Wicker Leaks

by Dennis on December 17, 2010

As I’m contemplating the real prospect of being snowed in for four days or so, now seems as good a time as any to try to pen an end of year and end of decade reflection for Eternal Idol, before we all resume our business in 2011. I suppose the first thing to address is the nature of Eternal Idol itself, because it’s changed over the years in a number of ways and this transformation may not be to everyone’s liking.

Eternal Idol was set up about 6 or 7 years ago by my friend Ian (pictured below at St James’s Church), as we had a number of shared interests in what you’d broadly call ‘exotic’ subject matter and because Ian is a genius with computers and the internet, in stark contrast to myself. I felt I had a number of original things to say about Stonehenge, Silbury Hill and others, but I will shortly return to this notion of having something new to put into the public domain.

So, that’s what I did – I simply sat down, as a labour of love, and published some of my thoughts on Stonehenge, in an early version of what you might term “Wicker Leaks”. I felt that Stonehenge deserved a dedicated website with constantly updated information, but this is in no way intended to criticise the other sites out there that are run by those many other people who also admire and revere our megalithic forebears and their achievements. I had visited Stonehenge around 3 times a week for a decade, while I had some experience of working in the landscape and of working with numerous Stonehenge-related discoveries, so I felt inclined to write some of this up for what would be a text-based site, as opposed to one featuring images with informed comments or captions.

I really didn’t have any thoughts as to whether or not anyone else would contribute in any way, because I was happy just to think out loud, as it were, but Eternal Idol soon began to attract many regular visitors. As a direct result of the fact that I had something to say about the ruins, the media began to take an interest and report on my writing, and there was a time when I dutifully posted all these links up.

As I write this, however, things have changed dramatically, because I now have a book, an agent and a publisher, along with more calls on my time than I can meaningfully answer, sadly. As just one example, there was a recent post on the Stonehenge News section, with a link to a Daily Mail article about an attempt to move some stones that had been encased in wicker baskets.

Earlier this year, a London-based production company approached me to ask if I’d take part in a programme intended to show how some stones were moved using wicker baskets in prehistory. My involvement didn’t work out, in the end, but some friends of mine were present to see the prototype perform to something less than its maker’s expectations. Had I been so disposed, I suppose it would have amused some people if I’d written about the failure of another Stonehenge-related theory, but I saw no point in doing so. Why? The man behind the wicker basket idea had something to say, as did the programme makers, so whether they were right or wrong is neither here nor there.

An identical principle applies to the discovery earlier this year of what I conveniently referred to as “Hillside Henge”. As I reported here on Eternal Idol, Professor Vince Gaffney claimed to have discovered a notable prehistoric structure to the northwest of Stonehenge as a result of a geophysics survey, but when Mike Pitts looked into this, his first conclusion was that it was likely to have been a barrow. A later investigation by Mike Pitts raised the possibility that the geophysics survey might have detected the remnants of a fence erected in modern times around a barrow, an idea which if true, would doubtless amuse many people ‘out there’.

These links were posted on the Stonehenge News section of this site, but they’ve passed without comment from myself or from others, because both Professor Gaffney and Mike Pitts have something to say about Stonehenge and its landscape. I was highly critical of the theory put forward by Professors Darvill and Wainwright, when they maintained that Stonehenge was a prehistoric Lourdes, but I was very pleased by all the other information they put into the public domain about the ruins. Their theory has some adherents, so if they or anyone else have something remotely informed to say about Stonehenge, then I’ll be pleased to read it, as will others, because it is that most valuable thing – food for thought.

It’s surely self-evident that this is why I’ve reported as best I can on what Professor Mike Parker Pearson has to say about Stonehenge and the Ancestors, while I’ve published what the Stonehenge Druids have to say on the matter as well. These men all have something to say about Stonehenge, regardless of whether I agree with them or not, and this is what Eternal Idol is about – original information of any kind on the ruins; on their past, present or future.

By the same token, I welcome contributions from others, whether they agree with me or not. I’m just as happy to publish a comment sent in by a practising dowser as I am to publish a link on some theory put forward by an archaeologist, just as long as the person in question has something to say, something to add, something that enables the rest of us to think and ponder a particular matter. This contribution can be a one-liner, or it can be a thousand words or so – it really doesn’t matter. As long as I can turn on my laptop, sign in to Eternal Idol and have the pleasure of reading something that someone else has written, that’s all I’m concerned with. I’d personally be a lot happier if gentlemen like Mike Pitts, Professor Gaffney, Professor Mike Parker Pearson and others put far more of their thoughts into the public domain, but we shall simply have to make do with what’s already on offer.

Archaeology_004

While the combined output from the professional archaeologists might be less than one might hope for, I think it’s fair to say that the “Stonehenge Irregulars” and their “Wicker Leaks” are more than filling the gap. There are now over 4,000 comments on this site, some of them small essays, some brief insightful observations or corrections, with many links to other pieces. Our friend Alex Down generously provided many lengthy submissions, as well as reports from the Bluestonehenge excavations and wonderful summaries of presentations delivered by professional archaeologists. I interrupted composing this post to trawl through some of the many hundreds of emails he sent me over the years, while I learned after his death that he was planning his own book on Stonehenge in addition to all this.

As far as having something original to say is concerned, I have my own posts here and my book, while we also have Dr Robin Melrose’s book, something I’m very much looking forward to reading over the Christmas period.

However, this isn’t a competition of any kind. I value every comment sent in, whether it’s a lengthy observation from Angie Lake about dowsing, or else a terse one-liner from someone else casting doubt on what someone else has said. In between these two extremes are many other contributions, some veering away from the original topic, others examining a subject in minute detail, but as long as someone has something to say that provides food for thought for the rest of us as far as Stonehenge is concerned, then I’m more than happy.

Text aside, I think we’re all very fortunate to have Anne Sudworth in our midst, as she’s managed to capture the atmosphere of our stone circles better than anyone else alive, in my view, while her paintings manage to speak not just a thousand words, but words I’m unable to articulate.

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My mention of Anne brings me to a dilemma I’ve faced more and more often in recent times. I had the huge pleasure of meeting her last year, and I wrote about this because it was wonderful to see her paintings on display and to be able to speak to her about what she does, but perhaps this was not strictly relevant to a discussion of Stonehenge. It was a similar honour to have met, spoken with and interviewed Colin Wilson, but while this gentleman also had things to say about Stonehenge, it now seems that this post would have been better placed elsewhere.

5 years down the line, and to my amazement, I have more to say about Stonehenge than I would have dreamed possible back in 1969, when I first saw the ruins for myself. I began to take a keen interest in the monument in 1996, when I moved to Salisbury Plain, but even so, I didn’t anticipate that an investigation would be rewarded by having so many things to write. Some of them have been extremely uplifting, most notably the ongoing story of The Ancestor or Stonehenge Giant, but I still feel a sense of sorrow at the loss of our friend Alex Down, someone I liked very much and who contributed such a great deal towards our understanding and knowledge of Stonehenge.

So, I’ll be starting up another site, where I’ll be posting details of my life outside Stonehenge, while I’ll try to keep Eternal Idol a place for original information and discussion on the ancient mysteries of my choosing. My life’s changed in many ways since I first started writing on this site, so I’ll simply have to adopt a more disciplined approach than before and it may be that I have less time to actively join in with the discussions here, although I will of course do so whenever an opportunity presents itself. I’m very pleased indeed that Aynslie’s agreed to assist me with the running of Eternal Idol, so when we all have our various affairs in order, sometime in the New Year, I’m hopeful that more posts will appear and luckily, there’s no shortage of subject matter.

A number of half-finished posts are waiting in the archives, so I intend to write about Silbury Hill, the ancient Druid connection with Stonehenge, why so few people dream about the ruins, the garb the Sentinel wore, the long barrows, a curious aspect of the bluestones, pigs, hauntings, ghouls, the White Goddess and Dr Robin Melrose’s fascinating new book. I also have two posts on volcanoes that were sent in by some exceedingly patient contributors, so I’ll publish them when I can do proper justice to them, while I also have some fascinating original material on Jesus in Britain, courtesy of Yvonne Whiteman.

There are a number of previous posts that I’d like to revisit, something that will be made a lot easier by the new format of Eternal Idol, so while I can’t guarantee by any means how quickly these posts will appear, then at least there’s life here for the foreseeable future and anyone is welcome to write in whenever they choose. This invitation is also open to the resentful fifth-raters who send in hate mail, but none of these submissions are ever going to be published, of course. They provide some temporary amusement for Aynslie and myself, but then they’re quickly despatched into internet oblivion. Eternal Idol is a place for people who have something to say about Stonehenge, so those with fake email addresses, ludicrous pseudonyms and “Also Ran” as a job description can doubtless find somewhere else to publish their considered thoughts.

And so, on that uplifting note, I wish the bleakest of midwinters on my detractors and Tidings of Comfort and Joy to all my friends. Thank you to every last one of you who has written in, I hope you all thoroughly enjoy the festive period and I shall see you all again in 2011.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

frank December 19, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Dear Dennis and Members of the Eternal Idol Community.

Your reflections on all that has been achieved since you started Eternal Idol, and the welcome that you give here to anyone with some constructive thought to share with others, have been a reminder to me of just how important Eternal Idol has become to many of us.

We have seen several groundbreaking (excuse the pun) digs, fascinating observations by Alex and others, the discovery of at least one new henge and discussion about religion, spirits, the afterlife, ancient cultures and so forth, the like of which only take place here. It is shocking that anyone would wish to send “hate mail” or to destroy something as sacred to many as the Glastonbury Thorn, for that matter.

My group of Druids, Aes Dana, have been working at Stonehenge now for more than five years. Our objective was and still is to be there for those seeking credible spiritual Druidry based on service to the Gods and the people, rather than the egocentric theatrics that until we became involved was the only thing on offer. We have sought to raise everyone’s game, trying to lead by example, and in so doing we have attracted hate mail, threats and even violence towards us along the way.

Despite the dark side trying to derail our best efforts, Aes Dana have made friends with people like those gathered here and we have seen and facilitated the first truly positive media coverage of Druids at Stonehenge, the bardic tradition returning to Summer Solstice, and the return of the Mayday to Westminster and Stonehenge. We have made contact with other ancient traditions around the world, we contributed to our religion being recognised in English law, we invited the mighty Ancestor statue to Stonehenge and we have fought for the return of our ancient ancestors from Stonehenge.

On that last point, all of you by now will be aware that there has been a point of contention between the Druids of Stonehenge and the secular powers-that-be over the removal and extended retention of ancient human remains taken from inside the precincts of Stonehenge itself in 2008.

We are not against scientific exploration or the revealing of truths through research; however, these ancestors were placed by those who knew them within the sacred ring for a reason. That reason might now be long forgotten, but we should respect it. As a matter of decency, and natural rightness, these people must one day be returned. Their absence from Stonehenge has already had a profound impact there.

The Department of Culture Media and Sport gave “scheduled monument consent” to the Riverside Project for their removal without consulting the Druids of Stonehenge. The archaeologists refused to compromise on even a partial return, refusing even to negotiate. They still hold out that all human remains, including these, should be retained and passed around for scientific exploitation indefinitely. The Ministry of Justice issued a “section 25″ consent to exhume these ancient people using a law framed for a different purpose and we suspect that in so doing, they exceeded the legal scope of that law and the authority of the Minister.

When the Riverside project recently applied for an extension of five years for the study we objected on many grounds; scientific, legal and moral.

Principle among our objections is that the absence of these ancestors, whom Druids revere as a Roman Catholic might revere the Patron Saint buried within a Cathedral, removes our ability to express our faith in the presence of our ancestors as we have always before been able to do. The ongoing and wholesale removal of our ancestors from the sacred landscape is another form of religious purge. Despite it being incumbent upon public bodies to observe human rights, ours have been continually ignored.

In a recent statement by the Ministry of Justice, they propose that in 2015 the Druids’ wishes will be respected. Unfortunately this carries no binding weight. The archaeologists could simply apply for further extensions and be granted them. Our victory so far, is in having our views acknowledged by the MoJ, being recognised as legitimate stakeholders. Their proposal, unfortunately, does not guarantee the all-important return of these ancestors.

These ancestors were probably the very same people who conceived of Stonehenge, and who first created this Dreamscape in Stone, establishing as they did so the very icon of Albion for 5000 years to follow. They belong in Stonehenge and their removal is as devastating to the spirit of the place as would be the removal of the mighty stones themselves.

The modern Druids are but a pale shadow of our forebears. We all know this. Sometimes, although most of us try our level best, we succeed only in tripping over our own foolishness. We are like children attempting to wear the boots of giants, yet there is a real and growing need for us. We are all that remains to carry the light of the old wisdom into the future and to bring forth the ancestral understanding that echoes through our landscape, the song of Albion herself. We must become the igniting spark that kindles this light for the generations to follow, in the hope that they will become greater than we.

I do not believe for one second that our ancestors would have obstructed science; they valued truth and knowledge above all else, except perhaps their honour. It would be to the eternal dishonour of the Druids, and the people of Britain, to allow the graves of these very special people to remain empty and Stonehenge to be permanently desecrated by their absence. What kind of people have we become that we must exploit others even in death? We accept science and value all that it can illuminate; we are not the medieval church. However, just as religion should not obstruct science, so science should not obstruct religion.

For these reasons, acting for our campaign, Arthur Pendragon has just presented the Ministry of Justice with papers formally requesting a judicial review into their recent decision.

We are seeking a more immediate return of the ancestors to Stonehenge, still allowing the research to wrap up the essentials (dating mainly), and for that return to be guaranteed and legally binding upon all parties. We believe that this is being both fair and reasonable on our part.

I hope that the good people of Eternal Idol, the Archaeologists, our fellow Pagans, the Authorities, Judges and other people from all walks of life will understand the positive need for this legal challenge and accept that we do not do this to stir an argument or to draw attention to ourselves; actually, life is hard enough for everyone just now without taking on this kind of thing. We do this because our beliefs place a duty upon us and because it is the right thing to do.

Frank

Ed December 21, 2010 at 8:56 pm

I dunno Dennis, sometimes your posts read like you possibly regret spawning this wayward child called Eternal Idol, a “Frankenstein’s monster”, demanding to be fed with more and more of your time in ever more posts.

I for one will never tire of it, as you possess that rare gift of stimulating original thought on that most captivating of all megalithic monuments.

Just time to wish you and all the fellow posters on EI season greetings and hope 2011 brings a snow plough your way soon.
Best wishes,
Ed

Dennis December 22, 2010 at 1:44 am

Ed, I am truly honoured by this huge compliment and by your generosity of spirit – thank you! Eternal Idol is a labour of love and as such, I will continue to do my very best with it. Thank you again.

JohnWitts December 22, 2010 at 6:46 am

Dennis’s efforts have created one of the most informative sites (and probably the most informative on Stonehenge) and also a small community of open minded people who are prepared to debate any idea posted in the correct spirit.

As such the site has been an education for me. Of course, Alex’s excellent contributions are much missed, but it remains strong and one I visit daily. When the current pressures on my time are reduced and I can fully ponder the latest developments I will, hopefully, contribute more fully.

In the past, I recall Dennis commented about a major work from Angie and this would be very interesting. I am certain there are as many clues in what dowsers have or have not found at sites. It is a subject I would love to see discussed fully here in the hope it can add to the bare archaeology. Folk lore is very strong on human interaction with the megaliths and it is this that we really need to understand.

Angie Lake December 22, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Hi John,

Thanks for this. I took it that Dennis meant the comment I put up a couple of days ago, on the Long Barrows at Stonehenge thread. Otherwise, I’ve forgotten!
I’d say ‘hear, hear’ to your comments, btw, regarding the value of EI and ‘all who sail in her’! ;-)
Alex is irreplaceable, and at this time of the year our thoughts go to absent friends and their bereft families.

Would also like to add my very best wishes to everyone for a warm and happy Christmas and a great New Year.

Thanks for everything you’ve given us, Dennis.

Tony Hinchliffe January 3, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Regarding Dennis’ wish that various of the venerable professional archaeologists would put their thoughts on Stonehenge-related topics in the Public Domain, I would just point out that Mike Parker Pearson HAS written an article, naturally rather, but not completely, up-to-date, for the ON-LINE version of Encyclopedia Britannica. I’m afraid we have to subscribe to read this on-line.
I discovered this on Mike Pitts’ website:-

http://www.mikepitts.wordpress.com/

under “Digging Deeper”

I think it is a great shame that the Stonehenge Riverside Project never saw fit to complete their in-depth coverage of each Year’s excavations – they STOPPED the Season before Bluestonehenge was revealed! MPP tells me there will be no further reports until the final reports come out.

Dennis January 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I had some acerbic comments about this, which I nonetheless posted up, because there was some truth in them. When people receive funding for projects, as I did when I received an advance for my book, then it stands to reason that you can guarantee an end result as far as large amounts of text are concerned. Given the complexities of the SRP digs, I’m not surprised that the authors would need to be funded and that they would wish to produce a comprehensive and detailed analysis of their finds. Their job isn’t made any easier, of course, by the constant jealous sniping that exists within the archaeological community and that’s a great shame.

Otherwise, my point is simply this – men like Mike Pitts and Mike Parker Pearson are capable of producing engrossing and considered pieces on Stonehenge and Mike Pitts’ analysis of the ‘henge’ near the Cursus was a perfect example. When I spoke with Mike Parker Pearson and Julian Thomas at the excavations, they both had fascinating things to say, so I consider myself fortunate to have heard them. It would be wonderful if they and others could simply hold forth in public more often, but I’m sure it’s not through lack of enthusiasm on their part.

Tony Hinchliffe January 3, 2011 at 2:39 pm

To clarify what I said about the reports of The Stonehenge Riverside Project
for each Season: these stop with the year 2008. They can be viewed at:-

http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/archaeology/research/stonehenge

This is the University of Sheffield’s Archaeology Dept’s website.

Mike Parker Pearson has recommended Marc Aronson: If Only Stones Could Speak, which is a popular account of the S.R.P.’S work. This is available on Amazon. I believe Aronson is an American who has written on other historical topics and has popularised subjects so as to appeal to youth.

Dennis January 3, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Thanks very much for this, Tony, and you might like to repost it under Stonehenge News. I’m going to add some static pages to the top of this site fairly soon; in the meantime, I’m just trying to think of the best wording and format for them so as to help make this site a quality and easily-accessible repository for Stonehenge information.

Niall O'Draighnean January 9, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Greetings Dennis, I have very much enjoyed reading Articles and comments on this wonderfully informative site and find the new format easy to deal with. It has the feel of a cosy fireside where, for the most part all views are respected and given room..Long may it continue..

Tony Hinchliffe January 11, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Like Niall, I have found Eternal Idol a mine of information where virtually all views are well respected, and we can be brought up to date on things about which we may not have heard.

I have re-posted some of my stuff that has already appeared here, also under STONEHENGE NEWS at your suggestion.

I’ve just noticed that Julian “Meet the Ancestors” Richards has up-dated his own website recently. It’s at:-

http://www.archaemedia.net/st1.asp

Maybe you could publicise Julian’s website on your front page along with the others?

I’ll stick this under STONEHENGE NEWS also.

Keep up the good work, Dennis!

Dennis January 11, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Thank you very much indeed for this, Tony, and I’ll do a front page post as soon as I can, although another’s being prepared as I write this. I’m always happy to publicise just about anything to do with Stonehenge, whether it originates from pagans, Druids, archaeologists or interested members of the public.

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