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Friday, 19 June 2015

Solstice

OK. Let's start with the obvious.

Yes. I have been known, occasionally, to suggest pagans are making stuff up as they go along.

And you won't catch me at Stonehenge this Sunday morning. Too cold, too likely to be cloudy, too far away. Too full of hippies and people whose Ancient Druidic Order dates back to Poland Street, Soho in the 19th century.

Actually, I prefer the place in the photo.

It's quieter. It's more homely.

It's never gonna get a view of Long Compton. 

It's the Ed Miliband of ancient monuments.

This is just the King Stone, let the reader understand. There's the King's Men and the Whispering Knights as well. Frankly, our Angle ancestors (other ancestors are available) were more sexist about their naming conventions than the Beaker Folk probably would have been, if we had faintest idea what they believed.

And maybe that's the point. Stonehenge, the Rollrights - they're tabulae rasae. Nobody knows what they were for. Nobody knows what gods were worshipped there. Nobody, let's be frank, even knows if I've guessed at the right Latin endings there. OK. Archimandrite Simon does. He will tell me if I'm wrong.

If you see the Rollrights, as I first did, in the quiet and cold of an autumn morning - or at any time of transition and, let's be honest, all times are liminal as well as "soon" - they're a little bit eerie. Disconcerting. They've no failed grandeur, like Stonehenge has, if you believe the press cuttings before you see it. They're also not pressed in by tourists and fences and the A303. They're just there. 
You can wander around - during the day you can put a quid in the box. At night you can't, as a charming bloke comes round round with an equally charming young lass, and takes the box away. But at night, though you may get in for free, but they're really a little bit unnerving if you're on your own. 

Because you aren't told what they're for. It's not like a parish church, with the 10 Commandments on the East Wall, behind a rood screen. They just - well, they just are. If you're a neo-pagan you can imagine the Piper at the Gates of Dawn, his nymphs dancing around the stones. If a Christian maybe remember Jacob realising he has stumbled into the House of God; Abraham seeing the torches among the sacrifices; or another hill top, a long way away, where a sacrifice was lifted up to the sky. 

They point to something beyond themselves, beyond the watchers. They tell us there's a depth to creation, which calls to the deeps in our hearts. 

If there's a clear northeastern sky tomorrow morning, the first glint of the sun - beautiful deception - will be framed behind the Heel Stone as it rises, then rise through distant mist over the horizon. Through sleep deprivation, dope and/or wish-fulfilment, a hairy bunch of people will see the beauty of creation and count themselves blessed to see it.

Don't knock them. They can sense what most people miss. They're in touch with the music of the stars. They're filling in the gaps where the World won't. They're hearing something calling. 

1 comment :

  1. I had to google on Rollright Stones, I admit, to check up on this one. I think you will find that the Angles came a bit late to this party, as the Rollrights were erected, if that is the right word, by our Neolithic ancestors about 2,000 years ago (it says on the English Heritage site).

    I live in Dorset which is full chock-a-block with henges, barrows and other prehistoric remains but is a bit short on standing stones. Aerial photography has revealed yet more sites which have been long since destroyed by the plough, the needs of the motor car, and (in one notorious instance) by the needs of the golfer. If these were all worship sites, or sites of religious significance, then our ancestors must have lived constantly in sight of the eternal. And in hearing, if the new investigations into the use of stone as a sort of sounding-board prove to be correct.

    No-one will ever know, until the Last Day, what and how these people worshipped, or if they did. My own, uninstructed, instinct is that they were acutely conscious of place. That some places seem to embody a power of their own which needs to be protected, or placated, or celebrated for its own sake.

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