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  • Writer's pictureSara McFarland

The heartbeat of the ancestral Dolmen

Softly, slowing down, rest. I keep hearing these words. From the holy, from other humans, from the earth in winter, from my own body. Slow down. Listen within to your own heart and your own knowing. Listen outside of human consciousness, with different ears.

What does it mean to slow down? What does it mean to enter the winter time of Earth? The busyness of year-end shopping, finishing things, meeting deadlines, meetings and partying, has never felt natural to my system. I have always longed for depth in the dark, a candle lit, a fire for warmth, tea, a book to read or write in, a window to look out of, sleeping long hours, dreaming. This December, I walk each morning along the lake and the Herons squawk as I walk by, the cormorants gurgle and laugh and croak their strange music to each other between water and trees. The ducks flap and cough, the egrets fly silently, returning at dusk, alighting at dawn again. Osprey, sit on bare branches, dead of green, watching and hunting. Deer moving through the trees, eating grass and weeds bent to the ground, from frost. The trees themselves are strange to my eyes and hands, great furrowed ones with folds and flaps and caverns and fingers at their bases, like mangroves, their root flanks exposed, on thin scraggly branches, the last heart shaped leaves hang at heart level, fluttering in the wind from the lake.

I walk through the forest here, to the ancient late-stone-age burial mounds and greet the ancestors. After the last ice age, they moved north, following the great animals, who passed on, partly through being over-hunted, giving way 6,000 years ago, to the farmers from Anatolia. The Dolmen are passage graves, which may, or may not, have been used as graves at all, whose stones are exposed now, as the Earth has eroded away. I lay myself on the capstone, which lays like an altar upon the other two, and listen. Slowing my heart to stone speed, listening between beats to the ancient voices whispering there. What I hear is not words, as we know them today, in this English or German or any other current or even human language. It is a kind of conversation that happens between my heart and the stone, into the past, connecting me with the heart beats of those ancestors who moved these incredibly huge and heavy stones into place. No one “knows” how they were built, or by whom, or why. Lying there, I notice a triangular shaped bowl, carved into the capstone as if to receive the blood offering of some animal, I imagine offering my own lifeblood to Earth in that bowl.

Dolmen are found in Eire, Cymru, Alba, Anglia, (what is known today as the UK and Ireland), all current nation-states of Western Europe, Bulgaria, Russia, the Korean peninsula (40% of Dolmen worldwide are found here), India, Indonesia, Canada. It is our human heritage, our ancestral knowing, to build stone lined rooms in the Earth. Wombtombs. Places for dreaming, initiation, dying, rebirth… In northern and western Europe, most of the Dolmen, or passage graves as the larger ones are known, are built with their opening facing the sun rise on Winter solstice or the sunset on Equinox.

It is years hence, that I have sat in the Place of Becoming, a passage grave at the winter solstice, built as a temple by a dear brother, who is a poet farmer monk, in service to the Holy Earth. In the deep night of winter, I have sat drumming, listening to the heart beat of the stones and the earth. And in the solstice morning, I have watched the sunrise enter the chamber, igniting the world egg in the water birds’ nest. This place is now lost to him, to me, to those who know how to tend it, like those here, where I live now. Now, I live at the place of the water birds, heron and egret calling and flying through the grey skies. The Solstice is approaching and I sit in the dark in the Dolmen in the forest, drumming, listening, dreaming… I will sit in the dawn of the Solstice and await the return of the sun. I will let its returning rays pierce my heart and call forth the lifeblood of my dreams into a quickening, an offering to Earth…

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