SACRED SITES IN ENGLAND, PART 6: BATH, STANTON DREW, MAZES & LABYRINTHS

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

Mazes and labyrinths mystify us; they are beautiful in an ancient symbolic language we no longer understand. What was the purpose behind mazes and labyrinths? The similarity of their design to cup-and-ring patterns is striking and suggests that they may have had a ritual function…to have involved dancing and walking – as an act of penance or, more fundamentally, as a means of attuning or meditation.

Earlier mazes had one single convoluted path which eventually leads to the center. Carvings with this pattern are to be found in Rocky Valley, near Tintagel, Cornwall, estimated to be carved around 1500 BC. Later on, as with the Hampton Court Palace maze, many routes through the labyrinth were used as a means to confuse and bewilder the maze-goer. In early Christian theology, the path into the labyrinth was regarded as the path of ignorance leading to Hell, with Christ the Savior showing the way out. In some societies, labyrinth designs have been drawn on houses as a form of magic intended to confused evil spirits and prevent them from entering the home. Graves and burial mounds of labyrinthine design are believed not only to protect the dead but also to prevent their spirits from returning to trouble the living.

Famous labyrinths are also to be found at the Glastonbury Tor, England, Chartres Cathedral, France, at the Palace of Knossos in Crete, and on the Island of Gotland, off Norway. Hundreds or even thousands may have existed at various times in Iceland, Britain, and throughout Europe, particularly in the Baltic countries, where hundreds of stone labyrinths are scattered around the Baltic Sea.

Stanton Drew

Stanton Drew, a little-known English Heritage historical site not usually visited on public tours, is located between Glastonbury and Bath. This sacred site is hidden in Richard Young’s 37-acre pasture, next door to a pub appropriately named The Druid Arms. The tiny sign announcing it is almost obscured, its metal letters rusting on the fence. The huge stones seem to be recklessly strewn in careless circles around the pasture full of docile sheep contentedly munching grass. Surely this can’t be a sacred site, can it? Compared to its colossal neighbor Stonehenge, Stanton Drew seems like an afterthought, a garbage dump for unwanted stones.

But looks aren’t everything. As our metaphysical tour group (Gothic Tours) walked closer to the stones, we could almost feel the ground vibrating under our feet. Our hands tingled as we touched the stones. In the center of the area was a particular rock with what appeared to be a "throne" carved into it. As I sat on the throne, I could feel memories buzz past me, a simple yet magnificent people engaging in enormous power and wisdom that has been forgotten over the millennia. As if on cue, we each found an individual rock to lie down on. For the next few hours we were lost in a blank canvas of meditation, floating on a peaceful internal sea, devoid of feeling, yet filled with inexpressible knowledge. One of our group (Isabel) "became" psychic at Stanton Drew, her third eye chakra opening to new revelations, and was born a healer in that moment. Our group intuitive consensus was that Stanton Drew is very powerful, perhaps even a training ground for that later endeavor called Stonehenge.

Then eighteen months later, much to my surprise, (I thought no one knew about this place) I found an article on Stanton Drew in the Los Angeles Times. Using geophysical archaeology, the ground under Stanton Drew was x-rayed and without digging. The experts found the remains of a nine-ring wooden temple, encircled by an enormous henge, twice the diameter of Stonehenge.

Stanton Drew is thought to have been built about 3000 BC, four centuries before both the Pyramid of Khufu at Giza and Stonehenge were begun. Two to three centuries later, the wooden structure was replaced by the stones as they are today. This site was unearthed thanks to a newly developed and highly sensitive magnetometer, which measures the concentration of iron and oxides underground. In effect, the machine showed the regular pattern of the postholds through residues or rock and decayed wood. Move over, Stonehenge!!

Roman Baths, Bath, England

Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Center

My two tour friends Donna and Isabel and I were inexplicably drawn to Bath, an 18th century elegant Georgian-styled city of lavish architecture and graceful charm, seen in the films A ROOM WITH A VIEW (produced by Merchant/Ivory) and PERSUASION (based on a Jane Austen novel). For centuries pilgrims have traveled to Bath to "take" the healing mineral water there.

How could Bath be a sacred site? It certainly wasn’t on our itinerary, but somehow we HAD to go! So our tour leader Jamie George of Gothic Tours graciously drove us there and dropped us off, leaving us to find our own way back to our B & B by local bus.

The spires of Bath Abbey called to us, and we quickly looked inside, but that wasn’t what we had come for. As we wandered through the modern streets of the unfamiliar, bustling city, we stumbled upon a museum, which turned out to be the goal of our mission. The museum held the excavated remnants of a huge Roman Temple complex dedicated in 75 AD to Sulis Minerva, a water goddess presiding over the only hot springs in England. The clever Romans had created a complex system of plumbing, drawing the supra-heated water into many separate bathing chambers, the water cooling as it traveled through the pipes. One chamber was used exclusively for healing physical ailments. The Romans weren’t the first to discover the hot springs, but were used for centuries by neolithic people before them. In another part of the museum, we saw the scale model of the ancient prehistoric community as it may have looked thousands of years ago.

Parts of the excavated temples and the large communal bath itself were open for view and we eagerly walked through them, feeling chills on our skin. "I was here," we kept saying to each other, shaking our heads in confusion. Then we saw the Lion Head, which had been originally mounted on the main temple fascade. We literally stopped in our tracks and became speechless while our skin prickled with recognition -- because we "remembered" it.

For those of you who might doubt our past-life recognition, you can read my article on Glastonbury. We three Water Babies (Pisces, Cancer and Scorpio) had already recollected a life together in that English town which is like a combination of medieval and hippie cultures.

Souls often return to familiar areas, or to those that are significant in some way. After much consulting and excited giggling, we decided we had been Romans first, then went on to reincarnate in nearby Glastonbury at a later time. And we had found our way to both places yet again - together!!

This was a profound object lesson for me – to make sure I pay attention to messages from my body/mind wisdom (like wanting to go to Bath), even when it makes no sense. Needless to say, my friends and I are permanently bonded and thank goodness we all live close together (again) in Southern California. This is another good reason to visit sacred sites with like-minded individuals. You never know what friends you will uncover!

THE ATLAS OF HOLY PLACES AND SACRED SITES, Colin Wilson, DK Publishing, New York, New York, 1996

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