Stonehenge and the Secret of the Dance


If there’s one thing the world isn’t short of, it’s thrilling insights, theories and revelations concerning the secrets of Stonehenge, so I’m reluctant to add to this ongoing sum total. As such, I’ll confine myself to a brief observation that I’ve made many times before, which is that if we want a genuine, rewarding and thought-provoking glimpse of the monument through the eyes of our long-dead ancestors, then the best way to do it is through a study of language and through examining the supposed ‘mythology’ attached to the ruins, while there is a cornucopia of such promising material if you care to go in search of it.

I won’t go into this in detail other than to say that I was always intrigued by Geoffrey of Monmouth’s description of Stonehenge as the Chorea Gigantum, or Giants’ Dance, not least because he was uncannily accurate concerning every other aspect of the monument that he wrote of. When you examine the ruins and their full history really closely, you are certain to find that a great many aspects of the place speak clearly and unmistakably of this site being used for dancing, an activity that’s unlikely to leave many tangible signs of its passing, unless you consider the very earliest days of Silbury Hill, for example.

One day, perhaps, I’ll get around to writing about this in a manner that will do the subject full justice, but in the meantime, I would invite you to ponder the words of the American choreographer Merce Cunningham, whose words appear towards the end of this BBC feature: “You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.”


“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.”
Friedrich Nietzcsche

“Almost nobody dances sober, unless they happen to be insane.”
H.P. Lovecraft

This entry was posted in Antiquities, Current Affairs, Dead Poets, Language, Magic & the Supernatural, Silbury Hill, Stonehenge and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Stonehenge and the Secret of the Dance

  1. Not strictly about dancing at Stonehenge, though who knows? I just read Darvill and Wainwright’s report of their 2008 excavation at Stonehenge. In the report they said they discovered a shaft 1.1 metres deep which contained a block of bluestone, abundant Roman pottery, a late Roman (4th century) coin, and a substantial amount of animal bone. This shaft of course recalls the Wilsford Shaft near Stonehenge, which was in use in the Middle Bronze Age and again in the Iron Age, when human and horse bones were placed in it. The whole phenomenon recalls the late Roman site at Wayside Farm near Devizes (Wiltshire), where excavators discovered a midden similar to Early Iron Age middens found at nearby Potterne and All Cannings Cross. Paganism was alive and well in late 4th century Wiltshire, which might well explain how Amesbury acquired such a peculliar saint as Melor, whose story is very similar to the story of the Irish king Nuada (the Nodens of the Roman temple at Lydney Park in Gloucestershire).

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