The Winged Serpent
the megalithic stone complex in the southern county of Wiltshire in
South-west England, is second only to Stonehenge in grandeur and popularity.
Constructed c. 2600-2000 BC, it consists of a circular henge and ditch
that appear uncannily like those making up Newark's Great Circle. Yet
unlike its American counterpart, Avebury has a gigantic circle of standing
stones inside the henge, with another pair of circles contained inside
the larger one. Approaching the great circular earthwork from a distance
of around 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) were once two giant avenues of
stones, of which only fragments of one remain today (the Kennet Avenue).
Aubrey Burl, a leading authority on megalithic structures in Britain,
has outlined his belief that Avebury was the centre for a regional cult
of the dead and rebirth.
Overhead photo of Avebury.
Photo credit: Martin Gray.
Avebury was surveyed
during the eighteenth century by antiquarian William Stukeley,
who saw the whole monument in terms of a winding serpent (the
avenues) curling around a sun disk (the main henge and circles).
For him it was a personification of Kneph, a Graeco-Egyptian creator
god (also known as Chnoubis, or Khnum) which he acknowledged was
linked in classical mysteries with the story of 'Cycnus', a character
of legend personified in the sky as the Cygnus constellation.
Yet this fact
was forgotten, even when in the 1960s Professor Alexander Thom,
famous for finding stellar and lunar alignments at hundreds of
stone circles across Britain, established that the central axis
of Avebury was aligned to the setting of the star Deneb in Cygnus.
His contemporary Gerald
Hawkins, author of the bestselling book STONEHENGE DECODED (1965), who
famously used a computer to demonstrate that Stonehenge was used to
calculate eclipses, doubted this, stating that the ancients would not
have used such an insignificant star.
Yet what he did not
know is that several other key megalithic sites in Britain are also
aligned to Deneb, including a number of chambered monuments in the vicinity
of Avebury. Was this a survival through from the Early Neolithic era,
which had begun in Southeast Turkey some 7,000 years beforehand?
Adding to Avebury's suspected
connections with the Cygnus constellation is the fact that the
only carving to be seen on a standing stone there (Stone #25S
in the Kennet Avenue) shows the head and neck of a swan (first
identified by local earth mysteries writer John Wakefield). Nobody
before had made the link between this stone and the swan. In the
knowledge that the water-filled meadows of nearby Silbury Hill,
as well as the Kennet river which runs alongside Avebury, once
played host each winter to flocks of migrating whooper swans inbound
from their breeding grounds in the Arctic, this had to relate
in some way to Avebury's axial alignment towards the setting of
In the knowledge
that Avebury has frequently been linked with the ancient British
goddess called variously Bride, Brigid, Bridget, Breeshey and
Brigantia, whose main totemic symbols are the swan and serpent,
might she help us better define the precise nature of the site's
link to Cygnus?
Sue by Stone # 25S in the
Kennet Avenue, Avebury.