How Interpretations of the Ritual Nature of Stonehenge Have Changed over Time; a study illustrated with 5 artworks

Stonehenge is like a church in a big city in the south of the Netherlands. Most likely this church has been built before Roman times but currently will house modern apartments, or a movie theater, a concert venue, an art gallery or will still be in function as a church. In other words, the building shows how adaptable it is to different social needs. Stonehenge has a much longer but equally varied succession of functions.

I take the freedom to bring artistic interpretations to the scene, alongside with archeological references, because Stonehenge is such powerful visual icon. Visiting Stonehenge offers a different experience compared to overgrown Neolithic hill-forts like Tara Hill in Ireland. Stonehenge’s visual impact has, since it first days, not lost any of its appeal. It has inspired artists, writers, and photographers and it is therefore justifiable to include artworks in this assignment. Next to art resources, ‘Researching Stonehenge; Theories Past and Present’, by Mike Parker Pearson has providing me with an overview of research done at Stonehenge as well as evolving insights into rituals functions of Stonehenge.

A 14th Century Print with Merlin Building Stonehenge

In this 14th century print we see Merlin, as an unshaven giant, helping humans building Stonehenge. Geoffrey of Monmouth (1100-1155) thought that Stonehenge was originally built in Ireland by giants and was later relocated to Britain to function as a temple for ancient druids. The temple function of Stonehenge was confirmed in Roman times by Hecateus who assumed Stonehenge to be a temple for honouring Apollo. John Aubrey/William Stukeley, both mid-17th century, proposed a likewise theory. Aubrey and Stukeley thought Stonehenge was built before the Romans. Stukeley, a member of Freemasonry, even took druidry up himself and attempted to date Stonehenge for the first time. He wrongly ascribed the building of Stonehenge to druids. Later, Lieutenant-Colonel William Hawley (1851–1941), a British archaeologist undertaking pioneering excavations at Stonehenge, followed Stukeley’s theory Stonehenge was indeed a temple, for priests and for nobles.

Despite archaeologists disapproving with Stonehenge as a ‘temple of the Druids’ as modern dating methods indicate that Stonehenge was built long before the time of the Druids, up to today druid-style dressed up visitors celebrate the summer solstice at Stonehenge.


Stonehenge as imagined in Francis Grose

Returning to the suggested relation between druids and Stonehenge, I present this engraving which shows a druid holding mistletoe and a sickle. The druid obviously has collected mistletoe and is now turning towards Stonehenge. What connects druids, mistletoe and Stonehenge? Mistletoe was regarded a sacred herb as it grows without soils between heaven and earth. Mistletoe growing on oak tree is rare, which has been noticed and utilized in the Celtic world. Gaius Plinius Secundus (23-79 AD), a Roman author also known as Pliny the Elder, describes a Celtic ritual sacrifice at which a druid, dressed in white, climbs an oak tree collecting mistletoe with the help of a sickle. This was done with great ceremony on the sixth day of the moon, by using a golden coloured sickle. Mistletoe, according to druids, as recorded by Pliny the Elder, increased fertility of cattle. This could have been important to Salisbury farming communities. Old theories, by Geoff Wainwright and Francis Grose both connecting Stonehenge to druidic practices, stressing healing properties, reemerge in 2006 when Tim Darvill uses the studies of Wainwright where he theorizes that Merlin collects the blue-stones from Ireland because of their healing properties. There is no archeological evidence that Stonehenge blue stones were relocated from Ireland. They come from West-Wales’ Preseli Hills. Thus the theory changes but keeps Stonehenge associated with healing rituals because Preseli’s holy wells were believed by Medieval people to offer healing water. Water throw against the blue stones of Stonehenge likewise resulted in to empowering water with healing properties. Up till the 18th century visitors of Stonehenge chiseled off pieces of blue stones believing these pieces to have curative powers. Stonehenge’s healing hypothesis has survived the test of time despite that its focus changed from mistletoe utilizing healing rituals to healing properties of Stonehenge’s blue stones.

Wiltshire, a stylized 1700s look at Stonehenge

The artist of this etching or drawing, shows two groups of people as such expressing two different ritual functions of Stonehenge. There is a clear distinction in fashion between the men standing within Stonehenge circular structure and those who are working at the front. The artist shows neatly dressed men as researches, noblemen or landowners within Stonehenge. More importantly, brought to the front, are (probably) grave robbers. They have just unearthed a skull and three large bones. Hence, Stonehenge is depicted in its function as a place of (elite) interest, as well in its sepulchral function as it is surrounded by interesting burials that are worth robbing. It doesn’t comes as a surprise that only a skull and some large (human?) bones are found in Stonehenge’s ditch as in Neolithic times human and animal bones were offered or buried in ditches or under buildings. It was William Flinders Petrie, working on Stonehenge between 1874-1880, who suggested that Stonehenge’s function was ‘sepulchral, religious, astronomical and monumental’.

In the 1920s Lieutenant-Colonel William Hawley (1851–1941), a British archeologist digs up nearly 60 cremated and uncremated human remains inside Stonehenge; the remains are reburied in 1935. Hawley’s excavations confirm Stonehenge’s funerary function. In 2002 of the grave of the Amesbury Archer, 3 miles from Stonehenge, is found by archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology. The grave dates back to 2,300 BC and is richest array of items ever found from this period thus leading to the believe that the archer possibly was the King of Stonehenge.

In 2007 the Stonehenge Riverside Project and the Beaker People Project radiocarbon date surviving skeletal remains. This results in establishing Stonehenge’s cemetery function as from the early third millennium BC. Interpreting Stonehenge’s ritual function, as far back as the 1700s, as a burial place that has seen different funerary rituals and mortuary practices has thus been supported by past and recent (2007) archeological research.

Avebury, Stonehenge and The Rollright Stones 1806

As far back as in 1806, somebody with drawing skills, connects Avebury, Stonehenge and the Rollright stones in Oxfordshire. Later, long-term multidisciplinary research discovers that Stonehenge stands at the heart of a vast Neolithic landscape with temples, burial mounds, pits and ritual shrines. As one of the most rewarding archeological research being done on Stonehenge, the Stonehenge Riverside Project, lasting over 10 years, connects Stonehenge to other Neolithic monuments, i.e. Durrington Wall, the Cursus, Amesbury, Woodhenge and the Preseli Hills in Wales. The person who drew Avebury, Stonehenge and the Rollright stones in1806 similarly tries to connect Neolithic monuments, by drawing them with similar compositional perspective and thus trying to see resemblances in appearance and character. However, there have been long interludes in which theorizing about the function of Stonehenge was done in isolation, not relating Stonehenge to its prehistoric landscape features, that are ‘teeming with previously unseen archeology’ (Vince Gaffney, 2014).

A pen drawing and watercolour by George Heywood Maunoir Sumner (1853–1940) c. 1920.

Visible in this pen drawing of Stonehenge, seen from the north west, are the upright positioned Aubrey Holes, a ring of fifty-six (56) chalk pits, named after the seventeenth-century John Aubrey who identified them. Although the Aubrey Holes date back to the earliest phases of Stonehenge (4th millennium BC), their purpose is still discussed.
Before Pearson’s Stonehenge Riverside Project, Stonehenge has been proposed to a monument to honour Apollo (Hecates of Abdera, 4th century BC), a religious monument for Druids (John Audrey), a monument for the dead (Sir Arthur Evans 1851-1941), an astronomical centre (Sir Norman Lockyer 1836-1920), and an astronomical observatory (Gerald S. Hawkins (1982-2003). Also, Stonehenge has been identified as a Neolithic Lourdes, a place were people with illnesses travelled to, even as far as from Switzerland, as the Amesbury Arches shows, in hope for a cure. Trepanation probably took place at Stonehenge (R. Atkinson, 1920-1994). Despite research and restorations, Stonehenge remains ‘a terra incognita, an icon, occupying one of the richest archeological landscapes in the world’ (Vince Gaffney).


Artworks dating back as far as the 14th century show a varied succession of theories about Stonehenge. Putting all research together holistically and evaluating Stonehenge in relation to neighboring monuments, offers hope we will succeed in understanding Stonehenge in its different functions. Interpretations of the ritual nature of Stonehenge have changed, expanded, have been refuted and have been upgraded. Having concluded that, is safe to state that Stonehenge has seen a long succession of varied rituals, many of them being related to health, burial and ancestral honouring.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Studied Philosophy and is currently working as an artist at & Latest booklet written and illustrated by Paula is titled ‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’ and available at all online bookselling stores.

This assignment was written for ‘Ritual and Religion in Prehistory’, Oxford Department for Continuing Education, a course Paula thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommends. Copyright 2017

Harris Hawk from Graphite to Full Colour

My Harris Hawk rests on a Saguaro cactus. It is a female hawk and she has chosen this man-high cactus as her favourite location for building her nest. Her partner swoops over, looking for predators that might need to get chased away. 

Ten limited edition prints A3 or regular A5 size available: one sold, nine left. Prints come with a Certificate of Authenticity, registered at My Art Registry at Hahnemeuhle. 

Visit for more information on contact me.

Bird of Prey and pet bird (🐔🐧🐦🐤🐣🐥🦆🦅🦉) commissions: contact me at mindfuldrawing@gmail (dot)com.




I started an Instagram account if you’re interested: @mindfuldrawing

I use Instagram as mini blogging with useful commenting. Eye candy is nice, but not enough. We are on the world-wide-web to built a world community that learns from each other, respects each-other, and grows emotionally connected. So than when something goes wrong in one part of the world, there is worldwide support.

Collecting of big-data through social media is something I deeply dislike. But I do like to see people grow connected and with the use of emoticons we now can talk and share emotions world wide with strangers, who become a bit less stranger to us. That is wonderful, isn’t it? And maybe it out-weights the big data grab. I hope so.

And I am working on a Harris Hawk. Landing soon…on my blog.



Liliya’s Booklet Review

Liliya wrote:

Review? Feedback? No. Just my feelings about a booklet of a truly inspired artist Paula Kuitenbrouwer: ‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany; the Beautiful Natural World’.
We don’t buy a piece of paper with artistically combined lines into a beautiful image on it. We buy emotions, feelings, hours of doubts, mistakes, learning, experience, philosophy, etc.. To me it seems a privilege to sneak into an artist’s laboratory and participate in creating process at least by watching it. It’s something that I was always doing at my dad’s photo laboratory— watching photos being born. It’s a huge mystery that takes you away and transfers into its magic world.
This feeling I got while reading Paula’s book. Every single explanation: a concept of composition, colours, shapes, personal stories that served as canvases for the future paintings; deep philosophy behind each element; and kindness, overwhelming inner balance and piece of the author that I felt while reading had simply gave me a therapeutic effect. To add up: short, clear, nothing to add, nothing to take away, just “THE BEAUTIFUL NATURAL WORLD”.

Thank you Liliya!


available at or Etsy, or contact me (payment via Paypal).


Losing oneself; bridging the gap


While working on a Ex Libris (bookplate) commission, I sort of fell in love with the dogs, Jessie & Meiko, that I was drawing. One could say: ‘Of course, these dogs are very cute. They look healthy, playful and are full character’. Yet, I think there is more. As my graphite pencil is creating fur, I am, in my mind, touching that fur. When I add eyes to a dog, I add a soul to a body. And when I admire a healthy fur coat, I like to touch it and give its owner a cuddle. An artist can’t help but ‘bridging the distance’ between himself and an object. Of course this is not always the case. For instance, with political art, despite being  deeply involved with the object, one needs to step away from it personally  on order to add collective feelings, like repulsion, anger or fear to it, feelings much bigger than one person’s likes and dislikes.

Take for instance Guernica, Picasso‘s oil painting completed in June 1937. Or ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’, by Caravaggio (1599). You need a healthy distance to the suffering in both paintings otherwise you would die over and over again during the making of this type of artwork. Still you can’t paint a convincing painting without coming very close to the objects that need to be transferred onto a canvas or drawing pad.

For me this is one of the mysteries of drawing and painting, and probably also of writing. It is about losing yourself, coming so close to objects of your focus that you disappear for a while. And this losing yourself can happen during the painting of a human, dog, flower, snail or ship. Or even seas, rocks, landscapes.

As I am progressing with my Oxford course ‘Rituals and Religion in Prehistory’, I read the following sentence: ‘Ethnographic studies of modern hunter-gatherers have often revealed that they view the landscape as something that is literally animated with moral, mystical and mythical significance. Particular places, rocks, lakes and rivers, are often believed to be the creation of ancient ancestors or spiritual beings, while birds, fish and mammals are seen as creatures that are powerfully related to humans’. (Living with the dead amongst hunter-gatherers, Aiden O’Sullivan of the Department of Archaeology, UCD, Ireland).

Has such ethnographic thesis been pushed forward by people with artistic sensitivity? To feel more than yourself alone or to feel that animals and places are full life, one has to be able to scale down oneself. And to open up to another way of perceiving life, or even being able to enrich one’s perception to sense life in, what we at school collectively have learned, dead material.

With art making, this way of perceiving doesn’t come as a forceful act or as a mind stretch; it naturally happens when people meditate or practise mindful drawing. In ‘The Zen of Seeing, seeing/drawing as meditation’, Frederick Franck describes drawing as ‘The Way of Seeing’, as a way of meditation, a way of getting into intimate touch with the visible world around us’. And distance in that world, whether it is geographical distance or distance in time, seems to be irrelevant.

Do you feel like bridging a geographical or time gap when you are making art? What are your thoughts on this, dear fellow artists?


EX LIBRIS with Head of a Young Apostle by Raphael

I promised more Ex Libris designs so, voilà, here is my Ex Libris with my study of Raphael’s Head of a Young Apostle. More about this drawing by Raphael and its extraordinary value you will find here (click here). I fell so deeply in love with Raphael’s Head of a Young Apostle, I sat down to draw a study of it. It might sound strange, but I believe that artists often paint or draw themselves, even when they make portraits of others. One can not exapostel12escape ones own feelings, observation, perspective and projections, in that sense artists draw ourselves hidden in their drawings or paintings.

When it comes to drawing a portrait, like a ‘Young Apostle’ without having a life model in front of me, my subconsciousness  projects itself and draws itself to a certain extent. To a certain extent, because I am not a young apostle and I am a woman. Still, my study gives away a lot about myself; about loving the theme of a  young apostle, loving a Renaissance type of drawing, loving Raphael’s artwork, and altering Raphael’s model to a person that is taller and skinnier than his chosen model. exapostel13

I decided the use the study as a theme for my Ex Libris design which prompted me to select a Renaissance letter-font. Again, I grew so happy studying Renaissance manuscripts, letter fonts, and signatures. How pretty they are; how profoundly artistic and special.

Many years ago my family visited a Raphael exhibition and I had the chance to study a drawing by Raphael very close up. Not that I was alone, far form that! You had to buy tickets with a time-slot. But somehow, I was lucky and I could press my nose almost against the protective glass and have a very close look at a small piece of sketching paper with some Madonna sketches by Raphael. The paper had been carefully repaired in many places. I could see how conservators or restorers had added paper to the original paper, as you notice new fabric is being added to support fabric thatexapostel14 is falling apart. The whole document; the work of Raphael as well as the work by conservators made time stand still for me. I was enchanted. Mesmerized! While others were opening their art appreciative hearts to larger canvasses with bold colours and exquisite Madonnas and baby Jesus, I was hypnotized by this small piece of restored paper with unbelievable skillful sketches by Raphael. One knows when one meets a master.

Back to the Ex Libris. It is on Etsy and in my art-shop, and those who buy my booklet, will get one for free. Those who order my booklet at Blurb, please mail me so that I can send my Renaissance Ex Libris to you by regular post.



Ex Libris


Expect a good deal of Ex Libris fun here as I embark on making more ink-graphite Ex Libris designs. This one holds classic motifs: a stack of books, a name banner and the tree of life. I filled the border with tiny leaves and dangling drops of wisdom (tree leaves). The roots seem to embrace wisdom stored in the pile of books.

Free download this design, print it on quality paper, put your name in the white banner, and enjoy dressing up your precious books.

Ex Libris Free Dowload

Commission me for your personal Ex Libris, with your name and your favourite bookplate motifs. See contact form or visit my Etsy.






Merry Christmas & Joyful Yule Tide


May I provide you with my newsletter-2016. It contains studio news and my Top 3. Of course it has nice pictures. Contact me at if there is anything in the newsletter that you like to discuss. Or use the contact form at the end of this post for contacting me.

I wish you all a happy time. A time for a long walk in your local woodlands and for a nice talk with family or friends near a fire-stove. Please, don’t forget to put some treats outside for the birds. Run through your stuff and bring a bag for of goodies to charity and give at least one homeless person a hot coffee. Be good, be charitable and be kind. All little efforts together make the world a better place.




THE ART BEAT: Kudos to Dutch Nature Artist Paula Kuitenbrouwer on her newest book

PAULA KUITENBOUWER is a Dutch nature artist. Her particular special gift is to help us appreciate the beauty of the natural world. I’m pleased that she’s compiled a portfolio of her art…

Source: THE ART BEAT: Kudos to Dutch Nature Artist Paula Kuitenbrouwer on her newest book