Nine ladies dancing

nine-ladies-hero.jpgThis post is somewhat out of my usual time zone.  The nine ladies I have in mind can be found on Stanton Moor in Derbyshire.  They are somewhere between three thousand  and four thousand years old. This Bronze Age site is part of a larger complex of cairns and stones which spreads across the moor above Birchover.

The Nine Ladies Stone Circle and their King Stone aren’t built on the scale of Stonehenge – coming up to knee level and a handy picnic perch- which can come as a bit of a surprise to those of us more used to stone circles such as Long Meg and her Daughters in Cumbria.  Essentially according to legend the ladies were dancing to the sound of fiddle music on a Sunday.  They and their fiddler were turned to stone in punishment.  The King Stone returns to life once a year and continues to play his fiddle.

There are several petrification legends associated with standing stones.  The Rollright Stones  in Oxfordshire began life as a king and his knights; three standing stones at Moelfre  ended up that way for working on a Sunday.  Long Meg and the stone circle at Little Salkeld were apparently a coven of witches who were turned to stone to name but three.  Being turned to stone for one reason or another is a common legend associated with many other stone circles in the United Kingdom.  Many of them involve singing and dancing followed by Divine punishment.

It has been suggested that the folklore is a social memory of earlier times when there was singing and dancing involved with stone circles.  It has also been suggested that the legends sprang up when the Church became more assertive in the British Isles, particularly at the point where protestantism was involved in the sixteenth century.  However, it has also been stated that since there is very little reference in sixteenth and seventeenth century sermons to dancers being petrified that the stories may very well have been in situ since medieval times.

Hutton, Ronald. The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy. Oxford, UK: B. Blackwell, 1991

2 thoughts on “Nine ladies dancing

  1. i did a talk in Kendal college as invited speaker on this subject of stones in Cumbria and used Log Meg and Arthur round table near Penrith as once a stone was there. The Roll Rights I first became interested in in 1987 working in Oxford and was taken out to see them with a girl from Uni who had worked on these stones for her paper. One great day there photoing and detailing the land around these stones below road level. Good article thank you worth a read whilst break in work making ready for Christmas. Hens still need my help as cant train them to clean out out beds. Have a great Christmas and happy new year to you and yours.

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