Lugnhasadh – The Celtic harvest festival on August 1st

27 07 2011

Lugnhasadh, also known as Lammas, First Harvest

The name of this festival is Irish Gaelic for “Commemoration of Lugh”. Some authors give the meaning as marriage, gathering or feast (in the name of) of Lugh. The meaning remains basically the same: Lugh is the Deity of Lughnasadh, and there is a feast.

Although Lugh gives his name to this festival, it is also associated with Lugh’s foster mother Tailtiu, who is said to have cleared the way for the introduction of agriculture in Ireland, thus linking Lughnasadh to the land and the harvest.

The modern Irish Gaelic name for the month of August is Lúnasa. In Scottish Gaelic Lunasda means the 1st of August.

Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill -Wiltshire

One of several historic sources for the four Celtic fire festivals Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasadh und Samhain is the early medieval Irish tale “Tochmarc Emire” (The Wooing of Emer), which is part of the Ulster Cycle. In the form we know it today it was written in the 10th or 11th century CE, but it is safe to assume that this tale – like so many others – contains a much older nucleus.

The tale narrates how the hero Cú Chulainn is courting Emer. He receives several tasks to fulfill, one of them being that he must go without sleep for one year. As Emer utters her challenge, she names the four major points of the Irish-Celtic year, as they are also mentioned in other Irish sources. Doing this, she does not use the solar festivals, nor Christian ones, which were certainly well known and established by the 10th century. Instead Emer choses the first days of each season.

One of these days is Lughnasadh, marking the beginning of fall. It takes place on the 1st of August, a date internationally agreed upon, or on the day of the full moon next to this date, if you want to celebrate when the ancient Celts probably did.

Since the Celtic day started with sunset, the celebration takes place on the evening before the calendaric date.

Lughnasadh marks the begin of the noticeable descent of the Sun into the darkness of winter. From the connection between the Earth (female principle) and the Sun (male principle), the marriage of the Sky Father (Sun God) with the Earth Mother we celebrated at Bealtaine, emerge the fruits of the first harvest of the year. Lughnasadh is a time of joy about the first fruits. It is also a time of tension, because the dark days of winter are coming nearer, and most of the harvest is not brought in and stored away yet.

The God of the harvest is the Green Man (also known as John Barleycorn). He sacrifices himself every year in order to enable human life on Earth. In some areas his death is mourned with wreaths decorated with poppies or cornflowers.

The grain is cut, part of it goes into bread and nutrition, another part is stored away and used as seeds next spring, to create new life. Looking at that, thoughts about sacrifice, transformation, death and rebirth are also part of Lughnasadh.

The celebration of Lughnasadh includes the ritual cutting of the first grain and an offering thereof, possibly the making of a first meal and the ritual eating of it, as well as dancing. Fires are mentioned, but fire or light do not play such a prominent role as with the other fire festivals. This is probably because August is a warm month in most of Europe, with still long daylight hours, where no fire is needed. Lughnasadh celebrations are reported from Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.

Another name used for Lughnasadh is “Lammas”, from the old-anglosaxon “hlaef-mass” (loaf mass, mass where the first loaf of bread is consecrated), which developed into the later medieval English and Scottish “Lammas”. As such it is first mentioned in old anglosaxon chronicles as early as 921 CE as “Feast of the First Fruits”. In an agricultural society the begin of the harvest was a natural occasion to celebrate and to give thanks to the Divine for Its gifts.

In Bavarian tradition, the most important festival in August is the “Ascension of Mary” on the 15th of August. On this day, numerous processions through the villages and along the fields are held. During these processions, decorated bundles of herbs, consisting of up to 77 different herbs, are carried along on wooden sticks. These herbs are specially consecrated and stored away then. They are used for ritual incense burning later in the year, e.g. during the “rough nights”, the time of the winter solstice. An older name for this festival is “Maria Kräuterweih”, meaning “Day of Mary and the Consecration of Herbs”.

The beginning of fall was marked by the day of St. Bartholomäus (Bartholomew) on August 24th.

The original Lughnasadh customs have obviously shifted to August 15th and additionally into numerous local and regional harvest celebrations. Lughnasadh is the therefore only one of the eight Celtic festivals which did not survive in Bavaria as a compact celebration ON or near the original date (August 1st). Harvest celebrations are instead dispersed over all of August. This might have to do with the geographical situation of Bavaria, where August tends to be a rather warm month, and harvest and fall are a bit later than elsewhere.

The Deities of Lughnasadh are Danu (Anu), the Mother of Gods and Men, and Lugh, the patron of scholars, craftsmen, warriors and magicians. Lugh is also known as Lugh Samildánach (the Many Skilled) and Lugh Lámhfada (Lugh with the Long Arm). It is disputed among authors whether this refers to Lugh’s magical spear or to the rays of the Sun. Lugh seems to have been worshipped, like his Greek and Roman correspondences Hermes and Mercury, mostly on elevations, hills or mountaintops.

The plant of Lughnasadh is any form of grain or corn, in a wider sense every fruit of field and garden.

The meaning of Lughnasadh on the inner planes is the start of the harvest of the fruits that we have sown in spring. Which things or projects are reaping in us in the moment? What would we like to finish, what to start anew? Do we have the insight that to every harvest there is a necessity of preparation?

The essence of Lughnasadh is the joy of life under the knowledge that darker times are moving in. We take in the warming rays of the Sun and store their power for the times coming. At the time we celebrate the next festival, Alban Elfed, it will be fall and the warm summer days will already be a memory.

Of course Lughnasadh is a very good time to express gratitude to the Gods and the Earth Spirits for their blessings and gifts that we are now receiving. In times of microwave and frozen pizza it may seem anachronistic to thank for the harvest. Many of our modern food stuffs make it hard to still recognize the waving grain on the field in them. And yet there is a way to connect with nature via the food that we eat. This is especially valid for self-harvested fruits. But also conscious eating, eating with focus on the food and not on TV or newspaper, is one way of expressing our thanks for the harvest – all year round, but especially at Lughnasadh.


Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ –

Merlin at Stonehenge (I will be at Avebury Stone Circle this year for Lammas)
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Beltane Facts (May Day)

1 05 2011

May Day is Beltane, which means ‘day of fire’. It is an ancient Pagan festival. Bel was the Celtic God of the sun. May Day marks the seasonal transition from Winter to Summer and celebrated the first spring planting.

Beltane Celebrations at Stonehenge

Beltane Celebrations at Stonehenge

Beltane kicks off the merry month of May, and has a long history. This fire festival is celebrated on May 1 with bonfires, Maypoles, dancing, and lots of good old fashioned sexual energy. The Celts honored the fertility of the gods with gifts and offerings, sometimes including animal or human sacrifice. Cattle were driven through the smoke of the balefires, and blessed with health and fertility for the coming year. In Ireland, the fires of Tara were the first ones lit every year at Beltane, and all other fires were lit with a flame from Tara.

  • May Day is Beltane, which means ‘day of fire’. It is an ancient Pagan festival. Bel was the Celtic God of the sun.
  • May Day marks the seasonal transition from Winter to Summer and celebrated the first spring planting.
  • Putting a Maypole up involved taking a growing tree from the wood and bringing it to the village to mark the coming of Summer. Single men and women would dance around the Maypole holding on to ribbons until they became entwined with their (hoped for) new loves.
  • Social hierarchy was set aside on May Day to involve everyone from the highest to the lowest.
  • May Day is a celebration of fertility. In the old days whole villages would go to the woods and all sorts of temporary sexual liaisons would take place.
  • Robin Goodfellow, also known as the Green Man was the Lord of Misrule on May Day. He and his supporters would make jokes and poke fun at the local authorities.
  • Parliament banned May Day festivities in 1644.
  • Unlike Easter, Whitsun, or Christmas, May Day is the one festival of the year with no significant church service.
  • In previous centuries working people would take the day off to celebrate, often without the support of their employer.
  • William Davidson, a black trade unionist and a revolutionary, was executed on May Day 1820. Davidson was born in the then pirate capital, Kingston, Jamaica and put a skull and crossbones on a black flag to say:“Let us die like men and not be sold like slaves.” He was executed for being part of a conspiracy to kill the entire cabinet, which was hoped to give the spark to a revolution in Britain.
  • May Day is recognized throughout the world as International Workers’ Day, or Labour Day. In 1884 US and Canadian trade unions declared that after May 1st 1886, 8 hours would constitute a legal days work.
  • May 1st was declared a holiday by the International Working Men’s Association (First International) in Paris in 1889. This was to commemorate the Haymarket Martyrs of 1886: 8 anarchists were wrongly accused of throwing a bomb at police and 4 were executed.
  • The USA and Canada do not recognize May Day. The US government attempted to erase the its history by declaring that May 1st was ‘Law Day’ instead. They pronounced that Labour Day was to be on the first Monday of September, a date of no significance.

    Sponsors: The Stonehenge Tour Company –

    Happy Beltane everybody!
    Merlin @ Stonehenge Stone Circle

Stonehenge Folklore

16 03 2011

The stones have inspired many legends and folklore over the centuries. Much of the folklore seems to try and explain the origin of the circle structure as the work of giants, gods or wizards. It was probably easier to accept this than to believe that a past culture could have better technology.  

During the Middle Ages Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose colourful writing have had great influence on British mythology, wrote that the stones were originally brought from Africa to Ireland by a race of giants. They were then transported across the sea by the magic of Merlin during the beginning of the Dark Ages on the request of Ambrosius Aurelianus, who was king of the Britons at the time. They were needed as a monument to the treachery of Hengist, a Saxon leader who killed Prince Vortigern 

The heel stone is said to have been thrown by the Devil at a monk who was spying on him between the stones. The stone pinned the unfortunate clergyman to the ground by his heel.

 Other folklore suggests that the stones are uncountable, a baker tried to count them by placing a loaf of bread on each stone. He came up with a number but then made the mistake of going through the whole process again, and could never get the sets of numbers to tally.

 According to folklore African giants came and settled in Ireland many thousands of years ago, they brought with them a temple of stone from their country and re-erected it in County Kildare.
The stones were renown for their healing properties especially when infused with water, known as the Giant’s Dance they still existed in Ireland long after the giants had died out as a race.  

In the 5th Century Merlin brought the stones over from Ireland in ships and with the aid of magic, and erected them on Salisbury Plain. They were to mark the graves of some British nobles who were slaughtered by the invading Saxons under the command of Hengist.

In times gone by it was said that the Devil had made Stonehenge, transporting all of the great stones from the heathen shores of Ireland using his magical powers. He was so proud of this work that he was want to boast about the number of stones to the local populace. In one particularly fine display of pride he bet the residents of nearby Amesbury that  no one would be able to count the numerous stones. Many tried but as the Devil belived none was able to count them all accurately. A dozen different totals were arrived at. Then finally a local Friar who had come late to the game sidled up to the Devil and claimed to know the answer. Not unaturally the Devil, sure that he had won asked the Friar to give his answer. The Friar said “More than be counted”. The Devil was so cross at being caught out in the way that he picked up one of the stones and threw it at the Friar. It bounced of the Friars heel which was so hard that it dented the stone and landed upright a short distance away from the circle and so became the “Heel Stone”.

Some say that the stones were a circle of dancing wizards who were turned to stone by the enchantment of another wizard.

Sponsors:  The Stonehenge Tour Company

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle News Website – Camelot Castle

25 01 2011

A hotel has purchased the internet domain and hopes to

Stonehenge light box

Stonehenge light box

exploit the famous Neolithic site’s reputation to build an online following. Camelot Castle – the birthplace of the legendary King Arthur – in Tentagel has acquired the site as the basis for a new internet news network that is aimed at providing positive stories that help inspire “man’s spiritual rise and search for truth”.
According to the Cornwall hotel, Stonehenge is the perfect vehicle for spreading this message and said it was “delighted” to have acquired what it feels to be one of the most important internet portals available. “It is a tremendous honour, duty and responsibility. Stonehenge is an eternal testimony to man’s search for truth and his spiritual legacy,” said spokesman John Mappin.
The actual site of Stonehenge is popular with luxury coach tours and is situated in Wiltshire. However, its online presence will allow it to play another role in advancing British culture, the hotel claimed.

Can anyone explain the ‘Light Box’ that is promoted on this website. I’m confused ?

Is it worth the trek to Cornwall ?
Merlin at Stonehenge (Wiltshire not Cornwall)
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Book Extract: Stonehenge by Rosemary Hill

8 01 2011

Hill’s Stonehenge surveys the endless speculations around this mysterious monument

Antiquaries were a relatively new intellectual species, largely a

Rosemary Hill - Stonehenge

Rosemary Hill - Stonehenge

product of the Reformation, and they were interested in what could be discovered of the past by looking beyond the written records. They studied anything that was old – stones, metal, pottery, coins – attracting in the process much derision from contemporaries who thought it an “unnaturall disease” to be so “enamour’d of old age and wrinkles”. Yet the antiquaries were the first archaeologists. They were also the first oral historians, costume historians, art historians and folklorists. They opened up vast intellectual horizons and if, as later archaeologists have sometimes been quick to point out, they made mistakes, they were not alone in that and, working in an age before academic specialisation, before science and the arts had parted company, they were also able to make daring and useful connections.

It was James I, who prided himself on being up to date with intellectual fashion, who initiated the archaeological investigation of Stonehenge, although as befits the man known as “the wisest fool in Christendom” his efforts had mixed results. Staying nearby at Wilton House in 1620, he expressed an interest in the stones. Since the Reformation the land on which Stonehenge stood had passed into private hands and it was to remain private property until the 20th century. James’s intimate friend the Duke of Buckingham, eager to please, immediately tried to buy it for the King. The owner, however, refused to sell, so Buckingham had to be content with digging an enormous hole in the middle of it, from which he removed various objects now lost and, as John Aubrey later thought, caused one of the stones (stone 56) to tilt over “by being underdigged”. After this unpromising start the King approached the Royal Surveyor, Inigo Jones, and asked him to produce a report. Jones’s Stone-Heng Restored appeared posthumously in 1655. It was the first book entirely devoted to the subject and it argued that Stonehenge was Roman. The reaction that this theory provoked kick-started the antiquarian investigation of Stonehenge. If there was anything the typical antiquary liked more than proving himself right, it was proving somebody else wrong, and Jones’s book prompted two people, Walter Charleton and his friend John Aubrey, to throw their energies into discrediting it.

The archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes famously remarked that every age “has the Stonehenge it deserves – or desires” and the Stonehenge of the Stuart antiquaries was born of the age that saw the foundation of the Royal Society, the wider exploration of the Americas and a new Baconian spirit of critical enquiry, in which nature and mathematics were the ultimate authorities. This critical, analytical cast of mind brought about a change in attitudes to the past and to the study of it. Until then history had been narrated, chiefly, as the story of a Golden Age, with everything since a long-protracted fall. “Till about the yeare 1649,” as Aubrey noted, “’twas held a strange presumption for a man to attempt an innovation in learning; and not to be good manners to be more knowing than his neighbours and forefathers.” Enquiry now was all the rage, but it was tinged also with melancholy and foreboding. The generation of antiquaries that had lived through the Civil Wars had seen towns and families divided. They had watched Puritans smash stained glass and knock the heads off the statues in churches; they feared for the past and for the future. Charleton, who was the first to respond to Inigo Jones, had been particularly close to these events as physician to Charles I and later to his son in exile. His book, Chorea Gigantum Or, The Most Famous Antiquity of Great Britain, Vulgarly called Stone-heng, was published in 1663. When Charleton looked at the monument he saw the stones “sleeping in deep forgetfulness, and well-nigh disanimated by the Lethargy of Time”. But he also saw the spot where Charles II, now restored as king, had paused on his flight after the Battle of Worcester at one of the most desperate moments of his life. Both images haunt Charleton’s treatise and inform its surprising conclusion that the circle was the work of the Danes.

The argument was based on some, admittedly rather loose, comparisons with the stone circles of Denmark documented by his Danish friend and fellow antiquary Ole Worm, but the method was new and not naïve. In trying to understand Stonehenge in its own terms, without magic and in relation to the other similar monuments, Charleton was a pioneer. The dedicatory poem that prefaces Chorea Gigantum was written by John Dryden and it associates Charleton firmly with the new spirit of “free-born Reason”. From now on the attempt to “make Stones to live” was to be on a par with medicine and exploration as a proper study for the best minds. In the end Charleton’s thesis found by analogy with Denmark that Stonehenge was not a temple, or the tomb of Boadicea as Edmund Bolton had suggested in 1624, but a meeting place for the election and coronation of kings. This was an especially happy conclusion given that Charleton’s book was dedicated to his employer, Charles II. As Dryden put it:

These Ruins sheltred once His Sacred Head,
Then when from Wor’ster’s fatal Field He fled…
His Refuge then was for a Temple shown:
But, He Restor’d, ’tis now become a Throne.

Charleton is usually written off as a sycophant as well as a poor scholar. Yet in so far as his book is a political statement, and there are few antiquarian texts of the 17th century which are not, he is no simple-minded royalist. Chorea Gigantum is not an endorsement of the Divine Right of Kings but of popular leaders, governing “by the general suffrage of the assembly”. It dwells, to the point of tactlessness in the circumstances, on the fact that the Danes were republicans. Charleton’s Stonehenge is an emblematic reminder to the restored monarch that he reigns only with the people’s consent.

The treatise concludes somewhat smugly that “this Opinion of mine, if it be erroneous, is yet highly plausible; having this advantage over the others… that it is not so easily to be refuted”. Charleton was wrong about that as well and he was not to rest on his laurels for long.

© Rosemary Hill 2008
Stonehenge’ by Rosemary Hill is published by Profile, £15.99
Buy the book here: Stonehenge (Wonders of the World)

About the author Rosemary Hill is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a trustee of the Victorian Society and a Brother of the Artworkers’ Guild. Her biography of AWN Pugin, ‘God’s Architect’, was published in 2007. She was born in London, where she lives with her husband, the poet Christopher Logue.

Well worth a read………………….
Merlin @ Stonehenege
The Stonehenge Stone Circle website

Pagan Mistletoe Symbolism and Legend

4 12 2010

Mistletoe and Christmas After Celtic Pagans were converted to

Druids cutting Mistletoe

Druids cutting Mistletoe

Christianity, Catholic bishops, with one exception, didn’t allow the mistletoe to be used in churches because it was one of the major symbols of Paganism. Before the Reformation, a priest at the Cathedral of York brought a bundle of mistletoe into the sanctuary each year during Christmastide and put it on the altar as symbolic of Jesus being the Divine Healer of nations.

‘Mistletoe, one of the most magickal and sacred plants of Paganism, symbolizes life and fertility and protects against poison. It was considered an aphrodisiac. ‘

The English used mistletoe as a Christmas decoration for their homes. In Medieval times, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings and put over houses and barn doors to repel evil spirits. People believed the plant could extinguish flames. Although much of the Pagan symbolism was forgotten, the plant represented good will, happiness, good fortune and friendship.

‘The sacred mistletoe is a hemiparasite, partial parasite that grows on branches or trunks of trees and has roots that penetrate into the tree for food. The American plant grows on trees while the European mistletoe can also be a green shrub with small yellow flowers and white berries. The plant contains toxins that can cause physical reactions including gastrointestinal disturbances and a slowed heartbeat.’

Mistletoe Sacred to Celtic Druids

The plant has qualities including the power of healing, rendering poisons harmless, good luck, great blessings, bestowing fertility on humans and animals, protection from witchcraft and banishing evil spirits. Enemies who met Druids under the forest mistletoe laid down their weapons, exchanged friendly greetings and kept a truce until the next day. The Celts suspended mistletoe over doorways or in rooms as a symbol of good will and peace to all who visited.

‘Mistletoe was revered by the ancient Druids both magically and medicinally. It’s possible that modern mistletoe traditions have their roots in ancient beliefs.’

Druid Mistletoe Ceremony

The plant is a fertility symbol and the soul of the oak tree. Belief was that the mistletoe could come to the oak tree during a lightning flash. Mistletoe was gathered at mid-summer and winter solstices. The plant, when it grew on the venerated oak tree, was especially sacred to the Celts. On the sixth night of the full moon after Yule, white-robed Druid priests gathered oak mistletoe by cutting the plant with golden sickles. Two white bulls were sacrificed with prayers that the recipients of mistletoe would prosper.

Mistletoe and the Ancient Druids

Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian interested primarily in natural history, recorded valuable information about the Druids and their religious and healing practices. These ancient priests of Celtic lands revered mistletoe as sacred. Pliny stated in Natural History, XVI, 95 that, “The Druids — that is what they call their magicians — hold nothing more sacred than mistletoe and a tree on which it is growing…Mistletoe is rare, and when found, it is gathered with great ceremony, and particularly on the sixth day of the moon.”

In the scene quoted above, the Druids are preparing for a ritual sacrifice which involves a white-robed priest carrying a golden scythe while climbing an oak tree to ritually cut the mistletoe. According to Pliny, it was the Valonia oak the Druid’s believed was the most sacred tree to gather mistletoe from and that it would heal poison and encourage fertility.

Mistletoe in Celtic Art

Celtic art is resplendent with what are believed to be mistletoe motifs. Some artifacts have been found that resemble human male heads adorned with a crown of comma-shaped leaves that resemble mistletoe. Historians believe these finds may be representations of crowned Druid priests.

External links: A survey of Mistletoe use in Britain  Mistletoe matters The History of Druids – Blood and Mistletoe

 Next blog will be about -‘Yule’

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Stonehenge builders had geometry skills to rival Pythagoras

8 11 2010

Stone Age Britons had a sophisticated knowledge of geometry to rival

The Stone Age Britons who built Stonehenge had a knowledge of advanced geometry, 2,000 years before Pythagoras

The Stone Age Britons who built Stonehenge had a knowledge of advanced geometry, 2,000 years before Pythagoras

Pythagoras – 2,000 years before the Greek “father of numbers” was born, according to a new study of Stonehenge. Five years of detailed research, carried out by the Oxford University landscape archaeologist Anthony Johnson, claims that Stonehenge was designed and built using advanced geometry.

The discovery has immense implications for understanding the monument – and the people who built it. It also suggests it is more rooted in the study of geometry than early astronomy – as is often speculated. Mr Johnson believes the geometrical knowledge eventually used to plan, pre-fabricate and erect Stonehenge was learnt empirically hundreds of years earlier through the construction of much simpler monuments. He also argues that this knowledge was regarded as a form of arcane wisdom or magic that conferred a privileged status on the elite who possessed it, as it also featured on gold artefacts found in prehistoric graves.

The most complex geometrical achievement at Stonehenge is an 87-metre diameter circle of chalk-cut pits which mark the points of a 56-sided polygon, created immediately within themonument’s perimeter earthwork. Mr Johnson used computer analysis and experimental archaeology to demonstrate that this outer polygon was laid out using square and circle geometry. He believes the surveyors started by using a rope to create a circle, then laid out the four corners of a square on its circumference, before laying out a second similar square, thus creating an inner octagon. The points of the octagon were then utilised as anchors for a surveyor’s rope which was used to “draw” arcs which intersected the circumference so as to progressively create the sides of a vast polygon. Indeed, his work has demonstrated that a 56-sided polygon is the most complex that can easily be created purely through square and circle geometry using a single piece of rope.

The Stonehenge Tour Company

The Stonehenge Tour Company

It is likely that this basic limitation determined the number of sides of Stonehenge’s outer polygon – and may also have led to the 56-sided polygon concept becoming important within wider European religious belief. Ancient Greek classical mythology associated just such a 56-sided polygon with Zeus’s great rival for divine supremacy, the weather god Typhon. Johnson’s research, published as a book this week, shows that Stonehenge derived its design from geometrical knowledge and features no less than six concentric polygons – a 56-sided outer one built around 2950BC; a regular octagon built around 2500BC) inside that; two concentric (though partly inaccurate) 30-sided polygons built around 1650BC, which were based on a series of hexagons; a 30-sided inner polygon (the sarsen stone ring which was built around 2500BC) also based on hexagonal geometry; and two probable 40-sided concentric polygons (probable former blue stone positions built around 2600BC) that were later modified to 30-sided ones.

They also created the famous central stone “horseshoe” utilising the survey markers used to create the thirty-sided sarsen polygon. The experimental archaeology demonstrates that most of the monument was pre-planned and that the great stones were pre-fabricated off-site and then installed by surveyor-engineers. “For years people have speculated that Stonehenge was built as a complex astronomical observatory. My research suggests that, apart from mid-summer and mid-winter solar alignments, this was not the case,” said Mr Johnson. “It strongly suggests that it was the knowledge of geometry and symmetry which was an important component of the Neolithic belief system.” “It shows the builders of Stonehenge had a sophisticated yet empirically derived knowledge of Pythagorean geometry 2000 years before Pythagoras,” he said.

A leading British prehistorian, Sir Barry Cunliffe, from Oxford University, believes that Anthony Johnson’s research is “a major step forward in solving the puzzle of Stonehenge”.  Details of Anthony Johnson’s research can be found in his book ‘Solving Stonehenge’ published by Thames and Hudson. Further information can be found at

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Stonehenge was not made from Preseli bluestones

6 10 2010

In the third of a series of Western Mail articles by speakers at this year’s Do Lectures, geologist and author Brian John debunks the ‘bluestone myth’ – the idea that prehistoric people travelled hundreds of miles in order to drag gigantic stones toSalisbury Plain 

THIS story is about the heroic neolithic tribesmen carrying scores of giant stones from the Preseli Hills to Stonehenge has now entered into British mythology. It has become gradually clearer, over the last decade or two, that there is no evidence to support this story. I want to inspire people to think very carefully about some of the myths that we as a community sign up for. 

A whole story has been developed over the years about this heroic human venture of tribesmen coming all the way to the Preselis to pick up the bluestones from a quarry – and then to carry those 80 stones all the way back to Stonehenge where they were going to be used as part of this amazing new monument. That has become a part of British mythology but is widely accepted as fact. It has become an immensely valuable story commercially for British tourism – a million people visit Stonehenge each year and nearly all of them are familiar with this heroic tale. That tale is used quite cynically, quite deliberately, by English Heritage and almost every other organisation that has anything to do with tourism in the promotion of Stonehenge, as a means of attracting even more visitors there 

The Questions? 

What I am trying to do is stand back from all that and question: what exactly is the evidence in support of this wonderful story?  When you start to dig a little bit you find that actually there is no evidence at all.  It is entirely a myth which was invented in 1922, immediately after the First World War. The myth received instant acceptance on the part of the British public because there was a desperate need for a feel-good factor after the war – national pride had been dented, the economy was in tatters and everybody needed a good news story. 

The story was invented by a Welsh geologist, Herbert Thomas. He gave a lecture which had purported to demonstrate that a lot of the bluestones had come from the Preselis. His geology was reasonably accurate. He was intent on telling this story of human transport.
His theory, once he had propounded it, was instantly grabbed hold of by everybody. It was a wonderful tale that showed us just how clever our neolithic ancestors were and they were a damn’ sight more clever than those ancestors on the Continent – especially in Germany. There was almost a strong, almost xenophobic element about this propaganda. 

No-one questioned this theory or seriously investigated it. 

It was just blown up from that point on. It has become one of the key beliefs of Britain, in the same way we believe about King Arthur and Glastonbury and Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest. It is now a part of British mythology. 

There is no evidence that the stones were taken from this so-called neolithic quarry at Carn Meini. In fact, there is no evidence of the quarry at all.  The stones which are supposed to have come from that one source actually came from many other places.  As the geology has advanced, with a lot of work from the Open University and many other geologists, we now know that the stones came from at least 20 other places. They haven’t come from the eastern end of the Preselis at all.  We know that at least two of the stones have come from the Newport area, quite possibly on the North Pembrokeshire coast. Another stone has come from the Brecon Beacons and some stones seem to have come from the Fishguard area. 

What the geologists say 

It was already known by some geologists in 1922 that during the Ice Age there had been an enormous glacier which had flowed across Pembrokeshire and had actually flowed up the Bristol Channel and into the coastlands of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall – we still don’t know how far east that glacier went, but it certainly did cross the Bristol Channel pressed up across the English coasts. A number of these old geologists had demonstrated this pretty clearly, but for reasons that I still don’t fully understand, Thomas in 1922 totally dismissed this theory in favour of his human transport theory. And still nobody has ever found any evidence as to how exactly the stones were moved, although of course there is endless speculation about it. There are literally thousands and thousands of pages on the internet devoted to precisely this question.  We should give more credence to scientific evidence and keep myths in the places they belong, namely mythology, and don’t let’s pretend that myths are telling us anything concrete about what happened in the past. 

The problem for archaeolo- gy is it has become involved in pedalling myths and seems to have lost its respect for evidence on the ground. People are so obsessed with making blockbuster TV programmes, for example, with support from National Geographic magazine and the Smithsonian Institute, that actually the archaeologists seem to be trying to out do each other on how spectacular their stories are. It has all become a little bit absurd. 

When we look at the hard science behind the bluestones story, there is quite a lot of evidence to support the idea that the bluestones at Stonehenge are no more than glacial erratics that were transported by the ice, maybe 450,000 years ago and then picked up somewhere in the Salisbury Plain in the East Somerset area – probably within easy striking distance of Stonehenge and that is where they were picked up from. 

The whole of the Stone- henge story is a complete fabrication. 

I have just put up a YouTube video called StoneHenge Unhinged in which I show that Stonehenge was probably never even finished. We have these wonderful reconstructions of Stonehenge, showing this incredible geometric arrangement of stones, and all the archaeologists and astronomers say this was a highly sophisticated astronomical observatory etc, but actually there is no evidence that it was ever finished. 

I think it was just an experiment. They tried to build something that was really rather ambitious but they really didn’t have enough stones to finish it. On the ground about half of the monument has never been excavated and 67 of the stones are totally missing, but people have just imagined that they were there without having any evidence to support that idea. 

Stonehenge has become a national icon and a key part of mythology with immense commercial value attached to it. Over and over again, people talk about the magical serenity of Stonehenge and the great feeling of power it gives you – which is wonderful, but I think people have been brought up to have this reverence for Stonehenge because it is such an iconic structure and that in itself creates a feeling of religious esteem or spirituality. 

I’m not saying Stonehenge is not wonderful. It is quite inspirational in the sense that it was a brave enterprise. The stones that are there are not very accurately placed and a lot of them are pretty rough and I think were just placed there as part of an ambitious building project

If you want to here all the theories why not organise a ‘Stonehenge special access’ tour with the English Heritage.  This enables you to go beyiond the fences before or after its open to the public.  The Stonehenge Tour Company and Histouries UK, based in Salisbury and Bath offer a ‘Rent a guide’ service. Salisbury guided Tours also offer specail access tours from Salisbury

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website 

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