I sat in one of these when I was ten at sleep-away camp in the Catskill Mountains. Remember thinking it was kind of cool yet primitive.... the counselors who sat amongst us recited old legends and ghost stories. A blazing fire roared directly in the center of this circle...
The Council Ring was the signature piece in many gardens designed by Jens Jensen, a mid-western garden designer/landscape architect in Chicago in the early to mid 1900's who collaborated with Frank Lloyd Wright and began what is referred to as the "Prairie School of landscape design." He developed the theory of the Council Ring for many public parks andprivate estates. A modern landscape designer that follows in his tradition is Darrell Morrison.
Jens Jensen saw these stone circles as emblematic of vernacular traditions evoking both the Viking past of his Danish ancestors (where village elders sat on stone boulders in a circle) and of Native American egalitarianism. The Council Ring in the woods about the fire was the original grouping of mankind. When so arranged, we get at once the ancient spirit of the woods--the democratic equalization of responsibility and of honor. Because a group sitting on these stones would be gathered in a continuous circle, there would be no head of the table, no hierarchy, but a simple affirmation that all members of the community are important to it. In concept, it is reminiscent of King Arthur’s Knights of the Roundtable.
Jensen typically located it in a woodland opening on the edge of a meadow or on a site with a view --it represented a sense of harmony within nature. As evidenced by my own early experience...council rings serve as a meeting place for conversation, song, dance, storytelling, poetry, and campfires, linking humanity and nature.
For more on this giant of American landscape design follow this link to the