Stonehenge is relatively quiet at this time of year, due to the fact that the usual Open Access dates provided by English Heritage do not fall around the traditional Celtic Pagan Festival of Samhain; which has given rise to our contemporary Halloween. Halloween itself is so named after the Christian Festival of All Hallows Eve. The evening before All Saints Day, November 1st. So, in many ways it is irrational to associate it with Witches and Werewolves when in fact it is a Christian Festival referred to since the earliest times as the Festival of All Hallow Tide. A three day celebration that lasts from the 31st October right the way through until the 2nd November inclusive.
The contemporary association with Witches and evil, earth bound, Spirits of the Dead, however, which is largely an American innovation, is derived from a misappropriation of a number of previously pagan traditions that had come to be associated with the Cult of St. Martin during the Middle Ages. In the modern era, the traditional Christian Festival of Martinmas has been superseded by the great European mourning ritual of Armistice Day. A development which arose from the Apocalyptic events of the First World War, in which such huge numbers of men had been killed on both sides that it was recognized by the governments of the day that some sort of collective catharsis was necessary; in order to come to terms with the sociological legacy of these cataclysmic global events.
In much of Continental Europe Martinmas still constitutes the festival of the annual wine vintage, as it falls during the principal period of grape harvest, and was therefore a celebration of the vine linked to vintners, taverniers, and their related trades; particularly in the grape growing regions of St. Martin’s own native France; or Gaul. In earlier times Martinmas became associated with the return of wandering souls from the dead, perhaps as a result of its dual connection with beggars, drunkards and paupers; of whom St. Martin was the principal saintly patron. For example, in the traditional Folk Ballad of ‘The Wife of Usher’s Well‘, which, as I have conclusively shown in my book ‘The Lay of the Last Minstrel‘, was first collected in its present literary form by Sir Walter Scott for inclusion in his ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border‘, three drowned seafarers return to their widowed mother on Martinmas; in a manner reminiscent of those traditions previously associated with the Ancient Celtic Festival of the Dead which fell at the Feast of Samhain:
‘It fell about the Martinmass,
When nights are lang and mirk,
The carlin wife’s three sons came hame,
And their hats were o’ the birk.
It neither grew in skye nor ditch,
Nor yet in any sheugh;
But at the gates o’ Paradise,
That birk grew fair eneugh.’
No Witches or Vampires here, but visitors from a genuine Celtic Otherworld, recalled in fragments of an Ancient Bardic Tradition with its roots in the hidden ciphers of Coelbren and Ogham: the Ancient Druidic Tree Alphabets of Britain and Ireland and their associated Festival Calendars. Although there have been many attempts to discredit the authenticity of these ciphers, due to their association, in part, with the eighteenth century collector and forger Iolo Morgannwg, the earlier tradition of Llywelyn Sion can at least be interpreted as having been partially authentic. The word ‘Birk’ here corresponds to that of ‘Birch’ in English in the Scottish Border dialect in which this ballad was originally sung; and therefore connects this folk song with the first letter in the Ogham Tree Calendar which corresponds with the month of the Reborn Sun which falls directly after the Winter Solstice.
In my ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel’ I draw on the assertion of Robert Graves, originally writing in his landmark work of Celtic scholarship ‘The White Goddess‘, which first appeared in 1948, that ‘the dead sons who return to visit their Mother…..wore birch as a token that they were not earth bound evil spirits but blessed souls on compassionate leave.’ Thus proving, once again, that the links with Witches and Vampires are essentially a modern invention aimed primarily at commercializing what was previously just another key calendar event in the turning of the Solar Year. The Celtic Festival of Samhain certainly possessed an evil ‘Otherworld’ presence, in the form of the fire-breather Aillen, a destructive entity linked to the burning of crops and fortified settlements; or the monstrous Formorians. And, in ancient time an Otherworld Tythe of blood and corn sacrifice was paid to placate these dark forces that held sway during the darkest time of the year, which falls between Samhain and Winter Solstice. However, these Otherworld visitors were considerably more sinister than any of the commercially Americanized suburban ‘Trick or Treat‘ parodies that dominate our cultural landscape today.
In reality, the genuine European Festival of Witches, which dates from the eighth century, is Walpurgisnacht: which falls on May Eve and is the principal night of the year when the forces of evil are let loose across the land before being vanquished by the rising Sun on May Day. In view of this it is interesting to note that the so called ‘Great Dragon Line‘ that cuts across Southern Britain, and runs through a whole series of churches and prehistoric mounds connected with the Dragon Slaying St. Michael, from St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, through Creech St. Michael in Somerset, St. Michael’s Tower on Glastonbury Tor and beyond, is aligned to both the May Day Sunrise in the East and the November Day Sunset in the West. Both dates have been associated since ancient time with the suppression of dark forces and the triumph of good over evil in all its forms. At Samhain the Celtic hero Fionn’s battle with the fire breathing Aillen corresponds to St. George’s battle with the Dragon. St. George’s Feast Day in the Christian Calendar falls on April 23rd, seven days before May Eve, and the end of April has spawned countless blood sacrifice related conspiracy theories in America in recent years.
Again, like the Americanized and commercially oriented celebration of Halloween in its present form, all of the conspiracy theories associated with the thirteen days that lead up to May Day are a modern corruption of the Mediaeval Walpurgisnacht Traditions of Christian Europe; and therefore have no historical basis to speak of whatsoever. Although traditional Pagan Calendars in Britain and Ireland in particular were often Lunar, and consisted of thirteen ritual months with eight Solar festivals, the idea of a thirteen day period of occult activity in the run up to May Day is essentially a modern invention, designed to create intrigue and generate paranoia amongst a largely immigrant population that has for the most part lost touch with its primordial religious and spiritual roots: quite possibly as a direct method of social control. When White Europeans left their native lands and settled in North America they broke the links that many who remained in the rural areas of their respective homelands still possess.
At an isolated location close to Tring in Hertfordshire, in the vicinity of Wilstone, an ancient village community with a well documented Witchcraft Tradition of its own, the Great Dragon Line intersects the Stonehenge Summer Solstice line that marks the Summer Solstice Sunrise and the Winter Solstice Sunset. In view of the fact that the ancient pagan rituals previously associated with Samhain would have been conducted at locations all along the May Day Sunrise-November Day Sunset line in Prehistoric times, just as similar acts of libation and sacrifice would have been carried out along the Stonehenge Summer Solstice Sunrise-Winter Solstice Sunset line at appropriate times during the same period, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the area around Wilstone would have witnessed a good deal of ritual activity at both of these key dates in the Ancient Pre-Christian Ritual Calendar.
It would also appear, from the evidence that is available to us, that there were also a number of important exceptions to the general rule of thumb that rituals were only conducted at specific ritual sites on specific ritual dates in the ritual calendar. For example, we know that the 56 Aubrey Holes at Stonehenge were used as a mechanism for Eclipse Prediction. A theory originally expounded by the Astronomer Prof. Gerald Hawkins as early as 1963. It is also fact that on October 30th 1207 BC, directly before the start of what would have been the annual Samhain ritual celebrations, a major Eclipse occurred which would have been partially visible from Stonehenge in the event of atmospheric conditions having been sufficiently good for worshipers to have seen it.
The Eclipse, which has received a huge amount of media attention, not just from television and radio broadcasters, but also from mainstream media websites such as those of Forbes and the Daily Mail, not to mention RT, various specialist websites dealing with archaeology and ancient civilizations, as well as the Alt Media, is now being used to date a number of key events in the Old Testament; as well as the reigns of various Egyptian Pharoahs. The new theory, co-authored by Prof Sir Colin Humphreys from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy, puts forward the hypothesis that an Astrolonomical phenomenon referred to in the Book of Joshua was not a Total Eclipse, like the one witnessed over Oregon back in August of this year, but an Annular Eclipse, in which the Sun’s disc is only partially covered by the Moon; due to the fact that the Lunar Sphere is too far away from the Sun to cover it completely as it passes directly in front of it.
According to Sir Colin Humphreys’ new calculations, it is now possible to positively date the reign of the Egyptian Pharoah Merneptah to 1210 or 1209 BC, due to the fact that there is a direct reference to the Eclipse on the so called ‘Merneptah Stele’, an ancient text on a granite block which currently resides in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Both Merneptah and his Father, Ramesses the Great, who can now be shown to have reigned from 1276-1210 BC, are associated with a number of texts linking their reigns to the movements of the so called ‘Sea Peoples‘ whose raids and migrations around the Mediterranean are believed to have heralded the collapse of the Hittite, Mycenaean and Mitanni kingdoms at the end of the Late Eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age. And, the fact that these events are also believed to have been linked to the fall of Troy, and the establishment of a legendary line of Ancient British Kings here in Britain at about the same time as this Eclipse could have been observed from Stonehenge, makes it by no means impossible that some great Proto-Druidic Ritual was conducted there at the time that these events are recorded as having taken place. Although, with the complete lack of what would be recognized today as proper written records outside of Egypt and the Mediterranean, we cannot say this as yet with absolute certainty.
Stonehenge Full Moon image credit: pixabay.com Creative Commons License
Eclipse image credit: pxhere.com Creative Commons License