Consciousness. Bright, sweet, late-afternoon light, the unfamiliar air of the English countryside, fresh sheets that cocoon my body. My senses feel penetrated, soaking in the experience. I reach for memory, and my life preceding this moment echoes like a vague dream. I think of the recent places I have called home - Seattle, Vashon Island, even London the previous morning - and it's as if they don't exist. I see something I recognize, my Tarot cards on the table near the clock, and I realize I've been sleeping about 90 minutes. I draw a card, feel deeply reassured, but now I don't remember what it was. It is 6PM the day of the Venus transit, June 8, 2004.
Even that feels like it never happened, or like it happened long ago. That is how ritual spaces can feel: like a little dimension that opens up briefly then closes, and the experience stays within that space. Only impressions and distorted memories remain.
At about 4AM earlier that day I awakened in another room of the same little hotel, dressed, and, with my traveling partner, drove the mile into Avebury Circle in Wiltshire, west of London. Avebury is a vast stone circle that has been the site of Earth-based religious worship for about five or six thousand years. The circle, about 380 meters across, is so large that there is a small town in its midst, which is absolutely silent at this hour. An outer ring defines the larger space, surrounded by what seems like a dry moat, called a henge. At one time this seems like it was either filled with water or designed to create an energy channel around the site. The henge rises to a berm about 20 feet high, and on top of this is a path that leads around the temple. This is geomancy: using the natural landscape and some landscape architecture to create a defined space for a specific purpose.
Inside, there are two smaller circles. We enter through a gate that contains a little sheep meadow and are outside the southernmost circle. It's not quite night, not quite day. I sit down in front of a small marker that holds the space where a large stone once stood. All my preparation for this day - the quest for understanding, the astrological charts, the numerous articles I've written, the 2012 connection - are behind me. Ritual is the world of direct experience. It is the experience of movement. What is moving at this moment, however, is an argument. My traveling partner is trying to explain to me why she feels like I've been ignoring and abandoning her. I in turn have felt that, emotionally, she's been nowhere to be found. It is a tense discussion and I am not in the mood to explain myself, and what I say does not seem to matter; so I try to listen, and I tell myself, Okay, you came all this way, and this is what's happening. Just go with it.
Out of my bag I take my hard-back copy of Esoteric Astrology and put it in my lap, and draw a card and set it on the dark blue cover. It is The Lovers, upright and obvious. This is one of two cards I used to illustrate the Venus transit while writing for the Daily Mirror a few weeks before. We are not lovers but we are in a mode familiar to many lovers, and that card tells me I am in the right place at the right time, having the right discussion. And it says, Mind the gap. I look and see the Sun rising and all at once I get it. The Sun conjunct Venus, on the node of Venus, in Gemini, the sign of The Lovers card - all those patterns of relationship, I realize, add up to a culture of endless war. And then I let go of them in this moment, this space that is now opening. My traveling partner asks me what I'm thinking and I start to explain. But before I can get two sentences in, a man in a white cloak and staff appears before me.
At this moment, the Sun has just begun to rise above the horizon, in the trees directly in front of me. As the prior conversation unfolded, I had noticed that a figure appeared in the shadows, among some stones within the inner circle, moving in a pattern. He now introduces himself as "the keeper of the stones." I glance upward at him and am on my feet instantly; I shake his hand with a slight bow and ask his name; it is Terry. Terry does not waste any time explaining that we are within the Sun Circle of Avebury Henge, an ancient Druid site. To the north, out of our view, is the Moon Circle. Because this is a solar event, he says, it is to be observed in this circle.