38. The English Michael and Mary Line (part 1)

Updated: Feb 23



The English Michael and Mary line is said to travel from Cornwall to Norfolk, linking up many notable sites, from churches with a Michael or the Virgin Mary dedication, to prehistoric megalithic sites.

John Michell summarises this alignment as follows:


Another gigantic and archaic work involving Glastonbury Tor is the alignment of sanctuaries known as the St Michael line. Geographically it is the longest line that can be drawn over southern England, extending from a point near Land’s End in the far west to the eastern extremity of East Anglia. On or near its straight course lie major St Michael sanctuaries of western England: Glastonbury Tor, Burrowbridge, Brentor, Roche Rock, St Michael’s Mount, Carn Brea.
This alignment is basically a work of nature. Many of its markers, such as the Tor and St Michael’s Mount, are natural features, but in some period of pre-history the line has been made precise and formal. This is demonstrated most clearly by its central section beginning at the ‘Mump’ in Burrowbridge, about twelve miles south-west of Glastonbury. It is a smaller twin of the Tor, a ringed island hill with a ruined church of St Michael on its summit. From the top of the Mump the Tor is visible on the horizon. The axis of the Mump is aligned on the Tor; its extension marks the old Pilgrim’s Way along the Tor’s ridge and forms the axis of the labyrinth. Further east, the line runs precisely to the main southern entrance of the prehistoric Avebury temple. So it has been calculated by the mathematically adept and obliging Robert Forrest. This straight line continues beyond Avebury to a once important monastic site, the church at Ogbourne St George. St George is said by mystical writers to be the earthly counterpart of St Michael. 1

Glastonbury Tor - the path up from the west. Patrick Mackie, Wikimedia Commons

John Michell has written extensively and evocatively on the Michael land geometries in England, and in particular on the Michael line from Cornwall to Norfolk, and on Glastonbury which is on it. He writes with a deep sense of intuition and wisdom which is supported by immense erudition. This is how he describes the Michael alignment:

The two lines of current which spiral around the straight axis of the St Michael line form the symbol of the serpent-entwined rod of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. These serpents represent the vital energies around the spine of the human body, and the meaning of the St Michael line is evidently similar. The line marks the backbone of southern England, energized by the vital currents of the earth. The sanctuaries on its course where the two currents meet, such as Glastonbury and Avebury, can be seen as the ‘chakra’ or nodal points in the ‘subtle body’ of the landscape, its field of geomagnetic and other energies.
Between these places, along the central spine of the country, wound an ancient trackway. It led to the national sanctuary at Avebury, where tribes gathered from afar for seasonal festivals, but it was not primarily a secular route. Every year the course of the line was trodden by certain members of the tribe, those in the process of initiation. A double pathways, one strand leading up he country and the other down, conducted them by wayside shrines to the Mystery centres where the two paths converged. Their guide was the earth spirit, later identified with Hermes whose dual aspect is reflected in the twin, negative and positive currents of the St Michel line. On the high places along the axis of the line, beacon lights were tended by hermits who, as the word implies, were traditional servants of Hermes.2

I have come to think, after several years of looking into ancient sites, that this must be true: that long ago the land was revered, that certain places were considered especially sacred, and that those places were looked after by guardians. It’s a very simple idea. It offers a clue as to why, in subsequent world views, for example in religions, certain places are thought to be vital, such as Jerusalem. Hermits of course are named after the god Hermes, and it makes sense to connect Hermes with an ancient Mother Earth figure, though other figures must also relate to her, such as the Virgin Mary. It’s possible that some hermits chose off the beaten spots randomly, in which to live a simple, solitary and arduous life. But I believe it’s quite possible that many hermits were appointed to guard or look after certain locations considered key within a sacred grid. As for that grid being considered energy pathways, it’s also quite plausible, and so Michell’s notion of land chakras maintained by hermits sheds light on an otherwise baffling series of alignments, not just the one from Cornwall to Norfolk.

Concepts such as 'land chakras' and 'lines of current' will be enough to make many people scoff. It must be said that this line is considered very wu-wu, and most people think it's a load of rubbish. The idea of this line reached the British mainstream in the sixties, mainly because of John Michell. It has remained tinged by a clouds of exotic smoke, and continues to thrive mainly on the internet. I probably wouldn’t have been so interested if it hadn’t been for the fact that the Skellig Michael, Saint Michael’s Mount and the Mont Saint-Michel were all connected in some way to Stonehenge, and also fitted in with a much wider network of sites. For example, sunrise on Michaelmas (29th September) at Skellig Michael points to Stonehenge. The azimuth from the centre of Skellig Michael to the centre of Stonehenge is 92.81°. Sunrise azimuths vary each year, but in 2022 at Skellig Michael it is 92.87°, in 2023 it's 92.71°, in 2024 it's 93.19°, in 2024 it's 93.04°. And sunrise at St Michael's Mount on a day in spring when darkness and light are in Phi ratio (3rd May) points to Stonehenge. Saint Michael's Mount to Stonehenge is 63.96°. In 2025, on the 3rd May, there are 14 hours and 50 minutes of daylight at Saint Michael’s Mount, which is very close to a Phi ratio, and the sunrise azimuth is 63.85°.



With these connections, an idea of a great web of places connected by design, by number, be it sunrise azimuths or certain quantities of miles, kilometres or Megalithic Yards, began to form, though by no means proven, or even provable. So I asked myself two questions: what is the orientation of a line from Saint Michael's Mount to Avebury and Glastonbury, just those two places? And what date would a sunrise azimuth matching this be on?

Saint Michael's Mount to Glastonbury Tor is 58.70°, and to Avebury, 58.82° - also, St Michael's Mount to Burrow Bridge (or Burrow Mump) is 58.64°, and Saint Michael's Mount to the Hurlers stone circles is 58.31°, they are almost perfectly aligned. If you temporarily set aside places such as Land's End, and other ancient stone circles or Michael churches, it’s easier to see that these five, Saint Michael's Mount, The Hurlers, Glastonbury Tor, Burrow Bridge and Avebury are very closely in line. All but Avebury and the Hurlers have Michael connections: there are ruined churches dedicated to Saint Michael on the tops of Burrow Bridge and Glastonbury Tor, and the castle on top of Saint Michael's Mount has a chapel, and was once a sister house of the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey.

So there are two important lines emanating from Saint Michael's Mount: the one to Stonehenge (3rd May) and the one to Avebury. The best fit for this second Avebury alignment, the famous Michael line across England, is the 15th or 14th of May.

Saint Michael Mount sunrise azimuth 15th May 2023: 58.66°, 15th May 2021: 58.46°, 14th May 2021 58.87° and 14th May 2023 59.07°.

Saint Michael’s Mount to north-west side of Avebury: 58.78°, and to south-east side 58.86°. But what is the significance of the 14th or 15th of May? This date threw me a bit. It’s not May Day, but it’s quite close. The 15th seemed familiar in particular. Was there a connection to a festival day of Our Lady? Some kind of connection with Mary was nagging at me but I couldn’t figure it out. I had a look online, but nothing. Then I realised why the date was familiar, it’s my mum’s birthday, and her name is Mary!

I went back to my calculator to see if I could figure anything out. If you divide the number of days between the summer solstice and the spring equinox by Phi, you get a date close to the 15th of May. The spring date with equal night and day at Saint Michael's Mount is, according to www.sunearthtools.com, on the 17th March (non leap years), when you get close to 12 hours of daylight (as opposed to the equinox, which doesn't necessarily have equal day and night, despite the name).

Incidentally, while I was figuring all this out, I realised that Saint Patrick’s Day simply marks the date of equal day and night (not the 21st of March), and the sunrise azimuth on that day at Skellig leads just south of Avebury to Milk Hill barrow and white horse. Is this the reason March 17th is celebrated as Ireland’s national day? Is there an ancient solar connection to be found in the figure of Saint Patrick?

Summer Solstice starts on the 21st June, and lasts three days. From the equal day and night at Saint Michael’s Mount on the 17th of March, that's a period of 96 days. Divide that by 1.618 and you get 59.3325, which, from the 17th of March, brings us up to the 15th day of May (or the 15.3325th to be exact!). Counting the 14 days left in March after the 17th, then 30 for April, 31 of May, and 21 for June, till the first day of the solstice, adding them together, dividing by 1.618, and subtracting from that the 14 days of March and the 30 days of April, we are left with 15.33. This means that a Phi point between equal day and night and longest day comes on the 15th of May. Alternatively, in a year when the day of equal day and night is on the 18th March, replacing 14 by 15 in the above calculations gives a date of the 14.95th (!) , call it the 14th of May. So the 14th/15th May marks a Phi point between equal day and night in spring and the summer solstice. Perhaps that's the reason for it's importance.

Whatever the reason, a Saint Michael’s Mount - Avebury line is oriented to a 14th / 15th May sunrise at Saint Michael’s Mount. You could equally apply this to Carn Lês Boel instead of St Michael's Mount. Carn Lês Boel is a prehistoric site on a cliff near Land's End. You can see below that in the year 2021 for example, when the day of equal day and night was on the 17th, the Phi point on the 14th May corresponds very well to the azimuth of a Carn Lês Boel line - Avebury - Bury St Edmunds line: 58.91° and 58.92°. Equally, when in 2023 the day of equal day and night falls on March 18th, the Phi point on the 15th May, a day later, also matches quite well: 58.7° and 58.92°

15 May 2023 58.7°

14 May 2023 59.11°

15 May 2021 58.5°

14 May 2021 58.91°

18th March 2023 at Land’s End 12:01:22 Hours of daylight

17th March 11:57:34 hours of daylight

17th March 2021 11:59:25 hours of daylight

28th March 2021 12:03:11 hours of daylight

Below is a series of images showing the details of a line running from Saint Michael’s Mount to Avebury. On the Google Earth images, there are three lines drawn, the blue one goes to the north side of Avebury, the red to the centre and the green to the south side. On the map I’ve drawn, there are two lines, one from St Michael’s Mount and the other from Carn Lês Boel. There are many sites of interest right on or very close to these lines. I’ve only included churches which either have a Michael dedication or are very close to, or actually on, one of the lines. As we’ll see later, it’s possible to broaden the line to a corridor which starts from Carn Lês Boel also, or even to broaden it further still. But for now, this is the list of sites that the Michael Mount - Avebury line goes through, then we’ll look at the line from Carn Lês Boel to Avebury, and then finally what happens beyond Avebury. There are in fact many sites along this line, especially prehistoric ones.


Some of the main sites along the line towards Avebury:

Saint Michael's Mount:


St Michael's Mount, 1982, photo by Helmut Zozmann, Wikimedia Commons

From St Michael’s Mount, the line first skirts the base of a hill with a possible Mary connection called Virgin Hill, though there is no chapel on it to confirm such a link. It then goes near an earthwork at Relubbus, Gear Round, 50 m / 150 feet from the Caerwynnen Quoit or Giant’s Quoit on the Pendarves Estate, and a now gone stone circle there, and also near St Ia’s Well, Treslothan Holy Well, St John the evangelist Church and Dolmen, and Carn Brea. Then it goes right through the Carnkie Tumuli, and near a tumulus marked on the OS map, now gone, then Figgy Dowdy’s Well on Caern Marth, St Euny’s Well, Chapel and Iron Age settlement, Bosvisack Round and Penventinnie Round near Truro, the churches of St Ladoca and St Hermes, through Truro and past the church of St Stephen in Brannel, then past St Stephen’s Beacon Hillfort, near two destroyed timber circles at Cocksbarrow and Hensbarrow, and then through the church of St Peter the Apostle at Treverbyn, Helman Tor, 300 metres from Restormel Castle, past Bofarnel Downs barrow cemetery, 600 metres to the north west, and West Taphouse barrow cemetery, and King Donniert’s Stone.

Then the line goes to St Neot’s Well, Berry Castle, Caradon Hill Cairns, St John’s Well in Caradon, Tregarrick Tor Hillfort and menhir, St Melor’s Church and well, then Linkinhorn Round, a small earthwork. The line passes half a mile south of the Minions Cairns, the Hurlers Avenue and Stone Circles, Rillaton Round Barrow, Rezare Holy Well, and earthworks on the OS map that I haven’t been able to find listed elsewhere. Then Dow Tor, Brat Tor, Great Links Tor Cairn, Great Nodden Cairn, Stourton Tors Ring Cairn, Fordsland Lodge Chambered Cairn, High Willhays Kerb Cairn, Eight Rocks, Cosdon Hill Stone Rows and Summit Cairns, Ramsley Stone row (now gone), South Zeal Stone Row, Oxenham Arms Menhir, Lethen Castle Hillfort, Libbet’s Well in Crediton, Cadbury Castle (not the famous Arthurian one), and St Mary’s Church and Bickleigh Castle, which has a chapel that is from at least the year 600.


Carwynnen Quoit Photo Rod Allday Wikimedia Commons

Along this first stretch of the line to Bickleigh Castle, one of the first notable sites after St Michael's Mount is a prehistoric structure called the Giant's Quoit. This 5000 year old portal dolmen at Carwynnen has collapsed three times since the 19th century and been put back together again, most recently in 2014. It’s been shown a lot of love, and even has its own website: Giants Quoit - An Introduction to a Cornish Megalith and its archaeological site. The area, aptly named Frying Pan Field, had a stone circle too, and may have had other neolithic features once, as Wikipedia suggests:

In 1891 it was recorded that "curious marks" had been noticed some years previously, "on a stone under a thorn tree, on the site of what seems to be a walled barrow, about 100 yards north of Carwynnen Quoit." The OS found no trace of the supposed walled barrow or interesting stonework in this area in 1971.

The Carn Brea site is just three quarters of a mile to the north west, with a Neolithic enclosure occupied between around 3700 and 3400 BC.


Menhir at Carn Brea, photo by Andrew Liverod, (thanks Andrew) https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=16317

Carn Brea Castle, possibly built on the site of a St Michael chapel. Photo by Ash. Wikimedia Commons

A little further along the line is Figgy Dowdy’s Well, a holy well, on a hill named Carn Marth, which, like the Giant’s Quoit, has it’s own website. The Carn Marth Trust was created to save the hill from destruction:

The Group was formed in 1986 in response to plans to reopen quarrying on the hill. Had the Group not taken this initiative, some one and a quarter million tons of granite would have been quarried away from the top of the Carn, leaving what was a site of landscape significance largely in ruins.3

They have done an incredible job.


St Stephen’s Beacon hillfort also has a round cairn and is described as having “some sort of earthwork on top of the hill, it may be what gave the hill it's beacon name” on the Megalithic Portal.


Restormel Castle, photo by Zaian, Wikimedia Commons

Restormel is a perfectly circular castle, built by the Normans. There is no mention in any descriptions of the castle I’ve read of an earlier structure beneath it, but perhaps the motte is older. If it’s location is connected to the alignment of sites between Saint Michael’s Mount and Avebury, then either it is a coincidence, or the motte was placed there first in earlier times, and the Normans used it not realising the significance of the location; or perhaps the Normans built the castle fully realising the significance of the location, whether they built the motte or not.


St Neot Holy Well, Cornwall, Photo by Tony Atkin, Wikimedia Commons
Viewpoint - Summit of Caradon Hill. View from near the summit at around the 350 contour looking north west. The Cheesewring granite quarry on the slopes of Stowes Hill, can be seen at the right distance. Minions village is on the left. Behind the village is open moorland with Brown Willy the distant hill on the centre skyline, on the western side of the moor, alt 420m. Date August 1978, Photo by Crispin Purdye, Wikimedia Commons

Tregarrick Tor, on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, seen from the far side of Siblyback Lake. Photo by Nilfanion, Wikimedia Commons

The Hurlers north circle, photo by Brudersohn, Wikimedia Commons

The Hurlers is a group of three stone circles near Bodmin Moor. It is not exactly on the line linking Avebury and St Michael’s Mount, but it is perfectly aligned with Burrow Mump and Glastonbury Tor. In fact a line with a bearing of 59.86 degrees from The Hurlers goes through many important sites such as Burrow Mump, Glastonbury Tor, Avebury, Bury St Edmunds Cathedral, etc, but instead of connecting up with Saint Michael’s Mount it goes to Carn Lês Boel, on the Cornish coast. Close to the Hurlers is Rillaton Round Barrow, in which the Rillaton gold cup was found, which is in style like finds at Mycenae, Greece. Also nearby is the Cheesewring stone structure, but it's over 600 metres from the line so is not included here.


The Rillaton Barrow, an ancient burial mound on Bodmin Moor, close to the village of Minions in South East Cornwall, photo by Eric Foster, Wikimedia Commons

Linkinhorne stone circle: towards The Hurlers. Photo by Martin Bodman. Wikimedia Commons

Linkinhorne Parish Church This church has a very tall four stage tower. It is dedicated to St Mellor. The church does not sit in a substantial village but in a "Churchtown" which is really a hamlet. Photo by Tony Atkin. Wikimedia Commons

Rezare Holy Well, photo by Tony Atkin, Wikimedia Commons

Brat Tor, photo by Aidan Sammons, Wikimedia Commons

Doe Tor, photo by Addshore, Wikimedia Commons
Great Links Tor, Photo by Chris Andrews, Wikimedia Commons

Great Nodden,. on the western slopes of Dartmoor, from Gibbet Hill to the south, photo by Nilfanion, Wikimedia Commons

Stone Rows, Cosdon Hill Edit this at Structured Data on Commons, Photo by Derek Harper, Wikimedia Commons
Cosdon Beacon. One of the cairns on Cosdon Hill with the OS triangulation point (SX 637915). Cosdon is one of the largest hills of north Dartmoor. Photo by Richard Knights, Wikimedia Commons

The Chapel at Bickleigh Castle, reputed to be Saxon, Photo by Chris 55, Wikimedia Commons


West Buckland church. View from the Sawyers Hill road. Photo by Nick Chipchase, Wikimedia Commons

Trull, All Saints Church, Photo by Martin Bodman, Wikimedia Commons
St George's parish church, Fons George, Wilton, Taunton, Somerset, seen from the southeast, Photo by Harrias, Wikimedia Commons

View southeast across a field at Ruishton, Somerset, to St George's parish church, Photo by Derek Harper, Wikimedia Commons

St Michael's church, Creech St Michael Edit this at Structured Data on Commons, Photo by Mike Searle, Wikimedia Commons

King Alfred's Monument, built in 1801 on the site of the monastery Alfred founded, or expanded upon at Athelney. Photo by Simon Burchell Wikimedia Commons

Another important site next along the line in the next section of the line is Athelney, once an island in the marshes, and a hillfort. Simeon of Durham informs us that King Alfred built an abbey there, but there is no trace of it now. When the future of his kingdom was hanging by a thread, King Alfred retreated to this place, safe from the Danes, in the autumn of 877. Did he pick this place simply because the marshes offered good protection, or was he also hoping for divine protection and inspiration, thanks to being in a sacred place, along the old pilgrim’s way?

And king Elfred, trusting in the Lord God, attended by a few troops, made a fortress at the place called Athelney, occupying which with his soldiers he frequently and indefatigably harassed the enemy from the fortress. This he did at the time of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ [ 7th April ] ; and seven weeks and one day (that is, fifty days) after, he came to Egbert’s Stone, in the east part of the forest called in the English language Mucel Wudu, in Latin Magna Silva, The great wood, and in British, Coitmapur . There all the inhabitants of Somerset, Wiltshire, and Hampshire, met their much-loved kin; and at the sight of him rejoiced with great exultation of heart , as if they had received one raised from the dead.7

In May 878, the following year, Alfred gathered a huge army and defeated the northmen in a great battle.

The same king founded a very fair monastery in the place called Athelney , near which , on the western side , a well - fortified castle was constructed by the command and execution of the said king. In this monastery he assembled from all quarters monks of diverse orders , and established them there . He founded also another monastery near the east gate of the city called Shaftesbury , very suitable for the abode of nuns, in which he placed as abbess his daughter Ethelgifu, a virgin devoted to God . To both monasteries he granted such great gifts and possessions as would suffice them for food and for clothing as long as they should exist. 7

The episode is wonderfully told in Bernard Cornwell’s novel The Pale Horseman. The hill fort is at least Iron Age, and it is possible that the monastery that Alfred founded was already in existence, and that he simply enlarged it.


It has been questioned whether Alfred really founded the monastery—or whether he did not enlarge a hermitage or monastery already in existence. The dedication of St. Egelwine or Athelwine, the brother of King Kenewalch, suggests a greater antiquity, and the charter which Alfred granted to the monastery suggests that he rather enlarged than founded the house.6

King Kenewalch is 7th century. When a historian such as Simeon of Durham writes that King Alfred founded a monastery at Athelney, it’s probably in the same category of truth statements as Erastothenes being the first to give an estimate for the circumference of the earth, or Columbus the first to discover America. They may be said to be the first in recorded history, but there are strong indications that others preceded them. We can’t be sure for how long Athelney was considered special or sacred, but it is entirely possible this goes back to the oldest man-made sites along the alignment, or even before that.

Further along the line is Burrow Mump, or Burrow Bridge, also sometimes referred to as King Alfred’s Fort, and which has a ruined church dedicated to St Michael on top. The hill was owned by Athelney Abbey, and was linked to it by a causeway. It is, or was, at the confluence of three rivers, the Tone, the Cary and the Parrett, though the Cary has changed its course.


Burrow Mump from the village of Burrowbridge, photo by Sarah Charlesworth, Wikimedia Commons
Othery, St Michael's Church. Photo by Dbown100, Wikimedia Commons

Glastonbury Tor, like Burrow Mump and the Hurlers, are not exactly on the Saint Michael Mount - Avebury line, but all three form a precise alignment of their own, parallel to it, and very close to it. Furthermore, the shape of the Tor at Glastonbury echoes the direction of the line.


Wet land south of Glastonbury Viewed from Cow Bridge, Photo by Brian Robert Marshall, Wikimedia Commons

While King Alfred was buried in Winchester, Edmund I was buried at Glastonbury, as was his son Edgar the Peaceful, even though he died in Winchester, and so was Edmund Ironside. Glastonbury must have been considered one of the holiest places in the kingdom. Or that these kings were keen to be associated with the legendary King Arthur, as it is said that he - if he ever existed - was buried there too. The Normans certainly seem to have believed so, as his and Queen Guinevere’s remains were exhumed and re-buried in the abbey church in 1191.

Gerald of Wales wrote about the exhumation:

Now the body of King Arthur… was found in our own days at Glastonbury, deep down in the earth and encoffined in a hollow oak between two stone pyramids… two parts of the tomb, to wit, the head, were allotted to the bones of the man, while the remaining third… contained the bones of a woman…
there was found a yellow tress of woman’s hair still retaining its colour and freshness; but when a certain monk snatched it and lifted it with greedy hand, it straightaway all of it fell into dust…
the bones of Arthur…were so huge that his shank-bone when placed against the tallest man in the place, reached a good three inches above his knee…the eye-socket was a good palm in width…there were ten wounds or more, all of which were scarred over, save one larger than the rest, which had made a great hole. 8

Were there pyramids there once? In any event, Glastonbury is a place that is steeped in both history and myth. Inspired by Geoffrey Russell, Geoffrey Ashe, Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller, John Michell wrote about the intriguing double spiral that seems to be carved into the hill.

In view of Glastonbury Tor’s ancient character as Spiral Castle, centre of the Mysteries, the discovery of a spiral labyrinth around its Tor should not be surprising. he interesting question is when it was constructed. The earliest tribes were wholly concerned with keeping their landscape in the same state of nature as they found it. No doubt they regarded the Tor as a place of initiation, but they are not likely to have engraved marks upon it. The labyrinth then must have been carved after the time of settlement, from about 4000 B.C. That places it within the age of giants. It is indeed a typical product of that age. Even though it was always before everyone’s eyes, its gigantic scale long hid it from perception. It should perhaps be called the Giant’s Maze. 9

Roundway Down Hill Fort was the site of a battle in 1643. The fort is also called Oliver’s Castle, referring to a certain Oliver who is very popular still in England, but very unpopular in Ireland. The Royalists won the battle, and Oliver himself wasn’t present, so it is strange that it has kept his name. The fort is mainly Iron Age, but Bronze Age finds have been made there too, including two round barrows. The horse was constructed in 1999 for the millennium.


Oliver's Castle, Beacon Hill. Photo by Brian Robert Marshall, Wikimedia Commons
A wonderful shot of the South Circle stones at Avebury, from the south-east quadrant bank, with the tower of St Jame's Church is in the background. Photo by Jim Champion, Wikimedia Commons

Finally, the alignment arrives at Avebury, passing through Shephard’s Shore chambered tomb and barrows, the barrows at Bishops Cannings and Baltic Farm, the Three Barrows and tumuli at North Down, and Down Barn, the bowl barrows at Beckhampton and Fox Covert, Long Stones Longbarrow, more barows south of Penning Barn and north of the grange, the Adam and Eve stones at Beckhampton and South Street long barrow, and finally St James church, and Avebury Manor. The house was built on or near the site of a Benedictine cell or priory of St Georges de Boscherville. An abbey by the same name exists in France, near Rouen. The connection to Saint George is of course a strong link to the sites dedicated to Saint Michael from the mount in Cornwall, up to Avebury, George and Michael both being dragon slayers. St James, to whom the church near Avebury is dedicated, is also a curious link: he is the patron saint of Spain, associated with paths, in particular the many routes to the city where he is buried, Santiago de Compostela (Santiago being James the Apostle). St James, St George and Saint Michael may all be connected to the constellation Ophiuchus.


Statue of Saint George killing the Dragon, Façade, Cathédrale Saint-Pierre (12th century), Angoulême, Charente, France. If George symbolises the constellation Ophiuchus, the dragon is the constellation Scorpio, the lady in the background may well represent the constellation Virgo, as seen from the other side of the heavens. Photo by JLPC, Wikimedia Commons

An eleventh century Saxon carving, probably a door lintel in the north transept of Southwell Minster, Photo by Andrewrabbott, Wikimedia Commons

Saint James as a knight, 12th century, Codex Calixtinus Certo Xornal from Ribeira, Galicia, España - Consello da Cultura Galega, Wikimedia Commons

Avebury is a huge henge containing three stone circles, one of which is the largest of its kind. Surrounding it is a cluster of ancient sites, from barrows to smaller stone circles, hillforts and mounds, such as the enigmatic Silbury Hill. It could be the most important megalithic site of all. Despite its importance however, Avebury has been vandalised for centuries. The tiny chapel which stands in its centre is partly made of stones from the circle, as is some of the village. Religious belief has been a driving force in the destruction of the stones, most of which are gone now. The chapel can be taken as a celebration of this ancient temple, or as a celebration of its submission to a different world view, in which things are there for the taking. It is a view which is backed up as much by secular as religious conventions, and is the backbone of long dominant religious and economic models. It is not necessarily a view that is much different to what neolithic farmers, who changed the landscape from forests to fields, might have upheld. But it is perhaps at odds with an older, perhaps more spiritually sophisticated world view, which might encourage the protection and admiration of the natural world, and which the network of ancient sites might have once served. It is tempting to imagine a time, when forests still covered much of these islands, and when a veneration for Mother Earth might have been a major factor in people’s approach to their environment. Her demotion may have paved the way for religions that allowed the destruction of the natural world and encouraged the domination of every aspect of nature, and the gradual phasing out of the wild in favour of the tame, as most religions do today. It could perhaps have coincided with agriculture and deforestation on a large scale. If henges and stone circles are, as archaeologists suggest, contemporary with the introduction of farming, then perhaps these great engineering feats of the neolithic had a similar purpose to the building of great churches and abbeys on the sites of great pagan temples had: to appropriate and dominate a place already considered sacred by a previous culture. Perhaps what makes a place sacred, at least in part, is the idea that it just always has been.

It is interesting to compare the building of a chapel within Avebury’s henge to the churches and chapels on top of other important places along the alignment such as Glastonbury Tor and Burrow Mump. Surely some of the churches we find along the way, even the ones not on hill tops, must mark the spot of long since destroyed pre-historic landmarks, and as such it is important to consider them as significant as potentially the remains of megalithic structures, in understanding the landscape. This must be especially true of churches dedicated to Mary, or Roman temples dedicated to Venus for example, or other important female religious figures, who might walk in the moccasins of long gone Mother Earth deities. As for the figure of the Archangel Michael, who plays such an important in this neolithic landscape, perhaps he too walks along a path once trodden by a son or consort of Mother Earth, like Horus or Osiris to Isis, or Attis to Cybele, Jupiter to Juno or Venus; Zeus to Hera or Aphrodite, or Adonis to Aphrodite and Persephone, Dumuzid to Inanna / Ishtar, Shiva to Parvati. In this case there may be a connection to the planets Mars and Venus. Or perhaps some of the sites associated with the Archangel Michael were once related to those sites now dedicated to Mary as brother and sister, such as Apollo to Artemis, sun and moon. Like the Archangel Michael, several of these male deities are associated with hill tops, mountains and rocks, such as Attis, Jupiter and Shiva for example. In France and Italy, in fact, many hills are still known by variations on Jupiter’s name. Unlike Jupiter, however, the Archangel Michael has no gender, and he is mostly depicted as quite gentle and good-looking, like Adonis or Attis, gods of vegetation.

The destruction of so many stones at Avebury is a reminder that for a very long time, people have not valued ancient sites and have got away with destroying them, and still do, for industry or property development. William Stukeley writes about the destruction of Avebury:

Just before I visited this place, to endeavour at preserving the memory of it, the inhabitants were fallen into the custom of demolishing the stones, chiefly out of covetousness of the little area of ground, each stood on. First they dug great pits in the earth, and buried them. The expence of digging the grave, was more than 30 years purchase of the spot they possess’d, when standing. After this, they found out the knack of burning them; which has made most miserable havock of this famous temple. One Tom Robinson the Herostratus of Abury, is particularly eminent for this kind of execution, and he very much glories in it. The method is, to dig a pit by the side of the stone, till it falls down, then to burn many loads of straw under it. They draw lines of water along it when heated, and then with smart strokes of a great sledge hammer, its prodigious bulk is divided into many lesser parts. But this Atto de fe commonly costs thirty shillings in fire and labour, sometimes twice as much. They own too ’tis excessive hard work; for these stones are often 18 foot long, 13 broad, 16 and 6 thick; that their weight crushes the stones in pieces, which they lay under them to make them lie hollow for burning; and for this purpose they raise them with timbers of 20 foot long, and more, by the help of twenty men; but often the timbers were rent in piecs.
They have sometimes us’d of these stones for building houses; but say, they may have them cheaper, in more manageable pieces, from the gray weathers. One of these stones will build an ordinary house; yet the stone being a kind of marble, or rather granite, is always moist and dewy in winter, which proves damp and unwholsom, and rots the furniture. The custom of thus destroying them is so late, that I could easily trace the obit of every stone; who did it, for what purpose, and when, and by what method, what house or wall was built out of it, and the like. Every year that I frequented this country, I found several of them wanting; but the places very apparent whence they were taken. So that I was well able, as then, to make a perfect ground-plot of the whole, and all its parts. This is now twenty years ago. ’Tis to be fear’d, that had it been deferr’d ’till this time, it would have been impossible. And this stupendous fabric, which for some thousands of years had brav’d the continual assaults of weather, and by the nature of it, when left to itself, like the pyramids of Egypt, would have lasted as long as the globe, must have fallen a sacrifice to the wretched ignorance and avarice of a little village unluckily plac’d within it; and the curiosity of the thing would have been irretrievable.
Such is the modern history of Abury, which I thought proper to premise, to prepare the mind of the reader.1

The line from Saint Michael’s Mount to Avebury goes right through several hill forts: Lethen castle, Cadbury, Cambria Farm, Athelney, Roundway Down (Oliver’s Castle), and then beyond Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon. It also goes past St Stephen’s Beacon hillfort. The connection between these hillforts and the long succession of prehistoric sites, as well as Norman churches from St Michael’s Mount to Avebury raises the question of their original purpose.

Burrow Mump and Glastonbury are perfectly aligned to Avebury also, but if you extend this line towards St Michael’s Mount, it runs just north of it. It does then run through some standing stones, then about 5 miles / 8 km south of the island of St Mary’s, then onto the Azores, though not through the island of São Miguel, running instead almost 90 km / 55 miles from it, and about 32 km / 20 miles from an underwater pyramid shape that has been speculated about. Curiously, the line then goes on to the southern shores of Lake Titicaca, about 18 km / 11 miles north of Puma Punku. A line drawn from the north west side of Avebury through Carn Lês Boel goes close to Tiwanaku, in Bolivia, azimuth 241.89°. The exact Avebury north to Tiwanaku and Puma Punku azimuth would be 241.79°, 6160 miles away. This precise azimuth from Avebury creates a line that runs just between Carn Lês Boel and Saint Michael’s Mount. However, while this is an intriguing connection to the English Michael line, it’s not much of an alignment beyond the English Channel, as there are no other major sites along it. The Azores are on the line, but the island of Saint Michael is not exactly on it, though it is close (33 miles / 53 km away), as is a possible underwater pyramid (16 miles / 26 km away).

In part 2, we will look beyond Avebury.

Two sites that are not on a line drawn either from Carn Les Boel or St Michael's Mount to Avebury are Brent Tor and Roche Rock. Both have the ruins of a Michael chapel on top. They are not however, far from the line, only 3 and 1 km from the line in fact. In fact, if you were to draw a line from Maen Castle along the same azimuth as the one that links St Michael's Mount to Avebury, i.e. the 14th/15th May sunrise azimuth, then Roche Rock falls within the newly formed corridor. Roche Rock and Brent Tor are clearly linked to sites like Glastonbury Tor and Burrow Mump, with their elevated churches to St Michael on their tops. They were left out of the alignment so far on the basis that they were more than 600 metres fom the lines drawn on Google Earth. There are plenty of other sites which could also be included if the corridor is widened a little, such as Silbury Hill for example. When Michell wrote about "The two lines of current which spiral around the straight axis of the St Michael line form the symbol of the serpent", on the one hand you could interpret that as similar to the way electricity travels through cables, in that it also travels outside the cables. So it seems that, for all the precision of the alignment of certain sites, others must be considered even though they are on the periphery of these lines.


Notes


1 Michell, John, New Light on the Ancient Mystery of Glastonbury, 1990, Gothic Image Publications, 1997 edition p. 41-42

2 Ibid p. 47-48

3. 1 About Carn Marth

4. According to Historic England Earlier prehistoric hillfort and round cairn at St Stephen's Beacon, St. Stephen-in-Brannel - 1003091 | Historic England

5. Entry by Bladup, St Stephens Beacon Hillfort : The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map:

6. 3 Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Athelney | British History Online (british-history.ac.uk)

7. Stevenson, Joseph, Reverend, Historians of England Vol III, Part II, Containing the Historical Works of Simeon of Durham, Sceleys, Fleet Street & Hanover Street, 1855 The Historical Works of Simeon of Durham - Google Play Books

8 Translation from the University of Reading The exhumation of Arthur - Glastonbury Abbey Archaeology (reading.ac.uk)

9. Michell, John, New Light on the Ancient Mystery of Glastonbury, 1990, Gothic Image Publications, page 40


60 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All