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Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Stonehenge, an old post.

I wrote this two years ago..
Here is is again.

The attitude to prehistoric monuments has changed considerably during my life time.

When I was a child, aged just eight or nine years old (so this is 1969) Stonehenge was only just on the tourist map.

There was a car park.

I think?




The site itself was, in my memory, a very big field with large stones, toppled and balancing; the monument itself was lonely, windswept, too silent on Salisbury plain. In the mid 1960’s, there were no guards or wardens of any kind, there was no hint of the troubles yet to come.

When I visited again, in the early eighties, the stones of Stonehenge were surrounded by little huts created to house guards.They were very odd indeed, they looked right uncomfortable.

Bad photo taken by me, looking into a 'defensive' hut.

With something reminiscent of Wilhelm Reich's Orgone collector, about them!

Orgone collector.


The ring of huts was defensive.
Stonehenge had become a place of battles.





Stonehenge sits on an invisible line that divides British culture. In the 1980s, the line divided the Gnostic attitudes of the government- the Conservative party led by MrsThatcher- from the pagan, earth centred ethos expressed by the 'travellers' who went to Stonehenge for the midsummer sunrise.

The Gnostic attitude to Stonehenge is to preserve the hidden meaning of the stones and to control access.

Whilst the Pagans see Stonehenge as a sacred place open to all, a place to use.

The Conservatives of the 1980s regarded the Stonehenge party, and all such meetings and celebrations as a modern Bacchanalia. About two thousand years ago, the Roman writer, Livy described how fear of a degenerate Bacchanalia signified, (rather than produced) a catastrophic end to law and order. Seven thousand persons were arrested, most of whom were executed

Likewise the travelers of the late 1970s and early 80s were portrayed as a kind of plague sweeping the land, and as in Ancient Rome fear of debauched citizens activated state violence.

Stuckley's vision of white clad Druids was not Hawkwind at Stonehenge.


The Solstice parties were understood by the Conservatives, to be the old enemy; a fall from an imaginary pristine, Classical past.

And the war at Stonehenge was portrayed as protection.

But what exactly was being protected?
Four thousand years ago the people of The Bronze Age had reconfigured the Stonehenge of their farming ancestors. The Blue stones placed so carefully by the Neolithic people a thousand years before, had been dragged from their sockets around the periphery and pulled towards the center of the Sarcen trilithons.

Someone, or 'several yobs' carved axes into the Sarcen stone.

In the 1960s it was often written that these axes proved that Phoenician sailors had sailed to Britain to buy tin.

The past is not a distant country
It is not one thing...
Nothing is...for long.

Stonehenge is used, abandoned, used again.
A recent use, from the seventeenth century onward, is to provide material for archaeologists...

You may not agree with me, but the Stonehenge you see now is a kind of representation of the original.

A recreation erroneously called preservation.
Heritage.

Those who had recreated the Stonehenge you see now by raising the fallen stones, those who had taken bags full of cremated ash from the ground, were trying to preserve Stonehenge.

By deciphering a hidden code.
Rather than using it.

Rather like finding a set of drums
Dismantling the kit bit by bit
Recording the likely origin of the wood
The isotopic content of the metal...

Rather than playing with it
Experiencing the result.
Recording the music...

It is worth asking who in the past has done the most damage to Stonehenge?

But at least the travelling party-people, could never be accused of hypocrisy.

At the solstice, Stonehenge provides a dramatic mix of theater and temple, and the people who gathered there in the 1980s were not going to worry about any changes they themselves made (in a universe whose only sure law is that everything changes).

At that time it was clear that the true infrastructure of our world could be destroyed in a mega tonne flash of Plutonium madness. At any time...

The fracture line that runs through Stonehenge was and still is, all about the meaning of that space and who can use it.

Some people, the transcendentally minded Gnostics demand that Stonehenge is treated as an un-deciphered text. The Gnostic view casts Stonehenge as hidden order, an assemblage of transcendent information frozen invisible within the mother of all henges.

The modern pagan sees Stonehenge as a connection to our ancestors, a place of imminence. There is nowhere to get to, no text to decipher. Stonehenge acts as a portal to facilitate union with the Otherworld. A landscape that functions now as it functioned then; a place of focus, a place between time.

The notion that Spirituality is to be found somewhere aloof or separate from the material world, is plain nonsense.




The Conservative government then or now, do not recognise or portray themselves as Gnostics, they see themselves as  guardians of our heritage. Whilst the multi-coloured travellers dancing in the ‘garden of the sun’ are, to the Conservatives, just  naive children who will, sooner or latter drain the nation's wealth, as they grow older, reproduce, became ill and expect the state to help them out.

Decades on, 2011, Stonehenge remains a difficult place to understand.
This word...
Heritage.

When I visit



The car park is mostly full.
The shop is teeming.
I find it constantly fascinating...










But if you can get in touch with one of the Gate keepers’ and get yourself some time within the circle, you will experience the strange deadening of sound and something like claustrophobia.

The stones loom over you.
It seems small inside.

I don't think that you can experience anything like the original Stonehenge, unless you can stand inside the rings and listen..

I like Stonehenge more now than I used to, but only because I ditched any idea that I should like it. Salisbury Plain is a military enclosure, or reservation. It is the place where millions of pounds are flown around and exploded; a place where young men flaunt their military ethic.

It is a sea of grass, islands of hills, dedicated to the art of death.
Defense.

Stonehenge
So many cremated...so many once protected within its henge and stones.

Turning away from the military reservation, heading up to Marlborough, following the road as it sweeps past The Sanctuary and then past Silbury.

Avebury is quiet, and used; people live within and around the circles and there are sheep.

Avebury is living, or at the very least integrated with the present.

In the 1980s at Avebury, New Age travelers dressed in tie dye, dread locked with ear-lobes full of rings, would beg for money off any straight edge visitor (who didn't have a small child with him or her).

Mike Pitts ran the wonderful museum there, and his partner had created the best vegetarian restaurant in England.

Seriously, the food at Stones was the best.

But at the time of writing, (2011) things have changed.
Avebury is being frozen into a museum piece, but I hope it will resist.

My impression of Avebury, National Trust, is a growing sense of eighteenth century order:
Capability Brown must have planned the grounds, so unusual!
A rustic folly!
Unique!
A riot of stone surrounded by a most impressive haha.

It is called a henge...

History.
The New Age travelers had started their nomadic trek during the 1970s.

People would spend the summer driving in convoys of buses, cars, and vans between festivals and living in their vehicles.

It ended  on the 5th or 6th of February 1985.

Is it just me...who thinks this way
But in my opinion the whole damn stupid fiasco was fueled by an idea that counter-culture anarchists needed to be stopped!

What, protesting against nukes?
What ever next!




In the June of 1982 approximately 150 vehicles drove to Greenham Common USAF base after the annual Stonehenge Free People's Festival.

Greenham Common was ostensibly a part of ‘our’ national defense system.

It was the location of American nuclear weapons (Pershing and Cruise, the soldiers would take them out for rides on their trucks).

Using Britain as a missile base is one of the meanings of special relationship.
Like looking after a gun for a friend.

A lot of people resented the paranoia the weapons represented.

Most people just hoped that the game of mutually assured destruction was working.

Basically, in the 1970's war was remembered as a bad thing.

The Falklands war changed that.

Since 1982 murderous conflict has been repackaged by the heritage industry as a gaudy reenactment and something we always win...

I had planned to go there.
To Greenham.

I was sick of being told that I should be afraid.
But going was dependent upon failing my radiography exams.

I passed
I was offered a job at Birmingham Children's Hospital.
So I didn't go to Greenham.

Meanwhile
The newspapers and TV explained

How hippy values...
Or the fundamentally religious and spiritual values such as thou shall not kill, were unhygienic and quite frankly refusing to pay taxes...

For every bodies sake (!)
Had to be stopped.

The traveler convoy set up camp at Greenham and held out until the night of 5-6 February 1985 when police and military, destroyed the protest...

Back in Avebury 2011, the multicoloured crew of New Age-ers has gone, leaving only a new wave of books in the gift shop to explain dowsing and labyrinths, Wicca and Druidry.

Sparkly crystals in silver adorn bracelets and earrings, pendants and wands; un-dyed wool, and Kendal mint cake make the shop (by the post office) a treasure trove.

The restaurant is still there, by the mill pond and the medieval barn now selling what I can only describe as synth-cake and tea; the imperative to use products grown with kindness and harvested from the earth with respect, has been dumbed down into the cult of Locally Sourced.

So it goes.

12th August 2013.

The road that went close by the stones, the A 303 is closed...
So no one will be able to look at the stones with out paying, anymore.


The visitor center is quite a long way away from the stones...
It has a roof, and a some glass panels have been fitted.

Actually used the audio guide for the first time.
My only problem with it is that it makes everyone look as if they are listening to a phone call from a troubled friend...

The same friend.



The stones.


End of January 2014


We went to Stonehenge...



The new visitor reception center..

Tickets
Cafe
Shop
Museum and...



Land-Rover-train.


Which trundles along at the speed of a hearse
Translating the visitor out of the service station present
In to the timeless space of Stonehenge.

I was supposed to feel that way?

Previous to this
The museum
Begins with a virtual Stonehenge

Because you can't stand inside the rings

There is another massive visual presentation
Circles, lines and Google map that told me it all ended in
Beakers.

The cabinets of bones...
Kind of hard to take, seeing people treated this way.
But I was really happy to see the Grooved ware and chalk from Woodhenge



The land-train trundles along to the old car park
Once a merry scene, now desolate.
The atmosphere is distant and cold...

The rather jolly 'time tunnel' is no more.