Tuesday, May 29, 2007
The Silbury Game
A term coined by Julian Cope in his book The Modern Antiquarian to explain the visual game that Silbury plays with you as it unfolds itself within the landscape. This sacred landscape has accrued from its early beginnings in the Neolithic, a series of monuments that mark it out as a special place. Monument is a dryasdust terminology for what is re-enacted; mythological stories written into the landscape for us to observe and contemplate on as we wander its paths and byeways.
The great West Kennet longbarrow, snaking its way along the ridge like a great serpent,its back broken by the track some medieval farmer drove through its centre, its huge stone facade faces the sun in its morning coming, welcoming it down through the ages as dawn breaks. There is nothing quite so bare and austere as the great fields that surround the longbarrow, linking it to the earth, and the surrounding plain that stretches down to the Vale of Pewsey. A statement of territory, it faces the Ridgeway defiantly, its stone shapes vaguely echoing the monsters of some distant past.
Perhaps we should look at the landscape as mystical, a quiet play on mother goddess Earth, and Sky God father to get a better understanding, here Silbury can be seen as a central womb, a great hill altar, perhaps giving birth to the fertility of the earth. Cope sees it as the great eye goddess Suil, similar to of course the goddess Sulis at Bath . But we are not as yet in the era of gods and goddesses, this is the time when mother earth is asked to give her bounty, to renew and replenish her gifts.
Silbury Hill in its watery enclave sits low, yet it faces the longbarrow on the ridge, it can be seen from The Sanctuary, a few hundred yards to the east. Trace your way past the great Seofren barrows along the Ridgeway, and Silbury will follow you just above Waden Hill,
the long Avenue of stones below winding its way back to Avebury and its stone circles. There is a certain playfulness here, could it have shone shining white with its cap of chalk all those thousands of years ago, sparkling in the sun as you made your way down the Ridgeway. Luring the pilgrims and wanderers on who came to the festivals and yearly meetings to feast and meet one another. Did they go back to their settlements and talk of the stone circles, great barrows of the dead,
and this enormous hill, as one of the wonders of their world. Well it still draws its pilgrims to
wonder who would have the vision of mind to undertake such a feat, we are no nearer the truth.
The treasures of this landscapes are best seen as interlinking nodes, a visual marking of that which is important, death, festivity, ritual, the great primeval matter of the earth itself, a human
map inscribing on the earth the small follies of our beliefs.