Interlude ~ Horse Whispers

Avebury SE weekend 035
White Horse of Uffington

It seems such a long time ago that I wrote  about our not being able to leave for the Scottish weekend, right at the last minute. Stuart hopped on a train and came down here instead. While the Pictish weekend went ahead without us in the far north, we marked time and twiddled our thumbs, waiting for scans and answers. Now, the problem was that this was not only supposed to be a workshop weekend, it was also supposed to be our second and, as it turned out,  wholly unsuccessful attempt to get a holiday of some sort this year… albeit just a few days on the road.  So when even that was denied us, I was determined that we should do something with what time we had to make our ‘holiday’ memorable.

We had already driven out to Rollright a couple of days earlier. It had taken a lot out of me, but as I had managed, I reckoned I could manage a bit further too. We had missed the June workshop thanks to Covid, during which we were supposed to be exploring some of the lesser-known features of the great megalithic circle and sites around Avebury. It is a place we love and, really, is not too far away from my home.

Marlborough White Horse
Marlborough

So, off we set… heading past the White Horse at Uffington, the enigmatic figure cut thousands of years earlier into a strangely shaped ‘horse’ of debatably draconine ancestry. It is the eldest of all the White Horses… first cut, three feet deep and back-filled with chalk, at least three thousand years ago. And yet, like so many other ‘earth-mystery sites’ worldwide, it is only clearly visible from the air…

Like the Nazca lines, there are far too many questions for reasonable answers at this place… but it is a site that is also very special to us, having been part of our story since we, all unknowingly, began our adventures here, one misty, magical morning. So touching base, even if only a nod and a wave on the way past, always feels good.

As we drove on, heading into Wiltshire, we looked out for other White Horses that we would pass. None of the other visible White Horses seem to share the antiquity of The White Horse. Most were cut within the last three centuries to honour people and events of national importance.

Cherhill White Horse
Cherhill

I find it quite telling that the ancient image of the White Horse… who may represent Epona, the Horse Goddess or the Dragon energies that run through the land… should be that echoed to make  celebratory mark. How deep do these symbols run in our blood? Does their true meaning linger at some subconscious level, deep beyond the logic of normal mentation? And, if they are speaking to us across millennia… just what are they whispering to us?

Looking at the history of the currently visible White Horses, they all seem to share a common trait in that they were all set up by men, yet if they hark back to Epona, they would represent a goddess, a female and nurturing divinity that would be anathema within the later Christian landscape. Moreover, many of the later figures have a military connection and, while it is true that war bands with cavalry had a distinct advantage, I have to wonder at what point in our history violence took precedence over the nurturing of the tribe?

Uffington White Horse from Dragon Hill
Uffington White Horse from Dragon Hill

While no records remain in anything we would recognise as ‘written language’ from the time when the great White Horse of Uffington was cut, we do have hints and history that have been passed down via the folk record and eventually captured by the ink of the scribes. Such stories are, by that point, possibly thousands of years away from their source and will have passed through the great machine of Christianisation, where the central characters of a story… who might once have been god, fey or elemental, have been sanitised or condemned by the imposition of sainthood and the pointed finger of demonic accusation.

There is so much to see and learn, so much to wonder about and ponder, even on the simplest of drives from ‘here’ to ‘there’.  No matter where we live in the world, or for how many centuries mankind has left his footprints in the dust upon which we walk, the earth beneath our feet is ancient and full of stories ready to be explored.

We cannot go far without a sense of wonder… so far it has carried us across thousands of years of human evolution and now outwards towards the stars. Perhaps that is the what the ancient White Horse whispers to the winds…

SE Ilkley 2015 avebury hackpen
Hackpen Hill

34 thoughts on “Interlude ~ Horse Whispers

  1. I’ve not seen the Uffington white horse in decades. It’s truly a wonderful thing. I’m still amazed that itvwas cut so long ago.
    And Christianity has a lot to answer for. It has done much good, yes, but has removed and changed so much amazing wisdom.

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    1. It is the nature of things to change over time and as we ourselves change… but we don’t always have to destroy or demonise what went before, and we do seem to make a bit of a habit of that 😉

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  2. An amazing horse in a stunning location. We went there a few months ago and it was awe-inspiring to be near such ancient and ingenious prehistoric art. I’m fascinated by how they managed to produce it in such good proportions, especially as they say the best way to view it nowadays is, indeed, from the air. It’s intriguing. And I absolutely love your last paragraph. Gives me goosebumps. 🙂 Hope things are going well for you. I’m into my final module now (or trying to be, that is – I’ll have to see how it goes. I may have to defer owing to the hassles of this year), but am still thinking of you and sending you all my good wishes. 🙂 ❤

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      1. Thanks Sue. 🙂 It’s going to be a hard slog, so we’ll see how it goes. But I’ll get there one way or another, as it is, as you say, the final stretch.

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  3. “I have to wonder at what point in our history violence took precedence over the nurturing of the tribe?” Read Rutger Bregman’s ‘Humankind’ which came out in the summer, for a good estimate, and why.

    As you know, I’m fond of this area too. My book The Talent Seekers features Castle White Horse… you can guess why. I enjoyed illustrating that one. If you’d like an ebook copy to help you wile away the boring hours, let me know.

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