October 1, 2019

Crossing the Bridge - Stones Rising 2019

By Etain Preston & Beth Thomas

Griffith SR19 4767 1200“In the curragh and off we go, o’ver to Scotland’s shores we row,
To build a chapel there, for the Stone.”
- Steve McDonald

So goes the words from the song Stone of Destiny. It is my traditional go-to song for hitting the road to Stones Rising. This year was special, this was Year 25. My 24th year with Four Quarters. Having been to many Stones, I know that each year has a different flavor, a different vibe. The people are different, the energy they bring is different, the theme is different. Yet in many ways there is continuity, familiar faces, familiar rites and rituals that have been created over the years. There are things we do from just plan tradition, whether collective or private. So, when the time came, as in years past I over packed the car and set out for the 4.5-hour drive with anticipation for what Stones held in store this year.

Many years ago, attendees at Stones had noticed that the energy of the event changed and swirled, it shifted year to year as the megaliths filled out the circle, and that people often carried with them the attitudes and mindsets of the broader popular culture and current events.

In other ways it is a Home coming, seeing friends you only see or camp with once a year. The exchange of stories, the sharing of their personal journeys. The feeling can be compared to a reunion of a large and extended family. Some family members are tight, there are hugs and kisses and laughter and excitement upon meeting. Other family members are met with shrugs. A pagan community is no less complex, there are alliances and friends, frenemies, and those we don’t know. There are always new faces. There are always new experiences, if you are open to them.

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“She changes everything She touches, and everything She touches changes.”
- Chant

The Great Wheel has been turning now for 25 years at Four Quarters, with 25 distinct flavors of Stones Risings. This year was met with anticipation by many after the turmoil of the previous year. Who would show? Will we do the same things? Long pulls? Night pulls? Sing the Damned Song? Yet there was no need for fear.

“Sit by the firelight's glow
Tell us an old tale we know

Tell of adventures strange and rare.”

Stones 25 arrived and with it old familiar faces and fresh new faces. Children, elders, and all ages in between. Many people, many colors, many backgrounds, many beliefs, yet again they all found their way to the center of the circle in the ring of standing stones. Years ago, I recall someone retelling the prophecy that all of the colors of humankind, the rainbow tribe, would come together on a mountain top and learn to work together. Back then we believed this told of Four Quarters, and it was never more true than for year 25. Everywhere I turned I saw a blend of old and new people and traditions. It was a beautiful thing. This year we changed some things up, instead of a long pull or night pull we had four megaliths pulled in from the meadow lot. We saw four megaliths rise to stand guard to the lovely Flame Stone, four. Our Stones Rising community hasn’t raised four stones since 1998 and said we’d never do it again. But we did. And it was smooth. The energy at the Rising was calm, strong, competent, and enthusiastic. It was in fact, the smoothest most drama free Rising I believe I ever attended, and I’ve darn near been to them all.

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The rituals were moving and experiential, the kind that speak to you and get in your soul. Stones Eve, we made the first major ritual to tie Old Forest and New Land together, and it may very well have been the largest and most complex ceremonial attempted in many, many years.

"Shadow Lights."

Falling on a Dark Moon, the Land was lighted by over 700 luminaries, beginning with the Stone Circle, on to the Labyrinth, following the road and river crossing to The New Land and leading to The Temple of Night, and it's three Crones, in The Old Forest. But to find the mythical Temple of Light and it's promise of return to the Stone Circle, required The Hero's Journey. The West bank of Rainbow Bridge was well lit, and guarded by The Ravens, who issued their challenge and extinguished the celebrants hand held candles. But the East side of the bridge was shrouded in hundreds of feet of dense black cloth, and the lanterns petered out as one crossed the bridge. Walking into the arms of the blackest of night became a Journey into The Abyss!

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Asking participants to challenge their assumptions, face their fears, and step boldly out over the chasm in the dark, confident that the bridge, the network of community, would hold them up and not fail them. I was fortunate enough to participate in this ritual as a Raven on the Bridge, and I saw the fear in those eyes when they realized what they had to do. After the ordeal they were welcomed to the Other Side after discovering the Temple of Light, cleverly hidden. I also saw the surprise and renewed confidence when they were welcomed into a bright, white, candle lit space. Hosted by the Mistress and Master of The New Light, with open arms and a toast of mead.

But the journey was not yet done, for as we walked the River Road, the forest was revealed in hundreds of twinkling lights, scattered throughout the trees, building to a climax at The Hemlock Swimming Hole. A landscape of Fairy Lights. And the final journey Home.

The effect was stunning.

This is what makes the memories. It’s the experiences you share, to realize that you just grew a little, that you made a personal accomplishment, and that what you have in common with others is far more important and lasting then what sets you apart.

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“Just beyond the far horizon
Lies a waiting world unknown
Like the dawn its beauty beckons
With a wonder all its own.”

Communities and events change over time. This is nature’s way, things evolve. Traditions grow. But there is always meaning and purpose which flows continuously along like the great river of life. We can step over the stream and find meaning and purpose in the changes, or we can stand on the shore, on the opposite side of the bridge refusing to face the ordeal, bucking at the changes, fighting amongst ourselves or our self. I for one, and as many others, chose to walk over the bridge, to a new shore, ready to face new challenges, a new day, to experience the work that is Four Quarters and Stones Rising, a work of years, stone by stone. Walk with us and help build the community of tomorrow. We won’t let you fall. The future awaits. Here’s to another 25 years!

– Etain Preston

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This was the first year that I have been able to participate in Stones Rising. I have struggled to find the words to express my thoughts and feelings of this event. The native style of the Friday night ceremony was only the beginning of the feeling of community I was to experience this weekend. Saturday was a day of preparation for the Blessing of Intent and the Loaves of the Corn Mother. I had the privilege of working with a wonderful group of women, led by Ivy, in the making of the bread. All around me I saw people working together to prepare.

The land was lit by luminaries for the Dark Moon Shadow Lights Ritual. People participated at each station, as they passed through the land. The lights that marked the paths and the bridge as their guides.

The raising of the stones...

Sustenance was provided by the Loaves of the Corn Mother We worked together, four times we worked together to put the stones in place. Everyone pulling together. Community. And the stones rose. I felt that this community, this family had come together working as one. Snacks were provided, including the best pickles!

After the feast we gathered at the stones for The Consecration of the Stones. The stones were dark at first, and then those who had helped to raise a stone in that year, lit the candles at the base of the stones. 25 years of stones. Just amazing. To reflect on the love and devotion that went into raising the stones. I'm so grateful to be a part of this community.

There was magic on the farm this weekend. The magic of a community, the magic of family.

– Beth Thomas

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Photogaphy by Walter Bachteler, Etain Preston, Kurt Griffith & Others.