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Menhir – a long stone

Seeing us in the Breton small town Lokmariaker, friends instructed: – The town, of course, is small, but you will not be bored around some dolmens and menhirs. There will be something to do. Indeed, literally at every step, it was enough to leave the city (and it ended before it started), we found huge stones: some stood like pillars, others were piled one on another, like gigantic tables, and from the third there were whole galleries . Over these centuries, if not millennia, legends have been made about these stones and, what is most funny, they are still composed, however, under the guise of nothing to confirm the alleged scientific hypotheses. For a long time it was believed that all these buildings (they are found in Western Europe, as well as in some places in the Caucasus) were built by the Celts, a stern and warlike people. These stones, they say, served as open-air temples, and the Druids, priests of the Celts, performed bloody sacrifices near them. Well, many still think so, although it has been proven that mysterious stones have been on the ground for more than three thousand years, and some even older – archaeologists call the date 4800 years BC. And many tribes, which we call the Celts, appeared much later – in the middle of the first millennium BC. Moreover, if we talk about those giant stones that are in the territory of Great Britain and France, then they were most likely actually used by the Druids, who replaced the more ancient priests unknown to us; because these buildings were built as pagan temples, and a holy place is never empty, and each new religion uses it in its own way. But here’s a bad luck: in the Caucasus, for example, there were no druids, where did such stones come from? However, in the fantastic and unscientific-popular books you can find the most unexpected explanations for everything. For example, that the Druids are aliens sent to us or miraculously surviving the inhabitants of Atlantis. If so, then everything is possible … But real scientists bravely admit to their own ignorance: we do not know, they say, as the peoples who built these structures were called, we do not know why and how these buildings were used. We can only set their age and assume that they are somehow related to cult activities. This is not as interesting as the hypotheses of romantics, pseudo-scholars, but at least honestly. In fact, no one even really knows how to properly name these ancient monuments. Standing stones are called menhirs. Those that look like tables are dolmens. Stones arranged in a circle, like English Stonehenge, – cromlechs. In any guidebook it is written that these words are Breton, the first means “long stone”, the second “table-stone”, and the third – “rounded place”. This is not the case. Yes, the word “menhir” came into French, and after him into all the others from Breton. But in the Breton language there is no such word, and the standing stone is designated by a completely different word “pelvan” – “pillar-stone”. How is that? The thing is this: when scientists, and simply lovers of antiquities, first became interested in these unusual structures (and it was still at the beginning of the XIX century), they decided to ask the local population what these strange things are called. The local population in French at that time expressed difficulty. So from the very beginning there were continuous misunderstandings and misunderstandings between the bearers of the local tradition and the researchers. Further more. Those “new legends” that romance writers created in their works about the druids and singers-bards who drew their inspiration from the shadow of the menhirs have nothing in common with those legends that Breton peasants passed from mouth to mouth. The peasants simply believed that these stones were magic. And how else, because at first they served the pagans, and when Christianity came to Brittany, the old stones did not disappear along with the old religion. The first priests were clever people and understood that since the locals had been accustomed to worshiping idol stones for more than one thousand years, it was stupid or even dangerous to try to convince them at once that it was a sin. And instead of fighting the pagan stones, the priests decided to “tame” them, as the priests of other religions had once done. The sources that have been considered magical in antiquity have become sacred. Most often it was enough to carve a cross on the top of the menhir. Sometimes even this was not done: just some old ceremony with a procession to the stone turned into a procession. And the wolves are fed and the sheep are whole. And what the people are telling about fairytales and legends about strange stones is so natural.

A special veneration has always been surrounded by an alley of dolmens, which is located in Upper Brittany, not far from the town of Essay – called “fairy stones”. It is said that in order to build it, the famous Merlin, by the power of his magic, transferred heavy stones from afar. Interestingly, archaeologists confirm with surprise: the multi-ton slabs of which the alley is folded really traveled many kilometers before they were installed near the Essay. But how did they do it? And who, and most importantly, why is it needed? According to another legend, this stone alley was built by fairies. Each of them had to bring three huge stones for construction at a time – one in each hand and one on the head. And the grief of that fairy who cannot hold even one stone. Dropping him to the ground, she would no longer be able to lift him and continue on his way – she had to go back and start all over again. They say that those who built this alley are not averse to joking with people even now. Many try to count how many stones there are in the building, and each names his own number — who is forty-two stones, who is forty-three, and who is forty-five. Even if the same person undertakes to recount them several times, he will not succeed – each time the number of stones will be different. “Do not joke with diabolical force,” they said in old times, “no one could ever count these stones. You can’t outwit the devil. ” But lovers believed that the fairies would help them choose their destiny. In the old days, boys and girls came to the alley of ancient stones on the night of the new moon. The young man went around to their right, and the girl – to the left. Having made a full circle, they met. If both counted the same number of stones, then their union should have been happy. If one of them counted one or two more stones, then the fate they faced was far from unclouded, but, in general, happy. Well, if the difference between the two numbers turned out to be too big, then about the wedding, according to beliefs, it was better not to think. However, the lovers did not stop even warnings fairies. There were legends about the menhirs too. In the old days they believed that treasures are stored under standing stones. For example, under the menhir near the city of Fougeres. It was said that every year, on the night of Christmas, a thrush flies to the stone and lifts it up, so you can see the louis on the ground. But if someone wants to take advantage of this moment and grab money, then a huge menhir will crush him with his weight. And then there are menhirs who, on Christmas night, while they hold Mass in the churches, go to the stream for a watering place and then return to their place. Woe to the one who will be on the road of stone, which rushes with great speed and can crush everything in its path. However, as the legends say, there are lovers to take the risk: after all, a treasure can easily be in a hole left by an excommunicated menhir. If you have time to pick it up while the menhirs are at a watering place, you will live comfortably the rest of your life. True, few managed to survive: an angry menhir usually chased a thief like an angry bull, and crushed the poor man into a cake. Of course, we were not going to search for treasures, especially since it was still a long time before Christmas. It was just curious to look at the stones, about which they talk and write so much. First of all, we went to a small open-air museum, where for a modest fee one could see the biggest menhir of Brittany – 20 meters in length, weighing about 280 tons. True, the giant did not stand, as befits a decent menhir, but lay on the ground, split into several parts. It happened, most likely in antiquity, and from what – no one knows. Perhaps, the ancient builders let down the giantomania, and they simply could not install the miracle stone and dropped it. Perhaps the stone still stood for some time, but then collapsed due to an earthquake. Locals claim that lightning broke it. Who knows how it really was? By the way, not all menhirs and dolmens are gigantic. Once, when I was still a student (I studied in the Breton city of Rennes), a funny incident happened to me. It was in the town of Pont Labbe, where a classmate, a native of this town, invited us with a friend. Among other attractions, he decided to show us a whole glade of dolmens. We amicably plunged into his old Ford and traveled a distance that we could well manage on foot. Coming out of the car, I began to look puzzled: where are the promised dolmens? “Why, here they are,” they prompted me, “look around.”

And indeed, the clearing was littered with dolmens. Small: the highest reached me to the knee. I involuntarily laughed, but my guide began to protect dwarf dolmens, arguing that they are no less ancient than those multimeter giants that they love to show so much to tourists. I did not deny this, but nevertheless the glade made a somewhat depressing impression on me and not at all because of the size of the dolmens. Moscow forest parks were remembered after the May holidays: beneath the dolmens wrapped candy wrappers, cigarette butts and a myriad of empty bottles, saying that it was not ritual libations that were regularly performed here. – Yes, – my guide sighed, – dolmens with menhirs do not protect us, do not protect … It’s nothing, you can remove it, but twenty or thirty years ago we saw lots of films about your virgin lands and also began to combine small fields , destroy mezhi … Under the hot hand and menhirs tucked: imagine, standing in the middle of the field menhir, like no one interferes. The list of monuments is not listed due to small stature. Of course, you can carefully drive around it every time on a tractor, only this requires time and attention and waste of fuel. What about savings? So they uprooted the menhirs, about which scientists did not hear. How many of these stones are gone, no one knows. Big menhirs with dolmens are really lucky. They are heavily guarded by the state. In Lokmariakera close to them you will not approach; they are fenced off with ropes, and dozens of visitors roam in crowds along narrow paths, gazing right and left. Outside the city, however, there are underground galleries, which you can freely climb. Near each is a pointer and a panel explaining the history of the monument in four languages: French, Breton, English and German. The gallery in Kerere, at Cape Kerpenhir, about two kilometers from Lokmariaker, seemed the most beautiful to me. We went there early in the morning to enjoy the beauty of the ancient monument, without encountering foreheads with our own kind. From the outside, the view is not so hot: stone slabs on the top of a small hill, a kind of hole, at the entrance to which a small, slightly taller than a man, is a menhir. Get down to the gallery. It smells of salt and dampness – no wonder, because the sea is very close. It is necessary to go on all fours: for several thousand years huge plates managed to thoroughly grow into the ground. Although, most likely, initially the vaults of the gallery were not very high; people were much less: remember at least knightly armor in museums – not every thirteen-year-old boy will fit into them. What can we say about people five thousand years ago! They, probably, such galleries seemed high and spacious. Anyway, but we, people of the twentieth century, have to keep our heads. In full growth, you can straighten up only at the end of the gallery, in a small hall. And if the growth you have is not above average. On the panel, installed nearby, the plan of the gallery is drawn and two plates are marked, on which mysterious drawings are carved. However, it is impossible to see them; darkness reigns in the gallery, and only occasionally in some places through the gap between the ceiling slabs a ray of sun breaks through. You have to touch your way through, which makes the gallery seem even more mysterious: it suddenly turns, just unexpectedly ends. However, I managed to find the plates with the drawings. Moreover, they managed to photograph them with a flash. And only when the photos were ready, we were able to see the message left to us by ancient artists.

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