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Piety and Impropriety: Harold’s Stones revisited.

Pi-e-ty/ˈpī-itē/Noun: The quality of being religious or reverent.

It seems that (according to Wikipedia) Piety can be either genuine, in that it springs from spiritual piety, or false, in that it is an attempt to exhibit the signs of piety for their own sake, or for some other reason, (such as propitiation or public esteem).

It doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that whoever recently deposited the nasty little straw-stuffed goddess-cum-teddy on top of this 15-foot-high standing stone at Harold’s Stones, Gwent, was guilty of false piety.

Forensic examination of the scene suggests they must have expended quite a lot of effort in spoiling other people’s experience of the place. It might have taken ten or more attempts to throw the thing up and get it to stay. Or maybe they used a ladder. Or climbed on the shoulders of a fellow iffyofferer. Or worse (and most likely) clambered up the sloping side of the stone.

Whichever. May their deity decline their dippy donation.

On the other hand, less than a mile from Harold’s Stones in Trellech village can be seen this on the base of a sundial inside the church of St Nicholas…

Which means that at Trellech there has been a representation of a pagan “temple” tolerated and celebrated in a Christian place since 1689 (although admittedly the original stonemasons would have thought the stones dated to the Saxon king, Harold, not to pagan times).

In addition, there’s no doubt at all that the maker of this hassock knew very well that the Three Stones are from pagan times. Good for them. Pious people, sufficiently mature and comfortable in their beliefs to leave room for respect for the perceptions of others.

All in all it’s tempting to think that some modern pagans, particularly the literati, far from saying modern Christians are doctrinaire and inflexible (as they often do) could do with taking lessons from them. Who can possibly deny that  Pi·e·ty/ˈpī-itē/Noun doesn’t mean chucking straw-stuffed goddess-cum-teddies on top of scheduled monuments but that it does come from having a bit of awareness of the perceptions of others?


February 2023

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