We're somewhere near Penzance...
Driving along yet more winding, narrow hedged roads the landscape was familiar with far reaching views over fields sectioned with stone walls and gorse hedges. An earlier signpost had indicated ‘Lanyon Quoit’ was along here somewhere, but what was a ‘lanyon’? Or a ‘quoit’ for that matter. A quoit, according to the Oxford dictionary, is ‘the flat covering stone of a dolmen’, and Lanyon is just the name of this particular quoit. Hold on, what is a dolmen? It’s from the Cornish ‘tolmen’, where taol or tol is a table, and maen/men meaning stone and these tolmens are simply the (sometimes purely decorative) entrance way to a burial ground.
Various stories of potential burials, encarnation rituals and giant’s feeding stations run alongside analyses of axial alignments and other local landmarks to describe their purpose. Originally they would’ve been covered in earth, creating a mound with the structural doorway created by the stones, but all that has worn away over the years to leave the bare structure we see today. Not that we see the original structure here. A big storm blew it all over and broke some pieces, and its reconstruction was not true, so today it’s more of a nod to what was once there rather than a sacred monolith.
Without it’s true reason for being known, we decided it would indeed make a great ‘Giant’s Table’ and proceeded with our own ever-so-English ritual – the obligatory cuppa. One of the theories for the stones is that bodies were laid out on top during a funeral ritual, and left for the birds. Not a thought to be having whilst supping one’s tea!
Its ease of access at the side of the road means it’s a well-visited site. When we arrived, an American couple were making the most of a brief respite to meditate under the imposing weight of the balanced stone. And it certainly inspires a sense of serenity. The solid weight of these large stones balanced so delicately defies logic and a little pre-determined knowledge of their age lends an air of awe. The setting itself is so tranquil, with little to remind you of everyday life in the 360 degree panorama. Well, we spoilt that for the meditators, despite waiting quietly at the edge of the arena, it probably wasn’t the same for them with strangers watching. They departed fairly quickly.
So, serenity acknowledged, respect paid to the potential sacredness of the site, we took the usual pretty pictures before deciding that in today’s day and age, the best use for such a place was, as per the American visitors before us, meditation. Or in our case, Yoga.
Sitting in the shadow of a 20tonne boulder was a little too unnerving though, so with a hike up, the table top became a seat. After a brief scan of the skyline for circling carrion birds, a deep breath of the clean air and an unsurpassed view over the landscape to the sea had the required effect. We came over all meditative.
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