Midsummer's morning started with an opening ritual to mark the high point of the year. Then the nerves kicked in; a long ride always has its risks of failure through lack of preparation, accident or bad luck. Mind you I've often felt that bad luck in these situations is the land Alf's, or trail gods, way of causing growth which can be spiritual, emotional or mental.
Preparation discovered that my big long day pack had rotted over the damp winter, after cursing an alternative to my 3 litre water bladder was implemented. I'd use the 1.5 litre bladder and make use of the water points that occur regularly on the South Downs Way (SDW).
I headed out and my original plan was to sneak some footpaths to my childhood village and cross the Adur there. Although the Summer growth has been late one look at the back footpath indicated that the land alf's would inflict much pain via stinging nettles and brambles so I stuck to the proper route. This was gloriously vindicated once I crossed the Adur and two Goldfinches led the way procession like, by fence hopping either side, up the rise to King's Barn Lane.
Then to the white road and the top ridge of the SDW which led neatly to my first meditatory pause at Cissbury via the first off road adrenalin infusing speed descent and endorphin raising climb up the eastern side of the ancient hill fort. The meditation brought forward the theme of this soul ride; the ancestor's relationship to the sacred landscape.
As I stood and looked at the panorama of the landscape with their eyes I noticed the dip to the Northwest in the folds of the Downland, the area of Samhuin and realm of the ancestors. It was also a direct line to my furthest sacred point of this ride. A spiritually significant flush infused me and this energy drove North in the clear line of sight to their sky temple at Chanctonbury Ring. From Cissbury, Albion's 2nd largest hill fort, the wide and still well used dirt track leads to the ancient Temple site. For centuries now it has been a well known grove of trees providing a navigational reference point to the people of the mid-Sussex Weald just as the Temple must have done for our Bronze and Iron Age ancestors.
Upon reaching the Ring the mizzle threatened by the brooding slate clouds arrived. Just as I was wondering if, as a friend who follows a more eclectic 'heeby-jeeby' path asserts, the energy here is foreboding or, as I feel, welcoming an ancient Beech presented herself to me. This was a tree, one of the few who had survived the great storm of '87 now hollowed with rot and the gnawings of insects. Just like Yggdrasil suffers the gnawing of the creatures around it. Her hollow hid my trunk from the Southwesterly wind and cold damp air to sip some water, snack on trail treats and perform my second meditation. The initial thought was upon time and how now, 25 years later, the holes in the glorious grove have almost healed with the growth of the saplings planted to replace the trees lost in that storm. This led to how this Grove has been constantly in my sight for the 46 years I've lived and how she led me to understand the silliness of human racial perceptions; this old Besom wise tree held me and saw past genetics...
So she asked me about the air that I'd breathed, the food that I had eaten and the water that I'd drunk.
Where are these things from she asked? Sussex, mostly, I answered.
So what are you made from she asked? Sussex, mostly, I answered.
How often does your human body replace it's cells? Regularly I answered, over a period of years.
How many years have you been in Sussex she asked?
All my life, mostly.
So why do you worry that you're not from Sussex? Because I was not born here and my parents and grandparents and their grandparents were not born here I replied.
But you are made of Sussex she answered firmly.
Thank you I replied. So there's the answer to any 'folkish' folk! It's not race or creed or any of our human petty tribal differences that decide where you are from but the air, fluids and food that make you.
To the Gewessi this means eating and drinking local organic foods. Our ancestors knew this and between the Romans and the Abrahamic religions our culture has forgotten but the Gods of our land have not.
Onwards and it was time to slip down the gap to the land of the Ancestors after the land of the Alfs at Cissbury and the land of the Gods at Chanctonbury. Two more adrenalin fuelled descents with a dragging climb inbetween to Sullington Warren. Upon reaching this bowl of Barrows I can understand that our ancestors were both spiritual and practical. The sandy soil here is both easy to dig and would be better for preserving their dead plus I would prefer to be buried in dry comfortable loamy sand over the claggy, wet oppressive clay that is the rest of the Weald. That this, and I'm moving into conjectural territory here, is Northwest of the primary social and defensive structure in the area would seem to have been fortuitously provided by the Gods to the ancient people. Looking at the pictures the size and number of the Barrows suggest a lot of people over a number of years. Excavation has indicated that pagan Saxons reused Iron Age barrows which suggests a continuity of belief between the Sussex 'Celts' and the Sussex 'Saxons'.
Views around the Warren at the Barrows :
Were Cissbury, Chanctonbury & Sullington the focal point of the Sussex people?
When could this have happened, just Bronze Age, just the Iron Age or as a continuum?
What other large barrow complexes are there in Sussex?
How far would those people want to travel to bury their dead?
What other temples are there and how do they relate to the landscape and thus the people?
Gewessi is a neo pagan path and this sacred Midsummer's ride has taught me there is still much to do to understand what Mediterranean and Levantine cultural veneers have overwritten.
Those Finches were a very good omen of the Gold that is out in them there hills.