Our Magical Megalithic Mystery Tour
Fresh off our hop over the pond to explore ancient megalithic sites throughout England, Wales and Ireland (“fresh” used very loosely here) we thought we’d take a minute to recap and share some thoughts from the road.
First and foremost we must thank all of our amazing and gracious hosts and interviews – Hugh Newman and JJ Ainsworth, Peter Knight and Sue Wallace, David Dawson of the Wilshire Museum, Simon Banton, Maria Wheatley, Busty Tayler, and James Swagger. You were all wonderful hosts and incredibly informative interviews and we cannot thank you enough for all your time and help! Our doors are open to you anytime you get the bug to hit the states, we look forward to the opportunity to share what is left of our pre-history with you anytime. Unfortunately, thanks to our continuing policy of appeasing $pecial interests there isn’t much left so you’d better get over here soon.
We started this cross-pond escapade with a trial-by-fire lesson in driving “the U.K. way.” Dave pulled his best Chevy Chase impersonation from Caddyshack, continuously hopping in on the wrong side of the car and asking where the steering wheel was. Driving on the left is a bit of a brain-bender at first and Dave will never get Rob’s “look right!” out of his noggin’ as a result of attempting to navigate the quick-moving roundabouts. However, the biggest challenge to driving in the UK (England and Wales specifically) is lack of signage. Even if you have GPS we suggest learning the name of every small town between you and your destination as these are the only places that will be listed on signs along the way. In Wales they like to test you a bit further by simply not committing to a roadway system that makes sense. When asking the Welsh hotel clerk for a drawn map we only received a noncommittal, “it really does get easy once you’ve done it a few times.” So does tying shoes.
The pleasant surprise we encountered while taking numerous exits to service areas in navigational hell was the joy of English gas station sandwiches. No joke. In fact for the most part the best meals we had throughout the U.K. were found in gas stations, or what are affectionately referred to by locals as “garages.” Not only can you get a rare glimpse of veggies but lovely sammy concoctions like curry chicken salad, salmon and cucumber, and several cheese and chutney combos for the veg-heads out there like Dave. We also found some fine pub fish and chips in Wales, and we’d like to thank Kirsty and the staff at Sawyers for putting up with us over a few pints (we’re looking for the R2R “Fishy Bits”
special to hit the schedule soon). By the way, if anyone has a clue as to how English and Welsh folks answer a yes-no/either-or question with commitment please let us know. “Ah there you have it then,” “that’s it then,” and “well then” are new to us in this scenario. “Elusive” was the pleasant expression we were given for this phenomena.
Our first stop on tour was Hugh Newman’s killer Stonehenge headquarters – literally THE closest you can possibly stay to the ancient ruins without joining the gypsies in free area just outside the stone circle. Hugh and JJ took their lives in their hands with Dave at the wheel to show us a bevy of cool sites including a fresh crop circle at Clay Hill, the Cerne Giant, Uffington White Horse, Wayland’s Smythy long barrow, West Kennet long barrow, Devil’s Den dolmen, and many sites within the Stonehenge sacred landscape including the Greater Cursus, Durrington Walls and many burial mounds.
We had no idea of the magnitude of the Stonehenge site or the fact that construction at the site began 7500-8000 years ago. Some believe a “master plan” was in place and adhered to over thousands of years by incoming groups. Others believe the many facets of Stonehenge were constructed over time by different cultures who came upon, altered and used the site over time, independent of a master plan. Interestingly, this is how the Adena, Hopewell, Fort Ancient, Intrusive Burial and Mississippian cultures of North America found and utilized sacred sites as well. Would it surprise you to know that the Maya did the same?
One of the coolest things we accomplished thanks to Hugh and Simon Banton was learning about the Durrington Walls “superhenge” dig that took place while we were there. We are bound by our word to remain quiet about the results of this dig until the all-star archaeological team publishes its results, but the BBC has published some early returns. Results to date are very interesting and unexpected, and will undoubtedly lead to more research and yet more new theories on Stonehenge. We thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with Simon over a few cold ones, but after days of nonstop filming we struggled to keep up with him and the encyclopedia he carries around on his shoulders. If you want to be amazed at several points in a conversation, talk to Simon – what a great guy, you will meet him in upcoming episodes. Oh, by the way – Simon created this amazing interactive map of barrows at Stonehenge for archaeological junkies like us to learn from and have fun with. Be careful, it’s addictive.
Throughout this trip we came across many average people taking an active interest in their ancient past, which was refreshing. English Heritage, the organization overseeing ancient sites in the U.K. had a trailer set-up outside the Durrington Walls dig to provide information to the public regarding the dig and they were busy every day. Not only would this effort to educate never occur in the states but there would be very few people with the motivation to get off the couch to visit it. That being said it appears the U.K. has been swept by the same phone-fad as the U.S., as the largest crowds we encountered at Durrington Walls were groups of people chasing a Pokemon Go character that popped up at nearby Woodhenge. It’s amazing what you miss while lost in the screen of a smartphone.
Another interesting facet of Stonehenge we were not aware of is the aforementioned free zone. Modern-day Druids conflicted with English Heritage a few years back and won the rights to maintain an area contiguous to the stone circle where people can drive in, park, camp and enjoy Stonehenge for free from a slight distance. This is a great alternative for anyone who disagrees with buying a ticket, digs gypsies and/or wishes to avoid supporting the parking lot guards who choose to start charging for parking whenever they want to pad their pockets. We pondered over whether or not to publicize this area for fear of luring more people like the German woman we encountered there early one morning who we will affectionately refer to as “Frau Gongenbangen.”
Frau Gongenbangen chose to sleep right outside the stone circle, up against the fence denoting the free area so she could rise and stretch to the morning sun within view of Stonehenge’s most recognizable megaliths. She missed sunrise but awoke as we continued filming, had a quick stroll and then chose to make a statement. You see, Gongenbangen traveled with a companion – her gong. Not a handy “travel gong” per se, but a full-size Chuck Barris number. While we were shooting sunrise footage and private groups were being led through the Stonehenge ruins to experience them quietly before the site opened to the general public, Gongenbangen decided that she was more important than anyone else on site and began going T-Rex on the place, getting it on and banging her gong. Anyone within site of the stone circle was forced to endure her raucous self-centered playtime, and therein lies the rub. Having a personal experience with a sacred site is wonderful, but when it interferes with the experience of others it’s just plain selfish and rude. Soapbox discarded.
Thankfully we had several mornings with a Gongenbangen-free Stonehenge as well, trying to keep quiet while bailing Hugh’s place at “oh-god thirty” to get sunrise shots of the surrounding landscape. The Stonehenge sacred landscape is stunning and provides the opportunity to test your dexterity and boots navigating sheep-laden fields. Dave gathered evidence of sheep on his boots twice (different species from the looks of things), and was thankful for the puddles and tall grass that allowed him to keep said evidence out of the rental car.
In addition to putting us together with Simon Banton, Hugh arranged interviews for us with independent researchers and authors Peter Knight and Sue Wallace at West Kennet long barrow – a very impressive neolithic burial chamber and ceremonial site located on the Avebury sacred landscape. Avebury begins about 19 miles north of Stonehenge, and is encompassed in the same UNESCO World Heritage site.
West Kennet is simply incredible. Peter and Sue brought drums to introduce us to the complex acoustic intelligence engineered into West Kennet, a site where a group of priestesses held court. While Dave joined them with a rattle they drummed in different areas to produce varied sound waves and the differences were not only audible but physical. A special stone in the back chamber with a different hue and worked-smooth surface made each drum beat reverberate stronger than the other panels.
We took magnetometer readings at West Kennet to validate the work of Burke and Halberg in their seminal (pun intended) text Seed of Knowledge, Stone of Plenty. In Seed of Knowledge the authors theorize that the location of West Kennet and other Neolithic sacred sites throughout the world were purposefully placed on electromagnetic anomalies in order to negatively ionize seeds for more plentiful crops – with stones and earthworks designed to convey and direct energy. Though West Kennet and Wayland’s Smythy (another long barrow we measured) have both been partially re-assembled we confirmed electromagnetic anomalies at both locations. Even though these sites have both been altered from their original plan, they are both still “working.” Perhaps the acoustics of West Kennet were designed to enhance this energy? Peter and Sue got Dave to sing a prayer with them in the chamber, producing a mysterious red hue in Dave’s face and making many spirits take cover out of audible range.
Hugh aslo introduced us to David Dawson, Director of the Wilshire Museum. Pound for pound the Wiltshire museum in Devizes is one of the most worthy museums we’ve had the pleasure of visiting. David was kind enough to interview with us and show us an odd but incredible “gentleman’s chest” designed to initiate conversation on Avebury and Stonehenge. David also brought original copies of texts on ancient Wilshire out of the museum safe to show us, including William Stukeley’s famous work on
Stonehenge and Avebury. Stukelely was the first professional to study these sites and his hand-drawn images of these landscapes (while allegedly altered in some instances to promote his view) are still considered the most accurate depictions of them during his time in the early 1700s, showing many site characteristics that have since been altered or destroyed. It was a treat just to see these books let alone to be allowed to film them and share them with you all soon.
After leaving Hugh we bolted up to meet Maria Wheatley at Avebury, another incredible ancient site that like Stonehenge is an enormous sacred landscape with many different features including burial mounds, long barrows, standing megaliths and circular earthworks. Maria, an expert on these sites, independent researcher and author also happens to be the daughter of world-renowned dowser, Dennis Wheatley. She not only imparted her extensive knowledge of Avebury but gave Dave a dowsing lesson as well. He’s at home reading Dennis’ book now and is anxious to put this new skill to work.
Maria’s friend and co-author Busty Taylor took the time to meet us as well, taking us to a little-known long barrow near Stonehenge where an elongated female skull was found that Maria is researching. We know Stonehenge and Avebury both hosted powerful groups of female shamans. Is this the skull of a Stonehenge queen? Is the elongation natural or purposefully deformed?
Leaving Maria we attempted to navigate Wales before heading off to meet James Swagger in Ireland via Ryanair. If you think you know what a budget airline is, your definition will change with a flight on Ryanair. Not only was it a struggle to get boarding passes on this bare-bones “all-internet” airline, but we were not even allowed to stand in the check-in line prior to 2 hours before our flight. This gave us ample time to explore the Bristol airport and hunt-down a duty free bottle, a road-trip imperative. For some reason it took 5 attempts asking the same question to 2 different flight attendants before said bottle materialized on the plane, as Rob laments below.
Ireland is beautiful but Dave never saw it. His eyes are just now beginning to re-adjust to something other than narrow one-lane roads that struggle to accommodate traffic in both directions. The Irish do everything with intent including driving, and while there are far fewer drivers to contend with in Ireland than England we were literally driven off the country roads several times by large trucks imposing their size and will. Our little rental was returned with a nice dose of Irish field mud as a result of moving to the non-existent shoulders to accommodate others, apologies to the car wash unit at the Dublin rental car return.
James is one of the few people we’ve met who can keep up with Rob, providing us a 3-day tour of megalithic Ireland that went by in a flash. Fresh off the plane we picked up James in Belfast and hit Giant’s Ring – Ireland’s largest stone circle, right there in Belfast. From there we shot up to James’ cottage outside Derry where he put us up for a few days exploring many sites including St. Patrick’s Chair, Court Tombs, Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth, and perhaps our favorite Loughcrew. Sadly it appears that Loughcrew is following the Newgrange path to profitability, so go see it soon.
Those currently caring for the site allowed us to film in the chamber intermittently between other groups who were allowed in to view it, but once the tour busses start stacking up out there you can bet that all filming inside the chambers will be disallowed as it is today in Newgrange. Why is video of these places considered so dangerous? Oddly enough, it just so happens that we have video from inside Newgrange here, courtesy of Operation Bluebird – by clicking below, you take full responsibility for the dangerous nature of this footage and what it may do to open your mind:
James has done some incredible archaeo-astronomy work that we are anxious to share with you. Among the many things he shared with us was a possible description of the melding concentric circle petroglyphs we saw at multiple sites including Knowth. Applied to James’ research these glyphs could denote a melding of space and time – in other words, a portal or gateway, similar to that depicted by the whirlpool glyph of the Hisatsinom ancestors of the Hopi marking a gateway to the realm of their deity Massa’u. In fact a great deal of what we saw throughout Ireland, Wales and England reminded us of many sites right here in in the U.S., in our own backyard. Was there a group or groups of globe-trotting megalith builders sailing the seas hundreds if not thousands of years before Columbus? Hugh Newman and Jason Jarrel are on the case now, both busy writing books that will provide support for this possibility and we are excited to read them.
The extensive research of these two into the earthen mounds of the U.S. and U.K. certainly points to ancient cross-oceanic sea travel, right down to the giant burials found underneath many of them. The megalithic structures are similar to several in the U.S., the long barrows remind us of a structure we saw recently at Ocmulgee National Monument in Georgia, and we consistently saw the same building techniques, cosmologies and petroglyphs employed by the ancient peoples of Europe that we see in North America. We also got to experience the Devil’s Den dolmen in Fyfield England, which looks a lot like a formation in Pennsylvania we’re going to be sharing with you soon – which incidentally used to go by the same name.
Thanks again to all our new friends in the UK. You put us up and put up with us, laughed with (and at) us and educated us and we cannot wait to share what we’ve learned from you with our audience of fellow truth-seekers. We look forward to getting back there soon – with a local driver. Until then, cheers!