The Shell Grotto
One of England’s most mysterious attractions, the Margate Shell Grotto is a bizarre underground cave that is (possibly) up to 3,000 years old. The walls in the Margate Shell Grotto are covered in beautiful mosaics made up of over 4.6 million seashells. This is off-the-beaten-path at its best. Margate is an adorable seaside town that has been in the process of revamping its image, as well as adding new attractions to draw in visitors. The Turner Contemporary Museum is the newest kid on the block, and has been opened to rave reviews from art critics and visitors alike. (I love it!) When you arrive at the property it looks like every other dilapidated building in the area, but don’t let this deter you! As you walk inside you are directly in the visitor’s center and gift shop where you can purchase your ticket or buy tacky souvenirs. With ticket in hand, you can descend into the humid cavern below. I am telling you, it is fascinating.
Ring of Brodgar
The eponymous Brodgar was most probably an adventurous type from a land to the far north of present-day Britain, possibly from Scandinavia, who landed on the group of islands that we now call the Orkney Islands, one day, many thousands of years ago. Why did he leave his village and his folks? May be because he was bored and they were mean to him? Who knows! So, Mr Brodgar made the Orkneys his new home and in his old age, decided to honour the gods of nature and those in the skies that had made his long sea voyage possible, letting him complete it in one piece, no broken bones, thank God(s)! Let's say Mr Brodgar then managed to convince his 5 sons and 6 daughters, along with 55 grandchildren, to come together and build a massive stone circle and because it was in the shape of a circle or a ring, they decided to call it the Ring of Brodgar.What was it 'used' for? As this is another Neolithic site, like Stonehenge, nobody can answer that definitively. What everyone seems to agree upon is this too was a place for the earliest humans to honour Earth, nature and the elements, including constellations like Orion and the Great Bear.On the day I was there, the sun was out and the breeze was gentle. At first, all you can see from the coach parking area is about 5-6 tall stones set apart in a curve. As you get closer, these 5-6 stones become ever-larger in size and then you realize there are 27 of them. Taller, larger, evenly-placed in a concentric circle, these stones seem to have stood witness to a lot of history. History of the humans that lived here, of the way those people shaped the landscape around the Ring, and of the pagan rituals that they might have performed inside this very stone circle.Even today, on solstices and equinoxes, people travel from all over the world to this special spot nestled on a piece of land in the middle of the sea to the far north of Scotland, and mark the occasion through rituals and ceremonies, including weddings and betrothals.How can a cluster of stones, both at Stonehenge and at the Ring of Brodgar be so significant and religious-ly significant at that, to the story of humans on Earth? Isn't that what you are thinking right now? These are just two circles that I have mentioned in this article. Spread across the UK are atleast 1300 other henges and stone circles, including that at Avebury and Silbury. There are an estimated 10,000 round barrows or burial mounds dotted over Britain and each of these played a huge role in the spiritual lives of the earliest settlers.Aren't religious rituals supposed to be performed inside temples, mosques and churches, protected from the elements? What claim do these impressive pre-historic sites which can't-hold-a-candle-to-established-religious-monuments have to spiritual legacy? Here's the thing. World religions as we currently know them rely on human allegiance, which is not always voluntary. Most clergymen are morally-bankrupt, controlling egotists and face all kinds of abuse enquiries. If religions are about world peace and tolerance, they seem to have failed miserably. If things don't change soon, we might have an epidemic of atheism. Yet, today, I am writing on and you are reading about Stonehenge and the Ring of Brodgar. Exposed to the elements, taking in rain, hail, sleet, snow and sun, in endless cycles of time, as the days turn into nights and the nights become stars. There must be something about standing inside sanctified circles surrounded by nature and the seasons, which defies 'logic' and 'reason'. May be it is something we'll never figure out. May be, subconsciously, we already know what it is and therefore don't need to struggle to figure anything out but just believe. Believe in stone circles and henges and burial mounds. And in a simpler, kinder, purer, more natural way to keep spirituality alive.