A long time ago in a land far away, I journeyed to small hidden church in the Scottish countryside. There I found a sacred grotto, a place where the goddess still dances in the hills above St. Andrews and the sea.
I wrote about the experience for Motherhouse of the Goddess a few years ago, trying to describe the feeling of the place and the absolute wonder that ancient pagan traditions really do continue right along side modern churches, the wonder that a place can retain its archaic sacredness despite thirteen hundred years of Christianity, the advent of science, the television, modernity and moonwalking. The absolute wonder that I can go there and leave an offering, which links me to eons past while anchoring me solidly in the present.
This trip to Dunino was different than the first. I was different. 23 years had passed, and here I was again with my children and my husband. It was a cold day in January, just after the new year, and the Kinaldy Burn behind the church was running high with recent rain. I remembered it in sunny June, a dry trickle between the rocks, with high grasses and murmering leaves. It showed itself more starkly this time, the water reflecting the gray of the sky above as it thundered past.
Modern Dunino is farmland with a parish church. To get to the grotto, you must first find the church.
We needed mud proof boots, wooly layers and gloves against the raw cold as we traipsed behind the church to find the sacred rocks on the burn. It was slippery and steeply down hill, and suddenly the burn opened up around us. We had to shout over its signing thunderous din and grab onto tree branches to avoid slipping into the water.
Reaching the pool at the top was muddy but exhilarating. And the view down was extraordinary. The burn in full spate, the trees bare but moving in the wind, and the Scottish gray relieved by the colorful offerings left by others before us.
We left the shrine quietly. As we passed the church, I vaulted over the fence into the graveyard wondering at the age of the stones and the slabs. I had heard that the church yard at Dunino holds a Pictish standing stone, but I had never found it before. The place had one last gift for me, because suddenly there was the Pictish stone, unmistakably before me. An ancient survivor, weather smooth with faint inscrutable markings, and a concave top filled with money. Coins in all currencies attested to the continued draw of the place, and as we added our own shiny 50 pence, my son asked what happens to all the money? I laughed and told him nothing, it stays here for the goddess, because who would dare to take it?