Stone Circles: Avebury

Stone Circles: Avebury
Stone circles are found throughout Britain and Europe and are thought by many Pagans to mark key Earth Energy points where the environmental Chi/Orgone energy is focussed. Places such as Stonehenge are the focus of celebrations at the major festivals of the year due to the beliefs of many modern Pagans about how these structures connect with their practices. According to folklore the previously mentioned circle at Stonehenge is believed to have been constructed by the Druids. Even though, historically, Druids are connected to groves of trees rather than circles of stone. This piece of misinformation came about mainly because the person who formed a key modern Druid Order lived very close to Stonehenge and used it in his publicity to suggest the historical roots of his group.

Because the popularity of Stonehenge in the last few decades most of the more spiritually-minded Pagans now go to other sites. As one Witch I know said “I find seeing all those people climbing over the stones, some using drugs, and many showing no respect for the site, other people, or even themselves, upsets me. How would people feel if it was happening at their local church or religious building?!”

Avebury is one of the popular alternative sites that Pagans seeking an experience more connected with the land at the times of the festival visit. The circle itself encompasses significant areas of the village of Avebury within it, including the pub. The reason that the Avebury circle has survived so well is that many of the stones were buried for over a thousand years. This avoided the usual problem of them being broken up for building houses and walls after the belief systems changed and only a select group of people knew the function of the areas the stones marked.

One of the first mentions of Avebury in relatively modern times was in 1610 when one of the first ever guidebooks to Britain commented on the size of the main circle and the distinctive ditch that surrounded the hamlet. In 1663 King Charles the Second overheard the antiquarian John Aubrey remark that Avebury “ Did much excel Stonehenge as a cathedral does a parish church”. Intrigued by this he visited the site with Aubrey to look at the great circle, and the two smaller circles within it. Aubrey produced a map of Avebury showing the stones and designs visible at the time.

In 1743 William Stukeley produced the first book on Avebury. In it he speculated that Britian and Ireland were the “Isles of the Blessed, which Plato and other ancient writers mention”. Which added not only to Avebury’s reputation, but that of stone circles in general, adding to the lore and stories surrounding them and laying the groundwork for the rise of the reconstructualist (modern) Druidic Orders of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The book also contained a number of pictures showing which stones were standing, which were felled, and which were buried.

Today this is very useful as much of Avebury was restored to the way it is now by a Scottish archaeologist called Alexander Keiller, so you can see how much was hidden until then. Keiller’s work was not appreciated by the locals at the time as they feared that it would summon ‘evil’ forces as most Pagan practices had been overshadowed by a layer of superstition and fear. Fortunately today the area is very Pagan friendly and happy to host Pagan festivals such as the Wheel of the Year. There are plenty of shops selling replica charms, talismans, and enough crystals to reconstruct the Avebury circles several times over.

I say circles because Avebury is a complex of one circle encompassing two others, plus various key standing stones and energy points. There are also two processional avenues; one leading to a nearby river, and the other towards a nearby hill. I have followed with interest the different educated guesses on archaeological and cultural significance and function of these, and the complex itself. The lack of any written records does not help as interpretations tend to be rooted in the culture and beliefs of the time that they were proposed. For example currently the two smaller circles inside the encompassing one are considered to be male and female, so that at rituals I have attended there groups of the two different genders have started off in their respective circles and joined up outside them. Supposedly the circle with the taller stones is the male one, while the one with shorter stones is the female one. This is based on the idea that in humans the male is, on average 30% larger than the female. But recently I have heard that a grouping of three stones (originally four), called “The Cove”, is now being used by people of the lesbian, gay, transgender and other aspects of gender/sexuality, or not, as their gathering point.

Personally I don’t see a problem with this, but some Pagans of a more “traditionalist” view are reported to be getting a bit distressed about this latest development, although Paganism has been broadly accepting of people with different gender viewpoints for thousands of years. Even Dowsing hasn’t been much help in this disagreement because the ways the dowser can interpret the information they detect. I visited Avebury with a Witch once who showed me a stone called “The Witch’s Chair” which is sited just where one of the avenues joins the circle. One of the largest stones of the Avebury circle it has a natural ‘seat’ as part of its shape. At Beltaine (May 1st) young women sit in to make wishes, and female Witches are supposed to be the only ones who can sit in it without incurring harmful results.

Naturally I had to test this for myself, and before my companion could stop me I sat in it. The only thing I noticed was that it was quite comfortable for a stone seat. My companion was rather put out that nothing happened to me. Especially when I sang a couple of rude Rugby songs to increase my male energies just to make sure that it wasn’t because I was in touch with the feminine side of my nature. This suggested to me that the modern day ideas of why the Avebury Circle and its attendant stone works are sited and laid out as they are might not be as accurate as both Pagans and archaeologists like to think. Earth energies are very malleable to thought and belief and when rituals and spells are done within focal points marked out by stone circles, it is the attitude and expectations of the participants that produce the results rather than any intrinsic properties of the site or stones.

In the next article we will look more closely at the energies channelled by stone circles, and how they can affect the local landscape and the people and animals in it.



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Ley Lines,and Ghosts, at Jamaica Inn
Urban Shamanism- Places of Power
Urban Shamanism- Urban Ley Lines

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