I had heard of an ancient monument named Men-An-Tol, which is, in Cornish, "the holed stone." I had been told it was a place held sacred since the stone age. I was determined to find this place and feel the magic which had protected it through all these years.
The now-familiar rain poured down as I followed a twisty path across muddy fields, sometimes wading, through dense tumbled masses of yellow flowering gorse. I found first another ancient stone, known as Men Scryfa, or "stone of writing," a granite pillar which now commemorates the death in battle of an iron age warrior-king. Though I could not read it, and they tell me some of it is now beneath the ground, they say the inscription is written in Latin, or a Latinised form of the native Celtic. The stone itself is much older than the carving it bears. It stands alone, towering above the perpetual mist, in an empty, muddy field. It is a little taller than I am, and, they say, the inscription reads, "Royal Raven, Glorious Leader."
I left the field of Men Scryfa and continued along the muddy road. Three hundred yards further on, I saw a stile and felt I should explore the field beyond. I wandered through the waist-high grass until suddenly, there it was, Men-An-Tol, in a half-cleared field, alone, a dark and sacred place. Four stones are grouped together. One is fallen, two stand upright, and the holed stone itself stands between the two uprights. It is a circular stone, on edge, with a perfectly, startlingly round hole in the centre, large enough for a man to crawl through.
There are other standing stones round about, and the marks in the ground of earlier ones that have been taken away. Once there may have been a 15-stone circle here.
The hole has been smoothed by centuries of use. As long as there have been humans, they have known and used this stone, and I am sure it is used still. Babies and small children are passed naked through the hole to secure good health for their lifetimes. Adults crawl through, 3 times or 9 times, to cure disease, to cure infertility, or to ask for easy childbirth. Couples hold hands through the stone to make a commitment to each other. But in the sight of whom? or what? And what enforces such commitments? I think I would be a little afraid to make one.
I was alone there, perhaps because of the teeming rain. I did not crawl through the stone, for I had no request to make of that ancient god, and, besides, the base of it rested in a muddy pool of water. I told myself I was not afraid. Only a madman would not have felt fear in that place, but I touched the stone. I felt the power the ancients must have sought, and I ran from the place, paying no heed to either the rain or the mud...
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