On the same day that Anne and I went to Stonehenge last year, we also visited Avebury Stone Circle, although it was quite a different experience. For one thing, you don’t have to stay on a path. You can walk wherever you want.
The stone circle at Avebury is also so large that it is impossible to photograph it completely except from the air. In the picture below the ditch and embankment that surround the site can be seen (in part) and the stones seem tiny. They’re not. They’re “YUGE.” (Sorry, just a little political humor).
That embankment and ditch (which makes this site a “henge” is over a kilometer in circumference. That’s a lot of digging It was not built, as they say, in a day.
The stones that make up the outside circle are massive and have not been chiseled into shape as they are at Stonehenge. They seem to stand today as they were found. Some speculate that they were chosen for their shape. Others speculate that some are supposed to be female and others male. We won’t go there.
As we said, at Avebury visitors are free to walk among the stones. They can even touch the rough surfaces, which is not possible at Stonehenge. But be careful where you step, since there are sheep grazing in the same fields.
If you do touch them, you have the feeling that you are touching something that was once holy. Maybe they still are. So much effort must have had some great purpose, and would not a great purpose have a lingering effect. Who knows?A village grew up in the midst of the stones, which just adds to the experience as you wander here and there. At one point a few centuries ago, some villagers thought they should get rid of the stones since they had been put in place in a pagan time and for a pagan reason. Supposedly, the skeleton of one of those villagers still lies beneath a stone that did not take kindly to being buried. The Black death soon followed, putting an end to that particular effort to destroy what was not understood. Later on, in the 18th Century, many of the stones were broken apart and used for building materials. We let out a long sigh of dismay when we hear such things.
Of course, we saw faces on some of the stones. The question naturally comes to mind as to whether the people who originally placed the stones saw the faces too. Did they think it was funny? Fortuitous? Something else?
We understand completely why a visit to Stonehenge is so regimented. Many millions visit every year and if people did not stay on the paths the place would be trampled and the stones would be threatened. But if you want a different experience, one in which you can get very close to these massive pieces of rock, see them from every angle, touch them, close your eyes, and maybe get in touch with the souls of the men and women who put them in place, then by all means visit Avebury. You will not be sorry.