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Star Carr: Our Past, Their Clutter

August 13, 2010

I see that a combined team of Manchester and York University archaeologists have uncovered Britain’s oldest house to date in the ever-more-fascinating Star Carr site near the seaside town of Scarborough in the North East of England. Julian Cope was referring to Star Carr many years ago, long before many people were even aware of its significance (check out his S.T.A.R.C.A.R. track off the Autogeddon album). Talking of album references – the title of my post is a passing reference to the title of The Fall’s latest album, which I recommend to anyone from Bury. I’m not from Bury.

Back to the thin strand of information that I refer to as “the plot”. The plot thickens. This old house that they have dug up contained some well-preserved items in the trench that they sank into the coastal soil, and what they pulled out of the treasure trove were some interesting items, from a druid’s perspective.

1. An antler headdress

This dates the use of ritual antler horn headwear to around the age of 8,5000 B.C.E. That’s quite some precedence for a ritual that only recently dwindled in popularity! Some would say that it is still continued in the concept of the “stag” weekend that prospective grooms undergo throughout the northern hemisphere cultures.

“The site has yielded far more possessions than would have been acquired by bands of hunter-gatherers on the move. They include a boat paddle, beads, arrowheads and antler headdresses, suggesting rituals developed alongside domestic life” (source: The Guardian)

Milners of Britain display their summer range

To me this backs up what a lot of Celtic shamanism writers have said about the rituals of early tribal shamans. It would appear that the rituals (that may have included dance, drumming, initiations and rituals) are about as old as the post-Ice Age human civilisations that began to re-establish themselves in the northern hemisphere after the retreat of the ice caps. Shamanism from the outset, it would seem. Magic at the heart of social life.

John Matthews has this to say about the deer totem:

“The importance of the deer among the Celts is testified not only by the number of appearances it makes in the mythology, but also by the astonishing number of words used to describe it. It was also seen as a magical creature, which could lead one into the Otherworld, and often appears in the guise of a beautiful woman who can take the shape of a deer at will…There is evidence of a deer cult, in which the animal was worshipped as a goddess. The deer thus represents travel to the Hollow Hills or the faerie realm, shapeshifting (the perception of the world from different viewpoints), and the natural deer-like qualities of grace, swiftness and keen scent.” (source: Chapter 3, ‘The Celtic Shaman: A Practical Guide’)

2. A preserved tree stump

The discovery of a large trunk from an old and sizeable tree shows us that the veneration for trees is also as old as the hills.
Again, this reverence for trees hints at some form of shamanistic lifestyle, and who knows how long that lasted, for the Druids of these same islands carried those same items of devotion through into their history, such as we can understand it.

“The population also appears to have respected venerable trees. One of the team’s other startling finds is the trunk of a large specimen with the bark still intact, which was spared from the flints used to carve the rest of the settlement’s timber.” (source: The Guardian)

Delphi's belly button

We have no information yet as to what type of three it might be, but it would not surprise me that it was a yew tree, possibly one of the trees that symbolised the concept of The World Tree – the omphalos or navel, the central point around which a settlement was constructed. Rather than this being something left alone, it could have been the centre of attention. Just a thought.


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