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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

More on Stonehenge mental health healing project

I hadn't realised it, but there was a BBC Radio 4 "Open Country" broadcast back in April, which can still be listened to here:

One has to feel positive about the effects of the experience on the participants who needed help.  And it is great to hear the views of those who previously felt isolated and fearful of social contacts.  Parts of the 24 min programme are genuinely moving, and the "bonding" of those who took part in the 10 week courses in the Stonehenge landscape was clearly quite substantial.  The programme concentrated on the last day of the course as experienced by one of the groups -- in which the participants were granted access to the centre of the stone circle, where they shouted, sang, cheered and played musical instruments.

Tim Darvill was clearly involved in the course at intervals, and good for him for giving his time so enthusiastically.

And yet ... and yet..... having listened to the programme and having quite positive personal views about the project itself, I still have this rather deep sense of unease.  Tim, when interviewed, gave his familiar version of the Stonehenge bluestone transport story, and talked of Stonehenge as a centre of healing. No ifs, buts or maybes -- this, he said, was the way it was, and because he is such a senior academic we can be pretty sure that those who took part in the course were deeply grateful for being told "the truth" by an experienced academic.  Did Tim explain that his theory about "the healing stones" is actually hotly disputed, and that there are other theories too, some of which have rather more substance to them?  One doubts it....... that would probably have made life too complex for the vulnerable participants to cope with.

So I am now even more convinced that this is yet another episode in the long history of Stonehenge mythologisation.  It's also a nice opportunity for Prof TD to develop the strength of his own "bluestone hospital" theory by saying "Just look what happened to all those unfortunate people who needed help when they came into contact with the stones!  They all felt as if they were healed by the experience!"  I just hope he will never say that -- and my feeling about the BBC interviews is that they showed the immense value of social interaction and "bonding" within a group of vulnerable people brought together regularly over a 10-week period in an ancient landscape, in all weathers, with very careful and sensitive guidance from the project leaders.


Phil Morgan said...

The other day I fell and gave my head a nasty bang on a projecting rock on a hillside, the first reaction was to quickly place my hand on the damaged part, later in the week I gave myself a black-nail, and the first reaction was to hold the painful finger in my other hand.
I'm usually very careful, but what both these incidents show is that the natural reaction to injuring yourself is to place a hand on the damaged part, does it ease the pain or simply protect the damaged part from further injury, I don't know, but perhaps it's a form of healing passed on through the generations?

I remember the good Dr. Ixer once saying words along the lines of "I've handled a great number of bluestones over many years during my career but haven't seen any benefit yet", however, we don't know what condition the Doctor would have been in today, if he hadn't had such close contact with the stones. I hope he continues to touch the stones, and apologies if I've misquoted.

On the first of this month a ceremony was held in the village of Croxton, Staffordshire, to dress and bless the village well, does this indicate any healing powers of water, some obviously believe so even today.

Best not to venture down the road of criticising the healing powers of Stonehenge or any other ancient site, for we know not what the beliefs of our prehistoric ancestors were.

Myris of Alexandria said...

That was close enough. I have heard him say, fairly often, that for six months in 2008 he and his wife slept within 1.5 metres of 80kg of bluestones excavated from Stonehenge. They were so efficacious that she progressed from needing two sticks to move, to using a motorised wheel chair.
He does keep their rice in a large storage bin with a bluestone (Lower Palaeozoic Sandstone) to keep the lid tight. The rice seems fine and has an authentic Neolithic flavour.

TonyH said...

Excellent photograph. Where's it from?

Gravy may be very good for one's health, but I remain to be unconvinced that, basically, Tim Darvill finds his Healing Powers Claims to be useful as he boards various gravy conference trains (old sceptic that I am).

Or is it:

"A man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest" ? [yes, THAT old chestnut again]

Alternatively, Tim has musical talents with his guitar and with his archaeological Group, "Standing Stones", so maybe, just maybe, he's genuinely into the power of spiritual healing. I have also noticed, via the internet, that he has addressed groups of self - proclaimed "Druids" in the Cotswolds.

Phil Morgan said...

I think Myris should keep in mind the revenge of 'Supple Rocks' when supporting Dr Ixer's criticism of bluestones.
Go steady.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Myris -- TD and GW excavated 80 kg of bluestones from Stonehenge in 2008? Is this recorded? What sorts of bluestones? What shapes and sizes? What happened to all this stuff?

Myris of Alexandria said...

Ah he lied, but not by intent, it was 70kg mixed bluestone and sarsen (it was delivered as bluestone but the initial triage was poor)-you published the preliminary the pie charts, look it up. 30/50kb bluestone? It is all in the literature. The definitive descriptions of all the 2008 bluestones will be in the Darvill and Wainwright memoir. It is written but not glossed.

Anyway enough bluestone to cure it would be hoped.

What happened to the stuff? Have you been asleep all these years? Alzheimer's attack? It is all gone, turned into dead dog scrumpy swizzle sticks and sold on ebay!! No, the rocks other than those for sectioning were returned to the excavators and, I am guessing, may now be in the Salisbury Museum's stores. Some are on display in the visitor's centre SH.

The pet rock boys have used much of the material in their lithic papers. A one bit holdS down Dr Ixer's rice bin lid, very Dogonesque. This blog has discussed the rocks on and off for years.

MMMMM Brian!
Trust me were the pet rock boys to have a secret source of 10s kilos of bluestone WE WOULD ALL KNOW ABOUT IT.

Ah looking through the diary for 2010 it says, front cover, 6466 and 71.08kg. I think that is the total sarsen and bluestone but might just be bluestones, it is after the 20th rubbish was dismissed. All in the pie charts on your blog.

Sorry no deep secrets.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Pic was on the BBC web site, Tony. Go to the article cited, and you will see it. Agree it is a rather nice one.......

Myris of Alexandria said...

I posted yesterday but is lost???
80kg ah.... alternative news..... it was 71.0Xkg of mixed sarsen and bluestone from the Darvill et al dig 2008. You have all the data they are in those pie charts done years and years ago. The charts will show and it is in many of the pet rock boys papers how much of the 70kg was echte bluestone.
What happened to it -all sold on ebay as fancy dead dog scrumpy swizzle sticks for the more discerning drunk? or in storage in the Salisbury museum-take your choice and guess. Remember the Salisbury Museum 'shoebox' started all of this.
The pet rock boys have been dining out and publishing on it (shoebox, Pitts, Darvill and MPP boys' material for almost a decade. The definitive descriptions of the Daarvill excavation rocks will be in the Darvill and pal SH memoir.
Don't you think had there been 80kb or even 8kg of new bluestone WE WOULD ALL KNOW ABOUT IT. The last few years the pet rock boys have been happy to see 'fresh' bluestone (from archives etc) in the 10s of grammes!!!
There are tens/??hundreds of kilos of bluestone buried just outside the circle. I would give any two of Brian's teeth to see those.

TonyH said...

It would be "lov - el - y" to hear, here, from an occasinal contributor how he's getting on with his attempts to re - discover(?) what may, or may not, be bluestones from Here, There, and Everywhere (oh"! yes! Paul of the Quarry Men's favourite self - composition after said Quarry Men morphed into Something Much Bigger and before he grew Wings with Linda) in and around Old Amesbury Town.

And, of course, it's quality, and not quantity, that counts.

TonyH said...

Brian and other non - believers in the healing power of Stonehenge bluestones, have a gander at this, BUT best do it after many deep breaths and half an hour of calm in a Woganesque darkened room:-


The U.S. article, as if to add gravitas, quotes from the poem written by Layamon in 1215, who was inspired by the rather dodgy Geoffrey of Monmouth.