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Community Archaeology

The community at Tinkinswood: The continuation of an ancient belief

The excavations at the Tinkinswood sites ended last week. We move on to St Lythan’s Neolithic burial chamber next week, the project is not over! Very exciting times! Although we have left Tinkinswood, we will be back in March 2012 with a fantastic outreach project called ‘Make and Break’ involving two local schools. This will be a chance to look at how the Neolithic tomb builders used and experienced the monument, and to explore our own modern beliefs about burial chambers. There will be a chance for the younger generation to imagine what is was like to be a tomb builder, as they re-create a Neolithic ritual ceremony at the site. Children will have a chance to create a prehistoric pot themselves, and then break it, like several pots were broken at the forecourt at Tinkinswood  on purpose. Make and Break will give the project a dynamic element – even if it is incomplete – to the evidence that is usually displayed inside museum cases. 

Everyone has an opinion about Tinkinswood (as we have seen over the last few weeks!) and monuments can be viewed and understood in different ways by different people. Today we bring you a blog by Ginny, who tells us what it’s like to visit and experience Tinkinswood today – from a modern pagan perspective:

Ginny and Al and their son at Tinkinswood burial chamber

Hi. My name is Ginny, and I come to Tinkinswood on a very regular basis. In fact I call Tinkinswood my spiritual home. I feel at ease here, and I suspect that this feeling comes from the thousands of years of occupation and the coming together of people and ideas at this one very special site. I believe, that to understand the significance of ancient sites as sacred areas like Tinkinswood for neo-pagans like myself, we all need to go back and look at the practices and beliefs of the people who lived in the Stone Age.

When we look at the visual evidence of man’s early beliefs and artistic culture, we need to return to the Palaeolithic period. We see wonderful cave paintings dating from about 20,000 years before present, at the Lascaux caves, Dordogne region, France. Here we find hundreds of horses, deer, bison, and ibex amongst others, which are all typical images of the Magdalenian age. Interestingly no depictions of fighting or warfare as in later cultures. It is significant to note that a single human figure wearing skins and stag horn is depicted. We believe him to be a Shamanic god at a time when humans were dependant on animals for survival as they provided meat, furs and bone.

It is thought that the paintings represent an aid in the performance of ritual hunting magic, honouring the animals but also bringing good fortune to the hunters. The Horned God/Shaman is transformed in later Celtic culture to Cernunnos, Pan in Greek mythology and Herne the Hunter (possibly early middle ages). He represents the male element, the primal hunter and provider and protector. Neo-paganism is a polytheistic religion of the God and the Goddess in their various forms.

The female element is provided by the Goddess or Earth Mother who is also depicted in the Palaeolithic Stone Age culture. She represents fertility and nature. Venus images date at least as far back as the Ice Age and commonly take the shape of the fertile rounded female form interpreted as the Mother Goddess.

Near to home the “Red Lady” of Paviland Cave, Gower show signs of ritual burial. This 33,000 year old male is the oldest ceremonial burial in Western Europe. His body was covered in red ochre and provided with the grave goods necessary for the next life. Many Pagans believe in reincarnation and have a view that death, rebirth and regeneration is a stage of spiritual development during each incarnation.

A similarity between ancient and modern Pagan belief is ancestral worship and the fact that ancient forebears were always present. Indeed it has been suggested that ancestral remains were removed from chambers at times and brought together with the living to be present at rituals and celebrations. We believe that Neolithic burial chambers such as Tinkinswood represent the female womb where the departed would be returned to the womb of Mother Earth.

It is interesting to look at the recent archaeological finds from the Tinkinswood site. A Mesolithic microlith indicates activity that pre-dates the main Tinkinswood chamber and could indicate an already important presence. The person who left this flint probably lived in a small nomadic community. Then the Neolithic evidence in the form of pottery and a flint scraper. “Cromlech 2” which has turned out to be a Bronze Age round barrow is interesting as this indicates a continuity of religious reverence by Bronze Age people, and then even later activity shown by the discovery of a Roman coin. It is thought that older Neolithic tombs have been re-used at later periods by the Bronze Age Beaker people for example, and this could indicate a link between their dead and the original tomb builders. It seems that even though ideas about burial had changed, the site remained significant to later populations. Then we see finds from later periods in particular a strong Roman presence in the form of a coin and some Greyware pottery. It seems that there has been human activity on this site for possibly 7-8 thousand years.

Living human activity has continued within sight of the ancients at Tinkinswood: we continue to visit and practice our own commemorative acts and rituals, culminating with our own Handfasting (a Pagan marriage). We also perform our rituals throughout the seasons. A communal group of people share food, drinks and gifts and do so at every seasonal ritual or Full Moon celebration. These are done in a respectful way in which we believe our ancestors would approve.

Blessed Be and Love and Light, Ginny

(Tinkinswood White Witch)

About Community Volunteers

We are the community volunteers working at Cadw's Tinkinswood and St Lythan's Archaeology Project


8 thoughts on “The community at Tinkinswood: The continuation of an ancient belief

  1. Hi Ginny, great to meet up with you, Al and your lad at Tinkinswood the other day. Many apologies for not being able to have a good chat with you earlier, I was a tad busy! Can you explain the knighting of a druid please? Popular historical culture places knights in the post Norman phase of our history while druids are normally placed in the period prior to the Roman exploitation of our lands.

    Posted by monasticdave | November 13, 2011, 3:14 pm
    • Hi Ginny, could you kindly explain the difference between a Pagan and a Neo Pagan – i’m currently reading Emma Restall Orr as background research and whislt she refers to the subject she doesnt explain the difference (or at least if she does I havent reached that part of the book yet! Many Thanks x

      Posted by Hannah | November 18, 2011, 10:15 am
      • Dear Hannah, thanks for your interest, sorry not to have replied earlier, have only just checked the site. I personally wouldn’t differentiate much between Neo paganism and paganism, but the term ‘Neo’ generally refers to new/modern or a current interest or revival in a subject or culture. Paganism could refer to our ancestors The Celts, The Vikings,The Saxons etc. who had the same or similar belief and ideas as ourselves. Neo pagans are people of this age continuing this tradition. It could be said that other spiritual people like the Native American indians are pagan in their ideas of living in harmony with their environment. Love and light.

        Posted by Al | January 15, 2012, 11:02 am
  2. Dear Dave, The knighting ceremony took place I believe during the summer of 1994, conducted by our friend and Honourable leader of The Loyal Arthurian Warband, King Arthur Uther Pendragon. The Arthurian Influence is obviously post Roman Invasion but organisations sometimes change and evolve over time absorbing ideas from later periods. The Warbands chivalrous code of Honour and justice reminiscent of Mallories writing fits their aim to protect our heritage, landscape and preserve ancient custom and tradition in our fair land. There are other Druidic orders throughout Britain who may not follow exactly the same traditions as The loyal Arthurian Warband. I am sure Arthurs website http://www.warband.org.uk would be of great interest to you. Blessings . Ginny

    Posted by Ginny Kemp | November 15, 2011, 6:24 pm
  3. Thanks Ginny. I was asked about this on Twitter so I thought it best for you to reply. I’ll pass the message on.


    Posted by monasticdave | November 15, 2011, 6:40 pm
  4. Did some dowsing surveys in early 2000 put it on video may be worth a look

    Posted by Paul | January 6, 2012, 11:00 am
    • Dear Paul, Just watched your youtube video, it’s very interesting you have obviously carried out many years of painstaking scientific research and this confirms what many people believe about the energies relating to ancient sites, our ancestors had a great degree of knowledge that has become lost over time. I do however find it disturbing that you seem to have an anti occult stance which i hope is not being directly aimed at wiccans. Please let me assure you that we are not trying to manipulate site energies to create evil and dominate the world. I must confirm that we do not have any sinister agendas we only aim to promote love and peace amongst all people whatever their background or origin. I agree that some worldly organisations seem to be working against the spiritual development of the world, this we are opposed to. Our aim is to bring communities together, indeed our work involves the preservation of our natural environment and humanitarian concerns. These are also the aims of our cousins the Druids, The Native American Indians and many other active groups worldwide. On the subject of ancient symbols The Pentacle has been used by many throughout time, at one time to the christians it represented the outspread body of christ. .To us the five points represent the four elements – Earth, Water, Fire, Air plus Ether, the spirit of the Earth. In its Two Point upwards position it was traditionally the representation of a second degree initiate of wicca, but sadly now is rarely used due to its association [ often in america] with satanist groups, of which i have never seen or encountered. Wiccans by the way do not believe in ‘Satan’. So just to summarise that we are people who work with other religions and cultures for peace and harmony. Love and light.

      Posted by Al | January 15, 2012, 12:25 pm
  5. Hi Ginny, nice article – can you tell me what was found at the excavations from Tinkinswood sites? And what happened to what they found?

    Posted by Joy Angelthorn | February 21, 2012, 4:37 pm

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