Friday, 29 March 2013

Thank pagan it's Easter!

Credible sources, such as fictional books, television shows and films, had taught me that this group of pagans was no doubt worshipping the devil and eyeing me off as a potential human sacrifice.

Still, I thought it was pretty brazen of them to be doing it in broad daylight and in the middle of a stone circle at Avebury, just down the road from Stonehenge.

Stone circle at Avebury

Dressed in cloaks and gathered around some stones they were pretty hard to miss.   They obviously weren't going for subtlety here.

Shouldn't someone call the police?

Avebury: popular with pagans
But it seems sacrificing me or a goat (always with the goats) wasn't on their mind at all.  Instead they had simply gathered to celebrate the autumnal equinox.

A local news crew had even arrived on the scene to cover the ceremony.  No doubt they thought this was going to be a much better story than the local flower show.

The henge at Avebury: enjoyed by tourists and sheep alike
For me, it was my first (and to date only) interaction with real pagans.   But apparently scenes like this at Avebury are pretty commonplace as today the site has been adopted by contemporary pagans as a sacred site.

Avebury is a neolithic henge monument consisting of three stone circles - including the largest stone circle in Europe.  Constructed around 2,600BC, there's a large henge (which is a bank and ditch) with a large outer stone circle and two separate smaller stone circles inside.

Stonehenge: Avebury's neolithic neighbour
Unlike Stonehenge down the road, visitors (and sheep) can wander around the field at Avebury, touch the stones and appreciate the effort required to build such a monument.   Why it's enough to make you feel in tune with the earth spirits yourself.

Believed to have been built for rituals and ceremonies, it seems not much has changed for Avebury.   In fact, after more than 4,600 years, the rocks at Avebury have never been hotter.

Avebury's sheep... or should that be pagan sheep?

Because various pagan and druid groups want to perform ceremonies at the site, a rota has been established.   This allows for groups like the Loyal Arthurian Warband, The Secular Order of Druids and the Glastonbury Order of Druids to use it on Saturdays, while the Druid Network and the British Druid Order go for Sundays.

Pagans are obviously a sharing bunch.

Avebury contains that largest stone circle in Europe
And Avebury isn't the only thing pagans have shared with us.   While Easter has been closely linked to Christianity, it actually has pagan origins.

In fact some of our ancestors were celebrating the (northern hemisphere) spring equinox, representing the end of the a "dead" season and "rebirth of life", long before Christians arrived on the scene and overlaid the story of Jesus' resurrection.

In many ways it's not such a subtle "borrowing" by Christianity, as the name "Easter" itself is derived from Eostre, the name of the Anglo-Saxon lunar goddess.

Two of Eostre's most important fertility symbols were the hare and egg - both available in chocolate and candy varieties for this weekend's Easter holiday.

Thank pagans for Easter and Avebury

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