Long Meg and her Daughters 9x12 - watercolor/digital
Here, at one of the largest prehistoric stone circles, the legend tells
that a local witch and her coven were turned to stone. Long Meg herself
is a single twelve-foot narrow slip of sandstone, standing just outside
the ring of her 59 daughters - though reports indicate there may have
originally been as many as 77 stones.
Though some say “Long Meg” was Meg of Meldon - an early seventeenth
century witch - she is more likely to have got her name from the saying
“As long as Meg of Westminster,” which applied to any particularly tall
person. The biographical tract of this particular Meg tells that she was
a giantess, and of her similarly large gravestone, but the author, who
is of the opinion that no woman would be put to rest among the monks of
Westminster, suggests that the gravestone actually marks a mass grave of
monks who died in a year of plague.
However that suggestion
might be, several legends sprang up accounting for Long Meg as a victim
of petrifaction. Another historian wrote in 1698 that the “sisters” of
“Great Mag” solicited her to an unlawful love by enchantment, and were
turned with her to stone. Further texts from the eighteenth century add
little else to the story apart from the association with witches.
Besides the petrifaction legend, there was a tradition that these were
“countless stones,” much like Stonehenge. It was also dangerous to
interfere with the stones - if a piece were broken off Meg, she was said
to bleed. When crews tried to blast the circle away in 1790, such a
tempest arose that workmen fled in fear. Similar dangers are said to
spring up at the desecration of barrows.