The Old Stones of Elmet by Paul Bennett

The Old Stones of Elmet cover

Well, this one I can’t review, properly speaking. I edited and designed the bugger.

This morning I got a package from the irrepressible Paul Bennett, oop North in Calderdale, Yorkshire. It contained his much-delayed opus, The Old Stones of Elmet, the subtitle of which sums it up well: "A total guide to the archaeology, folklore & geomancy of the ritual stone sites in an old Yorkshire kingdom". It was my final major publishing project before leaving Leeds five years ago.

Paul’s been constantly exploring the mysteries of sacred sites, especially around his native West Yorkshire, since he was a young lad, collecting UFO reports door-to-door. Despite his voluminous research notes, he’d only published a few minor works, so after a few years of getting to know the DIY DTP game myself and roaming the moors with Paul, I leapt at the chance to act as a catalyst for the book that Paul’s always been working towards. A mutant hybrid of a party animal, Taoist mystic and obsessive scholar, Paul’s reference points and expressions will no doubt send fussy academics and shamanism-shy pedants running for cover in less passionate tomes. But his hands-on knowledge of truly engaged interaction with these ancient foci for communion with geological and biospheric energies is impeccable, not to mention his exhaustive research into the odd byways of local history and lore.

Numerous anecdotes of "strange occurrences" pepper the large gazetteer section of this book, conveying well why the power spots in this region served to inspire a range of "names" in modern magick, such as Ray Sherwin, Dave Lee and Phil Hine. A couple of essays on earth mysteries and archaic sprirituality complement the guide to sites, and the book also includes an index of folklore motifs, a glossary, a copious bibliography, and my first and only attempt at a proper index. We just hated refrence-type books like this without an index too much to not put one in here. Oh, and the grand old man of popular British archaeology, Aubrey Burl, was kind (and impressed) enough to write a glowing foreword.

Publishers Capall Bann unfortunately took four fucking years to get this book off the ground, and many of the bitmap images are horribly pixellated. But, it’s out, at last. You can order it straight from Capall Bann, or get a probably more reliable service from

A favour I did for Paul that probably ranks with editing his book as something that gratifies me greatly, was introducing him to the inimitable Calvin & Hobbes—and The Old Stones of Elmet probably distinguishes itself by, among other things, listing them in the "recommended reading" section. This comic strip was the one redeeming feature of growing up with parents who bought the Daily Express. I recently signed up to get a strip-a-day in my inbox, and it’s been great to have them in my daily life again.

I just had to bring your attention to this fantastic Calvin & Hobbes website, whose webmaster just kindly upgraded the navigation to work in Mozilla Firefox. It’s even got a fully-searchable database of all the strips. Wow.

I could also mention Douglas Ord’s intriguing site, Lear’s Shadow. A month or so ago I got inadvertently sucked into a vortex of synchronicities and fascination with the Columbine school shootings, involving a gleeful discovery of Rammstein, becoming suddenly aware that Gus Van Sant’s excellent new film was about school shootings, and being fascinated by some of the associations that Douglas Ord reveals in his aforementioned site. I might write more about this sometime, but for now I’ll just let you know about his slightly disturbing, if sometimes overstretched comparisons between Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold and the lovable Calvin & Hobbes.

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