Staverton Park is a bold, otherworldly punctuated verse in the East Anglian sacred landscape, potentially unspoilt for nearly two thousands years. Few places on earth touch the soul as deeply, be this the mighty contorted oaks in the park itself, home to one of the largest collections of ancient trees in the whole of Europe, or the sheer overwhelming density of the trees in the area known as The Thicks.
Staverton is a place of mystery and wonder; it has a peculiar effect on first-time visitors who have no foreknowledge that the world contains such places.
Rackham, O (1986)*
Jeremy’s research and personal experience of this enchanting and eerily evocative landscape invites us to re-evaluate our understanding of the sites relationship with the more widely known sacred settings of the surrounding Wuffing kingdom in nearby Sutton Hoo, Snape and Rendlesham.
As with his previous study ‘A Ritual Landscape Considered’, we hope that Jeremy’s new research shines a light on this richly integrated environment; a landscape like no other, one that resonates so strongly today just as much as it deeply connects us to the ancestors of the Suffolk Sandlings.
Lying at the heart of all these traditions, in one way or another, is a clear sense that the arboreal or horticultural setting – whether natural or constructed – presented a sacred space in which individuals, through meditation, prayer and reflection, might open their minds to commune with supernatural powers.
Bintley, M.D.J (2015)**
Staverton – Wonderland of Kings: Part 2: Skyscapes and landscapes of the Wuffing Kingdom
This work will explore how this ritually planned landscape is integrated within systematic sites that were chosen for their mythological and cosmological functions.
The oak woods at Staverton are the forests of childhood, the forests of dreams. Here perhaps more than anywhere else I have ever been, the forest of the imagination materialises, becomes actual; here perhaps more than anywhere else I have ever been, a smallish piece of ancient deciduous woodland opens into the world of magic, the place of fairy story that we inhabited as children and lost, I had thought, for ever.
Maitland, S. (2012)***
* Rackham, O (1986) The History of the Countryside: The Classic History of Britain’s landscape, flora and fauna ** Bintley, M.D.J (2015) Trees in the Religions of Early Medieval England *** Maitland, S. (2012) Gossip from the Forest: the Tangled Roots of our Forests and Fairytales
Far away from the mind boggling complexity of the pyramids of Giza, yet equally compelling, sit seven sites of mythic antiquity whose geomantic and geometric design collectively creates a beautiful and vast heptagon in the landscape. The distances between the locations and the dimension of this symbol has been faithfully duplicated at other locations in Southern Britain, consciously created and designed to personify a harmonious fusion between temple proportion, the Earth’s circumference and ancient units of measure.
I was seduced into reading it. It’s wealth of antiquarian detail is woven around a core of mystical knowledge.
FORWARD – BY DAVID FURLONG
Making sense of the faint echoes from an ancient culture is a slow and painstaking task, relying as much on intuition as hard factual evidence. We all know of great monuments like Stonehenge and Avebury but what sort of people built these amazing edifices and what other secrets might they have woven into the landscape? In today’s culture we link our cities by road, rail and electricity grid networks. Perhaps our ancestors had the same idea but from a slightly different perspective.
In this study on the Suffolk landscape Jeremy Taylor has spent long hours researching obscured landscape traces that reach back in time more than four thousand years. His discoveries point to a connection with the landscape that can be expressed in geometric terms. Simple geometry discovered by a peg, stick marker and a length of string, scratched into the dirt on the ground, must have seemed a magical operation to an ancient people. Perhaps it was a way of understanding the two great astronomical bodies in the sky – the sun and the moon and the attendant patterns of the night time sky – perhaps it was just a fascination with the way that lines, circles and number could be combined. Whatever the impulse what we do know is that megalithic man built huge structures that reflected this symbolism. It is not too much of a jump to postulate that he/she might have wanted to express these same principles on a macrocosmic scale in their landscape, perhaps as a way of creating a ritual space in which to reside.
My own researches on the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire, set out in my book The Keys to the Temple, showed the amazing skills of the Neolithic people in surveying and setting out a vast twin circle pattern in the landscape. To have done this they would have to have had a high level of numeracy and the ability to work with accurate measurements. In this work Jeremy Taylor shows another such pattern set out in the landscape of Suffolk creating, in this case, a seven pointed star, centred on the great abbey of Bury St Edmunds. We may wonder at the ingenuity of our ancestors who perceived their landscape as a ritual place, perhaps holding ceremonies at significant points in the pattern on key dates in the year.
This is a well researched book which adds to our perception and understanding of the peoples who inhabited our lands millennia ago and I would commend it to the reader.
In this fresh new study following ten years of research, the authors propose that there is evidence of sophisticated geo-ritual surveying in the landscape, that connects the primary Anglo-Saxon boat burials at Sutton Hoo and Snape with the Summer and Winter Solstices. Corroborated by high precision custom mapping software from an Emeritus Professor in Architecture and supported by independent analysis from the Sohland Observatory and its Section on Archaeoastronomy in Germany, read how the movements of the sun become a template for cosmic and Royal order. With over 90 illustrations and around 52,000 words the authors findings explain why the boat burials occurred in the landscape, exactly where they were.
If all of this sounds far fetched, the authors discovered that there have been published studies in 1933, 1950 and 2015 on the East Anglian landscape that describe an elaborate network of solar alignments in relation to the planning and orientation of ancient sites. Described as archaic observation posts and bearing lines, they relate to the Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice sun, and are a part of the hidden landscape of East Anglia. More recently in 2015, a well publicised book described Ptolemy’s map of the British Isles in 150 A.D. based on lines of latitude and longitude, mapped across the whole of southern Britannia by using a Pythagorean 3-4-5 triangle. Radiating out from the Ompahlos centre at Oxford, Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice bearing lines were used to map the whole of southern Britannia with spectacular success. A solstice bearing of 51.35 degrees from the map’s centre at Londinium travels from Westminster Abbey, through Colchester before passing through Sutton Hoo.
This study draws on the latest research from across the globe, showing how boat burials, tumuli, stone ship settings and ceremonial roads across Europe from 750 B.C. – 1000 A.D. were meticulously constructed so as to conform to specific celestial and solar astronomical events. Long distance alignments from between 4 km – 63 Km in Sweden target the Summer and Winter Solstice sunrise and sunset. Such monuments were built to influence the way people experienced the landscape and how they were configured served to structure the ways that people understood both space and time. We explore the practice of East-West axial alignment, now considered to be one of the features of high status Anglo-Saxon settlements, which included non-architectural features such as wells, crosses, cemeteries and old ritual sites built on the Anglo-Saxon Kingship tradition. Linking the themes of day and night to the full span of a king’s rule, the movement of the sun was linked to maintaining cosmic Royal order to a seasonal yearly division meant to legitimise a king’s ritual role in seasonal regeneration. At the apex of Proto-Indo-European society, the title associated with kingly rule has at its root concepts of doing the right thing, straightness, correctness, goodness, sovereign kingly rule and even “movement along a straight line” for the core meaning of reg, as in regal.
Discover how rare talismanic three dimensional human figurines dating from 400-750 A.D. spanning the Anglo-Saxon conversion period, relate to the solar alignment across this ensoulled landscape. Only eight examples are known to occur across Suffolk’s 1,467 square miles. Their distribution tracks the eastern coastal zone of East Anglia and it is of note that three of these are at locations on our proposed solstice alignment.
In myth, Odin arranged the periods of daylight and darkness, placing the sun and moon in the heavens and the establishment of the solar path. He also transforms into both an eagle, a serpent and the Milky Way, which has been described as polysemous, resembling both a river when it hugs the horizon or a tree when it extends vertically, attracting serpents and birds in its tree aspect. The two points where the ecliptic, the band of stars that contain the zodiac constellations and the Milky Way cross are the constellations of Gemini (divine twins helping the sun in transformation at sunrise and sunset) and Scorpio. These symbols of solstice duality involved birds (Summer Solstice/Gemini) and serpents (Winter Solstice/Scorpio) and that it was at these heavenly gates, where the Milky Way and the band of constellations crossed; these crossroads were believed to be where the descent and ascent of souls occurred. In many Indo-European societies, the myth of the warrior-god who must restore the harmonious balance over nature by restoring order over chaos was re-enacted at the Winter Solstice.
Boat burials were an attempt to align the local elite with the ritual-cosmology of the Scandinavians and the boat, which like its masculine counterpart, the serpent, also stood for regeneration and both symbols are enshrined in the mythic grave goods at Sutton Hoo.
The place below the horizon where the sun disappeared to and rose from was the underworld and was important in the cosmological sense: being the abode of the gods.
Raedwald, Anglo-Saxon king buried at Sutton Hoo was the binding link between earth and sky, upper and lower worlds. The Summer Solstice rising sun and Winter Solstice setting sun symbolically mirrored ideas of kingly rule, order, liminality, transformation, death and renewal. Is this why the ancient solar symbol of the swastika occurs on the grave goods at least fives times at Sutton Hoo, Snape and Rendlesham, home to Raedwald’s Anglo-Saxon palace and cult centre?
With ‘A Ritual Landscape Considered’ the authors have created a comprehensive and highly important study concerning the celestial astronomy and cosmological backgrounds behind the funerary practices of the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons, particularly those who came to settle in Eastern Britain from the fifth century onwards. Yet it is far more than this, for they demonstrate the roots and origins of humanity’s rigid adherence not only of the movements of the sun and moon, but also of the stars, constellations and Milky Way. All of these themes come together in the design, layout and orientation of ancient ceremonial and ritual centers built across Europe prior to the emergence of Roman Christianity. A must read for any student of ancient astronomies, including those, like me, with a keen interest in the constellation of Cygnus, the celestial swan, which has a major role in this ancient saga.
Andrew Collins, Best selling author and researcher