How to Buy a Stone Circle and Survive
by John Attwood - The Rollright Appeal
PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
On October 1st Karin-Ann and I were handfasted under the perfectly clear and starlit skies of a New Moon night at the Rollrights. It was a year and a day since our civil wedding and, as we made our vows to each other and to the God and the Goddess, I realised, not for the first time, just how lucky I had been to meet her again. And how, in a time yet to come, we will meet and love again.
We stood barefoot and garlanded in a Circle of Light, beautifully prepared by the Priestess and Priest, inside an ancient circle of stone. The ritual words drifted around me and I felt a warmth and happiness that seemed to be radiating from the Stones - from Mother Earth herself. Karin-Ann and I were truly part of a living and breathing being. Not smaller than it, not bigger than it, just part of it.
On our honeymoon in Cornwall, a little over a year ago, I had introduced Karin-Ann to the joys of megalithomania. She, in return, had pointed out to me that I wasn't actually a Jedi Knight as I had long supposed. My beliefs had a name and that name was Paganism. We felt like two long-parted halves meeting again to form a whole. We had also discovered that healthy doses of Sacred Stones went a long way to alleviating the symptoms of Karin-Ann's fibromyalgia, a chronic illness that makes walking difficult. Personally, I preferred to put it all down to her wonderful new husband. All the ups and downs of the last few months, all the pettiness and jealousies, all the backstabbing, bile and bitterness, all the upset and disappointment, they were all a million miles away. WE WERE HOME.
Back at the house the bills were piling up, the overdraft wasn't getting any smaller and we were still getting threatening solicitor's letters from people we used to call friends. I have been a union rep at the Post Office for the last ten years and have been through a couple of very bitter strikes, but never have I experienced so much pointless vindictiveness as I have during the last two or three months. I always believed that everyone had some good in them. Now I'm not so sure about that.
For the second time in my life (the first was getting married) I had bothered to get off the sofa for long enough to dream. My dream was that a group of local people, with the backing of the wider community, could regain the guardianship of their own Sacred Site. To have that dream snatched away at the last minute by events outside of my control, and by egos beyond anyone's control, hurt like hell.
BACK TO THE BEGINNING
It was a pretty good idea. Like all the best ideas it was also very simple. The Rollright Stone Circle on the Jurassic Way in Oxfordshire was on the market for £50,000 plus. It’s a bit weird seeing a megalithic monument described in an estate agent's brochure in the same glowing terms as a semi-detached house. This property, however, was definitely not in need of renovation, improvement or the interpretation centres that seem to be in vogue at the moment.
Spurred on by ugly rumours of Formula One teams, leisure companies and spoon-bending psychic showmen the Rollright Stones Appeal stumbled into life. Because we didn't have £500, let alone £50,000, the idea was to persuade people to give the Appeal money so we could buy the Stones. The next step was to be the establishment of a Trust to safeguard the future of this ancient and sacred place.
As you may know by now it didn't quite work out like that. An Appeal supported by thousands was scuppered by the inability of three or four people, who professed to love the Stones, to put their attitudes and ambitions into neutral.
It would be an understatement to say that Karin and myself weren't exactly over the Triple Moon when we were told by a radio reporter that the Rollrights had been sold to a couple of City traders. I had very much wanted to show that it was possible for local groups, backed by the wider community, to take responsibility for their sacred sites.
It is heartening, however, to be able to say that, out of the £60,000+ donated or pledged (some of which, given the turn of events, we have lost) we would estimate that well over 60% came from Pagan or earth mysteries sources. The Appeal also demonstrated that there is a viable, and highly desirable, alternative to government departments or private ownership when it comes to the care and guardianship of ancient sites. In common with the environmental activists the Appeal was an attempt (albeit slightly more respectable) to reclaim our Heritage, our Voices and our Future.
Personal feelings aside, things haven't worked out that badly. It is the Stones that matter and they will be alright. When all is said and done this Neolithic stone circle which, when compared to Stonehenge or Avebury, is ‘but a molehill to a mountain’ (1), has looked after itself for the past 4000 years. The new owners (2), Nat the Redheaded and Nick Qaballah (3), have honourable intentions and a charitable Trust is in the process of being registered. The Rollright Trust will be established along roughly the same lines as those proposed by the Appeal and will have identical aims - to preserve and protect the Stones, not just for ourselves, but for future generations of megalithomaniacs. And for me and Karin-Ann when we come back again in about 800 years’ time. To maintain access to this place of mysterious energies, which would be even more magical if we could get the nearby town of Chipping Norton moved - it messes up the view, especially at night. Unfortunately, I think this is a bit beyond us at the moment.
The Trustees will include three members of the Appeal, as well as Natterjack and Old Nick (4). The immediate aims of the Trust will be to make a start on the much needed erosion work, and to continue fund-raising for the purchase of the field that the Whispering Knights portal dolmen stands in. Anyone visiting the site will appreciate that the acquisition of this field will do much to ease the wear and tear on the Stones which, at present, are squashed in by unsightly Ministry of Works iron railings. To carry on spreading the word there will also be a ‘Friends of the Rollright Stones’ scheme, which has got the provisional title of THE STONE CIRCLE (a slightly more rocky version of The Magic Circle). This will support the aims of the Trust but will drink a lot more beer. For a mere £10 a year Friends will be able to contribute to the on-going work at the Stones, get advance notice of events and receive a regular magazine called THE RIGHT TIMES - a broad-based forum for anyone with something to say about earth mysteries, archaeology, Paganism, dowsing and anything else vaguely megalithic. Articles, rants, pictures, news about other sites under threat, serious articles for the sake of credibility and even (if we really have to) poetry are all welcome; as are contributions to the website.
1. Roger Gale (associate of Dr William Stukely), 1719
2. This is a strange concept. I don't believe that you can ‘own’ a stone circle any more than you can own a cat. Apparently though, the Law says you can.
3. OK, so these aren't their real names. It’s actually Nat le Roux and Nick Cavalla. The wife told me that I had to put their real names in or else she'd beat me with her besom.
4. As above.
A FERTILE POSTCRIPT
There are many tales regarding the fertility-giving powers of the Rollrights. Karin-Ann was talking with a psychic healer about two months before we found out that the Rollrights were to be sold. At the same time we were trying for a baby but getting nowhere, despite lots of practice. The healer knew nothing about this when she told Karin-Ann that we would have a child, but not yet because Mother Earth needed her more. Shortly after this Karin-Ann became pregnant. No sooner had we announced the good news to the family than I had to rush her to the hospital where she miscarried.
Then came the Appeal. Karin-Ann now had 77 of Mother Earth's babies to protect. Make of this what you will, but as soon as the details of the Trust were sorted out and the future of the Rollrights had been safeguarded, we found out that Karin-Ann was pregnant again - the child was conceived at Boscawen-Un Stone Circle in Cornwall, the Land of the Goddess.