Prehistoric Monuments as Numinous Sites of Spiritual Tourism
The Rollright Stones
Keywords:spiritual tourism, Rollright Stones, folklore, Paganism, tourism, pilgrimage
Prehistoric monuments in Britain are sites that have "drawn" people throughout history, due to their impressive size, dramatic location in the landscape, and the sense of permanence and timelessness they convey. The religious attraction of such stones for modern Pagans has been studied in some detail, particularly in terms of renowned circles like Stonehenge and Avebury, but the appeal that Neolithic monuments have for "spiritual tourists" has not been assessed to date. This article focuses on the Rollright Stones near Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, a relatively accessible group of monuments that has an established body of folklore attached to the site, a profile in popular culture, and a recent history of use by modern Pagans as a ritual site. The author's fieldwork at the Rollright Stones in 2014 produced three interrelated hypotheses: first, the primary appeal of prehistoric monuments for "spiritual tourists" is aesthetic; second, that responding aesthetically to such monuments is an experience that feels "special" and often involves an experience of the "numinous"; and third, this "specialness" is linked to ideas about what it means to be human, the relationship of the past to the present and future, and to the process of identity-construction and the search for wellbeing that spiritual tourists typically engage with in their travels.
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