Ancient Monuments and Messages from the Neolithic
Getty Images/Ray Keller
“The following are messages I received during my investigations of the Neolithic to Bronze Age at ancient monuments. They explore how to enhance our humanity, recover lost skills, and deepen our connection to the archaic whisper.”
Across the landscapes of my ancestors (Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland) there are ancient monuments. Stone circles and alignments, barrows and burial chambers, hill forts, henges, and quoits. These architectural wonders continue to astound and confound. Like a piece of art or music, the more you study them, the deeper the mystery around them grows.
Through the work of archeological researchers, we can glimpse the building of stone, wooden, and earthen monuments over thousands of years. They were constructed by people who were generally shifting from the hunter-gatherer Mesolithic into the Neolithic Revolution. Stylistically monuments seem to have stretched down coastal regions from the North, perhaps dispersed by seafaring peoples or by contact with the cultures of these people.
While some aspects of the Mesolithic hunter-gather cosmos appear to have remained intact—such as the concept of a tiered universe that could be accessed by shamanic techniques and profound connections to seasonal and multi-year natural cycles—other aspects of their cultures changed.
Burials shifted over time from communal to individual. The great wooden and stone circles and earthen henges were constructed, reshaped, and then changed again and again, reflecting on-going cultural changes in their structures, symbolism, and purposes. A stronger a mirroring of the macrocosmic universe in the microcosmic landscape becomes even more important. The use of special stone, soils, careful positioning in the topography, and developing a deliberate wholeness in complex and extensive sacred landscapes grows. The sites appear to drift from social inclusion to exclusion at ritual sites.
Communal to individual. Inclusion to exclusivity. The great social changes of the Neolithic Revolution, resulting from the significant shift from nomadic hunter-gatherer ways to settled farming and skills specialization, were huge and are still reverberating.
We feel the implications of that immense change right up to the present. And not always in the most pleasant ways. In their scholarly book, Inside the Neolithic Mind, Lewis-Williams and Pearce, say, “On the one hand, agriculture seems to Westerners to be a Good Idea, an advance toward civilization. On the other, it could be pointed out that domesticated plants and animals are more prone to catastrophic disease, and, in any event, farmers work harder and longer hours than hunter-gatherers. Perhaps this change was humankind’s first Big Mistake.”
So, we find ourselves, 12,000 years on, wondering: Good idea or big mistake?
Awed by a prehistoric world we apparently descended from—a world now shrouded from us in the hazy vapors of archaic time—a rich, complex, intricate world from the evidence left behind. It would seem to have been a much slower moving world even though it was changing radically. It was a symbolic world, where sun and wood and stone and stars and cycles of the moon held deep, long-term personal and cultural meanings.
It was a world of detected and manipulated subtle energies from the land, a place of connecting vibrations between earth and sky, a place of ley lines, blind springs, piezoelectricity, of magical acoustics and the songs that made things appear in the the chambers and stones. It was a spoken world, a world of memory, where thoughts and deeds and philosophies and religions were not recorded in our current way. It’s a world that feels disorientingly foreign and hauntingly recognizable at the same time.
In our ever-expanding modernity, there are things we long for from that lost world and things that cause trepidation. We long for the incredible continuity, a multigenerational home landscape, the sense of shared vision and community. We long for a healthier, more abundant earth existing in a much less damaged state. We long for a world thinly populated. We long for enchantment.
We resist the rigidity of a genuine tribal society; we shy away from the likelihood that the practice of sacrificing life (human or animal) in exchange for cosmic order was a part of social mores. We fear the rigors of an existence lived in harsh conditions full of back-breaking manual labor. Before it grew so unwieldy, before life became militarized towards the end of the Bronze Age, before the idea of kingdoms and underclasses, there was magic and toil, exquisite beauty in the symmetry of the cycles of the seasons, the dependable progressions of the heavens and, most likely, on-going deep apprehension about possible disruption.
Good idea or big mistake? What have we wrought in the last 12,000 years? Are there correctives? Restorations? Ways to reconnect to the long ago patterns? The following are messages I received during my investigations of the Neolithic to Bronze Age at ancient monuments. They explore how to enhance our humanity, recover lost skills, and deepen our connection to the archaic whisper.
Message from the Neolithic #1: Work to recapture your “mythic mind.” Develop the mythic mind, the storytelling mind, the playful, flexible mind. This is the mind that sees the fey, feels the dowsing rods clack together, knows the ancestors are not gone, seeks out the thin places, celebrates the rising of Venus, learns from the foxes and seals and spiders. Cultivating a mythic mind allows you to return to a much more animistic, multi-dimensional way of seeing the world. The mythic mind tolerates a fuller spectrum of reality. The mythic mind can decouple us from our constant linear thinking and allow slow time to return. It can help us rediscover the spirit of life that moves in all things. Reconnecting in this way allows us to glean information from subtle sources in the natural world—earth energies, animal and plant messengers, ancestral guides, and elemental spirits.
Message from the Neolithic #2: Use gentle altered states to access information from your higher self. Use altered states anyone can access, such as those afforded through dreaming, meditation, creating art, or light trance achieved with silence or through acoustic driving. Spending time in gentle altered states takes us beyond observations and interactions with the larger world and moves us into a much more interior space. These states allow for the entrance of corrective or developmental information to assist in our soul growth. A regular practice can help us identify our life’s mission and purpose and help us to act on that information appropriately.
Message from the Neolithic #3: Protect and preserve existing indigenous cultures and languages including your own. Differing worldviews are critical as we move into the future. Too soon we lose the elegant inflections of variety and the richness and survival value encased in diversity. The delicate threads into the distant past are long indeed, but fragile, and existing indigenous cultures may have the strongest links to the more intact world we long for. Cultural extinction causes the same ripples in the great web as does the loss of a keystone species.
Aspire to re-establish links to individual lineages and cultures-of-the-past. We are all indigenous to somewhere—exotic weed though we may be where we landed. Through a study of your particular cultural background and history one can sense and value the range of human adaptation to landscape and cosmos. One can see our existence through a lens of ancestry, landscape, and culture-of-origin and understand ourselves in a deeper way.
Message from the Neolithic #4: Wonder aloud about the efficacy and worth of our current cultural models. Bravely examine the repercussions of the “Big Mistake.” The Neolithic was a massive tipping point for humanity. We very well may be at another. Question the underlying assumptions in our systems, institutions, and economies. Think re-wilding, think restoration, think reciprocity, think collaboration. Question models of unbridled growth, of rampant individualism, of Darwinian competition, of ruling classes.
Good idea or big mistake? We’re on that threshold again. Courage is required, my friends. It’s a time of bravery in the face of chaos. We were born into it, this time, this place. Some say we are each here for a reason. Some say our times shape us. Some say we shape our times. Can we be stalwart, valiant, enduring, patient? Can we cross the threshold?