“In Ireland this world and the world we go to after death are not far apart.” W.B. Yeats, The Celtic Twilight
Ideas about lost civilizations and ancient wisdom, and the core concept of the Perennial philosophy, are constant threads running throughout humanity’s history. From Atlantis to the Anunnaki, and from the Vedas to the Epic of Gilgamesh, a constellation of ancient and antediluvian myths and legends lives on. However, despite the fact that as a species we often have a strong subjective sense of the veracity of such things, in our post-Enlightenment, postmodern age, these notions are widely dismissed as an affront to reason and rationality. In a scientific era in which (mostly) men in lab coats pursuing a soon-to-be-revealed theory of everything have boiled reality down to only that which our five senses perceive, the myth and magic of our inner lives have been almost entirely stripped of meaning. And yet the irresistible impulse to identify with the ineffable, something more than an iPhone, simply will not go away.
One of the foremost figures currently exploring this teleological terrain is Irish writer, researcher, and artist Thomas Sheridan. In his latest book The Druid Code: Magic, Megaliths and Mythology he probes a host of issues including the true meaning and purpose of mythology, our pathological tendency to regard our ancient ancestors as inferior, and the power of symbolism to preserve and transmit archetypal ideas down the ages. Crucially, he does so from a pan-disciplinary perspective, disregarding the all-too-often arbitrary delineations between and within history, the sciences, literature, and the arts. In keeping with the book’s title, much of the meta-narrative is seen through the eyes of the Druids, the order of religious leaders, legal authorities, adjudicators, lore-keepers, healers, and political advisors of ancient Celtic cultures. Although possessed of a lifelong passion for all manner of esoterica, the genesis of The Druid Code lies in Thomas’ rediscovery of the wonders of his local landscape.
MEGALITHS EVERYWHERE IN IRELAND
“One of the reasons I moved back to Ireland was because I missed the history here, and specifically where I live in County Sligo, there’s 5,000 megaliths in this county alone. One of my hobbies has always been to go to these what they call ‘sacred sites’ like some people would go to see steam trains. I found that the more I visited these sites, the more they intrigued me on — and I hate to use this word — a spiritual level, because I’m still not quite sure what that term means. It’s thrown around very loosely I think. But I found that there was an element of, shall we say, unspoken forces about a lot of megalithic sites. Not all of them. In fact, a lot of the Irish ones, I would call them energetically dead, and we can go into the reasons for that later. Then it struck me that, well, how come no-one’s ever spoken about this in terms of the occult? Well, what can you say about a bunch of dead stones, really? If the experts just don’t know anything about them, where do you start? One place you can start is in rock art, from the artwork on them, but the real catalyst for me was mythology, because I started to study, and anyone who has read my books, even on psychopathology, in all my books, I’ve often mentioned the importance that I place upon mythology. I also mention specific individuals like Carl Jung and his work on analytical psychology, and Joseph Campbell, and the two of them have been a constant in all my work. They gave me almost like a pair of 3D glasses to see things on the subconscious level. Then suddenly I was looking at these megaliths and thinking to myself ‘How come this has never been applied to this?’ I started to think this about 2009 after a visit to Carrowmore in Sligo — instead of a pile of stones and a bunch of graves, what can the mythology tell us about this place? I started to dig deeper and found that it was determined to be far older than most megalithic sites in Ireland. Some of the dating put it at near 10,000 years old, but that would make it among the oldest structures on Earth. What would the oldest structures on earth be doing on the far fringes of Europe when they tell us that civilisation came out of Babylon, the Middle East, and Sumer? It defies that story to begin with. So why doesn’t that area have mythology, yet all the mountains around it — Knocknarea, Knocknashee — all contain megaliths that have names and stories connected to them, regarding mythical people, mythical individuals, and that became The Druid Code. What is it, why did this exist, why do the lower areas near sea level not have a mythology, and the ones that are above sea level do? And then I started thinking ‘two different cultures’ and what caused that? Was there some kind of catastrophe in the past? So I started to look at Irish mythology, and other mythologies around Europe, right up as far as Norse mythology, and started to see that there was a story here, the code that unravelled, and that’s what I set out in this book.”
PERMITTING MYTHS AND AGE-OLD TALES TO ‘SPEAK’ TO US
The mistaken belief that any account of the past labelled ‘myth’ is necessarily false undoubtedly hinders our understanding of history. Aside from the likelihood that many of our ancient ancestors may have had a consciousness quite different from our own, there’s no reason to suppose that each and every person, place, or event contained in the lore and legend of high antiquity is simply ‘made up’ or the result of misunderstanding and misinterpretation on the part of those who came later. The concept of ‘myth’ wasn’t always synonymous with untruth and if, in fact, we allow certain so-called myths to speak to us — even as a thought experiment — yawning chasms in Earth’s timeline suddenly start to fill up.
“I came to the conclusion that the Atlantis myth, whatever you want to call it, something did happen. This is a turn around for me, because I used to think the Plato story was some kind of allegory. I believe that the Atlantis myth, whatever that was, took place. There was a catastrophe that sterilised particularly Ireland about 6,000 years ago and a series of megaliths were taken out. A second wave of people came in with different megaliths, and from that an early proto-shamanic culture rose that gave birth to the Druids who probably became the psychoanalysts of their day and healed the society. From that point on, it dawned on me that we were looking at a very sophisticated ancient ancestry in these islands, in what they call ‘the megalithic arc of Europe’. Far more, shall we say, diverse and eclectic and deep and profound than looking for Pi in Stonehenge or anything like that. That is de-humanising these people. I always felt very annoyed about the idea that aliens built the megaliths and all these kinds of things. No, our ancestors built them, and our ancestors were extremely sophisticated people. So The Druid Code was a combination of giving our ancient ancestors back their due respect and throwing in my own piece of the Atlantis mystery.”
Compounding our collective tendency to deride and disregard the age-old tales of ancestors, our current consciousness is mediated in the main through language — the spoken and written word. The drives, desires, and deeds of the ancients, therefore, steeped as they are in symbolism and that which speaks to the subconscious, can appear illogical if not entirely impenetrable. And yet symbols such as those manifested in Sheridan’s beloved megaliths may hold profound meaning, secrets which can only be unlocked when one cracks the code, a task which may yet prove beyond the bounds of rational reductionism and modern materialism.
SYMBOLS, MAGIC AND MEANING
“In the introduction to Carl Jung’s Man And His Symbols you have a chapter called Approaching the Unconscious and it gives the best description of what the difference between a symbol and a sign is. The sign just tells you where something is, like a speed limit or direction, or men’s room. A symbol is something else, a shape, marking or glyph of some kind and only those who are aware of its conventions understand what it means. For instance, you go around the world and you see public toilets, a picture of a man and a female in a skirt, and you know one is men and one is women. Now if humans didn’t have clothes, we wouldn’t know which was which. You see the yellow McDonald’s ‘M’ with the two arches — you know right away a certain type of food is available in that location, if you want to call it food, and that’s the understanding of a symbol. The awareness of the conventions of its meaning. But that’s also a very powerful tool if you know how to use it in such a way that you can create a lexicon that’s only known to a certain type of individual. Now, where did this come from? Where did these ideas arise? In terms of the early Paleolithic people and their cave art, these people were very accomplished, creating beautiful imagery, but very descriptive, very straightforward imagery of bison and other animals that lived at the time. The Neolithic — something interesting seemed to happen. Suddenly that all stopped, and we started getting almost like the Neolithic library — things such as the cross symbol, circles, dots, spirals, wavy lines… Now, what it suggests is there was some kind of cognitive growth in humans, where they didn’t need such a pictorial literal transmission of information, the symbol was enough, and the conventions of symbology had developed to the point where some were using it. This became very apparent for me in some of the megalithic structures in Ireland where on certain days the sun actually lights up a specific symbol on the wall. Now you’re looking at something quite different. First you have the symbol that means something. It has a convention that only someone who’s familiar with that symbol knows what it means, then sanctified in a kind of cosmic sense by sunlight striking that symbol. What you have then is magic because this is more than just a symbol. This is a symbol that has a specific meaning, but it’s also related to the cosmic cycles of the Earth, and that was brought about through study of astronomy and the seasons through science, which is basically what magic is. You then have a quantum leap in human cognition towards understanding and from this you build things such as imagination. The subconscious becomes developed much more deeply. The collective unconscious becomes a much more powerful idea and then you have the development of a priest class within society who may have awareness of certain types of symbols that others don’t, and that lead on through history, right to Monotheism and the Freemasons.”
HONOURING THE ANCESTORS
While investigating — or perhaps more accurately experiencing — megalithic sites like Stonehenge or Carrowmore, and other archaic enigmas such as the pyramids of Egypt or Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, laymen and professionals alike frequently report strange extra-sensory perceptions — instinctive, intuitive feelings regarding the purpose, properties and still-latent potential of these places. In fleeting moments of insight, the official narratives which tell us that, often as not, the spell-binding creations of the ancients were little more than tombs, sacrificial altars or — cutting our ancestors at least a little slack — astronomical observatories, ring decidedly hollow.
“That was one of the reasons I wrote this book. I’m sick and tired of my ancestors and your ancestors and their ancestors in this part of the world being portrayed as sub-human troglodytes who needed help, if not from God, then from aliens, and that they weren’t capable of ingenious engineering on their own. It’s amazing — there’s an awful lack of bodies at these sites. Now granted, a lot of bodies have been found at Stonehenge, so that definitely has been a place of burial, but that doesn’t mean it was a place of the dead or sacrifice. It would probably be just like people today, mad sports fans want to be buried in soccer stadiums, they have their ashes scattered in soccer stadiums. It could have been a symbolic reason like that. The psychological aspect is to impose upon your own psychology hearing about these people and these civilisations is that they’re dead, they’re gone, they no longer exist, forget about them. Don’t think too deeply about them, they’re just old bones in the ground. The Roman civilisation came along, the Enlightenment came along, and that’s what matters. This is what’s in charge now, don’t be thinking about these dead people, these dead societies.
“Further to your point about the special qualities of these places, the only thing that was retained from Newgrange, whether it was overgrown with trees and covered in sods, and nobody knew what was underneath that hill, was the magic of the place. There was magic that was kept inside that mythology. Now I’m going to get a bit woo-woo here, but one of the reasons I can tell when a megalithic site has an energetic feel to it, an emotional quality to it, is when it’s loved. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. I remember going to Avebury, and twenty years ago seeing all the Neopagans and hippies and New Agers there. I would have kind of laughed at that, thinking it was cute, it was twee. Now I understand that their emotional and psychic engagement with places like Avebury is the reason why Avebury sings and, say, Newgrange is dead. It’s because it doesn’t get the right attention. There is something in those stones, it’s more than just an aesthetic archaeological artistic thing, and the more time I’ve spent with them, the more I’ve become aware of it. Some of the stones seem charged, some don’t. Is it the properties, the qualities of the stone? Maybe. There seems to be a high propensity of quartz in a lot of the stones at megalithic sites. But not always, and some sites just have regular granite or limestone. Monoliths seem to have a certain energy as well.
THE STANDING STONE WITH AN ELECTRIC CHARGE!
“There’s a standing stone in County Mayo here and while I was measuring it and doing my little geeky analytical study, I was reaching around it to grab a measuring tape and I noticed a distinct sensation of an electrical charge on my arms and I felt it charging up and down the stone, and that became an amazing moment for me because I started to realise that these things are some kind of accumulators. Maybe something like Wilhelm Reich was on about with Orgone energy. Did our ancient ancestors know this? I know it’s not scientific, but it’s like tuning a musical instrument. There’s people who can tune musical instruments to perfect pitch, without having to rely on knowing the initial note, and I’m noticing that certain sites do have these energies, and it seems that they respond to human consciousness. As out there as that sounds, there’s something about many of these stones where they’re positioned, and generally how they’re treated. It sounds like people love them, there’s a respectfulness towards them. They seem to have a higher version of this charge, and this ties into things like fairy forts and how in Ireland and other countries like in Iceland, The Isle of Man, and Scotland, that you never, ever damage an ancient megalithic site because it will bring horrific bad luck upon you.
“These megalithic sites are almost like temples, and they may be places of astronomical observation, but on top of all that, they’re also a form of magical technology that is very, very real, and even after 5,000 or 6,000 years, many of them still have it. I can only imagine what it was like back in their day. I can’t explain in scientific terms, and part of me as an artist doesn’t want to explain it. But what I will tell you is that there’s no way you’re going to go around with a slide rule and a scientific calculator, looking for Pi and all these classical ideas and all these ridiculous science ideas. That’s a mistake. We have to go back to the basic idea of what our ancient ancestors were interested in. Perhaps, just like in Babylon and ancient Egypt, they built phenomenal irrigation systems and huge farms. That’s one technology, that’s one way of producing vast agricultural output. That may be the crude way. Perhaps our ancient Neolithic ancestors had a more beautiful and subtle way, and they were doing it with these stones, actually plugging them into the earth like accumulators or batteries.”
PSYCHOMETRY — ENERGY OF PAST EVENTS IMPRINTED ON STONES
Yours truly rarely explores any topic without at least some recourse to popular culture, and indeed it is through the medium of pop culture that many ancient esoteric and archetypal ideas are preserved and transmitted across time, sometimes deliberately, but more commonly I would contend, sub-consciously. As a little light diversion, let’s briefly mention two examples, both personal favourites, and both pertinent to our discussion.
The Stone Tape is a television play first broadcast by the BBC in 1972. Devised by Quatermass writer Nigel Kneale, its fusion of science fiction and horror follows a team of scientists holed-up in a haunted mansion investigating strange phenomena which suggest that the stones of the building have somehow acted as a recording medium for past events. Probing the boundaries between science and the supernatural, it posits that, resulting from instances of extreme trauma or other intense emotion, ‘ghosts’ are essentially recordings of past events captured by the natural environment, an idea previously articulated by English archaeologist, parapsychologist, and explorer T.C. Lethbridge.
Taking a megalithic turn, the 1982 movie Halloween III: Season of the Witch (of which Nigel Kneale wrote an early draft) involves a plot by mysterious business magnate Conal Cochran (Irish, of course) to reawaken an ancient age of witchcraft on Halloween night using fragments of a bluestone stolen from Stonehenge. Detailing his fiendish masterplan during the film’s denouement, as all good screen villains do, Cochran explains that his factory runs on a arcane combination of “advanced and ancient technology”. Of Stonehenge itself he says with palpable awe and reverence, “It has a power in it. A force.”
Meditated upon, such melding of myth and magic, science and technology, ancient and modern may assume a mantle amounting to much, much more than mere mental candy floss.
“The thing you mentioned about the stones and the building recording events in the past, that’s basically a process called psychometry, and I’m actually working on another book at the moment about a Scottish aristocrat named John Foster Forbes who developed this psychotronic version of the megalithic map of Britain. But why wouldn’t stones have a memory? This was personally brought home to me. There’s one place, Carrowkeel, up in the mountains here in Sligo, the first cairn, I cannot go into it, it frightens me. I’m not claustrophobic, I can climb into the deepest tunnels underground where there’s barely any light. I’m not afraid of that, but this one cairn, I cannot go into because it terrifies me. Don’t ask me why, there’s just something about it. I immediately thought ‘Do not enter!’ Maybe that’s my memory, reincarnation, and ancestral biological memory of something that happened to one of my ancestors, I don’t know. But these stones are living, as Druids used to believe, that stones and rivers and everything had souls and spirits.
“I’ve been in places like Avebury. When I was sitting and the sun had gone down, it would be nice and quiet and no-one around, and the sunlight would catch the stone a certain way. It would illuminate the simulacra upon the surface, and certainly you would see a personality in what seemed like an inert piece of rock. I’d been to Stonehenge early in the morning and when I stood inside that circle I was not prepared for the dazzling array of colours that moved across the stones, caused by the rising sun. These are things that are never stressed. There’s multiple colours in those stones illuminated by the sunrise. Yet, how many people talk about this with Stonehenge? And suddenly you don’t see a stone, you see something that has an energy force to it. And what’s the next thing from that? A consciousness, or our consciousness has connected with that energy force. It’s definitely real, it’s perceptible, it’s there for anyone. If you can read the conventions, you can engage with it. You’ve just got to go there. I bring people to these megalithic sites and I give them a little spiel on the way in, and then I won’t say anything while I’m in there. I will let the stones talk to them, and they do, talk to your subconscious mind. Yes, they may be ancient observatories, yes they may be ancient temples, whatever, but there’s something to those stones, they’re not just architecture.”
PORTALS INTO OTHER REALITIES
With a lifelong interest in the built environment, I long ago came to the conclusion that modern architecture — homes, shops, schools, offices, and all the rest — is also not just architecture. (As an aside, I recommend Last Futures: Nature, Technology and the End of Architecture by Douglas Murphy, a tour de force treatise on the tragedies and occasional triumphs of modern construction). Far from being energetically moribund, the cookie-cutter boxes in which billions of us languish for much of our lives are in fact energetically active to the point of being toxic. If certain cosmological constants appear to pre-date life-as-we-know-it, then why wouldn’t the unseen forces which sculpted the psyche of the ancients still be at play today, for good or ill? Might these energies be Earthbound, or even within us? Or perhaps they emanate from some place — or some thing — else…
“Why wouldn’t a building have an energetic charge? Why is that any different than let’s say, an old TV antenna, an array of prongs and pieces of wire? That connects with energy from the air. Just apply that shape to stone, glass, or buildings that are full of wiring, and so on. There’s no reason why a building wouldn’t have — back to the quartz thing as well — an energetic footprint. It makes perfect sense. We’ve all been in buildings where they felt shit. It’s just human nature. We do feel them. And yet it could be often down to something as simple as the shape of the building. We’re put in boxes today, because boxes are highly efficient for urban planners, and they maximise the income potential of a space, in the same way a circle doesn’t. Our ancestors mainly lived in round houses, so there’s a lot of things like that we have to consider. I think that’s why, when people saw The Lord of the Rings movie and the Hobbit houses, they were instantly charmed by them. They instantly had this feeling ‘I want to live in Bilbo Baggins’ house’. It felt naturally right, and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that we’re living in boxes and cubes, and they’re naturally wrong.
“When I was in West Kennet Long Barrow near Avebury, an amazing thing happened. It has two kind of ante-chambers off the side when you go in. I, just as a joke, took out my guitar tuner, and it produced an ‘A’ tone. This thing is digital, it’s solid state, there’s no kind of modulation or anything, but as I moved it around the stones the thing went bonkers. I had to actually shut the power off and stop it. So yes, there’s something to it.
“Now we know for a fact that when you put electromagnetic devices near humans’ heads, they will start seeing things like they call aliens, have endogenic experiences. This is something that the US military have surprisingly worked on, but also stopped because they were trying to make psychopathic military helmets for US Navy SEALs that would switch off their compassion while in battle. And what they found is that they were having these amazing trips and saying ‘I saw aliens and fairies and angels and everything!’ So we’ve known this for a long time, that there’s something to this. Yes, I’m glad you brought that up, and we’ll end on this point. I absolutely believe 100% that these megalithic sites were portals into other realities, amongst other things, and they were not called Portal Dolmens for no reason. Our ancestors knew it, the Druids knew it, the Christians knew it, and they built churches in the same way. The Abrahamic religions crudely did it, but they were still after the same technology. That’s why they built their church spires so high, it’s why they applied secret auras of Freemasons regarding archaeology, such as simulating the inside of the groves of trees, inside Gothic cathedrals. They were after an effect that our ancient ancestors achieved, and that is something that’s so powerful to me. I’ll leave you with this one point — did we even come through those portals into this reality?”
Originally published in New Dawn magazine, May / June, 2017.