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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Stonehenge

Posted by on in Culture Blogs


In Praise of Arditti's Easter

Set in a fictional North London Anglican parish during Holy Week at the height of the AIDS epidemic,

Michael Arditti's masterful 2008 Easter, while also treating with larger, universal issues—doubt, belief, community, identity, love—is a novel profoundly Christian, with two great pagan moments.

Listen, and I will tell.


The Rites of Pan

Virtually everywhere, there are places where men go to have (mostly) anonymous sex with other men. Look for these places on the edges, in the places-between: parks, truck-stops, forests.

Here are enacted the true Rites of Pan. Here, I am deeply convinced, flows the power that makes the Sun to rise, the Rivers to flow, the Seeds to sprout. Power raised for no ulterior purpose but the raising thereof, is always power given to the Horned.

(A friend who spent some time in Jerusalem once told me, “The only place in Israel where it truly doesn't matter if you're a Jew, a Christian, or a Muslim, is in the parks at night”: a “f*ckocracy,” he called it. Truly, Pan is the Great Leveler.)

If you've never been to one of these places—they're not really my style, either—Arditti will take you there vicariously. Welcome to Hampstead Heath at night.

Oh my, oh my.


Building the New Pagan Vocabulary

The second is a mere single phrase, an expression: but oh, what an expression.

Writes Arditti: move his lips would require a Stonehenge effort.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Amateur snapper captures stunning photo of Stonehenge shrouded in morning  mist - Mirror Online

The Mists of Stonehenge


Of the 10,000 stone circles of Britain, what makes Stonehenge unique?

Easily answered: the lintels.

Of all the stone circles of Britain, only Stonehenge has cap-stones.


What did the Anglo-Saxons, those inveterate incoming barbarians, make of Stonehenge? With one exception, we simply don't have the documentation to know.

We do know what they called it, though, and that name is, in itself, quite the singular (and revealing) datum.

Stonehenge: the name is transparently Anglo-Saxon. Stone + hang: the “hanging stones,” one might say.

As Rudyard Kipling would put it, thereby hangs a tale.


The “Hanging Stones.” Writer after writer has read this to mean “Stone Gallows” or “Place of Hanging.”

Supposedly, the Anglo-Saxons were wont to build their gallows à la Hanged Man card, as two uprights with a cross-piece. (Later gallows, of course, generally took the form of a single standing post with cross-arm and brace.) Thus, to their barbarian eye, Stonehenge resembled a place of mass execution.

We're only a step or two away here from Stonehenge as a temple to Woden, the Anglo-Saxon Odin. If we can trust the Norse evidence (but can we? That's 400 years later, and 1000 miles away), men were hanged as offerings to him: Galgaguð, Snorri calls him, the Gallows God.

Stonehenge, place of mass sacrifice. Just imagine a corpse swinging from every lintel-stone, rope creaking, in the eternal wind of Salisbury Plain.

Really, one has to wonder just how much of this is mist: paganophobia, essentially. You know those wicked heathens and their dreadful human sacrifices.


Myself, I have to wonder of there isn't a simpler explanation of the name by which we still know Stonehenge today. “Hanging Stones”? Well, what's unique about Stonehenge? The lintels. They're the major marvel. How the heck did they get them up there?

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs


A Tale of Avebury


In the days of King Ethelred the Unready, a priest was sent to the village of Avebury in Wiltshire to build a church. This priest's name was Willibrord.

Now, this village stands within the great henge of Avebury, the world's largest stone circle. Though the villagers were Christians of a sort, they were not sanguine about Willibrord's project.

“The Stones won't like it,” they said.

(Th' Stons wont lahk't was what they actually said. Willibrord was a foreigner, a Frisian, and often found these English stubborn, and difficult to understand.)

“Nonsense,” he said. “These old pagan stones should all be thrown down, anyway. They are mere, dumb earthfast stones; they have no true power.”

He picked out a fine spot for his new church at the crossing of the two roads that meet at the center of the Stones. Since the villagers refused him even the slightest assistance, he was forced to bring in workers from elsewhere, at great expense.

But day after day, their work proved fruitless. Each morning, newly-arrived at the site, they would find the work of the previous day cast down.

“The Stones don't like it,” said the villagers.

“This is the work of demons,” said Willibrord.

The outlander priest prayed every prayer in the prayerbook, and sprinkled holy water by the gallon, all to no avail. Day after day, the builders' work was nightly undone. For more than a year, this went on.

Finally, priest Willibrord conceded defeat. Today, when you visit the Great Henge of Avebury, 5000 years old and more, you will see there also the 1000-year old Saxon church of St. James where it now stands, just outside those old pagan Stones and their monumental ditch.

All over Christendom, tales are told of churches that stand where they do because demons cast down the original walls.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I spent one fine Beltane in Avebury myself, years ago. On May Eve I sat in the Devil's Chair (a hollow in one of the larger stones
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    My parents went to England once. They went to see Wimbledon. They took a look around and liked Avebury. They said that Stonehen


Take a close look at this reconstructed Iron Age round house from Pimperne, Dorset, England.

Note, in particular, the internal circle of support posts and lintels, marking off the inner living area.

If it doesn't look strikingly familiar to you, you can't possibly be pagan.

Although Stonehenge predates the Iron Age by more than a millennium, it's hard not to suspect that its familiar ring-with-lintels structure may well have been a visual echo of something that its builders knew intimately from their own daily lives.

You've heard of Stonehenge as temple, observatory, cenotaph. Well, it may or may not have been any, or all, of those things.

But it seems to me not to stretch credibility to claim that, first and foremost—whatever else it may also be—Stonehenge is a house.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Hmm; I'm trying to imagine cooking dinner with a standing circle and "horseshoe" of bluestones in the way. It seems more probable
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    As for cooking, we need to remember that fireplaces with chimneys were not invented until fairly recently. Great halls, long hous
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    A few years ago a British architect proposed that Stonehenge was a dwelling, and published a drawing showing how it may have appea
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Woodhenge as the House of the Deities and Stonehenge as the House of the Ancestors perhaps.

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

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