Avebury Stone Circle

28th May 2003

When I started off on my journey around sacred mountains (On Sacred Mountains ) I worried about how 'holy' I should be. Should I be reverential and quiet, so light on my feet that my physical presence was barely noted at all? That was before I realized that mountains are as physical as things get. They taught me the joy and wonder of being in a body.

Even so, I wondered what Avebury Stone Circle had in store. While nearby Stonehenge has more renown, some see this ancient stone circle as the very heart of the cosmos. Having been attracted this way for years, May 3rd saw me visit for the first time.

The stones themselves are beautiful, sculpted by nature, each rock smoothed by a personal history that predates humanity. Unlike Stonehenge these stones remain accessible, their edges pressed into fields. You can stand on the grass and stroke them.

The air was a wash of rain as we started around the circle's perimeter, thinking to pace around it before entering the centre. Others had the same idea. A man led the way, in furlined boots and waistcoat, a dark green tunic, and leafed branches spiked from his head like antlers. Another man wore a long white tunic, and paused to sound his horn up at the clouds. Whether men or women, long skirts or cloaks were the day's fashion statement. It was not till the horn blew a third time that the truth dawned. We had drifted in as the two non-Druids in Avebury's Druidic Mayday celebration.

The troupe entered the heart of the circle through twinned standing stones, the Green Man of the antlers first kneeling in adoration before the 'goddess' of the day's ceremeonies. Then Druids and onlookers alike held hands to engage in a service, circling the stone that marks the very centre of Avebury.

We had wandered around the flower exhibition in the local church, but though baptised into the Church of England this pagan ceremony seemed more natural to me. I like it that the walls of Avebury open onto nature, and that the ceiling is the sky. Why build walls around ourselves and then invite God in? Though somewhat rushed, the handholding ceremony was natural to me. I joined in the prayers and the songs, and threw a symbolic care into an empty vessel for it to be burned and so set loose. I looked to end my grieving for my mother's death, to remember her life as an ongoing celebration.

Two men then knelt down to hold up a maypole. Six virgins were needed, and failing that maidens as fair as fair could be would fit the bill. Then the Green Man walked across the circle of a hundred or so, Druids and tourists alike. He needed six men. I, he declared, was the right man to lead the way.

And so it was that I came to be dancing the maypole as part of a Druid ceremony at Avebury, May 2003. I had wondered what 'message' the stones might give me. Here it was. Welcome. Join in. Dance. Play.

It's a relief to have the following picture to share with you, rather than yet more words.

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