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Long Meg and her Daughters

By Jen

Long Meg and her Daughters is a stone circle near Penrith in Cumbria. Most people know of the famous Stonehenge, but most don’t know that there are over 1,300 stone circles in the UK alone. Long Meg and her Daughters is the third largest stone circle in England and said to be the sixth biggest in Europe. It primarily consists of 59 rhyolite granite stones (27 of them upright) set in an oval shape measuring 340 ft (100m) on its long axis. It is thought that originally, based on early 17th Century records, that there may have been as many as 70-80 stones.

“Long Meg” herself is a monolith of red sandstone (thought to be quarried from the banks of the River Eden) and is 12 ft high. On the Long Meg stone, there are markings which are thought to be megalithic art including a cup and a ring mark, a spiral, and rings of concentric circles. Her position in the circle is 25m outside of the rest of the stones, meaning Meg would be in the position of where the midwinter sun would have set.

There is something magical and mysterious about stone circles, and the reality is we can guess what they were used for, and we can make assumptions based on records and art, but we really are no closer to unravelling their mysteries. However, the folklores surrounding Long Meg and her Daughters are some of the most interesting we’ve come across.

One of the more “regular” suggestions from archaeologists is that Long Meg and her Daughters was once used as a meeting place during significant times of the year, likely for religious rituals or ceremonies. It is known from records that the Long Meg stones were involved in both solar and lunar predictions. However, exactly what the predictions were used for and what went on inside the circle thousands of years ago remains one of the many mysteries. The name Long Meg, or just Meg, is thought to have been used back in the day to describe anything long or tall, so perhaps this is the reason for the name; however some of the most intriguing stories, in my opinion of course, regard a witch named Meg. Margaret Fenwick (née Selsby), aka Meg, lived in Meldon near Morpeth – some 70 miles away from the stones.

One legend tells that the stones were originally a coven of witches. One Sabbath, Meg and her daughters were dancing wildly on the moor when Scottish wizard, Michael Scott, encountered them. Angered that they dared to dance on the day of the Lord, he turned them all to stone. It is even said that the profile of the Long Meg stone resembles a witch. Another legend says that it is impossible to count the same number of stones twice. One suggestion is that whoever achieves this will break the wizard’s spell and Meg and her daughters will finally be free from the petrified state they are currently in. Another suggests whoever manages to count all of the stones is to put their ear upon the Long Meg stone and they will gently hear her whisper. One final warning states that if someone is able to count the stones twice, it will bring very bad luck. Count them at your own risk!!

Whether or not the stones have actual physical power is yet to be seen, however what is clear is that they have the power to attract worship - even the trees surrounding the stones. Many people leave offerings, spells, and thoughts hanging upon the branches. Once lockdown is over, I can’t wait to visit, and of course listen out for the whisperings of Old Meg!

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