Nine Stanes, Eslie the Greater and Eslie the Lessor

I have had a longstanding interest in megalithic monuments since I was a teenager. In part sparked by my interest in astronomy as a teenager, since the megalithic monuments of Europe show that Neolithic humans had sophisticated astronomical skills. And in part, by my interest in deep ancestry (see previous post https://mountainsrivers.com/2014/03/11/maternal-ancestors-bronze-age-iron-age-roman-britain/). And also by their connection with the barrowdowns of Middle Earth. On my first extended trip to Britain, I visited various megalithic stone circles in England and explored the barrows around the Ridgeway near Oxford.

So on my trip to Eastern Scotland last Easter, I took a look on the internet to see whether there were any megalithic monuments within an easy drive from the area I was staying in near the villages of Mathers (https://mountainsrivers.com/2014/05/20/the-villages-of-mathers-easter-2014/). And discovered there were three stone circles about 45 km north-west of St Cyrus where I was staying. Continue reading

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Zen practice in Japan

My main Zen teacher in the 1990s was Hogen Yamahata, known as Hogen-san to his students, who travelled regularly from Japan to conduct sesshin, and in the late 1990s started to spend more of his time in Australia. I was planning a visit to Japan in 1995 and hoped to visit Hogen-san at his temple, Chogen-ji, near Mt Fuji. Apart from the fact that I found out he was actually visiting Australia at the time I planned to go to Japan, his long-term student Peter Thompson advised me that Hogen-san’s temple was only a small family temple with one or two students at most. and that it would be better for me to visit Bukkokuji, where Hogen-san had trained with his main teacher, Harada Tangen Roshisama. So in 1995, I went to Bukkokuji and spent a week training with Roshisama.

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The entrance to Bukkokuji, a Zen monastery in Obama, Japan.

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The night the universe sang to me

I had tried kava some years ago when I was in Fiji at a holiday resort. There was a bowl of what looked like (and tasted like) muddy tea. I had a cup of it, and did not notice anything much. So when Irene told me that the Vanuatu kava was much stronger, and the locals said that the kava in Fiji was more like dishwater, I decided I should try the local stuff while I was on Tanna. Continue reading

The villages of Mathers – Easter 2014

East Mathers, West Mathers and Milton of Mathers are villages just north of St Cyrus and the Kaim of Mathers (see previous post https://mountainsrivers.com/2014/05/11/a-visit-to-the-mathers-ancestral-castle-in-scotland/). St Cyrus is about 60 km north east of Dundee in Angus and about 50 km south of Aberdeen. St Cyrus lies between the mouths of the South and North Esk Rivers, and developed at a natural harbour that traded in skins, hides and cured salmon in medieval times. It is about 50 km south of Aberdeen. The cliffs and dunes provide a nationally important habitat for flowering plants and insects, and a breeding ground for tern and have been declared a National Nature Reserve.

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A visit to the Mathers ancestral castle in Scotland

According to some researchers, the Scottish name Mathers originates from a place name on the east coast of Scotland, a place name associated with the Clan Barclay. The Barclay lairds of Mathers took the title “laird of Mathers” or equivalently “Second of Mathers” etc, and some Mathers claim that this is the origin of the Mathers surname, and by implication, that the Mathers descend from the early Barclays of Mathers. There are certainly quite a number of people called Mathers who lived in this area in the nineteenth century, but its more than likely that they took their name from the place rather than by descent from the Barclays. But I won’t let that stop me from claiming a cannibal laird as an ancestor – see my earlier post https://mountainsrivers.com/2014/01/20/my-cannibal-ancestors/

Heading towards the village of East Mathers on the east coast of Scotland

Heading towards the village of East Mathers on the east coast of Scotland

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Cathar castles: Montréal de Sos and the Grail Cave

Further up the Vicdessos valley from the ice age paintings of Niaux ( https://mountainsrivers.com/2014/02/23/the-ice-age-paintings-of-the-grotte-de-niaux/)  is one of the less well known Cathar castles, known as Montréal de Sos. It sits on a rocky outcrop, the Vic de Sos, from which the valley gets its name. Occupied since the Bronze age, this was the site of an Iron Age oppidum, a Carolingian fortress, and during the Cathar period one of the most powerful castles of the Foix region, Montréal-de-Sos. Under the castle remains is a cave with two exits – or an entrance and a different exit. Such caves were used for initiation rituals in Cathar times.

The Vic de Sos, 2011. Montréal de Sos on top, the Grail Cave below, 2011.

The Vic de Sos, 2011. On top is Montréal de Sos, entrances to the Grail Cave below.

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The ice age paintings of the Grotte de Niaux

One of my deep maternal ancestors, Una, probably lived in the Basque region or perhaps a little further north around 12,000 years ago, which would make her my great*780th grandmother (give or take a few generations). She may well have  been part of the Magdalenian culture in the foothills of the Pyrenees who produced the stunning cave paintings at sites such as Roc-de Sers, Lascaux, and Niaux. I have visited the Grotte de Niaux twice, once in 1992 and again in 2011. It is one of the few caves with Paleolithic paintings that can still be visited.

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