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Paranormal Phenomena of West Kennet Long Barrow
Peter Knight (dowser, shamanic drummer, and International speaker) has just published the most comprehensive book ever on West Kennet Long Barrow, the finest Neolithic long barrow in Britain. He deals with such elements as the excavations, shamanic uses, astronomy, its place in the landscape, acoustics, earth energies and dowsing, symbolism and more. His study of the monument was ‘holistic’, and included paranormal phenomena at the site, which he summarises below.
Standing on a ridge south of Avebury, West Kennet Long Barrow (WKLB) is one of the most magnificent and most frequented of Wiltshire’s ancient monuments. Archaeologist Aubrey Burl described the site as, ‘… the finest megalithic tomb in England and Wales…’ and as such is included in the Avebury World Heritage Site. It is the best preserved, and almost the longest, of all Neolithic barrows, comprising hundreds of tons of chalk and earth of a 100m long mound, plus a stone passage and five atmospheric chambers at the east end, guarded by large sarsen stones. The whole monument was designed to impress from the outside, and to transform once within.
Excavations by John Thurnam in 1859, and Stuart Piggott in 1955-6, yielded 35-40 primary burials from the early Neolithic, around 3,600 BC, but also that the chambers and passage were gradually filled to the roof with ritual objects and more human bones over many centuries. The primary burials were piled up or lined up against the back walls, implying that the remaining space was for the living, not the dead – the shamans were going inside the dark recesses of WKLB to commune with their ancestors.
The builders and users of West Kennet Long Barrow (WKLB) had a profound knowledge of astronomy, sacred geometry, earth energies, as well as sacred sound. They had a shamanic-based cosmology, a belief system whereby the deceased ancestors survived physical death, and could be contacted. WKLB was never just a tomb, it was a liminal crossing place, where shamans journeyed to ancestral realms for knowledge and healing. Over several centuries, shamans have been entering trance states and ‘journeying’ to these other dimensions to bring back information of use to their tribe, stemming from this primeval belief that part of us survives physical death.
The Shamanic Experience
Walking into the dark passage of WKLB is a liminal experience – we walk from the light into the dark, from the known into the unknown, and this has always been the case here. Inside WKLB the shamans would sit, dance, drum and meditate to contact the ancestors. I have found acoustic ‘hot spots’ inside the chambers where the sounds of the drum or human voice noticeably change in pitch and volume. Participants of my shamanic drumming/meditation evenings often get ‘heady’ and even giddy at times as the energy builds up, and standing waves formed by drumming and overtoning kick in. The west chamber is corbelled, and it is like being in a huge bell as sound reverberates; for WKLB as always been about interaction and participation. In flickering light, the large stones themselves reveal faces, the eyes of which dance in and out shadow – all part of the experience. Perhaps the stones were seen to be imbued with spirits, which could be ‘brought to life’ when requested, or if enough psychoactive plants had been taken! The pottery found at WKLB has geometric designs on them, perhaps of images seen during trance.
The passages and chambers were very distinct places, detached from the mundane world, and probably only used by a few specialist practitioners. Long barrows often resemble caves, to a certain degree, and this may have been intentional. At West Kennet, our Neolithic ancestors sought to create their own cave, (their own subterranean Earth-Mother ‘womb’), in a chalk landscape that contained no natural ones.
The shamans were going into the dark chambers of WKLB not just to deposit the dead, but also to contact the ancestors – their ancestors. This was achieved by trance drumming, hallucinogens, or dream sleep. When inside, you were on your own! Try sitting inside WKLB yourself, in the dead of night, with no candles – the imagination goes wild, which is exactly the point! I have personally experienced this inside the chambers of WKLB, when my shaman teacher, Heather, guided me through a ceremony and into meditation to meet my ancestor, my late father, face to face; his ashes were scattered at WKLB.
There is no doubting that WKLB is situated on a powerful place on the sacred landscape. The Mary current of the St Michael Line passes through its chambers, and other energy lines flow through the site. A dowsing survey by the Wyvern Dowsers, at my request, revealed some power spots, and tight spiralling energy in each of the chambers. WKLB is alive! By placing oneself at these points it can enhance and even initiate shamanic experiences and visions.
During our drumming evenings at WKLB, I guide groups into the chambers to get a brief, if much diluted, version of what went on thousands of years ago. Even without psychoactive substances, the participants co-create an atmosphere, a group energy, a bonding; and they are also partaking in theatre, they are performers, just as the shamans once were. This can often be powerfully felt and can initiate visions, cause upwellings of emotion, and connections with other realms. We call to the ancestors once more, and in doing so may glimpse the dark regions of our own inner being.
As well as my own experiences in my book, I gathered many stories from people who had felt, heard or seen something strange inside the dark confines of WKLB, such as lights, noises, distant chanting, cameras breaking down, rushes of cold wind. The oldest folklore concerns that of a spectral dog and man, seen at the site at midsummer. Researcher and artist John Palmer slept in the chambers of WKLB one night, only to be awoken by a light moving around in the passageway. He went outside and witnessed a moonlit landscape that was totally different from the one that had been there when he had gone inside at dusk.
Paddy Slade tells of her encounter with a group of young men who had just scrawled graffiti on the stones. In her rage at seeing this she struck one of the stones, which released energies that whirled around the chamber before exiting through the entrance. A brief time later, she passed the same youths, whose car had been involved in a collision. So BEWARE!
On April 21, 2007, members of the Twilight Shadows Paranormal Group conducted an investigation at WKLB. Some felt ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘tingly’ in the SW chamber and one of them developed a severe headache, which disappeared on leaving the chamber. They all felt ‘warm, protected and safe’ in the west chamber. A séance was then conducted; after a while, some of the group heard a female voice, as if coming from the forecourt, although they could not make out definite words. Footsteps were also heard behind them, which was strange as they all had their backs to the stones! Two knocks were heard, as the temperature in the chamber dropped and the air became ‘charged’.
I do not expend too much time and energy on conspiracy theories, but this next story is interesting. On a site visit in July 2010, dowser Maria Wheatley told me the story of how she had an encounter in the mid-90’s with, as she put it, ‘Men in Black’. It was lunchtime on a rainy day and she had come up to the barrow along the former, much narrower, path that used to serve the site. It was very muddy and by the time she had got to the top her footwear was very muddy too. She sat on the mound and closed her eyes to connect with the site, only to feel two firm pushes on her shoulders from behind. She looked around and there stood a man in a black suit, black tie and spotless black shoes, which were shiny and clean! Rather sternly he said to her, ‘You don’t want to be here now, do you?’ Maria felt threatened and left hastily.
On October 4, 2010, I was drumming on top of the west chamber, watching the sunset with Sue, my partner. At the moment of sunset, Sue was physically pushed about 2ft backwards. She felt a rush of energy from the Sun come along the axis of the mound. She had been doing tai chi moments before and had felt really grounded.
I also organised sites visits involving invited psychics, shamans, channellers and other ‘sensitives’. One such event was on August 1, 2010. 10 of us gathered to interact with the site on several levels. Some present saw lights, and felt hot and cold spots in the chambers. One participant felt the site was not designed for angelic connections, that it is ‘too earthy’, and she could not as easily contact the angelic realms as she normally could: ‘It is a place of the Earth Elementals – the Land Whites are here’. In the west chamber she saw a swirling mist/energy and also a ‘black mist’. In the passage she felt energy lifting upwards, and sensed that the passage was energetically blocked, and that it needed to have energy and light coming down it again. Another person was in the west chamber and she felt as if a tall male wanted to ‘embody’ her and that he was the guardian, watching over the site. Twice she had a vision of chevron-like images on the floor of the west Chamber. Several of those present envisaged spirals moving around the chambers, which is exactly what dowsers have found the energies to be doing in there.
On another occasion one of our number, Anne Menzies-Blythe, channelled in a being named ‘Albon’, who was once the shaman and guardian of the site. He offered several incites on using the site today, including:
‘There is a reason for you coming together here.
The work is bigger than you think…
a conjoining of the work of all of us…
connecting the ancestors with now… history and future.
Time is compressing into the Now.
My insights were offered to the people coming out of the Dark.
We have undertaken the Dark again, yet the Light is ahead -
I am here.’
In passing, I also mention that several crop circle formations have manifest in the fields around West Kennet and are dealt with in depth on specialised websites, and in my book.
On my drumming events, and during psychic sessions, people have reported seeing, and have photographed light phenomena inside the chambers and passage of WKLB. These can take various forms, such as luminous streaks, balls of light (‘Orbs’) and misty/nebulous apparitions. I took my first orb photo here on an old 35mm camera film back in 1991. I show some other examples here.
I also show a remarkable sequence of shots captured during the Aug 1, 2010, site visit, which occurred during our shamanic drumming session. Analysis of a digital video sequence revealed several ‘frames’ that show a nebulous, semi-transparent object moving across the passage from left to right, before disappearing in front of, or into, a stone. It changes its form several times, and yet the sequence shows it to be a single object. As with the orbs that are captured, this phenomena manifested during a period when a group of sensitive people were on site, chanting, drumming, meditating, forging channels through to other realms. A close-up from the sequence (below) shows the apparition to be the shape of a bone joint. Image 3, above, shows a very clear ‘wake’ and ‘ripples’ in the original, that can just be made out in this reproduction.
Did this apparition appear in response to our presence and to our activities? Or was the object just ‘passing through’, doing its own thing, so to speak? The sequence is the most impressive I have seen at WKLB, and I feel honoured to have been present. Would the Neolithic shamans have seen these phenomena as the presence of ancestors?
Respectful Use of WKLB Today
One section in my book deals with the use of WKLB today, and how we must strike a balance between preserving the archaeology and accommodating ritual. It is ironic that most damage to the stones, and most ‘ritual litter’, is left behind by fellow Pagans, earth-healers, psychics and the like, people who come with good intentions, but do not think about the repercussions of their actions. I regularly clear the site of much debris, such as nightlights, wax on stones and non-biodegradable material. I have produced a Code of Practice in the book, on how people can use the site without damage to the monument, so that this prehistoric wonder can stay open for all time.
WKLB needs our love, not our litter. In these times of great challenges, as 2012 approaches, we need places such as WKLB more than ever. It is ‘open for business’, and we would do well to listen to what it has to tell us. I believe the ancestors can still be contacted within its dark recesses… they are waiting. We can send our love and healing across the landscape from this scared temple – WKLB yearns to be used again, and will yield profound wisdom to seekers of hidden truths.
West Kennet Long Barrow: Landscape, Shamans and the Landscape, by Peter Knight. £12.99. 233pp, and well-illustrated with plans, maps and photos. Available from Peter direct or via Amazon.co.uk. For more details of Peter’s talks and walks based on his work, visit his websites: www.stoneseeker.net and www.facebook.com/stoneseeker