Derbyshire is rich in the traces of an ancient culture about which we know very little. At first glance, many of these sites may seem to lack the stature of the better-known circles, but there is an intimacy about the smaller, forgotten circles that is lost when they are encased in protective fences and visited by thousands.
Archaeology can only work with what has survived after thousands of years of disrepair, disrespect and superstition. The picture that remains to us is fragmentary, focusing on the physical remains of hearth, home and grave.
There is a power in these sites of forgotten mysteries. For some it is simply the power to incite curiosity, for many it is something that still calls to heart and mind, offering a tantalising glimpse of a time when mankind saw the world as a magical place and the earth beneath his feet as the body of a living being.
The truth is that we simply do not know, in any acceptably modern sense, for what purpose these monuments were created, although there are still as many as a thousand stone circles in Britain and at least as many theories. The only understanding we have of these enigmatic echoes of the past is through experience.
The story of the Feathered Seer came in fragments as we walked and worked with the land, whispered by a voice from the past. We do not know whence it came, nor how much truth it holds, nor if, indeed, it is the simply the attempt of imagination to shape a story to make sense of the questions that arose. That in itself would be a wonder, and an illustration of the power of the human ability to find a frame in which to place all that is a mystery, all that is known and understood, creating order from chaos. It may be that the circles and mounds of our ancestors are themselves the outward symbols of their attempts to frame their own understanding of the world in which they lived.
Whatever beliefs we may have in the purpose of the ancient and sacred sites, their profusion alone would suggest that they were once seen as part of a web of force which, acting together, harnessed or accessed a power deeper still. In this way, Bratha’s story and the sites themselves seem to echo the nature of the journey we share.
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