Friday, 20 April 2012

My third attempt to write something today.

There comes a point when I have to let go of the text books and just write it as it seems to me...fortunately I have left myself a note to remind me what I'm meant to be doing, otherwise when I vow not to return to a text book my mind goes blank and it would stay that way until I had to cook something or go to bed!

I have to keep reminding myself that no one needs me to rewrite what someone else has already written, this is supposed to be my account. But I keep forgetting why I was even there- The Sanctuary and Woodhenge..I mean.

A part of the problem is that I was wrong.
I set out sure that the central *female* burials at both sites proved (as much as anything could prove, from a culture and time that didn't leave written records) something of the idea supposed to be at the heart of the Persephone myth.

I now know that there is nothing at The Sanctuary or Woodhenge that does in fact prove anything of the sort!

The theory I'm working from is that the personal, human, feeling experience of life and death and all that happens in-between is externalised and preserved in ritual and monument, just as much as in the written word. This theory explains why  the stories and ideas woven together to form mythology are seen as almost proto-science, stories that describe real events in terms of people's beliefs; for instance, the hunter communities telling stories of the animals being under the protection of the Wild *Mistress of Animals* such as Artemis or Ninhursag. From this theory we read the ancient cave paintings of bison as eternal bison, always reborn from the earth no matter how many are killed. Unfortunately this theory is low on feedback No one can know how those bison were regarded, we will never know how right or wrong we are.

The theory was originally proposed by Jung. His explained the dream language of schizophrenic and religious visions in terms of archetypes of the (collective) unconscious representing our common, biological experience; and the personal unconscious as a set of learned symbols.

Human experience is mediated ( brought to consciousness) by a personal  library of symbols. From these, people evolve taboos and rituals to make sense of their experiences. For instance the experience of the hunt ending in the joy-horror of killing. Such a powerful experience needs to be constrained and made sense of. The killed animal's spirit returns to the Great Mother and if she is pleased with the hunter she will send more of 'her' children is supposed to be the common 'myth' of hunter cultures...

This theory predicts that it is possible to some extent anyway, to read a culture's beliefs from their artifacts.

In the other camp, some people look to myth and legend to tell them of actual events and to uncover deep truths about the past.

When Freud used the story of Oedipus to illustrate what he saw as the inevitable resentment by a son of his father, and when Nietzsche wrote about Dionysos and Apollo, both were using Greek myth as metaphor to illustrate what they saw as eternal truths about the human psyche. They also used myth because they regarded Greek myth as a more true metaphor, as if the ancients were closer to the *prime* truth of the human condition.

I really haven't the courage to *do* Ancient Wisdom, but those who can, tell a good tale and add to the landscape, often creating new rituals and belief systems as a result of their writing. Micheal Dames and William Stukeley though both of them so wrong about somethings, enhance the way the past is seen; whilst the more reasonable and logical Ronald Hutton and John Aubrey (of the holes) temper their imaginings a little too much with the facts (!)

Aubrey Burl and Crania Brittanica are somewhere in between, enlivening the past with a sense of horror and the reek of the dead.

And Freud evolved a new ritual, psychoanalysis.

But the question remains, is it possible to read the belief system that shaped an artifact back from the function and shape of that artifact?

The Neolithic Sanctuary and Woodhenge are harder to understand than the Bronze Age reconfigurations: the addition of an avenue and stones and a burial.

From The Bronze Age, The Sanctuary is approached in such a way as to make it secret until right at the last moment. The sensation of walking along such a route is a sense of timelessness, or being without a reference point, even a sense of bewilderment. Then suddenly the structure appears. The avenue from Avebury to The Sanctuary -or was it the other way- is clearly marked with stones from only the Avebury end now, giving an idea of how wide a procession would have been. Some of the stones, at least four of them were *given* a body, each one was male, one stone had a man and a young boy.

Quite possibly they were 'corpse bundles' -that is mummified, sacred ancestors as at The Sanctuary.

And yet I get a sense of unease in this latter development of Woodhenge and The Sanctuary, a desire to enclose and shut off, to keep people out or to keep ghost in.

Perhaps the corpse bundles were very old, belonging to the time of the long barrows?
The re-configuring, or rather the addition of boundaries was maybe an attempt to lay the past to rest.

The ground feels ghost strewn both at Woodhenege and The Sanctuary and especially at Stonehenge. At Stonehenge I put that down to the acoustics, the stones seem to absorb sound. But there is something about a ditch and bank at Woodhenge and Stonehenge that speaks of segregation, a need to stay out unless given permission.

But what did people see when they reached the end of the avenue?

The theory of a roof at The Sanctuary and Woodhenge goes back to Stuart Piggot who had excavated at an Iron Age village and found the remains of a large, roofed structure with numerous post holes. It was originally suggested by Ben Cunnington, but Maud Cunnington saw parallels between Woodhenge and Stonehenge- a resolutely open and un-roofed structure- both had a central burial and both have an alignment with midsummer sunrise.

When I've attempted to make a timber-circle using computer graphics, the numbers of posts make a confusing structure.

I'm sticking with posts for now, no roof.

It is possible that the posts were joined together by woven fencing (the find of certain snails that had previously been explained as proving a roof!) so perhaps the structures of The Sanctuary and Woodhenge were even more confusing, more labyrinthine. The fencing would make what is happening inside the structure impossible to see from the outside, also it would create a path. The way certain kinds of finds are found in certain areas leads me to imagine that there were set activities in set locations of the circles...

Anyway, The Sanctuary and Woodhenge both got into my dreams, and so I turned them into films.

I set the post on fire in honour of the evidence of charcoal and the implication that posts were removed by burning them out.

I also considered timber-circles as symbolic forests.
I imagined people sitting around the 'forest circle' as a single hunter went in to pit himself against the beast. The only evidence is that numerous arrow heads were found at both sites.

The hidden beast within the wood is such an archetypal tale, but I don't think that there is much real evidence to support this idea.

Still I almost enjoyed trying it out!

The similarity of Woodhenge to a labyrinth and the account of one Dr Toope of the ground around The Sanctuary being 'full of skulls' led to this film:

A labyrinth of skulls.

I have not as yet made anything like an accurate reconstruction because I'm not a mapper (I don't know how to use Source).

Gmod is brilliant but limited and difficult to use on an old PC that doesn't have enough RAM (and can't be upgraded, its that old).

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Really...I hadn't a clue where I was going with this!

In my notes I have written:
After Eleusis the Rharian field was a place or orgy and eating beef. The ephibes would lift up a bull for sacrifice and a solumn libation.
It is a quote from Walter Burkert- Homo Necans, page 293

On the page before that I took another quote:
The collective experience that life and nourishment result from terror, the encounter with death and destruction, binds the Mystai together and adds a new dimension to their lives
It is depressing but true that eating always involves killing, the breaking down of one life form to create into another. Joseph Campbell stresses this as the essential point and meaning of the original Mother Goddess religions. Her double axe so like a butterfly; the blood of the sacrifice promoting growth on that land, the flesh giving birth to maggots and flies...

death as transformation, the butterfly a symbol of the soul.

Homo Necans- man the killer- deals primarily with how humans get over killing, using myth and ritual to make safe something that is both physically and psychologically dangerous. The psychological dangers of killing are more than sorrow arising from empathy with one's victim, people learn to enjoy the hunt and over coming one's abhorrence at killing an animal hints at darker possibilities.

Every animal has a mother, clearly. And the Goddess who gives birth to all gives name and form to the knowledge that something has been taken and someone must be placated. The Mistress of the Animals, either as the Pure Artemis or the not so pure Wild Woman (such as Nin Hursag).

Herakles is said to be a mythological figure from this time in his lion skin and carrying a club; a seeker of immortality in the Underworld. And Dionysos Zagreus, Dionysos who ensnares, the god who possesses seems to be pure intoxication, a god one drinks in.

Homer sort of around 800 BC (and is to my mind as much Babylonian as Greek) says that a priest may only draw close to the Divine if he has "burnt many thigh pieces of bulls" -Il.1.40, 22.170; Od. 1.66- the god is present where offerings have been burnt over a long period of time.

This implies that it is use that creates a Holy place.
Or does it mean that it is the blood of sacrifice that causes the god to draw near?

If this is the case then as Berkert says, it is the intensity of the human reaction to seeing blood flow and watching death that feels like an encounter with the sacred. The connection between the feelings of Holy and horror and the desire for the Divine, become one experience..

The preparation for sacrifice shown on Greek vases includes bathing and dressing in clean clothes, putting on ornaments and wreaths. Sexual abstinence is most likely a part of the ritual. A procession begins as the celebrants start to leave the mundane, ordinary world. They sing and dance and the sacrificial animal goes with them, likewise decorated and slowly transformed. Legends tell of animals willingly offering themselves to be sacrificed.

After the killing and dismemberment the long bones and the pelvis is placed on the alter with flesh to be burnt. The skulls are preserved in the sacred place.

Latter the Pythagoreans and the Orphics (say around 600 BC) would demand that the lives of all creatures with souls should be preserved. Empedokles in particular described animal sacrifice as cannibalistic madness.

With the Neolithic age came the knowledge that the food crops came from earth and seed. Asherah of Canaanite religion like her Akkadian counter part, Ishtar represented the full store house, the fertility of the land; of fertility and plenty. Warfare was also very much a part of farming; it couldn't be otherwise. Inanna the Lioness of battle: "My lady, lioness in the battle, who butts the foreign lands, Enlil has entrusted me with bringing back the kingship to Sumer. May you be my help!"

Saturday, 7 April 2012


Logic is something I'm forcing on myself as an antidote to over a year's worth of reading archaeological reports and speculations concerning Woodhenge and The Sanctuary.

All in all it has thus far been a frustrating experience. I don't seek a definitive answer as to the function or original history of these places; that isn't a problem. What I don't like is the way information is so scattered, mis-quoted, lost or omitted...and so hard to find unless (I assume) one is a bona fide student with access to all the books.

And I'm not nor ever will be...too damned expensive!

The internet folds back on itself (or else it's just Google storing cookies) but I seem to be the only one who remembers the boy in the Woodhenge ditch, so if I ask Google I get referred back to myself.

I don't think I'm that accurate either!

Tomorrow I plan to return to both places to take some standard views of the sites- can you tell that I was trained as a radiographer...probably not...anyway what I mean by that is radiographers always take standard views of a part of a body so that differences in appearance are more easily seen than if a picture was taken from any angle.

My standard views for a timber-circle are:
1/ from the avenue.
2/ N,S,E and west from center, so that distant hills can be seen in relation to center.
3/ a photograph recording the position of any burials.

My problems are:
1/ Woodhenge does not have an avenue as far as I know...
2/ The Cunningtons did not record the location of the boy in the ditch. They dismissed him as belonging to The Iron Age on the basis of the shape of his skull. 

But he seems to have had some kind of genetic syndrome such as Cleidocranial dysplasia, nor am I convinced that you can tell Iron Age from Bronze Age by the shape of a skull...

The evidence for him being Bronze Age- his burial contemporary with the digging of the ditch- is the chalk rubble that covered him...before any silting up of the ditch had taken place.

I feel sorry that no one has marked his grave; I don't see why his remembrance is dependant upon when he lived and died!

Mike Pitts says in Hengeworld (p 132) that the Cunnington's chanced upon him in their east Woodhenge section.

The Cunnington's recorded that he was buried facing east, head to the south, and the grave was length ways with the ditch.

So he must have been placed in the east.

It is a shame but I wont be there to see the moon.
Tomorrow's full moon doesn't rise until eleven pm...but south-east sounds like just the right location to illuminate his grave.