a stone circle of nineteen or twenty stones, now contains only one circular carved stone with a hole in the middle, flanked by two standing stones on either side. According to legend, all the stones [in stone circles] were aligned with the powerful currents passing through the Earth, and with holed stones such as Men-an-Tol, the hole was the focus of this power. A healing force of renewed vitality was said to pass through the body of anyone who climbed through this hole. Men-an-Tol is also believed to have been a site of fertility rituals, as is Avebury Henge in Wiltshire. However, unlike Men-an-Tol, Avebury’s carved, holed stone is now almost completely destroyed.

Burial cairns, stone chambers, and other places for the dead are found all through the West Penwith area of Cornwall, marked by stone quoits. Two famous quoits are Lanyon Quoit, widely-photographed and easily accessible from the local road, and Trethevy Quoit. Unfortunately, when Lanyon Quoit was re-erected in 1824, it was displaced from its original position. To the ancient peoples, the spiritual world and physical world were not divided and death was considered a continuation of life. The dead were there to be talked to, their wisdom to be drawn on by shamans, their presence to sit over the fields and dwellings of theirs sons and daughters.

Holy wells abound in this part of England. St. Clethers’ Holy Well is situated in a pasture above a wide river and "…is the largest well-chapel in the county. Along a furzy moorland valley the path leads to the chapel and well at St. Clether, where there has been some sort of building for over a thousand years. Inside, a thick, heavy silence pervades the atmosphere as the light from the east cascades over the great slab of granite that is the altar." We sat in the quiet chapel for a long time, unable to move, not wishing to disturb its (and our own) tranquillity, serene even beyond meditation. Much later our group leader performed a ceremony to the Earth Goddess. She took a small vial of soil she had brought from California and mixed it with the river’s silt, connecting the earth of our two countries. Then we visited the Holy Well behind the chapel, where we took turns blessing each other with the sacred water. Broom was blooming all around us which smelled amazingly like coconut.

The path to Madron holy well and chapel meanders along a brook. At one point at its banks stands a tree festooned with brightly colored ribbon and pieces of cloth tied to its branches. These are thought to bring the owner good luck and health.

Our tour group had some interesting experiences while in Cornwall. When visiting Boscawen-un in the early morning, our leader Nanci got separated from the rest of us by a thick unearthly mist. She reported later that she called to us but no one responded, yet we heard nothing. Nanci told us she felt as though she had stepped into another dimension or time. Unperturbed, she wandered around and found a menhir which seemed to call to her. She sat down and leaned against the friendly rock, feeling quite at peace and began to have visions. Much later, the mist cleared and we "found" her. Since that time she has felt bonded to the rock, calling it Sister Stone, which continues to send messages and visions even since Nanci’s return to the States. After this and other experiences I’ve begun to theorize that each person has one (or more) personal sacred sites on the planet, places that have a special meaning or impact especially for that individual.

At Men-an-Tol we all decided to climb through the holed opening in various ways. One woman went through feet first and we kidded her about her "breach birth." (Ancient people considered passing through a holed stone equivalent to being "reborn.")

After I climbed through the holed stone, I had the impulse to wind around one menhir, then back through the stone the opposite direction, around the other menhir and through the stone a third time – like threading a needle. (I later read that prehistoric women passed their sick children through the hole three times for healing!) Then I decided to drape my body around its curved shape and felt very comforted and soothed, especially in my lower abdomen. Others in my group imitated my action and reported the same restful energy. I was unable to get out of bed all the following morning because of the healing still taking place in my body. I felt that my lower chakras were expanding and connecting to one another in a way I had never before encountered, and began to feel much more alive and well than I had in years.

I discovered that when we were performing sacred rituals any time on our tour, we were bestowed privacy by the Universe to do so. Although a number of visitors had been milling around when we first got to Men-an-Tol, they all disappeared and no one else came by for several hours while we performed healing rituals and meditated at this sacred site.

At least twelve fogous are to be found in Cornwall. Fogous are man-made structures, curved underground passageways with a narrow side passage known as a creep sloping towards the surface, which was probably the original entrance. Entering them is like going into the womb of mother earth, a dank, dark cave of pulsating energies where unexpected things can occur. People have reported psychic experiences and altered states and sometimes odd physical effects like stomach pains and dizziness while in fogous. The well-known and highly-researched Boleigh fogou is situated at Rosemerryn near Penzance, owned by Jo May.. An indistinct carving on the entry stone to the fogou shows the upper half of a figure, carrying a spear in one hand and a lozenge in the other, believed to be a god of healing. The ancient people probably used Boleigh fogou as a spiritual center for ceremony, initiation and teaching.

We stayed at Jo May’s Boleigh Fogou at Rosemerryn for three days. Our first night we were inducted into the fogou’s magic, candles lighting our path and sparkling inside the cave. The whole area looked like a fairyland. Jo sat in the creep, with a cloak over his head, while the "little people" gave him messages that he passed on to each of us as we came in. These messages proved to be quite accurate, since he didn’t know us, not to mention he couldn’t even see us!! Jo told us later that the "little people" had given him this ability after he had purchased the property some years before. (Rosemerryn had been unoccupied for many years because of unusual and supernatural occurrences.) Our group experienced a wide variety of metaphysical and psychic occurrences, visions, messages, unusual smells and sounds during our stay.

Jo May, a former psychology professor, has twenty-four years experience of groupwork including training with some of the originators in the field of Human Potential. He is an FDA accredited facilitator and a Core Process psychotherapist. Jo is CAER’s (Celtic for "fort") Founder/Director. Jo has also studied Buddhist psychology and Native American Medicine Wheels, is an expert guide to the local sacred sites and initiates people into the power and mystery of Boleigh fogou located on his property. Rosemerryn is a lovely retreat house and the quiet sanctity of the flower-filled grounds promotes tranquil contemplation in its beauty and serenity.

"There is so much I could say here that it would fill a book - which it has! ("Fogou - a Journey into the Underworld" published by Gothic Image.) I have lived in one of the most magical parts of the UK for 19 years on the site of an Iron Age fortified settlement complete with its own 2000 year old underground temple. As guardian of this site, the spirits of the place have required me shake off some of my old patterns. This has been an essential part of what has been required of me in order to hold and manage the centre which I have created here. The centre, called CAER, offers workshops throughout the year in personal and spiritual development and training. It attracts people from all over the world.

My goals and purposes -- To offer excellence in facilitation; to train people who want to run workshops themselves or to work with others in a helping capacity; to work with the power of this land to help people to reawaken to themselves and to others; to provide the best possible environment to help people come into full humanity.

The centre is situated within a landscape temple, created by the ancient ones for the spiritual development of the community. Within these few square miles there are more stone circles, holy wells, hill forts, standing stones, and Iron and Bronze age villages than anywhere else in Western Europe. My favourite places, where I like to take people, are Boscawen Un Bronze Age stone circle, which is the central circle within a system which was once at least as big as Stonehenge; Sancreed holy well, whose magic and healing properties are reawakened; and the fogou, or underground initiation and healing temple which is located here at CAER. People who visit these places, and engage in ceremonies there, experience a sense of coming home to themselves.

I have a degree in Psychology, a diploma in Humanistic Psychology, and a diploma in Core Process Psychotherapy. I have about 24 years experience of working with people in groups. I have been the guardian of this particular site for 19 years. I present "Sacred Sites and Ceremonies" in June and again in September. This workshop is evolving as I bring in more people with local knowledge and expertise. It is an in-depth exploration, blending personal work with ceremonies and pilgrimage to local power centres. I discovered psychotherapy and groupwork,. After attending many groups and trainings with some of the originators in the field of Human Potential, I eventually became a research psychologist at the University of Surrey, where I did original research into facial asymmetry and the way that relates to brain function. In 1978 I moved to Cornwall and founded CAER. I am an FDA accredited group facilitator, run workshops under the CAER Programme and elsewhere and am trained in Buddhist-based Core Process Psychotherapy. I have also written a book called 'Fogou', which is about some of my, and others, experiences at the ancient site." --- Jo May

Jo May, CAER, Rosemerryn, Lamorna, Penzance, Cornwall TR 19 6BN England 01736-810530 E-Mail jomay@thenet.co.uk

"Undoubtedly, Rosemerryn is a place of power…FOGOU [Jo’s book] is a remarkable book by an extraordinary man." Colin Wilson

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