Stonehenge, Autumn Equinox, Mabon ap Modron and the ‘Locus Maponi’



‘Stonehenge’ courtesy of  Creative Commons licence.

In an earlier post, which appeared on this blog around Autumn Equinox of last year, I looked at the connection between the legendary Welsh archetype Mabon ap Modron, who was worshipped as a god in Pagan times, and the Hunt for Twrch Trwyth. A Wild Boar that features in the great collection of Medieval Welsh Tales generally referred to as ‘The Mabinogion‘. As I also observed in last year’s post, Autumn Equinox is referred to in the Welsh language as Alban Elfed, which is usually translated into English as ‘The Light of the Water’. This considered, it is perhaps significant that it is now generally accepted that the location of the site most sacred to Mabon, in what were once the Old Celtic Realms of Western Europe, has been identified with one, other or both of two distinct locations in contemporary Dumfries and Galloway; both of which are closely associated with water; in addition to being generally referred to by various sources as the ‘Locus Maponi’.

According to tradition, the ‘Locus Maponi‘, or ‘Place of Maponos‘ as it is referred to directly in the earliest of Latin texts, was supposedly the primary centre of worship for the great Romano-Celtic deity of the same name; and therefore the principal earthly focus of his cult. The exact location of this ancient place of devotion, which features in the Ravenna Cosmography, an eighth century gazetteer of place names from across what had previously been the whole of the known ‘Roman World’, is generally believed to have been either at the Lochmaben Stone, an ancient menhir or standing stone which lies a short distance inland on the North Western side of the Solway Firth, or else in the immediate vicinity of Lochmaben in Annandale. It is also perfectly possible that both of these aforementioned locations were once interconnected, although separate, sacred centres located in what was formerly a single ritual landscape, or cult centre, which was itself synonymous with the very locality referred to in the Ravenna Cosmography as the ‘Locus Maponi‘.

The Lochmaben Stone                                          Photo Credit: Walter Baxter     Creative Commons Licence

As I have already pointed out, both of these sites were, and still are, closely associated with water, which makes it extremely likely that Autumn Equinox, or Alban Elfed, was celebrated in or about their immediate vicinity. The fact that, as I have likewise already made clear, Alban Elfed translates from the Welsh into English as ‘The Light of the Water’, indicates that there was undoubtedly some sort of link between the celebration of the Autumn Equinox and the point in the Astronomical Year when the combined influence of the Moon and the Earth’s gravitational pull bring about the highest and lowest tides in those bodies of water that are subject to such natural phenomena. This in itself might explain why a site such as the Lochmaben Stone might be associated with the enactment of some sort of Pagan ritual practice around the time of the Autumn Equinox. The additional fact that the Welsh name for the Autumn Equinox is likewise suggestive of some sort of connection with light, in this instance most probably Moonlight, also suggests that the rising of the Full Moon that falls closest to the Equinox, in addition to the Equinox itself, was almost certainly celebrated regardless of whether or not each of these separate dates in the ritual calendar were to fall on the same night.

If all of this should turn out to be the case then, it is by no means impossible that whilst the Lochamben Stone and its environs may have provided a primary ritual focus during the Autumn Equinox in former times, Lochmaben itself may have been at the centre of similar ritual activities on or around the Full Moon. Lochamben Castle is situated on a promontory that is directly aligned to the site of an ancient stone circle generally known as ‘The Kirkhill Stone Circle‘, on account of its proximity to the nearby hamlet of Kirkhill. It is therefore possible that the Kirkhill, Wamphray or Staffenbigging Burn Stone Circle, as it is variously known, was once part of the same ritual landscape as both Lochmaben itself and the Lochmaben Stone were almost certainly a part of in former times; and therefore likewise connected with the ‘Locus Maponi’. Lochmaben Castle not only stands imposingly over a large inland lake or loch, which in itself might have been the focus of Full Moon rituals that would have been conducted in Pagan times round about the time of Alban Elfen, hence this festival’s association with ‘The Light of the Water’, but only dates back as far as the late thirteenth century. Previous to this, another castle, which for well over a century was associated with the family of King Robert de Brus, stood on the other side of the loch that surrounds the later, more modern, castle on three of its four sides. Perhaps indicating that the latter structure was built on the site of some earlier construction, whether mound, tree or ancient stone, that was also once part of the ancient ritual landscape referred to throughout this essay as the ‘Locus Maponi’.

Whatever the truth, the Lochmaben Stone appears to have been used for seasonal gatherings right the way down into the modern historical era. During the golden age of the Border Reivers the menhir was a meeting place where the English and Scottish Wardens of the Western March would meet to discuss matters of diplomacy. Of further interest is the fact that at least one fourteenth century source refers to a specific indenture which bound various parties to meet on Michaelmas at Kershope Bridge, another location which may have formed part of the ancient ritual landscape previously identified with the ‘Locus Maponi’. More interesting still perhaps is Geoffrey Ashe’s assertion, in his Camelot and the Vision of Albion, that the Lochmaben Stone or ‘Clochambenstane’, which is believed by many to have been one of two surviving monoliths that formerly made up a considerably larger stone circle, can be identified with the ’round temple’ of ‘Apollo’ worshipped by the Hyperboreans of Hecateus. A location previously associated with Stonehenge.

Diodorus Siculus and Apollonius of Rhodes are the two principal classical sources from whom we learn of the now largely lost and fragmentary works of Hecataeus of Abdera, most especially his writings on the Hyperboreans. The name by which some Greek authors appear to have referred to the indigenous peoples of Britain during the Classical Period. If Geoffrey Ashe’s assertions are correct, it could explain why we hear little or nothing of Stonehenge until it appears in the twelfth century writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth; whereas the earliest written references to the ‘Locus Maponi’ appear several centuries earlier, and are clearly derived from even more ancient Classical antecedents. This adds further weight to my previously made assertions on this blog that we don’t need to travel to Stonehenge to celebrate either the Solstices or the Equinoxes, and can therefore easily avoid English Heritage’s ongoing attempts to financially exploit their monopoly at Stonehenge; by refusing to participate in their games from the outset.

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Stonehenge, Spring Equinox, Arianrhod and the Rites of the March Hare


Stonehenge Monument courtesy of pxhere,com Creative Commons licence

This year’s Spring Equinox managed Open Access at Stonehenge fell just a few short hours after a ‘Super Worm Moon‘ illuminated the night sky, at almost exactly the same time as the Vernal Equinox had taken place a few hours earlier. According to the National Geographic website, which quoted the well known Astronomy website, such an astronomical occurrence has not taken place since the Millennium Year. The author of the same article also added that these two highly significant celestial events won’t fall less than a day apart again until 2030. These two landmark Astronomical occurrences were further enhanced by the fact that the Equinox Full Moon, which fell at approximately 2:43 am (CET) at Libra 00° 09′, was itself the third and final Super Moon of 2019.

In Celtic Mythology this time of year has a close association with the Ancient Welsh Sea God Dylan, whose Mother, Arianrhod, gives birth to both him and his twin brother, Lleu Llaw Gyffes, following a magical initiation in which the warrior King Math requests that she step over his magician’s rod as a means of proving her virginity. Arianrhod herself is both a Moon Goddess on the one hand, and is likewise associated on the other with the Northern Celestial constellation of Corona Borealis. A connection that forms the basis for her divine name, which, when literally translated, means ‘Silver Wheel’. The constellation of Corona Borealis is referred to as ‘Caer Arianrhod’ in Welsh, literally the Castle of Arianrhod, and follows a path in the night sky around the central North Star in the Heavens.

The constellation of Corona Borealis is at its most visible in the month of July. The latter link confirms Arianrhod’s role as a Moon Goddess, in that the Astrological Sign of Cancer, in which the Sun resides for much of July, is ruled by the Moon. The fact that her son Dylan is not only a Sea God, but is also confused with the Biblical patriarch Noah in some Medieval Welsh poetry, most notably the ‘Hanes Taliesin’, likewise confirms the connection with the Astrological Sign of Cancer; which includes the Constellation of Argo Navis, or the Ship, among its extensive stellar complement. The fact that Dylan is not only a Sea God, but also takes on certain characteristics that one would normally associate with a fish, following his legendary Christian Baptism, likewise connects him with the portion of Lent that falls in the Astrological Sign of Pisces, which this year began on Wednesday 6th March.

Interestingly enough, the Ancient Saxons appear to have held a feast day in honour of a Germanic aspect of the Pagan fertility goddess Eostre, who has passed her name on to the Christian Festival of Easter, on the Full Moon directly following the Vernal Equinox; which, as we have already noted, fell within hours of the Spring Equinox on the night of the 20th and 21st of March. In Celtic Christianity the March Hare is associated with the Irish Princess St. Melangell, who fled to Powys in central Wales to escape an unwanted marriage. Although the exact reasons for St. Melangell not wanting to marry a nobleman of her Father’s court have alluded us, a reference in her legend to how a March Hare which was being hunted by Prince Brochwel Ysgithrog of Powys, possibly at the old Welsh Spring Equinox Festival of Cyhydnos y Gwanwyn, is supposed to have successfully sought shelter beneath her dress suggests that she was not necessarily a virgin; as Christian tradition suggests.

In early Latin texts St. Melangell is referred to as St. Monacella and March Hares as ‘Oen Melangell’, or St. Monacella’s Lambs. The origins of this association almost certainly date to well before the advent of Christianity, in that although the fabric of St. Melangell’s Church is predominantly of fifteenth century origin, with parts dating back to as far as the twelfth century, it is built within a circular churchyard which is believed to be a Bronze Age burial site. The churchyard is ringed by a circle of ancient Yew trees; some of which are believed to be more than two thousand years old. The fact that until the seventeenth century no one living in the Parish would dare to kill hare seems to suggest that the hare was worshiped here in Pagan times. And, the fact that certain aspects of the Bronze Age cult centre that almost certainly existed here, before the coming of Christianity, point to the former existence of a sacred site not unlike the one described in the Ossianic legend of Oisin and the Hare, within the confines of St. Melangell’s circular churchyard, seems to indicate that the Anglo-Saxons were not the only previously Pagan people in Britain to have had their religious festivals in some way co-opted by the introduction of a supposedly ‘Christian’ Easter.

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Stonehenge, Autumn Equinox, Mabon ap Modron and the Hunt for Twrch Trwyth


Stonehenge Autumn Equinox (Mabon) Celebrations 2014 (Courtesy of Stonehenge Stone Circle) Creative Commons Licence

The branch of modern Neopaganism commonly referred to as ‘Druidry’ celebrates the festival of the Autumn Equinox as Alban Elfed, which is generally translated as ‘The Light of the Water’. The term was originally ‘divined’ by the great eighteenth century Bardic scholar Iolo Morganwg; one of the founding Fathers of the Modern Druid Revival. One of the better known groups presently concerned with the revival of celebratory rites associated with the old Pagan Ritual Calendar, the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, describe this particular point in the ritual year as ‘a time of the Great Tides’. The point in the Astronomical Year when the combined influence of the Moon and the Earth’s gravitational pull bring about the highest and lowest tides in those bodies of water that are subject to such natural phenomena.

The sort of activities engaged in by many Neopagans during and immediately after the Autumn Equinox include ‘Mushroom Hunting‘; ‘Ecoregional Sacred Observances‘; finding ‘fulfillment in the collected harvest‘; and newly created rites for ‘a solitary pagan and for a group pagan ritual‘. Elsewhere, similar rites and rituals are enacted by members of groups such as the ‘Ár nDraíocht Féin.’ An attempt at the full scale revival of the Autumn Equinox celebration was made in September 1993 with the establishment of the ‘Equinox rite of the Gorsedd of Bards of Caer Abiri.‘ Among those taking part in the first inaugural rite back in 1993 were ‘John Michell, author of The View Over Atlantis, etc.; Ronald Hutton, author of Blood & Mistletoe, Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles, etc.; Graham Harvey, author of Listening People, Speaking Earth, etc.; Philip Carr-Gomm, chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids; Emma Restall Orr, founder of the Druid Network; Shan Jayran of the House of the Goddess; Rev. Gordon Strachan, author of Jesus the Master Builder; Tim Sebastion, founder of the Secular Order of Druids; and Philip Shallcrass, chief of the BDO.’

In ancient time the Autumn Equinox appears to have been associated with an aspect of the Sun God referred to in Ancient Romano-British Latin inscriptions as ‘Maponos‘, literally meaning a young boy or a son, in the specific context of a royal or noble heir. In certain religious settings Maponus is represented as a god of music and poetry. In Medieval Welsh legend he manifests as Mabon ap Modron, a key figure in the tale of ‘Culhwch ac Olwen’; as it is recounted in ‘The Mabinogion‘, a collection of old Bardic legends immortalized by Lady Charlotte Guest. Elsewhere, in the writings of Morien O. Morgan, another key figure in the Modern Druid Revival, whose ‘Mabin of the Mabinogion‘ achieved cult status during the nineteen seventies in its earliest imprint under the title ‘The Royal Winged Son of Stonehenge and Avebury’, Mabon appears as a central figure in what are described as the ‘Solar Dramas’ of primordial Celtic paganism. In essence, the Mystery Plays of Ancient Bardism and Druidism. Ritual performances that many believe were previously enacted at Stonehenge, Avebury, and other key locations across the British Isles, over the course of the Autumn Equinox.

In the tale of ‘Culhwch ac Olwen’, Culhwch must enlist the help of Mabon ap Modron in hunting a magical boar referred to in Welsh legend as ‘Twrch Trwyth‘. In view of this, it is highly probable that the Autumn Equinox marked the start of the boar hunting season in former times. Hence the appearance of Twrch Trwyth in the tale of ‘Culhwch ac Olwen’. There is also evidence to suggest that at Winter Solstice the builders of Stonehenge engaged in lengthy feasts at nearby Durrington Walls, as part of the ancient rituals previously associated with the celebration of Alban Arthan. We also know that wild boar would almost certainly have been on the menu at many such celebrations. So, it is highly likely that certain wild animals, including a fearsome species of undomesticated cattle known as the Wild Auroch, were ritually hunted between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice, on a yearly basis, to provide ritual food for this very purpose. And, given the fact that much of the produce that was consumed at such ritual feasts appears to have been brought from as far afield as North East Scotland, a five hundred mile round trip, it is safe to assume that at least some of this produce had its origins in the old tribal ‘civitas’ of the Brigantes, whose territory covered much of what is now Northern England.

It is now generally accepted that Maponos was the tutelary god of the Brigantes tribe. A series of inscriptions from within the ancient Roman fort at Corbridge in County Northumberland, just south of Hadrian’s Wall, are suggestive of the existence of a major cult centre there, linked to the worship of Apollo Maponus, at a key military installation located along the old Roman Road known as Dere Street. The cult centre was located at an intersection between Dere Street, which ran South as far as York, and the Stanegate, another Roman road which ran along the course of the Roman Wall itself as far as Carlisle. Just north of another major intersection, where Dere Street meets up with the old Roman Road from Pons Aelius, or Newcastle, stands what was almost certainly another ancient ritual centre where, in former times, such sacred boar hunts would doubtless have taken place.


Section of Dere Street running towards Corbridge North West of Brancepeth in County Durham 

The ancient village of Brancepeth in County Durham lies just South East of a locality known as ‘The Brawn’s Den‘, the supposed haunt of a wild boar in no ways dissimilar to the legendary Twrch Trwyth. Local legend tells of the slaying of this mighty beast by a knight by the name of Sir Roger de Ferie in 1208. Although another local tradition claims that this individual’s name was Hodge of Ferry. A similar story is attached to a locality known as Pollards Lands, just South of Bishop Auckland, where the hero of the tale is none other than Richard Pollard. Both locations lie directly adjacent to Dere Street and there are what appear to have been Iron Age settlements or ritual centres close at hand at both sites. Brancepeth is close to what is now generally believed to have been an Iron Age Camp at Stockley Beck, whilst the earliest recorded form of the name for Bishop Auckland, ‘Alcleat’, suggests that a similar encampment may have been located along Dere Street on the site of where Auckland Castle presently stands.

The fact that the ancient rituals associated with the Autumn Equinox at this time almost certainly involved sacred theatrical performances, which possibly went on from dusk until dawn, demonstrates once again how the allotted times put forward by English Heritage for Open Access to Stonehenge at this particular point in the Ritual Calendar are woefully inadequate. Something which those presently involved in various legal wrangles with English Heritage and its partner agencies might well decide to take into consideration at some future date.

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Stonehenge, Druantia and the Blood Moon Eclipse on the Eve of Lughnasadh


‘Stonehenge Sky Moon’: Image Source: Creative Commons Licence

The days leading up to Lughnasadh have been eventful to say the least for Astronomers and Astrologers everywhere. The ‘Blood Moon Eclipse’ over the course of last weekend has been closely followed by a ‘close encounter with Mars‘, which has seen the Red Planet make its way ‘closer to us now than at any time in the past 15 years’ according to social media. In an earlier post I presented evidence 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 worshippers to have seen it.

Given the fact that Stonehenge was clearly an Eclipse Predictor in Prehistoric times, I have also conjectured that ritual gatherings would almost certainly have taken place at important Astronomical events, such as the one previously described, and not just at the Solstices and Equinoxes which make up the present day allotment of Open Access that contemporary Pagans are obliged to fit in with. If this should turn out to be the case, then this fact in itself could be used as a good legal basis for challenging English Heritage, the present custodians of Stonehenge, with regard to certain aspects of their current management policy in relation to this highly contentious issue. Something that has been under a good deal of discussion both on social media and elsewhere. So, from this point of view at least, new theories about Stonehenge’s role as a centre of Lunar Worship, as well as its well recognized role as a centre for Solar Worship, could turn out to be very contentious indeed; and could be a source of considerable trouble to those with a vested interest of one kind or another under the present system. Particularly when things like Human Rights are brought into the equasion.

One relatively new theory, that appears to suggest that the original builders of Stonehenge were as much concerned with Moon Worship as they were with Sun Worship, is that presently espoused by Lionel Simms of the Radical Anthropology Group and the University of East London. In his thesis ‘Stonehenge and the Neolithic Counter-revolution’ Simms puts forward the idea that instead of the Stonehenge ritual cycle being centred on the Summer Solstice, as is generally believed, it was in fact the Winter Solstice  that provided the main focus for Early Neolithic Sun Worship at the site. Previous to this, Mesolithic Hunter Gatherer Communities had lived a Shamanistic lifestyle that had been largely tied to the Lunar Cycle; and the fact that Sunset on the Winter Solstice ushers in the longest night of the Ritual Year, as opposed to its longest day, seems suggestive of a link to the dominance of the Lunar Cycle in at least some aspects of primordial ritual practice at Stonehenge.

Archaeological evidence that has been used in support of Simms’s theory includes a depiction of both the Sun and the Moon on the so called ‘Nebra sky disk‘, which archaeologists have dated to a period contemporaneous with the final phases of Stonehenge. About 1600 to 1560 BC. The artifact has been described as an ‘astronomical calculational tool to determine planting and harvest times’, although its significance as a religious artifact cannot be understated. And, although it is associated with Nebra in modern Saxony-Anhalt, the copper used in its manufacture having originated at Bischofshofen in Austria, the presence of gold from the river Carnon in Cornwall, combined with tin from the same region which was also found to be present in the content of the Bronze, could well provide evidence of at least some sort of direct or indirect link with the people associated with Stonehenge during its final Early Bronze Age phase.

Digital StillCamera

‘The Nebra sky disk’: Image Source: Dbachmann Creative Commons Licence

At various junctures along the way, as this blog has gradually evolved into its present state, I have discussed specific aspects of Ancient Druidic Lunar Calendars, with particular reference to the Ogham Alphabet. In view of this then, it is worth noting that in Eighteen Letter Oghams, such as the one examined in depth by the late Robert Graves in his seminal work on Ancient Bardic Poetry, ‘The White Goddess‘, the first of the five vowels, ‘Ailm’, or ‘Silver Fir’, corresponds to the following day after the Winter Solstice and the Birth of the Winter Sun at dawn; in the immediate aftermath of the Winter Solstice Sunset that Simms believes worshippers would have witnessed at Stonehenge during the course of the ancient rituals previously alluded to. In the Druidic Tradition the Silver Fir is associated with the Goddess Druantia, Queen of the Druids, so it is perhaps significant that at Lughnasadh we have the ritual acting out of another series of Sun Myths linked directly to death and resurrection; just like those that we would usually associate with the Winter Solstice.

In this instance, the god Lugh, with whom Lughnasadh is itself associated, does battle with Balor, King of the Fomorians, over a matter relating to the fate of a woman called Eithne; whose role in the cycle of myths with which the pair of them have been associated has been compared to that of Persephone in Classical Mythology. Following her kidnap and abduction to the Underworld by Hades, her captor is forced to allow the grain goddess to leave his company in the Spring, only to return to the Underworld once again at Harvest Home. Although Persephone is often associated with Spring growth, and the renewal of life after Winter, she is also depicted with sheaves of grain; so it is perhaps also appropriate to associate her, like Eithne, with the Harvest Moon. Although their respective roles in terms of the Ritual Year are in many ways very different. Thus, the manifestation of another Blood Moon Eclipse, on the Eve of Lughnasadh, may have been a fortunate omen for some, in spite of the dire warnings of doom and gloom from the ‘usual suspects’ in the mainstream media. In some parts of Britain at least it has been followed by welcome rain, with the promise of a considerably better harvest than originally anticipated following the ‘blight, drought and’ ‘scorching summer sun’ often associated by some commentators with Balor and his Fomorians.

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Stonehenge, Summer Solstice and the Trials of Arthur


This year’s Summer Solstice at Stonehenge was dominated, much like last year’s, by a single issue. The refusal by some, and the compliance by others, with English Heritage’s current policy of charging fifteen pounds to use its car park. As ever, the principal organizer of the campaign to get rid of the charge altogether was none other than King Arthur Uther Pendragon; self styled leader of the Loyal Arthurian War Band and one time President of the Grave Diggers Motorcycle Club (not to be confused with the real German or fictional Australian clubs of the same name).

Those of us who follow Arthur’s posts on social media will be aware that since the beginning of May a lengthy war of words has been going on between Arthur himself, his supporters, and the various factions within the Druid Revivalist Movement that have signed up to English Heritage’s agenda for moving the customary Solstice and Equinox Open Access either forward or backward; depending on your point of view. As well as the main bone of contention, the so called ‘Pay to Pray’ question which was effectively decided in court in May of 2017, another issue has raised its head over the last six days or so in relation to the sale of ‘souvenirs‘ by English Heritage during the customary ‘Open Access’ period.

I myself tend to stay away from Stonehenge at Solstice nowadays, primarily because there are so many more other locations where the Solstice can be enjoyed, without getting sucked into either the politics, or the schismatics, of what is now currently involved. Perhaps the best known Ancient Monument with which Stonehenge itself is aligned, directly along the Stonehenge Summer Solstice Sunrise Line that runs directly through it, is the Cerne Abbas Giant. An ancient ritual site of profound significance. Elsewhere in the UK though there are a whole host of other, no less spiritually significant, ancient sites that lie along similar alignments to the one at Stonehenge; which, in addition to being aligned to the Summer Solstice Sunrise, is also alugned to the Winter Solstice Sunset: for those readers who are unaware of the less well known intricacies of this megalithic temple’s geomantic resonance within the specific context of the Ancient Ritual Year.

I shall return to the festival of ‘Alban Arthuan‘, or Winter Solstice, in a future post. In the meantime, suffice to say that in Medieval legend the Death of Arthur, the mythological Arthur that is, as opposed to his latter day ‘real life’ counterpart, is one of the two principal events with which Alban Arthuan is associated. According to the so called ‘Stanzaic Morte Arthure‘, a fourteenth century poetical English adaptation of the thirteenth century French prose ‘La Mort le Roi Artu’, the great battle that culminates in the death, or mortal wounding, of Arthur takes place on Salisbury Plain, in the immediate vicinity of Stonehenge. Before this happens, however, the King himself is betrayed. First by friends and then by family. And, in the immediate run up to the great military contest between what remains of Arthur’s Knights and Mordred’s mighty host, the King himself dreams that he is suspended in mid air on a mighty ‘Wheel of Fortune‘: an episode depicted in the illuminated manuscript (Add MS 10294, f. 89r, c. 1316) of the early fourteenth century French Arthurian Romance ‘Le Mort Artu’. Lines 3168-91 of the ‘Stanzaic Morte Arthure’ recount this particular episode in Anglo-French Medieval Arthurian Legend as follows:

‘At night when Arthur was brought in bed
(He sholde have batail upon the morrow),
In stronge swevenes he was bestedde,
That many a man that day sholde have sorrow,
Him thought he sat in gold all cledde,
As he was comely king with crown,
Upon a wheel that full wide spredde,
And all his knightes to him boun.

The wheel was ferly rich and round;
In world was never none half so high;
Thereon he sat richly crowned,
With may a besaunt, brooch, and bee;
He looked down upon the ground;
A black water there under him he see,
With dragons fele there lay unbound,
That no man durst them nighe nigh.

He was wonder ferde to fall
Among the fendes there that fought.
The wheel over-turned there with-all
And everich by a limm him caught.
The king gan loude cry and call,
As marred man of wit unsaught;
His chamberlains waked him there with-all,
And wodely out of his sleep he raught.’

The dream here recounted, according to this self same text, takes place at Salisbury, where the ‘real life’ ‘Arthur‘, birth name John Timothy Rothwell, currently resides. So, in view of the fact that an important spiritual lesson may once have been encoded into its stanzas, from which the latter day namesake of the legendary ‘Once and Future King’ himself might do well to learn, I have included these lines in my text as a means of illustrating this point in some detail.

So, what is the true significance of this lesser known Arthurian legend, with which the mythological, as opposed to the historical, Arthur is himself associated; and which may well turn out to be as important an episode in the various cycles of Arthurian myths that have come down to us as the drawing of the Sword from the Stone itself? Suffice to say that the true significance of the rise and fall of the legendary King Arthur, both on this Wheel of Fortune and elsewhere in the legendary cycles, not to mention his contemporary ‘incarnation’, demonstrates that the current state of affairs, whether real or imaginary, fictional or true to life, is purely transient in nature. This is as true today for both the present day ‘Arthur’, and his latter day ‘Knights of the Round Table’ or ‘Loyal Arthurian War Band’, not to mention his principal adversaries, English Heritage, and their so called ‘Pet Druids‘, as it was for their sixth century historical counterparts.

All life, like all regimes, is both fleeting and transitory. This is why many of us stay out of the mud brawl and refuse to attach ourselves to either party or faction. Although Arthur has many followers within the Counter Culture that is, to all intents and purposes, his principal sphere of influence, most notably the one time Guardian columnist C.J. Stone, along with the odd former pop star, there are many within the very community for which he himself claims to speak, especially the very strong Anarchist element from among the old Free Festival goers, who make up the hardcore of the Protest Movement that has gravitated to the area around Stonehenge since the demise of the Stonehenge Free Festival back in the nineteen eighties, who want little or nothing to do with him. Most of these people, whose links to the current Scene go even further back than ‘Arthur’s’, are not guided by their allegiance to some ‘Once and Future King’, but by their adherence to the ideas of such Anarcho-Hippie luminaries as the late Daevid Allen, whose ‘Floating Anarchy’ philosophy was itself a major influence upon the spirit of the Free Festival Movement from the outset, and the unfortunate Wally Hope; founder of the original Stonehenge Free Festival.

Taking this into consideration then, it is important to realize that the legendary King Arthur’s death, as set out in Book Twenty One of Malory’s ‘Morte d’Arthur‘, and prophesied Messianic Return, have little to do with the real life activities of the largely self appointed and self proclaimed ‘King Arthur Pendragon’ of contemporary Salisbury. In all of the bona fide Arthurian sources, from William of Malmesbury to Hériman of Tournai, Arthur’s principal role is the overthrow of the Anglo-Norman Ascendancy that had taken root after the Norman Conquest. Nowhere in the narrative is there anything about Stonehenge, English Heritage, ‘Pet Druids’ or any of the current soap opera sideshows that seem to dominate much discussion of Stonehenge on social media at present. And this is why I stay away.

If you want to find me at Solstice you might try looking along the great Summer Solstice Line that runs from Ness Point, at Robin Hood’s Bay and continues on through the Latter Gate Hills; the Standing stones on Fylingdales Moor; Ana Cross tumulus; Rievaulx Abbey; Roulton Scar White Horse; Maidens Bower, Asenby; Hutton Henge; Ripon Minster; Studley Roger; Cocked Hat corpse road; St Mary’s Church, Fountains Abbey; Sawley and Sawley Moor; Brimham Rocks; Hen Stones stone circle; Great Pock rocks; Carncliff Top; Micklethorn Hill; Worshaw Hill; Clitheroe Castle; Red Scar Roman road; and Lea Marsh, Preston marina. Who needs to pay fifteen pounds when you can have all this for free with no Police and no ‘Heretics Security’?


Photo credits:

Summer Solstice 2018: Thousands celebrated longest day of the year at Stonehenge from Stonehenge Stone Circle on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Summer Solstice 2017: Stonehenge crowds as sun rises from Stonehenge Stone Circle on Flickr. Some rights reserved.





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Brigantia, Stonehenge, the Blood Moon and a Lunar Eclipse on the Eve of Imbolc


The First of February marks a key point in the old Pagan ritual calendar, in that in Ancient Britain and Ireland it coincided with an age old festival that falls midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The Festival, known variously as Brigantia, or Imbolc, is a Lunar Festival associated with the Pagan Goddess Brigid; who subsequently gave her name, and many of her attributes, to the later Christian Saint, Brigid. Both Goddess and Saint are likewise associated with both cattle and milk production simultaneously. So, it is perhaps significant, in view of the fact that this year the entire festival was destined to be dominated by a portentous Astronomical event, in the form of a much hyped Super Blue Blood Moon Total Lunar Eclipse; which took place on Wednesday 31st January: the Eve of Brigantia, that Brigid, whose manifestation as Brigantia, the Celtic Athena, is likewise associated with the Moon.

Unlike many Celtic festivals Brigantia, Imbolc or Imbolg, has two different names, two different points of reference and a whole myriad of interrelated associations. The fact that its more widely used name, Imbolc, reads somewhat differently to the way in which it is generally pronounced, the ‘b’ being silent when spoken, giving us the name ‘Oimelc’ in its oral form, has led to an age old association with sheep as well as cattle: ‘Oimelc’ translating literally from the Old Irish as ‘ewe’s milk’, according to the tenth century Prince Bishop of Munster Cormac mac Cuilennáin (d. 908). In the Christian Calendar Imbolc falls directly before Candle Mass on February 2nd. A time when traditional folk customs are known to have included the lighting of white candles made of mutton or beef tallow: fat from the two animals associated with the two fold aspects of the Festival.

Another well known tradition associated with Brigantia and its celebration is the making of Bridie dolls. These are a late Winter or early Spring version of the traditional Corn Dolly: another ancient pagan symbol popular at late Summer and Harvest Festivals. These usually comprise a sheaf of oats dressed up in women’s clothing, which is ritually buried in the earth as a fertility rite. In ancient times this was possibly done as part of, or a substitute for, a human sacrifice. A more benign version of this self same ritual involved the placing of the Bridie doll in a basket like cradle of woven wheat, generally referred to as the ‘Bride’s bed’. This in turn would be placed near the front door, or hearth, of a dwelling with a white candle close at hand.

In some parts of Scotland and Ireland the Bridie Doll is referred to as the Brideag. In other parts of the same regions, in Scotland and in the area around Glenshellish in particular, the Brideag has a curious male aspect in the form of a bat with a human face. According to Moncreiffe of that Ilk, writing in his monumental work on ‘The Highland Clans‘, several old tombstones of long deceased members of Clan Fergusson that can be found at Strachur in Argyll are adorned with ornamental winged heads. These supposedly depict an aspect of the Brideag which is beleived to ‘flutter eerily at the window when a Glenshellish Ferguson is about to die.’ Moncreiff expounds the theory that the male aspect of the Brideag is in some way connected with the Ancient Pictish Throne Name of ‘Bruidhe’ or ‘Bruide’, which ‘was given to each successive king as well as his own name’: and is therefore linked to the ancient institution of sacral kingship.

Elsewhere in ‘The Highland Clans’ Moncreiff refers to how in ‘pagan times’ the name ‘Bruide’, which has been passed on to the modern day Morayshire Clan Brodie, who are universally acknowledged as being of Pictish descent, was viewed ‘as constituting the male manifestation of’ the ‘ancient pagan goddess’ Brigid or Brigantia. The link with Sacral Kingship is therefore an interesting one, in that the so called ‘Mound of the Hostages‘ on the Hill of Tara in Ireland, a megalithic structure closely linked to the ancient tomb of Newgrange, is possessed of an inner chamber and passageway which are illuminated at dawn on the mornings of Samhain and Imbolc respectively. Both of these ancient monuments predate Stonehenge by many centuries. A fact that may well form the basis of the legend, recounted in Geoffrey of Monmouth, that at least the knowledge, if not the actual stones, with which Merlin was accredited with building Stonehenge by the Mediaeval Welsh Bards, actually originated in Ireland.

In view of the portentous nature of this year’s Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse then, and the fact that the last time such an Astronomical event took place was in 1866, it is somewhat surprising that nobody went so far as to make any serious Astrological predictions in connection with its occurrence. Indeed, this is especially significant when taking into consideration all of the ‘prophecies’ people had been making in the run up to another great Astronomical event back in September of last year. This involved what was referred to by some commentators as a ‘mirror in the sky to ‘signs’ from the Bible’s Book of Revelation; and was followed up a few weeks later with yet more predictions of gloom and doom which likewise never materialized.

A similar lack of detailed predictions among Eastern Astrologers was also in evidence in connection with January’s event, which has led me personally to conclude that in some quarters at least there has been a tendency to shy away from making bold detailed Astrological predictions; since last year’s media hyped ‘revelations’ ended up manifesting little more than a damp squib in comparison with what had actually been forecast. Given the fact that the previous day it had been announced that yet another ‘revealatory’ document relating to the so called ‘Russia investigation‘, which has proved to be the source of so much trouble for the Trump Administration in the United States, had come into the public domain, and that the Moon in Leo was about to oppose the Sun in Aquarius at the height of this great Astronomical event, one should not be surprised at what has been happening in the United States over the course of early February. The Astrological significance of these events falls right into place when one considers that both Russia and Syria, two nations that are at the very centre of a series of major political events and upheavals with which the Trump Administration is presently preoccupied, are among several countries that are ruled by the Astrological sign of Aquarius.

Equally significant is the fact that both Afghanistan and North Korea are likewise ruled by Leo. This considered it should come as no surprise that a major terrorist incident took place in Afghanistan in the run up to the Eclipse and the President’s State of the Union speech the following day; resulting in an announcement by the President himself that ‘new rules of engagement‘ would apply for US Military personnel stationed in the region. And, as this post was in the process of being put together, it was revealed by German intelligence sources that North Korea’s Berlin Embassy was being used by that country’s renegade regime as a major centre of operations in its international hunt for missile technology. More portentous still, given the fact that Sweden, like Russia, is also ruled by Aquarius, was the announcement on Candlemas itself that the remains of large numbers of Viking warriors that had previously been excavated in Derbyshire, but whose exact origins were still unclear, were in fact members of the Great Heathen Army led by Ivar the Boneless; who had himself ruled over a region comprising parts of modern Denmark and Sweden back in the Ninth Century.

Is this the fate that awaits the US Military in Syria or on the Korean Peninsular if Trump’s bellicose Foreign Policy Agenda is allowed to continue? Only time will tell! Interestingly though, as I was in the process of editing this blog update in the run up to posting, news began to filter in through the BBC World Service that stock markets in the United States had suddenly plummeted less than a week after the President’s claim, during his much hyped State of the Union speech, that he had presided over the greatest economic boom since the Great Crash of 2007. Boasts that had previously been echoed in the Right Wing press back in January.

With powerful Astrological influences at work in the immediate aftermath of the Super Moon, and a difficult aspect between Uranus in Aries and Pluto in Capricorn, the President may be in for a bumpy ride in the weeks and months to come. And, with recent claims that the latest US air strikes in Syria have actually claimed Russian lives, Uranus’s transit through the Astrological Ruling Sign of War and martial activity, Aries, could have catastrophic consequences for many if the Plutonian aspect by which it is currently afflicted manifests itself in some sort of nuclear detonation. Pluto, after all, is the ruler of Atomic energy and nuclear weapons.


Image Credit: Pixabay Creative Commons License

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Stonehenge, Samhain and the Tree at the Gates of Paradise

Stonehenge is relatively quiet at this time of year, in ritual terms at least, 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.


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 worshippers 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:      Creative Commons License

Eclipse image credit: Creative Commons License

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