Stonehenge, Samhain and the Tree at the Gates of Paradise

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.

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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 In the modern era, the traditional Christian Festival of Martinmas has been superseded by the great European mourning ritual of Armistice Day.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.

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Sketch Map showing the intersection of the Great Dragon and May Day Sunrise Lines at Wilstone

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.

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Stonehenge Full Moon image credit:  pixabay.com      Creative Commons License

Eclipse image credit: pxhere.com Creative Commons License

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Remember! Remember, the Sixth of November! It’s 800 Years Since the Signing of the Charter of the Forest!

Click for more on the Charter of The Forestmerlincarouse

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Voices of Albion Revisited: Sun, Stones and Giants’ Dance

Giant's Dance 2

The Giants Dance

A single recurring theme throughout this blog revolves around the connection between what the late great British social historian E.P. Thompson referred to as ‘Custom Law and Common Right’, in books such ‘Customs in Common‘, and the celebration of Ancient Festival Rights and Folk Moots. This year, the mainstream media, from the Sun, to the Mirror, to the Independent and RT, all covered the annual celebration of the Spring Equinox at Stonehenge. This widespread news coverage is perhaps indicative of a seismic shift in the collective consciousness, or rather collective unconscious; as most of those who read these publications are completely unaware of what these ancient rites actually symbolize; especially when it comes to the true historical and political significance of these traditional customs.

Of further significance, and indeed relevance, is that the link between these ancient festival rights and traditional English Folk Music and Dance is a key factor in how these ancient rights and traditions were passed on from generation to generation in the first place.  A fact which is reflected in the eighteenth century writings of William Stukeley, whose some would say fanciful musings were to inspire Charles Hamilton Smith’s early artistic representation of the primordial antecedent of just such a festival actually taking place. All of this is all the more relevant when one considers that, shortly before this year’s Spring Equinox Stonehenge celebration was due to be enacted, at the Full Moon on March 12th, the self styled leader of the Loyal Arthurian Warband began to refer to Stonehenge by its legendary name of ‘The Giants Dance‘.

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‘The Grand Festival of the Briton’ by Charles Hamilton Smith (1815)

Stukeley in turn was picking up on clues which had been left in the often obscure writings of Mediaeval chroniclers such as Geoffrey of Monmouth; who first refers to the stone circle at Stonehenge as ‘The Giant’s Dance’ in the Twelfth Century. These traditions were likewise explored by the late Tony Roberts during the nineteen seventies and eighties. Roberts in turn, like his longstanding collaborator Mary Caine, was to make the connection between these self same traditions and the Glastonbury Zodiacal Circle; with its gigantic figures several miles across. In my film on ‘London’s Living Da Vinci Code’, and in a subsequent project, ‘Voices of Albion‘, I attempted to demonstrate how the steps of certain traditional English Folk Dances appear to reflect the turning of the Solar Year. Modern scientifically based Astro-Archaeological Research has proven beyond reasonable doubt that Stonehenge was principally constructed for the purpose of acting as a gigantic astronomical calendar. Thus, as I have previously attempted to show, the ancient mythology and folklore with which Stonehenge has traditionally been associated is linked to such known primordial astronomers as Merlin the Magician.

The Glastonbury Zodiac itself is believed to have been constructed in the image of the New Jerusalem of St. John the Divine. John Michell, in his ‘City of Revelation’, established Stonehenge as a mathematical manifestation of the same phenomenon, whilst his work on the Perpetual Choirs of Britain draws a direct comparison between Britain’s druidical monuments and Glastonbury Abbey. Writing on the Universal Canon of Measure, the hidden code of number and measurement that demonstrates the common origin of all higher ancient civilizations, which appear to have used a similar mathematical system in all of their architectural design, Michell shows how all mathematical knowledge appears to have proceeded from the same ultimate source. According to Bligh Bond, Glastonbury Abbey was laid out using a secret arcane mathematical code similar to the now world famous ‘Da Vinci Code‘ at the heart of the plot line in the novel by Dan Brown. Like artists such as Piero della Francesca, the prodigy of Borgo San Sepulcro, the builders of the Abbey are known to have incorporated a series of geometric designs into the Abbey’s layout and architecture; which were intended to reflect the Cosmological Divine Plan.

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The Hidden Geometry of Stonehenge after John Michell

The idea of Glastonbury as an earthly manifestation of Heaven above was to draw Rutland Boughton to the town during the opening decades of the twentieth century. Here, this obscure left wing activist and modern classical composer was to found the first ever Glastonbury music festival, a long forgotten social and musical experiment; centred around Boughton’s equally experimental commune. Although the later popularization of Chalice Well and Glastonbury Tor by writers such as Geoffrey Ashe, whose popular best seller on the history of the area was to be a major influence on establishing many of the contemporary New Age communities and businesses in the town, it has been Michael Eavis’s music festival, which has included everyone from the ‘Boomtown Rats’ to ‘Coldplay’ in its annual line ups, above all, that has brought the Glastonbury Tradition into the media mainstream.

As I also attempted to show in my film on ‘London’s Living Da Vinci Code’, many of these customs seem in some way interconnected with the lost megalithic culture that preceded the coming of the Romans to Britain; and the indigenous Druidical paganism that inspired the eighteenth century Bardic Revival of Iolo Morgannwg. Thus, the recent decision by the self styled leader of the Loyal Arthurian War Band to henceforth refer to Stonehenge by its legendary name of the Giants’ Dance, not so very long after the appearance of a related article by myself and an interconnected blogpost on this thread, will perhaps serve to reinvoke these Ancient Bardic Rites in a far wider context than just the current seasonal rituals that have been enabled as a result of the albeit limited contemporary open access to Stonehenge.

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Voices of Albion Revisited: The Long Lost Song of the Giant’s Dance

Giant's Dance

Close on three weeks ago now, following the appearance of a groundbreaking new theory in relation to the Acoustic Archaeology of Stonehenge, which had received some excellent and well deserved publicity on BBC tv and Radio, I published an article for ‘Distract the Media‘; in which I asserted that the earliest written reference to the origins of Stonehenge seems to point directly to some sort of musical association with this ancient prehistoric temple. Although this is not something that has been widely explored by either mainstream archaeologists or prehistorians, it is indisputable fact that the earliest account of Stonehenge that has thus far come down to us, that of the Mediaeval historian Geoffrey of Monmouth, refers to the monument as ‘The Giant’s Dance‘.

Although the story of Stonehenge’s construction, as it is recounted in Geoffrey’s semi-fabulous ‘Historia Regum Britanniae‘ wrongly accredits Merlin with being the builder of Stonehenge, it is not inconceivable that instead of being the fabricator of this ancient prehistoric structure, he was in some way responsible for reactivating it. From what we know of Merlin and the various Welsh Kings and Princes who he either served or interacted with, the most famous of whom, according to legend, was King Arthur of the Britons, he appears to represent the resurgence of indigenous paganism following the departure of the Romans from Britain: in archetypal terms at least.

From what we also know about the Fifth and Sixth Centuries in Ireland, which is where he is supposed to have gone to obtain the Stones in the first place, according to the legends recounted by Geoffrey at least, the last vestiges of native Celtic paganism appear to have survived in that country during the whole of the Roman occupation; and even after their departure. So, what we can most likely deduce from Geoffrey’s Stonehenge legend, as it is preserved in his ‘Historia’, is that whatever it was that was known about Stonehenge before the Romans came had somehow survived in Ireland. Albeit in fragmentary form.

From what is generally known about the archaeology of Stonehenge, it is safe to conclude that the temple appears to have gone through a variety of stages of development over the course of time. It is therefore also extremely likely that the rituals that were conducted on the site were being constantly evolved in a similar way. This considered, it is also by no means impossible that some sort of reconsecration of the site took place under Merlin’s supervision. Although the exact circumstances under which this may have taken place can only really be guessed at.

For those of us who had the good fortune to read ‘Merlin of the Crystal Cave‘ by Mary Stewart in childhood, or saw the award winning BBC television adaptation of the novel back in the nineteen nineties, this idea comes as little or no surprise to us. And, although the book and the television series are essentially a work of fiction, in the real world of Dark Age Britain, the Celtic Monarchy that Arthur, his forbears and his successors would ultimately represent, was essentially a revived institution amongst a newly reconstituted aristocracy whose ancestors had survived beyond the Roman Wall after the Roman Conquest.

Taking this into consideration then, it should perhaps be remembered by the various elements within the power structure who have always attempted to thwart the countercultural revival of this Celtic Paganism in our own times, that, like the real King Arthur of both history and legend, the revivalist ideals of our contemporary Loyal Arthurian Warband and its elected leader are no less relevant in the now than their Dark Age inspirational models were in the past. And, in view of this, it should also be remembered that even if they are defeated in their present legal dispute with English Heritage and others, they are likely to go down in history as the heroes of the piece and not the villains.

merlincave

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Voices of Albion Revisited: As Once It Was, So It Shall Be!

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The oft repeated quote ‘History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce’ generally attributed to Karl Marx, may well have been the original antecedent to that likewise attributed to George Santayana, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Which, according to some sources at least, originally read ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’move in contemporary Pagan circles, in particular those of a Druidical persuasion, the clear disunity that appears to manifest itself constantly in relation to matters such as whether or not to accept having to pay money to English Heritage to use the car park in order to attend the Solstice Celebrations at Winter and Summer Solstice, is something that appears to those of us who attempt to remain impartial in such situations to be reminiscent of some of the ancient feuds recounted by the Ninth Century chronicler Nennius: whose ‘Annales Cambriae’, or Welsh Annals, is itself one of the most important primary sources for scholars interested in the Arthurian Period. Among its pages is evidence that the real reason for the British collapse that ultimately led to the foundation of the Early English Kingdoms in Northumbria, Wessex, Mercia and elsewhere, was the fact that the native Britons were so preoccupied with fighting amongst themselves that they failed to contain the Anglian and Saxon invaders to whom much of their strife ridden patrimony ultimately fell.

As well as some of the earliest references to the historical, as opposed to the mythological King Arthur, who are, to all intents and purposes completely different people, the ‘Annales Cambriae‘ contain much detailed information about the Sixth Century North British Chieftain Urien of Rheged and his campaigns against the English of Bernicia; during the course of which, in the words of this near contemporary commentator, he was assassinated by one of his supposed allies on account of his superior skill in military leadership and tactics. Whether the assassination is in a physical sense, as it clearly was with Urien of Rheged, or, as in the case of one of the foremost campaigners for free and open access to Stonehenge at certain key points in the Druidical Calendar, the back stabbing and the in fighting, now as then, are pretty much all one and the same.

Interestingly enough, at a far earlier juncture, as the Neolithic Period gradually began to give way to the Bronze Age via the so called ‘Copper Age’, Stonehenge itself appears to have been at the centre of what appear to have been a series of religious and cultural disputes which not only seriously impacted the architecture and layout of Stonehenge itself, but also that of nearby Durrington Walls; where a series of recent archaeological excavations have found evidence of a massive wooden structure described as an actual rival of Stonehenge of ‘gigantic proportions’. And, interestingly enough, not long after these apparent disputes appear to have taken place, another influx of people, in this instance the culture generally referred to as ‘The Beaker Folk‘, who colonized the Maritime Seaboard of Western Europe from an original cultural heartland possibly located in what is now modern Portugal.

Whilst all this was happening the nearby Stone Circle at Avebury was also undergoing extensive realignment and changes in its overall design, which is perhaps indicative of the first stirrings of the gradual change of religious ritual practices from those previously adhered to in the Age of Taurus to those which were to prevail during the Age of Aries. Michael Dames in his two books ‘The Avebury Cycle’ and ‘The Silbury Treasure’, originally published by Thames and Hudson some forty years ago, was one of the principal exponents of the theory that Avebury and Silbury were part of a vast ritual landscape originally dedicated to the worship of aspects of the primordial Mother Goddess by the Stone Age peoples of Britain. An idea that was in sharp contrast to that of his seventeenth and eighteenth century predecessors, the Antiquarian William Stukeley and the Royal Topographer John Aubrey. Both believed a local tradition that Silbury in particular was the burial place of an Ancient British King named Sil or Zeal; a legend likewise referred to in the writings of the Stuart diarist, Samuel Pepys.

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        Vintage Photograph of Silbury Hill with inset diagram of Meridian Sections of the Prehistoric Monument.

Thus, the original goddess to whom this ancient ritual landscape was itself formerly dedicated, who manifests in legend as Sul, the patron deity of what was later to become the Roman settlement of Aquae Sulis, or Bath, a one time ritual centre of her people, the Silures of Avon and South Wales, was to be superseded by Aubrey and Stukeley’s King Sil. The new Solar religion of the Martial Age of Aries having succeeded that of the Lunar goddess worship of the Venusian Taurean Age that had preceded it. Proof of this can be found at nearby Woodhenge, a site associated by John Michell and Robin Heath in their book ‘The Measure of Albion’ (Bluestone Press 2004) with a landscape alignment to St. Michael’s Chapel on Gare Hill some twenty four Greek Miles or 20.4 Statute Miles away. Gare Hill in turn is located on an alignment that runs directly from Glastonbury to Stonehenge, and was undoubtedly a major spiritual centre long before the construction of the Mediaeval Chapel of Ease that stood there before the present, now deconsecrated, ecclesiastical structure was built.

So, on the basis of this evidence it is safe to conclude that the Druidical religion that was to dominate the Age of Aries in Britain, and which appears to have been based almost entirely on a system of poetical Triads, in terms of its esoteric oral literature at least, as well as its eight fold ritual calendar year, seems to have evolved into its highest ceremonial form in the wake of this apparent realignment of all of these sacred sites. Three and eight are both multiples of twenty four, and the Ancient Numerical Canon employed by Plato in his writings on the Mystical Dimensions of the Perfect City, which forms the basis for measurements such as the Greek Mile, has been demonstrated by Michell in his ‘City of Revelation’ and elsewhere to have have been intrinsically linked to the dimensions of Stonehenge ‘and of the whole World as therein symbolized’.

The lesson to be learned here is that the attempts by English Heritage to systematically interfere with the geomantic resonance of Stonehenge, by the creation of the Visitors’ Centre and the digging of the much publicized tunnel, are part of an attempt to transform what is to all intents and purposes a spiritual temple into a temple to mammon. And, whilst everyone is fighting and squabbling about whether or not to pay to use a car park this entire process is likely to continue unchallenged.

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Remember! Remember the 5th & 6th November!

Inspired by the Levellers and the Diggers

New Putney Debates celebrates the 799th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest on 5th & 6th November with a weekend of events looking at how social protest won the commons and ongoing struggle for land rights and democracy – from Robin Hood to recent protest to keep our housing and protect nature.

Starting with a trip to Hackney Marshes at 2pm on 5 November, a timeline exhibition at 5pm , followed at 7:30 a boat party with folk & protest songs , all on Fordham Gallery barge. Sunday has a walk plotting the steps in the evolution if the Charter of the Forest, through the streets and parks of London , starting at 1pm, Lambeth Palace.
Programme

5th November

2pm: Boat Trip visit to the Hackney Marshes common land. Meet 2pm at Fordham Gallery Boat, River Lee, White Post Lane, Hackney Wick, E15. FREE

5pm: Opening of the timeline. This shows a history of land-rights and protest in and around London and the Thames Valley, from the first settlement of London to the entering of the Charter of the Forest and the Magna Carta into statute in 1297. Venue: Fordham Gallery Boat, River Lee, White Post Lane, Hackney Wick, E15. FREE

7:30pm until late: Lands & Housing Rights protest song sing-a long with Robin Grey, featuring songs from the ‘Three Acres and a Cow, followed by boat party with acoustic music and pizza, featuring musician Pete Deane, Tim Flitcroft and friends. Venue: Fordham Gallery Boat, River Lee, White Post Lane, Hackney Wick, E15. £5 tickets can be booked at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/boat-party-charter-of-the-forest-celebration-tickets-28145723617

6th November

1pm: Walking tour featuring important points in the development of the Charter of the Forest. Meet by the roundabout outside Lambeth Palace at 1pm, ends at St Paul’s Cathedral at about 3:15pm. FREE
More information here:

Source: Welcome

 

merlincarouse

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Voices of Albion Revisited: ‘Occupy Stonehenge!’ A Beginner’s Guide to the relevance of the original Free Festival Movement to Occupy

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It is now nearly thirty years since the so called ‘Battle of the Beanfield’, the shocking and brutal suppression by Wiltshire Constabulary of the last major attempt to hold a Free Festival at Stonehenge. The event was to coincide, almost simultaneously, with the first anniversary of the so called ‘Battle of Orgreave’, where no less brutal and oppressive Police tactics were used against striking miners; as part of the Thatcher Government’s crackdown against organized union opposition to its so called ‘reforms’. These two major social and political events, although seemingly world’s apart to the casual observer, unaware of what was really going on, were to effectively destroy or alter the lifestyles of large numbers of now largely socially disenfranchised people irrecovably; and were to lay the foundations of the subsequent and still on going Neo Liberal restructuring of the U.K. Labour and Housing Markets.

Although film of the brutality of ‘The Battle of Orgreave’ was transmitted nationally and internationally by mainstream news networks, video of ‘The Battle of the Beanfield’ was not. It would be some years before the suppressed footage shot by an ITN news crew on the day would eventually resurface, much of it already having disappeared to places still unknown, this time in a Channel Four documentary entitled ‘Operation Solstice’. Amongst those interviewed in the film as part of their campaign to get legal redress, for the vicious and brutal way that they had been treated by those in authority, were Helen Reynolds, Alan Lodge and Mo Lodge; three names that may well be familiar to many of those who are still involved in the still on going Stonehenge Festival Campaign and its other related campaign group, O.A.T.S.: more generally known as ‘Open Access to Stonehenge’.

In an interview with the makers of ‘Operation Solstice’, Mo Lodge described the Stonehenge Free Festival, its organizers and its participants as being an effective ‘threat to the State’. The fact that the numbers of people involved were ‘doubling every year for four years…’, to use her exact words, demonstrated to the Authorities that those involved were perfectly capable of managing their own affairs without the excessive interference, or indeed demands, of either Central Government or Big Business. Indeed, as she was also to point out in her own personal summing up of the reasons for the Free Festival’s suppression, ‘…once it became to be a month long it functioned perfectly well, it had its own economy, it had its own system for everything and was so successful in that sense that it must have been a huge threat to the state…’ The biggest threat of all however was the fact that it epitomized what Mo herself was to describe as ‘anarchy in action and it worked’.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, on September 17th 2014, some three months and one day after the thirtieth anniversary of ‘The Battle of Orgreave’, and amid tight security, Occupy Wall Street marked its third anniversary. In an on-line CNN iReport to coincide with the third anniversary celebrations, reference was made by the media mainstream as to how the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations had drawn thousands together in Zuccotti Park and nearby areas to protest against the problems engendered by the 2008 Financial Crisis. Little attention was paid to the fact that on this side of the Atlantic at least the foundation of the Occupy Movement marked the thirtieth anniversary of the onset of the 1978–79 “Winter of Discontent”. A series of crippling strikes that had largely come about as a result of another previous Labour government’s inability to manage the economy and deal with large scale unemployment. Indeed, it was Conservative attacks on the then Labour government’s unemployment record that were to give rise to perhaps its best known political slogan “Labour Isn’t Working” during the 1979 General Election that brought Margaret Thatcher into office.

Like Occupy in its purest form the Stonehenge Free Festival Movement represented a return to the true and primitive democracy to which the Seventeenth Century Diggers and Levellers aspired. Aspirations that were recently re-invoked during the latest round of Occupy London’s ‘New Putney Debates’. The second programme of discussions aimed at moving Britain forward towards a more democratic and socially enfranchised society inspired by the original Leveller Debates of October and November 1647. Like Occupy, the Stonehenge Free Festival Movement also looked towards such new innovations as the development of renewable energies and alternative economic models; long before many of the present active participants in the current wave of protests and occupations that it has engendered were even born.

For more about ‘Occupy Stonehenge’ check out the group on Facebook or follow the Stonehenge Festival Campaign newsletter soon to be available on Issuu.

This post originally appeared in the Stonehenge Festival Campaign 2014 Winter Solstice Newsletter.

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