“IT’s a mystery!” sang Toyah in the 1981 hit recording of Keith Hale’s song. The lyrics seem to hint at the mystery being love but they could equally apply to any of the mysterious events or phenomena for which we have no rational explanation.
Human beings are driven to find out how and why things work, so it’s no surprise that the great mysteries of the ancient world continue to fascinate us – the massive stone circle at Stonehenge remains as unknowable now as it was to the Roman soldiers who scratched their closely cropped heads when they saw it, the Romantic visitors who gazed in wonder on their late 18th century travels or the New Age mystics who seek the answers at dawn on the summer solstice.
More words have been written about Stonehenge than you could shake a whole freight-train full of sticks at – but however many scientific letters or academic qualifications the writer may boast, they really don’t know how the stones were erected, who erected them, where the stones and the people who moved them came from or why. Some analyses and theories are more plausible than others, some researches have unearthed amazing discoveries about the peoples of these islands thousands of years ago, but in truth we know little more for certain than did Henry Huntington, writing in 1130 of “stanenges, where stones of wonderful size have been erected after the manner of doorways … and no one can conceive how such great stones have been so raised aloft, or of why they were built there.”
Manmade wonders abound around the world, and we can sometimes work out how they were created (the Pyramids, for example, by the brutal exploitation of infinitely replaceable slave labour), and similarly why (for the greater glory of this or that megalomaniac tyrant or inherited god-king).
Wonders in nature are more puzzling – how does the tiny fragile swallow make the journey, over countless thousands of miles, from a little old dairy building on a Somerset farm to its winter home in Africa and back to fly through the same open window to the same nest in the same old barn?
Why does the monarch butterfly gather in thousands if not millions on trees before beginning its amazing odyssey south for the winter?
How does the salmon return to the same place on the same river to spawn or the eel make the immense transatlantic pilgrimage from the Sargasso Sea to the River Severn or the Somerset Levels?
Scientists may pooh-pooh new agey theories of life and spirituality, and cynics and materialists can scoff at goddess-worshippers dancing in the dawn dew on Glastonbury Tor or intense drop-outs from the rat race of commerce seeking peace and karma or trying to get in touch with their inner Native American.
The great god mammon has done little for human harmony, whatever he may have done for corporate profit margins, and there will always be those who crave something more, want to find something to believe in or just want to believe there is something magical and wonderful in our not knowing everything.
Into this last group, you could put those who pay good money to see the latest crop circle wonder. In this area the most remarkable this year is on farmland close to Badbury Rings, the Iron Age fort managed by the National Trust near Wimborne, beside the famous 200-year old avenue of beech trees.
The crop circle here is truly spectacular (we give the website below if you would like to have a look) – and the farmers have agreed to allow the public in to see it, with proceeds being divided between the local church of St Bartholomew and compensation for the damage the crop circle maker has done to the farmers’ crop of winter barley.
It is generally accepted nowadays that these extraordinary geometric circles and shapes that appear randomly in the fields mainly of Wiltshire and Dorset in the summer are the work of clever humans not gifted aliens, but most of us have no idea how they do them, when they do them, how they get whatever tools or machinery into the field and what technical skills and back-up they have.
Most crop circles – like the prehistoric Nazca lines in the Atacama desert in Peru – can only really be seen from the air.
The Badbury Rings site cannot be seen from the road or any public path, unlike the last really spectacular crop circle in this area, which was on the west-facing side of Whitesheet Down north of Mere in Wiltshire, and could be seen from the Mere to Frome road.
There is a charge to see the Badbury Rings circle, which is being managed by the Core Group Initiative, who ensure that visitors enter the site with care.
We need mysteries in our lives, just as we need food and drink, a bed to sleep in and someone to love – and we don’t have to have answers to everything as long as we continue to ask the questions.
Most of us need to believe in something – we don’t have to recognise a god or adhere to a religion but we need to be awed and moved by the magic of the world about us. And even the seasonal mystery of the crop circle adds a little sparkle to our lives.
The final lines of Toyah’s song are:
“The big question mark in history
Is it a mystery to you?”