PART V: ARMORICA
The cross-country region of Armorica – containing Brittany, Britain and Ireland – passes completely ignored in our modern era. Yet it was once famed as the locale of the mythological ‘armorial shield’ … a prominent element of Homer’s Iliad, as Achilles’ shield; and rated a whole book in Hesiod’s eponymous ‘Shield’.
Achilles’ shield in the Iliad is misunderstood as the actual battle shield of a semi-human demigod. The allegory goes unnoticed. While Hesiod’s literary merit is unappreciated and the vivid details of his story are totally ignored.
Yet both Homer and Hesiod place the real shield firmly in Britain – ancient ‘Albi-on’, the White Island of mythology – the home of the Hyperboreans, the titanoi white-chalk men, in the ‘foggy land’ surrounded by the warm river ‘Oceanus’ (the Gulf Stream). Their shield was forged by the smithy Hephaestus (Vulcan) and contained several distinctive images that we can still identify. The features were carved in dazzling silver (white chalk) and Vulcan ‘wrought the shield with a silver baldric (sash)’ (the Milky Way). There were ‘bosses of white tin’ (mounds of chalk), ‘rings of ivory and white enamel’ (earth circles), rings of ‘dark cyanus’ (bluestones), and ‘pillars of marble’ (stone circles). There were ‘all the Centaurs, carved in silver’ (Whitehorses); and, more oddly, ‘plots of vineyards, bent under their clusters [of grapes]’. Altogether it was all displayed in a ‘thrice ploughed field’, shaped by three layers of a gleaming circuit (a triple circle or spiral).
But the Egyptian lords must have anticipated mere men would have trouble understanding, so they designed the central feature of the sculpture as a replica star map of the night sky – so that we would recognise it and understand the allegory. But we did not. By the time anyone in the modern era noticed, some elements on the ground were already lost or damaged by farming; and more to the point, our heads had become filled with Christianity. Late Stone Age megalith monuments were simply the stuff of pagan superstitions. Even now they are misclassified as sites of peculiar ‘religious rituals’.
At first the lords ‘grounded’ the sculpture on Earth by depicting two human figures on the hillsides of southern England. The two huge figures of Cerne Abbas (at Grimstone near Dorchester) and the Long Man of Wilmington (at Lewes, north of Brighton.) were carved in white chalk on the hillsides looking at the view of the night sky. It is as if they were a caption on the diagram announcing ‘this is the view from Earth, this is what we saw’. The very name ‘Cerne Abbas’ means ‘all seeing lord’. What they saw was the fateful approach of the falling stone forecast by Cassandra – the glowing fiery beast named Asterius, son of Cometes – preserved in the local place names as ‘Grimstone’ (the Devil’s stone) and ‘Bright Helm Stone’ (now contracted to Brighton). Locally, Homer’s Cassandra was remembered in British folklore as Henny Penny who cried, ‘Oh, I’m going to tell the King the sky’s a falling.’ As it really was.
The sentinels looked skyward but meanwhile the mortal lords carved the distinctive features of the Classical ‘shield’ on the landscape of Britain.
The smithy Vulcan ‘wrought the shield with a silver baldric’ which was formed on the ground by the white chalk pathway of the Greater Ridgeway path, running 583 km coast to coast from Lyme Regis in the southwest to Hunstanton in the northwest. It was a great white diagonal sash across the coat of arms of Britain; the ‘White Path’ on the ground unmistakably representing the Milky Way in the sky.
Even today the central portion of the Ridgeway path, from Avebury to Tring, runs past several recognisable features from Homer’s and Hesiod’s Classical accounts.  The Ridgeway starts near Avebury circle which is one of the largest of the ‘rings of ivory or white enamel’ (chalk circles). Going northwest the track follows Smeathe’s Ridge (Smithy’s Ridge) and goes by the giant earth barrow of ‘Wayland’s Forge’ – the Norse name equivalent of the smith Hephaestus (Vulcan) – the creator of the shield. Near Bishopstone the track passes a regular array of formed earth furrows called ‘strip lynchets’, which were surely Hesiod’s rows of golden vineyards. Approaching Uffington is the ‘silver boss’ mound of Dragon Hill (representing Mercury), and nearby on the hillside is the Classical ‘Centaur carved in silver’ – now well known as the Whitehorse. Mercury was the Gods’ messenger galloping across the sky on his white horse. About 15 km further on are the mounds of the ‘Seven Barrows’, unmistakably representing the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades, one of the most obvious and well-known star clusters in the night sky. While nearby is Letcombe Regis – named from the goddess Leto (‘a stone’), mother of Apollo and Artemis, born in Britain.
The next portion of pathway parallels a section of Grim’s Ditch which is a remnant of one of Homer’s triple furrows of the thrice-ploughed field. About 30 km north of the Thames the path nears the mound of Wainhill bearing the chalk- carved Bledlow (red) Cross; and a further 15 km near Chequers is Whiteleaf Hill, again bearing a large chalk-carved cross. This pair of crosses, one red one white, surely suggests the Classical duo of Castor and Pollux, the prominent stars of the Gemini twins. Until finally near Aldbury the Ridgeway reaches the very prominent feature of Ivinghoe Beacon Hill, topped by a tumulus – very suggestive of the fire beacon of Betelguese, a red supergiant, one of the largest and brightest stars in the sky.
Even now, nearly 5000 years later, the form and features of remnant earthworks are obviously consistent with Homer’s and Hesiod’s descriptions of the shield of Armorica. The association was plain and it was noticed occasionally along the way. As long ago as 1740, a Mr John Wood, described as ‘educated in arcane philosophies’, declared the earthworks of England were a vast model of the planetary system created by ‘imported philosophers’; in 1827, Mr Waltire, ‘a very respectable astronomer’ repeated the observation; and yet again in 1846 Rev Edward Duke, a noted antiquary, published his contribution in the Gentleman’s Magazine, stating that ‘early inhabitants of Wiltshire had ‘pourtrayed [sic] a vast planetarium or stationary orrery on the face of the Wiltshire Downs’. Regrettably, it seems none of these publications had any impact at all. On the contrary, they were scornfully dismissed by the Establishment. The Rev Duke, who was a graduate of Oxford and colleague of noted archaeologist Sir Richard Hoare, had his observations mocked in a review in the Christian Remembrancer with the comment … ‘seldom has it been our unhappy fate to wade through a larger number of the most puerile absurdities’. The Christian Remembrancer was an Establishment Anglican ‘High-Church’ periodical magazine of the time. Its reviewer did not attempt to consider or evaluate Rev Duke’s observations, but leapt to contradict and oppose them as ‘the most puerile absurdities’. There are none so violently opposed to new ideas as those with a vested interest in the status quo.
The Rev Duke was not just your average crackpot but an eminent personage of his time. But he was simply shouted down. We could have known and should have known, but we didn’t want to know. Admission of an enormous, sophisticated planetary model systematically engraved on the British landscape in a ‘pre-historic’ period would imply the existence of an equally sophisticated and technically capable people at that time – which did not fit the orthodox Christianised paradigm. So it was dismissed as absurd and inadmissible. It was the inconvenient truth of its time.
Recognition of a vast unified model across the country would also entail acknowledging the other elephant in the room – just how were such enormous structures mechanically constructed?
The Carnac alignments contained about 4000 standing stones (2745 still survive) extending over five kilometres, along with numerous enormous tumuli and ‘barrow’ mounds. One gigantic phallic pedestal, Le Grand-Menhir a Locmariaquer, weighed around 347 tonnes and stood about 22 meters tall, but now is broken. It is reputed to be the heaviest object ever moved without machines – from a distance across the valley.
In Wiltshire, the earth mound of Silbury Hill stands 40 metres tall and contains about 250,000 cubic metres of earth. Nearby Avebury Circle has a diameter of 330 metres and the ditch-bank structure represents about 36,000 cubic metres of soil and chalk. Just the remnants of Bokerly Dyke (10 km), Offa’s Dyke (270 km), Wansdyke (90 km) and Grim’s Ditch (140 km) collectively represent about 3-4 million cubic metres of earth.
Regrettably, these are just the remnants. In the early-1700s many of the heathen stones of Avebury were broken up and used for the essential building of a church, a pub and a cowshed. While in 1705 the Maumbury Rings structure near Dorchester was converted into an amphitheatre and used to burn a witch, with 10,000 Christian spectators. At Carnac, into the early 1900s local sources proudly published photographs captioned, ‘Catholics fiercely demolished temples of false gods of a blood-thirsty cult.’ Quelle dommage, so much history was destroyed in the name of the new God.
But even the surviving pieces still represent earthworks on a massive scale – which orthodox archaeological accounts attribute to peasant manual labour using deer antler picks and animal shoulder-blade scrapers. Seriously! But the fundamental problem with that scenario, apart from being physically implausible, is that there just weren’t that many people available. There were almost none. From around 10,000 BC to 4,000 BC there was hardly any human activity at all in western Europe until the inexplicable sudden appearance of the ‘megalith builders’. The very same orthodox accounts record that Britain in the period of the megaliths was populated by a few thousand, perhaps a few tens of thousands, sparse, scrawny, primitive peasants in isolated family tribes. From hundreds of (so-called) barrow tombs dated from broadly 4000 – 3000 BC there are only about 1800 skeletons known. These were what scholars characterised as a scattering of ‘howling Barbarians’, savages, inbred, disease- ridden, short-lived, engaged in arcane rituals and fertility rites – who left behind scanty traces of wicker baskets and a few flint tools.
There just weren’t enough peasants to wield antler picks and scapula blades. Besides which the physical evidence does not suggest rough manual methods. On the contrary. When the Avebury Circle ditch was excavated in 1908-14 it revealed vertical smooth walls with no tool marks and a smooth level floor. The investigator wrote that it was …the finest example of cut chalk … and he wondered heretically how it was constructed manually with deer-antler tools.
The ‘megalith builders’ who suddenly appeared in western Europe in the late Stone Age were ‘Saracens’, out of Africa. They were ‘lords’ of Egypt, cousins of the pyramid builders, sent to Armorica to construct a giant diagram of the history of man. They drew us a picture but we couldn’t see it. We were blinded intellectually, blinkered by Biblical religion; but we also couldn’t see the diagram physically. It extended from Carnac in southern Brittany, to Callanish in the Outer Hebrides. Ironically it was too big to see from the ground. Stonehenge was obvious because of the standing stones, but nearby Woodhenge went entirely overlooked until 1925 when an intrepid Biggles in a WWI biplane noticed the circular pattern from the aerial view.
Now that we have the blinkers off and know what to look for we can see the diagram in two levels.
An outer ‘macro’ level showing our entire planetary system with the trail of the intruder Asterius, from the stars, who disturbed the motion of the planets into what Celtic folklore remembered as Choir Guare or Chorea Gigantum – the circular spiral dance of the [planetary] giants. External astral debris entered our system and collided first with Uranus, castrating him and ejecting his balls as Venus and Mercury. Along with the [metal knife] which would become the fatal sword Excalibur that later plunged into the island of man.
Secondly, an inner ‘mini’ level showing the errant path of Venus, drawn into too close a dalliance with mortal Anchises on Earth. Followed by faithful Mercury who, led astray by Venus, crashed headlong into Mars – only to have his companion ‘charioteer (the knife) plummet downward into fatal impact with Ilium, the isle of man. At Eridanus, the end of the Earth.
This visual imagery was also embedded in collective memory in folktales and in dance.
Folktales were reduced to writing in Hesiod’s Shield, who had Mercury clash headlong with Mars and his ‘charioteer’ plunge fatally to Earth. And locally in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, from about 1150 AD, who translated from early Celtic sources – ‘The planet Mercury changed its shield … and Mars called to Venus … and in its rage Mercury over-ran its course … Venus deserted its appointed circuits … the stars averted their gaze and altered their accustomed course … the Moon’s chariot ran amok … and the malice of the planet Saturn poured down like rain, killing mortal men as though with a sickle’.
Elsewhere the spiral dance of the wandering planets (comets), Mercury and Venus, was commemorated in a folk dance in which ‘couples danced labyrinthine evolutions’ in memory of Theseus and Ariadne who fought the ‘Bull of Heaven’. It was a custom that was common throughout the ancient world, described by Homer in Troy, Pliny in Italy and Lucian in Crete – and according to Classical scholar Robert Graves, it was introduced into Britain toward the end of the 3rd millennium BC by Neolithic immigrants from North Africa. It was a fatal dance at the end of which all fell down.
A faint memory lingered in Britain in the Floral Dance in which villagers gazed apprehensively at the heavens as the stars moved:
In the crisp and clear night air of a quaint old Celtic town
As they watched in fading light, the stars in heaven were shining bright
Dancing here, prancing there, jigging, jogging everywhere.
Up and down, round they chanced, all together in the fatal dance.
 Jennet, The Ridgeway Path