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Appropriately, with the coming of All Hallows Eve tomorrow, we have now concluded our ‘Tarot Tuesday’ series, which attempted to link archaeological monuments to the cards of the Major Arcana.

For ease of reference, the cards (and the sites we selected for them) are listed below, linking back to the original articles.

The card meanings which we based our site selections on were taken from the Trusted Tarot website. The card images were taken from the Original Rider Waite Tarot Deck, conceived by A E Waite and designed by Pamela Colman Smith.

We hope you enjoyed the series as much as we did preparing it, but if you think our subjective choice of sites is incorrect for any card, please feel free to comment either here or against the original posts linked above.

And so we reach the end. The final card in our Tarot draw is card I, the first of the Major Arcana, The Magician.

The Magician: “Confident, Creative, Important communications, Skillful, Talented & proficient

The last site we shall be visiting in this series certainly has a magical look about it. The capstone at Pentre Ifan seems to hover inexplicably in the air, delicately balanced on the very tips of three of the six remaining upright stones.

This famous Pembrokeshire dolmen is around 5500 years old and is thought to have been originally covered by an earthen mound. The 16-tonne capstone was skillfully created to have a completely flat bottom and was confidently raised 8 feet above the ground to rest on three uprights. Such a feat shows just how talented and proficient the megalithic builders were.

The site was excavated by Grimes in 1936-7, who suggested that it’s design was influenced by prehistoric contacts with Ireland. More recent research suggests the tomb was built by local communities but may have been influenced by Irish culture and contact (important communications?) during a later stage of its use.

I find it difficult to imagine such a creatively designed monument being hidden under a mound, and have to wonder where (and how) all the earth disappeared, leaving just the remaining seven stones.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

And so our journey through the Major Arcana cards of the Tarot deck is finally concluded. If you’ve enjoyed this series and agree (or disagree!) with any of our selections please let us know.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

The penultimate card in our Tarot draw is card X of the Major Arcana, Wheel of Fortune.

Wheel of Fortune: “Change, Destiny, Good luck, Lifecycles, New direction

Previous sites in this series have largely had an obvious connection to the drawn card. Our site this week is a very personal choice, and possibly the most subjective one in the series. Some years ago I managed to get my mobility-impaired wife to this site (with some difficulty).

After visiting each of the stones in turn, she told me “this used to be a court!” On further questioning, she insisted that each stone had a particular feeling and that judgements or decisions over disputes would be made at each stone for a particular issue.

The stone circle at Boscawen-Un was erected in the Bronze Age. A Bardic group (Cornish: Gorsedd) may have existed in this area, because in the Welsh Triads from the 6th century AD, a Gorsedd of Beisgawen of Dumnonia is named as one of the big three Gorsedds of Poetry of the Island of Britain. (Wikipedia)

The feelings that she received from each stone (clockwise from the quartz stone in the west) were as follows:

  • Court/Legal
  • Fishing
  • Love/Honour
  • Home
  • unreadable/odd
  • Children
  • Wealth
  • Crops
  • Sun
  • Sight/Visions
  • Pentagram/Star
  • Tin Mines
  • Comfort/Safety/Ownership
  • White/Brightness
  • Revenge
  • Cattle/Livestock
  • Birth/Infants
  • Travel/Protection

If the circle was used for such purposes, it would certainly have lead to change or new directions for those involved in such decisions. A true ‘Wheel of Fortune’!

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

Only three cards left in our weekly draw and this week’s is card 00 of the Major Arcana, The Fool.

The Fool: “Carefree, Foolish, Important decisions, New beginnings, Optimistic

The Fool is considered a powerful card associated with new beginnings and the closure of old ways. With this in mind, today we look briefly at one of the major changes between the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, that of funerary practices.

In simple terms, during the Neolithic the remains of the dead would often be dismembered and the bones collectively held in chambered tombs such as West Kennet Long Barrow, Wayland’s Smithy etc. As the Bronze Age began this trend for communal burial began to fade out, to be replaced by single (crouched) burials and cremation practices. So rather than chambered tombs holding the remains of many people jumbled together, the dead would be placed individually in barrows such as those found at today’s site: the Winterbourne Poor Lot Barrows.

© Google Maps

This Bronze Age barrow cemetery, dissected by the modern A35 road in Dorset, consists of some 44 separate barrows of different types including bell, disc, and bowl barrows, and can be easily viewed in passing from the main road. Many of the barrows have never been excavated.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

This week’s draw in our ongoing series is card VIII of the Major Arcana, Strength.

Strength: “Energy, Facing problems, Strength, Vitality, Willpower

One of the great mysteries of the Neolithic period concerns exactly how the monuments were constructed. The question of how much energy and manpower would be needed when facing the problems of monument construction has been investigated and various theories have been put forward by experimental archaeologists. But it’s only when looking at one of the largest capstones in Britain that the real strength and willpower needed becomes apparent.

Image © Jane Tomlinson

The capstone of Tinkinswood Burial Chamber weighs around 40 tons and it has been estimated that upwards of 200 people would have been needed to shift it into position.

Tinkinswood is a fine example of the Cotswold/Severn regional type: a long wedge-shaped cairn, containing a rectangular stone chamber and would have originally been covered with an earthen mound. When excavated in 1914 over 900 human bones from at least 40 individuals were discovered in the single chamber, the vast majority of which had been broken. At this time one of the supports was ‘renovated’ with a brick built replacement.

Nearly 100 years later, a community archaeology project identified that the capstone, thought to have been quarried locally, was not from the assumed location at all. The origin of the stone has yet to be identified.

Tinkinswood from “On the St Lythans and St Nicholas’ Cromlechs and other remains near Cardiff.” JW Lukis, in Archaeologia Cambrensis 6.22 (April 1875).

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

The drawn card this week is card III of the Major Arcana, The Moon.

The Moon: “Be careful, Caution, Confusion, Delusion, Risk

For this week’s card, we’re not highlighting a specific site, but instead are concentrating on a monument class, that of the FOGOU.

The name comes from the Cornish word ‘fogo’ meaning ‘a cave’ and belongs to a group of monuments also found in Brittany, Ireland, and Scotland, collectively known as Souterrains. The Cornish fogous belong to the later Iron Age and Roman period.

© Craig Weatherhill

Fogous are associated with settlements and usually consist of a long curving main passage, with one or two blind subsidiary passages known as ‘creeps’.

Caution is needed when entering these structures as low blocking stones provide trip hazards in many of them, and head injuries from the low ceilings are a constant risk. In many fogous, such as that at Halligye, Pendeen or Boleigh a sense of confusion can be experienced within the darkness of the creeps.

The main passage at Carn Euny. The creep can just be seen on the right at the far end.

There are several theories as to the function of fogous: food storage or animal housing, a place of concealment, and spiritual/ritual usages have all been put forward but none of these have been explained in a convincing manner as yet.

Recommended reading:

Fogou, Gateway to the Underworld by Jo May

Mother and Sun: Cornish Fogou by Ian Cooke

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

As we continue our series, the drawn card this week is card XV of the Major Arcana, The Devil.

The Devil: “Anger, Jealousy and resentment, Self-delusion, Selfishness, Violence

This week’s site certainly covers most of the interpretations of the Devil card. Investigated by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in the 1930’s, Maiden Castle in Dorset was still in use at the time of the Roman conquest and was thought to have been the site of a major battle between the Romans and the inhabitants (the Durotriges).

Certainly, the site would have produced feelings of resentment and jealousy amongst any attackers, being the largest and most complex Iron Age hillfort in Britain.

Image Credit: © Environment Agency copyright and/or database right 2015.

The site was actually begun in the Neolithic era as a simple enclosure, and over time was extended and expanded to the extent that we see today.

Wheeler’s findings have been revisited and further analysed over time, and it is now thought that many of the more than 52 bodies in the so-called ‘War Cemetery’ potentially pre-date the Roman conquest. But it is in no doubt is that many of the dead met violent deaths.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

The Tarot Tuesday card this week is card XIII of the Major Arcana, Death.

Death: “End, New beginning, Loss, Dramatic change, Destruction

Our associated site this week is one that lay hidden for thousands of years, returned to the public eye and was controversially ‘saved’ from eventual destruction and now resides in a museum.

Seahenge (Holme I) has connotations of death, both in its structure and suggested use as a mortuary enclosure for excarnation before it was eventually lost to the encroaching sea. For more than 4000 years the waves did their work in producing a dramatic change in the structure of the site before it emerged once again to start a new ‘life’ as a museum exhibit.

The monument contained an uprooted and inverted oak tree stump (possibly used for excarnation) surrounded by close fitting planed posts forming an enclosure. a forked trunk provided a narrow opening to the interior. Theories about the site have focused on the idea of inversion, as represented by the upside-down central tree stump and a single post turned 180 degrees from the others within the circle itself.

The site was rediscovered in 1998, with a trial excavation the following year. This was soon followed by a full rescue excavation, which was the subject of a Time Team Special:

The recovered timbers were transported fifty miles away to the Fenland Archaeology Trust’s field centre at Flag Fen in Cambridgeshire, where it immediately underwent conservation by being immersed in fresh water. After cleaning and scanning the timbers then underwent a process of conservation, being continually soaked in wax-emulsified water to slowly (over years) replace the moisture in the wood with wax.

This process was continued at the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth until the work was complete. The timbers were then returned to Kings Lynn museum, close to the original location, where a reconstruction was built in 2008.

Seahenge recreated. © Tim Clark

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

We are now 2/3 through our Tarot Tuesday series, and entering the home straight. The drawn card this week is card III of the Major Arcana, The Empress.

The Empress: “Abundant creativity, Fertility, Fulfillment, Mother figure, Productivity

For today’s card, we visit a site in Cumbria, one of the largest stone circles in England. Imbued with the standard legend of dancers turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath. In this case the people involved were a mother witch, Long Meg, and her daughters.

Long Meg is of course the Mother figure of the monument, Fertility is displayed by the number of daughters – 59 stones at present, but possibly as many as 77 in the past – and the Abundant creativity aspect is apparent by the mysterious symbols, including cup and ring marks, a spiral, and rings of concentric circles carved into Long Meg herself.

Image © Moth Clark

The monument consists of 59 megalithic stones arranged in an oval shape measuring 100 meters on its long axis.

Long Meg is the tallest and most famous stone in the monument, measuring 12.5 feet (3.8) meters in height and situated 109 yards (25 meters) outside the circle positioned towards the southwest, where (when standing in the center of the circle) the midwinter sun would have set.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

The 14th card in our Tarot Tuesday draw is card IXX of the Major Arcana, The Sun.

The Sun: “Abundance, Achievement, Joy, Productivity, Success

The Sun is a card full of life, joy, and energy. It reveals positive achievements, successful endeavors, and an overall manifestation of good fortune in your life.

Creation of a stone circle back in prehistory would certainly have been considered an achievement. So how much more of an achievement would a multiple circle be considered?

Photo courtesy of Mark Camp

Yellowmead on Dartmoor consists of not one, two or three, but four circles, one within the other, which were identified and restored in 1921 after a fire had destroyed the heather which hid the stones. A survey and small excavation in 2008 determined that the restoration had indeed been performed accurately.

Of course, it could be argued that any circle will reflect the shape of the sun, but in this case, the multiple circles accentuate the effect, and would doubt have bought joy to the builders for their successful endeavours.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Let us know in the comments.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.


February 2020
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