a place for peace, reflection and inspiration for all | un lieu de paix, réflexion et inspiration pour tous

Symbolic Meanings of the Circle

100_0265

The Astronomical and Symbolic Meanings of the Circle and Stones:

The Stanstead Stone Circle commemorates many things. The first is the fact that the community of Stanstead falls on the 45th parallel—halfway between the equator and the North Pole, a significant location on the planet.  The astronomical event of equinox is another half way point, this one being halfway between light and dark, when the days and nights are equal length.Thus the circle is designed to honour the equinox sunrise.

Stanstead is also located directly on the U.S./Canadian border.  What looks like one community is in fact half in the United States and half in Canada– the border (until recently) mostly being present but unseen. This split personality has been an integral facet of our community since it was first founded in 1796 and is honoured in the layout of the stone circle as well.

Lastly, the stone circle is also an hommage to the granite industry that has played such a major role in the history and survival of our village.

All the stones are native Stanstead grey granite taken from the local quarries.  Some of the stones still bear the markings of the granite industry such as holes or hollows left over from drilling and blasting. Some stones were discarded years ago and lay on top of the soil for years before becoming part of the stone circle; these stones look older than the ones that were cut from the quarry more recently.  Each stone has its own unique quality, personality and beauty.

The first stone to be installed was the North Stone. At 64,000 lbs  it was the most challenging  stone to place, taking over 3 hours to put in the ground correctly. It is aligned with geographic (not magnetic) North signified by the North Star, Polaris.  Geographic North is located slightly to the right of magnetic North in our area. (The degree of difference varies depending on the latitude and longitude). If one stands in the centre of the circle on a clear night and looks directly at the North Stone one will see Polaris located directly over the stone.  Polaris is part of the handle of the Little Dipper and can also be found by locating the right hand side of the dipper of the Big Dipper and drawing an imaginary line through the two stars heading north and continuing until the next bright star (Polaris) is reached.  Standing slightly to the right of North Stone and looking at its profile one can see with but a little imagination, the outline of a lion’s face, complete with mane.  Indeed, some could call this the King Stone!

All other stones with astronomical alignments are based in reference to the initial position of the North Stone at geographic North.  Remember that here in our time zone we are on Daylight Savings Time between mid-March  and the end of October, which moves our clocks ahead one hour. Due to this fact the “settings” of the stone circle are actually one hour behind during Daylight Savings Time.  In simple terms this means that 1:00 p.m. Daylight Savings Time is actually 12-noon  Standard Time according to the alignments of the stone circle.

The second stone to be installed was the South Stone.  This stone is placed facing exact South based in relation to the northern alignment of the North Stone.

The East and West stones are both rather triangular in shape.  To find due east, stand in the centre of the circle and look at the eastern triangular stone.  Exact east is located at the tip of the stone near the last hole cut in the stone.

The top point of the West Stone is the exact location of the due West alignment.  Due to obstructions on the horizon we don’t actually see the sunset at this location. It is hidden behind trees and buildings.

The only other stones that are strictly placed in the circle based on specific requirements are the two stones reflecting our position on the 45th parallel.  Pretend that the centre stone is the equator and the North Stone is the equivalent of the North Pole.  The 45th parallel would be located halfway between these two points.  By the same token, the stones marking the 45th parallel are located halfway between the centre stone and the North Stone.  If one draws an imaginary line between these two stones, that would be the  45th parallel.

stone_circle

The rest of the stones are more symbolic in nature rather than astronomical alignments.

As you approach the circle from the entrance at the road one immediately notices two impressive up-right stones with a lintel across the top. These are known as the CANUSA Stones and represent the infamous US/CANADA border that runs through our community, one of our claims to fame which continually brings us a certain amount of national and international attention.  To us, this border community represents the spirit of goodwill and cooperation between two countries, two communities and three cultures.

This installation acts as a lovely portal or doorway into the circle.

Immediately to the right of the South Stone is the Three Village Installation.  These three stones acknowledge the three original towns that amalgamated in 1995 into the current Town of Stanstead.  These are Stanstead Plain, Rock Island and Beebe.  One could visualize this grouping as a structure that forms a roof over our heads providing safety, warmth, and comfort for our hearths, our hearts, our children and our future.

The final two stones share a more universal theme.  The one located to the left of the North Stone is called the Peace Stone and the one on the right is the Earth Stone.  Both symbolize our fervent hopes for Peace on Earth and our intent that this stone circle will somehow help people achieve this monumental ideal.

Looking east however, a careful observer will notice yet another two stones located up on the ridge, rather reminiscent of a mother and child, keeping watch over the stone circle nestled in valley below. These are the Equinox Marker Stones.

Due to obstructions on the horizon, the official, due east sunrise on the morning of the Equinox is not visible from the centre of our circle. Instead we see the sun rising over our horizon a few minutes later and several degrees further south.

Viewed from a certain spot within the stone circle the equinox sun crests our horizon at the position marked by the smaller stone on the ridge. As it continues to quickly rise, arcing higher and further to the south in the sky, the sun appears to sit majestically on top of the large equinox stone for a breathtaking moment before continuing its journey into the sky! The occurrence and accuracy of this phenomenon actually depend on the tilt and elliptical orbit of the earth, both of which vary from year to year, thus making an exact line up a rare event.

A small standing stone can be seen in the north-eastern direction in the main field, located just beyond the rows of buckwheat. This stone, added in the summer of 2011, marks the summer solstice sunrise, where the first glimmer of light will be seen through the leaves on or around June 21st.

Significance of the Equinox, Solstices and Cross Quarter Days:

Careful observation of the celestial rhythms, including those that marked the change of the seasons—the solstices and the equinoxes, was compellingly important to the early peoples as it helped them connect to the cycles of the earth that were so important to their very survival. In times before electricity, particularly in the northern latitudes where the nights were very long and dark during the winter, one can easily understand why the return of the Sun each year was a major event for celebration! The Solstices have been said to represent the masculine – positive/action pole and the Equinoxes the feminine – negative / receptive pole. The cross-quarter days are the openings in the year when the veil between our world and the Otherworld is thinnest.

It is interesting to note that the design for Stanstead’s stone circle was conceived by Kim Prangley while she was sitting at the base of a triangular, metal sculpture called ZIGZAG, designed by Vermont artist Kate Pond to mark the arrival of the equinox by tracing the path of the sun’s noon shadow twice a year. (This sculpture can be seen on the front lawn of the Colby Curtis Museum in Stanstead.)

Thus, it was at noon on the Fall Equinox of 2008 that Prangley purposely sat at the base of this sculpture, allowing the equinox shadow to cross her body as she pondered the intentions of and sketched designs for the future circle.

Why? Because she wanted to weave into the circle as much spiritual significance and power for the future as she could. And what better place to do it? The 45th parallel is a key feature of this community and shares a vital connection to the energies of the equinox. Prangley feels we should be proud of and honour this unique location as much as we can. Marking the passage of the sun or moon and the planets through various means was a reverent and sacred practise done by ancient cultures all over the world. Let us continue to embrace their wisdom and reverence for life which was highly connected to the spiritual realm and carry it forward into our future.