Visiting Stonehenge and Purchasing Spirituality

Drunk man standing on a stone at Stonehenge acting like an arse.
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I’ve remembered it’s com­ing up to that day again. I went to Stonehenge for the sol­stice once. I’m glad I went, but I doubt I’ll go again. There were a couple of big disappointments.

One was the lack of a vis­ible English Heritage pres­ence. There were an estim­ated 20,000 people there who wanted some con­nec­tion to the past. I would have thought that was a good tar­get audi­ence for EH. At the very least there’s money to be made with the Solstice 2012 t-shirts to be sold. The offi­cial sol­stice blankets for those who for­got to bring one, sol­stice kagouls and umbrel­las for when it rains and so on. It’s also an excel­lent time to attempt guilt-tripping people into join­ing EH to sup­port access to ancient sites. They might have trouble with this last one as they’re not known for sup­port­ing access to Stonehenge on the sol­stice, but it’d be worth a try. The impres­sion I got (rightly or wrongly) was that EH had aban­doned the site for the night.

Drunk man standing on a stone at Stonehenge acting like an arse.

A rev­el­ler wel­comes the arrival of lager and, pos­sibly, the Sun.

The other was the sheer mess around the site. Everyone got a bag as they went in for their rub­bish. It doesn’t have to look like this. After all the fight­ing over access in the 1980s and 90s, is this a place people come are they here to cel­eb­rate or to conquer?

On the plus side I got a les­son in the dif­fer­ence between mod­ern Pagans and New Agers. The Pagans ten­ded to look dig­ni­fied and patient. Quite a few had their cere­mo­nial robes on, but not all. The easi­est ones to spot were those who’d let their beards down for the night.

In con­trast the New Agers were laden with mys­tical kit, and were often very purple. They’d looked agit­ated and annoyed. Every time someone elbowed in the ribs, she’d be wear­ing a pointy hat as if to com­pensate for the clothes she was wear­ing would ideally be on someone taller. There’d also be a purple scarf and purple jumper hid­den beneath at least half a dozen medal­lions. I should have heard them com­ing with the vari­ous eso­teric bangles and brace­lets they were wear­ing.
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More Mysticism

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The Skeptic's CircleI’m told that June 26’s post wasn’t my first exper­i­ence with the New Age at West Kennet. I don’t remem­ber my first trip there, which was when I was five. My Da does though.

Inside West Kennet Long Barrow
Inside the West Kennet long barrow

We went on a fam­ily trip one sum­mer. I went run­ning off and climbed up the bar­row to look around. There’s not a lot to see from the top of the bar­row apart from fields. There’s Silbury Hill, but when you’re five you don’t real­ise that hills aren’t meant to be per­fect hill shapes. I did man­age to find some­thing interesting.

Whoever restored the site had given some thought to illu­min­a­tion. Long bar­rows are nat­ur­ally dark places. In this case the con­crete roof built into the site wouldn’t have helped. To solve this prob­lem little sky­lights were fixed into the con­crete. They were trans­lu­cent, so you could see through them but from the inside they let a little light in. I was five, so I thought stamp­ing on it might be a good idea.

It was a ter­rific idea.

The bar­row was hol­low, so I found that by stamp­ing on the sky­light I could make a big boom noise. For a five year old this is the a dis­cov­ery as excit­ing as find­ing a new planet or a new con­tin­ent. So I stamped and I stamped. Boom. Boom. Boom. My Da came up to see what trouble I was get­ting into*. He saw what I was doing and, being a respons­ible par­ent, told me to stop it. Being curi­ous he then had a stamp him­self. I took that as a sig­nal that I could stamp too and we got quite a rhythm going. We car­ried on doing this until my da was dis­trac­ted by some people leav­ing the bar­row. They were plainly stoned, but non­ethe­less also ter­ribly excited. He caught the word “heartbeat”.

This doesn’t mean that all mys­tical exper­i­ences in bar­rows are fake, but if you’re an ardent believer of paranor­mal stuff it’s use­ful to remem­ber it’s not just the truth that’s out there. I am too.

*the thought that I was half a mile from any­where and there­fore couldn’t get into trouble never crossed his mind.

I get on with some Pagans

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A busy day at West Kennet Long Barrow
A photo care­fully angled to hide most of the tour­ists out­side West Kennet Long Barrow, because I hadn’t planned on writ­ing up the visit this way.

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.
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