Stonehenge is arguably the most famous sacred site in the world. One and a half million people a year visit this pile of stones in the English countryside, why? Reasons are many and varied, but behind them seems to be a desire deep within the human experience to reconnect with source/spirit. People have needs beyond the physical and emotional and many people know intuitively where to go to satisfy those needs.
Stonehenge is normally out of bounds except for certain hours and yet each year the demand from people to gain access to this temple at sunrise on the summer solstice is so great that the great stones are opened up freely to all comers. Thousands of people enter the normally off-limits inner sanctum to watch the sun rise and bless the earth once again. This is an experience most people will never forget.
Stonehenge was part of a much larger Neolithic complex of structures spread out across the landscape of Wessex. It was built in several stages over a period from 2800-1500 BC. We still know so little about the people who constructed it, how they did it and the all-important question of why they erected it in the form they did.
Archeologists provide some evidence that can help us with such things as 'when', and where the stones came from. The relatively new field of archeo-astronomy is shedding light on the alignments of many sacred sites including Stonehenge to celestial events and the traditional Celtic festival dates.
The most obvious alignment at Stonehenge is to sunrise at Summer Solstice. On this morning the rising sun causes the shadow of the outlying Heel Stone to be cast right into the center of the temple. It penetrates the outer stone ring and reaches deep into the horseshoe-shaped arrangement of trilithons to kiss the altar stone.
Much has been written about the sexual symbolism of this act and how it honours the sun bringing life to the Earth, the Divine Marriage. Avebury stone circle, which was the center of the Neolithic landscape temple complex of which Stonehenge was a part, has Summer Solstice and Beltane alignments, both also celebrating this cosmic union. (2)
John Michell shows how the ground plan of Stonehenge and that of the Mary chapel at Glastonbury Abbey are laid out to the same design and indeed that the original 'wattle and daub' church of Joseph of Arimathea and Stonehenge can be superimposed on one another without altering the scale of either. He further demonstrates how geodetic information is encoded in the proportions of Stonehenge, that is the builders of Stonehenge knew the sizes of the Earth and the Moon! (3)
Robin Heath has proven that just using the 56 Aubrey holes surrounding Stonehenge it is possible to not only keep track of the yearly cycle but even to predict eclipses. He also shows how the mostly overlooked station stones connect Stonehenge not only to Prescelly where the bluestones came from but also to the Pyramids at Giza in Egypt.(1)
Dowsing and earth energies research helps us understand some of the 'why' in relation to possible uses of the structure. Stonehenge was located above an upwelling of natural earth energy or electro-magnetism; this was common practice with all ancient sacred sites.
The stones chosen for all stone circles contain a large amount of crystalline material and so they attract and conduct the electro-magnetism that is present in the ground. The layout of the potentized stones creates a 'cauldron' containing a remarkable mandala pattern of energy, which can be utilized for various purposes - facilitating spiritual initiations and rites of passage, empowering ceremonies or healing.(6)
Two archeologists have recently been promoting their theory that it may well have been a place of healing. Professors Tim Darvill and Geoff Wainwright were aware that the bluestones came from the Prescelly Mountains in Wales, close by sacred springs that were revered for their healing properties. (5) Darvill and Wainwright believe that Stonehenge was like a Neolithic 'Lourdes'. They recently conducted the first archaeological dig within Stonehenge for nearly 50 years. (4)
An ancient text would seem to support this view; it records that the legendary Merlin tells King Aurelius:"Laugh not so lightly, King, for not lightly are these words spoken. For in these stones is a mystery, and a healing virtue against many ailments. Giants of old did carry them from the furthest ends of Africa and did set them up in Ireland what time they did inhabit therein.
And unto this end they did it, that they might make them baths therein whensoever they ailed of any malady, for they did wash the stones and pour forth the water into the baths, whereby they that were sick were made whole. Moreover they did mix confections of herbs with the water, whereby they that were wounded had healing, for not a stone is there that lacketh in virtue of leechcraft."
The truth may well be that it was a multi-purpose center, one used for healing, connecting to the world of spirit, performing various ceremonies, predicting cosmic events as well as the earthly seasons and a place for honouring the ancestors and those newly departed. Each person's own intuitive response to being inside the stone circle may give him or her some insight into the mindset of our distant ancestors.
If this very brief introduction to the purpose of Stonehenge has wetted your appetite to know more I would suggest you start with the references below. It can be an amazing journey of discovery - enjoy!
by Glenn Broughton
1. 'Sun, Moon and Stonehenge' by Robin Heath
2. 'Stonehenge: the Secret of the Solstice' by Terence Meaden
3. 'New View Over Atlantis' by John Michell