By Martin Gray
Early in the spring of 1986 I began a year-long pilgrimage around Europe by bicycle. Over four seasons I cycled through eleven countries to visit, study and photograph more than 135 holy places. In succeeding years I traveled to Europe several additional times, visiting other countries and their sacred sites. These travels took me to the sacred places of Megalithic Greek and Celtic cultures as well as to the pilgrimage sites of medieval and contemporary Christianity. For many thousands of years our ancestors have been visiting and venerating the power places of Europe. One culture after another has often frequented the same power places. The story of how these magical places were discovered and used is filled with myths of cosmic and cometary induced world destroying cataclysms, astronomers and sages, and nature spirits and angels. Misconceptions about the so-called Ice Age and its glacier coverage Before beginning our discussion of the megalithic use of power places in ancient Europe we should first address certain misconceptions regarding the cause of the transition between the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras. According to conventional beliefs (deriving from incorrect assumptions of the Uniformitarian theory of Charles Lyell and the Ice Age or glacial theory of Louis Agassiz in the early 1800's) enormous glaciers once covered vast regions of the northern hemisphere. These conventional beliefs state that the levels of the world's oceans were lower during the glacier age because of all the water supposedly frozen up in the polar ice cap. Between 13,000 and 8000 BC the vast glaciers melted and the levels of the world oceans rose by 120 meters. The effect of this glacial melting and sea level rise on archaic European life marked the end of the Paleolithic and the beginning of the Neolithic.
This idea of a so-called Ice Age, with enormous glaciers covering vast areas of the northern hemisphere, has been debated by numerous scientific studies in the fields of geology, paleontology, biology, zoology, climatology, anthropology and mythology. Readers interested in learning more about these studies and their revelations regarding the Ice Age and its less-than-previously-assumed glacier coverage, as well as alternative dates for the occurrence of the Ice Age, will enjoy the books Cataclysm: Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe in 9500 BC, by Allan & Delair and Ice Age Civilizations, by James Nienhuis. The factual material presented in this scholarly book is slowly making its way into university courses and text books around the world, thereby rewriting our understanding of early Neolithic times.
Cosmic and cometary induced cataclysms - 9500, 7640, 3150 and 1198 BC Prior to embarking on a discussion regarding the discovery and use of power places by humans during Neolithic times there is another - and critically important - matter that must be explored first. This concerns the pass-by and actual impact of cosmic and cometary objects at four distinct periods in the prehistoric past. To begin to explore this matter let us first refer to the enigmatic writings of the 4th century BC Greek philosopher Plato. In the Timaeus dialogues, these being a record of discussions between the Greek statesman Solon and an Egyptian priest, Plato report the following:
"You Greeks are all children. You have no belief rooted in the old tradition and no knowledge hoary with age. And the reason is this. There have been and will be many different calamities to destroy mankind, the greatest of them by fire and water, lesser ones by countless other means. You remember only one deluge, though there have been many."
What might these calamities be which Plato's Egyptian informants are referring to? Evidence has accumulated from a variety of scientific disciplines which demonstrate that a massive cosmic object (probably a portion of an astronomically-near supernova explosion) passed close by the earth in approximately 9500 BC. This cosmic event caused a worldwide cataclysm of enormous proportions, including massive shifting of the earth's surface, devastating volcanic activity, mega-tsunami waves, subsidence of regional landmasses, and mass extinctions of both animals and humans. In this regard it is vitally important to note that many of the geological and biological effects previously attributed to the hypothesized glacier movements of ice age times could NOT have been caused by the slow movement of ice but were in fact caused by the rapid and vast displacement of oceanic bodies of water (this being caused by the irresistible gravitational pull of the enormous cosmic object passing by the earth). Additionally, the species-wide animal extinctions caused by this event occurred far beyond the geographical boundaries set for the 'Ice Age glaciations' by orthodox theorists.
The shifting of the earth's surface, termed crustal displacement by its primary theorist, Charles Hapgood, was also studied by Einstein who reported, "One can hardly doubt that significant shifts of the earth's crusts have taken place repeatedly and within a short time."
To read more about the cosmic object pass-by and the ensuing crustal displacement of 9500 BC, refer to Cataclysm by D.S. Allan & J.B. Delair, The Atlantis Blueprint by Colin Wilson and Rand Flem-Ath, and Catastrophobia by Barbara Hand Clow.
Approximately 2000 years later, in roughly 7640 BC, a cometary object sped towards the earth. This time, however, rather than passing by the earth as the cosmic object of 9500 BC had done, the cometary object actually entered the atmosphere, broke into seven pieces, and impacted the earth at known locations on the planet's oceans. The following map shows the general location of each of the seven impacts.
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Scientific studies of the effects of rapidly moving large objects impacting with the ocean surface have conclusively demonstrated that waves resulting from a massive cometary impact would attain vertical heights of 2-3 miles, with forward speeds of 400-500 miles per hour, and a sustained force that would carry them 2000-3000 miles in every direction radiating from the impact location. From the above map it is clear where these great waves would have crashed upon the shores of numerous continents, totally obliterating, especially in coastal areas of gently rising lands, all human settlements and any structures they had built.
Archaic myths from many parts of Europe (and around the world) refer to this event by mention of bright new stars which fell to earth as seven flaming mountains, of how the oceans rose up in vast waves and totally engulfed the lands, and how summer was driven away with a cold darkness that lasted several years. In support of the mythological accounts of the vast waves covering the lands it is important to mention that many of the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Ireland are littered with beds of sand and gravel containing sea shells deposited in the very recent geological past. Geology also gives irrefutable evidence that at two times in the recent past, around 7640 BC and 3100 BC, there have been complete reversals of the earth's magnetic field caused by an outside influence, most probably a comet.
Estimates of the decimation of the global human population from this event range as high as 50-60% (many people would have lived on sea shores due to the availability of fish stocks). Therefore, the decimation of the planet's human population from the 9500 BC cosmic object pass-by compounded with that of the 7640 BC cometary impacts would have severely decreased the number of humans on earth during the following four thousand years. This is a crucial matter to consider, for the reason that orthodox archaeologists have long been mystified by both the relative scarcity of human remains from the period of 7500 BC to 3500 BC and, even more important, by the apparently sudden appearance of the highly developed civilizations of Megalithic Europe and Dynastic Egypt around 3100 BC.
Nearly 4500 years later, in 3150 BC, still another cometary object smashed into the earth, this time in the eastern Mediterranean. The cataclysm caused by this cometary impact, with massive waves radiating outward in all directions from the location of the impact, devastated coastal civilizations all around the Mediterranean (for example, Dead Sea levels rose 300 feet at this time). While less destructive in a global sense than the seven cometary impacts of 7640 BC, the 3150 BC impact gave rise to a large number of flood myths, such as those associated with Sodom and Gomorrah, and Noah's ark. Following this catastrophic event, the oldest societies with written records - Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus Valley - emerged without any cultural antecedents. Seemingly out of nowhere there rapidly appeared a uniform code of laws, the wheel, and keen knowledge of astronomy.
It is certainly not a coincidence that these three centers of sophisticated culture emerged simultaneously in different geographic locations. Rather it is indicative of the 'seeding' of advanced culture into these areas by a pre-impact civilization. Evidence presented in Uriel's Machine points to the likelihood that the highly advanced astronomical and mathematical information were transferred from the early megalithic culture of northwestern Europe to the regions of both Egypt and Mesopotamia, whence it later influenced the sacred geography of the Greeks. In support of this matter, the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (that which was in effect until 1813) speaks of the achievements of a Pre-Flood people, who were advanced in the sciences of Mathematics and Astronomy, who foresaw the coming of the flood, and who transferred this information to the early Egyptians. A Mediterranean account of an extraterrestrial impact also occurs in the Sibylline Oracles, which refer to a 'star' falling into the sea and causing the rapid onset of a long period of winter temperatures. Additionally, the Book of Enoch, a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, contains the tale of a man who had been warned about the effects of cometary impacts and taught survival skills by a people from the far northwest of Europe. Astronomical data in the Book of Enoch indicates latitude between 52 and 59 degrees north, the same general location as the astronomically advanced megalithic culture. Specific directions are also given in the Book of Enoch concerning how to build an astronomical observation device (a horizon declinometer or stone ring) that can be used to recreate calendars and thereby assist in the re-establishment of agriculture following a great flood. To read more about the seven cometary impacts of 7640 BC and the early megalithic responses to them, refer to Uriel's Machine by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas.
Lastly, between 3113 BC and 1198 BC, there were the pass-by and eventual impact of the cometary object (called Proto-Encke) which destroyed the legendary island of Atlantis, located approximately 250 miles west of the Straits of Gibraltar. In his dialogues, Critias and Timaeus, Plato states that Atlantis sank beneath the waters following a great cataclysm 9000 years before his time. Until recently, the notion of a sunken island in the Atlantic was considered preposterous yet recent geological, oceanographic, climatological and biological studies have conclusively shown that numerous islands did indeed exist in the Atlantic and other parts of the world in Paleolithic and Neolithic times.
However, a more perplexing mystery concerning Plato's account was the time he had given for the sinking of Atlantis, 9000 years previous to his own life. While it is true that adding 9000 years to the 400 years separating Plato's time from the time of Christ and then adding 2000 years which have elapsed since then, gives an approximate date of 9500 BC for the cataclysm, there are definite archaeological problems with this date. The cultural, architectural and scientific developments which Plato attributed to the Atlanteans were simply too advanced for this era of time. Additionally, if such a highly developed civilization had existed so close to mainland Europe and Africa in early Neolithic times it would have left at least some indications of its presence - which it has not. This matter has caused many scientists to criticize or deny the possibility of Atlantis ever having existed.
Yet, to resolve the dilemma, we only need to consider the crucial matter of how the ancient Egyptians recorded time. In actuality, the Egyptians used four different calendars simultaneously; these being solar, lunar, stellar and genealogical versions. Eudoxus of Cnidos, an early Greek pioneer of astronomy who studied in Egypt, tells how the priests of various temples employed a lunar calendar which recorded months as years. Herodotus, Manetho and Diodorus Siculus also wrote that the Egyptian priests and astronomers meant months when they spoke of years. Given this fact, and reducing Plato's 9000 years by a factor of 12, places the cometary impact and sinking of Atlantis at around 1200 BC. A comprehensive study of the time period from 3113 BC to 1198 BC will reveal that numerous cultural groups left records of the pass by and eventual impact of the comet.
In 3113 BC, the comet, known as Proto-Encke, collided with asteroids in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, resulting in the Taurid meteors widely associated with the Bronze Age. As this comet then passed near to the earth it caused massive geological and climatological influences, including destroying an estimated half of the infrastructure of Atlantis. In 2193 BC, the comet Proto-Encke, converging with the comets Oljato and Hale-Bopp, again passed the earth and caused global seismic disturbances, enormous tsunamis and massive socio-cultural changes. In 1628 BC, Proto-Encke and Oljato returned again, causing further destruction. Finally, in 1198 BC, Proto-Encke and Oljato were pushed closer to the earth by Halley's Comet; Proto-Encke entered the planet's atmosphere and then impacted in the general region of the island of Atlantis. The towering volcano of Mt. Atlas exploded and Atlantis sank beneath the waves. To read more about these matters, consult the books by Frank Joseph, The Destruction of Atlantis, and Survivors of Atlantis.
According to the Egyptian priests that Plato's informant had spoken with, Atlantis had a prosperous and sophisticated civilization before its demise. Advanced in science, it was also in possession of knowledge concerning both the geography and geomancy of the entire earth. Geomancy may be defined as the discovery and mapping of power places on either regional or global scales. Evidence is accumulating which indicates that this mysterious culture had mapped a planet-spanning grid of these terrestrial power points positioned with geometric regularity. This geomantic information, in various forms, later left its imprint on the sacred geographies of numerous other cultures. Globally occurring legends also tell of astronomer-sages who knew of grand celestial cycles, the existence of past cataclysms and the possibility of future ones. In anticipation of coming cataclysms and the catastrophic effects they would have upon the earth, these astronomer-sages journeyed to particular geomantic locations around the planet, where they built temples which contained wisdom teachings and information about the past and future cataclysms. Some of these geomantic power places would become, thousands of years later, the sacred sites of megalithic and succeeding cultures. The Origin, Development, and Function of Megalithic Structures Anthropologists and archaeologists study the locations where ancient people first began living in communities and theorize why these particular places were chosen as settlement sites. Conventional theories assume that sites were selected for agricultural, commercial or military purposes. While such explanations are plausible in many cases, they are not sufficient to explain the location of all early settlement sites. Extensive archaeological evidence indicates that many of humankind's earliest communal settlements had religious and scientific orientations and were chosen for those purposes with great care and precision. To understand this phenomenon, we must examine two matters: 1) a relatively unknown characteristic of prehistoric people, which is their sensitivity to and knowledge of the energies of the living earth; and 2) the astronomical observation abilities of certain prehistoric people which allowed them to predict and prepare for cosmic catastrophes.
During their movements across the lands, the Neolithic nomads discovered particular places of spirit and power in the form of caves, springs, hills and mountains. They also sensed lines of subtle energy crossing the land and specific points of more concentrated forces along those lines. These places of power were often marked with large cairns of stones. Identified and marked in this way, they could be seen from a distance even if their energetic qualities were too distant to be physically sensed. Over the thousands of years that early Neolithic peoples wandered across central and northern Europe hundreds of these planetary power places were discovered and physically marked. Legends of these fabled sites were woven into cosmogenic myths from the Mediterranean to the Artic Seas.
Following the Pre-Boreal and Boreal periods (9500-6500 BC) came the Atlantic period (6500-4000 BC) and the extraordinary innovations of plant domestication and animal husbandry. No longer was it necessary for people to wander the countryside in search of their food, now they could grow crops and rear livestock in a fixed place of their choice. The vitally important question is where did these early people choose to first settle? At this stage in Europe's prehistory the population was very small (remember the massive population decline caused by the cometary effects of 9500 and 7640 BC). There were no civilizations to feed necessitating cities near rich agricultural lands, no commercial activities requiring access to trade centers, and no requirements for strategic positions to hold off invading armies. There were simply not enough people for these things. Not having such settlement location requirements, what then were the primary factors influencing early peoples' choices for permanent dwelling sites?
The first people making the transition from the hunter/gatherer existence to a more settled life were the direct descendants of the nomadic wanderers who had discovered and marked the locations of the terrestrial power places. In searching for a settlement location, a previously nomadic family or group of families might often choose a place that held mythic significance for their ancestors, a place of spirit and power. These groups of families would grow into larger groups and then into clusters of groups, thus leading to the development of the earliest villages and towns. As these social centers developed around the ancient nomads' sacred sites, the physical structures marking the precise power point locations would be rebuilt and enlarged. Such reconstructions reflect an increased use of the power places by the growing local populations and, more importantly, an increased understanding of how best to use the energies emanating from the Earth at these sites. Over many thousands of years these power places would come to serve as the pilgrimage locations of Megalithic, Celtic, Greek, and, finally, the Christian cultures.
The Megalithic Culture The megalithic (meaning 'great stone') culture, which is responsible for the stone rings, standing stones, and chambered mounds of Europe, existed from roughly 4000 to 1500 BC. Absolutely no written records exist from these times and therefore archaeologists make assumptions about the people based on excavations of their domestic, funerary, astronomical and ceremonial structures. Among a wide variety of these structures, we may distinguish four major types of stone structures with astronomical and ceremonial functions: single or grouped standing stones known as menhirs; rock chambers known as dolmens; enormous earthen mounds with passage ways leading to rock cut chambers; and the stunningly beautiful stone rings of which Stonehenge is the most famous example.
The great advances in understanding of the Earth's subtle energies and the erection of the megalithic structures which harnessed those energies occurred during the Sub-Boreal period of 4000-1400 BC. Europe's climate was warm during those years (warmer than today) and this encouraged increased agricultural productivity, an ensuing growth in population, and the migration of members of this growing population into remote, previously unsettled regions of northern Europe. With these developments came a concurrent increase in commerce, scientific knowledge and, most importantly, the exchange of ideas between peoples of different geographic areas. To this exchange of ideas we may attribute: 1) the development of megalithic culture and 2) the erection of great earthen and stone monuments at the power places which had been venerated as sacred sites since hunter-gatherer times.
While places sacred to ancient civilizations exist throughout the world and their locations are often well known, the sacred functions of the sites are rarely understood. It is easy to see why this is so. There is often a corollary between the extreme age of an archaeological site and the scarcity of information regarding the site's origins and initial function. The further back in time archaeologists look, the less they know. Because of this, explanations of a sacred site's initial and primary functions are often no more than theorizations based on records of the site's use in more recent times.
The difficulty in accurately determining the function of sacred sites is further compounded by the conceptual influences of the contemporary paradigm. Many archaeologists and historians, deeply conditioned (as nearly all Western people are) by the religious and materialistic paradigm of the so-called 'post-modern' world, are unable to view ancient cultural behavior patterns in a clear and unbiased manner.
Today's researchers seek to interpret ancient people, yet all too often do so with intellects programmed by scientific and psychological assumptions relevant only to contemporary times. This approach is bound to produce poor understandings. Basically, the perceptual and interpretive limitations imposed by our present culture's belief systems exemplify an age old tendency of human beings to assume that they know more about life than their ancestors did. While this is certainly true with such matters as computer programming and aircraft design, it is not true in all areas of human knowledge and endeavor. Human beings develop skills and understandings uniquely appropriate to the environments and times in which they live. Ancient people, living in harmony with the Earth and dependent upon its bounty for all their needs, had developed skills which modern people no longer use, cultivate or even recognize.
Early settled people, like their nomadic hunter-gatherer ancestors, were sensitive to the natural creative energies of the Earth. Living close to the land and intimately aware of the movement of celestial bodies, they came to notice a correspondence between the flow of the Earth's subtle energies and the periodic movements of the sun and moon and stars. This harmonious balance between Heaven and Earth resulted in particular power places on the Earth's surface being highly charged at equally particular times of different celestial cycles. Over the passage of many centuries, as the ebb and flow of the Earth's subtle energies were recognized to mirror celestial cycles, various types of megalithic structures were developed at the power places. Basically these different structure types were utilized to harness terrestrial and extraterrestrial energies, to observe astronomical movements in the interest of predicting the periodic increases of those energies, and to assist in the prediction of cosmic events such as future cometary impacts. While the structure types were different in form and function, they served one another and therefore are best understood in relation to one another.
One early type of megalithic structure to be developed was the earth energy harnessing device. While constructed in numerous different forms depending upon the geomorphic features of the land, the character of the power place emanation, and the style of local architecture, the energy harnessing devices were designed and utilized to gather, concentrate and emanate the subtle energies of the power places for the benefit of human beings. In Western and Mediterranean Europe, these energy harnessing megalithic structures are found in three general forms: raised earthen mounds (presently called hilltop forts and burial barrows), rock cut chambers known as dolmens, and single or grouped standing stones known as menhirs and dolmens. Let us examine each of these individually.
Conventional historical interpretations of the flattened hilltops in Britain (many with coiled circles and huge earthen mazes surrounding their tops) surmise that they were hill forts or castle foundations. Though it is true that many were used in this manner during the Iron Age and later by the Romans and Saxons, their original use was certainly not defensive. As forts they are indefensible. Most have numerous gaps in their earthen work walls, they are so large as to require thousands of people to defend their periphery, and they were often inconveniently placed for long term human habitation. Archaeological excavations at these sites reveal implements of construction, such as antler picks and stone axes, but rarely the artifacts of large scale settlements such as pottery and dwelling remains. Were these places used as habitation centers or sacred sites? Accumulating evidence seems to indicate their sacred rather than secular usage.
Another puzzling form of earthen mound is the so-called 'burial barrow' or 'burial mound', well known examples being located at Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth and Loughcrew in Ireland. Because burial remains have been found within some - and only a very few - of these structures, it has been assumed by the orthodox school of archaeology that their purpose was for interring the dead. If this were so, why then are the mounds so large (hundreds of feet in diameter) yet with so few burials (2 -10)? Why are there so few skeletons over such long periods of use (1000-2000 years)? Why are there so few trappings of wealth and power as is found in the burial remains of later Bronze and Iron Age tombs? Why are the carbon-14 dates of the rare burial remains much later than the Carbon-14 dates for the implements used in the mounds' construction? And, most mysteriously, why are the entrance portals and passage ways leading to the mound interiors in absolutely precise alignment with the horizon appearance or disappearance of such celestial events as the solstices, equinoxes, lunar standstill dates, and the appearance of particular stars? Conventional archaeology is unable to answer these questions and therefore disregards them almost completely. In actuality these massive earthen structures were subtle energy concentrating chambers which ancient people initially used for healing and spiritual purposes. Later peoples, knowing the eternal nature of the human sprint, buried their dead within these chambers in the hopes that the dead person's spirit might have a more rapid journey to the realm of universal spirit. Still later people, having no understanding of either universal of human energies, used these mounds as they were convenient, already excavated chambers, suitable for disposal of the dead.
Another enigmatic class of megalithic structure is the dolmen or 'table-stone' (dol=table, men=stone). Dolmens normally consist of two to four enormous slabs of stone (often weighing several tons each) supporting even larger roof stones. Dolmens - or as they are called in other ancient European languages: quoits and cromlechs - are scattered throughout the European countryside from the Iberian peninsula to the remote islands of northern Scotland. Very rarely found with burial remains and often located far from any evidences of ancient habitation sites, dolmen structures - by the very difficulty of their construction - indicate a powerful purpose. Extraordinary work forces were needed to erect a dolmen's supporting stones and to place the table top stones upon them. With primitive levers and ropes, three or four strong people are required to move a one ton stone, thus the 50 ton cap stones of certain dolmens would require 100-200 persons to move them. Many of these megaliths were erected upon high and remote plateaus and were fashioned from stones which were quarried hundreds of miles away. Moving stones up even small inclines requires the number of workers to be increased by a factor of five. Such enormous effort points to the great importance of the dolmens to megalithic people. Often erected directly over power points along the Earth's meridian lines, the dolmen megaliths served to tap terrestrial energies for the benefit of human beings.
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Another fascinating thing to know about many of the dolmens is that they were originally entirely covered by alternating layers of organic and inorganic materials. While the purpose of this construction technique is presently unknown, it is interesting to note that the scientist and psychic Wilhelm Reich used the same technique in the construction of his so-called orgone generators, these being (much smaller) devices that were able to generate, concentrate and radiate a mysterious form of energy. Could the ancient builders of the dolmens have been using their unique construction techniques for a similar purpose? Orthodox archaeologists commonly assume these dolmen structures were used for funerary purposes because burials have been found in a small number of them (a very small number!). It is important to note, however, that the scientific dating of the burial remains shows them to be hundreds or thousands of years more recent that the structures themselves, thus casting serious doubt on the tomb theory.
Equally enigmatic are the megalithic structures called menhirs. While it is true that some of these single or grouped standing stones are outlying parts of the (soon to be discussed) megalithic astronomical observatories, the vast majority of menhirs are solitary needles of stone with no proximity to other structures. Ranging in height from two feet to over 30 feet, the menhir stones were presumably utilized by ancient people as both location marking stones and as emanating devices for power place energies. In remote areas of Europe, yet untouched by the land-grabbing onrush of modern civilization, menhirs may still be found, placed every few miles along dowsable energy lines leading to stone rings, dolmens and other ancient sacred sites. Many of these solitary standing stones have odd symbols, spirals and map-like images carved upon their surfaces. Conventional archaeologists often interpret these as mere ornamental designs, yet a world-wide study of such markings will reveal their similarities to rock carvings in Australia, South America, Africa and India. The map-like images are perhaps actual maps, showing - according to the topographical methods of the ancient cultures - locations of other power places in the adjacent regions. Some scholars suggest that they may have been part of a vast sacred geography, long since ruined, while dowsers report that the solitary standing stones are situated to mark points of concentrated earth energies flowing along the lines between these sites (sometimes called ley lines). The strange spirals and whirling patterns are thought by some researchers to be graphic representations of the power point's vibratory characteristics as determined by oscillating pendulums.
Another fascinating type of megalithic structure to be developed was the astronomical observatory form such as the stone rings and ellipses, for example Stonehenge and Avebury in England, and the grid patterned stone arrangements such as that of Carnac in France.
Erected sometime after the first dolmens and menhirs (according to our current knowledge), the astronomical observatory type of megalithic structure mirrored ancient peoples' recognition of the periodic increase of power place energies, their knowledge of the celestial cycles which influenced those energetic periods, and their attempts to astronomically predict them. Additionally, and for this understanding we have Uriel's Machine to thank, certain of the megalithic astronomical observatories were used to predict (and thereby prepare for) the future occurrence of cosmic catastrophes such as cometary and meteoric impacts.
In comparison to the number of menhirs and dolmens at the power places, there are relatively few astronomical observatories. This may perhaps be explained by suggesting that sophisticated astronomical observatories were only erected at power places with major energetic emanations or at power places near social centers. In addition, it may be theorized that there were once more stone rings and grid pattern celestial observatories at the power places but that they have disappeared due to both natural and human causes. Climate changes have caused vegetation to grow over and hide some stone rings (such as occurred with the peat moss growth at the Scottish site of Callanish), other stone rings were torn down when Christianity sought to eradicate paganism from Europe, and still others were dismantled to provide building materials for more recent cultures.
This dismantling of stone rings would have occurred most frequently in areas of greater population. Throughout the remote, today mostly uninhabited moors and hills of the British Isles, over 900 stone rings are known to exist. In more populated continental Europe, they are far fewer in number and those mentioned in 19th century Swiss and Italian antiquarian guidebooks no longer exist.
The most well known of the megalithic structures are certainly the stone rings, particularly Stonehenge and Avebury in England. Research conducted over the past thirty years, combining insights from archaeoastronomy, mythology and geophysical energy monitoring, has conclusively demonstrated that the stone rings functioned as both astronomical observation devices and ceremonial centers. Simply stated, many of the stone rings are situated at locations with measurable geophysical anomalies (so called 'earth energies'); these earth energies seem to fluctuate in radiant intensity according to the cyclic influences of different celestial bodies (primarily the sun and moon but also the planets and stars); the architecture of the stone rings was engineered to observationally determine (by horizon astronomy) those particular periods of increased energetic potency at the sites; and those periods were then used by people for a variety of therapeutic, spiritual and oracular purposes. The tradition of pilgrimage in megalithic times thereby consisted of people traveling long distances to visit sites known to have specific powers. Due to the absence of historical documentation from the megalithic age it is often assumed that we cannot know how different power places were used but this is a narrow view based solely on the mechanistic rationality of modern science. An enlargement of view to include an analysis of mythology will reveal that the legends and myths of sacred sites are in fact metaphors indicating the magical powers of the places. The ancient stories of the sacred sites and their deities and spirits will tell you how the places may still influence you today.
Only during the last 40 years have archaeologists begun to acknowledge the astronomical orientations of European megaliths and the extraordinary mathematical sophistication which allowed their construction. The early recognition of certain megalithic constructions as astronomical observatories is almost single-handedly the accomplishment of Dr. Alexander Thom, Professor Emeritus of Engineering Science at Oxford University. In 1934, Thom began meticulously surveying megalithic sites. By 1954, he had surveyed and analyzed over 600 sites in Britain and France and begun to publish his findings. Initially his discoveries were not well received. Professor Thom was not an archaeologist, but rather an engineer, and the archaeological community did not welcome what they considered to be heretical views of an "untrained" outsider.
Thom's evidence, however, could not be dismissed. Both overwhelming in quantity and painstakingly accurate in presentation, it undisputedly demonstrated the phenomenal astronomical knowledge, mathematical understanding, and engineering ability of ancient megalithic people. Indeed these abilities were so advanced that they were not equaled by another European culture for over 4000 years. Thom's excellent books, Megalithic Sites in Britain and Megalithic Lunar Observatories, show with eloquent certainty that megalithic astronomers knew the yearly cycle to be a quarter of a day longer than a round figure and that they recognized the precession of the equinoxes, the 9.3 year major and minor standstill cycles of the moon, and the lunar perturbation cycle of 173.3 days which allowed them to accurately predict eclipses. Furthermore, these megalithic builders were extraordinarily keen engineers and architects expert in advanced geometry 2000 years before Euclid recorded the Pythagorean triangle theorems and over 3000 years before the value of Pi (3.14) was 'discovered' by Indian mathematicians. Surveying sites with the accuracy of a modern theodolite, these ancient builders developed a unit of measure, the megalithic yard of 2.72 feet, which they used in stone monuments from northern Scotland to Spain with an accuracy of +/ - .003 feet or about 1/200th of an inch. Following the leadership established by Alexander Thom, the English scholars John Michell and Robin Heath have gone on to demonstrate even more of the brilliance of megalithic mathematicians and engineers.
Previous to Alexander Thom's site surveys and their indisputable proof of megalithic culture's advanced scientific knowledge and social cohesiveness, archaeologists had always assumed Europe's prehistoric inhabitants to be a rough gathering of ignorant barbarians. Thom's discoveries, in showing this belief to be completely untenable, had a revolutionary, albeit gradual, impact upon the orthodox archaeological community. During the same period that Thom was surveying the megalithic sites other scientists were having an equally revolutionary effect upon the European archaeological community, but from an entirely different direction. Like the engineer Thom, these scientists were not archaeologists, yet their contributions, coupled with the implications of Thom's site surveys, would instigate a complete rewriting of European pre-history.
This other revolution in the European archaeological community was caused by the discovery of carbon-14 dating by Willard F. Libby in 1949 and the dendrochronological recalibration of this method by Hans E. Suess in 1967. Basically, carbon-14 testing, in conjunction with dendrochronology, or tree ring dating, is an absolutely accurate method of dating ancient organic matter and, by extension, the archaeological sites where that matter was found. To understand why these dating methods caused such a revolution in archaeological thinking it is helpful to know how the archaeological community viewed the subject of European pre-history prior to Libby's carbon-14 discovery in 1949.
Archaeology is a relatively recent scientific endeavor. During the entire course of its academic development, it has been powerfully influenced by the assumption that world wide cultures "diffused" from a few primary centers of original civilization. For more than a century, Pre-historians had assumed that most of the major cultural advances in ancient Europe were the result of a diffusion of influences from the great early civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. These cultures could be dated by actual historic records, for both the Sumerians and the Egyptians had left lists of kings and dynasties going back to 2000 and 3000 BC respectively. Given these dates, and assuming an appropriate period of time for the diffusion of ideas from Egypt and Mesopotamia to northern Europe, it was calculated that Europe's megalithic structures could have been built no earlier than 1000 to 500 BC. Imagine the surprise and, at first, strident disbelief of the archaeological community when megalithic construction dates of 4000-2000 BC were factually established. The stone monuments of Europe were suddenly a thousand years older than those previously believed "world's oldest stone monuments," the Egyptian pyramids.
Carbon-14 dating had thus effectively and totally undermined the diffusionist theories as suitable explanations for the development of Europe's megalithic culture. This accurate archaeological dating technique, in conjunction with Thom's site surveys, demonstrated with irrefutable certainty that megalithic culture was indigenous to Europe, that it had developed wholly on its own (though perhaps with a mysterious Antlantean influence), and that it was the most scientifically advanced culture in the world during the long ago time of 4000 to 2000 BC.
As mentioned previously, each specific power place is unique by virtue of both its location and its energetic emanation. Certain power places were noted by ancient people as having energetic emanations which were influenced by particular astronomical cycles. The astronomical observatories erected at these power places were designed in such a manner as to be oriented toward the celestial body or bodies which influenced their power place emanations. While there were similarities in astronomical orientations between various observatories, there were no constant alignment patterns used, as each power place was unique in both its Earth surface location and its astronomical correspondence point. The energy link between these two unique points, planetary and celestial, produced a subtle energy emanation unlike any other place upon the Earth. As these energy emanations varied from place to place, so also did the type of structures that were erected to study the periodic changes in emanation of the earth energies.
Another reason for the megalithic astronomical observatories' diversity in structural size and complexity is human innovation and the effect it may have upon the development of scientific endeavors. As previously stated, the earliest megalithic structures at the power places were the more simple energy harnessing devices. These were followed by the observatories which megalithic people utilized to predict the periodic increases of subtle energy emanations at the power places. It is known from extensive archaeological evidence that the first rings and ellipses were constructed of wooden poles and only later, often after periods of a thousand or more years, reconstructed with stones. It also known (and for this Stonehenge is the primary example) that the stone rings themselves went through stages of development in both size and structural complexity. These size and structural changes certainly indicate a greater understanding of planetary and celestial energy correspondences as they relate to the power places, yet they also seem to indicate the increasingly scientific use of the rings as contrasted to their initial sacred use. Contemporary astronomers seek to build ever more powerful optical and radio telescopes. Is there any reason to doubt that ancient astronomers felt these same desires for more precise observational tools and thus developed their design?
Another vitally important, though currently little understood, function of the megalithic astronomical observatories, in particular the stone rings, was to predict, in advance of their occurrence, the arrival of and impact by cometary and meteoric objects, such as had occurred in 9600 BC and 7640 BC. As explained in Uriel's Machine, the stone rings found in different parts of northern Europe have different arrangements and alignments of stones, dependant upon the latitude and longitude of the site, which allow them to precisely observe the movements of celestial bodies along the horizon and thereby gauge the long-term passage of time. Myths and legends traceable to periods of the early Neolithic seem to indicate that a mysterious group of 'astronomer-sages' knew of the periodicity of cometary objects and their potentially lethal effect upon the planet. Authors Knight and Lomas in Uriel's Machine make a convincing case that the stone rings of megalithic times were used as both calendrical indicators and cometary prediction devices in service to mankind.
Celtic Earth-based Spirituality
Thousands of years after the decline of megalithic culture came the Celtic age with its Druid spirituality. It is now widely accepted that Druid spirituality derives in part from pre-Celtic (for example, megalithic) traditions of far western Europe, which impressed the invading Celts to the extent that they adopted some of these traditions when they settled among the earlier-established tribes. In other words, the pre-Celtic traditions influenced existing Celtic practices resulting in what is now commonly called Celtic Druidism. In support of this matter, it is interesting to note that Julius Caesar reported that Druidism began in the British Isles and was only later exported to Gaul.
Contrary to popular belief (and the historically inaccurate writings of various new-age novelists), the Celts neither used the stone temples of the earlier megalithic peoples nor continued their style of ceremonial architecture. Stonehenge, for example, was constructed between 2800 and 2000 BC, while the Celts did not enter England until 600 BC, fully 1400 years later. Not using the stone rings and chambered mounds, Celtic spirituality was instead concentrated at unadorned natural sites such as mineral springs and waterfalls, caverns and remote islands, curiously shaped peaks and forest groves. In Celtic spirituality the entire landscape was in fact filled with places where spirit was present. This spirit of place or anima loci was understood to be the essential personality of a location and the spirit places were transformed into sacred sites when humans discovered and acknowledged them.
As with the Megalithic people before them, the Celts believed different types of landscape forms were inhabited or guarded by specific deities. Sacred forest groves, called nemetoi, meaning 'clearings open to the sky' were dedicated to various goddesses such as Andraste, Belesama and Arnemetia. Mountains served as altars for deities, sites of divine power and places for seeking inspiration. Towering peaks were seen as abodes of masculine deities such as Daghda, the father god, and Poeninus, while various hills, the breasts of the goddess, were recognized to be the sanctuaries of Ana, the Celtic mother of the Gods, and Brigid. Caves, believed to be entrances to the underworld or the fairy kingdom, were used for seeking visions and for communication with the depths of the psychic unconscious. Strangely shaped trees and rocks were considered the resting places of elemental spirits, fairies and supernatural beings. Celtic people made pilgrimages to all these types of sacred places, leaving offerings of cloth, amulets and food for the resident deities, thereby seeking the archetypal spiritual qualities of the places and praying for both physical and psychic healing.
Conclusions and a call for further studies
From the preceding discussion it is apparent that there are several possible explanations for the original discovery of the power places of Europe: the archaic Neolithic nomads, the astronomer sages of the mysterious culture of Atlantis, and the early megalithic culture. The sites found and marked by these extremely ancient people continued to be used for thousands of years and became in time the sacred sites and pilgrimage places of other cultures such as the Celtic and ancient Greek. Myths originating from these later cultural epochs speak of the power places as being the abodes of deities, the haunts of magical beings, and the enchanted domains of elemental spirits. The pilgrimage traditions of the Celtic and Greek cultures are markedly different in external form but in essence each may by understood as an expression of early peoples' connection to and worship of the living earth. The sacred geography of the ancient Greeks will be more deeply examined in the next section of this essay.
Through countless years and cultural expressions human beings have made pilgrimages across Europe, drawn by the spiritual magnetism of the power places. Different religions and their assorted temples have risen and fallen yet the power places remain ever strong. Still beckoning pilgrims in our own deeply troubled times, these holy sites offer a plentitude of gifts for body, mind and spirit. Take the time to go on a pilgrimage to the sacred places of ancient Europe. Inspiration and health, wisdom and peace - these and other qualities are freely and abundantly given there by the enchanted earth.
Martin Gray Biography
Martin Gray is an anthropologist and photographer specializing in the study of sacred architecture, holy places and pilgrimage traditions around the world. During a twenty year period, Martin Gray traveled widely in 120 countries to study and photograph more than 1000 holy places of prehistoric, historic and contemporary cultures. Martin is an expert in the subjects of ancient religion, sacred geography, archaeoastronomy and ecopsychology.
In 1997, Martin placed the web site, Places of Peace and Power, at SacredSites.com on the internet and since that time more than fifteen million people have visited the site. In 2004 National Geographic published The Geography of Religion and Martin Gray was the principal photographer. In August of 2006 the Japanese publisher Basilico issued a book of Martin's sacred site photographs, and in the spring of 2007 the American company Sterling will publish a book entitled Sacred Earth, which will feature 180 color photographs of sacred sites around the world. Martin's photographs and writings have been featured in documentaries, newspapers, magazines, books and web sites around the globe.
Martin Gray has presented slide shows at museums, conferences and universities, for more than 125,000 people, in the United States, Europe and Asia. Martin's web site, Places of Peace and Power, may be seen at SacredSites.com
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