Stonehenge at midwinter had been bleak. Wet, windy, with empty bellies, full of discomfort. Discomfort, though, had been appropriate to the purpose and the season. In some years the snow fell early, and there were those who saw this as a favorable omen, silently merging the landscape into the Great White. It was certainly more cheerful whilst the snow was fresh. Last year there had been no snow, but there had been cold winds, driving and eddying downpours of rain, hissing and keening around the Stones. Not even the small fire which Tradition permitted at the centre had been possible, nor would it’s warmth have availed even those closest to it, although that indeed was not it’s purpose. In some years there was an atmosphere of peace, even of joy and exaltation as the sun slowly arose in a clear still morning, beginning to strengthen for a new round of days, and the noble spirits amongst the recently dead made their passage to join it, opening the way and so assisting those souls and spirits of lesser capacity who could follow but not initiate. Last year had not been like that. No Great One had died recently, or been present at the ceremony to bless it from either side of the Portals of Life and Death. The atmosphere had reflected unquiet earthbound spirits, who did “rage, rage against the passing of the light” because they lacked sufficient inner light to make a good Passage. For them a different ceremony had been required. All night the drums had muttered, thundered, howled and growled in concert with the weather. The pipes had shrieked and moaned like lost souls themselves. The storm intensified, lightning flickered in the murky clouds. The Old Priest had writhed and leapt, apparently in a trance of frenzy, spittle and gibberish spilling from his rain-lashed lips, until with a great scream his foot had stamped and his staff struck the earth at the same time as a mighty clap of thunder and a lightning bolt which singed the air and temporarily seared the eyeballs of the participants,signaled the acceptance of the Gods.
Midsummer at Avebury was quite different. The weather was excellent, the landscape was dotted with crowds of cheerful people, talking, walking, watching and taking part in the sporting events, picnicing, playing with children, chaffering with the hucksters and applauding the performers of tricks and plays. All the fun of the Fair.This was the most popular of the annual festivals, attracting the largest crowds, and transacting the most public business most publicly. Private and public, death and life, winter and summer, this world and the Otherworld, each has its place and it’s business and the requirements of all must be met.
Alvin Wendover considered that Wessex was lucky. Through the favour of the Gods, and the work and wisdom of ancient men, long forgotten but still admired, Wessex and it’s people had inherited the greatest and most famous and awe inspiring collection of megalithic monuments amongst the three kingdoms into which the Island of the Mighty was now divided, and he did not think there was a superior set in the rest of the world. Also, although not strictly megalithic, the exposed chalk of the Downs displayed the great hill figures and the eerie ramparts of the duns most impressively, shining white amidst the green, revealing the Great White of the Otherworld hinting of the accessibility of its allure and permanence within and underlying the mutability of the everyday world. Although not greatly talented or favoured, he himself had stood at the head of the White Horse and learned directly from the horse’s mouth. He had entered the portal opened and guarded by the Long Man. In a minor capacity he helped to restore and extend the great network of sacred places which mediated the Powers within the Land for the collective and individual benefit of those of the land. Much more recent than the very ancient times in which this relationship had been established and focused with sacred places had been the Evil Old Times when the sacred had been scorned, denied, derided, perverted and ignored. The Island of the Mighty had instead become a den of thieves, corpocrats and socialists, bureaucrats and parasitical invaders, avaricious, atheist or islamist, materialistic, canting, contemptuous, cruel and ultimately destructive first of others and finally of themselves. As in the old Grail story of the knights of an evil king who had raped and despoiled the fountain maidens whose bounty had at first been freely offered, so they had maltreated the land and it’s inhabitants. Now, Alvin was one of those who worked at healing and correcting those imbalances and preventing a recurrence. He enjoyed the festival but he had more important business here.