I decided to take some time to tour Avebury recently. Along the way I stopped off around Silbury Hill and took the short trek up to West Kennet. It’s a long barrow, a tomb dating from the Stone Age. Effectively it’s a house of the dead. Huge stones were used to build a long narrow passageway with side chambers and then the whole thing was covered in earth. They’re strange places because rather than each chamber being for an individual or a family, it seems to have been a type of bone. So people’s forearms were put together in one place, ribs in another and so on. Coming up on this day I noticed the outside had quite a large number of visitors outside. I found out why when I went to go inside. A group were trying to have a collective chant in there.
My relationship with pagans is mixed. I think the New Age is a triumph of marketing to the gullible. If sacred sites tap into earth energies then why, I would like to know, haven’t the Electricity Board built a power station on one of them? I know a few Pagans who would agree because being a Pagan is rather like being a Christian in that while it may be an irrational belief, you don’t have to be uniformly stupid to be a Pagan (again rather like being a Christian, it helps, but that’s a cheap shot).
I know there are people who resent the Pagan appropriation of monuments. Sometimes these are people who visit the sites themselves, but it’s not necessary. A lot of pagan-bashing is cheerfully uninformed by experience. But I’m not usually too bothered by whether or not Paganism is modern or not. The majority of Pagans have huge respect for these sites and are better informed, if occasionally eccentrically so, than the average person about these sites. While I don’t agree with the active spirituality of the sites I can respect someone who does care for a site and tries to ensure they leave the prehistoric sites unharmed. Which is more than you can say about some archaeologists. It’s no more laughable than Christians who build gift shops in their cathedrals, though to be fair it might have just been moneylenders that Baby Jesus threw out of the temple. The point I’m long-windedly making is that Pagans are not inherently laughable.
But West Kennet is small. Only so many people can fit in. When a lot of these people are on holiday for distant places, I think it is worth ridiculing people who spend at least half an hour filling the barrow and humming to commune with energies. It might not be polite, but then neither is barring other people from sharing the experience of the site to satisfy your own woolly-brained yearnings. So I don’t apologise for over-acting and berating some half-wits for chanting against the energy flow. “Are you completely stupid? You’re facing the wrong direction. Carry on like that and you’ll irreparably damage the vibrations.”
However in retrospect it probably was wrong of me to add “Now you’re going to have to start all over again.” So my apologies to the tourists.