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We are now 1/3 through our Tarot Tuesday journey, and the drawn card this week is card V of the Major Arcana, The Hierophant.

The Hierophant: “Approval, Conformity, Consent, Good advice, Marriage or Union

Interpreting the Tarot can be a very conflicting process. An initial response to the drawing of any card can often be the correct one, but then again meditation upon a card may find other, more subtle meanings.

For this card, we are sticking with our initial reaction and taking the Marriage or Union aspect as the one to follow. In Somerset, the village of Stanton Drew is home to a complex of megalithic sites known collectively as The Weddings, which seems an appropriate match for this card.

Aerial photo copyright JJ Evendon (from the Megalithic Portal)

The complex includes the second largest stone circle in England (after Avebury), two further stone circles, an avenue, a cove and the remains of a nearby quoit. We have previously covered many of the folklore stories associated with the Stanton Drew sites here on the Heritage Journal.

Geophysics work in 2004 and 2009 (PDF link) evidenced much more complexity to the site than can be seen at face value. The results demonstrated that the site is a ruin of a much more elaborate and important site than had previously been dreamed of, with a series of nine concentric circles of pits being discovered. Could the concentricity of the circles of pits be considered as the Conformity aspect of the card?

Do you agree with our interpretations so far? Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a message in the comments

Previous articles in this series are listed here.

Our Tarot Tuesday card this week is card XVII of the Major Arcana, The Star.

The Star: “Calm and serenity, Destiny, Hope, Opportunity, Renewal

Many Tarot deck designs show a Star with either 7 or 8 points, above a woman pouring water from two pitchers. Our site for this card is certainly star-shaped, though with only 5 points, and lies between two branches of a stream which converge some 3-400m to the north, to empty into Newport Bay on the Pembrokeshire coast a further .5km away.

Aerial view of Cerrig y Gof, Newport, taken by C.R. Musson, 1993

Cerrig Y Gof is a megalithic tomb some 2km west of Newport. It consists of a badly damaged central mound with five rectangular cists or chambers placed around its edge, giving the star-shape.

At the western end of the Cerrig y Gof field is a stream, and the road bridge over it has an interesting name: Pont Heb Wybod (“bridge without knowledge”). Dyfed HER pages mention that it was recorded earlier as Pont y Wibod (“bridge of knowledge”).

Four of the five chambered tombs are aligned on local landmarks – Carningli, Dinas Head, Mynydd Dinas and Mynydd Melyn.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card?

See our other subjective Tarot associations here.

Another Tarot Tuesday, and another card. This week, we look at The High Priestess, card II of the Major Arcana.

The High Priestess: “Feminine influences, Insightful, Mystery, Understanding, Wisdom

This week we turn our attention to landscape mysteries, and a beauty sleeping in the landscape of the Isle of Lewis in Scotland; “Cailleach na Mointeach”, or the Old Woman of the Moors.

Visible from the stones at the Callanish III stone circle, every 18.5 years, the moon rises between the two stones of the circle which frame the ‘face’ of the Old Woman of the Moors. This surely displays the wisdom of the ancients in siting the circle so precisely aligned to the Lunar movements. Much more can be read about the monument and its alignments here.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card?

See our other subjective Tarot associations here.

The next card drawn for Tarot Tuesday is The Tower, card XVI of the Major Arcana.

The Tower: “Destruction, Dramatic change, Loss and ruin, New start, Unexpected events

An ominous card. Portraying disruption, conflict, unforeseen and traumatic events.

When thinking of a tower, the first monuments that come to mind are the Scottish brochs, all of which are now in a ruinous state, and whose function is still not fully understood. But this does not fit the ‘destruction and dramatic change’ aspect of the card. Thus we must look elsewhere for an interpretation.

It has been suggested that the coming of the Romans was a factor in the building of the brochs as fortified strongholds. Whether this is the case or no, the Roman period was certainly a time of dramatic change in Britain, and for at least two major settlements, a time of unexpected loss and ruin, and a new start.

I’m talking of course of the destruction wrought by the Queen of the Iceni, Boudicca, upon the towns of Camulodonum (Colchester) and Verulamium (modern day St Albans).

A section of Roman Wall, alongside the River Ver.

We have reported in the past on a project to geo-survey the area within and around Verulamium, which provides a good indication of the extent of the town at the time of the attack. The town, of course, had a new start and was later rebuilt to become an important centre for the church. St Albans Abbey, the remains of the Roman town in nearby Verulamium Park and the associated museum are all well worth a visit.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card?

See our other subjective Tarot interpretations here.

As we continue drawing the cards from our Tarot deck, in hopes of using the cards’ meanings to subjectively identify suitable prehistoric monuments, the next card drawn is The World, card XXI of the Major Arcana.

The World: “Certainty, Completion, Positive, Reward, Satisfaction

What better illustrates the world than a circle? A circular horizon, encompassing all that can be seen, the whole world from a single point. There are so many wonderful stone circles to choose from but in this instance, we head north to Cumbria, and the Sunkenkirk circle at Swinside.

Image © George Hopkins via http://www.geograph.co.uk

Walking the track for a mile or so from the nearest road is certainly satisfying as the circle comes into view and grows larger as you approach it.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card?

The next Tarot Tuesday card drawn in our series is Justice, card XI of the Major Arcana.

Justice: “Balance, Equality, Fairness, Justice, Law and legal matters

The important aspects of this card imply a positive resolution for victims, whilst for perpetrators, it can be a warning to change your ways before retribution is wrought.

Once again we can turn to the current situation at Stonehenge, and consider the fairness of the tunnel, from the perspective of the site itself. How would the ancestors who developed the landscape over so many years feel about what can be seen as a desecration of their work? Would they see it as a desecration, and what retribution would they bring upon those who are involved in the decision making?

Only time will tell if there will be a legal challenge to the tunnel, or maybe even a protest encampment similar to that seen in the past at Newbury and Winchester…

Which heritage site would you associate with this card?

Tarot Tuesday! The next card drawn in our series is The Lovers, card VI of the Major Arcana.

The Lovers: “Attachment or combination, Conflicting choices, Partners, Relationships, Union

The important aspects of this card all seem to point to the fact that the Lovers represent perfection, harmony and mutual attractiveness.

The obvious linkage to a heritage site is one that has both male and female aspects, and the obvious choice in this respect must be the West Kennet Avenue stones in Wiltshire.

West Kennet Avenue

The Avenue winds its way across the landscape for a distance of about 2.3 km., linking the henge enclosure and stone circle at Avebury to the site known as the Sanctuary on Overton Hill. It runs approximately south-east from the from the henge to the Sanctuary, following a somewhat sinuous course. In the best preserved 800 metre section there are 27 upright stones with heights ranging from 1.6 metres to 3.3 metres.

The stones of the avenue are of male and female types and have been deliberately erected in pairs with a male stone facing a female stone and vice versa along the length of the avenue. The female stones are crudely diamond shaped, whilst the male stones are more pillar-like.

But the Lovers has another interpretation, indicating a choice between two conflicting paths. As Plant and Page put it so eloquently:

Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on

Sticking with the Avenue at West Kennet, if we follow it through to the Avebury circle, could this choice be depicted by the two avenues which used to exist, starting from the circle?

Which heritage site would you associate with this card?

The first card to be drawn in our Tarot Tuesday series is The Chariot, card VII of the Major Arcana.

The Chariot: “Journey, Progression, Strong character, Success from effort, Transportation and movement

An interesting first card, as we certainly have a journey ahead of us as we progress through our archaeological tarot.

The transportation and movement aspect suggests that we could easily link this card with the issues centered around the A303 road at Stonehenge at the moment. Strong character, and the control elements this implies, and ‘success from effort‘ could indicate that the Stonehenge Alliance could well be successful in their campaign to halt the development of the tunnel. Equally, it could be implied that the government will force through the tunnel at all costs – this duality of potential outcomes is shown by the black/white symbolism of the steeds on the card. Who will emerge victorious?

Interestingly, another interpretation of this card is it’s relationship to the Tree of Life, and the Hebrew letter Cheth, meaning Fence or Enclosure. The Hebrew symbol for Cheth looks remarkably like a trilithon, giving another link to Stonehenge for this card.

 

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? 

Welcome to a new series, ‘Tarot Tuesday’.

Most people know of the Tarot as a system of divination using a special deck of cards. What is less well known is that the Tarot is based on a pack of playing cards, used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play games such as Italian tarocchini and French tarot. In the late 18th century, it began to be used for divination in the form of tarotology and cartomancy – see Wikipedia for more details.

There are two main sections to the Tarot as used in divination, known the Major and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, with which we shall concern ourselves in this brief series.

Many interpretations have been placed upon the cards, dependent upon which divination system you follow, and many designs have been created over the years, covering just about any subject you care to name. Possibly the most well known of the decks available today is the Rider-Waite Tarot, the Major Arcana designs of which are based on the Tarot de Marseilles.

 

What we shall be doing in this series of posts over the coming weeks is attempting to link the Major Arcana cards to archaeological heritage sites in our own inimitable way, using the generally accepted divinatory meanings for each card as our guide. Hopefully, this will become self-explanatory as the series continues. Whilst illustrations will largely be taken from Rider-Waite, other deck images may be used from time to time, and will be acknowledged as required.

The cards will not be drawn in sequence, but on a random basis, so that no-one, not even me, will know in advance what the subject of the next card in the series will be. Of course, all interpretations are subjective, so please feel free to comment as to which monument comes to mind for you as we explore each card. Those familiar with the Tarot may draw their own conclusions as to the order in which the cards appear.

Alice Farnsworth is back, to answer another reader’s archaeological query. Don’t forget to send in your questions, and you may be lucky enough to get your own answer from Alice!

 

 

 


Q. As the old adage goes: ‘Take only photographs, leave only footprints‘, but don’t footprints cause erosion to delicate sites? How can I minimise my interactions with our ancient sites, given that I feel visiting a site in person is the only way for me to truly experience it?

A. Ha! Yes, it’s true that footfall is a major cause of erosion at our ancient sites, especially at the more popular sites. For instance, the banks at Avebury have often been fenced off to allow the soil to recover from visitors.

There is no simple answer to this question. one way to minimise impact would be to only view sites from a distance (as enforced at Stonehenge), but I can see that this is unsatisfactory in many ways. Limiting your visits to sites that are much less popular with tourists would allow you to gain the interaction you seek. But remember that many of the lesser known sites are on private land where permission may be needed to visit them, or may be off the beaten track with the safety issues that that implies.

Ensuring that you only visit in periods of suitable weather will also reduce the impact of your visit, as fragile sub-surface archaeology can be unwittingly damaged when the ground is sodden. But beware if the weather has been too dry, as the ground underfoot may then crumble and erode, and again, archaeological evidence could be destroyed.

Of course, when visiting any ancient or historical site, you should always attempt to remove any rubbish left behind by others less considerate than yourself, and of course, ensure you do not leave any detritus of your own.

In short, enjoy your visit, and leave the site as you would hope to find it – in its natural state.


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