Wednesday, 1 September 2010
Yesterday morning I drove to The Sanctuary. I must have passed it many times before as it is on the road from Marlbourough to Avebury, but had never thought to stop at that particular lay-by on the top of the hill to see what was was over the hedge.
I had thought that the lay-by was for people visiting the barrows on the opposite side of the road.
Nor had I thought about looking for The Sanctuary on a map, before yesterday. I'd just assumed that it was somewhere to the left of West Kennet and possibly a long walk.
The Sanctuary -which I thought of as a causewayed enclosure- was placed in my mind with 'cursus' and 'Iron Age fort' and therefore not in the right time frame. Causewayed enclosures were quite probably places of 'sky burial' and are therefore simple. I mean in my limited estimation and expectation; I don't expect there to be any sun, moon or star alignments at a causewayed enclosure as it was used as a pre-burial space for the dead, and as there are many bones there, both lost and uncollected for the long barrow, there is little evidence for a special kind of burial -of the kind I'm interested in.
So, I'd never bothered to find out anything about The Sanctuary before yesterday.
I parked the car behind one other car, whose occupant seemed to be a photographer interested in the barrows, and we sat for a while, me thinking that there is no need of drugs when one has driving. My brain felt as if it had been stuffed with cotton wool. The sun was hot through the windscreen, but I was almost cold. We got food from the boot of the car, and I took out my mother's shawl to wear. Back in the car we ate cheese and Ryveta, and shared a bottle of water.
When I walked into The Sanctuary my first thought was disappointment. I wished that I had dowsing rods with me, I quickly thought that surely I could just use twigs, but in rapid succession came the next thought; I wouldn't want to dowse here, the ground was too strong.
I have no theory about dowsing; it is just something everyone (I believe) does automatically, the sticks act as amplifiers. On the other hand, to dowse means opening oneself to allow awareness of a specific type of something; I have absolutely no idea at all about what that something may be.
The laws of geomancy dictate that a location should be in balance between hill, valley and in alignment with sun and moon. As locations go, The Sanctuary is spectacular. It is as if we were on a disc, the ground drops away over the edge of The Sanctuary, and the horizon is an undulating, sinuous line of hills that would ring around the disc -if it weren't for that south to east hedge!
My experience was of a stillness arising from the sense of increased gravity; and the downwards, heavy, pull- made me think again of 'hungrey grass'. I wondered if, like Woodhenge, there was another body within the henge?
The Sanctuary was once very much like Woodhenge: it had a ditch enclosing (not yet excavated) a central (central-ish) burial; and rings of holes that once held tree trunks latter selectively filled with standing stones. The post holes have been marked with concrete posts; blue rectangles for stone, and red posts with rounded ends for wood. The place where the girl was buried under a standing stone is marked (I think) by the top of a stone just before the blue concrete rectangle. The red post was chosen as her memorial stone I guess, because it is in a similar position to the flint grave so close to the center of Woodhenge.
Despite Aubrey Burl's description of her burial in 'Rites of the Gods', there is a more accurate image available here: [LINK] which shows the archeologist's sketch of the burial pit at The Sanctuary.
As you can see from my film, the grave is honoured with bunches of grass, with twigs tied into a patten, and feathers.
I'm glad that she has not been forgotten.