Cairns and stacked rocks

Potential power quest cairns (

Potential power quest cairns (

Cairns and Stacked Rocks
By Thomas Baurley

The stacking of stones is a widespread cultural practice all around the world. You know it is a remnant of modern, historical, or prehistoric cultural manufacture because they were not placed there by nature. Most likely a “human” moved one stone atop another. They vary in size from one or two rocks or more stacked on top of each other in simplicity to complexity of mounds, cairns, pyramids, tombs, and massive megalithic complexes.

The meaning behind the practice varies between cultures and time periods throughout history. Archaeologists however, are only interested in those that are at least 50 years old (historical archaeology in America), 100 years old (Europe and other parts of the world), or prehistoric (hundreds to thousands of years in age). They can be field clearing piles, fence piles, burial mounds, markers, signifiers, monuments, spiritual tools, graves, food stores, game drives, rock alignments, power quest markers, altars, shrines, prayer seats, hearths, circles, and/or memorials. Their uses can vary from remnants of field clearing for plowing, stabilizing fences, make walls, clearing or road construction, markers of a road trail or path, survey markers, memorial, burial, vision quest marker, or part of something bigger like a structure, burial, tomb, underground chamber, prayer seat, tipi ring, or offering to Gods, spirits, entities.

These commonly can be found along streams, creeks, lakes, springs, rivers, waterways, sea cliffs, beaches, in the desert, tundra, in uplands, on mountaintops, ridges, peaks, and hill tops. In underpopulated areas they can represent emergency location points. North American trail markers are often called “ducks” or “duckies” because they have a “beak” that points in the direction of the route. Coastal cairns or “sea markers” are common in the northern latitudes can indicate navigation marking and sometimes are notated on navigation charts. Sometimes these are painted and are visible from off shore. This is a common practice in Iceland, Greenland, Canada, and Scandinavia.

Cairns / stacked rocks (

Cairns / stacked rocks (


Often the practice of stacking rocks is used to mark a trail, path, or road. Many say without these markings, it is often hard to follow a laid out trail, especially in areas that receive deep snowfall. When modern cairn builders place their “art” or message of ego along a trail they can be causing harm, hiding the true trail markers and if placed in a wrong place can lead a hiker astray or get them lost. Original use is often as a route marker and it’s important to preserve that integrity. Modern application of this practice can not only lead people astray but disrupt cultural studies, archaeology, geology, and the environment. Moving stones can upset plant life, insect habitats, as well as homes of lizards, rats, mice, and other creatures.

Other times these rock stacks have spiritual or religious purpose. These are sometimes offerings to the little people, fairies, faeries, nature spirits, Saints, entities, or God/desses. Sometimes these are arranged for a vision quest, other times as a prayer seat, or part of a stone circle. Many times if found around rivers, streams, creeks, or springs – they are offerings to the nature spirits, water spirits, nymphs, naiads, and/or dryads. Sometimes these are markers for portals, vortexes, gateways between worlds, lei lines, or places of spiritual importance. They honor spirits, Deities, Ancestors, or the Dead.

Sometimes these stacked rocks are considered “art”, a meditative exercise, or something someone does out of boredom.

Prince Cian making Cairns (

Prince Cian making Cairns

In spiritual “new age” hotspots, modern creations of these “cairns” or “rock stacks” are actually quite problematic because they have become invasive upon the landscape, blocking access or movement. In addition, modern creations of them destroy, hide, or change importance of historical or prehistoric ones that existed before. This is a similar impact between modern graffiti and rock art. This has become a major problem in places like Sedona Arizona; Telluride, Colorado; Arches National Park, Utah.

Prehistoric use

Aborigines, Natives, Tribes, and Original Peoples have utilized cairns and rock stacks all over the world. Mostly the intent was as a “marker”. In the Americas, various tribes such as the Paiutes as well as early Pioneers left them to mark important trails or historic roads. The Inuksuk practice used by the Inuit, Inupiat, Kalaallit, Yupik, and other Arctic aborigines in North America ranging from Alaska to Greenland to Iceland are markers for “way finding” and to locate caches of food, supplies, and other goods.

Cairns and rock stacks have been used prehistorically for hunting, defense, burials, ceremonial structures, astronomical structures or markers. (more…)

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Yule Trees / Christmas Trees

Note: This article is in process of being written, a work in progress. Please check back soon.

Traditional dates for the Yule tree / Christmas Tree

In this ecological day and age, its best for the environment to use a living tree or a fake tree, rather than killing a tree for decoration – its the most humane method. If you have the ability to replant a tree, a live tree is the most magical and best to replant before Oimelc. If you are going to harvest a tree, here is a good ritual blessing page on the topic:

Yule Trees/evergreen decorations:

Traditionally go up on the cross quarter between Samhain (Nov 7) and Winter Solstice (Dec 21) (or whenever astrological dates dictate is the midpoint between those dates). Traditionally taken down by no later than Oimelc or Candlemas (traditionally Feb 2). Other traditions suggest not putting them up until Yule Eve (Dec 20th) and take it down on Candlemas eve (Feb 1st/2nd) and burn on the balefire for Candlemas/Oimelc rite.

Christmas Trees/evergreen decorations:

Traditionally Xmas trees are not brought into the house or decorated until December 24th or Christmas Eve or in the traditions celebrating Xmas Eve rather than December 23rd – the first day of Christmas and then removed the day after January 5th (Twelfth Night) – to have a tree up before or after these dates was considered bad luck. Some set up the tree at the beginning af Advent, while families in North America tend to set up the tree as early as a week prior to American Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday of November) and Xmas decorations appear as early as the day after Halloween. Some don’t put up the trees until 2nd week of December and leave it up to Dcember 6th, while traditionally put up on December 24th and taken down by January 7th and in Roman Catholic homes the tree is kept up until February 2nd (Candlemas). Italy and Argentina as well as most Latin American countries, the tree is put up on December 8th (Immaculate conception date) and left up until January 6th. Earliest traditional lore and superstitions state it is a bad sign if Christmas greenery is not removed by Candlemas Eve (February 2). Modern lore: Take the Xmas tree down before New Years Eve to prevent dragging all your baggage and bad luck from one year into the other.