By Daniel Giamario
Ramblings, Reflections and Ruminations
I recently received the sad news that Margaret Curtis, whom I think of as the “Keeper” of the standing stones of Callanish (Callanais) on the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis, had passed on March 26th. I am not the only one who has recognized her unique role and contribution over many decades. Some have deemed her the “Queen” of Callanish and its Guardian. Others have dubbed her its “High Priestess”. All titles are equally true. Margaret lived in the vicinity of the stone circles of Callanish since 1973, dedicating her life to learning everything she could about this remarkable and ubiquitous ancient site, much of it 6,000 years old. She was 80 years of age this spring when she died.
I witnessed a shift in Margaret over the years I knew her. When she was first living in the village of Callanish, she was very much a rational scientist, certainly not a “New Ager”. It was as if each year revealed to her greater and greater wonders and mystery to do with the site. On many occasions she was able to sense into where additional stone circles remained covered, including locating a key missing stone buried in the peat at Callanish I.
The Standing Stones of Callanish
Callanish is a massive ancient sacred landscape consisting of more than 20 separate locations woven together for a variety of ceremonial purposes. Margaret quickly learned about the many ancient mythic stories about Callanish that still permeated the area. With each successive year she slowly, but surely, became more and more open to the old stories. As I see it, her objective and rational scientific biases were incrementally being overturned.
Margaret’s Contribution and Legacy
The two main mythic perspectives that came to dominate Margaret’s research are:
- A nearby mountain range was, for the ancients, the representation of the Great Mother Goddess. In Gaelic, she was known as the Cailleach, or “The Old Woman of the Moors”, or even more often, as the “Sleeping Beauty”. The stone circles were oriented in a variety of ways to her.
- Due to the latitude of this part of the Island of Lewis (58N10), when the Moon was at its Southern extreme declination every 19 years, it would be seen to literally skim the horizon, passing directly over the body of the Cailleach, and then continuing its passage along behind the stones at many of the sites. At one site, the Moon would set into what would visually appear to be the pregnant belly of the Cailleach.
Other aspects of her research included continuing the great work of Scottish archeoastronomer Alexander Thom. Margaret was able to validate Thom’s discovery of the measurement unit known as the megalithic yard. She also discovered previously unknown solar alignments, as well as Minor Lunar Standstill back-sites. In concert with her ever expanding openness to the ancient themes of a Mother Goddess, she remained a diligent scientist, carefully documenting all her discoveries. She was ably assisted by her second husband, the amazing Ron Curtis, whom I had the pleasure of meeting on numerous occasions. Ron and Margaret married in 1989. He died, quite unexpectedly and tragically in 2008.
I first experienced the standing stones of Callanish in the summer of 1984, when my friend, Howard Hansen, and I explored Scotland. This was a time before the main site (known as Callanish I) was enclosed by a fence. We actually spent the night in the center of the circle. It was that night that we encountered a group of Scottish witches in full regalia conducting a Llamas ceremony. From them, I heard for the first time about the mythic event of the “Moon Walking on the Land”. Soon after, I met Margaret Curtis for the first time. We learned that the Moon would next walk on the land at a Major Lunar Standstill in June of 1987. Coinciding with the approach of the 1987 event known as the “Harmonic Convergence”, I was hired to co-facilitate a sacred journey to Scotland and England. I was able to convince the organizer to be at Callanish for the Full Moon closest to the Summer Solstice, when the most Southern Moon would skim the horizon. We would see first-hand if, indeed, the Moon would “walk on the land”. I coordinated with Margaret to be our guide. Our main intention was to see if the old stories were true. We soon discovered that they are! Those events will be detailed in future seminars that Gemini Brett and I will conduct later this year, as the next standstill season approaches.
Since that first visit in 1984, I have been back to my beloved Callanish more than a dozen times, often with groups of Shamanic Astrologers, and many times with Anyaa McAndrew and our Renaissance of the Sacred groups. Each visit always included spending time with Margaret and learning from her, often as a guest facilitator for our groups.
With Gratitude: Honouring Margaret’s Legacy
I consider Margaret to be one of my most important teachers. The experiences with her, and with the Callanish sacred landscape, as well as with the Lunar Standstill itself, have been foundational to the development of our school, and of the astrological paradigm that we use. I had hoped that Margaret and I would have been able to experience three lunar standstills together (1987, 2006, and 2024-2025). I intend to be there, and to carry on her work in any way I can.
Included with this article is Margaret’s natal chart, with no known birth time. Also I found it most interesting that on the day she died, March 26th, 2022, the Moon, in Capricorn, was substantially out-of-bounds at -26S13 declination, a very low Southern Moon! Margaret, to the end, as a Scorpio/Gemini blend, remained an unassimilated eccentric, and a maverick genius. She was largely unrecognized by the mainstream, yet I believe her contributions to be immense. I will always continue to honor her work and legacy.
To my surprise, I did discover that the Guardian offered a lengthy obituary that did honor her in a good way. The link is here: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2022/apr/07/margaret-curtis-obituary. I also discovered another fine article honoring her: https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/23922-passing-of-queen-of-callanish
Here is a partial list of her many publications. To note, almost everything she put out to the world was self-published. A potential source is Waterstones in the UK. I am fortunate to have all of her publications.
Callanish Stones, Moon and Sacred Landscape
Callanish Stones, Moon and Sacred Landscape, 2009 Extrapolation
Celebrations in Stone of the Sun’s annual Cycle at Callanish
The Stones around Callanish
With editorial and photo submission assistance by Beau Taylor.