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He walks and we follow him toward the inner stones, which seem to be placed more randomly, in a row, then that row curves to the left, and there is one extra stone out to the right. He asks me not to take notes. "The oral tradition," is all he says by way of explanation. I leave my new Moleskine travel notebook in my bag.
In front of this row of stones is a concrete marker, about four feet high, which Terry says marks the approximate place where an obelisk once stood. He gestures toward the ring of the Sun Circle, toward a huge rectangular stone: the Vulva stone, he says it's called. When the obelisk was there, on Beltane sunrise it would cast a shadow long enough to touch the Vulva stone. The obelisk, it turns out, was broken up and made into a house nearby - the fate of many stones, whose places are held by little markers based on a survey from the 1600s. The obelisk was measured while it lay on the ground in pieces at about 24 feet tall. Terry says it was really much higher.
The stones in the center mark the astrological signs. About half of them are there; half have markers that were placed there in the 1930s. The sequence, I learn, begins with Capricorn, to the far left as you stand facing the Vulva stone. This marks the direction where the Sun rises on Solstice morning. We are standing inside a vast sundial designed to mark the seasons. The sundial itself is a temple set into the Earth. The seasons marked by this device were the turning points in the cycle of the year and the cycle of human life. In this area there are numerous temples, which both archaeologists and modern Druids believe were part of a complex of sites with related purposes; each is dedicated to a planet. Terry says that Stone Henge, the most famous of them, about an hour's drive away, is the temple to Mars and was the war council chamber. We visited that site yesterday, and from my feeling of the place, his description fits.
Avebury Henge, he says, is the only temple to be equally dedicated to the male and female principles, the Sun and the Moon. From this discussion I can see that astrology is one branch of a much larger ancient system of practice, belief, and ritual, a technical skill of the priesthood that served a functional role of determining and working with the timing of events. We are standing inside the chart.
Every now and then Terry unfolds a leather thing about 10 inches high and looks out at the Sun through it. He explains that it's a piece of glass used in goggles for an oxyacetylene cutting torch, which is as hot as the Sun. He hands me an extra piece, which is about four by six inches. It looks like a sheet of onyx.
As I look through the glass, the world drops into ultra-high contrast and the Sun appears as a perfect disk above the trees, dim and eerie. There is no sign of Venus; it's still only about 6AM and the transit is supposed to begin at about 6:30, when Venus touches the edge of the Sun. It will last about six hours.
More people start to arrive. A pair of witches, women about 55 years old working together, arrive and call a circle, using a piece of string and efficiently marking off 12 points with crystals, like it was some kind of carpentry project. One launches on a brief discussion on how this site is connected via ley lines to many other temples, including the Great Pyramid on the Giza Plateau, where I participated in high ritual in 1996. That connection shoots through my body and I feel the truth of it. They finish their business and head over to the Moon Circle. There is apparently some kind of New Age gathering over there; a Shaman from Massachusetts is performing a ceremony.