So far I’ve tended to concentrate on the view from inside the circle looking out. Yet the evidence from the Sun and Stars would suggest that it was also a place where people looked from the outside in. For this entry I’d like to think about things from this other point of view.
There are a few people who have argued that Stonehenge is a fertility symbol. The Guardian described it as the original sex machine. The story is about Anthony Perks, a gynaecologist who thinks that Stonehenge represents the female genitals because the rock look a bit like what he sees on a regular basis. A couple of replies spring to mind. Jacquetta Hawkes’s famous “Every generation gets the Stonehenge it deserves — and desires,” is one. “I pity his poor wife,” is another.
More interesting is a proposal by Terence Meaden. He also sees the stone circle as symbolically female. He also has the Heel Stone as male. He argues that on the day of the solstice the shadow from the Heel Stone penetrates the stone circle causing fertility and so on. I like this idea a lot. It makes Stonehenge a rather active monument rather than a collection of rocks. It also tallies with what is known of some other monuments. At Newgrange a shaft of light penetrates the heart of the tomb around midwinter sunrise. But is it likely? Probably not.
My objection would be that there was very likely two Heel Stones in the past. It would make the two stones a portal to pass through to enter the site. Aubrey Burl has a better objection. He points out that the arguing that the Heel Stone was a ‘quoit’ that cast a shadow doesn’t work because of the presence of the Slaughter Stone. This is a stone between the Heel Stone and the circle. Burl says the shadow from the Heel Stone would have been blocked by the Slaughter Stone which in characteristic language he refers to as ‘quoitus interruptus’.
Nevertheless I think Meaden’s idea of looking at the circle from the outside in is one of his better theories. There’s nothing for social cohesion like a good procession and you need somewhere to process to. The view for most ancient people would be from the outside in, because the centre could only ever hold a relatively small number of people. Stonehenge becomes a much more powerful symbol if it has an astronomical effect that everyone can see rather than a select few. With the stones of the Channel 5 model being made of Polystyrene we can move them around and ask questions like “Would the effect be different if the Slaughter Stone was toppled in Antiquity?”