After his father Ernie died, Peter Knight scattered his ashes at the West Kennet long barrow and, in doing so, forged a \’deep emotional bond\’.
Peter said: \’I wanted to return him to the earth at a true ancestral site, and one that I could go to when I needed to \”connect\” with him – just as happened there in the neolithic. Since I did this with my dad\’s ashes, I have had two emails from people who followed my example and did the same with their relatives.\’
Dating from about 3500BC, and built on the Wiltshire skyline on a deliberate east-west axis with the equinoxes, West Kennet is one of the biggest and finest long barrows in Britain. Maybe a thousand years after its construction, the inner chambers were mysteriously filled and a line of massive sarsen stones used to seal them from the outside world.
Since the strewing of his father\’s ashes, Peter, in his new book West Kennet Long Barrow: Landscape, Shamans and the Cosmos, says he has felt his father\’s presence at the site several times: \’He has appeared and/or spoken to me in my thoughts during shamanic journeys and in meditation. He told me that I have a responsibility to the ancestors – because I am an ancestor. We all are.\’
It made Peter realise that he may have been at West Kennet in a previous life, explaining why he has such a deep connection, love and respect for the monument, and for the people who built and made use of it. He feels a responsibility to take knowledge back to the ancestors of thousands of years ago, especially in terms of the conservation of the long barrow and its deepening meaning for us today: \’It\’s a two-way exchange of information and not all about take, take, take.\’
He says: \’Perhaps I am being over-romantic and fanciful. However, although I have been to sacred sites all over Europe, Egypt and elsewhere, the West Kennet long barrow is the only sacred site where I feel I have been before, a long, long time ago. I now know that the ancestors are within reach, which I suspect was the mindset of the users back in the neolithic.\’
Commendably, and doubtless partly as a result of all this, Peter, while not \’banging a drum\’ for organizations such as English Heritage or National Trust, cares for the site on a weekly basis, clearing litter and cleaning the stones – removing wax and soot deposits, for example, where unthinking visitors have lit candles or fires. He offers his book – which includes a list of important conservationist dos and don\’ts at the monument – so that others might find the wonders revealed to him during his 20-year association with West Kennet, and that the neolithic \’shrine\’, as he terms it, receives the respect it deserves.
A key realisation arising from Peter\’s comprehensive new guide is that after thousands of years of darkly guarding its secrets this ancient edifice is tentatively re-opening itself to the world. It is astonishing how, as Peter shows, the 5,500-year-old monument overlooking Silbury Hill is now coming back to life. And on so many levels – as stellar and lunar observatory, nexus of earth energies and leys, gateway to the earth goddess, portal to paranormal activity, shrine of sacred geometry, sanctum of the shaman where shadowy simulacra, both human and animal, flow from the old stones – and even as a Stone Age soundscape of strange acoustical properties.This awakening, which Peter investigates resolutely chapter by chapter, following an assessment of the archaeology, is clear testimony to the new understanding and reverence which is being expressed towards megalithic sites around the world. Never merely a tomb, and never the product of primitive minds, West Kennet was more a place for the living than the dead, and wants to be utilised again, Peter believes, yearning to be a focus, a centre of community, for the high spiritual ideals it surely once embodied. It\’s very much ‘open for business’ today, he says.
Another way of putting it, I feel, would be to say that it is we who yearn to achieve these ideals through it, as our millennial hopes and fears for the world are projected on to the site, in all the different ways mentioned above, and probably more. Many today feel the power of place at West Kennet, and poets, painters, writers, musicians, singers and dowsers alike have been inspired by it.
And here is the key to grasping the new holistic attitude towards our neolithic ancestors that Peter\’s book eloquently expresses – that, somehow, a vital message has been left for us, encoded in their monuments and the landscapes they shaped. Unravelling that code, crucially in time of global crisis, can help us reconnect with the earth in a spiritual way. \’To look back in time may well help mankind survive the future,\’ says Peter.
That the monument may now be regarded as having new life breathed into it is in no short measure due to Peter himself. And, most important, his book is a labour of love, as he points out at the start. It\’s a timely work in its all-embracing approach, indeed, I would say it\’s the book that had to be written about this megalithic marvel. In preparing for it, Peter walked the surrounding landscape to connect and sense what it wanted him to know. He now suggests the long barrow can help us all create a closer, more spiritual link with the landscape we inhabit.
This is Peter\’s seventh book. An experienced dowser, he has been leading tours to sacred sites since 1995, founding Stone Seeker Tours in 2006, and is well-known for his inspirational presentations, workshops and field trips. He is the founder and organiser of the Convention of Alternative Archaeology and Earth Mysteries, held annually in Dorset and Wiltshire, which provides a platform for new and established researchers. Peter, who lives in Wiltshire, and follows a Goddess-orientated spirituality, says his mission is to help people connect with sacred sites and landscapes as a means of enhancing their lives, and to actively help and promote planetary healing.