Circles and cycles

Easter Saturday took us to Avebury, where we walked a seven mile figure-of-eight from Overton Hill to Windmill Hill and back again, crossing through the famous stone circle twice.

We entered the village from the herepath and acting on impulse we popped into the Antique Shop, something we've never quite managed to do. We were just in time. A succession of people were lugging furniture out from the house upstairs. After twenty-five years, Brian the shopkeeper is retiring.

Now I'd heard about Brian before. Born and bred in the village and having lived there all his life, he's something of a mine of information about the history and prehistory of Avebury. He was cagey at first but we soon got talking about William Stukeley and, warming to his subject, he showed me an original Stukeley print of the circle, now a treasured family heirloom. 

He reminisced about the making of Children of the Stones, and explained how his shop had been the grocers back then, how it was used as such in the show, and where exactly the counter had been. 

He talked with pride about having known Avebury's greatest archaeologist, Alexander Keiller

And then he hinted that he had his own theories about how and why the circle was built. 'They did it with sound' was all he had time to say, before being called to help shift a chest of drawers the traditional way. I've no idea what the National Trust intend to do with the shop but I'm happy that Brian is staying in the village, which is where he belongs, a true guardian of the stones.

From there we walked up to Windmill Hill. Normally we're there in summer when the trees are in leaf and the grass is tall but by contrast it was bleak and cold and we didn't linger long.

Back in Avebury we were just about to cross the main road when Nomi elbowed me in the ribs: 'psst, Druids! You probably know them!' 

She was right - we'd bumped into old friends Philip Shallcrass, his two sons, and Elaine 'Wildways', of the British Druid Order. They'd been doing ceremonies all day in honour of the World Drum which is currently in their keeping.

The World Drum is a Norwegian/Sami initiative, co-founded by Morten Wolf Storeide and Kyrre Gram Franck, or White Cougar, a Sami/Kven shaman who had the original vision to make a drum and send it around the globe. Since 2006 it's travelled from country to country, from people to people, to shamans, Druids, indigenous healers and the like - in fact, to anyone who will hold ceremony with it. The aim is that by doing so we 'rediscover our spiritual relation with nature and see that we are all dependant on each other and nature'. And perhaps more importantly, that we find the political will to make that change happen. Ho to that.

The drum is beautiful. It is made in the Sami tradition from mottled reindeer skin, marked with a simple device indicating the four directions and the circle of life. It has a definite presence and I can confirm that it sings with a deep thundery growl. It's a story-thing, and being such it leaves new stories wherever it goes. I felt honoured to hold it, to play it, and to sense the many hands that have carried it on its way.

Accompanying it are messages of peace, many from indigenous peoples whose lifeways are threatened by the relentless march of modernity.

Bumping into Philip et al. with the drum was one of those happy coincidences, and if it was going to happen Avebury was surely the perfect place. As Brian told us earlier, in his singsong Wiltshire burr: 'Avebury is mystical. Once it's got under your skin, you can't help coming back.'


  1. Sounds like a great day... and, wow, that drum... got my wheels turning.

  2. Lovely post,Avebury is definitely a place to visit if one wants to feel and connect with the history and nature.I went there 2 years ago in the summer,along with my family.We went to the cave and met 2 men playing beautifull and powerfull music with just drums inside of it.It was a magical experience as well as sitting by the stone circle at night time,watching the stars and feeling the vibrations of that place.I must say comparing to Stonehenge,i felt so much more power in Avebury circle than Stonehenge.I feel like Stonehenge has been tampered with too much over the history,the stones have been moved (clear markings on them if looked closely) and therefore losing the powers it once had.It is only my personal opinion from experience though...



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