Destination = Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England, UK
Stonehenge pops up out of the landscape suddenly, through the rain. It’s pre-dawn, but slowly the sky has been lightening. I am in a mini-bus that smells of wet possum. This is Day 10 of a tour around the sacred sites of Wiltshire. It’s summer in England. It’s not cold, but we Aussies are in jeans, splash pants, rain jackets, and beanies. Most importantly, we have gum boots for tramping in and out of farmer’s fields to visit crop circles, and slide around the likes of Silbury Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow.
Here we are for dawn ritual at Stonehenge, which is smaller than expected. Do I expect too much of the ancient Britons who built this..whatever it is? It’s a mighty undertaking as it is, hauling Presili bluestone blocks from Wales to this plain in Wiltshire. Thinking ‘oh, I thought it’d be bigger’ seems ungrateful.
I take my time to walk around the stone circle. I want the stones to speak to me, to give me permission to enter. I walk and walk until I feel that, between two of the uprights, this is my gateway.
“May I enter?” I ask the stones.
I do not expect an answer. Not really. Maybe.
“Are you prepared to give up who you are?” I hear a voice in my head.
Am I kidding myself? It’s been a wearing trip. Up early, lots of walking, a great deal of eating at odd hours, tensions within the group. I’ve had extraordinary experiences, and amazingly flat ones. So, is this voice me, or some spirit messing with me, or the stones truly speaking?
“No,” I say.
“Are you prepared to give up a part of yourself?”
I want to enter the stones. This conversation is ridiculous, but I truly feel that this is sacred space and that I am being asked by more than this one lifetime. The sky is clouded, and rain falls gently, but I can see, in my mind’s eye, a clear expanse of night sky, and I know the Brit names of the stars. It feels like clear midwinter, and that I am someone else who understands what this sacred wheel is for.
I am dizzy, just a little. I look at the stones. So easy to just step through like any other tourist who has special access. But I cannot move.
“You may not enter,” says the voice.
“Then I give up my self-doubt, my fear, my hesitancy,” I say.
I grow impatient, I feel foolish. Everyone else in the group is within the stones, taking photos. Russian guards in orange safety vests keep a close eye on us. We are not to touch the stones, despite the previous fortnight being midsummer, and hundreds of people gathering here, and being all over the stones. The guards say that we will wear away the stones if we touch them.
I must enter the stones. I must take part in a ritual our leader has organised. I must have this experience of Stonehenge, take the circle into me, let that remembering part of me grow.
“Fine then,” I say. “Yes.”
I walk through, between two of the stones. I am within Stonehenge. I look to the sky and momentarily, it seems to wheel overhead, as though the whole solar year is displayed for me.
I take the requisite seventy or so photos, for I do not know if I will ever be here again. When the guards are not looking, I dip forward and touch my tongue to the altar stone, into a small puddle of rain water. The stone is rough to the touch and tastes of moss. I have not touched Stonehenge. I have licked it. There’s a difference, Your Honour.
Our group forms circle in the centre of Stonehenge and we call in the four Elements: earth, air, fire, and water. I call the Water element. I start laughing. Rain pours down upon us. If ever an Element was more present, I can’t think how.
Other tourists who have dawn permission to be inside Stonehenge walk around us, taking photos, both of the stones, and ourselves. How often to take happy snaps of a bunch of witches doing a thing?
We each speak our words of honouring the ancestors, of giving thanks for this trip, for Stonehenge, for the preservation of the past.
We expand the energy outwards to encompass the whole area, and each of us breaks from circle to go about our personal sacred business. One woman tries to listen to the stones and is rebuked by a guard for touching when she is not touching. The brilliant pink flash of one girl’s rain jacket seems to permeate my every photo. There she is behind a stone. There she is again.
Our leader stands facing the sunrise, invoking Apollos, the Greek Sun God. I think this odd, but to each their own.
I invoke no deity in particular, but allow my mind to drift as I walk slowly in and out of the stones. I am very aware of a raven perched on top of one stone. The Morrigan, goddess of battle, strife and sovereignty is close by, watching us. She often appears in the form of a crow or raven. I bow to Her, and continue my walk. The raven turns to follow me with its eyes.
Am I asked to do battle with myself here, Great Queen? Am I asked to acknowledge the battle within myself, of daily conquering or surrendering to depression and anxiety? Or do you ask of me greater things, of personal sovereignty, of mastery of my fears and doubts?
I am feathered by these questions as I return to the circle and we close down the energy. I farewell Water, even though it is still falling from the skies. We walk back to our mini-bus. I turn, take a last look at the stone circle.
“Come back,” says the voice.
“I shall,” I say.
The road is built close to Stonehenge, so we are afforded one last rain-misted look at it as we drive away. The sun is risen, light is upon the world again. We drive off to Woodhenge and I am a turmoil of questions and exhaustion. What did I agree to? What did I give up? What is asked of me?
I will not receive any hints until a long time after.
Photo: Talking Stones - Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England _ Helen Patrice