My Blog List

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

"'She is so kind-hearted,' said the king; 'she might imagine it her duty to sacrifice herself to our people.'

I've spent the last few days writing down all that I've gathered up, about Woodhenge. I then indulged an old passion: that of making a web-site using nothing but Notepad and code.

There is a link to the site on the side bar, under the heading Chapters.

It isn't a chapter, but it is the workings out for a chapter!

What I'm supposed to be doing is putting Woodhenge into the context of the Persephone myth; this was easier to do before I started asking questions about Woodhenge. Before I started asking questions, I had a fairly clear version of the Neolithic and then the Bronze Age. Basically I was happy with Aubrey Burl's version of archeology. I'm also happy with the Campbell version of mythology as a kind of dialogue between man, his environment and his understanding of how things work; that a myth is a component of the instruction code required to live a civilised life with others.

I guess that will have to go, too!

I almost wish that I hadn't gone to the source, to read Maud Cunnington's excavation notes, or sat down -again using MS Paint, but then I gave up and used Flash- to check out Mr Burl's assertion that all the major finds: things such as chalk axes and enigmatic little objects sometimes called 'lamps', oh and human remains, were located in the eastern half of the henge.

Because they're not...

I mean I checked it out again and again, and it is easy to make mistakes...but the cremation in post hole C 14 and the bit of skull and teeth (C 13)  were in the north end.

In the south there were pig and ox bones and arrow heads plus a piece of chalk with a hole bored into it, flint hammer, fossil Echinus and beaker. Part of human femur...In the south-west, a fragment of beaker.

In the west there was a flint axe and in what Maud believed to be the Bronze Age layer, some skull.

I can't even trust Maud for answering the question: were there any arrow heads found there. Maud also excavated The Sanctuary and did not record any significant quantity of arrow heads there...but a recent dig found plenty of arrow heads that the excavators missed. Maud makes only one mention of arrow heads at Woodhenge.

It is nice to divide Woodhenge into an area for the dead and an area for the living, or say that each deposit is pointing to an astronomical event, or say that all female burials in Wessex face sun set and all male burials to the sun rise, but it doesn't seem to be true.

Or more honestly, no one really knows...especially not me.

My contention is that the Persephone myth inclined Sir Arthur Keith to interpret Woodhenge's central burial as female. Burials in ditches seem to be male, there is evidence for that (Stonehenge, the guy shot with arrows and Woodhenge where there are enough bones to be sure). But within henge banks women and children have been found. Woodhenge's bank had long been squashed down when Maud excavated, so some of the bones she found in what she called Romano-British layers (four foot deep) may once have been within the bank.

The Woodhenge child isn't the only mythic female burial in the center of a circle though.

The other central burial is at The Sanctuary. I don't know how central this burial was, I have never been there.

I wonder if people leave flowers and other offerings there as they do at Woodhenge?

All I know is that Aubrey Burl says "By the eastern most block of the inner ring there is a concrete marker". Here a hole was dug and a girl aged somewhere between thirteen and fifteen, was crammed inside it. Her head was turned to the south. Over her body were scattered burnt animal bones, and by her knees was placed a beaker pot, perhaps full of drink to sooth her ghost.

Then a sarcen stone was pulled upright, ramming earth, chalk and rubble over her.

In this way she was sealed underground...

After a few thousand years after, Maud Cunnington dug her up and after trying to glue her skull back together. Maud sent her bones on to Sir Arthur Keith. After he judged the bones to have belonged to a girl aged fifteen years, he sent her to London. Her bones are now, like the man they found at Durrington (and called a fine specimen of a man...) the man in the Woodhenge ditch and the guy squashed by a Sarcen at Avebury, all are preserved (albeit in cardboard boxes) in the National History museum.

There is another account of the Woodhenge excavation that I should track down; but as I keep saying, I don't now how far into this I want to go. For instance I didn't make a note of cattle horn remains in the post holes, because there are over one hundred post holes at Woodhenge and so I only made a note of post holes that contained the things Aubrey Burl had noted as significant; because I was using his theory as my starting point.

Cattle are very significant.
At the moment it is logical to believe that cattle were the preferred offering to the dead, there is plenty of correlations between tombs and cattle bone.

Myth is full of cattle, of girls making promises to bulls, folk tales too (folk tales are often half remembered myth embroidered into a new and sparkling tale) .

My personal favorite is "The Brown Bull of Norrowa".

Friday, 20 August 2010

The porcupine ground.

There are ways to get over self-doubt. Self doubt is a tether preventing my mind from letting go of the self-criticism. The self that doubts and criticises must have it's reasons for trying to stop me crossing over into work, but what these reasons actually are, I have no idea..

Music is my method of releasing the safety-lock, and opening the gate to the next place. But before I do that I will pay attention to the voice of doubt -my inner perfectionist.

The problem is I am not sure if I have finished Woodhenge or not. When I look at what I actually think, the answer is that no, I don't feel as if I've finished Woodhenge at all. I want to get a carbon date for the skeleton of the man found in the ditch, I would also like to return him to his original site of burial. Also I would like to write a small pamphlet for visitors saying exactly what was found where, and within which strata (Romano-British, Bronze Age, Neolithic). I'd also like, one afternoon, to place a temporary Cretan labyrinth, within and around the pillars and on another occasion I imagine it to be a dark and very cold evening with frost to reflect the light- place candles (within small sand bags) upon each pillar.

Just as ways to change how people interact with Woodhenge, and to make it 'live' for a few hours.

The porcupine ground (grass studied with concrete posts) presents Woodhenge as a mystery diagram with a sad little grave at its heart. I would like to give it some beauty.

Another aspect of the self-limiting inner voice is my statement: I don't do ambition. By that I mean I don't really allow myself to try too hard to get what I want for fear of failure...

None of that detracts from the focus of my study though, I am looking for the effects of the Persephone myth and the sacrificed girl (in this case the flint grave) is at the heart of the Persephone myth, as it is at the heart of Woodhenge; just I didn't expect to be so affected by that other finding: the man in the ditch. My nightmare vision of the inevitability -the implacable logic- of his sacrifice stays with me. I don't know if he was killed to stay as protector and guardian of that place or not. In my mind it happened that way.

Personal truth is not universal truth.

Yet the fact remains; the people who made Woodhenge buried him there, it was his grave.

So, no I've not finished with Woodhenge because I wish to respect both my dream and the wrong done to 'Woodhenge' of removing the bones.

I started out focusing upon the central burial because it seemed unique, but now I find that the patten of central female burial (with the older skeletons gender is discernible) and male within the outer ditch, as repeated at other, similar structures.

There are also other burials of children of a similar age to that of the Woodhenge child, and many other forgotten and mislaid people whose bones are preserved in biscuit tins and shoe boxes, and as a wealth of words recorded in papers buried now within university libraries.

I must ask myself where does Woodhenge begin or end for me?

Doubt!

When I started this project I must have realised that any kind of digging around: in old books, into what I actually believe, into comparing my theories with that of other people; could be an uncomfortable experience.

Right now self-doubt is creeping in, self doubt wrapped in logic.
I turn my ear to the Great Below and listen to what I'm saying to myself; it is true, I am working in a kind of vacuum, and it is true that there isn't a market or even a target audience for my style.

I continue with the criticism now aimed at my knowledge or lack of, I tell myself that I am not on any level qualified for this work. I'm an ex-radiographer who spent some years studying and practicing a religion...so what do I know.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Introduction -the mythic basis for a ritual.

In broad daylight, under the shelter of an English Sunday afternoon there is no trace of the darkness that flows beneath the common ground of everyday ordinariness.

The rivers of the mind: the rivers of fire and of forgetting, of weeping, of sorrow, the rivers of fire dipped glory and of promises kept and broken, all flow within and without me, through me and through you. Whilst the House of Ais, (Hades) The House Of Invisibility is as close to me as the air, and like the air hidden from view not by any lack of substance but hidden because it is invisible.

On this Sunday afternoon, the probability of a sudden descent is remote. On this Sunday afternoon the ground is acting in a perfectly English, correct kind of way.

What is more I live in a rational land where earthquakes are uncommon.

Does this make the sudden cracking apart, the rush of air into sealed off chambers even more terrifying, I wonder?

Yet even when all appears whole and safe and after the dust settles, there is no going back.

I should be careful.

Likewise terror is a balance. The terror Hades has for the upper world is shame, whilst the terror of Hades for us is the knowledge of death, as Walter Burkert, quoting from Pausanias, writes:
And yet what is under the earth remains loathsome, when the earth shakes during the battle of the Gods, Hades leaps from his throne and roars in terror lest the earth break open and his realm be exposed to light: ghastly, mouldering and an abomination; the putrefaction and teeming larvae. (Walter Burkert 2008. Greek Religion. P 196.
Under the moonstone pale, rain washed light of this Sunday afternoon the house of Ais can easily be dismissed as a metaphor and thus put safely away and forgotten about. But hand me a glass of wine, dress me in Gothic black, stroke the coils of rope over my skin and I step into the liminal space between truths and Hades, is no longer a symbol, he is my husband.

This duplicity of experience is a balance between the strictly rational, everyday logic that enables normality to reign and the less coherent and less verbal world of feeling. The mind balances sometimes precariously, other times confidently, over the wordless seas, oceans and rives that flow within. To create meaning, and to find a way to bridge the two world, we try in groups, and alone as individuals, to be in both places at once, to be whole.

In the company of trusted others, poetry, drugs, music and sex blend the edges of these two realms.

With strangers we enter into festivals and rituals. Public events function to connect those inner worlds of coherent logic and incoherent feeling.

An experience is an attempt to find unity, to lose the sense of separation between the thinking self and the feeling self. Sometimes a festival works, other times the festival feels hollow and fake. Sometimes using logic to change the outer form of the festival into something that should work, fails.

Logic and reason cannot open the door to the other place.

Many times an actual experience of a festival is quite boring, but the memory is changed by re-remembering through photographs and by re-telling the story of being there. This process of re-remembering can change the experience from the mundane, to the sublime. And I would contend that a false memory that makes one feel as if the experience was authentic, is authentic enough, in a Godless land.

Religious rituals have their origins within the human mind, not one of them is, in my opinion, God given. The understanding -the thinking part of the ritual-  is mythic, but the myth does not function in isolation, there must be action too.

The ritual and the myth function together to create a state of mind, and it is this that is all important.

A ritual is not an intellectual experience; in my own experience each moment of a private ritual may be done by rote with my mind elsewhere and yet, looking back simply doing the ritual and trusting the mechanism itself rather than myself is better than not doing it at all; for the moment is gone, and now the fantasy version is the only thing that remains.

Physically being there, seeing and doing even if there is no understanding of why or what is going on is enough to connect to the appropriate feeling of wonder or awe or camaraderie, even. This leads me to believe that a ritual resonates with inexplicit feelings; that a ritual acts as a bridge between deep anxieties and the everyday world.

Understanding of an experience, particularly a spiritual or religious ritual comes latter or not.

The most popular initiation ceremony of all time was dedicated to Persephone and took place at Eleusís. The initiation there granted the supplicants a promise -that after death their souls would not become zombie like shades condemned to stand in the drear and murky 'Babylonian' underworld, but instead, because they personally had experienced the presence of Persephone and Demeter, the after life would be wonderful in a beautiful place known as the Elysian Fields.

The Eleusinian Mysteries existed between 1500 BC and  392 AD. The Roman emperor Theodosius I closed the sanctuaries in 392 AD but The Mysteries continued for another four years until Alaric, King of the Goths, invaded Eleusís accompanied by Christians. Something of those mysteries was preserved by the Christians, but Persephone and Demeter were transfigured under the influence of a not so different myth.

I see signs of a continuity.

The Eleusinian Mysteries were not to be spoken of, to do so risked the state sanctioned death penalty. Hints at what happened have been found, but the anti-intellectual approach which could be seen as a result of no one being able to analyse or discuss what they had seen, does seem in itself to be at the heart of the success of the Mysteries. A clear understanding of the route taken to Eleusís, knowing all the reasons why there is a sacrifice of pigs, a logical sense of how it all works plus the historical foundations for the Persephone-Demeter myth is not important because the mythology central to the Eleusinian Mysteries is not fact.

As fact the Eleusinian drama-mystery is an encounter with child abuse, a grieving mother and the ultimate and not terribly satisfactory compromise all the players in this tale come to. The Persephone story as fact explains winter... One may as well enter a planetarium as attend an initiation rite if scientific knowledge is enough to free the heart from a fear of death.

From all I’ve said so far you would be right to think that I disagree with Plato when he wrote of the mystery religions: "Many are the narthex-bearers, but few are the bakchoi” (Phaed. 69c; cf. Orphicorum fragmenta 5, 235). See Walter Burkert, Ancient Mystery Cults (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987), p.34. Plato cannot accept, quite reasonably, that just participating by carrying this or that symbol and mumbling this or that magic spell or prayer could get any one into heaven, any more than wearing a lab coat and reciting the periodic table three times a day would make someone into a chemist.

But a mystery religion is not a degree course, there was never any real knowledge to be gained.

A mystery religion was a way to engage with the heart of things.

Plato argues for intellectual -philosophical- understanding as the only way to really find heaven, to be more accurate as the only way to make the necessary changes to ones mind that can guarantee a good re-birth. But on the other side of the question about what constitutes a real change in an initiate, Aristotle described the final stage of a mystery initiation as a change in the state of mind.

Aristotle regarded feeling as more important than the intellectual grasping at meanings or any demand for the experience to make sense.
"Aristotle emphasized that the initiate does not learn (mathein) something but is made to experience (pathein) the Mysteries and change his or her state of mind." (Foley, Helene P. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter: Translation, Commentary, and Interpretive Essays. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1994).

The mystery religions never demanded a deep intellectual background knowledge, only money enough for sacrifices, the applicant not to have been a murderer and to have trust in the gods. This was enough to enable a descent from reason into feeling. ..aided by a long walk, fasting, darkness and possibly the administration of mildly hallucinogenic drinks.

By the 20th Century The Church of England had resolutely sided with Plato about the after life but forgot about the re-birth, preferring the eternal Elysian Fields. Baptism (in the tradition of a Mystery religion) is enough to get a chance at heaven, I think, but a personal knowledge of God -to be found through contemplation and prayer- is considered essential. Unless one enters into a religious life it is very difficult to get instruction and support from other religious people, but religion itself is quite hard to enter. Religion being regarded as an almost a shameful condition, as if in the Apollonian light of scientific clarity religious sentiments are a symptom of of mental instability.

To experience something close to an old fashioned mystery religion, I had to step out of my own culture and live a different, non-English kind of life.

By the 1960’s religion had for good reason been dismantled but was still expected to work, by that I mean religion was meant to make an individual a nicer person. A fear of the after-life, of heaven and hell were no longer a major concern. Fear of death had been assuaged by antibiotics, and the National Health Service. It seems to me that we children of the machine age tend to regard death as a kind of switching off with no sweet hereafter.

The major festivals in Britain were and still are nominally Christian. I, being a bookish kind of child thought quite a lot about the explanations I was given for them.

I soon realised that explanations of  Christmas rituals are more mythology than history: my sources were primarily home and school and TV. At home there was no religion, I don't remember much from TV where Christmas was mainly about getting presents, only school attempted to give me a 'religious education'. Nevertheless all sources gave me stories to explain why each festival has a certain shape and form; why exactly we did what we did.

But I was looking at a ritual whose outer features are so far removed from contemporary concerns that I couldn't reach down into the anxieties Christmas once took care of.

Rituals and festivals gathers myth by way of becoming comprehensible. For instance in Tibetan Buddhism there is a religious festival called Nyungne which is explained as originating with an Afghani princess who had become a nun (a Gelongma).

Gelongma Palmo suffered from leprosy and so she took herself away from her community, high up into the caves to pray, there she had an extraordinary vision which explained how she was to pray. By using the vision and fasting, eating only certain food once every 48 hours she overcame the dreaded disease of leprosy. She wrote down how to practice this vision and it is still preformed today.

Nyungne is described as a purification practice, the leprosy is cured because in keeping with the best medical theories of the Gelongma’s time altering the kind of food one eats and the time of day one eats will change the humors . There are no bacteria or fungi, disease is caused by karma and by spirit entities. Visualizing the thousand armed form of Chenrezigs and imagining oneself as that deity with pure nectar streaming down from one’s thousand hands to feed the Hungry ghosts is a type of practice known as purification. Purification will cure one of disease, so prayer and such visualisations are logical.

So far so good, but even within that story there are contradictions. In Tibetan culture it is the Nagas (powerful snake beings who live under the ground) who are said to cause leprosy, so even mythologically speaking it is hard to understand why feeding the Hungry Ghosts should cure leprosy.

And in my time, well unfortunately Nyungne cannot either historically or medically, cure leprosy. Though some people believe that faith can move mountains...

 The relevant part of this example is that mythology names and explains the process; it provided the mental imagery for the practice but it is possible for participants to have many different understandings or words for processes and yet enter into the experience of Nyungne: the lack of food and water, of sitting for hours reciting mantra is hard and can only be done if you can beleive enough in what you are doing. The prevailing Apollonian science mythology of my culture will provide for you a whole host of demons to expel by fasting, all of them belonging to the classification known as pesticide or herbicide.

The  Buddhist mythology explains the purification of Nyungne differently, using a whole set of different words and concepts.

Regardless of a person's understanding, Nyungne (like Freudian psychoanalysis) always works...or rather, isn't testable.

Nyungne, as a transplanted ritual, is a perfect example of how a ritual gathers meaning. Nyngne was transplanted via Tibet into England and so I am at liberty to watch and see what happens to the mythology. Though the text and explanation of the Nyngene ritual still exist more or less in an original form, this and the insistence upon empowerment and oral instruction maintains the Tibetan understanding very well.

Unfortunately I do not know if the Gelongma changed a pre-existing form of Nyungne, or who ever took the practice to Tibet mixed it with their own understanding; its connection with leprosy makes me believe so.

But back to England and now. The major major festivals in this town are classed as Christian and as with the Tibetan practice of Nyungne you could say that I have the root text to explain it, The New Testament.

The New Testament contains the story of the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ, unlike the Nyungne text the New Testament does not give any instructions on what I should do at Christmas. There are no prayers or visualizations recorded, no rules about food other than those in the Old Testament -Leviticus- about shellfish being an ‘Abomination’ but some families insist on prawns at Christmas!

Anyone taking the outer form of Christmas and expecting an explanation from the biblical story central to this festival will find his or her self tied up in mental knots, even if he or she is able to perform massive feats of mental agility.

Most people are too sensible to try this very hard or for too long.

So why do we have turkey and Christmas trees and Yule log? Christmas as the birthday of the Saviour of mankind could be celebrated in any way at all as long as the core value of peace and goodwill to all men is maintained. But Christmas has a particular form; certain things must happen to make it Christmas: ritual songs ritual smells, the sound of Slade and the smell of pine and cinnamon. Offerings must be made to children and a strange story told of a man dressed in Coca-cola red who brings expensive gifts to the good kids and less expensive to the naughty ones!

None of this makes any religious sense, so to explain away the inconsistencies (Did Jesus, Mary and Joseph ever eat turkey and cranberry sauce?) the only solution is to import other, non-Christian myths which may have an historical link with this land. At this point many people become exasperated because it’s just Christmas it isn’t supposed to make sense!

It is in fact impossible to get any reassurance from history that Christmas, with its cards and tinsel and snow and robins actually has a real and deep Christian meaning. Katamari like, each aspect of the festivity accrues a mythic history (a story half fact, half fiction) and if a British myth cannot be made to fit, perhaps a Norse or Greek myth needs to be imported.

It has always been like this, The Eleusinian Mysteries were probably a Mycenaean ritual that accumulated a Greek myth that had originally come from elsewhere. The ritual itself grew from deep under the ground of human hopes and fears and then a kind of feedback mechanism of myth takes hold...reality informing myth, and myth informing reality.

The real and the virtual take form as ritual.
Ancient rituals to do with hunting integrated the conflicting realities of hunting: the cruelty and enjoyment, and the sorrowful empathizing between man and animal encompassed by the hunt and of killing. Christmas is fixed at the time of the midwinter solstice, to be exact Christmas is placed on the first day after the solstice, the first day that shows that nights will now get shorter, days longer and warmth and growth will return to the world. It also means in Britain that the weather will get colder. Before supermarkets and shipping containers filling up the store rooms everyday of the year Christmas was the last chance to fatten oneself up.

A Christmas feast made sense, yet with the food came ghost stories and the need for fire and light...

Mythology provides explanations and provokes the ritual to change and to evolve, it can also stand in the way of change, acting to preserve some behaviours and to prevent others.

But today, this good English ground, so free of major fault lines, never the less is riddled with smaller cracks that cause the ground to shake. Earthquakes here in the West Midlands are rare and never break apart the ground to reveal the Underworld.

But the dark and uncanny is with us all of the time.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

After Devizes...

After Devizes I drove to Avebury, even with all the rain -it had been raining hard all day- the car park was still three quarters full. I was making use of my free parking (NT member you see) and I wanted to go to the shop and buy the labyrinth pendant I'd seen there a few days ago, and Avebury is always a good place to go.

This trip had been nagging at me for weeks it seems, the need to finally read what Maud Cunnington had actually seen, to go and read  from her notes; it had become almost unbearable not to go and so on Sunday I'd visited Avebury and Woodhenge armed with compass, my family and Vado (little video camera)...but on Tuesday I drove to Devizes alone for a full two hours of bliss to read the excavation notes and to find out exactly what Maud had considered relevant or not, concerning the child found at the center of the ring.

It is strange....I mean Maud found two skeletons; the central burial is described in her notes here:
[Cunnington 1926. Page 13] A small grave was found lying on the line of midsummer sunrise, and at right angles to it. This grave, with slightly rounded ends, was only a foot deep in the chalk. In the Southern end, the grave being unnecessarily large for a burial, lay the crouched skeleton of a child of about three years old. Owing to the decayed condition of the bones, many of them having disappeared all together, it was difficult to determine the exact position, but the body was turned towards the North-East i.e., to the rising sun at midsummer.

It will be seen from the plan that the line of sunrise falls across the Southern end of the grave, across the center of the burial, though not through the center of the grave.

A remarkable circumstance in connection with the skeleton is that the skull appears to have been cleft before burial. When the bones were first uncovered it was exclaimed "There must be two skeletons" because there appeared to be two skulls lying side by side, touching one another. But when the bones were removed they proved to be those of only one individual, and what looked like two skulls were actually the two halves of the same skull. It is a common thing to find a skull crushed in the ground, but there seems no way of accounting for its being found lying in two parts, unless it had been cleft before burial.The other bones, though much decayed, were found lying in their natural order, and there was no sign to suggest that the grave had ever been disturbed. It appears probable, therefore, that this child's burial was in the nature of a dedicatory, or sacrificial one. No relics of any kind were found with the skeleton.
Maud is quite convinced that she has found a murdered infant and yet in the case of the second skeleton, his grave remains unremarked upon and unmarked today. I find it hard to see why Maud who was in a world in which dedicatory human sacrifice is a possibility, didn't consider the body found crouched in a ditch to be more of the same?

Here is the description of the second find:
[Cunnington 1926. Page 82] The crouched skeleton of a young man was found in a shallow grave dug in the middle of the floor of the ditch in this cutting. The skeleton lay on its side with head towards the South, facing East, arms crossed over the chest with hands up to the shoulders. The grave was length wise with the ditch: sixteen inches deep, four and a half foot long and two and a half foot wide. It was filled with pure chalk rubble, distinct from the silting in the ditch immediately above it, and must therefore, have been filled up before silting had accumulated on the floor of the ditch. On the bottom of the grave on the Eastern side, just in front of the skeleton were: a vertebrae, a rib bone, three teeth and part of another large bone, all of ox.
Maud implies that the burial has taken place at the time the ditch is being dug, or soon after its completion -an excavation in 2006 found that a part of the bank (and the bank was raised from the chalk dug from the ditch) overlay a tree hole which had been filled with Early Neolithic Carinated ware- but she dismisses this find as contemporary because the anatomist charged with examining the bones said:
[Cunnington 1926. Page 52] He has not the face form of our Neolithic people nor the head form of the Bronze Age people, therefore I think we are compelled to place him in the Iron Age.
This skeleton belonged to the man I'd mentioned before (and had a nightmare about) who had odd bones, some fused some not, and too many teeth, as he had not lost his milk teeth. In other words there is compelling evidence to suggest that he had 'odd' bones anyway so even without getting into a discussion about the probability of indigenous Britons as an isolated and self-contained race until the Beaker people came along, how sensible is it to decide that this man could not have been British because he didn't have 'the face form of our Neolithic people'?

The anatomist was Sir Arthur Keith, and you can download is book on Nationality and Race From An Anthropologists Point Of View here: [LINK]

It is Sir Arthur who tentatively suggests that the 'sacrificial child is female:
I may in a few words dispose of the skeleton of the child found in the center of the circle. From the fact that all milk teeth are in use and also the crown of the first permanent molars are formed, one may place the age at three and a half years.

The condition and size of the cranial bones (only parts of which were found) and also the limb bones, are in keeping with this estimate. From the size of the teeth and limb bones one infers the remains are those of a girl -but this is not an inference which should be too much depended on. The upper end of the shaft of the femur already shows the front to back flattening and the tibia the side flattening which is so often seen in skeletons of Bronze Age people -but in earlier as well as latter people of Britain.
Sir Arthur does not say that there are any signs of fractures in the skull bones, all he says is that some of the cranial bones are missing...

When I first visited her tomb, many years ago now, I was filled with sorrow and horror. It didn't matter to me that her body had been removed and her bones lost, or even if the archaeologists had been wrong; I believed that somewhere at sometime a mother had allowed this terrible thing to happen to her daughter in the name of religion.

I thought of Abraham and Isaac and how wrong people can be...for I'd been brought up on stories of the stupidity of war, on Siegfried Sassoon and stories of people who refused to do what they were told...

I find now that my sadness evoked by the Woodhenge site has settled on the missing grave of the man in the ditch....for Maud saw her own son sacrificed in the name of patriotism; her only son was killed in the first world war, yet Maud did not mark the grave of this man, whom Maud would have believed to have been about the same age as her missing son, because Sir Arthur said that it wasn't a Neolithic or Bronze Age burial...Sir Arthur said that the man was probably Iron Age, therefore - because Sir Arthur saw Britain as a closed off island, separate until invaders turned up- not British....

...if that is true does it really matter?

Here is Sir Arthur's report on the man in the ditch:
A slim man five feet seven inches tall all his teeth free from disease -but certain of his bones have not ceased growing. Wrist bones are finished so is knee and shoulder. Epiphysis of hip and shoulder blade are un-closed. The Sagittal suture if fussed which makes him older than thirty-five -but other signs show him to be less than twenty-two.

His face and appearance are different to that of Bronze Age people.

It will be seen that the lower jaw is not only very narrow but the front teeth, instead of continuing forwards on a level with the back teeth, rise up above them to compensate for a defective growth in the corresponding part of the upper jaw and upper face.] He has not the face form of our Neolithic people nor the head form of the Bronze Age people, therefore I think we are compelled to place him in the Iron Age.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

More Woodhenge.

When I sat down to write this, the protractor was still stuck to the monitor. I'd left it there a couple of nights ago, when trying to make head or tail out of this diagram.

This picture is troublesome because the line continued along the points A and B (as drawn by Maud Cunnington) is supposed to make an angle or azimuth in this case of 49.2..

Well midsummer sunrise (this year) was at an azimuth of 49 degrees, but an azimuth is measured from the North. Putting or finding a 49 degree angle within the posts of Woodhenge, even if you have a bright red triangle, is not -well, not to me- significant.

The 49 degree angle in this picture is drawn between the position of midsummer sun rise and the line B, C. The red triangle may or may not be significant, all I know is I don't think anyone making Woodhenge would bother using Pythagorean theories, primarily and very significantly; because there is no need!

Anyway, this diagram was about me wasting time.

What I wanted to do was to print out the shape of Woodhenge and then draw moon and sun positions to show how they moved around the monument, I became distracted by this one because I couldn't see for the life of me why....just why really!

Why the triangles, why make it seem complex and difficult and scientific in a mathematical way...

And why the fixation on midsummer sunrise?

The Midsummer sunrise doesn't seem to be a terribly useful kind of thing. It may mean it's time to harvest things, but you could tell that by looking at the crops. It means winter is coming, but the autumn equinox will prove that. Both May day and Midsummer are mythologically speaking a time for party, but it is May day that is traditionally the time for the sap to rise and -I don't want to use this word- fertility. At Midsummer the nights are long, and nothing much needs to be done. If Midsummer was a time for party; which I kind of have trouble imagining, then speaking as a woman, a Midsummer romp makes more sense than May day...because a Midsummer party and resulting pregnancy would mean giving birth in March.

As far as the weather and food supply is concerned, March is better than January (get pregnant at Beltane- 1st of May and deliver your child in January, surely that's going to be tough?)

So Midsummer as a massive fertility ritual...er...let's move on.

Why else would Midsummer be significant?

Or is a Midsummer alignment coincidental, at a similar azimuth to something else?

Woodhenge isn't a good party place -that was Durrington, next to. Apparently it was a winter party there- but perhaps this party thing, especially the Stonehenge version is a very 20th Century imposition over a landscape we only dimmly recall? I have a feeling that the first Midsummer Stonehenge parties began in my lifetime, and the Druids turned up some seventy decades before, in 1905. Stonehenge and its Midsummer party may not be as old as some people like to believe.

But, back to Woodhenge, the angle from Maud's line of A, B to North is closer to 41 degrees, an angle much closer to a midwinter moon rise -when the moon is at it's maximum position (once every 18.6 years or something like that).

A Midwinter full moon party, with roast pork would be more in keeping with tradition, I think.

In 2006 the midwinter full moon rose at 41 degrees, but where the moon was four thousand years ago, or how the sight is affected by the lay of the land, I do not know. It is quite hard to get solid and reliable information about anything at all, I find.

So, a compass is in the post to me and my place in the library at Devizes museum awaits.

Woodhenge is cut and pasted as a site of human sacrifice:
"One and a half metres from the actual centre, the skeleton of a child of about three years of age was exhumed from the chalk, its skull cleaved open in what was almost a predetermined act. This according to experts, is one of the very few pieces of evidence of human sacrifice in prehistoric Britain".
Has the word *certainly* gone missing from that cut and paste? I think it is a quote from Aubrey Burl and the line should read:
"what was almost *certainly* a predetermined act".
My meander around Woodhenge centers on the interpretation of that find; if it is true, if she was a three year old child killed at the center of the ring, what was the mythology that made her death acceptable to her community? Secondly, why has the modern interpretation of this find changed so that now she is a precious 'accident' given a resting place of honour?

And finally, Woodhenge itself has become interesting.