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General Forum >> Avebury-uk
from Melbourne, Australia
| Posted 21-01-2008 at 06:10  |
AVEBURY & THE NORSEMEN
Avebury And The Norsemen tells of one hundred and seventy standing stones at Avebury, the largest ancient monument in England. Norse myths and sagas written a thousand years ago tell how mankind’s earth was brought into being by three deities Odin, Vili and Ve. How this creation happened, the mythical attributes of their panoply of gods, is told in Icelandic stories.
Each group of Avebury’s ancient stones, item by item and concept by concept, match elements in the Norse tales. It seems the Norsemen inherited their mythical beliefs from very ancient times, from the people who designed and built Avebury about 2500 BC.
Why Avebury was built and its true purpose can now be told.
Avebury offers a visitor the impression of a quiet English village with a cluster of thatched cottages, pepperpot chimneys, a church spire and tall trees nestling in the emerald green folds of the southern English countryside. Crows fly high above, circling the treetops. But Avebury is far more than it seems at first glance.
Dotted throughout the village are totem-like slabs of stone, remnants of a most remarkable man-made ancient monument. You can amble through Avebury’s graveyard of standing stones and identify fragments of a plan originally conceived and built about 2500 BC.
One hundred and seventy mysterious hard grey sandstone megaliths were obtained from Marlborough Downs, five miles away to the north-east, each stone carefully chosen for its size and shape. They varied from a few tons to massive slabs of twenty tons or more, according to the particular purpose for which they were intended. You can appreciate the enormous building effort made by Britain’s inhabitants one hundred and twenty generations ago.
The consensus of belief, the impetus that led to the construction of Avebury’s ancient stones by those ancient people, requires our understanding. There must have been an overwhelming conviction similar to the religious faith held by many societies today. Only that kind of community inspiration can lead to a successful conclusion of the great temple construction project. The celebrated cathedrals of Europe, the mosques of Arab countries, the Buddha statues of the east, exemplify how mankind created temples in recognition of community religious convictions.
What were the religious beliefs of the ancient Britons? Who made the world and how? We have no direct evidence, yet maybe there is a hint of the past at Avebury. There is an answer to the riddle of Avebury’s ancient monument and its purpose.
Writings from twelfth century Iceland tell of a Norse myth describing the creation of mankind's world. Three ancient deities: Odin, Vili and Ve created mankind's world in this way: -
In the beginning of time, long before mankind's world was made, the gods lived in a great empty void of space. They were sorely troubled by wicked frost giants from the north, of whom Ymir was the worst. Eventually they killed Ymir and created the world from his body parts. A broad ocean encircled Earth, the deep wide sea was made from his blood. They raised Ymir's eyebrows to form a protective enclosure around the Earth. Ymir's skull formed the sky and his brains became the clouds. Four submissive slaves called North, East, South and West were summoned to hold up the sky, forever and ever. Within the newly created and protective stronghold called Midgard, a safe haven was made for men and women, for all the birds and animals. Warmed by the Sun and watered by rain, they lived in peace. It was said all families and races of mankind are descended from them.
From earliest prehistoric times, the number thirty-three has been used in an adjectival and symbolic sense to indicate sacred matters, deities, the ultimate place or person. Another Norse tale attributes Odin with thirty-three names describing his strengths and values.
Avebury’s outer ring of ninety-nine standing stones, three times thirty-three, is seen to represent each of the three all-powerful deities Odin, Vili and Ve. The outer ring is thought to have defined the sanctity of the enc1osure within.
An inner northern ring originally totalled twenty-seven standing stones. Ancient folk tales often used twenty-seven to indicate success and plenty, to symbolise fertility. At its centre, three large monoliths were set to welcome sunrise every day, much like a parent whose outstretched arms receive a returning child. Only two monoliths now remain. The northern ring may have been a centre of fertility worship.
An inner southern ring of twenty-nine standing stones has been identified. At its centre a tall quartz column was known. An accompanying row of nine stone markers can still be seen today, with other stones offset at the row ends.
Turning to the Icelandic 'Confederates Saga', the trial of an offender is described. A jury of nine men was chosen. Two counsels, one each for the defence and the prosecution, presented the case against the accused who stood facing the jury. These numbers correlate with the purpose of the southern ring of stones at Avebury – it was dedicated to the administration of justice – the conduct of trials conducted according to the community's laws.
Many instances in the British Isles and Ireland link holed stones with folk tales relating to good health. South of the southern justice ring of stones, in AD 1723 Dr William Stukeley noted the existence of a single holed stone. Sir Alexander Keiller re-discovered the broken base of that stone in 1939. Avebury’s Holed Stone may have been dedicated to a health deity, equivalent to the Norse goddess Eyr.
From the very earliest times, all men and women have their basic needs, both long ago and in today's world. We need protection from evildoers, a system of law order and justice. Sunshine and rain assure good harvests. Most of all, everyone seeks good health. In the Norse pantheon, Freyr was the fertility deity who caused the sun to shine and the rain to fall. He ensured good harvests. Thor protected mankind from evil and represented law and order. He was the giver of justice. The beneficent Norse goddess Eyr was the giver of good health.
Recalling the four slaves who hold up the sky above Midgard, it is curious to note the outer ring of ninety-nine standing stones include pairs of very large stones located at the southern and northern causeway entrances. Only single stones remain at the east and west entrances. No doubt vacant places indicate missing stones were vandalised to build cowsheds centuries ago. These four pairs of extra large stones equate to the feet of the four slaves North, East, South and West who hold up the sky, a permanent memorial to their service for mankind.
Gathering all these elements together, the circle of ninety-nine standing stones is seen as defining the central area as a sacred place, surrounded by the deep wide ditch representing the encircling sea, the whole protected by an encompassing embankment. The combination of Avebury features has no equivalent at any other ancient site in the British Isles and Ireland. Its great size, numbers of standing stones, the characteristics of each portion, is unique. Avebury was clearly a sacred temple of great importance. Pilgrims to the metropolitan area of ancient Britain thousands of years ago, could pray for answers to farming fertility needs, seek justice for crimes committed, ask for good health, all within the ring of ninety-nine standing stones, a deep ditch and the embankment. Please close the gate behind you and leave nothing but footprints at the end of your exploration. You may wish to refresh the inner being at that time. The Red Lion public house is situated at the cross-roads in the middle of the site.
© 2008, about 1400 words.
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