Monday, 27 September 2010

The Garden...

This task is truly a garden of forking paths.
I had thought that the beginning would be easy. I asked: where in England would I find Persephone's grave?

I was coming from a Jungian point of view -that myths are a kind of graphic interface between the real, embodied experience of life and what we believe about those experiences.

Persephone's meaning has changed through out the centuries but, regardless of whether she is a creation of the hunters, or the farmers, or the city-dwellers she is always the missing girl. The girl who is abducted or rather subducted...Britain has several prehistoric places that fit the description of her grave very well.

My first thought was Woodhenge, but then I learnt about The Sanctuary.

Of course Persephone is a mythic character whose story is interpreted as an anthropomorphic explanation for the changing seasons. But the missing girl has a long history, and the Greek story as given to us by Ovid, is the bowdlerised version...

I was reading John North's splendid book -Stonehenge- this afternoon. I remain unconvinced that people were as obsessed by alignments on stars and planets as his detailed research makes out.

Mainly because...

Because the only culture I know of who required such knowledge were the Egyptians. In Britain we did not need to know when the river was about to inundate, Britain is not Egypt.

The solstice and equinox tell us all we need to know, though I admit Venus and Mars, Jupiter and the constellation of Orion would draw my attention if I was charged with watching the sky.

But curious solar/lunar events would I believe matter very much in a sky-scape un-dimmed by street lamps. A few weeks ago; it was in the first week of September, about 8:30 in the morning, I was walking down a street with the sun rising behind me and the moon directly before me.

I was reminded of the interweaving of worlds (now expressed as the quantum physics notion of the multiverse) as the path of the sun and moon opened between, leading into the void. The alchemical symbolism of the conjunction between sol and lunar, too, hung in the sky as I walked. There are many ways to read or to see, or interpret or to feel about what I saw. Nevertheless, if I had turned I could have reached out to both sun and moon, and found myself balanced in between.

"O my uncle! by God if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left on condition that I abandon this course, until God has made me victorious, or I perish therein, I would not abandon it."LINK..
But a new thought (new to me anyway!) came from this afternoon's reading.

A henge or a Timber circle (starburst) specifically The Sanctuary, could be seen as a symbolic round barrow. I have never thought about how barrows were made before this afternoon, but if it is true that some barrows contained wooden posts, and that the mound itself came from a ditch dug around the barrow...well if I wished to symbolize a round barrow, wouldn't it be psychologically impressive to create the core structures of wood and ditch, but to leave the symbolic barrow open to the sky?

I think that the Bluestone's pulled from their home in Wales (or collected from closer to home -if Aubrey Burl is right) were our Lapis Lazuli.

It is tempting to suppose (from Sumerian mythology) that the The Gates of Lapis Lazuli lead to the House of Darkness, Irkalla.

But that's as logical as saying that the people of Woodhenge considered the Dog Star to be significant...

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Equinox, Harvest moon, Thunderstorm + Invisible Pilgrim and Nightcrawler..

So, I have been listening to the same track -Invisible Pilgrim's Nightcrawler- for I think two hours. The harvest moon was invisible this night, but the sky was lit instead by flashes of lighting.

I recall Woodhenge and The Sanctuary, I think of all the objects I've seen dug up from The Sanctuary, of Maud's notes and of everything that I have ever read or thought about in relation to these places.

I put myself there; I go back to the nightmares those places have given me as I journeyed them in my sleep and into the sense of understanding I was left with.

I wanted to write an explanation; Bronze Age biology.

How life and death work when you don't know about cells, or electricity, mitochondria, bacteria, vitamins....all you have is what appears to be true.

This account isn't finished yet, or perhaps it is?
I don't know...I expect that I will come back to it and add more. I tend to think too fast and fail to elaborate enough to make the links I'm jumping to, easy to follow.
The flints contain fire, the flints grow inside the belly of the white ground. They are the bones of the unborn. It is not known if they ever become living. The born come through men into women. The bones of the born are soft but full of the fire as liquid fire, the blood.

Blood makes life, when blood is spilt on the ground, things grow from it.

The dead belong to the moon and the living to the sun, for all living things turn to the sun for warmth and comfort because our blood remembers the fire from which it came.

The moon is a white place, cold and luminous. It is a place of dreaming; it is possible that the moon restores life. No one really knows.

When people die, the flesh and blood should return to the earth, but the bones are dangerous; in the past the skulls and long bones were placed in a special place under the earth to protect the land. They remain there, but we no longer enter those places. The ancestors who guard that place should not be disturbed for there is no one left now who knows them.

The moon is white and cold, it may be a world of spirits and the home of those who must return to the white ground of the earth.

The dead are clothed in flesh by something underground that transfers the power to the balls of men and all male animals. When someone dies we leave them on a wooden tower so that the flesh may dry and as it does the life left over scatters as small creatures that come out. It is important to burn the bones when the flesh has gone. The life is gone from them, but other spirits may take the place of the person who died.

By burning, we finish the hardening and drive out any ghosts unwilling to leave. Latter, when the sun is at its weakest, we restore the moisture to the bones by scattering the ash into the river. Any ghosts driven off by the flames follow the ash into the river and travel into the land of the others,the ones who have entered the stone.

Instead of keeping the skulls and bones of those we know will help us, we place wooden posts in the ground to represent them; these become the forest, the place of the hunt, a place of sacrifice and celebration. Stone represents the dead who are with us, under the ground, dealing with the forces that run through the ground.

This principal that transfers life also causes the hardening of our bones, old age and death and disease. When the balance is wrong between the living and the dead, when the ground is hungry or when the spirits do not find their way to the moon then things go wrong; also for protection from
the spirits growing under the earth it is important to make offerings and sometimes to transfer the living into protectors.

The people who are made sacred for this task are people who have not 'come through all the way',some part of their spirit or soul remains under the ground it is understood that these people will already know the ways of the spirits, their language and customs. It is also understood that the returning principal will not work for them or at least not work for centuries because their flesh remains intact.

The person who must go, is killed with arrows so that the blood returns to the ground; but this place of killing must also be the place of burial. Sometimes a man is chosen to guard the ditch that protects the circle, and a girl is chosen for the central point. The man who protects the ditch, is never spoken of or mentioned in case one of us calls him back, and he wishes to return to the living.

Sometimes the one who goes is remembered by placing an ancestor stone to block the grave. This happened at The Sanctuary.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

First thing: Sunburst not Starburst.
The name *Starburst* seems to be my own, I got the name from the Digital Digging site for a specific henge and pits: the Catholme site.

Second Thing: British mythology and its fascination with The Otherworld.
I find British mythology difficult; it is hard to remember one myth from this land; they are convoluted and often cease making sense midway through. As a child I was never told British myths, Ovid had done too good a job and made the Greek stories so much more accessible.

Even now when I think about British myths it is like getting on an elevator and descending through periods of history; we are told that the Greek myths refer to archetypes and are therefore universal. Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton used Greek mythology to provide a structure for their fictions and so it is that it feels as if the Greek myths are naturally our own home grown mythology.

Ovid spins the Greek myths into Roman, as the Greeks had spun well known myths of their time -such as The Epic of Gilgamesh- into Greek.

So what about The Celtic myths, do they bear any resemblance to Bronze Age myth?

Before the Romans came to Britain, Britain was well connected to Europe by trade, stories would have travelled in both directions across the sea and after the Romans, the Saxons too, brought stories. Latter, comes Norse mythology which often seems more than a little Greek to me.

The shorthand name for the pre-Roman British is The Celts. And there is a layer of mythology known as Celtic mythology which contains myths that are called British.

But before I get to those, just a note about how mythology is rarely natural or home grown. The 12th century chronicler, Geoffrey of Monmouth in keeping with the Roman tradition of writing spurious history wrote in his Historia that Brutus, grandson of the Trojan King Aeneas and his followers landed at Totnes in Devon -there is a stone to mark the spot- and in 1103 BC Brutus was crowned King of England.

What am I to make of such stories?
The Roman tale of Aeneas (The Aeneid) is really a pack of pork-pies. It tells how Aeneas escapes from Troy (carrying his elderly father through the secret tunnels) and sails away to wash up, eventually, in Italy. It was written by Virgil to glorify traditional Roman virtues and legitimize Julius Ceasar and yet it still contains references to Etruscan, as well as to Greek mythology. Contempory clues about Roman society are in there, even though very often what is written about and valued within the text represents things the readers themselves felt uneasy about; the text therefore providing a kind of comfort by showing Roman conduct as it aught to be, rather than how it actually was.

As Michael Grant (1971) noted, the Roman myths did not:
"...come up from the ordinary people as it has often been believed that a decent, respectable myth should. They were produced instead, by a whole series of different pressures coming, roughly speaking, from above."
There may not be such a thing as a pure Roman myth, nor a pure Greek myth or even a pure Sumerian myth. The Greek myths in particular are held up as an example of something isolated and specifically from Greek culture but there was immigration into Greece. The Greeks did not spring fully formed from the ash of Dionysus and Titan molded by Zeus. Mycenae was settled by Indo-Europeans who practiced farming and herding, close to 2000 BC and from other parts of the Aegean: Minoans, Phoenicians, Hittites, Egyptians and Babylonians. Both Homer and Hesiod had an enormous wealth of literacy behind them from the non-Greek near east. And the stories themselves travel far and wide, for instance fragments of the Gilgamesh epic were found at Megiddo in Palestine and the Babylonian myth of Adapa was found in Tell el-Amarna in Egypt (fifteenth or fourteenth century BC).

Stories and mythologies spread and change in their journey.

The question is, after invasion or an influx of missionaries, or devastation through famine, war and plague, how much remains of the original myth that was attached to a place or structure?

In my own experience -just by reading the Wiki about my old school -built circa 1976- not much of the history has been recorded by the people who attended. Or perhaps it was recorded, but was later deleted. The Wiki entry is very short, and contains this line and similar:
" of the happiest schools in the area as there is extremely few cases of bullying and the pupils are happy and comfortable in school"
Anthropologists and theologians require a myth to have a 'Sacred narrative' but as in the case of Aeneas and his grandson Brutus, and the Wiki of Leasowes High, myth may be used as state policy to engender social cohesion.

Myths are imported to explain institutions and structures that have lost their *real* history; but often the reason why something is built satisfies a deeply held sense of what is fitting and correct and may in fact be without a coherent plan or narrative to begin with! Confronted with Stonehenge people of my time see a several-times-finished-work-in- progress that was abandoned for reasons that were not written down. So we look for clues, for what is actually there and then (spiders all) we weave a narrative.

But we base it upon what we know...

A thread that runs through British mythology is a fascination with The Otherworld.

In the Mabinogion the Otherworld is Annwn. Unlike Arali in Sumerian myth, or Hades, Annwn is not divided from this world by a river or protected by a guardian dog.

Annwn looks just like this one but it's not...

The motif that runs through tales of Annwn is of pairs and parallels; of a king (his name being Pwyll) of this world meeting the king of Annwn and swapping places for a year; of his wife Rhiannon giving birth, the child is stolen and at the same time of a mare giving birth to a foal, also stolen. The child and the horse are brought up together, and Rhiannon does penance by acting as a horse -by sitting by the horse-block outside the gate and carrying people up to the court on her back.

Pwyll's kingdom was Arberth, a name that links Pwyll to Dyfed and on the Pembroke peninsula is found Pentre Ifan...a place already ancient when the Celts were telling tales of Pwyll. Pembroke is linked by Bluestones to Stonehenge.

So did the Celtic myths contain memory, or were they woven from a a story-teller's art.

I wish that I knew.

One story remains to tell: after the death of Pwyll, Manawyddan comes to Arberth to marry Rhiannon. He, Rhiannon and her son Pryderi and his wife go out one night to sit on the mound of Arberth. There is a clap of thunder and a thick mist surrounds them...when the light returns they are within the wasteland -everything has gone, the houses are all empty, no sheep or cows are in the field, no birds in the trees. They are alone in a suddenly empty land.

But it is only civilisation that has vanished...

They go out hunting and are led by a shining white boar to a castle that had never been there before. Their dogs disappear into it, and so does the boar.

Nothing comes out.

Pryderi enters and finds the castle empty except for a golden bowl hanging from four, thick chains that disappear into the roof of the castle, suspended over a marble slab.

Pryderi is mesmerized by the beauty of the bowl and reaches out to touch it. He is fixed in time and space, unable to move or to speak, stuck there with his feet on the marble, his hands on the bowl.

Rhiannon too enters the castle and she too reaches out for the bowl and becomes fixed.

Then there is a clap of thunder, the mist descends once more and the castle, Rhiannon, Pryderi and the bowl vanish....

The story (and it is long) concludes with wheat being brought from (possibly) England or Italy, the lifting of the spell of desolation and meanwhile and yet again Rhiannon must do time as a horse, having to wear an ass's collar hung around her head.

Does this story echo memory of a great famine?
And what of the great bowl and it's ability to send people into a trance, and into another world?

The bowl becomes ever more distant, in our time as the Holy Grail and the mound of Arberth turns into Glastonbury. Annwn becomes 'The isle of Apples' and on and on and on...Into a thousand science-fiction epics.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Setting things on fire.

Making Woodhenge with Gmod is fairly painstaking and down right difficult. I soon gave up and left my Woodhenge as three or four rings of posts that probably weren't even in rings.

I'd also had a go at making a Sanctuary shaped structure using very un-Sarcen like 'memorial' stones, plus tall and short posts.

This isn't to say that it is impossible to make accurate and 'interactive' Neolithic/Bronze Age structures using Gmod; but it is true that it would be hard work...Also, for the experience of entering the circle as if it were an arena, Gmod works best for people who are used to using a keyboard+mouse to navigate through virtual worlds.

And then I set things on fire.
I have a really strong image of the posts at Woodhenge being burnt rather than pulled down, or left to rot.

As I said before, what Terry Jones (Qur'an threatening minister) forgets, is that fire is sacred and -for people who beleive God to be within this world- a respectful way to destroy sacred objects

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Sanctuary.

A short film of me being confused by The Sanctuary. I wondered if the place people chose as the grave of the fifteen year old buried by the side of a Sarcen, was correct or not?

I don't believe the place they have chosen is correct; the right place is marked by a buried Sarcen in front of one of the concrete posts on the right, in the first ring of stones.

But that matter's not. The reason why there is a tendency to assign female gender to burials that look like sacrifices may have less to do with scientific data, and more to do with mythology, and mainly I would say  because of the Persephone myth.

I have absolutely no doubt at all that by the time of Woodhenge, femaleness was still linked to fertility -in other words I think that the first theory hunting communities come up with is that the spirits of dead animals must return to the world, and that it is a female spirit who re-births them.

This Mistress of the Animals becomes Persephone very late on (in terms of civilisation).

The abduction of Persephone in the Greek tale is a more recent version of the abduction of Ereshkigal, chronologically speaking, and the Persephone myth is dealing with more human forces and experiences than those in the Erishkigal tale. The Persephone myth expresses marriage as a symbolic death; it also expresses the reality that women were treated as property. The Greeks considered the abduction of a king's daughter as a just cause of war. Paradoxically in the Persephone story the power of Demeter is shown as a greater force than any army...and yet...not enough to restore her daughter to the upper world; in contrast to Menelaus restoring Helen.

These themes are woven through the Greek myth and reflect their society.

How much do I rate the connection between Demeter, pigs and Durrington? Well the pigs are linked to Demeter via the Persephone myth, but I see this Greek layer of understanding as younger than the original myth. Pigs and 'Earth Mothers' have an older and deeper connection than that of Eubuleus losing his pigs down a chasm broken open as Hades descends to the underworld with the wretched and tearful Persephone clinging to the chariot for dear life.

But then...Eubuleus which could be translated as 'The good clod (of earth)' sounds suspiciously like Euboulos 'the good councillor' and Euboulos was the original he who cannot be named. In other words, the Lord of the Underworld. So at this point the pigs and the throwing down the chasms of pigs (Thesmophoria) starts to get confusing.

I haven't read the latest Micheal Dames book, but I rather liked his first one.

I think I may be annoyed if he takes the Persephone myth too literally, though? I mean the Persephone myth is the Greek version of a Sumerian myth which no doubt goes back and back and back...The Mistress of the Animals may have been Joseph  Campbell's invention, but he did provide evidence for it.

I liked Micheal Dames' version of Silbury as a massive, pregnant belly, but I'm not having it that the Durrington midwinter pig festival had anything in common with the Thesmophoria, there simply isn't evidence for that, but plenty to the contrary.

And as I say, the connection between pigs and The Earth Mother is something much older than Persephone.

Anyway...yes...the Thesmophoria and the pigs getting thrown down pits and Durrington. The way archeological evidence tells it, pigs seem to represent the living whilst cattle are the sacrifice of choice for the dead. In the Thesmophoria and before the Eleusinian  mysteries the pig stood as a symbol for human sacrifice. Also in purification rites to absolve a person of murder (see The Orestia) a pig is sacrificed to pay back the blood. In the long barrows and in the latter starbursts, Stonehenge and round barrows cattle are the sacrifice of choice. In the Greek rituals the pig in some way represented Persephone as the force that restores life from death. The pigs at the Thesmophoria were thrown down the chasm (I think that idea comes from one of Aristophanes' plays) and there is some evidence for this having happened, but not much. The remains from the previous year's pigs were brought up by women known as 'bailers' who placed the rotted things on the shrine before sending them to be ploughed into the ground to increase the growing power of the land (today we use blood, fish and bone...bought in a plastic bag).

I don't think that pigs were used specifically in that way in Britain...

And then there is the link between pigs - again from Aristophanes mystery piggies- firtility, Persephone, celebacy and sex.

So much, so much to sort out :)

'Sunbursts' as a symbolic forest, and hunting arena.

The credit for the name I'm using for all henge with pits (such as Woodhenge and The Sanctuary) goes to someone else. I can't remember where I saw such places described as sunbursts?

Perhaps I dreamt it!

The other idea that I picked up from somewhere and someone else is that the starbursts were symbolic forests. By the late Neolithic and definitely at the time Woodhenge was dug, the forests of 'Old England' were already in the past. Deforestation, the ground already becoming impoverished, and the forest a place of nostalgia..

And farming is slow and steady work; it requires a person to know that by doing work now there will be a reward in the future.

Exciting it is not.

When I wanted to get a sense of how the sunburst may have felt, I used Gmod to create a virtual map. I didn't use posts, because I wanted to test out the idea that the posts were symbolic trees.

I couldn't make a henge (though I could have populated the the edge of my circle with hundreds of spectators; nor could I make it night time. All in all, making the posts as trees seemed poetically accurate.

Nor do I have a fierce bull to add to my symbolic forest. So I added a robot that was timid, but very dangerous. I could have given myself a crossbow, but I didn't think that I'd last long enough if I used that weapon.

I was actually quite surprised at how scary the starburst arena is; the trees offer protection, but add confusion. I could hide and so could the beast. I almost didn't make it out alive.

Here is the film:

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Why is it called The Sanctuary?

I think I'm getting the picture now; the story goes something like this: At first there were mortuary enclosures (in this case Windmill Hill). The dead were left there until they were mostly bone, the skulls and long bones in particular were gathered up to be placed within the long barrows. As time went on the shape of the forecourts became more moon shaped (semi-lunar) and the long barrows more symbolic than functional. It was no longer necessary to put bones inside elaborate inner chambers, small side chambers would do.

Though how representative Belas Knap is of the genre I don't honestly know. I'm assuming that Belas Knap is younger than say West Kennet? Because Belas Knap's forecourt is bigger than that at West Kennet, and Belas Knap has side chambers on the outside of the barrow, rather than inside. The theory predicts that there should be a trend towards simplification and exaggeration of form to make the site increasingly symbolic.

I'm sticking with Wessex (only as far as the Cotswold Sevens) here, because one area is quite enough for me!

So really, to test this hypothesis out I really need to describe all the Cotswold Sevens and put them in chronological order.

Has anyone done this?

Someone must have?

By 3000 BC the long barrows were out of fashion; what came next and continued for another thousand years were the henges.

Henges contained both the idea of the forecourt and the mortuary enclosure (from Aubrey Burl) but the kind that interest me the most are Starbursts, inner ditches, outer bank (for people to stand or sit upon) with 'starbursts' of post-holes inside. Such sites are: Woodhenge, The Sanctuary and Stanton Drew, there are plenty more.

At the moment I'm thinking that if the land around about was already deforested (Woodhenge -snail evidence) trees were very precious indeed. In some starburst-henges stone and pillars co-existed; but the trend was towards replacing wood with stone.

I also get the impression that the wood pillars may have been burnt rather than dug out and then replaced. I didn't think of this before, and I'd need to visit Devizes museum once more to read Maud Cunnington's notes ~sigh.

Though it takes a long time for my older PC to load, it is quicker than driving to Devizes. Next time I'm there I shall go to the 'map' I made in Gmod and set all the trees on fire, just to get a feel of what that may have been like...if it happened that way.

The burning of the pillars as the only way to deal with sacred objects makes sense to me. When I lived in a religious house, all sacred images or texts that were old and damaged were burnt, never simply thrown away. A religion that regards the sacred as imminent rather than transcendent contains many such rules.

Shame Gmod doesn't have a night time version of that endless grass map.

I must have already mentioned the idea that Starbursts may have been symbolic forest enclosures; that perhaps (like the minotaur within the labyrinth) an auroch (the word bull or cattle doesn't summon the image of the cattle of the past) or perhaps a herd of pigs would have been led into the henge and hunted; the spectators separated from the action, and the animals within trapped by the ditch?

I like this idea a lot. It would have worked at Stanton Drew, or Woodghenge, but it didn't seem to fit The Sanctuary for no good logical reason that I can give, except I think that the posts would have been too close together.

But what of the name?
It is logical to think that William Stuckeley called the site The Sanctuary but instead the name he gives it is Hakpen (Hackpen Hill). Stuckeley, a friend of Isaac Newton and inclined to believe that modern (18th century) religion was a corruption of an older, more ancient wisdom gives this explanation:
"To our name of Hakpen, alludes ochim, called 'doleful creatures' in our translation." Isa (13 v. 21), speaking of the desolation of Babylon, says: Wild beasts of the desert shall lie there, and their houses shall be full of ochim, and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there." St. Jerome translates it "serpents." The Arabians call a serpent Haie, and wood-serpents Hageshin; and thence our Hakpen; Pen is "head" in British.
Is pen a word meaning head? I've never come across that before...But never mind, why  is Stuckeley layering quotes from the bible over 'England's green and pleasant land'?

Teh Inernets go on to say (because we all copy and paste to some extent) that Stuckely went on to associate this "megalithic serpent" as Kneph (The Graeco-Egyption form of the creator god Khnum) the winged-serpent who gave 'the breath of life'.

I am deeply puzzled as to why Stuckeley was layering Egyptian myth, over the Biblical version of a Babylonian myth; but more I wish to know where he got the myth from? Graeco-Egyption makes me think of Neoplatonist stuff. Unfortunately the book that would probably answer my questions costs over £50, and the chances of Halesowen library getting it for me are less than remote -William Stukeley: Science, Religion and Archaeology in Eighteenth-Century England' by David Haycock.

So Stuckeley was convinced that The Sanctuary was the Snakes Head. This doesn't mean he couldn't have called it The Sanctuary, just I haven't seen any evidence that he used that name for that place.

All I have found is:
Dr. Stukeley's paper on " The Sanctuary " was read before the Society of Antiquaries, Oct. 30, 1755, and may be found in the first volume of the Archceologia, p. 39. He wrote:
"On November 14,1750, 1 went to survey the old church at Westminster, called ' The Sanctuary,' which they were then pulling down to make a new market-house. The building itself is as extraordinary in its kind as that we have no clear account concerning it in the history of Westminster Abbey, to which it manifestly belonged. 'Tis composed of two churches, one over another, each in the form of a cross. The lowermost may be called a double cross. The ground plot is a square of seventy five feet.'"
So this leads me back to Maud Cunnington and to then on to Arthur Evans who excavated Knossos in 1900, it was he who tied the double-axe, the sacral knot, the sacral horns, sacred pillars, sacred trees, doves, and bulls, lions and goats all together as an offering to the Lady of the Labyrinth herself, Ariadne.

In a room that Arthur Evans called The Snake Goddess Sanctuary, to the south of the Throne Room he found the famous image of the bare breasted lady holding snakes aloft in her hands (Ashmolan museum).

So did Maud Cunnington name the Overton hill starburst henge The Sanctuary because she was influenced by Arthur Evans?

Or did Stuckeley call it The Sanctuary as part of his Druidic vision?

Stuckeley and his time is another chapter all together, but Maud and Arthur Evans are relevant to the mixture of early 20th century and 2600 BC mythology and history.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Sanctuary.

Yesterday morning I drove to The Sanctuary. I must have passed it many times before as it is on the road from Marlbourough to Avebury, but had never thought to stop at that particular lay-by on the top of the hill to see what was was over the hedge.

I had thought that the lay-by was for people visiting the barrows on the opposite side of the road.

Nor had I thought about looking for The Sanctuary on a map, before yesterday. I'd just assumed that it was somewhere to the left of West Kennet and possibly a long walk.

The Sanctuary -which I thought of as a causewayed enclosure- was placed in my mind with 'cursus' and 'Iron Age fort' and therefore not in the right time frame. Causewayed enclosures were quite probably places of 'sky burial' and are therefore simple. I mean in my limited estimation and expectation; I don't expect there to be any sun, moon or star alignments at a causewayed enclosure as it was used as a pre-burial space for the dead, and as there are many bones there, both lost and uncollected for the long barrow, there is little evidence for a special kind of burial -of the kind I'm interested in.

So, I'd never bothered to find out anything about The Sanctuary before yesterday.

I parked the car behind one other car, whose occupant seemed to be a photographer interested in the barrows, and we sat for a while, me thinking that there is no need of drugs when one has driving. My brain felt as if it had been stuffed with cotton wool. The sun was hot through the windscreen, but I was almost cold. We got food from the boot of the car, and I took out my mother's shawl to wear. Back in the car we ate cheese and Ryveta, and shared a bottle of water.

When I walked into The Sanctuary my first thought was disappointment. I wished that I had dowsing rods with me, I quickly thought that surely I could just use twigs, but in rapid succession came the next thought; I wouldn't want to dowse here, the ground was too strong.

I have no theory about dowsing; it is just something everyone (I believe) does automatically, the sticks act as amplifiers. On the other hand, to dowse means opening oneself to allow awareness of a specific type of something; I have absolutely no idea at all about what that something may be.

The laws of geomancy dictate that a location should be in balance between hill, valley and in alignment with sun and moon. As locations go, The Sanctuary is spectacular. It is as if we were on a disc, the ground drops away over the edge of The Sanctuary, and the horizon is an undulating, sinuous line of hills that would ring around the disc -if it weren't for that south to east hedge!

My experience was of a stillness arising from the sense of increased gravity; and the downwards, heavy, pull- made me think again of 'hungrey grass'. I wondered if, like Woodhenge, there was another body within the henge?

The Sanctuary was once very much like Woodhenge: it had a ditch enclosing (not yet excavated)  a central (central-ish) burial; and rings of holes that once held tree trunks latter selectively filled with standing stones. The post holes have been marked with concrete posts; blue rectangles for stone, and red posts with rounded ends for wood. The place where the girl was buried under a standing stone is marked (I think) by the top of a stone just before the blue concrete rectangle. The red post was chosen as her memorial stone I guess, because it is in a similar position to the flint grave so close to the center of Woodhenge.

Despite Aubrey Burl's description of her burial in 'Rites of the Gods', there is a more accurate image available here: [LINK] which shows the archeologist's sketch of the burial pit at The Sanctuary.

As you can see from my film, the grave is honoured with bunches of grass, with twigs tied into a patten, and feathers.

I'm glad that she has not been forgotten.