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Returning to a Stonehenge Mini-Collection – Stonehengiana and Thoughts on Ancient Mysteries

I seem to have slowly but surely gathered together a mini-collection of books on the ancient British stone circle Stonehenge, which has included, amongst other books:

Julian Richards’ Inspired by Stonehenge, which is a short book that was published in 2009 to accompany an exhibition of “Stonehengiana”, that originally opened at Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, and features a curious collection of Stonehenge related memorabilia, records, comics, postcards etc, mostly from the author’s collection. Inside you’ll find everything from Stonehenge themed snow globes, records, spoons, pottery, a chocolate bar set of which the different covers build into a widescreen photograph of Stonehenge when placed side-by-side, to name but a few. It is now out of print but used copies can still be found for a reasonable price the last time I checked.

I was particularly intrigued by the above set of vintage DC and Marvel comics from Inspired by Stonehenge which feature stories/cover images set around Stonehenge, including the nicely alliterated “The Day of the Deadly Druid” featuring The Mighty Thor.

Those covers seem to capture or encapsulate an era of superhero stories that seems a long, long way away from the contemporary landscape of often very expensively produced cinema and television soap opera-like superhero universes. They also don’t seem afraid to explore a sense of the mythic, mysterious, otherworldly and supernatural in their stories, which is a nice contrast with a lot of current superhero orientated TV etc work that often seems more inclined to try and explain away its characters’s origins etc through advanced science, digital technology, lasers and so on.

Stonehenge: A History in Photographs, also by Julian Richards’, was first published in 2004 and since reprinted and is still in print. It features black and white photographs of Stonehenge, its visitors etc from 1853 until 2004 and serves as an intriguing time-travelling snapshot overview of the enduring fascination for Stonehenge.

I’ve something of a soft spot for aerial images that reveal ancient mounds etc and have written about them previously at A Year In The Country; along which lines, above is a photograph from A History in Photographs taken in 1973, which is a fine example of such things.

And is there any photograph more evocative of Britain in the past and the layering of time in the landscape than the above photo, taken in 1930 and also from A History in Photographs? TARDIS-like roadside assistance box (I think)? Check. Almost folk art-like road sign? Check? Vintage car that, even if it’s not, looks as though it should have a Morris Minor-esque wooden frame? Check? Painted rural cottage that may well have only fairly recently been de-thatched? Check? Iconic ancient stone circle in the distance? Check.

James O. Davies’ A Year At Stonehenge was published in 2013 and is now out of print. It features photographs taken over five years “at all times of the day and night, and all through the seasons” and includes landscape and nature orientated images of Stonehenge, alongside gatherings and reveries etc that have taken place there.

The book’s cover flap text considers how “the true meaning of this ancient… creation and the secrets of its construction have been lost in time”, which brings to mind a section of author and academics Mark Fisher’s book The Weird and the Eerie, wherein he concisely and succinctly considers and explores the “mysteries” of Stonehenge etc:

“Faced with the stone circle at Stonehenge, or with the statues on Easter Island, we are confronted with a… set of questions. The problem… is not why the people who created these structures disappeared – there is no mystery here – but the nature of what disappeared. What kinds of being created these structures? How were they similar to us, and how were they different? What kind of symbolic order did these beings belong to, and what role did the monuments they constructed play in it? For the symbolic structures which made sense of the monuments have rotted away… [Ancient stone circles and monuments such as Stonehenge and Easter island] make us realise that there is an irreducibly eerie dimension to certain archaeological and historical practices… when dealing with the remote past, archaeologists and historians form hypotheses, but the culture to which they refer and which would vindicate their speculations can never (again) be present… [due to the symbolic structures which stone circles were part of having entirely rotted away] the deep past of humanity is revealed to be in effect an illegible alien civilisation, its rituals and modes of subjectivity unknown to us.”

I quoted that section of Fisher’s book in the Cathode Ray and Celluloid Hinterlands book… along  which lines, below are a couple of other quotes from Cathode Ray that have stuck in my mind somewhat:

“After all no one had ever explained the meaning of [Stonehenge]. One minute it was a Roman Temple, then a Danish burial ground, a Druid place of sacrifice, an English pyramid, a launchpad for spaceships, a radio telescope, an intergalactic signal… the latest theory was that it was a simple old communal centre.” (Originally quoted from The Mind Beyond TV episode/short story ‘Stones’.)

“[Stone circles possess] an atmospheric sense of the eerie, drawing on ties to the ancient and the otherworldly… [they] represent the ultimate figure in the landscape, hinting at ancient human presence while also suggesting more macabre, unearthly forces at work.” (Originally quoted from Adam Scovell’s article ‘Stone circles: 10 staggering standing-stones on-screen’.)

Which segues nicely into the Jonny Trunk quote below, taken from an interview with him and Alan Gubby of Buried Treasure/The Delaware Road by Bob Fischer of The Haunted Generation in issue 134 of  Shindig! magazine, in which they discuss the Trunk Records’ release of the Children of the Stones’ soundtrack, which Trunk and Gubby collaborated on:

“Stone circles were a good starting point for spooky weirdness, weren’t they? Druids, solstices and magic. We were still coming out of ’60s hippydom, and the people making TV programmes in the ’70s were really into that stuff…”

And which in turn seems like a good point to step out from amongst the long shadows of ancient stones…


Links at A Year In The Country:


Links elsewhere:


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