When You Get Home

September 8th, 2012 § 1 comment

The internet provides you with a tool of colossal power quite unprecedented in the Halls of Academe, thus far only rivalled by the printing press in its scope. As soon as you Google a place visited on your walk, a unique set of pathways will open up before you. Just dive in. For instance, if you look up The Ridgeway you will see that it is linked to Ogbourne St. George by a road that crosses the river Og close to the church and local manor house.  The Og was a necessary stop for passing livestock—you won’t see much water on the walk, this being a region of winterbournes, streams that flow for a few weeks at a time and then disappear for the rest of the year, or even for several years. There is no alternative but to pass through the village in order to continue eastwards on the Ridgeway.  The most likely explanation for this situation is that control of the Ogbourne area gives you control over animals coming and going along the Ridgeway.  This control might take the form of a toll or permission to use the ‘bourne’ in Ogbourne as the only available water in the area.

However if you come to that conclusion, there are wider implications.  For instance, how did the Ancients pay?  Everything has to be paid for all the time and the Ridgeway is no different. You don’t travel along it for free (your taxes pay for its upkeep) so never suppose anyone else did. Look out for obstacles that prevent animals going down into the valley, not necessarily because they might be a nuisance to the locals but because it would be a way of avoiding payment (local roads arefree). When, for instance, you run into a Grim’s Ditch or Devil’s Dyke have a good look at them from a drover’s perspective. Is it preventing you taking your flock across country to avoid paying the toll?  Or is it, as academics insist, to slow the Saxon advance from the east? Alternatively, the bits of the Ridgeway where a dip down into the valley seems to be forced on you are probably payment-points. The ridge is mostly above the spring line, too high and dry for human settlements; you will have no doubt already noticed the absence of pubs along the Ridgeway. The hillfort is to strategic routes what the village pond/ green/ pub is to local routes, a mainstay of travellers and their animals.


The Swan Hotel at Goring-Streatley

The Swan Hotel is beside the Ridgeway in the strategically important Goring Gap[1] where the Ridgeway has to descend to cross the Thames. The Cistercians seem to have been in control of this lucrative crossing and established Thurley Grange here, granges being a Cistercian innovation that transformed farms into capitalist enterprises. On the Goring side of the river is another long distance path called Swan’s Way. The Ridgeway passes in front of The Swan, standing at (or guarding) the entrance to the Goring-Streatley Bridge over the Thames, and nearby is the official “oldest pub” in Goring-Streatley, The Catherine Wheel, another megalithic reference as we have seen. Boat hire is still flourishing at The Swan. There is a large weir and possibly an artificial island in the river, a typical example of Megalithic/ Cistercian hydraulics, combining tolls, river control, fishing, mills and perhaps a swannery.


The Ridgeway above Goring-Streatley, looking west (note the hedge)

The Story of Og

A quick google of ‘River Og’ will confirm this peculiar name is a rarity[2]. ‘Og’ is synonymous with giant in Semitic languages as in the Biblical story of Ogias, a dragon-slayer, and therefore a link with Ogbourne St. George. In the Odyssey Ulysses is detained for seven years on the island of Ogygia[3], the Odyssey itself being originally a “song-line”, i.e. megalithic sailing instructions. Ogbourne, like Ogygia, appears to be a place of detention for travellers and their herds, though it is not recorded that Hermes had to rescue anybody from the Berkshire Downs.

In Greek mythology Ogyges, or Ogygios, was regarded as the first ruler of Thebes, which was once known as Ogygia. Another version claims the land of Ogygia was Mount Athos, the Holy Mountain, and that Ogyges was King Eleusis who founded Eleusis, the site of the Eleusinian Mysteries. King Eleusis was said to be Hermes’ son and Dionysus’ father. Much modern confusion has arisen because there are two cities called Thebes, one in Greece and another in Egypt, and this is generally treated as being somewhat accidental. But of course it is no such thing.  The Greek Thebes /Ogygia was the birthplace of both Dionysus and Cadmus who, like Hermes, was the inventor of the alphabet, and the Egyptian Thebes was the centre of a Thoth-cult, Thoth being the Egyptian Hermes, the inventor of the Egyptian alphabet.

In his Gallic form Ogyges becomes Ogmios, to the Irish he is Ogma, the inventor of the Irish alphabet, Ogham.  Another significant Og-link is with Gog and Magog, the names of two famous mythological giants and of a range of chalk hills in Cambridgeshire alongside Ermine Street (q.v.), the ancient north-south road between London and Yorkshire.  The highest of the Gog Hills is 246 feet and the two next highest, Little Trees Hill and Wandlebury Hill[4], are both 243 feet, which suggests all three were originally made to be the same height. In Hebrew gog means roof which by definition is high and, in the Middle East, always flat. This ‘gigantic’ type of construct is an obvious artifice. Unless of course you think three hills of the same height can exist side by side in nature but even if they did it is unlikely that Nature would place them with careful precision exactly on the Michael Line.


 The Ogbourne Line[6]

The Og may not amount to much but it flows down to the Kennet and the villages in the valley with Ogbourne names (represented by the Bailiwick of Ogbourne) appear to be laying claim to ‘their’ river. The name Ogbourne St George is worth considering. George, who is not of British origin but probably from Georgia, means ‘tiller of the earth’ in Greek and was a rather ordinary fertility god in his pre-Christian persona, only later acquiring dragon-slaying traits. The Ogbourne church was dedicated to St George in the fourteenth century, for patriotic reasons we are told, but it is obvious that the appearance of George, the quintessential dragon-slaying saint, on the Michael, or Dragon[7], Line is anything but fortuitous.  After toll roads were introduced and the Ridgeway was no longer much used the various Ogbournes diminished in importance, particularly Ogbourne Maizey, the smallest and furthest from the Ridgeway on the other side of the valley from Rockley. The maze is one of the earliest Megalithic signs, known as the Troy Game in Britain.  The maze or labyrinth seems to have been an all-purpose navigational aid specially designed to put you “on the right track” and the fact that Ogbourne Maizey is a few miles to the south of the Ridgeway points to its role, perhaps a labyrinth was carved into the hillside here.  Plus ça change, farmers’ corn mazes are now a mainstay of the local economy.


Barbarous Name

Barbury Castle is said to come from the Anglo-Saxon, Beran byrg, meaning ‘Bera’s Hill’ or Bera’s Stronghold, and to be the site of the Battle of Beranburgh, or Beran byrg, between Romano-British defenders and Saxons in 556 AD.  However no weapons have turned up and it goes without saying that ‘Bera’ is an entirely fictional character invented in the best place-name tradition for the purpose of explaining a place-name.  This technique is applied to Ogbourne itself which with a stroke of the pen becomes ‘Ogga’s bourne’.  We might try the same technique ourselves by wondering whether Barbury is connected to Berber, though it is doubtful that Carthaginians would have been allowed this far up the Ridgeway, or to Baal Berith, a Canaanite deity (later identified with the Lord of the Flies in Christian demonology) connected to the idolatrous worship of the golden calf. Berith or brith means ‘covenant’ in Hebrew, a cult of obedience symbolised by circumcision that has a close parallel with Megalithic herding practices.  In Jewish tradition the ritual is carried out eight days after birth.


Coney, hare, rabbit, rabbit

The approach to Ogbourne St George is along the A346 Swindon to Marlborough road, marked as a “Roman road” on the map, but at the turn-off to Ogbourne St George the road suddenly bends and becomes a normal ‘A’ road, following the course of the River Og to Marlborough. You can trace the continuation of the straight line in the form of a footpath which then turns into a minor road that goes directly to Mildenhall, the Cunetio of the Romans, on the River Kennet[5]. Cunetio/Mildenhall was a place for breeding rabbits, Cunetio being cognate with coney. Of course orthodoxy assumes the Romans introduced the rabbit to Britain, but the Megalithian version of all this is much more compelling. The normal mythological practice is to group serpents, worms and rabbits together, because as tunnel-dwellers, they are privy to underground knowledge.  Coney, pronounced ‘cunny’, is linked to cunning, Rabbit is a notorious trickster in folklore. But the link is handily confirmed because there is another Mildenhall, also on a River Kennett, also surrounded by rabbit warrens, this time in Suffolk.  And, naturally, both are adjacent to the Ridgeway.


Water, Water Everywhere

It is well known that the Ancient Britons were somewhat obsessed by water. Most of their deities were associated with rivers, thermal springs, and such; their votive offerings seem, from the archaeological evidence, to have been universally thrown into bogs and lakes. On your megalithic walks you should be constantly on the look-out for these“sacred watering-holes”. You may wonder why, on a notoriously rainy island, these water sources are held in such high regard anyway. The answer surely must lie in the fact that drovers moving animals around, especially around chalk and limestone landscapes, would be acutely conscious of the requirement to water animals where rivers are so relatively scarce. This suggests that these drovers were an élite, if it was their needs which charged the local religious practices.

But what will you actually see today?  Wells and springs tend to survive only in name and in association with hermitages, abbeys, monasteries and the like.  Fords survive mainly in place-names but references to ferries, weirs, locks, artificial islands such as eyots[8]on the Thames, can all be taken as survivals of ancient hydraulics. Village ponds are always worth a detour. Look out also for canalised streams, whether for mill-races or to make winterbournes flow the year round. Areas without rivers are not necessarily that way naturally; the Megalithics managed chalk and limestone landscapes by altering water courses because when terraforming with a toolkit that largely consists of antler picks, it pays to use water on friable and easily dissolvable surfaces instead.

An interesting etymological link seems to link ‘post’ and ‘well’, several European languages have very similar words for ‘well’, e.g. Spanish pozo, French puits, Romanian puț. Post boxes are designed precisely to make it easy to put things in but hard to remove them, reminiscent of  toll-points.



Virtually all our farm animals were domesticated long, long ago. We have largely lost the ability but, given the extraordinary range of domestication in both plants and animals achieved anciently, we scarcely notice the lack. There is good reason to suppose that the Megalithics were not merely the direct heirs to this tradition but that they developed techniques with animals that we no longer even associate with domestication. We are not here claiming superhuman or mystical powers for the Megalithics, it is just that they specialised in areas for which we have little need. So little need in fact that many of the animals that were “trained” to carry out various useful tasks have now gone feral, taking their skills with them. So always be on the look-out for animals that a) possess traits that seem oddly unnatural, b) have an ambivalent relationship with Man and c) are smaller versions of their natural equivalents.

Rooks are a good example of this phenomenon. As we saw, Rockley had both Templar and rook connections (Templars = Megalithics). If you walk by a copse colonised by rooks they will be as effective as any guard dog in alerting people to your presence. It might occur to you to wonder why rooks are apparently upset by the presence of human beings but choose to co-habit with them — no amount of rook guns can scare them away. The explanation for this odd state of affairs is that rooks were either trained, bred or exploited but anyway utilised by the Megalithics as part of their System. Back in 1821 Cobbett in his Rural Rides mentioned regularly occurring hilltop copses on the downs and he noted approvingly the number of rookeries they contain. This has a double implication since hilltop copses were Megalithic landmarks. The rooks themselves acted as signallers, alerting the local hermit so that he could render assistance (or demand payment), or telling the traveller where the next waymarker was situated—a copse is just a copse but a copse-plus-rooks leaps out of the auditory landscape. An Anglo-Saxon law required travellers to blow a horn as they neared a village, a continuation of an earlier custom, the Anglo-Saxons having no special animal skills.

Archaeological digs widely report that ravens are one of the commonest bird species found in Iron Age sites but for what reason archaeologists do not know. It is generally assumed that they were for eating à la four-and-twenty blackbirds but the true explanation can be deduced from ‘Rook Sunday’, the nearest Sunday to May Day, when “baby rooks were caught”. Not to be put in pies but because human intervention at the juvenile stage is the key to all domestication techniques. Rookeries are often as ancient as the trees in which they are built because rooks will re-use their nests until the nesting trees become unstable. They have an uncanny ability to leave a tree long before its decay is apparent to humans which is presumably the origin of those folkloric associations regarding ravens abandoning castles, Towers of London, British Empires, etc. before their respective demises. Farmers consider rooks to be birds of good omen, surprising in view of their forbidding appearance, ugly calls and hunger for seed. Ravens in myth are portrayed as birds who give advice and see into hidden places, including into the future. Hermes was the god of birds of omen.

Consider what people who have mastered the art of domesticating animals might turn their hand to when setting up and developing the Megalithic System. One of the abiding principles of The System is that it be maintenance-free so what better general methodology than getting animals to do the work?  It is best to look out for animals that can do things quite out of line with the observed behaviour of their close relatives. The corvids (inter alia ravens, rooks, crows, magpies, jackdaws, choughs[9]), always repay attention, mostly because their intelligence is claimed to be on a par with chimpanzees. Chimps can be on a par with us because of genetic affinity, but for birds to acquire such astonishing gifts must be bound up with some other connection to Man. The presumed origin of the man/ raven relationship is the raven’s habit of following wolves in order to carrion feed on their kills, an analogous situation in the man-and-dog relationship. The corvids’ usefulness to Man, and the beasts that he follows/ protects/ domesticates, is illustrated by for instance, the fact that birds of prey will leave sheep alone when there are resident corvids. Presumably this is not because the raptors are afraid of corvids themselves but have learned the association with the more dangerous Man. But, on the analogy of dogs and wolves, it may actually be that corvids really can be trained to attack larger birds but such fierceness does not, it seems, mean that ravens will bother sheep though they will eat the afterbirth and dead lambs.

The question of animal intelligence is a tricky one when it comes to domestication because we tend to give undue weight to the carrying out of tasks that we ourselves regard as important, and therefore ‘intelligent’. So by training animals to do things for us, we start to imbue them with cleverness when really they are just exhibiting rote behaviour. On the other hand there is some evidence that the act of domestication, and the consequent elongation of the juvenile stage, might itself enhance intelligence. Just being with human beings provides opportunities for ‘learning’, e.g. blue tits and milk bottle-tops. However, the corvids’ truly remarkable ascent to the top of the animal IQ table might be from a quite different route. Every autumn, reindeer gorge on psilocybin mushrooms which pass relatively unscathed into their dung. In the tundra, where there are no trees, camp-fires are made from reindeer pats meaning that both Man and Raven nightly sit around campfires imbibing psychoactive smoke.[10]  If you can remember the Mesolithic, you weren’t there.

What kind of things would these domesticated birds have been trained to do?  It has been found that crows can recognise a human being even after a seven year absence, a characteristic so peculiar as to be prima facie evidence that they were trained to recognise and assist Megalithic travellers. But assist how?  Another peculiarity of corvid behaviour, encapsulated in the phrase “as the crow flies”, is that crows really do fly in dead straight lines, an extremely convenient characteristic when your navigational system relies on dead straight lines.  Crows in captivity are reported to lay out pebbles in straight lines and get very annoyed (and put them back) if you disturb them.  Crow’s nests in ships are so named because caged crows were taken on voyages; sailors used them to find land by releasing them and seeing which way they went.  Since crows abominate open water[11] they head straight for the nearest land, an intriguing parallel with leylines which also abominate open water.

Corvids have a precocious talent for mimicry and can, like parrots, be taught to speak words. Being given directions by a croaking jackdaw might sound like a fairy story, in fact often is a component of fairy stories, so may well be harking back to a bygone reality. Corvids trained as Megalithic helpers may seem far-fetched now that we no longer need pigeons to deliver mail or kites to clean up streets but the number of crow- or raven-names, including hills, farms and woods, suggests these birds were worth having around.

Brân in Welsh means crow.  Caer Brân, a hill in Cornwall, overlooks St. Michael’s Mount, the beginning of the Michael Line, and at the Norfolk end it passes close to Brandon in the vicinity of Grime’s Graves, whose flints were transported all over Britain. In Welsh legend the head of Bran (cf. Baphomet, the bronze ‘talking head’ reportedly worshipped by the Templars) was buried on London’s Tower Hill which is probably the reason for the superstition surrounding the Tower of London ravens. It may also explain why the heads of traitors were displayed on Tower Hill. The divine body-parts of the sacrificed king, the head and genitals (often featured on herm-pillars), were allegedly put in a boat, or wicker cradle, and floated to a sacred island. Sometimes the head was preserved for oracular purposes.


Carrion Crow

Notice the pronounced brow ridge. This is also present in anthropoid apes (in fact crows have been referred to as ‘feathered apes’ by zoologists) and would seem to be the product of rapid brain development, the soft tissue of the brain evolving faster than the brain casing, leading to the apparently unnatural but necessary bulge. Corvids are an instance of an anciently domesticated group gone feral. Crows are, it seems, a smaller ‘domesticated’ raven. Their uncanny ability to recognise researchers weeks, months and even years later suggests that our ancestors trained birds to fly up squawking to identify the correct copse for megalithic travellers. Or perhaps megalithic travellers carried around their own pet crow, a land equivalent of the birds on board ship. The way crows walk is not dissimilar to the rolling gait of sailors, which may be an instance of their famous talent for mimicry.


Rooks by contrast exist in Parliaments of Rooks. They keep to fixed timetables and every Megalithic traveller would, by viewing the direction in which they fly, know the time of day. Their outbound and homeward journeys are as reliable as clocks[12].  But the rook’s most obvious trait is raucousness, raucous meaning harsh or rook-like, though of course it could be the other way around, the newly domesticated species being named as ‘that which is raucous’. Indeed the sound corvids produce bears little resemblance to other bird-noises except possibly parrots, also a domesticated ‘talking’ species, and, significantly, peacocks[13]. In alchemy the crow, or raven, symbolises the first stage of mutation, the second being the white swan, followed by the peacock.  Nevertheless, we cannot be sure whether the raucousness was bred in or the characteristic that made corvids of interest in the first place. Dogs, the closest of all to humans, effectively communicate with their owners by barking, something they do not do in the wild.  Of course corvids might have been adopted originally as pets, there is a great overlap between domestication retaining juvenile features and suitability as familiars. But more likely cawing served as a deterrent to predators.  City-folk think that cowbells are to follow the herds but herders know it is to warn any predators following the herd to back off if they know what’s good for them.[14]  


[1] The Goring Gap is the half-way point between Avebury and Ivinghoe Beacon. George, or ‘earth-worker’, seems to be etymologically linked to gore – dirt, dried blood, the gouging horn-tip of a bull – and may also be a variation of gorge, a narrow valley. The patron saint of potters (and innkeepers) is .St Goar of Aquitaine, a sixth century monk famous for his hospitality after whom St Goar in the Rhine gorge at the narrowest part of the river is named. He is usually represented as a hermit being given milk by a hind, or a hermit with the devil at his feet but also, less piously, with a devil on his shoulder, reminiscent of Odin’s ravens to whom pirates pay due homage by having a parrot on their shoulders.  At any rate a connection worth investigating.
[2] In Devon there is West Ogwell and  East Ogwell, west of  Newton Abbot on the Ikeneld Way;  the latter is a former quarry,  the source of East Ogwell Limestone.
[3] It may be that the Island of Ogygia is Gozo, also known as the Isle of Calypso, to the north-west of Malta. Gozo’s Neolithic temple of Ggantija has the same orientation as Stonehenge.
[4] A legend attached to Wandlebury Hill tells of a “dark knight” who vanquished all comers until eventually he was defeated by a Norman opponent; the victor, however, was wounded in the thigh, a symbolic injury that occurs frequently in myths. It contains elements typical of a ‘dragon story’, metallurgy (knights’ lances) and guardianship. The only drama nowadays is provided by the Devil’s Dyke Morris dancers at sunrise on May 1st.
[5] Cunetio appears to be a Romanised version of Kennet, or Cunnit, though Kennet, as with its close relative Kent, remains an etymological puzzle; its root may derive from the Welsh cyn meaning ‘royal’ as in king but is just as likely to be from cunt which is more or less synonymous with ‘cut’.
[6] In Wales, the river Ogwen, starting in Snowdonia and ending in the Menai Straits, is a ‘white line’, at any rate the A5 road follows its course closely. To the south-west in Glamorgan, the Norman-built Ogmore Castle downriver from Hernston controls the ford at the confluence of the Ewenny and Ogmore rivers and seems to have been an economic power-house. The Ogmore valley was formerly a centre of lead-mining and also where the much-valued Sutton Stone was quarried.
[7] George is supposed to have killed the dragon at Uffington’s Dragon Hill. Further along the Ridgeway, a hill known as Lardon Chase overlooking Goring-Streatley is a likely ‘dragon hill’. ‘Chase’ became a hunting term but the meaning is linked to case or chest, i.e. a cache, with connotations of secrecy and safe-keeping as in treasure-chest. Ladon in Greek mythology was the dragon that guarded the Golden Apple-tree of the Hesperides and became the Draco constellation, formerly the Pole Star prior to Polaris. Dragons never existed of course, their job being to conceal secret (i.e. sacred) knowledge.
[8] Eyot is etymologically linked to eye, isle, islet and Ys but, oddly, is pronounced ‘ait’ as in eight. An island divides a river into two channels and Tam or Tamas has the same root as taoma meaning ‘twin’, presumably the origin of Thames or Tamesis. The Thames at Oxford is named the Isis. A pair of eyots or Is-Is make a figure of eight, as do the two snakes on Hermes’ caduceus. Hermopolis/Khum, which was the centre of a Thoth-cult, means ‘eight-town’. The town of Hermopolis, anciently Khum, is located on the borders of Upper and Lower Egypt, appropriately for the God of borders and crossing-places. The castle of Hermopolis was a toll-point which suggests that eyot is synonymous with ‘gate’. In Egyptian myth Thoth assisted Isis to raise her son Horus and Horus is famous for his ‘all-seeing eye’, the Eye of Thoth, i.e. eyot. Thoth is the Egyptian Hermes.
[9] Choughs fly up and down cliff faces and are only found in the west of Britain, mainly the rugged coastlines of Wales and Cornwall. This distribution would be significant if they were specifically birds-of-ill-omen, warning approaching sailors away from the dangerous cliffs. They are the only corvids that have bright red bills and feet. In Greek mythology choughs were called ‘sea-crows’, one of the sacred birds associated with the island of Ogygia.
[10] Crows have been known to filch burning sticks from a fire and pass it over their feathers. The smoke acts as an insecticide ridding them of painful ticks. This behaviour is exceptional, birds and animals being naturally afraid of fire, so reinforces the notion that the crow family have lived with and grown used to humans and their ways.
[11] Crows may originally have been aboard to catch rodents. Later domesticates used for this purpose, ferrets and cats, are notoriously water-shy. But then again, so traditionally are sailors.
[12] Cronus the Titan became conflated with Chronos, Father Time, but originally he was a Crow-god, the Greek equivalent of the Romans’ Saturn. The Greek for crow is corona from which it is likely the Crone of folklore also derives.
[13] The roundels on peacocks’ tails were known as ‘the eyes of Argus’ after the ever-wakeful hundred-eyed giant. Hermes charmed and then killed Argus, hence his epithet ‘Argus-slayer’. The Archangel Michael was said to have the wings of a peacock and there are Welsh legends in which the wings of flying dragons, studded with eyes, were ‘like the feathers in a peacock’s tail’. The colouring is the giveaway (cf. dragon-flies). The ‘treasure’ guarded by peacocks shrieking from palace roofs is the royal family within, presumably. The fact that an Indonesian species crops up so often and so early in European folklore is testament to the wide hand of Megalithia.
[14] The native word for reindeer, caribou, is the root of Cherubim, fierce winged creatures that guarded the temples and palaces of Sumeria and Babylon, called Kar-i-bu in Sumerian. As flying animals of any sort are traditionally associated with shamanic experiences, the original ‘winged horse’ was most likely a reindeer even if under another name. Dragons are traditionally portrayed with wings. Caribou seems to be linked to Caridwen or Cerridwen (Kar-id-win), the Welsh ‘White Sow-goddess’, the Lady with Antlers. Unlike other deer species, female reindeer, or ‘cows’, are antlered.

§ One Response to When You Get Home

  • Iona says:

    Very interesting about winged horses originally being reindeer/caribou. White reindeer are selected and trained as leaders of the herd so they have special status just as white horses are somehow ‘aristocratic’ (knights in shining armour are just one example).

    It may be a coincidence but white animals do seem to be special, a fascinating area to explore.

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