Recently in the news was the discovery of a skeleton in a Leicester car park. This is how it was reported by the BBC:
“A skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park has been confirmed as that of English king Richard III.
Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family.
Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, from the University of Leicester, told a press conference to applause: “Beyond reasonable doubt it’s Richard.”
Richard, killed in battle in 1485, will be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral.”
This astonishing discovery of an English King was of great interest to scientists, historians and the public and responsibly many tests were conducted to find out about the health of this King before he died and the nature of his wounds. Doubtless the good people of Leicester could have opened a museum and drawn in tourist dollars by displaying the remains of this unfortunate ancestor, however this is not to be. This is a Christian period King and so his dignity and rank are being respected, and he is to be given a dignified burial befitting his status in life at Leicester Cathedral.
Death is not so peaceful for many of the great founders of our people who were born to pre-history or who chose to be other than Christians. For them, abandonment in boxes in museum and University basements, endless scientific analysis removal and destruction of body parts, or worst of all – BEING DISPLAYED – in the name of education but essentially to draw in the punters to museums and visitor centers.
In 2008 Sheffield University River Side Project excavated human remains from Stonehenge. These particular remains had already been disturbed by science in the 1920’s, stored under an archaeologists bed at home, then for a few years in a potting shed, before being mixed together in a sack and reburied into ‘Aubrey Hole 7’ at Stonehenge. The licence given by the Dept of Justice to remove these remains was under a Victorian law that allowed for the reuse of graveyards and the removal and re-interment of the bodies within two years as close as possible to the place of original burial.
Who were these people? Prof Mike Parker Pearson describes them as the ruling elite of Britain, or members of the priest cast, at the time of Stonehenge. The Druids at the time were OK with the idea of our priestly ancestors remains being studied for a brief time so long as they would be returned to their resting place in Aubrey Hole 7 and afterwards left in peace. We were reassured by English Heritage and the Riverside Project that our fears these remains would be taken from Stonehenge indefinitely were groundless. They pointed us at the licence terms.
I contacted the Dept of Justice to find out about these ‘Section 25’ licences as they are known. I asked them why it is, if all archaeological removals of human remains from the site of their discovery are issued under this same licence, that ancient remains are rarely reburied and our Universities and Museum stores are literally overflowing with them. The answer was that in many cases an extension would be requested, granted, and then no further track of them was being maintained.
A peculiarity of English law is that no-one actually can own a dead body. Not the state, not the family and not the scientists. To steal away a body isn’t therefore illegal as no-one had possession of it. Towards the end of the two years of authorized for the study of the Aubrey Hole 7 remains, I discovered that Sheffield had applied for an extension of five years. In their justification they stated that no-one today would regard these ancestors as sacred. What!? After two years of Druids expressing anxiety about the loss of our sacred ancestors they were surely joking. Apparently not.
I wrote a 37 page objection to the extension on behalf of ‘Aes Dana Grove’ and also to represent the views of another group ‘The Loyal Arthurian Warband’. This was effective in so far as it resulted in the Dept of Justice granting a five year extension but stating clearly that at the end of that time, the Druids wishes should be respected. A victory, if honored. Yet the archaeologists were outraged at this and have demanded a change in the law in their favor. Mis information was spread about our being anti science and ignorant.
With the imminent completion in 2013 of a new Stonehenge visitor center we note that English Heritage plan to display the human remains of ancestors removed from the Stonehenge landscape by archaeologists over the decades of desecration and more professional excavations of recent years.
A spokesman for English Heritage said: “The remains of three human burials found in the landscape will be displayed with ample explanation along with archaeological objects, providing visitors with a direct connection to the people who lived and worked there.
“We believe they have a rightful place in the exhibition and their presentation, treatment and storage will follow strict guidelines set out by the UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Visitors will also be made aware of the display before they enter the exhibition.
“Visitor research also shows that the vast majority of museum visitors are comfortable with, and often expect to see, human remains as part of displays.”
I’m not convinced that English Heritage have anything more in mind than maximizing revenue from the new visitor center. In my opinion it is wrong to put the remains of human beings on display, it is offensive and lacking in respect for the very people whose achievements the visitor center is supposed to celebrate. To inform and educate we can show video and replicas of the remains without any need to desecrate someones rest and make of them a macabre display for the entertainment of casual tourists. It also robs Stonehenge of part of its enduring magic.
The greatest draw to Stonehenge is its magic and mystery. The science of how heavy the stones are or how they were moved comes a very poor second to the tourist or the pilgrim. It would surely be far more wonderful to display to a visitor “here is an exact replica of what we found, the original was reburied with honor at Stonehenge, by the mysterious Druids and others who still follow the old religion today’. The visitor would leave feeling impressed that England is still a magical country with a spiritual and respectful people. Instead, they will see us treating our sacred ancestors as a commodity with which to raise money.
They will leave wondering how such a once great people as the British have fallen so far.
We are delighted to have been contacted by Mike Dando of the National Trust and asked to release news of their new conservation programme. Mike is a leading member of their team dedicated to looking after the vast sacred landscape surrounding Stonehenge.
Many people are unaware of the work that the National Trust do to preserve the landscape and our free and open access to it. They are also acting to maintain and improve the environment for our native species of wild plants and animal, and this may soon lead to the removal of some features to make way for appropriate native trees and plants. We fully support their efforts to enhance and preserve our wildlife, improving the environment for everyone.
“Fargo Plantation Woodland Improvement Works Autumn 2012
The National Trust are undertaking woodland management work within the Fargo Plantation near Stonehenge in the autumn of 2012 in order to improve the setting of some of the archaeological features within and near the plantation, the nature conservation value of the plantation, and to make it more accessible to visitors. The plantation was originally planted in the mid-nineteenth century, later being mostly felled in the early twentieth century, to be replanted around the 1920s, including many conifer trees.
By making improvements to the structure of the woodland to remove close cover from known archaeological features, the aim is to protect them from potential damage from roots or ‘tree-throw’, and to improve inter-visibility between monuments and from the grassland nearby. This will entail ‘halo’ cutting trees around Bronze Age barrows and allowing some barrows to become more visible from outside the woodland.
The planned removal of all of the planted non-native conifer trees will enable the native elements of the woodland to thrive.
This will enhance the wildlife habitat by making it possible to undertake restoration of the hazel coppice currently suffering from shading by the coniferous over-storey. The conifers do not grow well on the shallow chalky soil anyway, which they are not suited to, and some have already died due to this. The intended rotational coppicing of the Hazel once the conifers are gone is a slightly longer term aspiration and one which will in due course bring benefits to wild flower & insect populations and bringing potential for local community involvement.
We believe that this conifer removal work will also improve the aesthetic qualities from afar. We do intend though to retain most of the broad-leaved native ‘standards’ over these Hazel areas.
We have a few rather beautiful older Beech trees, which we will give more space to, allowing them to mature further without hindrance from other species that could suppress them.
We are also undertaking some thinning work within the areas of the plantation that have predominantly deciduous trees, and this will improve the age class structure, allowing a better mix of younger and older trees, and giving the necessary space for those remaining to flourish. By opening up the woodland, increased sunlight will, we hope, attract more warmth loving insects such as Silver washed fritillary, Gatekeeper and Speckled wood butterflies.
The plantation will benefit from more paths, making it more accessible for visitors and creating a more diverse habitat through increased ‘edge habitat’ and flight corridors.
Due to the health and safety constraints of tree work, the plantation will be closed whilst works are ongoing.
Overall we believe that this work will improve the Stonehenge Landscape for its value as both a wildlife habitat and as an important spiritual and archaeological place.”
In June 326 BC two great armies faced each other at Hydaspes in what is now Pakistan. On the one side the Greeks, Afghans, Egyptians and Persians of Alexander the Great with an unbeaten army consisting of archers, heavy foot with 18ft long pikes, light and heavy cavalry. On the other side King Porus with an army equal to that of Alexander but boasting over 100 war elephants to strike terror into the attackers.
Alexander’s men, having conquered most of the known world and become rich and powerful were tired of fighting and only presented themselves to the battle field out of loyalty to their leader. Their hearts were not in it any more. As the battle reached a climax the forces of Alexander started to buckle and retreat. Desperate to keep up the initiative of attack, Alexander charged forward alone on his great war-horse Bucephalus.
The Greeks seeing their fearless commander attacking alone would eventually throw themselves back into the heat of battle in his support, but for this moment in time, one man and one horse charged alone against a mighty army. Being honourable, the King of the opposing forces rushed forwards to meet Alexander one to one, riding upon his mighty war elephant. As the two men closed the distance between them and finally faced each other, Bucephalus Alexander’s horse and the Purus’s elephant both reared in defiant challenge to each other.
The horse was dwarfed by the mighty elephant.
This scene was captured perfectly in a 2004 film ‘Alexander’. I was watching the prequel to this movie and saw this moment of history represented in film for the first time. I was immediately struck with horror and grief. When my girlfriend arrived home from work she found me still puffy faced and unable to speak. The horror that had filled me in that instant was the realization of the effect of our wars upon these noble animals, these innocents, whom we drag into the violent hell of our own making.
No horse should have to face an elephant in battle, neither should they be forced to charge into cannon and machine gun fire, or to contend with the smell of blood and smoke whilst dying screams of horses and men surround them.
In the world war one alone it is thought that 8 million horses perished.
Even to a human child we can communicate what is going on, we can explain and reassure. The animals that serve us as we involve them into our madness can only rely upon their trust in us.
It is not only horses and elephants that suffer in our war; it is also dolphins, dogs, donkeys, mules, camels, pigeons and hawks. These are the direct victims of our actions. Imagine the collateral casualties of war among domestic pets and farm animals driven to heart failure by fear during the bombing of cities. Consider the wildlife burned and destroyed as we tear apart whole landscapes.
Millions of small animals have been killed in biological and chemical warfare experiments.
It is an irony that Alexander’s horse went down in history as one of the bravest warrior spirits of all time alongside his master, yet when he was first found, this great beast was afraid even of his own shadow. What Bucephalus had endured throughout his life he did for love of his master, but it was not in his original nature. It was his sacrifice to the man he trusted. Bacephalus died on the battlefield that day, most likely from a burst heart.
The Druid knows that animals are no different to men in spirit. We are all earth’s children. We pride ourselves on our intelligence and use of tools, but few people can compare to animals in our courage and nobility of service to others.
Our Celtic ancestors used horses to pull chariots into battle but they used no cavalry since the horse was considered too sacred to expose to such risks in battle, our knights would dismount and go forward without their horses in order to fight. They were less discerning when it came to their wolf hounds, bred to hunt and fight with the families of men. Perhaps it was because these animals descend from the wolf, and hence are of hunter/warrior kind themselves, that made the war dog acceptable to the Celtic tribes.
As deeply ugly as the use of animals in warfare is I am under no illusions about the lengths that any of us might go to when our lives or those of our families are concerned. When push comes to shove we are pre programmed by our nature to throw every weapon we have available at the task of survival. Humans are unlikely to stop using animals in our wars. What we can do, in time of peace is look at better alternatives to the use of these innocents, and to be mindful of the eternal shame that their suffering brings down upon our race.
If I had my way, every new Prime Minister or Head of State upon taking power should be made to walk alone through the war graves of their nation to let the waste of war sink in before they are allowed to make any decisions on our behalf.
When on 11am, on the 11th of November every year our war dead are remembered in Great Britain, I would personally like to remember and keep in my heart alongside the people whose lives were cut short, the animals also. For the animals who’s service and loyalty to humanity has exposed them to the most violent destructive and terrifying aspect of our nature, I would encourage everyone to wear a purple poppy (symbol of the animal war dead) in November 2012.
Ancient tradition in the modern age
Much has been written about the Druids. Most writers draw upon accounts from ancient Roman and Greek writers, all of which are coloured by the cultural and political perspectives of the observer. These accounts do not tell our whole story, just as they are not always accurate.
I would like to share with you my view from a personal perspective. I have 34 years experience as a Druid in the Field and Forest. I live just as much as a part of the modern world as the ancient.
First and foremost, the path of the Druid is one of service.
I believe that prospective Druids of the past were selected from an early age as being people with special gifts. These gifts would include being able to live in several worlds or realities simultaneously and the ability to approach situations and problems from many angles. These young people would undergo years of arduous training designed to eliminate all who lacked the necessary qualities, after all, you cannot bring out and develop that which is not already in some form present.
The accomplished Druid was essentially one who could read the sacred landscape in all its cycles, interpret its mysteries and translate it for those in the temporal World. The druid was able to communicate with other realms and seek their guidance. The Druids communicated between the tribes, made connections, brought with the peace and learning. The Druids were also in close contact with the Gods (The Great Ones), the Sidhe (a semi-divine elder race), the intelligent spirit inherent in nature and the old ones (ancestors).
In modern times few people can meet the challenges required to be Druids in the model of our ancestors. This is regrettable because in this time of ecological, economic and political crisis Druids have never been needed more.
We might be saved from failing in our sacred duty (to preserve the balance of nature and the wellbeing of our people) by a gift of the modern age. With the use of the internet we can achieve interconnectedness between Peoples and cultures far removed by geography and culture. Many old cultures are now putting to use this technology in order to connect and to share ancestral wisdom with others. This process appears to have taken on a life of its own recently.
If we can trust in our collective destinies then perhaps we can help to guide humanity away from self-destruction. Much of what we do as species are unsustainable and stretches natural resources to breaking point. If this continues it will cause unnecessary suffering to all life forms.
The Druid path has always been a hard one, which is why we were named from the oak [or duir/dwr in Gaelic, from where we get Durability].
We will need all our wisdom and strength in the coming times, together with both our ancient and modern gifts.
Leaving the village behind us our coach trundled a few miles further across the plain until we abruptly turned left and approached a farmstead. The farm was made up of small single story dwellings with mud walls and thatched roofs. We were no longer in a 21st century setting, clearly this is the traditional way of living in the mountains that has changed little over thousands of years.
It was explained to me that this is the family home of a great Aymara teacher. There was a time before Bolivia had an indigenous government when Aymara culture, language and traditions were treated as undesirable and inferior to imported colonial Spanish ways. During this time the old ways endured but the wise ones became ever fewer. In this story of the farm, If I remember correctly how it was told to me, the young Fernando was driving along the dusty road to Tiwanaku when he came across an old man at the side of the road. The old man was weeping.
Stopping to see what was the matter, Fernando asked ‘Grandfather, why do you weep?’. The old man replied ‘I am a master of the old ways of the Aymara, I have nine sons, but no students’. Many of the young generation saw their futures in abandoning the mountains and traditional ways to seek their fortune in the city. The old man’s wisdom would die with him, and that is why he wept.
Fernando smiled at the old man and said ‘Grandfather this is not so, for you now have one student’. And so Fernando and others stayed to learn from this old man, who’s teaching and strength gave new life to the Aymara people.
He died, but still once every year on winter solstice, the Sariri clan gather at the farm where the teachers Widow and daughters still live. His spirit is in this place they say. I had observed to Kate how all the Aymara stand feet apart, square on and hands by the side, looking directly at you. This posture carries neither hostile nor passive energy, it is simply grounded and strong. I was later to learn that this way of standing is an ancient tradition, the survival of which owes much to this teacher.
We put our sleeping bags and kit into a small barn which would be accommodation for the community tonight. A flag pole was erected nearby with a great multi colored flag, it must have been 3 meters by two in size and I thought that this flag was beautiful.
Tiwanaku tour and Ceremony
There were many more Sarari at the Farm than I had met at the Garden in La Paz, but by now many of the faces were familiar and friendly towards Kate and I. We did not have long to settle however. One of our three coaches was about to leave for the great Tiwanaku temple itself. Tiwanaku we discovered is closed to everyone on Solstice eve, however the Director of the temple turned out in person to let us in and to show us around personally.
There are three temples in the complex. There is a sky temple, an earth temple and an ancestor temple. The sky temple is perched upon a ridge, the earth temple is on level ground, the ancestor temple is sunken into the earth. Unlike Stonehenge, the three temples are not arranged into circles, but instead are laid out as huge rectangles. The alignments to the sun are the same though.
There is a raised platform in the center of the earth temple where offerings are made. The temple is larger than the stone circle of Stonehenge. The trilithon entrance ways are deeper and more precisely engineered than those of Stonehenge. The stone has regular sides, right angles, smooth faces. The wall of the temple is made of stones arranged as a wall between standing stones that are rough cut and similar to the sarcens of Stonehenge. Intuition tells me that these are the oldest features of this temple, the wall filling in between the standing stones coming later.
We are shown carved statues of men covered in symbols, some of which are understood and relate to time, others which still await rediscovered meaning. We descend to the outside via seven steps to reach a place where priests underwent testing. Part of this testing would be to sit in an underground cell with just a small hole above for light food and water. Alone in here for up to 30 days the priests would receive understanding and achieve mastery over their fears or else I imagine it would be awful for them.
We were then led to the ancestors temple. We waited at the top of steps, seven again, down which we descended to face a central statue. Our Aymara hosts formed a circle around this statue and together we held ceremony. In this ceremony we were introduced to the ancestors. This was making history, for never have Stonehenge Druids and the Amauta held ceremony together at Tiwanaku.
Fernando told us how we must stand, by ancient tradition. I asked him how he could be certain that this was the correct way. He replied ‘Look at the statue, the ancestor shows you how’, and sure enough, the statue in front of us was standing just so, with right hand over the heart, and left over the belly. This way, Fernando explained our energy is balanced and circulates correctly. I adapted my stance to match that of the statue and sure enough I felt immediately grounded and balanced. It works.
Embedded in the outer walls of the ancestor temple are very accurate sculptures of men’s faces. Some are worn away by time but many are not. This temple which is at least 1500 years old and probably very much older. What is very strange is that contains the faces of Europeans, Africans, Mongolians etc. It is not up for debate that our ancestors had visual contact long before we are supposed to have had by modern histories, the evidence here is absolute.
The questions are only how and when?
Seeing this so soon after my intuition at ‘the village’ that our ancestors had been here once before again left me feeling a strong sense of confused wonder.
I asked Fernando how often the Sariri worship in the temple of the ancestors. ‘Not often’ he replied, ‘this, with you, is our first time. Normally this place is too special even to allow us in here’. The full sense of the high honor with which the Aymara, Amautas, Tiwanaku Management were gifting to their Druid guests was starting to sink in. Some of the Aymara had moist eyes after our time in the very sacred temple of the ancestors was over. The sun was setting, Kate and I grabbed some photo’s.
Tiwanaku has some elements that are very familiar to the Druid and some elements that are less so. In the temple of the ancestors , both our people’s belong and may feel welcome by the spirits of the place.
The Farm Ceremony
Back at the farm, now in the dark, we arrived just in time for yet another community ceremony and offering around the fire. Kate and I were given ‘honored position’ and we broke Walnuts into the sugar offering. This time in front of a larger group we were grateful for having been through this before at the garden ceremony. Our hosts must have realized that among peoples it’s the failure to follow simple ‘taken for granted’ protocols that make inevitable judgments about quality, class or good manners of visitors.
I was so grateful also for Jaun and Veronica Pablos explaining how to eat, drink and greet Aymara style when we first arrived in La Paz. The Garden ceremony had also been a good preparation, observing the wonderful Mama Eulalia taught us much.
For all the small differences between our ceremonies it is remarkable how many features we share in common. For example the Aymara circle anti clockwise (sunwise) for the south, with the south pole representing the cardinal direction for Mother Earth. In the north we circle clockwise (sunwise) in ceremony and look to our pole (North) as representing the Earth. Both groups stand in a circle for ceremony, and dance in circles.
It was now time for everyone to get some rest and ride out a very cold night. We all gathered in the barn. Trying to get some sleep, I could not immediately do so. Every few minutes of the last 24 hours had brought me vivid new experiences and my head wanted to make sense of everything. I listened to old people talking and laughing somewhere in the darkness. Clearly old friends and kin forever, these people reminded me of my own grand-parents.
Little children had built tents and dens to sleep in and from these came the sounds of giggling chatter. The young and the old all sleep crammed in together, as a clan, ‘a community’. In my sleeping bag I was warm and comfortable and waiting to sleep on this hard mud floor in a mud-walled barn on a farm in the land of the sky, and it was there that I finally understood that word ‘community’. It was here, around me.
This circle of people belong with each other, choose to be with each other, and love each other.
This is deeper than the western understanding of the word. These are the children of Pachumama.
I wanted to cry for what we have lost in Britain. We had this once, yet it has slipped away from our grasp especially throughout the 20th century. It is what our hearts still seek. It is the hole within. We need our community, it validates who we are and it completes us. From far away I might be, but Druids are children of the Goddess too, and here this community enfolded me with a warmth beyond my imagining. I was truly happy.
Dash back to Tiwanaku
By around three in the morning the banter in the Barn had died down to the sounds of around 60 people sleeping. The temperature had dropped to around -10 degrees. I had just managed to fall asleep. Click Click, Click Click! Arghhh I struggled to wake. Someone was banging two sticks together right next to my ear! ‘Wake up’ they said ‘it is time for you to go to Tiwanaku, the car is waiting’. Kate, Tina and I reluctantly dragged ourselves free of the relative warmth of our sleeping bags and made our way to the car which I assumed was our taxi.
Time was short because it would not be all that long before the sun rise. Our car sped along the road to Tiwanaku, overtaking cars, vans and coaches of pilgrims also on their way there. We came up behind a car that wasn’t letting us pass and the taxi driver sounded a police siren. I thought this very funny as the offending car pulled over to let us pass. Only after we arrived at the Temple compound passing through the armed guards did I realize that we were in an unmarked Police car. We had arrived at the high security entrance used by officials.
Still half asleep we were led into the earth temple where chairs had been arranged in a great semicircle around 20 rows deep around the altar platform. To our left was a platform for the media. As the total darkness gave way to pre sunrise dawn we were told to sit in the front row, just left of centre. The places to our left and behind us filled with people. I started to introduce myself to my neighbors only to discover that they were all Ambassadors. The closest to the front and centre were the most honored of these guests.
The Aymara Amautas arrived in traditional costume with drums and music and after standing in formation before the altar they seated to the right. Media with big TV cameras gathered on the platform. The sky grew lighter.
White helmeted soldiers stood in line facing the assembled crowd, whilst very tough looking and armed, they were not rude. The sky took on the blue pink of a sky just five minutes from sunrise. The earth temple contained us, the media, probably 500 Amauta and around 100 Ambassadors. We could now see the sky temple and surrounding ridges which were crammed full with people, perhaps 40000 waited outside for the sunrise.
Suddenly great drums sounded from the distance, trumpets sounded and people unseen beyond the temple walls started to cheer. To this sound of approaching drums Bolivian flags at the corners of the temple slowly rose to fly proudly atop their masts and through the trilithon gate below a procession of Amouta, military escort and the Bolivian president with his ministers walked toward us and seated themselves in the centre of the semi-circle.
Evo Morales stood just a few government ministers to my right. The Amauta leaders formed a line in front of the President. Men and women of great wisdom and authority. One walked over to me. He asked if we would like to take part in the offering ceremony. If I had said yes, then our pictures would have gone out world-wide, but I realized in that instant that this is a moment that belongs to the Amautas. It was very generous to ask, but in front of their president and their gods, this ceremony needed to be done correctly.
I thanked him but said ‘this honor belongs to the Amauta’.
After the offerings were made and smoke rose into the newborn sky with the wishes of the Aymara people carried with it, I was asked to step forward to meet the president, Kate and Tina in line behind me.
At this point I was presented with a situation for which life had not prepared me. Nothing in my childhood, college, university, druid or professional life told me what to do when confronted with the president of a sovereign nation surrounded by his ministers and a very capable looking armed security force. I looked at the man in his uniform of office, and extended my hand.
In Britain we might shake hands and say ‘Good Morning Mr Prime Minister, delighted to meet you, I am…’ and that would be it, but the Sariri had taught me their traditional greeting which starts with firmly holding the right hand with eye contact, an embrace like a bit like a bear hug, and second hand shake with a bow. This is how the President of Bolivia, first American indigenous president, Eco champion and people’s hero was greeted by the tall Druid in front of him:
Grab hand…“Hello Mr President, I am Frank Somers from the Stonehenge Druids, it is a pleasure and an honor to be here and to meet you!” BIG HUG (President now enveloped in Druid robes), Grab hand, Bow, JaJalia!! I hoped Kate and Tina behind me knew what to do. I fairly sure that this was not the correct formal way to greet this great man, but at least it was sincere.
Back in our semi-circle I could see people flooding in to the temple, at sunrise the people may enter.
A tap on my shoulder, it was our friend from the British Embassy, big smile and telling us that we’ve positively represented the relationship between Britain and Bolivia by our visit. It warms my heart to think that Druids, so much ridiculed and abused back home, are suddenly being recognized for our worth in this way. Kate loses her camera in the crush of people who make their way to the altar platform.
One of the Amauta priests came and hugged both Kate and I, posed for tourists with us, and left us in no doubt as to the warmth of our welcome.
Sadly with Kate’s camera now lost, we had no photo’s of this event.
Return to the farm for feast and dance
We were then taken by unmarked Police car back to the farm. The Sariri had laid out a feast of eggs and tubers on a blanket. Each brings what they can. No-one knows who has provided much or little, each may consume whatever they need. This is community. It is a circle of blessing. We eat.
While we ate, an Aymara band of Drum and Pipes dancers start to play. Their anticlockwise circle dance tells a story. A shaman blows a horn and earths using a stick to drive off dark spirits. Then the song is of phrase and reply with the pipes. I’m loving this all now and decide to ask if I might join in with my Celtic Bodhran. The Bodhran is a small round drum about 18 inches across but 5inches deep. The Aymara dancers are beating Drums that are massive.
Without any interpreter, the language of musicians being universal, they invite me to join in.
It is not easy. The drum beat follows an irregular pattern. Only after a while do I realize that they strike the drum on the first letter of each word if you were to sing the Aymara lyrics to the song. This is very hard! My Aymara musician friends ask for a go on my small Celtic drum, and laugh and tease each other as they try it. I sense that they wonder why such a tiny drum and beater is used. I explain that a travelling musician or a warrior can carry this drum easily over long distances.
Then I take the Bodhrans bone, and beat one of their big drums with it to a fast Irish beat and rhythm. Looks of amazement pass round the circle, they ‘get it now’ the power of the Celtic technique. We swap gifts and hugs, and the music continues. I dance with the old women and the young, we all dance. I have never been so happy. I completely forgot that I was a visitor among these people and for a few blissful hours I was part of these people and I belonged too.
I believe that Kate felt similarly to myself. It would be very hard for us to part from these people who understand us better than do our own, and for whom the gifts of mother earth to her people do not need explanation or apology. Thinking about that day, five months later, I long to be back among my new brothers and sisters of the Sariri Aymara. I am determined that we will meet again.
La Paz Goodbyes
Back in La Paz Kate and I pack. We have a short time to explore the wool markets and Tina volunteered to take us around. Down narrow streets, hundreds of shops sell the finest wool and leather products dreamed of. We buy gifts, and our money goes a long way. I one shop we meet a lovely girl who remembers us from Tiwanaku. She promises to send pictures.
When we return to the flat of our hosts Wan Paulo and Veronica, we find that many of the Sariri have gathered there bringing with them their pictures to share with us. Fernando records a message for us to take back with our people. Then he embraced Kate and I as his brother and sister, and presented us with a very special flag. This flag, we would later learn, is a symbol of those of Inca decent. In allowing us to carry this flag we acknowledge our ancestors as being brothers.
We were asked to record a message for the Aymara. They asked about the Druids and our beliefs and of what we thought of them and of Tiwanaku. Both Kate and I spoke. When it came to the essence of our message I will leave that for a future post because It is important for our futures, and once again I must discuss this with my Druids first. At last I found the Awen, and for this time spoke with the poetic truth of a Druid, our poor interpreter Tina was in floods of tears and could barely translate as the Awen spoke through me.
In the last minutes before leaving the flat we were told about a visit to La Paz by the Navajo Indigenous people from north America three years ago. They had shared a prophesy with the Amauta that priests of an ancient tradition from Europe who also worship in a great sun temple would come and visit. This would happen within the next few years. When this has come to pass prophesy predicts that the spiritual tribes of rainbow would begin to join up in a great web of wisdom.
We gave our gifts and could hardly see through tearful eyes as one by one, they hug us and say goodbye.
We arrived just a few days earlier as strangers from a far away land and we parted with hearts joined somehow, bonds of friendship made to last lifetimes.
At the airport Kate and I bungle our paper work, and I get stopped at security. A very tough looking inspector asked me to open my bags. Getting increasingly suspicious he asked me to open the woolen bag containing gifts from Fernando. It has two toy alpacas inside which honestly would be as suspicious looking a container as could be imagined. These he removes. Then he takes out a bundle of clothe and slowly unwraps it.
Inside rests the Aymara flag.
He looked at me, he seemed very confused for a few seconds, then suddenly, his entire countenance changed into a broad smile and he said to me in accented English
“Ah YOU are the one who hugged our President! 😀 “
Visiting the mountain region of Bolivia in June, which is their winter, does not need as many precautionary jabs as visiting the lowland rain forests but my arm still felt sore from needles as I arrived at Heathrow airport. The specialist nurse who administered my Jabs a few days earlier had asked me if I had any experience of mountains and altitude. I confidently replied that I had, since I lived in Wales as a student, have flown over the Lake District in a micro-light airplane and skied in the Alps. The nurse had tears in her eyes as she replied through her laughter that these weren’t even proper hills when compared with where I was going.
This, together with the advice from Beatriz Souviron, the Bolivian Ambassador in London to strictly take it very easy for the first two days. This led me to expect that we would feel weak if we tried to exert ourselves before our blood had time to create more red blood cells. My work commitments had limited our trip to a not recommended four days actually in Bolivia. Would this be enough?
Now feeling very anxious about the journey I was very relieved to find Kate already waiting at the airport. We exchanged a nervous hug and we laughed at the huge pile of luggage that we had with us. Kate and I have been close friends for 20 years and have worked together on our spiritual path and learning. There are few women with as clear an understanding of our tradition, connection with the great goddess, magic and practical application of the sacred feminine as Kate. Although at the airport she had the same transparent mix of excitement and apprehension on her face as I did.
Over the years I have travelled on business across much of Europe and have become comfortable with negotiating airports and arriving in foreign cities. It is enjoyable but there is always at least some sense of the familiar where ever you go within Europe. South America promised to be very different both culturally and in terms of its geography. This was not a business trip or a holiday. This was a leap into the unknown for both Kate and I, the first diplomatic meeting of two ancient spiritualities.
We hoped that the Bolivians and especially the Amauta would like us. We hoped that our knowledge of our own traditions and culture would be adequate to represent our tradition and all those who put faith in us to make this journey. We carried with us the greetings to the people of La Paz from Amesbury town council, and travelled as emissaries not only of our own small Druid grove, but also of the Pagan Federation, OBOD, and Druid Clan of Dana with 30000 members between them. All were placing much trust in Kate and I who were both new to this level of international responsibility.
Our flight would take us from London Heathrow on a short hop to Schiphol in Holland, and from there transported across a very vast Atlantic Ocean to Lima in Peru and finally from Peru to La Paz in Bolivia. Approximately 20 hours after our departure from Heathrow we set foot on Bolivian soil.
Queuing to go through immigration and customs a member of staff asked me if I would like to see a doctor. I declined, feeling a bit tired and weak is not something that should cause a fuss if you are English. They pointed out that the airport had a doctor equipped with oxygen. I don’t want any fuss thought I. Ten minutes later I found myself sitting on my baggage as much as possible and I had a headache like I had been kicked in the head by a horse. Kate was fine.
We were met at the airport by a government liaison to the Amautas council, who after a big hug of greeting sat Kate and I in a car and offered us both coca tea. This really does help with the altitude adjustment. As we descended from the airport to our hosts flat in central La Paz she pointed out the sites. The town is beautiful at night, with lights stretching up the steep valley walls. I was feeling very sick.
In La Paz we were introduced to Juan and Veronica Pablos our young Aymara hosts and they helped with our luggage and settling in to their home. I nearly vomited in the lift up to their flat and was now turning green. Kate was fine. We managed to introduce ourselves and both Kate and I realized that we were very lucky. Our hosts were beautiful people who took time to settle us in and to teach us the basic protocols of Aymara manners which include how to greet and accept food or drink.
This would be essential over the following days but for me it would be 48 hours of gasping for air and feeling like I had the worst childhood flu before I would get much chance.
Where is the air?
20 years a smoker of 20+ cigarettes a day and little exercise meant that I wasn’t ready for life at 20000 ft. Kate on the other hand doesn’t smoke, is almost vegetarian and works outdoors designing and building community gardens. Kate went shopping and dancing in one of La Paz many street celebrations. At this point I was confined to bed and feeling that I might not recover in time for the Solstice. If that happened then I would let everyone down terribly. I was missing my dear sweet low altitude Albion (Britain) where I could breath properly.
At home if I get sick I can reach out to the familiar energy of the sacred home land and feel that energy respond, so speeding recovery. Here I could not yet connect as the song of the land was subtle and different in La Paz. Druid magic was to be no use then, I would just have to wait it out.
On the afternoon of Sunday 19th June, I was finally recovered enough to walk around, although still weak. Our hosts had been very worried about me but as it was now clear that I was recovered Kate and I were invited to a community ceremony of the Sariri clan to be held on a hillside on the outskirts of La Paz. This would be our first chance to meet some of the people who had made our visit possible.
Our destination was a bungalow with a garden overlooking the valley in which La Paz is nestled. Around 50 people of all ages were gathered there in the garden, where gradually we sat ourselves into a circle. We were introduced to our interpreter Tina, originally from Slovakia, Tina now lives in La Paz working as a journalist whilst studying the Aymara.
Three generations of wise women led a community ritual, which initially consisted of a Coca leaf ceremony. The women, with great care, each unfolded a cloth containing Coca leaves. Each cloth we learned has a weave unique to the family which tells of their clan and landscape origins. Male a female leaves would be chosen in equal proportion, usually two of each. The male leaves have a pointed tip, the female have more a rounded body.
The selected leaves would be presented to another guest of the circle in the right hand and accepted with the left hand, as it is believed that this is the direction in which energy will naturally circulate between people. With a little bow of the head, eye contact and a smile, the gifts are exchanged. So many of these gifts were for Kate and I that our cheeks quickly became stuffed full like those of a hamster collecting nuts, as once accepted then one is supposed to place the leaves in the side of the mouth to chew gently.
In Celtic lore, eye contact is offered to allow another to know you and reciprocation is expected. In modern western society we struggle to make eye contact with strangers when required to show sincerity at an interview or when listening to show interest and attention. In our society today it is too easy to be accused of staring. Staring can be akin to prying into another’s business or invading their space. No-one will make eye contact with a stranger on the London tube for example.
In all human contact however when two people meet and really look into each others eyes it is an exchange of energy, compatibility and truth. I liked that the Sariri people offered these open windows to themselves through which I saw in them a sense of humor, curiosity, and warmth of bright unclouded spirits. On the evidence of this alone I could decide that the welcome that Kate and I were receiving was genuine, and shared by all.
One of the Aymara leaders, Fernando Huanacuni, arrived and joined the circle unobtrusively. Our interpreter Tina explained that Fernando was a very important leader of the Aymara. I studied him from a distance and how he interacted with others in the group. He appeared shy and certainly did not strut around pushing himself into the forefront of the circle as might some Druid ‘leaders’ that I know. He waited for others to speak to the circle until eventually it was his turn. To this point I had been very impressed by the clear, direct and almost poetic style of the women.
When Fernando started to talk, in Spanish, I realized even without interpretation that this was a great man of spirit. The tone of his voice, the humble yet powerful delivery of clear message of wisdom, the poetic Aymara style of speech yet more impressive through this man. In ancient times a Druid would have learned the art of public speaking, to the point of high art, and I am considered among the most articulate of my present day peers but Fernando is more. I could imagine Jesus Christ or Mohammed or Buddha having a gift like this man.
Then Fernando stated that at long last the Druids had come to visit the Aymara, that we were brothers, and that this was a historic meeting of people’s: And he invited me to stand up and speak.
I knew that even at my very best, which I certainly wasn’t feeling, I could not evoke the same eloquence to match Fernando. I simply spoke from the heart, saying how happy Kate and I were to represent our ancestors and our grove, the orders of OBOD and the Pagan Federation, and finally to greet our brothers and sisters of the Aymara. It was enough thankfully.
Kate was watching closely how the women interacted with their group and each other. The elders let the younger women speak first and have a turn at leading aspects of ceremony. The elder women were respected by all, who hung on their every word and gesture. We could see how the wisest were nurturing the youngest, each of whom had a role and responsibility to the group.
Both Kate and I were offered a ‘healing’ at the bottom of the garden intended to help our spirits recover from a long travel. The details of this I must save for our Druid colleagues, for what transpired was not planned for, and would only be understood by elders of our path. It is sufficient to say that after this event, both the Amauta and the Druids had experienced the energy and power of the other and there was no doubt remaining that we were compatible traditions of great substance. The experience for me was powerful and positive, surprising and life changing.
We were then introduced to the Aymara tradition of ‘offerings’.
In the Druid traditions we have long since ceased to make ceremonial offerings. At least on the surface; we still will gift a poem or a song, or give up a vice, leave wild flowers or ribbons at a sacred place. It is a mere echo of a tradition from times when offerings were perhaps more misguided. The Gods of life have never required us to extinguish life to show appreciation; we believe that they would rather that we appreciate the gift and live life fully. If we should sacrifice anything, it should be our selfishness, ignorance, greed and ego.
Aymara offerings seem to involve the breaking up of sweet stuff very much like icing, and reading from the broken pattern of the sugar some meaning before carefully rearranging the pieces. We never understood the meaning of the reading or the intent of the rearrangement. Kate and I were each honored with a ‘sugar cake’ over which the most senior Amauta fussed for some time. The rest of the community made do with one offering between them.
Wood for a fire had been laid down at the bottom of the garden, overlooking the mountains. As the sun set and dusk deepened rapidly we processed anti clockwise around the firewood with Ladies spilling a gift of alcohol into the wood and gentlemen to the Earth beside it. The sugar cakes were then carried and placed on the top of the firewood with great care not to disturb the arrangement of the pieces. Finally the fire is lit and people sing.
From the other guests to this ceremony, two French, one Spanish and one Mexican we learned that being granted access to something like this from the Sariri clan is the dream of a lifetime and very rare. At around 1am we returned to our hosts flat in the centre of La Paz. There would be a short sleep before the next day (Solstice Eve) and our schedule would be completely full.
At around 7am Kate and I were taken to a TV studio in La Paz. The channel was the equivalent in the UK to the BBC, with their breakfast program watched by most of the country as they awake and start a new day. We were wearing our Druid robes for the interview and were asked about the Druids, Stonehenge, Why we were visiting La Paz etc. From that moment on we were becoming famous.
From the TV studio we were taken to the Government buildings in the very center. We admired the Grand former colonial style architecture, as we entered. Armed guards asked to see our passports. We hadn’t brought them with us. This caused a short delay but in a short conversation between our hosts and the security, which I couldn’t follow, we were waved on. Inside this beautiful old building gathered many of the Amauta council. We sat, introduced each other, shared coca leaves and drank tea. This was deeply touching for Kate and I. The wisdom and kindliness of these elders was palpable.
One of the Amauta was a specialist shamanic healer. Kates specialty being plants and healing also, they bonded immediately and if excitement at meeting a kindred spirit could make sparks then there was lightning in the room. We presented the Amauta with our gift, the disc created by Andy and Michelle back in Amesbury depicting the trilithon of Stonehenge surrounded by three hares for the wise tradition of the Goddess. They loved it. Were very keen each to hold it. And had to decide in rapid order who should have the privilege of guarding it for each represented a different people.
It was explained that others of the council were missing because these were from far-flung reaches of Bolivia who could not attend our meeting and be home in time to officiate solstice celebrations. We understood entirely. In the same situation back home we would struggle to muster a fraction of the capable druids on the eve of solstice. That so many had come to greet us and talk with us was a great show of respect to us.
After leaving the government building, still accompanied by our interpreter and guide Tina, and our Amauta medicine man, we went out into the town square. Here hundreds of Aymara were dancing and processing past. Apparently they had gathered to express exasperation with a new law that vehicles traveling to Tiwanaku must be under 15 years old to be more fuel-efficient. Practically every taxi and bus in La Paz is over 15 years old, no-one would be able to get there if the rule were enforced.
We were welcomed by a senior member of the British embassy team in La Pas Claire Demaret, who was kind enough to seek us out and this had the very positive effect of making us feel supported.
Tina took us to her favorite restaurant for lunch which served home-made soup. We still had our Amauta friend the medicine man with us and he pointed at every plant decorating the restaurant and explained to Kate and I its medicinal properties. Kate recognized a couple of the plants from her studies and noted that he was spot on. When I asked him how he would know the properties of a plant, the answer he gave surprised me. In addition to tradition passed down from parent to child, and many years of practice, he could ask a plants spirit with his own spirit and receive the knowledge directly.
I wondered if this is how our own herb lore had originally been derived, with spirit interaction.
The way to Tiwanaku
After rushing down our food we raced across the town centre on foot to the meet the coaches that would take the Sariri Aymara to Tiwanaku. La Paz sits in a crack at the centre of a great plain surrounded by mountains. When it rains seven rivers flow down the streets of La Paz. The journey up the side of the valley to reach the plain took us past the fast expanding ‘Upper La Paz’ to travel across the dusty plain for many miles. Looking out of the window we could see small farms, many with mud walls and thatch roofs. Llama and cattle wandered in the fields of sparse grass.
Inside the coach the community chatted excitedly, sang traditional songs or dozed.
Our first destination would be at a place called ‘the village’. Fernando explained to me that in ancient times only the priests could enter the Tiwanaku temple for winter solstice sunrise. The other pilgrims must stop at a ridge to go no further, and once there was a small village here. It is a special place for the Aymara he said. As our coach trundled to a stop on a ridge over looking a vast plain with three perfect mountains looking like pyramids on the horizon I couldn’t wait to get out of the coach and breathe fresh air.
As soon as I set foot on the soil of ‘the farm’ I was instantly moved to tears with emotion. To explain, this place literally contained a torrent of ‘energy’. It felt to our fey senses something like swimming with dolphins, standing to watch a perfect sun rise, jumping in puddles, watching a spring lamb taking its first steps, Glastonbury tor, Avebury, Tin Tadgel in a storm and Stonehenge all combined. This was the raw wild energy of our Mother Earth in such abundance! I was literally stunned. Fernando seeing the look of emotion on my face wandered over to me. I asked WHAT IS THIS place?
He smiled knowingly and knelt to draw in the dust. He drew the ridge where we stood. The three mountains on the horizon, the three dots for the temples of Tiwanaku behind us.
The sun, he explained, rises up the side of the first mountain at winter solstice, the second at equinox, the third at summer solstice. He drew three lines to show the suns line to where we stood. The drawing in the dust, and this great Tiwanaku landscape, actually draw the universal druid symbol.
I did not know how it might be possible, but in this moment I received a knowing that the ancestors – OUR ANCESTORS – had once visited this place long ago.
More pictures are available to view at: http://www.stonehenge-druids.org/bolivia-2011.html
To be continued in part 3
In 2008 I was asked if I would mind being interviewed for a local Wiltshire publication where I would be asked a few questions about Stonehenge and about the Druids and have my photo taken there. I will always try to help genuinely interested media enquiries and fit these around a busy working life. I believe that it is important for Druids to be open with the wider public about who we are, what we believe, and about our connection with Stonehenge.
On this occasion I was unaware that destiny was at work, and that this interview would lead to an eventual meeting between two of the worlds most mysterious spiritual cultures and a major historic bond being formed between ancient traditions separated by almost 6000 miles.
On the day arranged for the interview, an elderly English gentleman by the name of David Hathor introduced himself to me as the photographer. He explained that he was retired and living in Bolivia but standing in as a favor to the regular chap who was off work sick at the time. We did the interview and photo shoot and he took my email address offering to send to me the photo’s and a copy of his report for approval.
When David sent to me the pictures and report as promised, he told me that he had shown them to a native American people called the Aymara, whose priests the Amautas were very interested in learning more about the Druids and about Stonehenge. I looked up Amautas online to discover that they fulfilled a similar role in their ancient society as the Druids did within pre Roman cultures in Europe. At their great temple, Tiwanaku, high in the Andes they still observe celebration of the midwinter sunrise to which it aligns on June 21st.
E-mails were traded back and forth and it was clear that both the Amautas and the Druids share a considerable interest in the same things and we were eager to meet. The idea evolved that we could send Druids to Bolivia for the solstice there, and later receive the Amautas for a solstice celebration here in England. I published this idea on our web site and hoped that we might find sponsors to help both sides meet the costs.
Tiwanaku / Stonehenge
Sadly despite a lot of interest, which had soon reached the RADAR of the British foreign Office, the British Embassy in La Pas, and the Bolivian Government all of whom embraced the idea, no sponsor could be found. In recession hit Britain, I lost my income for a while so I could barely manage my mortgage payments let alone air fares half way around the world. The project was put on hold awaiting a change in the economic climate.
Earlier this year we approached the Bolivian Embassy in London and stated that we still had an interest in seeing the exchange through, with a view to putting our very best people forward and involving other credible pagan groups where possible. The Ambassador, very kindly came to meet us at Stonehenge and Amesbury.
Following this, I visited the embassy in London, twice in order to video conference with the Amautas council in La Pas.
The moment that I first came face to face with the Amautas wise men and wise women via the video link, I was impressed greatly by them. They took turns, each to introduce themselves and tell a part of their beliefs history and customs. I asked them questions, to which they would answer frankly with no attempt to impress or demure, and with an obvious depth of knowledge. They asked me many questions about the Druids and about our traditions and beliefs.
I tried my best to respond in kind for our tradition, differentiating the ancient from the modern where necessary. I was in no doubt that these people would know instantly if someone tried to lie, exaggerate or pretend to a knowledge not actually held, just as I would.
People sincerely following the Druid path today have to seek for learning within the memory of country traditions, folk lore, archaeology, the accounts of those who wished us dead, and the hard won spiritual insights granted by the Gods to guide us home. The pathway still exists, but it is overgrown and uncared for in places, deliberately hidden in others, missing patches through neglect, and the signposts have all been removed. To walk this spiritual path of our ancestors and stay true to its nature requires a deep resonance with truth and an empathy with nature.
There are few teachers.
While talking with the Amauta Council I sensed their depth of understanding and realised it was a chance to speak with elders of a spirituality and magical tradition as old and advanced as the Druids, yet still whole. I did not have to explain our concepts twice or have to justify our ancestral beliefs as one might have to when speaking with Europeans.
For our second video conference hosted at the Bolivian embassy Aes Dana Druidess Kate joined me. It is important for their to be a balance of energies, male and female, and of perspectives as represent our traditions. Following this successful meeting we arranged for a third visit to the embassy. We wanted the Amauta to meet other elders of our tradition, women as well as men, and to share and widen the connection that was already forming. We invited leading members of the most representative, knowledgable and influential Druid and Pagan groups in Britain.
These included OBOD, Pagan Federation, Fellowship of Isis (Druid Clan of Dana).
I thank them for immediately agreeing to be present in this circle and for their total support to Aes Dana. They were all very well qualified to represent our tradition on the exchange but all were noble enough to encourage Aes Dana, a very small grove, to represent us all in Bolivia.
Central to Aes Dana Grove is the town of Amesbury in Wiltshire, who’s mayor and people have recently embraced our grove and sought to reconnect with the ancient traditions and legacy of Stonehenge. With their blessing and encouragement we would be representing the people of this little town which boast one of the best fine art galleries to be found anywhere ‘the forge’.
I asked Andy and Michelle who run the Forge if they could make a unique gift for the Amautas to mark our historic meeting. Michelle presented us with a steel disc weighing around 7 Kg with an image in the centre of trilathon of Stonehenge surrounded by the three hares of the Celtic Goddess…perfect symbolism.
So it was that two Druids, myself and Kate, found ourselves at Heathrow airport about to set off into unknown territory for the Stonehenge Druids and on our way to greet the great Amauta priests of Tiwanaku. What would our two great traditions, both with our roots in the prehistoric make of one another?
Will we get along?
Will we have anything in common between our spiritualities?
Will we gain insights into the mysteries of our ancient pasts?
Will we find missing answers to questions and challenges of today?
To be continued…
Following Arthurs high court request for a Judicial Review over the ancestors, being declined, Mike Pitts (editor of Archaeology Magazine, advisor to EH and member of the Riverside Project) has made comment on his Blog.
Please note that he claims that under new guidelines he may be able to keep the Stonehenge Ancestors ‘indefinitely’.
Is this evidence of more backroom dealings without any public consultation to appease the archaeological lobby?
It might surprise you to learn that many Druids, and I include myself in this, share your disgust at people climbing the stones and leaving the site a mess after solstice. I could add that for a minority, alcohol or drug abuse and bad behaviour add to a sense of violation of the sacred space. The Druids have to work within boundaries set for us by English Heritage and have no special means by which to police the behaviour of visitors to Solstice who pretty much can trample all over us also. We who go for genuine spiritual reasons do our best to keep some dignity and to serve others in such capacity as we are able.
If we had no other reason at all to challenge the validity public benefit and morality of these digs, the very fact that tax payers money has been spent on them gives us that right. Solstice celebrations are paid from a very small fraction of the revenue generated by Stonehenge each year, and so does not cost the tax payer directly.
I believe that you have in common with Arthur a strong desire to be associated with Stonehenge, you wish to speak as a representative of the archaeological cause and he speaks for his own interpretation of the Druid cause. You are both media aware and articulate people, but where the Druids stand at a distinct disadvantage in this debate is that the archaeological world has people in positions of considerable influence placed within the public bodies who should be regulating your activities and independently finding the point of reasonable balance between points of view.
Archaeology has the resources of commercial archaeology companies, funded organisations and Royal Societies with political influence. You have money, lawyers, full time helpers and access directly to advise the authorities and guide policy. The advantage is yours. It is so to such an extent that the fervor with which you have campaigned to mitigate the very slight risk that just this once you should have to compromise with those outside of this elite club in my opinion almost amounts to bullying.
You say that we have been consulted. We were not informed that the policy of interpretation of the Burial Act 1857 is now to give archaeologists unlimited access to our ancestors. That you now suggest you might be able to keep these Stonehenge ancestors from reburial indefinitely fully vindicates Arthur and myself for disbelieving EH three years ago when they told us not to worry, we would get our ancestors returned last year, or Mike Parker Pearson when he informed us that his research would complete on time, or the archaeological community who would like to be seen to be honourable.
In your book Hengeworld you tell the story of Archaeology at Stonehenge and of the reckless damage, loss of information, loss of finds, failure to document that 100 years of trusting the ‘experts’ has wrought on this precious place. It has a great value in illuminating our prehistoric capabilities only matched by its continuing worth as a sacred place of the ancestors and those today who revere them. A balance should be found between these two, and we have sought throughout to find compromise only to discover that leading lights like yourself have presented this as being the end of your livelihoods.
Arthur likes to give the impression that he is the one leading opposition to this violation against truth, but there are others not so encumbered by the need to grandstand who if it takes a further hundred years will undo this wrong. Archaeologists have missed a great opportunity in your haste to mock the Druids and escape legal constraints. The real reason that so much harm has been done to Stonehenge by archaeology has been that projects are not being adequately funded and once granted licence have not been properly regulated.
We would support the riverside project in this research being completed quickly and recorded properly, two years of study would have been more than adequate had they been funded only to provide one part time student to study these remains. We want them reburied, in sealed containers that would preserve them for future research if justified but also achieve their return to the Earth at Stonehenge.
We have never suggested that no research should take place.
If you dare to question the common assumption that Druids have a start date 1600 years after Stonehenge was constructed, and therefore having no connection with it, then you might discover that it is not at all as well supported by the actual evidence as it is convenient as an argument to isolate people with Druidical beliefs of today from being granted any legitimacy which they might use to challenge the exploitation of Stonehenge. The evidence contrary to this ‘disconnection theory’ comes from the world of science and points now to Druids having been established long before they were written about by classical observers and who’s beliefs were founded upon a blend of Celtic and Pre Celtic perspectives.
A judicial review would have benefitted all sides in this debate, and would have been very much in the public interest.
It would have allowed the reburial / spiritual community an opportunity to present the reasons why a balance between the needs of science and the needs of the spiritual community could be made to work without harm to ethers position, and might even lead towards better understanding and cooperation. We have throughout our campaign been generous in our general praise of Mike Parker Pearson for the quality of his work and our regard for the potential benefits of his archaeology. We would have contrasted this with the harm done by under funding and the lack of central recording of evidence available to the public in who’s interests it should serve.
You would have also had the opportunity to speak about the benefits of archaeological work, of the need for proper funding, and to have shown sensitivity to the legitimate spiritual concerns held by so many people of so many faiths regarding this issue. Instead you seem to be gloating over your ability to do as you wish answering to no-one. You are showing the world that the attitude of British Archaeology today has not advanced so very far from that of the treasure hunters of bygone times who travelled the world taking whatever they wished.
How will history and more enlightened generations look at you?
This is an email to let you know that a decision has now been reached in this matter.
Careful thought has been given to the arguments put forward by all parties. While Druid representatives have set out clearly the reasons why they believe the remains should be re-buried without delay, the significance of the remains from what is a World Heritage Site was also taken into account.
Permission for the original excavation was only granted after very careful consideration, and the interests of stakeholders including Druids and Pagans were considered. While it is unfortunate that the time needed to undertake the research work was underestimated, it is not considered right to curtail the work that has been carried out so far.
The decision has therefore been made to grant an extension to the re-burial condition for five years, in accordance with the application made on behalf of the Stonehenge Riverside Project.
Instructions for the licence to be amended have therefore been given. However, it is proposed that once the work has been completed the religious views of the Pagans and Druids will be respected and the remains reinterred.”
It is bad news that our ancestors remains will be withheld until 2015, but a definite step forwards that the MoJ propose that we will have these remains reinterred.
You can read the 37 page argument that we presented to the MoJ that led to this response below.
What could be done to challenge the length of the extension granted?
To have the ancient human remains returned to Stonehenge earlier than 2015 recommended by the Ministry of Justice we would need a Judicial review.
Update 23rd August 2011.
Mr Pendragon, or ‘Arthur Rex’ as he allegedly signed his name in court, bungled the filling in of the Judicial review application form by not giving adequate reason for such a review being necessary. All was not lost at this point, there was still an opportunity to speak before the judge in person to make a case about why a judicial review is justified.
To be fair to Mr Pendragon the odds were stacked against him from the outset, and he gave it a go when many others couldn’t be bothered or didn’t have the bottle. All credit to him for that much. However there are perhaps lessons to be learned from this failed appeal and the way in which the pro reburial position was represented.
We mustn’t continue to lose important tests of morality and faith in the courts. These losses eat away at the justice in our land, and to do less than our best is to fail those who would see justice done.
We will continue to work towards the reburial of these ancestors at Stonehenge on or before 2015. This is a commitment that we have already achieved from the MoJ through our own efforts and we will be watchfull for any move to break from this pledge.
We will be working independently from Mr Pendragon in this regard.
A riot of confusion
Fires burned in London and other Cities in England for four days as youths rioted, taking the opportunity as they did so to loot and terrorise. The Police were caught unprepared and citizens found themselves undefended by the law enforcers who seemed either reluctant or unable to restore order and public safety. After these events, our political leaders flounder around trying to explain the causes of this situation to a very angry and disillusioned British Public.
People have thankfully not pointed the finger at race as the cause, in fact, it was groups that have a strong sense of community like the Sikhs standing side by side ready to defend their neighbours that stands out strongly as a model example of good citizenship. People lost their lives defending their families and businesses, including three young men from the Muslim community. Once again we saw greatness shine when the grieving father of one of these boys insisted that people calm down and restore peace.
England is blessed with a clement climate, strong agriculture, and a culture that prides itself on tolerance and democracy. We provide a free education, social security and medical care to all regardless of ethnicity, gender or social standing. We have equal opportunity laws in the work place, and ensure that everyone has at least an acceptable minimum wage and a safe working environment. Given all of this people from around the world watched and listened to the news this week and asked ‘What possible cause would people in Britain have to riot?’.
Some commentators, politicians and ‘experts’ have suggested that this is down to youth gang culture. Others have pointed out that there is a wealth divide between those that are on the basic state support and jobless and those who have great wealth. It has been suggested that it is because our politicians do not listen to the young people.
An interesting counter argument has come from many of the people who were victims of the situation and from the rioters themselves. The former blaming years of removing the rights of parents and schools to discipline unruly young people, and the courts for handing out very light punishments to convicted offenders. Asked why he was rioting, one man replied ‘because I can’.
Many of those rioting had jobs, and had travelled far to join in with the looting.
This has greatly shocked the law abiding people of this land, people of every race and religion, who are all outraged by the lack of morality displayed by these young people. We ask:
What has gone wrong?
Could we have prevented this?
How can we ensure that it does not happen again?
I believe that whatever the initial causes of the first riot in London, that it presented itself as an opportunity to defy authority and to steel. People genuinely believe that they will achieve happiness through material gain and through the domination of others. This is a condition that to a greater or lesser degree effects everyone in the land. Our communities and traditions have been systematically and deliberately disassembled in a vast social experiment.
We are taught to think of ourselves as individuals. We compete for the wealth that will bring us a bigger home or even a second and third home. We think that money will buy us things and that it is things that will make us happy. The wealthy are as caught up in this myth as are the poor, a through this striving to achieve happiness through money we have let the real thing slip away from us all.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, stated the situation correctly when he said ‘Britain is sick’.
Yes sir, it is.
It has been sick ever since we turned our back on our parents and on our families, putting the individual first. Since we ceased to belong to villages, towns, counties and regions as we had to mobilise to find work. Since we abandoned the influence of Grove, Church, synagogue and Mosque to the new gods of greed and envy which are the biggest drivers of our consumer economy.
The consequence has been misery, loss of hope, broken marriages, feral children, laziness and criminality. We are never happy even when we have every reason to be so.
The Bolivian Aymara people are trying to teach the world from their ancient wisdom, to strive to ‘live well’ not to ‘live better’. Living better requires money and can never be achieved. To live better we must always seek more and so never be satisfied. To live well does not require an excess of money.
Consider what someone might need in order to live better: everyone else must have less. This creates huge inequalities and as everyone strives to be better than the next, we destroy our community and the planet also.
Consider what someone might need to live well: to belong to something bigger than oneself, to have a way of serving that greater cause, to be loved and to love. Also to have food, water, shelter and the freedom to be oneself without fear.
All of the great religions of the world today, and the most ancient of the wise traditions belonging to our ancestors teach that seeking to outdo each other would become our downfall.
We have as a society become the victims of a machine that has leapt beyond the control of morality and common sense, as everything we do is now driven by a search for profit. You have profit when you take out more than you put in. This simple equation when applied by the worlds biggest organisations pays for our media to bombard us with images that lie.
The lie is that if you buy this product, you will be better, you will be happier, you will be more.
To believe that extreme greed can function as a driver for mankind is delusional. The evidence that this is foolhardy is in plain sight. Our richest nations are beset with social and economic problems, the earth is over populated with people, food, water, space and fuel are running out, and the climate and ecosystems are on the verge of collapse and we are still unhappy!
The ancestors and wise people, the prophets and seers of every people throughout human existence have spoken and told us how to live if we are to be fulfilled and happy.
It can be summed up as
‘Love and be loved’, ‘Give as generously as you receive’, ‘Respect yourself and equally, all others’, ‘Be truthful and honourable’, ‘Do not take what rightfully belongs to others’, ‘Strive to live in harmony with all beings and in balance with the earth’.
I wonder how many of the rioters are now looking at their stolen goods with a hollow feeling inside. Deep down they know that happiness still evades them and the ‘joy’ of possession is tainted by the method of acquisition. It will live on in their nightmares once the euphoria of the power trip fades from memory. As they beat up the helpless and burned down the businesses of their neighbours, they became less than they were before.
Although the rioters caused fear and provided a very visual spectacle of society breaking down, the damage caused by their greed and lack of responsibility pails into insignificance beside the damage done to us all by investment bankers lending money that they knew could not be repaid in order to get their personal huge bonuses, or the damage caused by politicians sending our armies into needless wars, or the damage to our environment by a policy of growth that cannot be sustained. The people in suits somehow get away without a prison sentence and condemnation yet are just as guilty of letting selfish greed destroy the best assets we once had to share.
So trillions are wiped off of of world markets and great nations go bankrupt because a collection of yuppies wanted more…
If we are to solve these issues in a balanced way then we have to recognise the true evil in all this is a selfish lust for money and possessions no matter that others pay the cost. We need to return to spiritual values, whether Aymara, Druid, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish or what ever and stop this madness that puts ‘having more’ above being happy.