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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Stonehenge

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Does a Building Have a Spirit?

In the wake of the epidemic of arson and property destruction that accompanied the first George Floyd protests in Minneapolis—currently estimated at some $26 million dollars worth—we've heard numerous voices raised to justify (or at least soft-pedal) such destruction.

People are more important than buildings, they say.

But I'm a pagan and, because I'm a pagan—as the ancestors did—I think that (in effect) buildings are people, too.

Now, the notion that a building could be a person falls pretty far outside the general overcultural definition of what a “person” is, so (without committing myself to metaphysical specifics) let me rephrase the question: Does a building have a spirit?

Speaking experientially, I suspect that most of us would answer: Yes.

This has implications.

Note that I'm not necessarily talking here about “spirit” in the sense of something separable from physical reality; what I mean here is a matter of integrity-within-self, of (as it were) “being-hood” or “self-ness.”

In this sense, as pagans, we recognize personhood in non-human beings as well.

Animals are people. Plants are people. Rivers are people. Mountains are people.

Looking at Received Tradition, we see that made beings are also considered to have spirit: think of the swords and spears wielded by the heroes of epic, for example. Would anyone, anywhere, actually contend that, for example, Stonehenge does not have a spirit?

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My spiritual and magical life has always been very much tied to the land. I’m very fortunate to have been able to explore some wonderful truly wild places, and to have made pilgrimages a great many times to a large proportion of Britain and Irelands sacred megalithic sites. These sacred monuments and enclosures were constructed thousands of years ago by our Neolithic, bronze age and later Iron age ancestors. Visiting and taking extended vigils at some of our most revered as well as some of our lesser known sacred ancestral sites has been central to my magical and spiritual training since I was a teenager.  To me, working and communing with the powers of place, the spiritual guardians of these places, has provided the most potent aspects of my instruction and I feel I have built up a close relationship with many ancient sites that are as personal and dear to my heart as my relationships with my fellow humans. Many of these places are small, lesser known sites well off the beaten track, but I’ve also been fortunate enough to foster a deep relationship with some of our better known and even famous megalithic sites, having spent time there and held ceremony within their enclosures for many years now. One of the most often misunderstood of these is also the most famous- Stonehenge.  I’ve been fortunate to have been able to have private access to Stonehenge a few times a year for quite a long time, more often than I have ever visited as a tourist. I feel blessed that it is so. During the heady days around the summer solstice I might well visit the stones more than once, and this year when the site is closed, I’m feeling a real sadness that my regular pilgrimage cannot take place. Visiting when you have private access is very different than the huge open public solstice gatherings, that are so famous, when thousands of party goers get to climb all over the stones and unfortunately leave a lot of rubbish behind. Equally, when visiting as a tourist, one is lead around a circular path and are able to only see the stones from afar, as it if were a circus attraction, or a paining in a gallery. Sadly, these two extremes are how many people see Stonehenge; as a place of wild revelry, from a distance on a paid tour, or saddest of all, from the window of a car on the A303 road, stuck in traffic, choking the air of this sacred place with petrol fumes.   

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
How Different Are Pagans?

Just how different are we, as pagans, from other people?

For the most part, I'd be inclined to say: Not very.

But sometimes I wonder.

In the introduction to his 2017 Stonehenge: The Story of a Sacred Landscape, British archaeologist Francis Pryor talks about how the compartmentalization of modern life makes it difficult for us to understand how, for the ancestors, religion could imbue every aspect of existence.

Almost nobody in the modern West, he writes, would build or maintain an altar, let alone a chapel, at home. At most, a religious devotee might say prayers before going to bed. And of course the reason for this is that religion in the modern Western world has ceased to be a part of daily life (20).

I actually laughed out loud when I read this. Virtually everyone that I know has at least one home altar. For many of us, the real problem is altar-creep: the tendency of altars to sprout on every horizontal surface in the house.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    I think you are right. I think some form of Pagan spirituality is the natural way we tend to respond to the world and to spirit.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Over the course of the last (nearly) 50 years, I've watched old tribal institutions and ways of doing things reemerge--sometimes a
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Very true in my experience. Some people bemoan the demise of an integral society whereas many NeoPagans are recreating one, on a

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Stonehenge dreaming

 

A few weeks ago, as part of my summer solstice celebrations I was fortunate enough to be part of a private midsummer ceremony at Stonehenge. We slept a few hours on the drove-way, a small track that passes within a few hundred yards of the stones, and at a sleepy 3.00am took a slow walk across the sacred landscape to join a pilgrimage procession to the stones from the visitor’s centre, as the stars were still bright overhead, and all but us and the owls were lost to dreaming. Stonehenge is not just the stones you see, there is a whole ritual landscape around it stretching for quite a distance with barrow mounds and the mysterious cursus- a rectangular earthwork enclosure 1 and ¾ of a mile long. Predating the stones by 500 years it’s aligned to the equinox sunrises. There is also the likely procession route of the avenue between Stonehenge and the river Avon, surfacing on land again to ‘woodhenge’- Durrington walls henge and settlement just a couple of miles away. Everywhere you go all around the area you step on sacred ground.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

I love this point between the winter solstice and new year, a time of no time, when all activity is disrupted and the normal routines of our lives either slow down or cease entirely in the face of a huge cultural and seasonal wave. Nature tells us this is a time of stillness and retreat, although sadly the modern world seldom allows complete hibernation its onward rush never the less falters for a time over the holidays. The weather too has no interest in our daily schedules and need to progress, and will disrupt the race at will. This is a season when everyone learns, even just a little, that none of us are bigger than nature. That her cycles are applied to all of us regardless of our own ideas.

For me this descent into winters darkness began with a huge day of Samhain celebrations back at the end of October, where my husband and I participated in our whole town of Glastonbury ( UK) honouring our local hunter god, Gwyn Ap Nudd who leads the Wild Hunt- a team of spirits and spectral hounds that chase or guide the dead to the underworld. My husband the artist Dan Goodfellow embodied the role of Gwyn that day in a public ceremony probably not seen here in any form for over a thousand years. The power of all that ancestral presence was immense, the dead crowded into our circle along with the residents of our town. It was very moving, but it was not an easy ceremony to be part of- a dreadful sense of hope in the air, at deaths doorway, that while the end is inevitable, it will, after that dark journey, guide us all to the light one again.  

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Pagan News Beagle: Earthy Thursday, January 7

India faces a tough choice between cheap coal energy and renewable solar energy. A new discovery at Stonehenge causes controversy in the archaeological community. And the possibility of cleaner, greener cities for the future is considered. It's Earthy Thursday, our weekly segment on science and Earth-related news! All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
What Do You Call a Circle of...

Skeletons? Bonehenge.

Witch's hats? Conehenge.

Banks? Loanhenge.

Pastries? Sconehenge.

Hags? Cronehenge.

Ghosts? Moanhenge.

Punsters? Groanhenge.

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