Stonehenge and Durrington

I had some thoughts about Stonehenge and Durrington.

Initially, I had the thought that in the 12th and 13th centuries, Stonehenge was a place most people ignored, a forbidden place believed to be inhabited by evil spirits that we were greatly afraid of.  I saw it in a brief flicker of memory of the place overgrown by ivy and small trees, and shrouded in mist late in the day.  It was both beautiful and eerie, a bit like a painting by Caspar David Friedrich.

My research found no proof of this, but I did discover that the connection to Arthurian legend came somewhat later thanks to Geoffrey of Monmouth, and that prior to the 14th century no one had even thought to draw Stonehenge let alone talk about it.  I also know that “Stonehenge” comes from the old Saxon “Stanhangen” meaning “stone gallows,” which may be a clue to how people really felt about the place.

Also, I saw a reproduction of the “woodhenge” at Durrington and my immediate thought was “They forgot the carvings and colors!”  It looks profoundly wrong to me without the logs carved with faces painted with mineral pigments.  Of course, any evidence of this would be lost forever, but my instinct tells me that these poles were not unlike the Totem Poles of the Pacific Northwest.

Interestingly, a documentary I watched mentioned signs of a settlement and a large feast at the Durrington site, and evidence of exposure burials.  I began to realize that the culture on the Salisbury Plain all those thousands of years ago may have been very similar to that of the Pacific Northwest up until the 19th century.  I came away with a strong intuition that the feast at Durrington was not unlike the Potlatch of the Chinook people, and the site itself was much like the ritual spaces of the Tlingit.  A gift-giving economy was at the heart of a semi-organized communal life where the people herded semi-wild hogs and gathered wild grains.  The climate was similar to the Pacific Northwest and the abundant resources and sparse population made life relatively easy.

I don’t know if or how I could ever test these ideas.  I don’t think my intuitions on the Neolithic culture of Wiltshire are from a past life though the thing about Stonehenge being a place we avoided and tried not to think about certainly might be from William’s life.

A Year And Then Some

Wednesday will be a year since I started this blog, but it’s already been a couple weeks since the first terrifying memories surfaced.

Before that day, I hadn’t really given much thought to the Great War.  It was a long ago tragedy that seemed to have very little to do with me aside from being one more step toward the troubled world we live in now.  I hadn’t done any research into it, and most of what I knew came from movies and from the memoirs of Eddie Rickenbacker; obviously, my bias was toward aviation and I knew very little about the life of an infantryman other than it was nastier, more brutish, and shorter than a 13th century soldier’s life on those same fields.

I’m not the same after that experience.  I’m still recovering from it and frankly, it’s slow going.  Over the last year I’ve gained more perspective than I had ever bargained for and when you understand what it’s like to watch others die while anxiously waiting your turn, life seems so frighteningly tenuous.

More than that, I’ve given a voice to someone who really needed it, a Somerset farm boy who never married, never made it beyond Private, and died violently at 38 with only scant records of his ever having existed.

I am overwhelmed by John’s memories, but I hope I can be worthy to link myself in any way with this unlucky but remarkably brave man and come to terms with what I saw- what he saw- on the battlefield more than 98 years ago.

Aucto Splendore Resurgo

Blood, Sweat, and Tears- Variations on a Theme by Erik Satie

This piece is based on Satie’s “Gymnopedies” though I’m not sure which one (I want to say the first or second).

The mood I get from it really makes me think of Flanders as it looks now, where the pillboxes are all overgrown and the graves and monuments are all immaculately kept.  It’s a tranquil but sorrowful sound and I love they way they paired winds with guitars.  The wind chime has never been a favorite of mine but it works in this case.

Memory Fragments

Today I had a couple of memory fragments.

First, while standing near a brick wall waiting for a bus this morning, I had a brief (and thankfully not too distressing) recollection of hiding on the other side of a similar wall, feeling bullets impacting with it and being hit by chips as heavy gunfire penetrated the wall on either side of me.  Once again, a vague thought that I ran for it with no clear memory of actually running; that seems to be a theme in my memories of the Western Front.

Also, a thought that my severe aversion to bits of onion or unidentifiable bits of this or that hidden in my food may have come from the rather revolting things that tended to fall into one’s food in the trenches.  To this day, I get a strong gag reflex when I find onions, green peas, or field peas hidden in my food but back in 1915, it was probably bits of dirt, insects, worms, rat droppings, and any number of other contaminants.  I prefer food that has a single consistency, or where ingredients of different consistencies are visibly separated (for example, I don’t mind onions on a hamburger but I prefer them sauteed and cut in large pieces, not diced).

Perhaps there are two of us…

My roommate may have also lived in the court of Richard the Lionheart.

Some months back, he and I were sitting together tried scrying with a red glass ball, but it got nowhere, only a vague sense of nostalgia for having done this before (with a similar frustration and lack of progress, probably in the 15th or 16th century).

Later that evening while gazing into the flame of a candle without the aid of the glass ball, I also had a memory of a king with a red, pointed beard in a blue robe who looked worried.  My roommate explained that I might have gotten that through him and that he’s seen it for years (we had put our hands together with a candle between us, I think).

However, I know that Richard the Lionheart, with whom Longespee faced many campaigns, had a red beard.  I also know that my roommate and I have had a strange connection for a very long time; once, he and I had simultaneously had a really bad intuition about my fiance being in danger on the way back from a recording session at a friend’s place, and so I had my friend take him to the transit center on the way back instead of driving him on the freeway.  I’ll never know if my fiance was ever actually in danger of an accident had my friend driven him home on the freeway, but it was always strange how we both had that premonition simultaneously; especially since at that time, my roommate was living in Kansas and I was already in Oregon.

Shortly after he moved in, my other roommates who had made my life a living hell moved out.  Life became bearable again.  He’s extremely respectful and always good on his word.  I believe he may have been present when I had my first memories of the Great War too, as at the time there was no space for him, so he stayed in our room on a cot in the corner.

We compared notes on a facial reconstruction of Richard.  He said the shape of the beard threw him and he didn’t immediately recognize him as the guy he saw, but I pointed out that this was a funerary image and he was probably somewhat older than the man we remembered, with a different style.  I mentioned the blue robe, and he said he didn’t remember the robe so much, but the crown.

My roommate’s definitely not a medieval scholar, by the way, and neither of us knew about Longespee the first time we encountered this shared memory.  Neither of us could have coordinated what we saw with a resemblance to Richard because we weren’t looking for Richard at the time.

Also, I was correct about the blue robe as that is an Angevin royal color.  Longespee dressed in blue to show his Angevin lineage after Henry II acknowledged him as a son.  I think Henry and John both had beards of a similar color but were darker and not as striking as Richard’s.

Interestingly enough, though he’s of much different stature (closer to the stature of the mustached man seen in several of my memories), my fiance sports a very noble face when he lets his reddish-brown beard grow in.  However, he has no memories that corroborate with having lived in the Middle Ages and so I won’t make any presumptions.

I’m still conflicted about believing what my roommate says.  On the one hand, he had nothing to gain by saying that memory was his at that moment.  On the other hand, when someone says something that might mean that you knew them in a past life 800 years ago, that does rather beggar belief, especially when the initial exchange is a “me too” sort of thing.

We’ll have to see.  If he can come up with something obscure about the last years of the 12th Century that I have a difficult time verifying, it might help me believe him.