Celebrating Equinox

Silbury Hill 2485 BCE

Britain

About Silbury HIll

About Silbury Hill 2485 B.C.E.Britain Silbury Hill has been called the largest prehistoric structure in Britain. It is located on the Wiltshire downs and is part of the group of sites which make up the Avebury henge and stone circle. The building of Silbury Hill began in 2750 B.C.E. and took generations to complete. It was raised by human hands and is composed of a series of stepped, circular shapes seven layers high. The bottom layer was carved out of rock while the top six were composed of chalk blocks. Silbury Hill is not a burial mound as had been originally thought. Indeed mounds of this sort are scattered across the planet. They were built with intention and painstaking precision. Their placements were chosen with great care. They clearly served a ritual function, but what that might have been escapes the modern mind. It is, however, quite commonly accepted that early people celebrated the quarter and cross quarter days of the year. Many of the mounds have a particular alignment to these natural phenomena. Silbury Hill is surrounded by a human made, deep, chalk lined ditch. Even as the ancient builders raised the hill up, they dug a deep trench down. This trench, in Neolithic times, contained water. The Swallowhead Spring, which is the base of the River Kennet, sits at the base of Silbury Hill. Many Neolithic sites are built on or near the origins of their local water source. In November, the water dried up. In the spring, especially near equinox, when the snow was melting and the land thawing, the spring bubbled up to overflowing. At Spring Equinox, the moat was filled high with water, giving the illusion of the mound of earth emerging out of the wetness, rising again from the depths of the primordial waters. Sources: Dames, Michael, The Silbury Treasure: The Great Goddess Rediscovered, Thames and Hudson, London. 1976. Streep, Peg, Sanctuaries of the Goddess, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1994

by Theresa C. Dintino

 

silbury hillShe arrives at the edge of the forest silently so that I know not from where she comes, appearing suddenly before me. Her hill spreads its flat top powerfully behind her, carving its curve into the sky. The wind blows her pelts apart, raising her hair into two tall peaks upon her head.

“I need antlers for equinox,” she says. “Could you gather me some?”

I nod my head, “yes”. Does she not know I would do anything for her?

It is cold, but it is not winter’s cold. It is only the cold of the wind blowing wetness of melting snow about. It is cold, but winter is ending. Waters flow everywhere.

She has seen me carry deer upon my shoulders down into the village, presenting my people with offerings of food. She knows I know the deer. She knows they will give me their antlers.

The winter was long, bringing with it much snow. The snow burying food as She slumbered, making my work more necessary. So much snow means so much water, assuring good crops. Long, restful moons await me as She offers Herself in plants dripping ripe with food.

The branching antlers which grew into fullness at harvest, now no longer useful, they shed—new nubs of growth already protruding underneath. It is necessary for me to find them soon after they shed them, lest they become food. I travel the forest silently behind them, trickling water breaking the silence around me. I arrive at their sleeping places as soon as they leave them; explore their daylight feeding grounds at the sun’s setting, finding fine, firm, freshly shed horns. I gather them into a pile within my shelter at the edge of the forest, tossing them gently upon one another. Their meetings send a clapping noise through the cool, damp air.

There are many. The snow being so deep pushed them down more and more from the hills, into this rich, river valley. The trees offered bark; for many moons their only food.

 

The earth oozes moisture beneath my feet pulling them in sucking movement downward as I walk upon Her, returning up smells of muddy ripeness. I travel the same tracks over and over. I venture out to explore new ones. I walk the walk until I am sure every antler which has fallen shall be hers.

When she returns to collect them the pile reaches above her womb.

“Such a pile I have never seen,” she says. She looks up at me with her big brown, doe eyes.

I look at her looking up at me. There is a large difference in our height.

“I am longing for you,” she says, not moving her eyes from mine. “I wish for you to lie with me.”

What is in those eyes I wish to be. “I am not worthy,” I say.

She lowers her eyes and begins to gather antlers into her arms. I bend to help her. “No,” she says, extending her arm toward mine to stop me. “It is I who must carry.”

I say nothing. I back away from her. I sit on the edge of the forest and watch her—carrying, climbing, walking–move them from my shelter to the base of the hill. Water throbs muffled pulsing beneath the thick hardened ice surrounding me.

I have seen her tripping through the forest in the summer, traveling as silently as sunlight through the trees. I have followed her quiet rustling; her feet landing upon soft flowers whose long stems bounce back—unharmed purple and white heads reaching.

Gushing water opens the earth in places it is not normally open, creating streams and rivers through the forest; floods in the fields. The deer disperse, traveling farther and farther, the food becoming abundantly everywhere.

The offerings they made left more food for their own. Their offerings more sacred, themselves needing food. The parts we cannot eat I requested back, returning to them offerings of offerings. The brown grasses now emerging beneath frozen ground I feed them—from my hands offering them back some of what they gave; so hungry were we.

She has been washing the antlers in the place at the base of the hill where the spring bubbles into a frothy stream at equinox. I sit where the trees edge the forest behind her watching. Her full body of water surrounds the hill which rises roundly and swollen wet from the earth. She squats before it, mud covering her legs, and leaning toward the water immerses an antler into Her, speaking soft prayer. I am the mud between those legs. I am the strong, hardened bone she fondles. I am fur pressing warmly against her nipples.

She stands up and removes her clothing; showing herself to me. Water drips fast drops behind me as I explore Her hills and ravines in adoration; travel Her jutting peaks and dipping valleys with my eyes.

Though I am always among them, I will not take a deer until she has offered herself to me. I sit for three days before, my weapon in my hand, asking . On the third day I become hunter. Hunter I remain until one of them presents herself; emerging suddenly from the thickets, white breast expanding in deep breath, saying, “Take me.”

After I have taken her life, I thank her for offering herself as the gift of food.

The rains have been falling. I warm myself inside my shelter. A fire crackles and burns before me. She appears on the other side of it, startling me.

“Why is it that you carry no sound?” I ask.

“Perhaps it is you who knows not how to hear.”

“That cannot be true,” I say. “I am a man of the deer. Hearing is our greatest gift.”

“Then why is it that you cannot hear me?”

“You are not a deer.”

“Perhaps,” she says. She kneels down before the fire. Water drips everywhere upon her. Her white chest heaves in slow, deep breath. She folds her hands together before the fire. “You do everything well,” she says, admiring it. Her deep brown eyes peer at me between the flames which dance shimmering within them. She slowly blinks. Magic.

“The Goddess will be most pleased with the offering you have made Her.”

“I gathered not for the Goddess,” I say. “I gathered for you.”

“Anything you do for me, you do for Her,” she says. She shakes her dark, wet head so that the fire sparks and crackles upon the moisture it has released. “Even burning this fire is a prayer.”

I lift my eyes to look at her but she is gone. From my doorway I watch her running gracefully back across the field.

In the morning I find a deer mask and skirt which have been placed beside me during slumber. The mask, large and elaborate, displays the largest pair of antlers I had found. I know the deer who wore this crown. I stand in my doorway and look across the field covered with cool morning fog. There stands the hill that my people built, laboring for years that we may celebrate, dancing upon Her grassy womb; that we may see Her only by opening our eyes.

On the third day I walk carrying the mask to the base of the hill. Inside Her frothy, bubbling depths I cleanse myself; myself whispering soft prayer. On the water’s edge I sleep, letting the equinoctial sun warm me. In the dream She comes to me. Her tall antlers reaching high into the sky, sunlight filtering through them blindingly bright. Chest forward, nostrils puffing clouds of air through coolness, she says, ”In every drop of moisture am I found. In every wish and desire.”

Later, I join the parade of people climbing Her toward the fire which burns power at Her center. The furry skirt hugs me closer as I find her standing within the group of people waiting to become deer. From a hoof she feeds broth into me. Musky and fragrant, she whispers into my ear, “Wear the mask.”

The mask I have been carrying for three days I lift finally to its place upon my head. My eyes look out from within dark warmth. The weight of the antlers tip me slightly forward as they pull, reaching powerfully up.

I look down to find her eyes buried deep. She bows her antlered head briefly before disappearing into the crowd of deer. I cannot locate her though I try to. She could be any one of these deer dancing around the fire in circling frenzy as light meets dark in perfect equinox.

Twigs crackle only slightly beneath hoofed feet

Meeting grass I stop to eat

Tearing freshness close to the ground

bottom teeth top teeth

pound pound

Crunching grass within me—earth and sky

within its moisture released: within my mouth are they

Grass am I: earth and sky.

I turn to find her eyes, mask off, looking at me. I look at her but it is myself I see reflected back, along with the flames of the flickering fire behind me.

 

I know where to find her. She is sleeping curled beneath a stone at the henge. She sits up suddenly when she hears me, rising to her knees as I approach her. I remove my clothing and stand myself tall and firm before her. Her arms wrap around my legs as her tears water me, offering me growth inside her warm enveloping mouth.