Stonehenge’s role in the ancient primordial rituals previously associated with the rites of Sacral Kingship in Prehistoric Britain are almost certainly linked to the Stonehenge Summer Solstice Sunrise alignment, which, in addition to being aligned to the Summer Solstice Sunrise, is simultaneously aligned with the Winter Solstice Sunset. The fact that English Heritage still insist on allowing Pagans open access to the Stones at dawn only at Winter Solstice illustrates the level of ignorance that those responsible for the ongoing complaints and protests situation at Stonehenge World Heritage Site have continued to manifest, in spite of the fact that the exact nature of this previously mentioned alignment, not to mention its true significance, have been well known for many decades. The late John Michell and his contemporary, the filmmaker Francis Hitching, being just two of the authors who have written extensively about this so called ‘Stonehenge Cerne Abbas Alignment’ since the dawn of the current obsessional interest in so called ‘Earth Mysteries’, at the end of the nineteen sixties.
It is generally accepted that prior to the accession of King Malcolm III ‘Canmore‘ a system of elected monarchy existed in Scotland which is generally referred to as ‘Tanistry‘. There is also evidence to suggest that the Picts, who themselves inhabited much of Scotland before the establishment of the Scoto-Irish Kingdom in that country, also practised a form of electoral monarchy, and that many anecdotes relating to that particular period in time were to be incorporated into the Arthurian Legendary Canon during what is now generally referred to as the Middle Ages. The fact that both King Arthur himself and several of his most famous knights, including and especially Sir Lancelot, have well documented links to Scotland would tend to suggest that this could well be the case. And, the additional fact that Mordred, the son of Arthur’s half-sister, Morgana le Fay, is portrayed in Arthurian legend as having died in an attempt to kill Arthur for the throne is suggestive of at least some connection between the Medieval Arthurian Tradition and the Pictish practice of choosing rival competitors for the kingship through mutual descent from the same female line.
In old Druidic Tree Calendars the year is divided into thirteen months of twenty-eight days with one day of the Solar Cycle left over. It is believed by some, most notably Robert Graves, that this day fell on the Winter Solstice, or Alban Arthan and it was this day in particular that was to be singled out for the contest of arms in which the two rival candidates for the crown would fight it out for succession to the High Kingship. In ritual terms this was symbolic of the death and rebirth of the Sun at Winter Solstice, an event which would reach the height of its magical potency between dusk or Sunset on Winter Solstice and the dawn or Sunrise of the following day. And, the additional fact that the rites of Alban Arthan are closely connected with the Sacred Oak of the Druids, which was likewise associated with the Siol Alpin, or descendants of Alpín mac Echdach, provides further substance for this conjectured interconnectedness.
Although some Neo-Druids are of the opinion that the connection with the death and rebirth of the Sacral King is probably symbolic, the fact that the last elected King of Scots, Macbeth, succeeded to the throne following the ritual killing of his predecessor King Duncan, suggests that in Pagan times this was as much an act of ritual slaughter as it was a symbolic death and rebirth. As well as Stonehenge, the ancient ritual enclosure around Glastonbury in Somerset, known generally as the Glastonbury Zodiac or Glastonbury’s Temple of the Stars, appears also to have been linked to the death and rebirth of the Sacral King at Alban Arthan. What was once Glastonbury’s ritual enclosure is entered at its westernmost boundary by the Fosse Way, a Roman road built directly over the remains of a far earlier prehistoric trackway according to John Michell. Just outside of West Pennard the Fosse Way enters what was most probably the Dark Age boundary of Glastonbury’s Isle of Avalon by crossing an ancient ditch or vallum; which may have been part of an ancient ritual enclosure as early as the third century BC, known to locals as ‘Ponter’s Ball’.
The late Mary Caine, a long time acquaintance of John Michell, writing in her cult classic ‘The Glastonbury Giants’, first published in 1978, describes Ponter’s Ball as over half a mile long and some twenty feet in height at the cutting , which is known locally as ‘Havyatt’, where it is bisected by the Fosse Way. According to Caine, Glastonbury’s Pre-Saxon name was ‘Gwlad yr Hav’, and the fact that the word ‘Yatt’ is supposed to refer to a ‘Gate’ is suggestive of this having been the original sacred gate into the Isle of Avalon. Is this the route along which ancient sacral kings were taken, on their way to their ultimate ritual rebirth? According to John Burke, writing in ‘Roman England’, published as part of the English Tourist Board’s ‘Discover England’ series back in 1983, the Fosse Way was once part of a network of Roman Roads, one of which connected the Roman city of Bath, or Aquae Sulis, with the ancient Iron Age hill fort of Old Sarum; which stands on a ley line that runs directly from Stonehenge itself to the Medieval Cathedral of modern Salisbury. The site is also known to have been a key strategic outpost in the era ascribed to the historical King Arthur, so the likelihood of such ancient rituals at least being revived in the Post-Roman Period, if not actually continued into the fifth and sixth centuries of the Current Era, is not beyond the realm of possibility. Whatever the truth, the fact that Ponter’s Ball is also referred to in local legend as ‘The Golden Coffin’ means that Glastonbury’s links to Stonehenge were almost certainly in some way interconnected with the annual symbolic death and rebirth of the Sacral King.