The Sunday News
SO far, we have been undertaking the journey to Stonehenge for a period of just over 58 weeks. It has been a learning journey with serious implications for African Thought and Worldview. It became apparent that in terms of Cosmology, there are discernible similarities between Stonehenge in terms of several themes.
Included among them are the following: solidity and eternity, wood and transience, architecture, decorative motifs, spirituality, expressions of Duality of Being, the role of sound and water in the world of spirits, connection between burials and spirits, and the links between spirits and eternity.
Technology available during research at Stonehenge yielded several finds whose interpretation revealed connectedness between the African worldview and spirituality on the one hand and the resident ordering philosophy at Stonehenge.
A thorough scrutiny of Stonehenge focused the spotlight on themes also found among the African phenomena. In the end, Africa benefits from the research that went and still goes on at Stonehenge.
Materiality is a theme that is common to Stonehenge and African Thought. Essentially, it was not a fruitless journey, but one that shall illuminate our next journey, the Journey to KoBulawayo.
In recent articles, we have been focusing in the main on spiritual individuals who would have provided leadership during rituals and ceremonies at Stonehenge. Such individuals were closely related to the political authority for whom they provided political, spiritual and metaphysical guidance, divination services to foresee and foretell the future to ward off impending doom.
These spiritually gifted individuals monitored celestial movements. The same persons would have facilitated political loyalty. We glean much on this front from Africa where political authority worked closely with spiritual authority.
There is still cooperation between the two albeit under different conditions where the latter are relegated and confined to the private and secretive domain.
We have been identifying given evidence that may point to these spiritual persons based on their thought and worldview but also on the cultural practices informed by their professed worldview.
The cultural practices cannot be facilitated in the absence of material items, such as vessels to contain medicinal concoctions that are used.
Water was contained in a perfectly circular ditch that went round the circumference of concentric circles of standing/erect/vertical stones.
Vessels testify to current technologies, preferred designs, known and appealing architecture and, in the final analysis, are in harmony with applicable worldview that informs architecture and design. The more important emitted smoke during smudging was believed to drive out evil spirits and thus cleansed the environment, in a spiritual sense.
Just how are we to know about the presence of these individuals who were spiritually endowed? Architecturally, Stonehenge is the central piece in terms of magnitude and majesty within a much bigger cultural landscape.
The centre of the centerpiece was marked off by the presence of the Altar Stone (in line with the Slaughter and Heel Stones during the summer solstice) nearest the biggest stone uprights (two) with horizontal lintels (trilithons). We can thus surmise that in spiritual terms, exemplified by the biggest stones structurally adapted from closed tombs of the time, the trilithons were modified tombs.
Tombs, for a people of the time and their beliefs, equated with spirits, spirituality and Spiritism.
Spiritually endowed persons would have played a key role in the rituals where they ensured secrecy to protect their profession and social status within society.
An altar was the holy of holies, the most sacred part in the entire monument where access was limited to specialists. From the structural arrangements we are able to pin down the presence of spiritual individuals be they have been priests or Celtic Druids.
The ancients back then held beliefs that resulted in the use of grave goods. Tombs of the dead depicted the socio-political status of buried individuals. Tools of one’s trade were placed either on the grave or inside the grave, together with the corpse.
That way, we are able to decipher the beliefs of the communities, their material culture, and levels of technology, cuisine, their artistic traditions, fashion and a lot more.
In two articles we referred to the presence of an urn (for fumigation/smudging) and the wild boar tusk to arrive at some tentative position that there were indeed individuals at the Stonehenge site whose beliefs and hence cultural practices were akin to those of soothsayers, traditional doctors, healers, izinyanga, izanuse, shamans and others that still exist on the African continent.
Identification of isolated finds on a given site may not be conclusive evidence for the trade being plied at the site. There are many material items that are shared in common by specialist spiritual individuals and the majority who are not associated with spirit-based occupations and trades.
When the items are located at one place, particularly on a grave, can we hazard conclusion of the trade of the buried individual. Here is an example of the grave goods found at a single gravesite within the Stonehenge cultural landscape.
The grave contained more than 100 grave goods including five beakers (clay pots of a particular design), a dozen bandied and tanged arrowheads, three copper daggers, a wild boar tusk, a small stone anvil, two gold earrings and more than two wrist guards. Are you able to deduce the trade of the man buried therein?
As I began interrogating these issues, I could not help posing the question, “How far is Heaven from Earth?” Grave goods were pointers to an individual’s trade in his/her earthly life. At the same time, some grave goods were included as provisions for the journey to another place, one for the departed spirits.
African Cosmology posits a situation where such a question need not be posed, as it will not make sense. In African Cosmology the physical, the material, the psychological, the spiritual and the ancestral worlds are inherently connected.
To us earthly humans, distance is couched and conceptualised in terms of time and space, yet these may not be applicable in other realms beyond the material. We are used to movement from point A to Point B. Our minds and language are developed and suited to material aspects.
We struggle without much by way of success to coin a language suited to realms beyond the material and the physical. In a physical journey, there might be need for provisions, just as we do when we travel from one place to another.
Grave goods ought to be conceptualised that way. African Cosmology is thus about how Africans perceive, conceive and conceptualise their universe. It is the cultural lens through which they see reality that affects their value systems and attitudinal orientations.
It is the African’s search for the meaning of life (Kanu, 2013).
Such theoretical grounding helps us appreciate how the African thinks and behaves within the universe, for we do as we believe. Is the individual more important than the group or is it the other way round? “We are, so I am,” might be the way the African perceives sustainable and healthy social relationships and relatedness.
Shall it be the individual or the group that matters the more? It is important to appreciate that different communities and societies hold different cosmologies that were fashioned out over time by numerous factors such as interaction with and power relations with other communities, spirituality, perceptions regarding the cosmos, the nature and origins of humankind, and ideas relating to the destiny of humankind, inter alia.
However, in reality we are faced with the very arrogant and the self-centred who think their ways and worldview count the more and denigrate those of others because of perceived racial or ethnic superiority.
Usually, the God of Science is used as champion in despising and demeaning the ways of other people who do not worship the God of Science.
Next week we shall focus on more finds that were excavated at Stonehenge with a view to possibly linking them to the work of spiritual individuals who might have existed on England’s most iconic cultural landscape.