|Taken from Aubrey Burl's book "John Aubrey & Stone Circles".
(As a 12 year old John Aubrey spent time playing around Stanton Drew)
The chaos told the young Aubrey nothing.
Village gossip offered explanations. Some slabs were so ponderous that no man could have raised them. They were the work of giants. The name of one of them was known, Hackwell. He had been so strong that he had thrown an immensely heavy stone from a distant hill and it landed over a mile away on that ridge on the skyline just above the circles. There were rumours claiming Hackwell was so famous that he was buried in the nearby church at Chew Magna.
Others added a warning. The boy should never try to count the stones. It was impossible anyway because of the jumble but if anyone did reach the right number that person would suffer great misfortune, maybe even death for interfering in what was best left alone.
Another superstition relates how, on the sixth day of the full moon, at midnight, the stones walk down to the river to take a drink. But the best known whimsy, probably celebrated from Puritan pulpits as justifiable punishment for profaning the Sabbath, was that the stones were the petrified remains of a wedding party that had sinned.
A fiddler and his accompanists had played merry jigs for the dancers until Saturday midnight when, of course, the merry-making had to stop before Sunday began. Defiantly, the young bride refused to abandon her pleasure. She, her husband and all their guests would dance on. Midnight came.
The fiddler vanished. The Devil flashed, flared into the night. Everyone, bride, groom, parson, dancers, musicians, all of them instantly became stones wherever they were. And there they remain.
Superstitiously apprehensive locals told Aubrey that the sinners were still to be seen. Three stones by the church were the solidified bride, groom and parson. In the fields the rings were the rigid remnants of the dancers. The avenues were the tumbled lines of musicians.
The tale-tellers said that the fate of those wicked merry makers had been observed that dreadful night by horrified bystanders and had been remembered ever since in this neighbourhood.
“That a Bride goeing to be married, she and the rest of the company were metamorphos’d into these stones: but whether it were true or not they told me they could not tell.”
Reminiscing years later John Aubrey mused:
“I know that some will nauseate these old fables; but I do professe to regard to regard them as the most considerable pieces of [‘observable’ inserted] of Antiquity’ …. After all, was not Lot’s wife turned turned into a pillar of salt”
It would be almost another thirty years before he was experienced enough to see the devilish stones with a more sceptical archaeological eye. He was living in a superstitious world.
Posted by tjj
8th June 2012ce
Edited 8th June 2012ce