Interlude ~ Sound principles?

We waited for a few minutes while our small group took pictures of the stones of Stonehenge. It is rare to be able to photograph the monument without hordes of people, but with the gates closed to the general public, calm descends. We were all waiting to be allowed within the circle of stones, but I wondered how many had realised that we had actually been within Stonehenge itself for quite some time.

The remains of the outer embanked ditch, situated outside the normal visitor path and often overlooked.

Over five thousand years ago, our ancestors created a circular ditch and embankment, some three hundred and sixty feet in diameter. It was dug out using antler picks, and yet, curiously, they buried animal bones, flint tools and antlers of a far greater age in the bottom of the ditch itself. These were not simply old things that they had cast away, they were placed there with care after being looked after for many years. Why such reverence? What did these animals represent for the diggers of the ditch? Were they perhaps invoking the guardianship of the clan’s Spirit Animals… or that of the Ancestors themselves? As the bones belonged to deer and oxen, perhaps they were attempting to ensure that the herds were kept safe and plentiful, and that their bounty would serve the clan’s needs.

It was not until the seventeenth century, that antiquarian John Aubrey discovered fifty-six pits, arranged around the inner edge of the ditch. These became known as the Aubrey Holes. In 1920, the early days of modern archaeology, William Hawley excavated over fifty thousand bone fragments, dumping them unceremoniously together into one of the Aubrey Holes, as being of no importance.

Scale model showing the embankment and ditch, within which the Aubrey Holes hold the bluestones. Image: Stuart France

The bones belonged to sixty three men, women and children, each of whom had been cremated and their remains interred with meticulous care. In 2013, Mike Parker Pearson and his team brought more rigorous modern methods to bear on the bones and the pits, finding that each pit may have held a bluestone, which they suggested may have been as a grave marker. I have to wonder at that…

The bluestones are not the huge trilithons, but substantial pillars of stone that now form the inner circle. They were famously quarried and carried to the spot from Wales, over a hundred and fifty miles away. This discovery meant that the first ‘stone circle’ at Stonehenge was possibly five hundred years earlier than had been thought. Not only that, but analysis of the bone fragments showed that most of those buried had lived most of their lives in Wales… not on the Plain around Stonehenge.

So, just who were these men, women and children whose calcined bones merited burial beneath a sacred stone, carried all the way across the country? Why would such stones be placed as simple ‘grave markers? Were the stones perhaps more intimately connected with the men and women who were buried beneath them?

We can only speculate and attempt to put ourselves in the minds and hearts of those who walked the land thousands of years ago. What if the dead had served the stones or the clan? Or both, considering how far they had travelled together. Was the burial a way of assigning a guardian to each stone and its properties… enshrining an Ancestor to act as intercedent and wisdom keeper, perhaps?

And why were the bluestones so special? What did they bring to the spirit of the place?

As we were finally allowed into the circle, I thought about the research that has been done on sound. The bluestones of Preseli have been tested, and ring like bells when struck. A scale model of the completed monument has been tested in an acoustic chamber, proving conclusively that sound made within the open-to-the-winds structure would have been amplified and acquired the resonance of an indoor amphitheatre. I have seen visual representations of soundwaves that look like the petroglyphs carved in ancient tombs… and I thought back to the experiments we have been drawn to do with sound and chant within the sacred places. Of ‘lighting up’ the stones of Bryn Celli Ddu after we had chanted and verbally renewed our dedication. Of potentially hitting the right note or vibration to ‘unlock’ the stones…

Long ago, the only enclosed spaces would have been the caves, which our earliest ancestors made their homes and sanctuaries. They would have learned to understand acoustics, simply by living there, listening to the echoes and distortions, perhaps even using such sounds to navigate the passageways.

Barrows across the wider Stonehenge landscape look like star systems… Image: Stuart France

The caverns would not merely have been a place of safety and refuge from the weather, they would also be the belly of the earth… a place in which you were held safe within the Mother. It was not until we began to build our homes and settlements that other such ‘inner spaces’ would be created. But you can imagine how magical the sound of inner space would be when you are out beneath the stars…

If sound were key to the bluestones, that would make sense… especially as they are not really blue; the dolerite stones look like the darkness of interstellar space scattered with swirling galaxies…

And yet, a short while later, as I stood between those bluestones once more… none of the ’mind stuff’, research or even logic mattered while Stuart chanted for me, quietly and unobtrusively, for healing. All I could feel were the waves of sound, wrapping around me and lighting my spine as we had once lit Bryn Celli Ddu…

23 thoughts on “Interlude ~ Sound principles?

  1. In the past we seriously underestimated our ancestors, relegating them to primitive people. But research is showing how sophisticated and knowledgeable they were, in spite of not having sophisticated tools.
    I did not know about the sound made by the bluestones. It opens up so mNy more questions.
    Thank you for your post. I hope the chants help.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I visited before it was fenced off. There weren’t those many people there. However, I think I was too young to really appreciate it then. I don’t want to go back, though, and see it caged, like a dangerous beast to be gawped at through railings.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So much to learn from the past, and the more I live and learn the more I realize how much I do not know 🙂 But thank you for such an enchanting lesson of Stonehenge, I wonder how much they knew that we’ve forgotten? You seem to understand there is a lot out there still ~ wishing you a great Sunday and start to November.

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    1. I am very sure they knew an awful lot more than we realise, Randall… and not just here either. We have lost so much knowledge… a natural progression as we have sought to surpass the past, perhaps, but I fear we have, in our desire to seem progressive, thrown the baby out with the bathwater, as the saying goes, on more than one occasion.
      I love that there are mysteries out there that may never be wholly solved…

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  3. It’s interesting how each discovery leads to new questions and layers of mystery. This is fascinating, Sue. I hope that someday some of the questions find answers, though I suspect those answers will always be intuitive rather than “set in stone.”

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    1. All we can do is try to put ourselves in the mindset of the old ones and sew where it leads. I don’t think that, although our beliefs may have changed over time, we are so very much difference fromour forefathers at heart.

      Liked by 1 person

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