Lanyon Quoit is hardly any older, nor presumably any wiser, than it was the last time I visited the megalith – but I am.
Perhaps the best time to explore the more prominent sites of Penwith really is on a cold, overcast, mid-week day in the winter. Without the distractions of dogs, children, selfie-seekers or motorbikers, you can get that little more in touch with some of the more easily accessible artefacts of ancient Kernow. Freed temporarily from the invasiveness of others, even the incessant background hum of tractors, drying machines and light aircraft can seem almost soothing – well, less intrusive.
Despite its handy location next to the ‘main’ road connecting Madron with Morvah, we hadn’t set foot at this charismatic piece of Cornish archaeology for some years. It’s good to have a break from anywhere, and even better to have a long one. It enables you to see old friends through new eyes, and sense them with more mature and nuanced sensitivities.
Perhaps the most immediate impression of any quoit is of its simple, yet iconic, outline in an all-but object-free landscape. It appears to stand proud and alone, marking or heralding whatever. This, of course, is not the case at all. It is only a solitary symbol today because just about everything else around it has been removed, recycled or flattened. In the height of summer, the shrouding bracken and brambles serve to emphasise this misleading singularity. Yet, in the greater clarity of January, a whole raft of adjacent undulations and recumbent boulders emerges from the dormant undergrowth.
Dowsing indicates that several of these neighbouring sites were, at some point in their histories, at least as significant as the petrified tripod that remains. To the south of the quoit is a cluster of mounds, which might once have been a burial site or sites but, more importantly, formerly described major energy features with their shapes and locations. As we have found across the world, at spots such as these, the energies are still there, and patently still dowsable, long after their humanly-constructed accoutrements have disappeared – which is a hugely positive finding in itself.
At the other side of the quoit, I dowsed that there once stood a much grander structure with several tall uprights – just the sawn-off stumps of which now lie in silent remembrance in a stagnant pool. Here strong leys cross as they pass through the site, distantly indicating its previous significance.
Within a few metres of the main structure there are several such pieces of the past, now hardly distinguishable by sight from the surrounding rock-cleared moorland. Picking them up by dowsing is a relatively straightforward exercise. Trying to stand in the shoes of their prehistoric builders is a more taxing task.
The quoit itself dowses as being several hundred years younger than the other archaeology in the immediate area. Indeed, some of the component pieces of the main edifice – and especially of the now long-reused surrounding wall – actually originated in those earlier constructions.
In the main, we are obliged to see all such prominent sites as mere snapshots, seen through the lens of the 21st century or, at best, cleaned-up museum pieces from the photographocene era. Yet, the quoit builders were not working in a neatly-turfed vacuum. They were surrounded by the remnants of centuries, if not millennia, of previous cultures with potentially radically different philosophies – the debris of populations who had also sensed the importance of the place, but perhaps from a very different perspective.
While the ancient peoples might not have been dowsers in the mode and style of today, they were clearly aware of ‘energies’, ‘currents’ and ‘fields’ that the modern dowser can also sense (with a bit of low-tech assistance). What we have found in other sites across the UK and on the European mainland is that each culture brought its own outlook, and its own approach to architecture to the table. They overwrote, and deconstructed, previous cultures, probably just as brutally as the Christians purloined the Pagan sacred sites for the benefit of demonstrating the perceived greater importance of their own view of the divine.
As a prime example, some societies clearly sensed, and may have actively understood, what today we would call, Earth Energy flows – and they marked them with considerable accuracy. Others, evidently regarded ‘leys’ as hugely significant – or even brought them into being (he said, controversially), with or without an association with the Earth Energy background.
For those with an interest in energy grids, it is easy to demonstrate that some of the megaliths are very precisely aligned with these earth-surface patterns – while others seem to ignore them altogether. In the case of Lanyon, the most ancient part of the site is anchored on a Benker grid intersection, but generally the site seems to be quite oblivious to either Hartmann or Curry lines.
Even more pertinent, is that close to the quoit is the confluence of three of the interplanetary grid lines, only brought into our modern awareness by the dowser, Billy Gawn, a decade or so ago. Were the previous inhabitants of Penwith really aware of these – and, if not, why would they appear to mark them so deliberately? The sections of the Jovian, Venusian and Lunar grids, which dovetail so neatly at Lanyon, seem too precise to be demarcated by mere chance.
Even by dowsing, it is difficult to get inside the minds of those who chose to put so much effort into developing, and then redeveloping, this site. Were they aware of the exact layout of the etheric currents? Or, seemingly like the church-masons who faced similar choices, were they just vaguely aware of the sacredness of the place, and felt driven to create their own geometrical concept of how to edify or honour it? What we do know is that they devoted an awful lot of resources into constructing something that would last – and from their own perspective, maybe forever.
While the supporting pillars of the quoit dowse as being almost found in situ and, perhaps, recovered from previous man-made structures in the vicinity, the massive capstone came from between one and two kilometres away. Maybe not Stonehenge-standard structural engineering, but it’s still no mean feat, in the pre-JCB period, to convey a huge pointed rock that sort of distance, and to place it with pin-point precision at this non-physically critical spot.
The current megalith was rebuilt in 1824, using some of the material from the previous quoit, which collapsed in 1815 – but it was re-erected on a different alignment and set somewhat lower. However, this does not detract from its location or purpose. We should be grateful that the powers-that-be of the day actually did something to preserve this ancient monument for us, rather than just reusing the rest of the valuable and available stone for local building projects. Maybe, even the God-fearing Victorians felt there was some eternal and underlying purpose in its existence.
Today, all of the energies extant in the Neolithic and Bronze Age are probably still there to be felt and to be considered. We may not have access to, or even have the need for, gargantuan pieces of granite, but their very persistence into the cybercene, especially at places such as Lanyon, prompts us to ask questions that may be hugely relevant to our own future existence.