Midwinter Solstice sunset on Gussage Down c. Martin Green http://digitaldigging.net/dorset-cursus-monument-map/
OMGG, why didn’t I realise earlier that I’m living on a dragon? On his left front paw to be exact. A living breathing dragon. All the dragon work I’ve been doing seems to have awoken him again. He’s an elemental Earth dragon, who is also an ancestral dragon and a spirit of initiation. He guards a Neolithic Land of the Dead. I’ve had hints enough in the past, but it’s only just clicked.
No wonder my local Flint is so potent. And you wouldn’t believe how many dragon heads, eyes and claws I’ve just picked up on a Flint collection walk at my end of the cursus. Finally, the penny dropped, despite having a Flint dragon head on my doorstep for the last five years – and he’s now looking very smug I must say!
The construction of the Dorset Cursus created a huge spinal earthwork, stamping the landscape through which it crossed with special sacred status.
The cursus is the longest, and oldest, ritual way in England, predating its younger cousin at Stonehenge by a few hundred years. It follows natural spring line and transitional boundaries between changing geologies, creating a liminal space. A place between the worlds. It meanders a little in the beginning, changes direction slightly in the middle, and then points straight at the midwinter sunset on the Down above. I have a strong suspicion that it may have mirrored the night sky above it at certain critical points in the year but I need an archaeoastronomer to confirm that. It links several pairs of even more ancient long barrows that mark moon risings and settings. As my local archaeologist Martin Green, whose farm is in the centre of the cursus, says:
The ancestors associated with the movement of heavenly bodies would become immortal and part of nature itself. Further symbolic meaning is manifest in the position of the Cursus along the spring line where annual flooding events were partly enclosed within the monument. By linking their ancestors with the forces of nature, and the movements of the heavenly bodies through one grand structure, certain individuals were trying to gain control, or appear to have control, over life itself.
In its heyday, the Cursus would have had white chalk banks. Today it is mostly ploughed out and appears as crop marks in dry summers, although there are a few places where the old banks, much eroded, are still visible. Walking the tracks makes the feet tingle – I dowse with my feet so why has it taken so long to recognise a ley? Perhaps because it’s only just come on line again. We’ve been doing a lot of earth-healing work at Knowlton, close by, and several leys run through there, no doubt connecting up with the cursus.
The dragon’s path: map courtesy of Martin Green and Google Earth
This picture shows the lake that formed below the normally dry chalk cliff at Down Farm at the winter solstice 2006. The parallel cursus banks would have enclosed the lake on either side creating a much deeper pool. When I first moved into the nearby village, I wondered why there was a ‘warning: road liable to flooding’ sign at the top of the road. After the first wet winter, I realised that the river actually rose at the foot of the cliff, and used the roadway as its bed until emerging into its pretty summer course further down the road. Chris Tilley, one of the experiential archaeologists I read when writing on sacred landscape for my M.A studies, suggested that the cursus was an initiation way with the outside world hidden by the enclosing banks. I’d add in a battle with the elements on the shortest day of the year. Obstacles had to be overcome, cliffs slid down, water crossed, possibly lashing gales to content with at that time of year so the air element too. And fire? Well, the reward for the initiate would be to scramble up the last hill to view the fiery midwinter sunset. What a rebirth! And what a feeling of accomplishment that would be. Especially if you’d realised you were walking the back of a dragon and then seeing him breathe his fire. Magical.
This quote sums up how I’ve always felt about this particular valley, but you’ll have to substitute Downs (contrarily meaning hills) for mountains.
This was a part of the earth where, it seemed, God got the combination of water, mountains and sky just right.
Robert Ryan After Midnight
I’d like to quote from one of my academic essays, apologies for the language. Anyone of a nervous disposition can skip through it. I’ve removed most of the references but have them if you want to follow it up for yourself.
‘Careful placing of artefacts in graves and monument alignment suggests that the cosmology was, from earliest times animistic, totemic, solar or calendrical, ancestral with an expectation of an afterlife and, latterly at least, fertility based – Martin Green is the custodian of a massive ironstone phallus found locally, out of context so its age and usage cannot be accurately determined but contemporaneous chalk phallus abound in the area [and, of course the Cerne Abbot giant is only down the road]… McOmish suggested this was an initiation site, a ‘proving ground’ and most commentators see it as necrological as there is evidence of excarnation and cremation along its banks in addition to the burial barrows. Tilley feels that it was a ‘conduit for movement, used for initiation rites that reflected its tergiversation and relied upon the disorientation it created. It is not hard to imagine how such a monument worked in terms of initiation ceremonies involving liminal states and rituals of reversal. Novices are taken out of the mundane every day world in the direction of the dying sun, stumble down the concealed ancient river cliff, and then cross wet land to reach the Gussage barrow in the centre of the Cursus. They experience it moving out of sight.. [and returning] when they eventually approach the barrow they.. are instructed with tales of the ancestors and supernatural beings… Climbing out of the Cursus they return to the everyday world.’
Clearly the academic didn’t do the midwinter solstice walk or he’d have realised he would emerge into the roaring fire of the dying sun. Hardly everyday reality and more akin to the myths of ancient Egyptian than the UK.
Walking the Cursus and performing rituals have ‘special time-binding properties’ that access mnemonics linking to the ancestors within the landscape and Barnatt points out how such a site gradually unfolds its mysteries through what is seen or unseen at any given moment, something that can only be appreciated on the ground itself.
It can be suggested that the Cursus is a timeless necroscape infused with a meaning no longer apprehensible but, sitting beside a long barrow, it is not difficult to conjure up a vision of ancient necromancy, to those with a sensitised imagination ancestral spirits remain close at hand. The Cursus was an imaginal realm of pathways and nodal points that drew together pre-existing facets of cosmicized landscape and highlighted Eliade’s discordant and fragmented space. As Keane points out, mythtellers have long spoken of a boundary between the otherworld that is the source of life and this present world where life manifests. The boundary serves to prevent one world from contaminating the other and the Cursus could be argued to be such a boundary. With only one entrance, the Cursus forms a ‘huge spinal earthwork, stamping the landscape… with special sacred status’, encompassing non-locational space and consolidating ritual activity within its bounds. It can best be participated in.
The early Chase landscape was constructed during the astrological age of Taurus and a Neolithic burial near Down Farm contained a carefully placed cow skull with deer antlers forming the horns. Without further knowledge of the intention behind the placement in the burial, it cannot be retrojected that this represents Taurus. Martin Green is of the opinion that this is a totem object representing a bull but he is unable to speculate whether it had cosmological connotations. However, the suggestion has been made on at least two websites that nearby Knowlton henges [a later construction than the cursus] mirror the constellation of Taurus, potentially creating a cosmicized imaginal realm, but, apart from unattributed ‘ancient star maps’ posted on the site, there is little development of the theme nor comparison with the site plan, and it looks unconvincing. Nevertheless, the suggestion has been reported on several websites as ‘fact’ and has arisen during conversations at Knowlton, illustrating how quickly myths develop about the purpose of a site.
So much more fun to be riding on the back of a dragon. But oh how I do wish I’d recognised it as a dragon line back then. I could have made a good academic case for it. But perhaps it’s better to have an intuition recognition. After all, I’m surrounded by dragons above and below me. We have some pretty powerful ones in these parts. They often provide inspiration for my writing.
 Kaulins, Andis, ‘ England, East Dorset, Knowlton Rings = Taurus and Hyades’ on http://www.megaliths.co.uk/knowltonrings/htm consulted 3.5.2005 and 9.04.2006. This page now appears to be defunct but similar information appears on www.megaliths.net
Not that I’m distressed by change or the thought of the New, I’ve been actively encouraging it to manifest. But it does explain why the Cursus Flint is such a good grounding and protection tool. I’ve just bought a large stone-tumbler so will have some polished ones for sale on www.angeladditions.co.uk soon.
If you want to learn more about the crystal dragons, take a look at The Crystal Skulls
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