jennygordon: (Clematis)
Yesterday, I spent the day at Avebury under the New Moon, a week after the Midsummer Solstice. It appeared to be Ladies' Day there, as I was one of many lone female strollers soaking up the peace and the power of the place. A power that felt as though it was slumbering in the late June sunshine.

"We have always been walking though this land ... The track is strongly felt," sings Carolyn Hillyer on her album, 'Songs of the Forgotten People'. I feel the pull of that track in Avebury. At least, I feel an echo of it, and it makes me wonder how much more strongly our distant ancestors felt the energy of the place that it led them to create the great henge, and stone circle. In truth, it's hard to get your head around the immensity of the place. In this picture, I've tried to capture something of the scale of the site. You can see the curve of the bank that surrounds the village and the stones continuing behind the trees:


And here, showing the height of the outer bank (when it was first built 6,000 years ago, the ditch would have been at least twice as deep and gleaming white from the chalk the grass now covers). Unusually, the higher bank is on the outside of the ditch. At hillforts, which also have such bank-and-ditch structures, it's the other way around. This has led to the theory that Avebury's builders wanted to conceal what lay within from those not permitted access; a veiling wall, if you like, as opposed to simply a defensive bank.


While I love walking the site, taking in its awesome immensity, and wondering how in the hell prehistoric man created it, I'm more drawn to individual stones; building a relationship with the place on a smaller scale, if you like. Though 'smaller' is relative when you're talking about Avebury!

It struck me this time how the personality of individual stones changes. For instance, when I visited a couple of months back, the great paired stones of The Sanctuary pulsed with a forbidding energy that quite literally stopped me in my tracks. Yesterday, however, sheep were drowsing at their feet, and the stones were drowsing too.


This stone at the start of The Avenue felt friendly and almost cuddly:


While the most tangible energy was emanating from the stone on the right in this picture, one of the pair of vast guardians of The Cove. As I stood beneath it, I had the sense of it looking down on me with great and ancient superiority. A powerful Guardian indeed.


Ancient places speak to me in so many ways. As a historian and archeologist by training, the facts and figures in my head in no way detract from the spirituality of such sites; rather, they enhance them, give them context. The track is indeed strongly felt; all you need to is open yourself to it. However, the type of monument that speaks to the loudest isn't the great stones or vast sacred sites this country is famous for; it's the burial mounds of our ancestors. This is one you can see from the outer bank of Avebury (look between the trees in the foreground, and to the left of the copse on the horizon, and you'll see a mound; it's a Bronze Age barrow).


People have asked me what it is about these monuments that so excite me, and I struggle to explain. They're places where one or more people were buried, often hundreds or even thousands of years apart, as the mounds were recognised as being sacred by subsequent peoples who inhabited the land, and so were reused. I think it's the human aspect that moves me. We will never fully understand why our ancestors built such places as Avebury, or for what purpose, and it is their very mystery that enchants us. Barrows, however, were where people were buried. People. Human beings, like us, from thousands of years ago. That kind of connection to the past is easier for me to grasp.

And talking of grasping, I shared my packed lunch with this little chap, who came so close I could have grasped him. Poor fellow, he's looking a little scratty from spending all his time running around feeding his babies:

jennygordon: (Roe Deer fawn)
Thought I'd share some of those ancient places that make my soul sing.

This is Bryn Celli Ddu on Anglesey in North Wales. Translated into English, that means "the mound in the dark grove." It's a Neolithic stone circle and henge monument, with a Bronze Age passage grave in the middle. At the rear is a standing stone carved with spirals and ripples. It's a place I've known and loved for over 20 years. Pagans of all shapes and colours gather there at the summer solstice, but most of the time, you can enjoy the deep, quiet atmosphere all on your own.

Bryn Celli Ddu1

And here's the entrance to the passage grave. Inside, it's cool and embracing and smells of rich earth:

Bryn Celli Ddu2

This is another site on Anglesey known as Plas Newydd Chambered Tomb. It's a Neolithic monument. Despite being in the grounds of the stately home of Plas Newydd, the tomb still retains a mighty sense of presence, especially when viewed with the mountains of Snowdonia in the background.

Plas Newydd

Here's a clearer picture of the tomb itself. It's about 10 foot tall at the apex:

Plas Newydd2

This is Stanton Drew Stone Circle in Somerset, although it's actually two huge circles, plus a stone row and a number of outliers. It's a little-known and little-visited site, so usually there's just you and the cows.

Stanton Drew 2

The stones are a beautiful rich, red sandstone:

Stanton Drew 1


jennygordon: (Default)

January 2016



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