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Friday, 20 April 2012

My third attempt to write something today.

There comes a point when I have to let go of the text books and just write it as it seems to me...fortunately I have left myself a note to remind me what I'm meant to be doing, otherwise when I vow not to return to a text book my mind goes blank and it would stay that way until I had to cook something or go to bed!

I have to keep reminding myself that no one needs me to rewrite what someone else has already written, this is supposed to be my account. But I keep forgetting why I was even there- The Sanctuary and Woodhenge..I mean.

A part of the problem is that I was wrong.
I set out sure that the central *female* burials at both sites proved (as much as anything could prove, from a culture and time that didn't leave written records) something of the idea supposed to be at the heart of the Persephone myth.

I now know that there is nothing at The Sanctuary or Woodhenge that does in fact prove anything of the sort!

The theory I'm working from is that the personal, human, feeling experience of life and death and all that happens in-between is externalised and preserved in ritual and monument, just as much as in the written word. This theory explains why  the stories and ideas woven together to form mythology are seen as almost proto-science, stories that describe real events in terms of people's beliefs; for instance, the hunter communities telling stories of the animals being under the protection of the Wild *Mistress of Animals* such as Artemis or Ninhursag. From this theory we read the ancient cave paintings of bison as eternal bison, always reborn from the earth no matter how many are killed. Unfortunately this theory is low on feedback No one can know how those bison were regarded, we will never know how right or wrong we are.

The theory was originally proposed by Jung. His explained the dream language of schizophrenic and religious visions in terms of archetypes of the (collective) unconscious representing our common, biological experience; and the personal unconscious as a set of learned symbols.

Human experience is mediated ( brought to consciousness) by a personal  library of symbols. From these, people evolve taboos and rituals to make sense of their experiences. For instance the experience of the hunt ending in the joy-horror of killing. Such a powerful experience needs to be constrained and made sense of. The killed animal's spirit returns to the Great Mother and if she is pleased with the hunter she will send more of 'her' children is supposed to be the common 'myth' of hunter cultures...

This theory predicts that it is possible to some extent anyway, to read a culture's beliefs from their artifacts.

In the other camp, some people look to myth and legend to tell them of actual events and to uncover deep truths about the past.

When Freud used the story of Oedipus to illustrate what he saw as the inevitable resentment by a son of his father, and when Nietzsche wrote about Dionysos and Apollo, both were using Greek myth as metaphor to illustrate what they saw as eternal truths about the human psyche. They also used myth because they regarded Greek myth as a more true metaphor, as if the ancients were closer to the *prime* truth of the human condition.

I really haven't the courage to *do* Ancient Wisdom, but those who can, tell a good tale and add to the landscape, often creating new rituals and belief systems as a result of their writing. Micheal Dames and William Stukeley though both of them so wrong about somethings, enhance the way the past is seen; whilst the more reasonable and logical Ronald Hutton and John Aubrey (of the holes) temper their imaginings a little too much with the facts (!)

Aubrey Burl and Crania Brittanica are somewhere in between, enlivening the past with a sense of horror and the reek of the dead.

And Freud evolved a new ritual, psychoanalysis.

But the question remains, is it possible to read the belief system that shaped an artifact back from the function and shape of that artifact?

The Neolithic Sanctuary and Woodhenge are harder to understand than the Bronze Age reconfigurations: the addition of an avenue and stones and a burial.

From The Bronze Age, The Sanctuary is approached in such a way as to make it secret until right at the last moment. The sensation of walking along such a route is a sense of timelessness, or being without a reference point, even a sense of bewilderment. Then suddenly the structure appears. The avenue from Avebury to The Sanctuary -or was it the other way- is clearly marked with stones from only the Avebury end now, giving an idea of how wide a procession would have been. Some of the stones, at least four of them were *given* a body, each one was male, one stone had a man and a young boy.

Quite possibly they were 'corpse bundles' -that is mummified, sacred ancestors as at The Sanctuary.

And yet I get a sense of unease in this latter development of Woodhenge and The Sanctuary, a desire to enclose and shut off, to keep people out or to keep ghost in.

Perhaps the corpse bundles were very old, belonging to the time of the long barrows?
The re-configuring, or rather the addition of boundaries was maybe an attempt to lay the past to rest.

The ground feels ghost strewn both at Woodhenege and The Sanctuary and especially at Stonehenge. At Stonehenge I put that down to the acoustics, the stones seem to absorb sound. But there is something about a ditch and bank at Woodhenge and Stonehenge that speaks of segregation, a need to stay out unless given permission.

But what did people see when they reached the end of the avenue?


The theory of a roof at The Sanctuary and Woodhenge goes back to Stuart Piggot who had excavated at an Iron Age village and found the remains of a large, roofed structure with numerous post holes. It was originally suggested by Ben Cunnington, but Maud Cunnington saw parallels between Woodhenge and Stonehenge- a resolutely open and un-roofed structure- both had a central burial and both have an alignment with midsummer sunrise.

When I've attempted to make a timber-circle using computer graphics, the numbers of posts make a confusing structure.

I'm sticking with posts for now, no roof.

It is possible that the posts were joined together by woven fencing (the find of certain snails that had previously been explained as proving a roof!) so perhaps the structures of The Sanctuary and Woodhenge were even more confusing, more labyrinthine. The fencing would make what is happening inside the structure impossible to see from the outside, also it would create a path. The way certain kinds of finds are found in certain areas leads me to imagine that there were set activities in set locations of the circles...

Anyway, The Sanctuary and Woodhenge both got into my dreams, and so I turned them into films.

I set the post on fire in honour of the evidence of charcoal and the implication that posts were removed by burning them out.


I also considered timber-circles as symbolic forests.
I imagined people sitting around the 'forest circle' as a single hunter went in to pit himself against the beast. The only evidence is that numerous arrow heads were found at both sites.

The hidden beast within the wood is such an archetypal tale, but I don't think that there is much real evidence to support this idea.

Still I almost enjoyed trying it out!


The similarity of Woodhenge to a labyrinth and the account of one Dr Toope of the ground around The Sanctuary being 'full of skulls' led to this film:

A labyrinth of skulls.


I have not as yet made anything like an accurate reconstruction because I'm not a mapper (I don't know how to use Source).

Gmod is brilliant but limited and difficult to use on an old PC that doesn't have enough RAM (and can't be upgraded, its that old).