Monday, September 22, 2008

Good Vibrations

Two archaeologists who have conducted the first dig of Stonehenge in forty years believe that the stone circle may have been used, among other things, as a healing center. Professors Geoffrey Wainwright and Timothy Darvill theorize that the presence of a double circle of bluestone at the center of the monument, among other finds, indicates that Stonehenge was a kind of healing shrine, much as Lourdes is today. Bluestone was known for its healing properties. The news came as no surprise, given my own experience with the healing properties of Stonehenge.

I went to Stonehenge in June of 1984 to attend the Stonehenge Free Festival. It was a memorable event for many reasons, but one episode in particular stands out. I arrived at the encampment with a group of friends in the late evening. Though it was after nine, it was still twilight, and the sky was a glorious purple hue that only heightened the sense of otherworldliness we all felt. We had driven past a church en route to our destination, and the very air around it hummed with energy. I wondered to myself if the aedifice had been built upon an older site, such as a temple, for there was no doubt in my mind that it was a power spot of some kind. As if reading my mind, one of my friends commented on the intense energy we would encounter at the henges themselves.

The following day, I set out for the monument itself. The scene was anarchic; a riotous, freewheeling, kaleidoscopic whirl of color, sound, and scents. Chanting and singing intermingled with the fragrance of burning sage and other plant forms, as people from every conceivable background, ranging from punks to hippies to neo-pagans to bikers to Hare Krishnas and everything in between gathered to celebrate the approaching summer solstice. In the midst of such tumult, I could not tune into the energy of Stonehenge if my life depended upon it. I nabbed a spot by one of the stones, and sat down, enjoying the warmth of the stone against my back. Slowly, I was overcome with a feeling of comfort; it was as if some part of the stone itself were pouring a soothing energy into me. I felt very calm and peaceful in spite of the activity all around me.

The rest of my time at the Festival went by in a blur. I came away with no special insight into Stonehenge, though if the archaeologists are correct, my own experience there hinted at the deeper purpose of that sacred place. As the poet Layamon noted 800 years before this latest discovery, "The Stones are Great, And Magic Power they have, Men that are sick, Fare to that Stone, and they wash that Stone, And with that water bathe away their sickness."

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