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Stonehenge and Sacred Places
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Symbols of Ancient Britain

Stonehenge: A View From Medicine

Goddess Movement Looks to Stonehenge's Feminine Side

July 12, 2003 -- In his paper published in a British medical journal, Dr. Anthony Perks has put forward a theory that Stonehenge was designed as a fertility symbol in the form of female genitalia, "based on the resemblance of the henge to the human vulva, with the birth canal at its centre."

When his theory was reported in the mainstream press this week, headline writers were tittering:

''The Vagina Monoliths: Stonehenge Was Ancient Sex Symbol,'' read a headline in The Observer of London, punning the title of Eve Ensler's hit play, "The Vagina Monologues." CBC News in Canada proclaimed: ''Stonehenge Mystery Solved: It's a Girl.''

To adherents of the goddess movement, though, the new theory is serious business. They are hoping this woman-centered interpretation of Stonehenge, a monument with a unique hold on the world's imagination, will help build momentum toward a recognition of what they call ''the feminine sacred'' and further add to the ranks of their growing movement.

''In the circles of women priestesses, we have always believed the stone circles were somehow linked to fertility -- but fertility in a much broader sense,'' Hemitra Crecraft, a self-described ''Dianic priestess,'' said yesterday from Malvern, Pa. ''Returning to these ideas, and visiting the whole principle of the sacredness of the earth, is imperative if we're going to create a sustainable future.''

Crecraft hopes that the Stonehenge theory will be seen as a reminder of a time when societies were constructed around a belief in female deities -- a belief, she says, that holds a message and lesson for our own war-torn, environmentally ravaged time.

The new theory is serious business for the author of the research paper, as well. Retired gynecology professor Anthony Perks, touched on the fertility theme, writing that Stonehenge ''could represent, symbolically, the opening by which Earth Mother gave birth to the plants and animals on which the ancient people so depended.''

He noted an observation made by an earlier scholar that the upright sarsens of the innermost arches, particularly the ones which flank the entrance, seem to be in pairs, with one of smoother finish than the other.

He claims that, "to a biologist, the smooth and rougher stones arranged in pairs, united by their heavy lintels, suggest the male and female, father and mother joined together."

He, like other Stonehenge scholars, has also studied the stones at Avebury, and has seen the suggestion of a similar division of male and female stones there.

Going further, Perks included diagrams in his paper, comparing the plan of Stonehenge to the human vulva. Stonehenge's altar stone is at about the right location to symbolize the female clitoris, the outer Trilithon circle corresponds to the labia majora, the inner circle to the labia minora, and the open center of Stonehenge seem to correspond to the vaginal opening and birth canal.

Some archeologists have scoffed at the theory. They note that the builders of Stonehenge could not have seen the monument from above, as Perks did, and that the monument was not constructed all at once but was modified repeatedly over 1,500 years. Perks himself notes that, since Stonehenge was believed to have healing powers, people were chipping away pieces of the stones to effect cures at least up until the 18th century. However, he feels that Stonehenge was used by believers over all that time, and continued to be built up over the years to further symbolize more specific characteristics as their beliefs evolved and changed.

Feminist author Cynthia Eller said that evidence does not support the notion that human society was more female-centered thousands of years ago.''

As for the new theory, she observed wryly, ''Stonehenge is phallic in a way you can't ignore.'' Still, she said, the Stonehenge story ''can't help but be good for the goddess movement."

That movement has gained force in recent years, as followers, many inspired by feminist thinking, have sought an alternative to male-centered mainstream religion. Proponents of the goddess movement say that millions of people across the world subscribe to a belief in female deities or to a belief that God can be seen as both female and male.

Belief in goddesses takes a different form, with different names, depending on the culture. The goddess movement, Eller said, is ''an effective way of getting at our preconceptions about God's maleness and raising people's awareness of how the God we talk about now is very gendered, and very narrow as a result. It excludes women.''

To capitalize on growing interest, tour companies have begun to organize trips to goddess temples in Malta, Egypt, India, and elsewhere. In this context, the Stonehenge story created a considerable buzz.

Mara Lynn Keller, head of the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco's women's spirituality program, said yesterday that she believes Stonehenge ''represents not only the genitalia of the Great Mother but her womb. The entry in and out of the womb was the way people celebrated their relationship to the regeneration of life and tapped into those powers of the earth and the cosmos.''

Perks asserts that archaeology and history must rest on evidence, not speculation, and admits that he offers no clear evidence. However, he believes that his proposal is cohesive and rests on four basic facts:

  • The observed differences between the surfaces of pairs of stones
  • The resemblance between the pattern of the stones and structures which surround the opening of the birth canal
  • The concept of the Earth Mother
  • The widely claimed relationship between the stones and the changing seasons, which find unity in the concepts of Earth Mother and Sun Father

He points to the fact that Stonehenge was not used for burials, although it may have been used for funeral ceremonies. Only one body was buried at an unknown date within the sarsen circles, and a second, probably from the Roman era, was buried long after the builders of Stonehenge passed into history. A third body found in the outer ditch, though within the span of the latter part of construction, is of a young man who was shot in the back with arrows, not apparently a ceremonial entombment.

"So why so little sign of death?" asks Perks. "Because Stonehenge was a place of life and birth, not death, a place that looked towards the future."

-- Edited and excerpted from the article by Don Aucoin, Boston Globe
and Dr. Anthony Perk's article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine

Article posted, with discussion at Wren's Nest

US President Obama visited Stonehenge
His comment: "How cool is this?"

Follow Chesha Cat's board Fairies, Fantasies, Myths on Pinterest.

Designed and erected by people who existed more than 5000 years ago, Stonehenge is still a traditional gathering place on the Northern Hemisphere's longest day -- the Summer Solstice. Stonehenge is a mystery, one of several stone circle monuments in Great Britain. The relationship and alignment of the standing stones to the sun's seasonal revolution appear to have been designed to function either as some kind of astronomical calendar, or as a sacred ritual site honoring the sun. Whatever its purpose to the ancients, the silent stones still wield an enormous power on tourists to Great Britain.

So much so that the English Heritage organization is going to be shutting the site down to visitors during the coming years while renovations are made including diverting the highway and traffic away from its encroachment on the site itself. Over time, the road and sidewalks have crept so close to the ancient remains that photographers and film crews seeking to recapture the original mystery of the place have been hard put to keep modern automobiles and power lines out of the shots.

Similarly, the modern celebration of the Solstice has been the focus of a conflict of purpose from two fundamentally different types of pilgrims.  Spiritually-inclined Druids, Wiccans, neo-pagans, and new-agers feel quiet meditation and rituals are the appropriate purpose for the sacred site's energies -- while others feel the occasion calls for dancing, chanting, and a thunderous drum circle reminiscent of a Grateful Dead show. Public celebrations of the Solstice at Stonehenge were banned until only two years ago due to a violent clash between celebrants and police in 1985.

Some consider the wide array of visitors to the site testimony to the need for people to draw together, but others feel that most revelers have no understanding or respect for the sacred and magickal. Summer Solstice 2002 saw only eleven arrests for substance offenses and a few of the truly irreverent who were ejected for such hijinx as climbing up the monument and leaping from stone to stone.

--From a now-defunct English webpage

Cosmic Link To Stone Circles

Stone Age people in Ireland appear to have built tombs based on a detailed knowledge of how the Sun moves across the sky during the year. Tombs at the archaeological site of Loughcrew in County Meath align with the rising Sun at the spring and autumn equinoxes.

The inside of the chambers are spectacularly illuminated by a shaft of sunlight at dawn on these days, said Frank Prendergast of the Dublin Institute of Technology. It suggests settlers in the area some 5 to 6,000 years ago knew the yearly cycle of the Sun and perhaps centred their lives around it.

Tombs found elsewhere in Ireland have been found to point towards the rising Sun at the summer and spring solstices. At these times, the Sun reaches its most northerly and southerly points in the sky, which can be easily observed from any place on Earth.

Why tomb builders wished to do this remains a mystery but it suggests the Sun was at the heart of ritual and ceremonial practices of ancient people.

Professor Clive Ruggles, of the University of Leicester, believes the study of astronomical alignments gives an insight into how people comprehended the world in the past. "The builders were not 'astronomers' in the sense that we would mean it today, but celestial objects and cycles were important to them in keeping their own lives in harmony with their world," he explained.

More Links to Celtic History, Lore, Gods and Goddesses, and Culture:
Coire Dubhain in The Summerlands: "Come cross the thresholds" of Dubhain's Cauldron.

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