Stanton Drew is a large set of three stone circles and outliers, south of Bristol. The Great Circle is the second largest stone circle in England, after Avebury, with 27 stones. The circle also had nine concentric rings of timber posts. I have always visualised the complex as a kind of laboratory and educational centre. It is located snugly in a river valley, in a markedly discrete spot. Well worth a visit. It is the closest stone circle to Glastonbury. Approach it along the Old Bristol Road leading out of Wells (turn left as you begin climbing the hill to Bristol).
Here's a contribution from Gordon Strong, author of a book called:
The Sacred Stone Circles of Stanton Drew
Stanton Drew stands on the River Chew in Somerset. At the edge of the village, three stone circles can be seen quite clearly. The largest of these, known as the Great Circle, has a diameter of about 112m, exceeding the dimensions of Stonehenge. Like the Northeast circle (diameter 29.5m) it was once approached by an avenue of standing stones. Although many of the stones have fallen (some removed by the Quakers) this circle is the most impressive feature of the site. The Southwest circle has a diameter of 42m and is aligned to The Cove (derived from Old English cofa, an alcove, and from the ancient German for hollow place) some five hundred metres away. This group of three stones may once have formed a cromlech and a shaman has there received messages from the gods.
Stanton Drew is part of a sacred landscape pattern with centres at Stonehenge and Avebury. 'Dragon paths' link the tops of mountains all over the world and are the basis of feng shui (literally 'wind and water' and 'that which can not be seen and cannot be grasped'). To create harmonious features (in accord with their system of five elements fire, wood, earth, water, metal) the Chinese often physically altered the landscape, as did the Egyptians before them. The dragon universally represents fertility, the seed in the earth being brought to life by the power from the sky, a union of yin and yang. This cycle of growth and decay must occur annually in order to sustain the land, so the power of heaven must be encouraged to return. Central to the legend of The Holy Grail is the figure of the Fisher King, impotent guardian of the Waste Land whose kingdom will only be revived if the Quest for the holy vessel (the ultimate symbol of sustenance and plenty) is successful.
Neolithic man noted the lunar cycles and attempted to link the journey of sun and moon so as to determine the heavenly patterns of the universe. The time of the Full Moon nearest to the Winter Solstice was considered to be significant by him. The Moon then being in Cancer, the sign she rules, the female powers would have been particularly potent. The locating of Stanton Drew so near to water would also enhance this feeling. When the Full Moon that falls nearest to the Summer Solstice occurs a ceremony of initiation takes place. Vast fires blaze, as the initiate is led blindfold across the river to the entrance of the N.E. Circle. There the guardian of the stones issues a challenge before he may be permitted to pass any further. Each ring is screened from the next so that he must pass through a veil before gaining the next stage of understanding. Aware of the decorated posts, hung with garlands and the dancers who line the way, he follows a spiral path getting ever closer to his goal, the cove from where the wise men direct proceedings. That he never actually reaches this point is intrinsic to the initiation. None are permitted to gaze upon the mystery of mysteries. But it is enough that he reaches the places where the vortex of energy resides. There he experiences the power that gives this sacred place such potency, and the initiation is complete.
Gordon Strong's book The Sacred Stone Circles of Stanton Drew is available at good bookshops and online.