There is something rather cathartic about driving on roads surrounded by fields, the rise and fall over the hills, completely escaping the ordered bricks and pavements of the town. Everything here, even the air is different. Walking along the track towards Stonehenge, past the grassy burial mounds of people, whose lives are lost somewhere in the memory of the ground upon which my feet now pace is a strange sensation.
You feel very much the presence of the past and our temporal impermanence compared to that of nature. Although maybe we are not so isolated from everything – Wordsworth perhaps puts it better than I could when he talks of being ‘rolled round in earth’s diurnal course, with rocks and stones and trees’.
Stonehenge itself is smaller than you would expect. Maybe it seems that way purely based on the fact I am so used to being surrounded by buildings, notably larger. But perhaps what makes this circle of sandstones and bluestones impressive are their position. Set on a gentle hill top, ringed by an almost moat-like dip that rises up again in the distance. If we could raise our forms from the earth and view the landscape as one of the many jackdaws that fly overhead we would see that Stonehenge is itself only part of a larger ritual landscape including Woodhenge, Cursus and Durrington Walls.
Turning our gaze a little further on there is also Avebury – the largest stone circle in the world. These sites have been analysed and re-analysed with various conclusions drawn as to their meaning and significance – from purely ritualistic sites to calendars and complex astrological maps of the sky.
The stones in Stonehenge, to move would have alone been a huge feat – involving many men (and maybe women) so what inspired such hardship? What gods did they worship? Who did they pray to? What did they believe? Maybe part of the mystery of these sites, is that there is logic entwined.
Everything we do in our daily lives is for a reason, and reason no less drove those who planned and constructed Stonehenge. Standing in our world, full of man-made commodities from cars to running water, it is hard to understand what drove these people – who already would have had to struggle just to survive – to dedicate years, decades to construct what basically looks to the eye as a collection of stones.
And if these stones, and the surrounding sites are indeed as complex and deliberately astrologically accurate – how were they able to access this knowledge in between fending for food and surviving the elements?
As I drive home, with the sun setting behind me I can’t help thinking that one day, someone 1000 years from now, maybe far more advanced than us will look back on the remnants of our civilisation and be asking the same questions.
In the present it is easy to think that what we do and create on a daily basis has logic. But stepping outside of our present for a moment….the question arises…does it?