Sad to see that John Michell, New Age mystic, counter-culture guru and author of the View over Atlantis has died; particularly as only last night I was reading the large retrospective of his life and thought in the latest issue of the Fortean Times- you can see the FT obituary here. Although as a hard-nosed academic archaeologist I obviously have no truck with ley lines and earth magic, it’s hard not to be seduced by the love of landscape which stimulated and pushed Michell’s work.
My own research is on the early medieval period and I have very little interest in prehistoric archaeology from an academic standpoint. However, I do have a profound Romantic attachment to prehistoric landscapes, particularly the Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments of the Wessex chalk downland. I think this stems partly from having grown up in Berkshire and in the course of my childhood been regularly taken to look at hillforts, barrows and megalithic monuments. My experience of this landscape was also stimulated by a number of books and television programmes. I remember particularly a BBC children’s drama called The Moon Stallion, which was full of typical 1970s children’s telly, cod mysticism and general New-Age jiggery pokery, and was, I seem to remember centered around the White Horse at Uffington, the Ridgeway and Wayland’s Smithy. I was also intrigued by the images in Kit William’s book Masquerade, which also had a Wessex- New Age vibe going on in it; I never had my own copy, but coveted those of my friends. As a consequence of this, I still have a close personal and emotional connection to these prehistoric ritual landscapes; always seen at their best I think in the depths of a winter. I don’t want to know about the archaeology, I just want to enjoy them.
ps: When I was writing this just now, I was absolutely convinced that the BBC series was called Sun Horse Moon Horse; which it turns out is actually the name of a Rosemary Sutcliffe book, about the White Horse, which I am absolutely convinced I’ve never read or even knew about before.