What is Stonehenge, and where did come from? Here we look at the history of the famous spiritual site.
The mystical monument of Stonehenge has stood in the Wiltshire countryside for thousands of years. It is an enduring symbol of our ancestors' belief in the spirit world and a reminder that in the Bronze Age, prehistoric societies were sophisticated enough to build such an impressive monument. The site has retained it spiritual potency with modern day Pagans still worshiping there.
It is a symbol of the old spirituality of the British Isles because it was created by the original ancient Britons; they were the Brythonic tribes of England, Scotland and Wales, pre-dating the Viking, Saxon and French invaders by thousands of years. The stones have a magic and mystery infused into them that has made this monument a sacred place for more than 4000 years.
The grey rocks are reputed to have healing properties. Water poured from the top of one of Stonehenge's rocks to trickle down onto your head is said to cure many illnesses. Stonehenge may have been a centre for spiritual healing, where the sick were brought to be tended to by mystics and healers. Merlin, the magician of the King Arthur tales, was once credited with building Stonehenge. But the standing stones far pre-date this famous British mystic.
Pagans believe that Stonehenge amplifies the energy of the Earth, which runs beneath the stones. It is thought that Stonehenge was built over an intersection of Ley lines, which are powerful Earth energies. So Stonehenge is an amplifier of spiritual energy, meaning that any rituals or healing performed within this circle will be extra potent. Some Pagans believe that the stones themselves have spirits and are alive with sacred energy of their own and you can tap into this energy for healing and rejuvenation.
Alongside its spiritual side, the practical purpose of Stonehenge has long puzzled archaeologists. Here are some of the theories of why this famous monument was built.
A temple to the Sun seems a likely explanation for the purpose of Stonehenge. One row of stones aligns with the Sun on the winter solstice and the site also faces the rising Sun on the summer solstice. Pagans of all denominations still celebrate summer and winter solstices at Stonehenge, so its link with spiritual worship continues multiple millennia after its creation.
Another idea is that Stonehenge was used to observe the stars and predict astrological events. Its stones may have aligned with the signs of the zodiac and mystics perhaps interpreted the movement of celestial bodies to read the future they saw written in the heavens.
A burial place
The site could perhaps be a huge tomb for British leaders and their families. Evidence of cremations and bone fragments from 63 people were uncovered a couple of years ago at Stonehenge. This led archaeologists to conclude the remains of a religious elite may have been laid to rest beneath the standing stones.
Place of healing
Could Stonehenge have been a prehistoric hospital? Perhaps families from around the country brought their sick relatives to be prayed over and tended to by healers and spiritual men and women who gathered there. There's evidence of parts of the stones being chiselled away - perhaps taken to be worn as protective, healing amulets.
The circular arrangement of the stones of Stonehenge may have symbolised the perfect circle or cycle of life and been a tribute to the mysteries of creation. It could also have symbolised unity between the tribes of ancient Briton. The materials used to build Stonehenge came from as far away as west Wales and would have required thousands of people to move them across the country to Wiltshire. So the building of Stonehenge would have required unity among the British tribes.
Discovering other ancient, sacred sites around the UK
Wandering through the cavernous remains of the Roman baths in the city of Bath, it's easy to see why this place has been considered sacred for centuries. The atmosphere feels dense and charged with energy, as if the thousands of prayers uttered across the years are still suspended in the air of its narrow passages. Steam from the murky thermal waters rises, casting an eerie and mysterious veil around the pools. The Celts had a shrine here to a mother goddess called Sul (Sullis or Sulla). Later, the Romans took a fancy to Bath's thermal mineral waters too, building a temple on the site in about 60AD and naming the town Aquae Sulis.
Instead of replacing the original Celtic goddess, the Romans paired Sul with their own goddess, Minerva. So the hybrid Sulis Minerva became the presiding deity of the healing waters of Aquae Sulis.
Avebury Standing Stones
Close to Stonehenge but older and even larger, the Neolithic triple stone circles stand outside the village of Avebury in Wiltshire. This impressive landmark is just as mysterious as its cousin at Stonehenge but, similarly, the main theory behind its purpose is as a temple for sacred ritual and healing. Modern Druids regularly perform ceremonies, rituals, songs and stories at this site.
The vast array of sacred sites on Orkney, which is a group of islands off the coast of northern Scotland, pre-date the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge by a thousand years. Highlights include:
*The huge standing stones of Stenness. Some people claim they can feel a strong pull of psychic energy when standing inside the stone circle - dowsing rods are said to move of their own accord.
*The Ring of Brodgar an almost perfect stone circle with 13 prehistoric burial mounds around it.
*Maeshowe is a 5000 year old chambered tomb positioned so that the central chamber is illuminated on the winter solstice. Inside it is covered with graffiti written in rune script which was daubed by Viking invaders.
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