Fjordhammer On Tour - Avebury

Connecting with the stones

The Largest Megalithic Stone Circle In The World

There is certainly a vibe to Avebury, the somewhat quieter more pensive stones compared to its more famous and renowned cousin Stonehenge. My earliest and vaguest memory of Avebury was actually driving through it, I can't remember why we went through it, possibly coming home from a day out or a rugby match somewhere, but my fleeting glimpse of the stones was enough to make me want to go back and visit properly. It took a good few years but I finally got there! Wiltshire is a very strange county when you think about it, filled with history and folklore that often gets over looked. It is only recently that I have found an affinity with my "home" county (originally from neighbouring Berkshire) and its lore. Surprisingly though, there is sparse folklore associated with Avebury, which to me adds a whole new level of enigmatic mystery to the place. Even so, there is a very strong vibe about Avebury, despite the various families there I still felt a strong uneasiness there, as if I was entering somewhere that already knew of me, expecting almost, it was a strange welcoming, as if I had been there in another guise before. As some one who is spiritual, these sites hold a significant importance to me, as I have learned to connect myself more with the world around me. From a mental health perspective this has also been extremely rewarding for me connecting with something older than myself, as I have something to channel and help guide me through the challenges of modern life. Avebury feels like a contrast to Glastonbury, something much more serious in a way, its ancient stones have seen millennia of history and still stand tall. With that in mind, this site is to be admired and more importantly respected, as you'll never know what spiritual energy you will attract in such a place so best to keep it positive. 

The History

Can you see the face?
Whilst pre-history isn't particularly my strong point (and it being very hard to understand academically for me means I've kept it to Iron Age, Early and Late Medieval history), Avebury (and Stonehenge) have always captivated me, knowing that people millennia ago were able to build these fantastic structures with technology that was not advanced by today's standards is mind blowing. Anyway, Avebury is a Neolithic henge monument which contains three stone circles, that are situated around the village of Avebury in Wiltshire. The site is both a tourist attraction and a site of spiritual and religious importance for modern day pagans. Avebury is a World Heritage Site and is part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including West Kennet Long Barrow, Windmill Hill and Silbury Hill. It is believed that the site was several hundred years in the Third Millennium BC during the Neolithic period, which is also known as the New Stone Age. The circle's original purpose is unknown, but many historians and archaeologists believe that it was a site of ritual and ceremony, much like Stonehenge. 

The original purpose of the sit is elusive, but many archaeologists and historians believe that it was used by Neolithic people to appease the malevolent powers of nature that threatened their existence. However, during the Iron Age and Roman periods the site was pretty much abandoned and ceased to be used for its intended purpose. Iron Age Britons  that were living in the region would probably not have known when, why or by whom the monument had been constructed or what it was for. They may perhaps would have some vague understanding that it had been built by an earlier society or it could have been considered to be the dwelling of a supernatural entity. However, there is significant evidence that during the Roman era there were a number of visitors to the site as they stopped off in Marlborough, Wanborough and Devizes. 

A clash of ideology?
During the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon migration to southern Britain, it is believed that some of the native Britons would have used Avebury as a fortification to defend themselves from Anglo-Saxon attack. The idea was coined by Aubrey Burl, he formulated this idea from etymological evidence, suggesting that Avebury may have once been called Weala-dic, meaning "moat of the Britons" in Old English. The Anglo-Saxon's had their own religion and venerated deities, using etymology again we can see that this spiritual significance of the site was not lost on them. Within a ten mile radius of Avebury are four sites that were apparently named after Woden (Odin): Wansdyke ("Wodin's ditch"), Wodin's Barrow, Waden Hill ("Wodin's Hill)" and perhaps Wanborough (also "Woden's Hill"). It is not known if there was any significant religious associations with Avebury, but it remains possible. After this it was mainly settled by farmers as there is evidence of wooden huts outside the monument's west bank, but when the 7th and 8th centuries rolled around the Saxon's started converting to Christianity and the site was once again redundant. In 939AD, we have the earliest known written record of the monument. It was made in the form of a charter which defined the boundaries of Overton, a parish adjacent to Avebury for King Æthelstan. Within the following century, invading Viking armies from Denmark came into conflict with Anglo-Saxon groups in the area around Avebury. It could be possible that they destroyed Avebury village,  and the local prehistoric monument of Silbury Hill was fortified and used as a defensive position by a local Anglo-Saxon population attempting to protect themselves from the oncoming Viking aggression.

With the onset of the late medieval period monuments like Avebury were deemed satanic and associated with the Devil, as the whole country was under the spiritual rule of Christianity. The largest stone that is located at the southern entrance became known as the Devil's Chair (which it is said that if you run 100 ties round it anti-clockwise you can summon the Devil himself), the three stones that once formed the Beckhampton Cove became known as the Devil's Quoits and the stones inside the North Circle became known as the Devil's Brand-Irons. The locals wanted to pull down the stones as having the monument standing was against their Christian beliefs. As stone toppling was underway, one of the stones (which was 3 metres tall and weighed 13 tons), collapsed on top of one of the men that was pulling it down, fracturing his pelvis and breaking his neck, and ultimately crushing him to death. His corpse was then trapped in the very hole that had been dug for the stone that was being pulled down. As a result the locals were unable to remove the body and offer him a formal Christian burial in a churchyard, which was customary at the time. Archaeologists excavated his body in 1938, they found that he had been carrying a leather pouch, in which was found three silver coins dated to around 1320–25, as well as a pair of iron scissors and a lancet. The latter two items would have made him a travelling barber-surgeon who would travel from town to town offering services, it just so happened that he was in the area when the stone toppling began. The death of the barber-surgeon left a lasting impression on the locals and prevented them from pulling down any further stones, perhaps in fear that it had in been retribution for toppling them in the first place, a revenge enacted by a vengeful spirit or possibly the Devil himself.

In more modern times Avebury has been adopted as a sacred site by many followers of contemporary Pagan religions consisting of Druidry, Wicca and Heathenry. The monument is widely viewed by these groups as a living temple, which is associated with the ancestors, as well as the local spirits of place. Due to the fact that a plethora of Pagan groups, and more specifically Druidic groups, perform their ceremonies at Avebury, a rota has been established, where the Loyal Arthurian Warband (LAW), the Secular Order of Druids (SOD) and the Glastonbury Order of Druids (GOD) use the site on Saturdays, whilst the Druid Network and the British Druid Order (BDO) us the site on Sundays. 

Spot the Sheep

The Adventure

When we set out for Avebury, the weather was overcast and looked like it was threatening to rain. As we knew this was a site of spiritual significance, our music choices for the journey were the albums of Wardruna. Einar's and Lindy-Fay Hella's mesmeric vocals coming over the sounds of thundering drum parts, the haunting plucking of the taglharpe, the low bellowing of lurs and percussion made out of literal sticks. I think in hindsight, this connected and charged us before we even arrived at the stone circle, because of the intensely spiritual and atmospheric nature of the music. Once we arrived, we had a bit of a battle with the car parking ticket machine, we made our way to the stones (via the coffee shop, read Glastonbury for our preferences). There is definitely a strong presence at Avebury, but you can never quite put your finger on it. The sky was grey and brooding as we started to make our way round the circle. Many of the stones had strange finer sized holes in them, I couldn't tell you their purpose or why they are there, it could just be erosion over time but some areas of the stones were perfect hand placements. There is a ground energy at Avebury, with every step that we took it felt like we were in the presence of something older than ourselves, it got me thinking about how many ancient rituals this place had seen over the millennia in which it has stood. It is fair to say the sense of spiritual occasion wasn't lost on us at any point, as there is something more serious and heavy about Avebury. Whilst it still receives a heavy tourist footfall, it feels infinitely more serious than what I expect Stonehenge to feel like. The only downside is where stones had been buried in the medieval era had to be marked by more modern cement rock obelisks. 

If only they could talk, what wonders or horrors would they speak of?

Tree sitting
Walking round the edge of the stone circle, upon the henge bank, we found two unique groups of trees that fascinated us because of their contrasting vibes. The first was light and airy, and the roots of the main tree was perfect for sitting in (anyone who knows me that sitting in a tree was mandatory). The way the roots interlocked at this first outcrop amazed us, all weaving together and gripping to the bank in which they had planted themselves on. Either way it looked like something plucked form the pages of Tolkien with it's Mirkwood/Fangorn-esque growth. As you can see from the picture the tree looked particularly Entish. The second lot of trees had Clouties tied round them. These are bits of usual coloured rag and they are sometimes left as gestures of acknowledgement and respect for the spirits of the land, and sometimes as prayers requesting general blessings or specific aid. A few of the ones we saw were In Memoriam, and gave the crop of trees a very deep and intense spiritual feel. We paused for a quiet moment of reflection, on top of a root network that was vastly superior to the previous one that we had seen. At its root the tying of clouties is a quiet, private act of communion between human beings and the local spirits of the land, and as spiritual people this had a deep effect on us, and we didn't take any photos here out of respect. 

After this, we proceeded round the stones, the other attraction was the sheep grazing in the fields around the stones. There was an aura of "Oh, people? Yeah whatever." as they calmly sun bathed and grazed on the grass. Even though these sheep are domesticated, it felt like a moment of unity between the stones and the animals, as if time hadn't really passed and these sheep were owned by a local inhabitant of the area during a bygone age. Obviously this holy and venerated site, when it was in it's heyday, probably wouldn't have been chewed up by sheep, but the fact remains that nature (i.e. the land and animals) will always come together regardless of what man made monuments or buildings us mere men put it it's path. Avebury was a very intense place to visit and as we basked in it's natural aura I feel like we have both been marked by this ancient stone circle. 

"What ewe looking at?"

The Playlist

Given the site's significance as a place of ritual and ceremony, I've decided to stick with the musical vibes that we had on the day. This playlist needs little explanation as it packs spiritual atmosphere in shedloads. It seemed wrong to deviate from the music of Wardruna, Heilung and others because the site captures the very essence of embracing the ancient whilst living in the moment which is what the music is all about. 


A Significant Journey

Thus ends our journey to Avebury, I have kept private the true extent of what me and Sabrina felt there as the path that we follow is deeply personal and it would be wrong of me to speak on her behalf in that sense. However, our journey was magical in a more serious way, if you are interested in finding your own spiritual path visiting sites like this will be invaluable. Books can only teach you and tell you so much, but being in the presence of a living and breathing monument is something else. Avebury has had many guises over the millennia but it has always reminded and I think there is a beauty in that, no matter how battering the raging storm gets, if you stand as strong as a Neolithic stone, you will make it through. 

Between the trees

Avebury Gallery

Check out our Avebury gallery here!




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