Summer Solstice, Stone and Corn, my kind of day-out.

Stones surrounded by 'believers' - my kinda folk !

Avebury sarsen surrounded by people who 'believe', I find myself more on their side of the divide these days, most of what they say and do has a resonance through time.

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge and Avebury, ‘the’ place to be.

Now many of my friends will not be at all suprised to discover that I saw the sunrise on June 21st through the portico of Stonehenge.  Along with just a couple of thousand other ‘new agers’.  Those who don’t know me so well may be somewhat suprised, after all, to many, such ‘activity’ is still in the realms of the ‘whacky’ or ‘hippy’.  Well, maybe, but in this day and age more and more people are beginning to question ‘what on earth’ we are doing, and whether there is something to be learned from our ancestors.

I’m lacking any opinion on any debate relating to the ‘type’ of people who attend such gatherings. In truth, ‘all sorts’ are there, BMW’s parked alongside tatty Transit vans – it is however noticeable that few, these days, are adorned with either stickers of Whales or ‘Ban the Bomb’ logos – furthermore ‘brown rice and sandles’ are no longer de-rigeur.  I feel totally comfortable with and alongside these folk, they vibrate on my frequency, ok, most of them have more hair and a hundred years still to live, but I’m happy to be alongside them.  No ‘isms’ exist, no agendas impinge, status ? what’s that.  Believe me, this is the greatest ‘chill-out’ you’ll get – and its free.

However, I guess I differ from most of the others there in a number of ways.  Firstly, I probably know more than most about the history of the place and its place in the landscape of that part of Wiltshire (there are many many people – some of whom would have been there – who know a whole lot more about the Henge and its environs than I do).  Its not actually as old as many think it is –  begun in around 1800 BC (at the end of the Neolithic period) and finally completed – pretty much in the form we see it today – by about 1400 BC (the end of the Early Bronze Age)  though it ‘looks’ older.  When you realise what was happening in the ‘Cradle of Civilization’, Egypt and South America, you may think we were a bit behind. Oh yes, as for the ‘Welsh connection’ – the Bluestones of the Presceli hills in Pembrokeshire – I’m afraid I agree with Dr. Brian John (see his ‘The Bluestone Enigma’, isbn 98-0-905559-89-6), they got there by the glacial route not by hundreds of blokes pulling them !   Secondly, I work with stone and in the natural world.

When you work day in day out with nature, where the weather forecast IS meaningful, where all the vagaries of light and shade play out before your very eyes, edifices like Stonehenge and Avebury have a resonance lost on the city dweller.  The very act of their construction astounds, the sheer effort of a community to work co-operatively (we could learn from that alone !) to gather and move the huge stones and then create these mathematically accurate structures beggars belief.  But there is meaning in these constructions, and those who gather at significant moments in the annual cycle of sun, moon and stars, understand that, even if they haven’t yet agreed on exactly that meaning.  Archaeologists, for the most part, scoff at or ignore the ‘spiritual’,  the ‘pagan’ (how we  Christians love to demean other’s beliefs), the ritualistic elements absolutely inherent in these monuments.  Inherent because they represent the very ‘soul’ of those lost communities, their beliefs, their traditions and their ritual.  Moreover, in a people who began to farm, the recognition of the significance of the seasons, of the power of stars and sun and moon to influence their food production and, maybe, their own persona or actions, was necessary and absolute.  It is in this that I find a commonality, an understanding and so my pilgrimage is about the history, the people and the stones.  I have my own beliefs, my way of ‘communing’ with nature; it’s not based on primitive belief or, necessarily, visitors or visions from beyond our world.

Sarsens at Avebury - the Northern Inner circle

Avebury is even more mind blowing - to me anyway - than the Henge. These massive stones in the Northern Inner Circle formed part of the central Cove.

Avebury is a regular place of ‘pilgrimmage’ for me.  It is a sanctuary where I can -normally at least – wander undisturbed amongst the massive stones and huge ditch and bank.  It annoys me that so many people I know have never heard of it let alone been there.  Its a ‘World Heritage Site’ where the rest of the world regularly turn up but few Welsh citizens.  Perhaps because its viewed as English history, of course, in reality, the people of Wiltshire in the Neolithic were the same, probably relatives of, those peoples  who inhabited places like the Llangorse basin where they built their huge ‘Cotswold / Severn’ type burial chambers as at Pen y Wrlod.

Immigrants have to sit ‘citizenship’ tests to get British residency, in my view British citizens should have to sit a test too, demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of  their culture and history, go to the World Heritage sites we have before getting a passport and jetting off around the world to visit sites elsewhere.  If you don’t know where we came from, it makes it awfully hard to know where we are going.  And  we so need to know where we are going, now more than ever.  That is what the thousands gathered at Stonehenge and Avebury understand, they have a certainty that the answers lie there, in that,  I differ.

Avebury, midday 6-21-2010

The thing with Avebury, its just so damn big ! I like the church peeking over the trees at this 'Pagan' shrine !

So, following an emotional Sunday afternoon with old friends well met in Cardiff, I got a whole spirit recharge on Monday.  Avebury has one seriously big down side as far as I am concerned. The National Trust.  This elitist middle class ‘tourism business’ appears throughout the realm purporting to ‘preserve our heritage’, in truth they preserve their view of colonial Empire, of ‘traditional landscape’ and, here, at a World Heritage site, they segregate and dictate ‘what’ and ‘how’ people view this hugely important historical site.  The outrageous charges to eat, to drink, to consume, what ‘they’ decide, the sterile dissemination of their view of history, the over- worked ‘do not ….’ cutting stencil in the woodwork shop, the staff recruitment policy which ensures only those who uphold the middle class virtues (surely only the staff buy the clothes they sell !) get work, oh, I shouldn’t go on and on about the National Trust – the National Mis-trust as far as I am concerned.  But, there is a remarkable aspect to the Avebury National Trust shop – it keeps up-to-date information on the other phenomena for which the area is increasingly famous – Crop Circles.

Now, if you are still reading, it may be you, like me, are intrigued by these enigmatic apparitions.  I guess most people (including those of you now NOT reading) think they are bunkum, just some results of nutters going out in the few hours of summer darkness with planks on a string, flattening corn into pretty patterns. Well, that’s possible I suppose, but, on the other hand, a few things bug me about that notion…..

Mayan deathmask, Silbury 2009

Steve Alexander's wonderful aerial shot of this crop circle near Silbury Hill in 2009, it was deemed to resemble the Mayan death mask -2012 and all that - and measured 400 ft in diameter. Strings and planks ? Mmm, methinks not.

You see, take this one for instance (photograph by Steve Alexander – see www.temporarytemples.co.uk) now I can’t imagine how mere mortals – however executed – managed to create such a perfect geometric pattern, at ground level, at night.  It would take Eusene Bolt nearly 12 seconds to run across it !  And there’s something else which niggles at the back of my mind.

How-come, with a world of ragingly sceptical press paparazzi just dying to ridicule the whole thing, no-one has ever been caught or shopped someone doing it for the mega bucks the press would pay.  Surely, given the short summer nights, someone, in the small area of Wiltshire where these things are predominently found, would, by now, have been caught out.

Its no coincidence of course that crop circles occur in this part of England.  Its a bread-basket of corn production  and  it is the centre of  Britain’s major prehistoric sites.  So, is it that the ‘hoaxers’ choose here – instead of the Midlands or East Anglia – because somehow crop circles are linked to the Neolithic long barrows at Kennet, Stonehenge, Avebury, the weird and wonderful Silbury Hill, the myriad of other landscape features of prehistory, and they therefore fit here ?

Silbury Hill

Silbury appears suddenly and mystically through the windscreen on the road westerwards from Marlborough to Devizes.

Or, dare we imagine, are the monuments here because the area has a connection with forces beyond our imagination.  An open mind, at the very least, seems appropriate.  We live in a world which dismisses that which we – through the eyes of science – cannot comprehend.  We ridicule or ostricise those and that which challenges or confounds.  How is it, in this land of  world reknown prehistoric monuments, we so readily accept that crop circles are nothing more than hoaxes perpetrated by prangsters with boards.

An incident some years ago when a land owner, a rather haughty lady on a large horse, galloped up to the edge of a crop circle in which a number of ‘believers’ were gathered, shouting at them to leave.  When they said they just wanted to feel the energy etc. she shouted that she didn’t believe all that rubbish.  Desperately she kicked the flanks of her mount trying to get him to enter the circle to challenge the youngsters, “You might not believe it but your horse does” they replied.  Animals -and digital cameras ! – definately do not like crop circles.  Farmers don’t either, but mainly because of the damage that visitors do to the remainder of the crop in getting to the circle.   ( I was amused on Monday to be asked to pay £1 to enter the field of a crop circle adjacent to Silbury – if you can’t beat them join them !).  Some time ago I found myself staying in a local hostelry favoured by farm workers.  Their view, collectively and unanimously, was that “no man has created that overnight”.

Barbury Castle 'Aztec Bird'

Aztec Bird at Barbury Castle another great shot by Steve Alexander

So here’s the thing, what are the alternatives ?  People with planks or forces beyond our limited human capacity.  No, much easier to go with the planks.  

But I can’t buy that totally, in one sense it would be so easy to accept the ‘hoax’  explanation, but it makes no sense to me.  I’m not making any alternative suggestions, I don’t have any, no, just an open mind.  An open mind and a conviction that in the whole Universe, Black holes and all, there is very likely other advanced life forms….. o.k. they probably don’t eat Corn Flakes !

Maybe I am more closely aligned with those with whom I held hands around the stones of Avebury than I care to accept.  Maybe, working and thinking in an ancient landscape, beliefs are formed outside the envelope of normally acceptable parameters.  Whatever the answer,  I am greatly refreshed by my Summer Soltice,  I am perfectly happy with the doubts and confusions such places and phenomena engender.  After all,  I have every day to contemplate the alternative notions.

Stones and Corn and an understanding of the Sun and its influence on us and our forefathers and the ways they chose to measure and mark its passage through the year,  satiates my need to feel some kinship for a short while.  Now, I’m happy to get back to the hills, a bit of sunny solitude, where I can reveal my lily white legs to no-one but Ra.

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One Response to “Summer Solstice, Stone and Corn, my kind of day-out.”

  1. celestial elf Says:

    Great Post, Thought you might like my King Arthur’s Summer Solstice at Stonehenge machinima film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wuNE5M01ME Bright Blessings, elf ~

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