After doing some research I discovered that the island containing the loch is called Eilean Subhain and is the largest island on Loch Maree, but even more intriguing seemed to me the island called Isle Maree, an ancient burial ground going back to the time of the druids and containing a wishing tree and a holy well, so off I headed up North to investigate!
The hotel on the edge of the loch was closed, a string of bad luck had seen a previous manager commit suicide (he was buried on Isle Maree) and the current manager having to close for the whole year due to numerous burst pipes caused by last year's severe winter. Despite this the manager still seemed like a jolly chap and offered to take me over to the islands in his boat.
We passed Eilean Subhain on our left, barren looking and dotted with pines, and then Isle Maree came into view ahead, a lush oasis of thick oaks said to have been planted there by the druids. In any case the island is unique, the Scots pines that cover the other islands are absent here, replaced by oak, holly and other hardwoods.
He dropped me off on Isle Maree, and left me stranded there for few hours on this tiny remote island in the middle of a huge loch.
The island cannot be more than 100 metres across and seemed to be composed entirely of small rounded stones. Man made perhaps? Or the remains of a glacial moraine? Several theories have been put forward but none have satisfactorily explained this strange little island.
I headed off on a small track that led up from the beach and soon came to the remains of the famous money tree, studded with old coins left there by countless pilgrims from times gone by, including Queen Victoria herself!
Near the money tree was said to lie the holy well, famous for curing lunacy, but the well had long ago been filled in and there was now no trace of it at all. Higher up on the island, to my left, I could make out some gravestones and so went over to investigate and soon came to a low stone wall which formed a complete a circle, around 20 metres across. This was the famous 'druid' circle which had lain here since ancient times, but was more likely built by the Picts for ritual purposes.
I walked around the edge of the circle, not wanting to enter yet. Isle Maree had seemed like a magical place when viewed from the outside, but now that I was in the heart of island it seemed like a rather forbidding place. I avoided entering the circle for a while, but finding nothing more of interest on the island I decided to enter.
I came first to the two Viking graves, slabs of stone set into the ground and carved with ancient Celtic crosses in a very simple style. The story of their death is a tragic one. The first grave belongs to Olaf, who killed himself when he thought that his truelove had died. The second grave belongs to his lover, who killed herself when she realised what she had done, pretending to be dead to test her hero's love.
I thought that I had come to this island to find the holy well, but being able to find absolutely no trace of it left me wondering why I was here. For some reason I felt compelled to lie down on top of Olaf's grave slab and meditate there.
I felt Olaf's spirit enter me. Was he looking for his lost love? No, he seemed to be more concerned about a pot of gold he had buried and not been able to retrieve before he died! Well so much for legends...
Even in the spirit world this island seemed grey and forbidding, a place of sacrifice. I felt my spirit rise up into the sky, ascending higher and higher. I looked down upon the loch and saw Isle Maree, a grey and ghostly speck with it's stone circle in the centre looking like a sun-wheel. I then looked across and saw the large island of Eilean Subhain, also looking ghostly in the twilight, but within it a could see a small glowing island of glittering golden light! Yes, that's where I had to go, that's what had drawn me here! I had become too distracted by myths and legends of Isle Maree!
Suddenly I felt a spear pierce me! I was back in my body and saw bull-headed man standing over me thrusting a spear into my belly! I cast him away and placed protections around myself, and then rose up from the slab a bit shocked and shaken.
Is this why this island was famous until the 17th century for its bull sacrifices? Were they sacrificing to this demon? I later discovered that highlanders were known for wearing bull skins over their heads when performing rituals, had I perhaps met the spirit of one of these ancient shamans who still protected the island?
I took a final wander around the shores of the island while I waited for the boatman to return, and gazed across at the remote wooded hillsides on the Northern shore of Loch Maree.
If there was another channel running east-west then the circle would indeed form the sunwheel that I had seen in my vision.
The boatman took me over the short hop to Eilean Subhain and dropped me off in a sheltered bay on the Northern shore of the island, my plan being to trek across the island, investigate the loch, and then meet the boatman later in the evening on the southern shore of the island.
I heard the boatman's engine chug away into the distance and was then left in the perfect isolation of this rugged landscape.
The ground was rough and boggy as I made my way in a southerly direction towards where I believed the small loch to lie.
I came to a rise in the land and suddenly there it was, a lake where no lake ought to be, not Loch Maree, but a hidden nameless loch secreted away on this small island.
But before I could stop to admire the view I noticed movement in the water. An otter! And he had just caught a fish!
He carried the fish onto a tiny island within the loch and disappeared into the heather, but I could hear him crunching away on his fish, crunch, crunch, crunch! I crept up as close as I could to the island, some instinct led to me to exactly the right spot where I crouched down with my camera at the ready, waiting for him to emerge. He did not disappoint me...
It's not often you can get one over on an otter! I could have sat and watched him all day, but I was here for a reason. The otter swam off to the other side of the lake, hunting for more fish, while I stood up and stared plodding around the edge. The island where the otter had eaten his fish looked like a likely place, but the boatman had told me that the fairy queen's island could be waded to, and the water to this island was too deep. There was another island near the opposite shore of the lake, so off I plodded, hoping to make it around to the far side.
The heather and grasses were full of a multitude of insects, especially many brightly coloured dragonflies that seemed so tame I could actually walk right up to them and stroke their wings!
After trekking over the rough ground I finally made it to a stand of tall pines that I had seen from the opposite shore, and then the final stretch over some very boggy terrain that threatened to suck my shoes off until I made it to the small sound that separated the tiny island from the shore.
It was time to take off my boots and start wading! So finally, without too much difficulty I made it across onto the rough heather that covered this tiny knoll. So was this it? Was this the fairy queen's island?
I sat and meditated upon the top of the top of the island and instantly felt the flutter of huge dragonfly wings by my side. The faerie queen had landed! She stood there with flowing golden hair and flowing orange dress, and summoned forth a swarm of insects from the wilderness all around! Glittering dragonflies, butterflies, bees and beetles of all shapes, sizes and colours. The insects coalesced around her and formed into a whirlwind. They then spread out all over the land carrying with them a magical energy.
As I watched the vision words came forth spontaneously from my lips:
I had watched as a golden portal opened in the sky above me, and golden winged beings has stepped down through it onto the surface of the lake, forming a glowing line of bright celestial winged beings spread out right across the lake, wings spread, gazing skywards...
What did it all mean? Who were the shining ones? I pondered this as I waded back from the island, put on my boots, and carried on across country towards another lake, further to the south.
I walked through some odd, almost prehistoric looking terrain until I came to the second lake, which if anything looked even more magical than the first!
I had some time to kill before the boatman arrived so I lay there on a spit of grass and tried to meditate some more. I thought about what had drawn me here. Was I activating these nature spirits, preparing them for a time soon to come when they could repopulate the land? It certainly seemed that way. But who were the shining ones? They seemed like they came from another planet or another dimension.
When I got back I did some research on the shining ones, but there were no simple answers. It could refer to the sons of Horus, Hindu devas or Roman and Celtic solar deities. I dug around for a while and finally came up with an article that seemed to resonate somehow, it describes the "Mighty Shining Ones" as the Elohim of the Hebrew bible, the ancient gods and teachers of mankind. The article is absolutely fascinating and well worth a read: http://www.gnosticliberationfront.com/The%20Cosmic%20Battle.htm
The section on the Elohim begins:
The Hebrew word Elohim is translated as ‘God’ in the Old Testament scriptures to give the misleading impression that it is a single form, when in actuality, it is a word in the plural form. Elohim being the plural of Elyon. The word Elohim is used 2,250 times in the Hebrew Bible, even to describe idols. The Elohim are a class of beings, more accurately described as the Mighty Shining Ones, equivalent to the Neteru (Ancient Ones) of Egypt and the Sumerian Anunnaqi (“those who Anu sent down to Earth”) in the Enuma Elish.
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