This past July we had the pleasure and privilege of taking not just a normal vacation, but a cruise through Western Europe with Amy Bruni's Strange Escapes. This trip was the first European cruise for the company, and included excursions in England, France and Spain. We spent the first day of the Escape on the Magical Mystery Tour through picturesque English countryside ninety miles west of London, and were given the opportunity to spend ample time at the megalithic sacred site of Avebury.
There is something about an arrangement of megaliths that really grabs ones attention. Sacred geography surrounds us all over Earth, and has been built with intention and meaning for thousands of years of human history. The process of moving massive stones into a meaningful position has alluded archeologists and caused conjecture throughout the scientific world for decades. The physics of moving stones weighing several tons has been proven possible, albeit laborious, tedious and primarily completed by the lowest class of people within a given society.
That's the anthropologist's gist. I don't want to get deeply technical, and I'm working off some antiquated educational cornerstones as it is. (I graduated in '07 with my Masters, and that's a while ago now, frankly.) Let's get to the physical and magical parts of this incredible, unique location.
Avebury consists of 28 sarsen stones, weighing upwards of 40 tons and placed upright enclosing 28 acres. Remnants of smaller circles are contained within there. They all sit inside a chalk-stone bank and ditch that contains entrances built into the earth. The site was built onto over several periods and at one time contained far more stones and structural pieces. It was the mid-1700's when local farmers removed and used much of the stone, neglecting to recognize the significance of the site.
We learned how a central sone that stood 20 feet or so in the air was dynamited apart to build the nearby church that sits with the town, surrounded by the outer stone circle. That long, tall central stone was in fact interpreted to be a possible phallic stone, which on the Summer Solstice would align to cast a shadow into the center of what could have been a stone that represented the female anatomy.
Astronomy, geography, human ingenuity and belief brought this site into existence and reinvented it over time, adding to the imposing structure until it at one point contained a temple. Even as much of the site was being deconstructed in the 1700's, a local researcher drew and catalogued the stone at the site, and determined after 30 years of work and drawing the site as it remained, that it had once resembled a serpent passing through a circle. Even the pieces that are left retain their importance and imposing nature, from size and centuries of reverence both.
We were able to stand on a ley line that passes through the site and Ryan spoke of how it felt different there than within the rest of the field. I've studied ley lines and star line maps and dove pretty deep in that New Age direction at one point, and the possibilities continue to fascinate me, albeit at more of an objective distance now.
The experience itself is hard to describe, it's almost like you prepare yourself to be in a church or temple. The knowing and understanding of the place being sacred to thousands of ancient people, and still sacred to thousands of people even today, implies a level of respect and reverence that I find preparing myself for when visiting these types of locations. The Strange Escapes members are all of course folk who feel this too, and there was a palpable excitement upon arrival as we all walked toward the site with the guide.
While the enclosed spaces, walkways, temple and sanctuary or ritual spaces are now gone and open to the elements and their stones utilized for the buildings within the village of Avebury, the magic is still intact. The space still retains a mystical element that we get to walk among and physically touch. A visceral sensation takes over the body at the placing of one's hand on the rough and bumpy surfaces of the megaliths, even when taking an awkward seat in the pocket of a stone called the Devil's Seat. But the Devil, if he ever had anything to do with the site, arrived far later to the stone circle's vernacular and in his modern, Christian iteration than during any of the thousands of years that circle has been in use.
While Ryan and I wandered the area, we found also to one side a large mound covered in massive old trees. It is said the mound itself is likely a Bronze Age burial, and 19th and early 20th Century antiquarians planted the trees atop them. Strange move, as are most of the moves made in the past that concern our even older human past. Now, we could stand under the shade of the trees in the ripe July heat of England and feel the space as it was in peace, listening to the rustle of the leaves above us. I think everyone we were with took a moment to themselves with the different sarsen stones and maybe said a few words, laid a hand or two on the stone. Some hugged them, some like Ryan left offerings at them or in the cracks. The circle is huge and the open walking area of the one portion is a massive amount to take in on its own. Being within that sacred environment alongside friends and like-minded weirdos was an exciting experience, and intriguing for what we were all able to take away from the space mentally and spiritually. An absolute, mystical treat.
Thanks for reading,
Amy L. Bennett