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Archive for May, 2011

Bath | Stonehenge | Paganism | Ley Lines| Druids | Masonic Lodge

It is said that the Circus is joined to the Royal Crescent by a ley-line, that they

The Royal Circus is the same circumference as Stonehenge

represent the sun and the moon, and that Brock St which links them is the most paranormally active street in Bath!  The circumference of the Circus also matches – almost exactly – that of the inner circle of rocks at Stonehenge, the most famous druid monument of them all.

The Circus really does epitomise the elegance of Georgian Bath. Beautiful curved terraces of Bath limestone sweep round in a circle, and it doesn’t take much to imagine the ladies and gentlemen of society on this street. So charming and respectable – but look closer….

The Circus was designed by the architect John Wood, who had a fascination with Paganism. He incorporated his interest into the buildings around the crescent, all of which are adorned with Pagan and naturalistic carvings such as pan pipes and mystical figures, each one quite individual. At the top of each house is an acorn. The circular crescent represents the sun, and the Royal Crescent, which he also designed, represents the moon. It is said that the road that connects the two is an ancient ley line.

John Wood the Elder – Stanton Drew Circle and Stonehenge.

Bath is famed for its neo-classical architecture but what underpins the thinking of the 18th century architect John Wood when he drew the designs for The Circus is a strange mish-mash of legend and myth, this of course is the age of the new ‘druidism’ that took hold when such figures as William Stukeley called such places as Stonehenge the Druidical Temple.

Fertile imaginations played with the ideas of sacrificial wicker constructions filled with victims, and Wood took it much further and in his book – A Description of Bath, he writes a history for Bath that is at once absurd yet full of that energetic imaginings that are still to be found in today’s new age books.

To understand why Wood designed The Circus as he did one must go back to the myths that formed the literature of the 18th century. Wood, though including neo-classical forms in the building, was not returning to a Roman past but a pre-Roman past steeped in the myths of a Britannic origin. The myth can be found in the 12th century writings of Geoffrey of Monmouthshire, and according to (R. S. Neal – Bath, A Social History) a 16th century edition of Monmouth’s book written in Paris was very much alive in the oral tradition of Bath. Putting stone circles and Druids together seems rather strange, but Wood thought that the chief ensign of the Druids was a ring.

So as he began to plan his city on paper, he incorporated the pagan elements, but also he was relating the pagan symbol of the circle back to Jewish symbolism, therefore Christian, and then British and Greek, which led quite nicely to the “Divine Architect” who was of course God. This is all creative flummery, a mixing of ideas, so when we look at The Circus we see classical lines, but with little touches of druidism – in the acorns that sit atop the surrounds of the roofs – and the frieze which incorporates specific symbols of Masonic details.

First  though must come the story of Bladud, the founding father of Bath, an exiled prince because of his leprosy, whilst out herding pigs one day happened to notice that the pigs loved to roll in the hot muds of the spring. Bladud also tried this and was cured, and then went on to found the city of Bath on the spot. Our mythical King Bladud is given a date of 480 BC, and as Wood saw it Bladud created the city about the size of Babylon. Bladud was a descendant of a Trojan prince, a high priest of Apollo and a ‘Master of Pythagoras’. Therefore this high priest was a devotee of the heliocentric systems of the planets from which the Pythagorean system was derived. That the Works of Stantondriu (Stanton Drew) form a perfect model of the Pythagorean system of the planetary world

Do the 108 acorns on the parapets refer to the story of ‘Prince Bladud’ (the founder of Bath) or a reference to the Druids and oak trees ?

At Stanton Drew it must have taken him many hours, with his assistant wandering round taking measurements of the circles, which were probably at this time partly covered in orchards. There was a precedence for this fascination with megalithic stones, Stukeley and Inigo Jones were all entranced by these heathen stones of an earlier age, and the development of myths round druidic religions were already forming and capturing imaginative minds – a bit like today.

Now Stanton Drew was, according to Wood, the university for British Druids, which thereby made Bath the metropolitan city seat of the British Druids. ‘And since there is an apparent connection between the ancient works of Akmanchester (Bath) and those of Stantondriu, it seems manifest that the latter constituted the University of the British Druids; that this was the university which King Bladud, according to Merlyn of Caledon planted; that it was at Stantondrui the king feated his four Athenian colleagues and that they were not only the heads of the British Druids in those early ages, but, under Bladud, the very founder of them‘ 

The Circus is based on a diameter of 318 feet, Wood’s rough measurements of the circumference of the stone circle at Stonehenge, the terraced houses form a perfect circle around a ‘timber’ circle of planted trees in the centre. There is an early drawing by J.R.Cozens which shows hitching stone post for the horses arranged symmetrically round the The Circus which would give the allusion of stones.

Wood also incorporated into his thinking the hills around Bath, giving them various titles such as Sun and Moon Hill, and The Parade is also aligned on Solsbury Hill which had an Iron Age settlement on top. The Royal Crescent built by his son John Wood the Younger, was crescent shaped representing the moon.

Where you might ask is the masonic symbolism, well it is only seen from the air, taking The Circus as the round part of the key walk down Gay Street to Queens Square which is square, and you will see the ‘key’ of Bath.

What is a Ley Line?
Ley lines are alleged alignments of a number of places of geographical interest, such as ancient monuments and megaliths, natural ridge-tops and water-fords. Their existence was suggested in 1921 by the amateur archaeologist Alfred Watkins, in his books Early British Trackways and The Old Straight Track. Watkins theorized that these alignments were created for ease of overland trekking by line of sight navigation during neolithic times and had persisted in the landscape over millennia.  In more recent times, the term ley lines has come to be associated with spiritual and mystical theories about land forms, including Chinese feng shui.

 I wonder if the fashionable Georgians who lived in these houses knew of the symbolism?
Links:
Stonehenge and Bath Tour Guide
HisTOURies – The Best Tours in British History

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What was there before Stonehenge?

Stonehenge is a multiphased monument ie built in phases over a long period of time. It was built between 3000 and 2000 BC, but is part of a much larger ceremonial landscape which dates back somewhere up to 10,500 years ago. The earliest monuments in the landscape are markedSite of mesolithic post holes in the car park at Stonehenge by 3 small white discs on the tarmac at the lower end of the car-park. Chances are you will drive over them if you visit! The white discs mark where wooden postholes stood during the early mesolithic – the hunter gatherers – at least 3,500 years before the first phase of Stonehenge.Later features which predate Stonehenge that can still be seen are the Cursus and barrows or burial mounds. You will need more time or to go on a specialist tour to see these features.

Early ditch and bank at Stonehenge.

Though people had been meeting and using the landscape for some considerable time beforehand, the first phase of Stonehenge dates to between 3000 and 2920 BC with the creation of a ditch with internal bank. The bank has the appearance of a ‘…string of sausages’ and may have been upto 2m high though it is now much eroded.The dating of this part of the monument is believed to be fairly accurate because of the large amount of good dating evidence from antler and bone found in the ditch. After that the date for every other stage of Stonehenge is somewhat tenuous and subject to great debate.

Was there a timber phase at Stonehenge?

At the moment the theory is that from its beginnings to around 2600 BC there was a timber phase at Stonehenge. This included 56 timber posts just inside the bank and the post holes were later filled with cremated human remains and now known as Aubrey holes.In 2008 Aubrey hole 7 was opened by the Stonehenge Riverside Project and it looks more like a hole for a stone rather than timber. It may be that stones were here from the start rather than later. The results from the most recent dig are due out in 2011 so we may have the 3rd major rewrite of the Stonehenge story within 20 years!

Early stone phase.

Current dating assumptions suggest the first stones to arrive were the ‘bluestones’ from the Preseli Hills in west Wales. Bluestones inside StonehengeBluestone is a generic term for several types of volcanic rocks and each of them at Stonehenge weighs 4 – 6 tons.They are the ones that stand about man height as one looks into the stones. They don’t look blue until dressed (ie shaped) and the outer covering of the stone removed.You can how blue on a tour out of hours to the inner circle.
The bluestones were originally set in double concentric arcs with the open end facing the south/southwest. When removed they were filled are now known as Q & R holes.
Artist's impression of bluestone henge discovered in September 2009.In its final layout there are estimated to be 79 or 80 bluestones. An exciting discovery in September 2009 at the end of the Avenue where it meets the River Avon was a series of stone holes possibly holding bluestones. This ‘Bluestone’ henge may have held 24 stones. If the 56 Aubrey holes held stone rather than timbers it may be that there were two separate monuments that became united as the finishing phase of Stonehenge.

Late stone phase.

Around 2400 BC sees the arrival from 19 miles to the north of 75 sarsen stones. A very hard form of silicified sandstone it lies on or just below the ground surface. A circle of 30 uprights were erected in the outer circle each weighing around 25 tonnes. These were topped with 30 lintels each weighing 6 – 7 tonnes. Jointing to sarsens at Stonehenge.The lintels don’t rely on gravity to keep them in place they have mortice & tenon, and tongue & groove joints that we would normally find in a wood setting, but in stone. Each of the lintels also has some shaping on the inner and outer circular face to produce not far off a perfect circle.

The 5 trilithons (tri=3, lithon=stone) stand like a set of croquet hoops arranged in a horshoe shape in the centre of the circle. They step up in height as they go from the outer two to the remains of the Great Trilithon in the centre. Only 3 of the 5 trilithons still stand.

Final phase.

Around 2000BC the bluestones were re-erected. The altar stone was placed in the circle. Some realignments of external stones took place.

What is Stonehenge for?

Hundreds if not thousands of theories abound. A temple to the sun? Probably, but more about winter solstice sunset after which the days get lighter and warmer, rather than the more popularly attended summer solstice sunrise. A necropolis? Certainly. There are probably more than a tousand burials in the immediate area. Druidic temple? Probably not. They were a later ‘priesthood’ and the neo druids are an 18th century invention. A mystery?. Certainly.

Links:  http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/
http://www.StonehengeTours.com#

Stonehenge Guided Tours
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in Ancient History

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Chalk from Hampshire is used to re-chalk the ancient Wiltshire hill figure

Chalk from Hampshire is used to re-chalk the ancient Wiltshire hill figure

A restoration group is appealing for volunteers to help re-chalk one of Wiltshire’s oldest hill figures.

The Cherhill White horse, cut into the Marlborough Downs, is owned and maintained by the village of Cherhill.

The 232-year-old hill figure underwent a major facelift in 2002 after losing both its whiteness and its horse shape.

Since then the 18th Century landmark, the second oldest in the county, has required a “re-chalking” every two years.

“It had been continuously scraped to reveal fresh chalk but that left a three foot cliff at the top of the horse,” said the restoration group’s chairman, Rob Pickford.

“Now we top it up with extra chalk to level it with the surrounding ground.”

Yellow horse

The horse, one of nine such monuments in the county, requires up to 10 tonnes of chalk to restore it to its former splendour.

The chalk, funded by donations from visitors to the Downs, is being “brought in” after the last chalk quarry in the county at Mere closed down.

“The first top dressing we did we got the chalk from Somerset,” said Mr Pickford. “It was very yellow with bits of grey flint in it so we ended up with a yellow horse with grey spots. This year we’re getting it from a quarry in Hampshire.”

Natural erosion from the weather is normally responsible for the discolouring of the ancient monument.

However, this year’s unusually dry and sunny conditions have “bleached the chalk”.

“It’s looking quite white at the moment but in February it was looking particularly grey,” said Mr Pickford.

“And some of the boards used to hold the chalk in place have become exposed, so it does need top dressing.”

The re-chalking is due to take place on Saturday 14 May and is expected to take up to six hours.

Volunteers are being asked to meet at the Black Horse car park at 9:30 am “armed with spades.”  I am taking the kids and a picnic – see you there ?

Wiltshire’s White Horses

The Wiltshire Countryside is famous for its white horse chalk hill figures. It is thought that there have been 13 white horses in existence in Wiltshire, but only 8 are still visible today.

The oldest, largest and perhaps the most well known white horse is carved into the chalk hillside across the border in Oxfordshire. Little is known of the history of the Uffington White Horse, but it is believed to have influenced the cutting of the subsequent Wiltshire horses.

The first of the Wiltshire white horses to appear was at Westbury in 878AD, although this figure is no longer visible as a new horse was cut on top in 1778. The most recent horse was cut on the hill above Devizes to celebrate the Millennium.
Links:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-13294489

http://www.wiltshirewhitehorses.org.uk/
http://www.StonehengeTours.com
http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/site/things-to-do/attractions/history-and-heritage/white-horses
We continue to offer private guided tours of Wiltshire that include ‘Chalk Hill Figures’

Wiltshite Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours of Ancient Wiltshire

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The unseasonably warm spring weather has not only brought forward many summer flowers – it has sparked the usual round of crop circles.

An elaborate 100ft circle which appeared overnight has caused a stir after it was found in a field of oil seed rape near Silbury Hill, Wiltshire.

The extraordinary floral creation is comprised of six interlocking ‘petal’ like crescents.

The ancient site, the tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe, is considered a hot spot for the bizarre phenomena and this new design proves the crop circle season is now under way.

Expert Lucy Pringle, widely known as an international authority on crop circles, believes this is the first ‘proper’ design of the year.

She added: ‘The start of the season is always exciting, I never know what’s going to happen for the rest of the year.

‘The latest circle is a floral pattern, I’ve never seen this before. There’s never been one identical to another.’

crop-circle-avebury

Miss Pringle, from Petersfield, Hants, is a founder member of the Centre for Crop Circle Studies.

She has conducted years of research in to the physiological and psychological effects reported by people after visiting the formations.

She says her findings suggest there are measured changes in human hormones and brain activity following contact with the circles.

The new ‘floral’ design is the latest in a long line of patterns to be spotted in the UK over the years.

Previous formations have included stars, triangles, birds, complicated three dimensional geometric shapes and even intricate patterns with hidden mathematical codes.

One, discovered in 2008 near Wroughton in Wiltshire, was thought to represent the first ten digits of pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.
Link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1383035/First-crop-circle-season-appears-historic-Wiltshire-field.html

Crop Circle Tours 2011:  We operate guided tours of Wiltshire including all the best crp circles.  We know where they are, when thay happen and get you inside – a unique experience.  THere are already more formations in Wiltshire that we are visiting

http://www.histouries.co.uk/crop-circle-tours.htm

Crop Circle Tour Guide
HisTOURis UK – Private guided tours of Wessex

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The first day of the month of May is known as May Day. It is the time of year when warmer weather begins and flowers and trees start to blossom. It is said to be a time of love and romance. It is when people celebrate the coming of summer with lots of different customs that are expressions of joy and hope after a long winter.

Traditional English May Day celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen and dancing around a Maypole.

The beginning of Summer

Although summer does not officially begin until June, May Day marks its beginning. May Day celebrations have been carried out in England for over 2000 years.

The Romans celebrated the festival of Flora, goddess of fruit and flowers, which marked the beginning of summer. It was held annually from April 28th to May 3rd.

How was May Day Celebrated in the past?

It was custom for every one to go a-Maying early on May Day. Herrick, a 17th century English poet wrote:

There’s not a budding boy, or girl, this day,
But is got up, and gone to bring in May.

Decorating Houses

May Day began early in the morning. People would go out before sunrise in order to gather flowers and greenery to decorate their houses and villages with in the belief that the vegetation spirits would bring good fortune.

Washing in the early morning dew

Girls would make a special point of washing their faces in the dew of the early morning. They believed this made them very beautiful for the following year. copyright of protectbritain.com

May Queen

May Queen
The rest of the day was given over to various festivities. There was dancing on the village green, archery contest and exhibitions of strength. The highlight of the day was the crowning of the May Queen, the human replica of Flora. By tradition she took no part in the games or dancing, but sat like a queen in a flower-decked chair to watch her ‘subjects’.

May Day Garlands

Young girls would make May Garlands. They covered two hoops, one at right angles inside the other, with leaves and flowers, and sometimes they put a doll inside to represent the goddess of Spring.

In some parts of Britain, May 1st is called Garland Day.

The first of May is Garland Day
So please remember the garland.
We don’t come here but once a year,
So please remember the garland.

May Day Lifting

There was once a tradition in England of ‘lifting’ where a gang of young men would lift a pretty girl in a flower bedecked chair on May day. Then the girl would choose a boy on May 2nd.

May Day Tricks

In the North of England, the first of May was a kind of late ‘April Fooling’ when all sorts of pranks would take place and ‘May Gosling’ was the shout if you managed to trick someone. The response would be:

‘May Goslings past and gone. You’re the fool for making me one!’

Recommended Events in Wiltshire this May Day: 
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/robin-hood-ow-1-Jan/
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/time-travellers-go-medieval-os-30-Jan/
http://www.wherecanwego.com/whatsonengland/Wiltshire/events.aspx

Enjoy Wiltshire!
Stonehenge Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in Wesex

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