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Powerful Ancient Pagan Pilgrimage Sites

Many ancient peoples believed that certain locations were places in which natural or supernatural energies were concentrated. Many such places became important pilgrimage sites, and their ruins continue to attract pilgrims today.

Travelling to sacred sites, especially if at least part of the journey is taken slowly, on foot, can be a profound experience. The physical journey symbolises the inner journey that we make to the centre of our very selves when we spend time in prayer and meditation.

Pilgrimages also are a chance to enjoy a change of routine, a change of scenery, and a bit of a recharge. These are some of the top ancient religious sites to visit.

5. Ġgantija Temples, Malta

A place that has become popular with Goddess worshippers from around the world is the Ġgantija temple complex on the Mediterranean island of Gozo, Malta. The temples are more than 5500 years old – only Turkey’s Göbekli Tepe is older. They are in a clover-shape, and they feature semi-circular apses. Although they are now open-air, archaeologists think the structures were roofed. There also is evidence that the site was used for goddess-focused fertility rites.

4. Gobustan’s Musical Stone, Azerbaijan

A place of mystery and power in Azerbaijan has plenty of natural wonders to entice visitors, even if they are not there on pilgrimage. Southwest of Baku, a surreal landscape that is almost as exciting as what you can enjoy at top online betting sites awaits you. There are mud volcanoes, caves, and more than 6000 prehistoric rock paintings, but the real goal of the journey is the Gaval Dash, also known rather fabulously as the Musical Stone of Gobustan.

The curved stone is approximately two metres long, and it makes a noise similar to a tambourine when struck with smaller stones. No one knows how or why it was originally used, although it does appear to have been held sacred by ancient peoples, and it may have been used to accompany ritual dances.

3. Avebury, England

Pilgrims and visitors to Stonehenge in England are often mistaken in thinking they can reach out and touch the venerable stone circle, but that is not the case at Avebury. The village is surrounded by the world’s largest megalithic stone circle, plus there are two more stone circles at the centre. According to archaeologists, it was constructed over several hundred years some 3000 years before Christ, in what was the Neolithic period. Like Stonehenge, its original use was probably religious. By the Iron Age, the site lost its importance. It was abandoned except for occasional visitors in Roman Britain, until the village began to be built during the Early Middle Ages.

A popular belief is that various ley lines pass through or converge on Avebury. One of them connects the now-gone Winterbourne Bassett circle, Avebury, Silbury Hill, Adam’s Grave long barrow, Marden Henge, Casterley Camp, and Stonehenge. Another, the St Michael ley, is almost 500km long. With Avebury slap-bang in the middle, it runs from Norfolk to Cornwall. The site is a World Heritage Site, and it is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

2. Abu Simbel, Egypt

No pilgrimage to Egypt is complete without a visit to the Abu Simbel temples on the bank of Lake Nasser. More than 1000 km from Cairo, the temples were built during the reign of Ramses II between 1264 - 1244 BC or 1244-1224 BC. They are a powerful reminder of the pharaoh and queen Nefertari, and of Ramses’ victory at the Battle of Kadesh. A black stone on the back wall of the inner sanctum of the larger of the two temples features sculptures of Ra-Horakhty, Ramses II as the god-king, Amun Ra, and Ptah. The alignment of the temple is such that, on 22 February and 22 October, the sun would shine directly on three of the four figures. Ptah, an underworld god, remained in shadow. When the temples were moved to prevent flooding during construction of Aswan dam, the alignment was kept. Hathor is the goddess of the smaller temple.

1. The Delphic Oracle, Greece

Although you would have a hard time finding an actual Delphic oracle in modern Greece where computers, smartphones and even smart homes abound, the ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi are still there to be visited. The site is incredibly popular with history buffs, Pagans, and fans of esoterica, and its gorgeous location on Mount Parnassus makes it possible to get closer to nature than a site such as Athens’ Parthenon. The complex includes a number of ruins, among them a black marble altar, the omphalos or centre of the world, treasuries, and more. None are more famous than the temple of Apollo, which is located above the chamber in which the oracle sat and prophesied. The chamber itself was destroyed by an earthquake.

These sites may have fallen out of use, but for those with eyes to see, they still are places in which magic is alive.

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