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.
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.