Sacred Spaces

I want this post to be brief because I am very tired and also because my camera broke today and I am trying to decide what to do about it. However, I know myself too well to think that this post will actually be short.

We woke up at about 6 and were on the bus by 7. We went first to Avebury, which used to be a huge neolithic worship site– like Stonehenge, but much bigger, and also less well-preserved. The stones shared their space with sheep, which was nice, but smelly. I was very careful about where I stepped. I wish I’d had just a little longer at Avebury. It had an air that invited contemplation. Dr. Childers pointed out that when it was in use, scholars speculate that the area would have been kept free of grass, exposing the chalk just beneath. That would’ve resulted in this blinding white brilliance when the sun shone, contrasted by the darker stones. At any rate, I thought it was just a lovely place, so I took lots and lots of pictures. You can view them here:

After Avebury, we trundled ourselves over to the West Kennet Burial Mound. This mound was used to bury prehistoric residents of the area. Some graves have been excavated. After research was completed, the bodies were returned to their original resting places and covered with stone. A portion of the burial mound has been excavated to the point that people can now go inside it and look around. It was really really interesting. It was crowded and dark, so I didn’t get as good a look as I would’ve liked, but it appeared that inside the mound there were several different chambers. The Burial Mound is also a site for current pagan worship. Both within the mound and elsewhere nearby, there were charms and talismans laid out as evidence of people’s current practice. Some of these were ribbons and sheaves of wheat tied to an oak tree in a pasture nearby. Many of my classmates handled these ribbons, trying to decipher the runes written on a few of them. Many of my classmates also mocked these things, however subtly, which I thought was in poor taste. It’s one thing to disbelieve; it’s another to mock someone else’s beliefs. I don’t think anyone who believes in resurrection or who eats bits of his or her God (or what represents Him) weekly is in a position to mock naturalist worship rationally. Furthermore, as Christians, we can find these pagan beliefs threatening (because we could think they’re related to demonic powers) or we can find them pitiful (maybe because there is no power but God’s power, or because we think God’s power is greater than all others) or maybe we can find them irrelevant (again because God is greater, so who cares?), but in no case is mockery an appropriate response (unless one happens to be Elijah dealing with the priests of Baal– but one is not). How does that help anyone? What’s the purpose of that mockery? It can only lull us into the delusion of superiority and stability. If we expect people to treat our beliefs seriously, whether or not they find them personally ridiculous, we should extend that same courtesy to others. Aside from that, though, the visit was just lovely. Like Avebury, the burial mound is off in the middle of farmland. There was only one farm building within sight. The sky was blue, the fields where white, and the grass was a brilliant green. The wind is swift but not strong and only a few birds flew above us. It really was wonderful. Check out pictures here:

Finally we went to Stonehenge. I loved Stonehenge, but it did not have the solitude I appreciated about the other sites. Then again, it’s entirely possible that these sites were always very busy places, and I just find inner reflection and private worship more rewarding because it’s what I’m used to. It was crowded, but still lovely. I was disappointed that my camera gave out. Check out what pictures I was able to manage here:

I was also able to visit Salisbury Cathedral and the church where George Herbert preached in the 1600’s. I took some pictures of those (I was able to buy a disposable camera in the gift shop at Stonehenge), but you’ll have to wait for that. You’ll also have to wait to hear more about what I think about everything I saw (I know how much you love hearing what I think…) until another day. I’m tired! But I had a wonderful day.

Love to all–


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