In my wanderings along beaches or rivers, I am always on the lookout for heart shaped stones. I have a small collection of them in my garden. They get moved from place to place in the garden so I can see them anew.
Different sizes of heart shaped stones would be a wonderful addition to a sandplay therapy miniature collection.
image from https://www.123rf.com
An ancient Asian art form, known as viewing stones, is centuries old. These unique stones are prized for their form and beauty. I recently attended a Viewing Stones exhibit at Denver Botanic Gardens. There were a variety of types of stones available for viewing. Here is information posted about the exhibit:
"Originating some two thousand years ago in China, the tradition of collecting and appreciating scholars’ stones has endured in contemporary times. Scholars’ stones are natural objects valued for their use in contemplation and for their representation of landscapes, animals, human figures or abstract forms. Closely related to the art of bonsai, the stones in this exhibit have been collected by contemporary artists, many of whom are members of the Rocky Mountain Bonsai Society."
Originating in China, scholars collected stones sculpted by nature. These dramatic, vertical stones are called “scholar’s rocks.” They are typically found in dry environments.
The art form spread to Japan, where more graceful stones were collected. One type of Japanese viewing stones is called Suiseki or “water stone.”
Soosuk, or “water rock” is a type of Korean viewing stone found in rivers, where nature creates smooth surfaces over thousands of years. Prized stones are rich in color, preferably dark, with no cracks or broken edges.
Each unique, nature-crafted stone is displayed on a wood base or set in sand for best viewing.
Viewing stone at Denver Botanic Gardens
According to The Living Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language (1972), mystery is anything that is kept secret or remains unexplained or unknown; anything not fully explained and therefore arousing curiosity.
I came across the word again and again while researching stones and stone circles. I have heard the word used to describe sandplay therapy. The mystery of stone circles and archetypal monolithic structures and the mystery of sandplay and archetypal images; both engaging and arousing curiosity.
The most famous stone circle and the one I find most engaging is Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain in England. The site has been built and rebuilt over time and now consists of a bluestone horseshoe with an opening at the northeast, surrounded by a circle of five independent bluestone trilithons, with three lintels intact. The larger stones act as markers of the moon and sun as they cross the horizon. A larger connected ring of stones consists of 60 megaliths and lintels; now only 32 stones are intact. The perimeter consists of a circular ditch with 56 shallow pits, two opposing mounds, and solar and lunar stones, planned around a symmetrical axis that points toward the direction of the summer sunrise.
Who built the monument and when it was built is known, but why the henge was built remains a mystery. The site is believed to have been used for religious ceremonies, funerary rituals, and astronomical purposes. Stonehenge may also have been used for rituals of regeneration during the winter solstice when the sun was at its weakest and seen as dying. Energetic ring dances were performed during seasonal and lunar ceremonies.
(continued in Mystery Part 2)
(continued from Mystery Part 1)
When I viewed an aerial photograph of Stonehenge, I was reminded of a tray that a preadolescent female client had created. The tray consisted of a circle of red stones, in the center of the tray, with an opening at one end. A torii gate (similar to a portal dolmen) had been placed at the entrance to the circle. A pathway lined with candles led up to the portal. Heavenly symbols such as angels, doves, and a Virgin Mary figure were also in the tray. At the center of the circle, the client placed a large cut crystal paperweight, then stood back and called the scene a “gateway to heaven.”
To understand the symbolism of the circle in the tray, it is helpful to remember where the client was developmentally, both physically and psychologically. Does the circle represent the self, preparation for the next developmental stage of adolescence, and the energy needed for transformation? Was the tray revealing the psychological process related to the manifestation of change? If circles have been symbolic of energy and cyclical time, is the circle in this tray symbolizing the stimulation of the process of becoming and moving into adolescence, which for females begins with cycles and rites of passage related to biological rhythms?
Circles are also understood as transmitters of the concentrated divine. The miniatures included in the tray and the client’s statement regarding the “gateway to heaven” may represent a relationship to the divine. Is the connection between ancient stone circles, ceremonies, and rituals and the energy activated during the sandplay process explained by the concept of the collective unconscious?
Therein lies the mystery. It is not what we know, but what we do not know that engages us.
I was very fortunate to travel with my mother (who was born in England), along with my very good life long friend (partner in crime), to Europe from the US when I was finished with high school. Very brave of her to take two teenagers to Europe!
One of my fondest memories was a day trip to Bath, Salisbury Cathedral, and Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain. At that time, you could walk among the ancient stones and imagine what the stones had witnessed. It was a sunny day, the grass was a beautiful green; we had free reign to wander about and marvel at the megaliths, lintels, and surrounding larger stone circle. Today, the stones are blocked off to preserve the monument, however, one can still see them and take photographs from the protective perimeter.
One of many wonderful memories of that trip...
There are many ancient stones, stone circles, and stone formations around the world. Wouldn't it be amazing to travel to these wondrous sites? Here is a "trip" that will only take a few moments...
Almendras – Portugal; ancient, megalithic circle; 95 large stones arranged in a double oval; 3500–1500 B.C.; perhaps astronomical and used as a calendar
Aphrodite's Rock – near Old Paphos, southwest coast of Cyprus; the site where Aphrodite was allegedly born from the sea
Brogar ring – Scotland; 60 large stones arranged in a circle; site of ring dances, death and regeneration rituals drawing on the goddess’s power in stone
Carnac menhirs – Brittany, France; 3,000 stones; arranged in parallel rows; 5000 B.C.; possibly used for fertility ceremonies or worship of the earth or moon goddess
deives – Lithuania; 6’ upright stones found along rivers; believed to mark sacred sites where goddesses were spinning the fates of humans
Externstein – Germany; range of limestone rocks; center of heroic legends and Teutonic myth; place of pagan worship; home of Irmensul, (giant column) the German tree of life
Ggantija– "giant’s tower"; Maltese islands; on the Island of Gozo; megalithic temples from 3000 B.C.; may have been dedicated to fertility or mother goddesses
Gors Fawr – Wales; moorland stone circle; Fawr means "great"; Gors means "throne”; used as a druidic center; 16 stones, 7’ apart; astronomical site built as a calendar of the seasons
(continued in Famous Stones Around The World Part 2)
(continued from Famous Stones Around The World Part 1)
Ka’ba– Mecca, Saudi Arabia; holiest shrine for Moslems; probably a meteorite; Islam tradition states The Black Stone was sent down to Adam; an annual pilgrimage to Mecca, called the hajj, is made by over 2 million Muslims each year
Ile Longue – Brittany France; beehive shaped chamber topped with a flat stone; Neolithic grave architecture; symbolizes the pregnant belly of the Earth Mother
Moai – Easter Island, eastern Pacific Ocean; 600 monolithic figures 13 to 65’ high; cut from volcanic rock; face inland to guard over the community; used for ritual and as a burial site
Omphalos Stone – Delphi, Greece; found at Apollo's temple; means "navel” of the world, marked by the omphalos stone; markings on the stone may be geomantic, may be a form of longitude and latitude
Philosophers stone – to find the lapis philosophorum was the great goal of the medieval alchemist; believed to transform lead into gold; using the complex language of alchemy as a parallel to psychological process, the "stone" symbolizes the deep inner longing to find our true spiritual nature
Stonehenge – Wiltshire, England; 2200 B.C.E.; two concentric circles of massive stones, some weighing 50 tons, built around a symmetrical axis that points towards the summer sunrise; built and rebuilt in increasingly complex forms over a millennium and a half; used for rituals, especially those related to the Earth Mother and the seasons
Uluru – Australia; monolith of sandstone rising 1,115 feet above the desert plain; 1.5 miles wide and 2 miles long; sacred site of dreamtime which is Aboriginal time of creation that runs parallel to life
Windmill Tump – Gloucestershire, England; 3000 B.C.; holed stone passage, when crawled through, brought regeneration or cured illness; passing through the hole into the chamber within symbolized entry to the Earth Mother's womb
Long ago, humankind believed that certain stones, especially precious stones, held magical properties and were worn as amulets before they were worn for mere ornamentation. With the belief that magical properties reside in all stones unique qualities were attributed to particular stones or types of stones. Stones have been thought to increase crops, insure fertility, protect against illness, and lend strength and stability.
The following are attributes and qualities of stones or what they may symbolize:
symbol of power and foundation
associated with permanence
that which is of the earth
abode of an external soul
fetish or medicine (Native American)
dwelling place of animal spirits
pillar or axis of heaven
transformed giants of past generations
first mortals were fashioned from rock
the masculine principle blended in gardens with water - the feminine principle (Japan)
(continued in Stones As Symbols Part 2)
(continued from Stones As Symbols Part 1)
Blue stone: healing powers, holy stone
Black stone: defeat, restraint, unfavorable decision
Conical stone: masculine principle, sun emblem, sun worshipped by the Romans as Elegabalas in the form of a black conical stone
Five stones: five powers of perfection or wisdom
Round stone: sun
Soft stone: symbol of adversity, enemy, evil
Square stone: deity image, masculine principle
Stone giant: supernatural being of the Yaghan Indians, who is vulnerable except for his feet, he was overcome by a hummingbird; Pueblo Indians have two stone giants symbolizing the morning sun and the evening sun, and the summer sun and winter sun
White stone: favorable decision, liberation, revelation, victory, virtue
After the telling of a venture in which she carried a stone from Iona to the King’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza, Alice Howell was asked if she was suggesting that the stone from Iona was magical. She replied, "No, not at all! The power of the stone was what I projected into it. It was all it meant to me, the meaning I gave to it. I could throw it back into the ocean and it would roll around there for thousands of years both special and unspecial like any other stone. In fact, the alchemists said something to the effect that the Philosopher’s Stone could not be bought for any price… The power of the stone really lay in the alchemist himself. The transmutations, I suspect, are the very liftings of the meaning of life from one level to another, both outwardly and inwardly in the psyche. Such transmutations are everywhere in nature, but discovering the hidden process requires a certain kind of symbolic thinking that puts two and two together – which, by the way, is what symbolus means."
Howell, Alice, The Dove in the Stone, Finding the Sacred in the Commonplace, Quest Books, Illinois, 1998
I have always been a collector of stones. There are stones in my work space, home, and garden. They are in almost every room of my home, whether gathered in sturdy baskets or displayed singly. Some I have wrapped in handmade paper; wound with waxed thread; and attached symbolic items such as shells, feathers, or beads.
This stone is covered in handmade paper and wrapped with brown waxed thread. I wanted to be reminded of the forest so it is adorned with a small pine cone, a sterling silver pine cone charm, and lichen.
Most are in their natural state. In my garden, large and small stones line a natural dry creek bed and also serve as borders. Some are placed here and there just “because”.
I realize as I reflect on this that stones must have some significance for me; some importance. I remember “stone searches” at the beach or river’s edge, where I began to collect stones which caught my eye. Over the years many have been picked up, turned over in my hands, and either kept or returned to their place on the beach or in a shallow pool. What was special about stones? Was it the memory of the day or the adventure? Was it the essence of the stone itself?
Friends and colleagues began to bring me stones from their travels, not only for my sandplay collection, but also for me personally. Stones from an Oregon beach, from the coast of Maine, from the Andes, from a Druid circle, and from a sacred valley in Greece.
(continued in Why Stones? Part 2)
(continued from Why Stones Part 1)
Recently, in a cupboard in my home, I found an old tin. I discovered inside, my grown daughter’s collection of stones and rocks. I wondered of all the things…well loved toys, often-read books, favorite games…that had been given away, why had the stones been saved? When I asked my daughter, she said, “Because”.
Are you a collector of stones? Have you ever chosen a stone out of hundreds because it appealed to you? What types of stones do you have? Do you have a special place in your home or garden set aside for reflection and does this sacred space include a special stone?
Find a stone that appeals to you. Hold it in your hand. Notice the color, shape, and texture of the stone. Why did you choose this stone?