Monday, 18 January 2010

Seahenge, Internal landscapes of dreams, death and migraines.

Before I visit Seahenge, I want to properly explore how I understand it as a working portal to the underworld + death connected to the waking world by dreams and agony.

Seahenge is a Bronze age (contemporary to doll tor, main lifespan of stonehenge) monument, discovered at Holme in 1998, although local residents have suggested that various other seahenges appeared and dissapeared regularly along the shifting sands of the coast for many years prior to this. Francis Pryor thought that its place on the coast, situated in the Fens gave it a spiritual significance of bridging the gaps between the living world and the afterlife. Looking at the smashan burning grounds on the banks of the Ganges its easy to draw similarities between the two funereal practices, the reversal of the menstrual tide as the body and blood decay and are absorbed back into the Rainbow Serpent flowing of the seas and the rivers. Excarnation occurs, the bones are broken and the soul can be freed. Aubrey Burl theorizes in Rites of the Gods that the breaking of cremated bones, an act which appears to have been common throughout the UK's neolithic burial sites, was seen to free the soul, although skulls and jaw bones were often kept as totems for ritual use, or placed in mortuary houses to preserve the power of a communitys ancestors. Trephination similarly can be seen as a way to release the demons/spirits causing pain in the head, and the breaking of the bone releases the pressure and the demon. Evidence of trepanning goes back 40,000 years in human civilisation, an example from the Thames, near Hammersmith shows a hole in the head, seemingly deliberate in shape and with five years worth of regrowth of bone. The skull is between 3 and 5 thousand years old, a similar time frame to stonehenge and seahenge. The use of trepanning as a migraine relief mechanism makes sense to the sufferer, a release of pressure.

The migraine trance I have found myself in often leads to an internal exploration of the ability to transcend physical boundaries, in the many hours spent lying alone in bed, unable to sleep or move because of the pain you need to become adjusted to the sensation, otherwise it can be hard to keep a hold of your self. In disconnecting with the pain through trancework I have found it possible to find within it useful techniques and easier ways to achieve that state of mind. Entoptic visions are a nuisance in a public situation, but within a controlled state can bring one closer to visionary experiences. The visuals could be likened to descriptions of psychoactive drugs, geometric shapes and colours, flashes lights and strange auras. I've been told on several occasions that when ill, I lie with my eyes open but unconscious of whats going on around me, I contemplate nothing, pain becomes a distant echo. It sounds like a melodramatic statement, but many times I have felt rising panic at the situation, the unbearable pain and pressure feels like it must give way to some catastrophic internal event and death will soon follow. Cluster headaches have often sent me falling to the ground, seized by some terrible force that seems certain to kill me, or drive me to kill myself with the crushing agony of it. The connection between migraines and death, the trance-like existance of the migraine sufferer seems obvious to me, it binds you to follow a cycle of rebirth, feeling estatic at the pureness of becoming pain-free again, giddy and alive after days of isolation, darkness and complete introversion. The migraine dream, where the onset occurs before you wake, are always of death, and dying. The pain crushes you and you feel the slow inevitability of dying, or being dead and knowing no end to the paralysed pain. Through controlling your breathing, the pain does not nessesarily go away, but you move away from it. The state of mind you have control over does not need to correspond directly to the physical complaints of your body. The only unfortunate effect of becoming disconnected from the pain is that you no longer struggle to keep the pain under control, I have gone whole days without drinking or attempting to eat, or take painkillers which ultimately will prolong the migraine. The life of a migraine sufferer is often interspersed with these long contemplative times when they can do little else but think of their pain, I think it helps to try and use it productively if possible.

Seahenge is now preserved in wax and on display at Kings Lynn museum.

this is 'Applehenge', the replica constructed for the Time Team programme on the excavation of Seahenge. There was some controversy surrounding this structure, due to the fact no planning permission was obtained for it to be built, and the Oak used for the centre was a protected tree. Its location in an orchard in Norfolk is now unadvertised and very low-key, presumably due to these problems.

Despite the issues with Applehenge, I couldn't help but feel the value of reconstructing the monument in full size. The aging of the timbers since the programme was aired, with Ivy curling up the centre tree, gave it a somber air of beauty. It is very easy to imagine the place bedecked with funereal adornments, lone yggdrasil in the marshes with a rain-washed figure prostrate on the upturned roots.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Windy Hill - M62 mythology and saddleworth moor

Scammonden Bridge with its huge cutting looms over the road skeletal, back arched and punctuated with ribs of concrete, it's vast irregularity unnerves. Saddleworth moor is just beyond and, reinforced with repetition, reminds me of the many car journeys, the points along the way at which my Mother would tell me the same stories along the way. The sign bluntly points out that this is the highest motorway in england. 1442ft above sea level,
there seems to be a silent mark of the ascent a few moments before as simultaniously, everyones ears pop at the change of air pressure.

saddleworth moor, where they buried those kids, creeps along beside you. Its not a pretty moor, it looks cold and empty, like a house derelict before its been lived in. The sky meets the ground in a hazy confusion, the road splits to allow for stott hall farm, the sheep look grubby, small and too natural next to the endless stream of mechanical speed, mud is pasted on their wool, the farmhouse, the concrete underpass.

My mind feels the burden of dozens of imprints of this journey, the same words spoken at the same points along the way. I have begun to see, at the pennine way overpass and as the huge cathedral cutting of scmmonden bridge towers above, a naked human corpse, bloated and blue stood upright in the road ahead. My mother's edema ridden body remembered from a hospital bed appears to me, preserved on a road that has formed me. Countless journeys along here, every one either with her, telling me the same mythologies as if i'd never heard them before, or without her and knowing when she'd say it. It is a chemical tic I can't shake, it will live with me forever, her morbid curiosity in the lost childrens' graves now haunts it. Dont dally, think of Lesley-Ann, buried with her plastic beads further down the valley at Hollin brown knoll, her features were preserved by the peat like Tollund Man. As Yorkshire turns to Lancashire, the road becomes lost in thought.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Godstone

The Godstone is a small, christianised monument in a churchyard in Formby, north of Liverpool. It supposedly used to reside in the village green but was moved to its position in the churchyard, and inscribed with a cross, and steps to symbolise the ascent to heaven.

"Until recently Roman Catholics were buried here, and the coffins carried three times round this stone, presumably (as in other instances) following the way of the sun. The custom may be very ancient, and indeed a pagan survival. Roman Catholics, moreover, in visiting the churchyard, used to kneel down and pray before this stone."

We couldnt find it for a good while, we looked all around the church, and into the trees further back but eventually after splitting up to curb the boundarys found it to the west of the church at the furthest point of the churchyard there. It was smaller than we expected, but very sweet and joined by a few other similar sized boulders. The carving was unusual, an abstract sigil rather than a stern reminder that, as it has been said to describe this rock;

•" where God hath a Temple, the Divell will have a
chapiiel: where God hath sacrifices, the Divell will
have his oblations."

We were dusted with snow as we took our photo, and then the skies grew heavy with it. The car got fairly stuck and we foolishly meandered back towards the sea to find Gormley's Another Place. The drive back across the pennines was sickeningly slow, slippy and tiring.

Doll Tor stone circle, Birchover in the Peak District

Doll Tor, a minature bronze age beauty tucked away a little south of the better signposted Nine Ladies stone circle, north east of the ruined stone circle Nine Stones Close. A small cairn lies next to it, which seems to be slightly rearranged every time we visit. The cairn contained a cist which held a cremated female burial.

This bead found at the circle during an early excavation is thought to be from egypt, from around 1300 BC.

The circle was vandalised during the spring of 1995 and reconstructed in 1997 by a team of archaeologists, restoring it to bronze age condition. The photo in Julian Cope's Modern Antiquarian shows it meddled with,

. During a Heathcote excavation in the 1930s three of the stones were mysteriously smashed overnight, you can see the (deteriorated) cement joins holding them together.
The relatively modern woodlands surrounding the stones give it an atmosphere of calm and solitude that is missing from its companion Nine Ladies. I try to picture the place alone atop a moor as it must have been every time we visit and fail, I take solace in the fact that, tucked to the side of the proto-temple of the andle stone, its location always bore it more to the shelter of its landscape than to crown it. The quarry a few feet north of the stones is shockingly close, and gives me quiet horrors as to what could have been the fate of this place. I presume the local interest in archaeology borne of Thomas Bateman who lived in Birchover and excavated this site in 1852 saved it from certain doom.

You can look across from the edge of the woods by the circle to Robin Hoods Stride, and easily walk it should you wish to, I imagine with the trees clear you could view Doll Tor from Nine Stones Close and vice versa. We've seen many offerings and ribbon on the trees, but haven't once chanced upon any other visitors at any point, and we come here often. Halloween was particularly special, we put a lamp in the middle of the circle, the boys climbed the Andle stone in the dark (the girls + jeff sensibly abstained) and the stars were bright in the sky. We do sort of think of this place as ours, as I'm sure many other people do!

We found a fallen tree, with some rocks beneath its roots just beyond the cairn. There were some carvings on it, possibly a figure and an ear of corn.

Howden Hill & Blakey topping - North Yorkshire

The hill borders the RAF perimeter fence and access down to it passes an old associated airfield. The old monuments to life and death stand eye to eye with modern ones. I think the moors have not lost their discourse in the wilderness as planted there by our ancestors. They seem to echo a past from which we have barely evolved. The monoliths and carvings on the rocks may have been a navigational and astronomical aid for nomadic tribes or lone wanderers survive the harsh, confusing conditions on the moorland. Fygela as it was known was a fairly inhospitable place but the dangerous nature of the location itself seems to have imbued it with a spiritual significance to the neolithic population, with many burial howes and cairns remaining to seek a path through what could easily be deadly.

The moorland megalithic sites helped turn the qliphothic moorland into an inhabitable place, to create a balance within a seafaring community whose heart lay out to sea. These monuments now centre around a different danger, the eyes and ears of which look across the world and into the stars. The pyramid on fylindales moor claimed to be the voice of God during the cold war, giving us the three minutes to prove our worth before we faced whatever lies beyond. Talismanic, it promised to exact an eye for an eye on those who wished to destroy us, and protected us with the same terrible power we ourselves feared.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Castle Howard Hawksmoor pyramid of 1728

The large pyramid is easy enough to find as it looms high on the hill, we found it on a dark december night in the mist and snow. From the village you can walk up the first footpath you see on the left hand side (going into the village from the Castle Howard estate turning) and walk up the field, bearing right when the sign directs you to do so. The pyramid can be seen in a north easterly direction from the footpath, on top of the prominent brow of a hill.

The pyramid is flanked by 8 towers, which seem designed to hold lamps atop them.
The architect for this folly was the Freemason Nicholas Hawksmoor, described as 'the Devil's architect' because of his use of risky quotations in the religious themes in his work from throughout history, from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and other non-christian ideologies.

We threw caution to the wind by visiting the twenty-eight feet high pyramid with no prior preparation, no map, no real directions beyond a knowledge that the pyramid was on a hill over the village. A dog barked in the distance the whole time we climbed the hill, but when we reached the pyramid there was (finally, short lived) silence. The mist around the hill was below us so we could finally see the stars. One of the towers was partially destroyed and we stood on it to see across the land. The inscription on the side of the pyramid had deteriorated quite badly:


The pyramid has a tiny door to the rear, you can only access it on special tours but we found a photo of the bust of Lord William Howard housed inside the beehive shaped interior:

Yoinked from Neil Levine's Castle Howard and the Emergence of the
Modern Architectural Subject.

Is there a correct way to disembark from viewing such a magnificant folly, you may or probably will not ask? One of our number log rolled from top to bottom of the ridge on which it stands, and it did seem the finest way to do it. Not so much so that the rest followed suit!