I hate these sorta things to be honest, but many people have suggested I should give a brief overview of misself, so here it is!
Born of Romany gypsy stock, according to those who know me, I’m the leading prehistorian for Ilkley Moor and the Rombald’s Moor complex, West Yorkshire, England. They may be right… I live amidst a library of some 5000 books and a coupla thousand journals on the archaeology, folklore & local history of the northern counties of the British Isles (amongst other things), and when I’m not studying or causing trouble I like to get out and about wandering hills and moors, off-path, in search of ancient sites, curious herbs and mythic histories. Most recently I was honoured to receive the accolade of being named “the Max Keiser of megaliths and rock art” by my old friend Richard Hirst – one of the best compliments I’ve ever received! Over the years I’ve been described invariably as a lunatic, a fruitbat, a tosser, Barmy Bennett, a genius, a poet, an arrogant bastard, The Gazelle, a hermit, guru – along with “the Very Irreverent Paul Bennett” (as author and publisher Bob Trubshaw once called me); “an old Earth shaman if ever I saw one!” by the great Paul Devereux; aswell as an “intrepid megalithic explorer” by the honorable Aubrey Burl. It’s a disease I’ve had over many incarnations I think!
In this lifetime I have walked, explored and studied the archaeology, folklore, history and mythic ideas underscoring megaliths and their compatriots for more than 40 years. It’s something of an obsession that’s been with me since I started venturing onto Ilkley Moor as a 10-year old, looking for cup-and-ring stones, tombs and stone circles. I was up there every weekend and most school holidays, in all weathers (storms, blizzards, fog – each with their own feel), venturing further afield in search of the same things as I got older. The illness has always been with me. Although I asked regional archaeologists for help in my early years, I was told in a quite dismissive way when I was young that “there was no point enquiring about cup-and-rings” as “they were unworthy of study.” It wasn’t an attitude I agreed with, but it taught me a lot about the manners of archaeologists and their rather limited pathways…
I also spent those same early years mixing up (in a somewhat confused way) a variety of my own spontaneous transpersonal experiences (which you never really understand at the time) with the ancient sites that I was exploring. Such encounters are what gave rise to my focus on folklore and Fortean phenomena – which were relevant in terms of feeding and nurturing the unconscious organic relationship with the environment in which I played. It wasn’t until I started an extensive use of psilocybin and other hallucinogens at the end of my teens that many of the seemingly extraneous ingredients achieved greater focus. Many old beliefs and intellectual systems showed themselves up for what they were: limited egocentric pathways that befalls us in all our juvenile development. These psychedelic tools opened doors to subjects I previously thought had no relevance to megalithic sites: archaeology had its necessary partner ‘anthropology’ added as a vital necessity; and then comparative religion – in particular, the religion of ‘primitive’ peoples (although the word ‘religion’ is as inept as the term ‘primitive’ in this arena). These academic regions give some of the folklore motifs commonly found at ancient sites very clear perspectives, showing exactly what some of these otherwise abstract tales represent.
Amidst this period I edited a small Fortean mag called Brigantia, then an earth-mystery magazine called Earth. I then got round to writing a lengthy booklet called Circles, Standing Stones & Legendary Rocks of West Yorkshire, which was followed a few years later (when I was living at the Rollright Stones) by The Old Stones of Rollright and District — which was co-authored by the great local Thespian, Thomas Wilson. I also wrote a small work called The Twelve Apostles Stone Circle, Ilkley Moor (recently updated), before my book The Old Stones of Elmet was published, in which the internationally renowned archaeologist Prof. Aubrey Burl wrote the Foreword (I was hugely pleased! Huge thanks again Aubrey!). My most recent works have been holy wells surveys of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and a companion volume on Stirling and District is soon to be finished. Hopefully, before too long, I’ll get round to publishing the immense Holy Wells of West Yorkshire: the largest survey of its kind ever written. I have numerous other unpublished manuscripts awaiting publication – but don’t expect ‘em to appear too soon. Thanks to being a spazmo, I have a great tendency towards apathy and imagine much of my work will never see the light of day, Soz…
My primary interests today still concern the prehistoric rock art, neolithic and Bronze Age remains of Scotland and northern England and the nature of these remains. These ancient sites and the myths underscoring them are an integral part of what I am, not simply aspects of some “job” that I do within the confines of some clock. I actively participate in a natural animistic engagement with such places, as our ancestors always did, enabling a more direct and simple approach to standing stones, cup-and-rings, old wells, streams, trees and the living cosmos as a whole. My engagement in these fields of study is exemplified by what Mircea Eliade termed homo religiosus — as contrasted with homo profanus — living and engaging in as simple a way as possible with the organic nature of our subject, at the same time utilizing the tools of data and imagery (the bedrock of homo profanus) to elicit clearer and more defined perspectives on that which we explore.
As a result of all this, I have developed a great admiration for real natural enquirers, however mad others may deem them! Without such people the world would not grow, nor discoveries be made. Those people with spirit and energy; those who know the world beyond the object-subject dichotomy – and not depleted by the mass of psychological vampires that infest the world in which we strive to live and grow* – are the vitality behind movement and development. Long may they keep coming through…
Although I was born and bred in Yorkshire, I was fortunate to move to the edges of the Scottish mountains a few years ago. The mountains and the wilderness are, in truth, my greatest inspiration. They are the source of all nourishment and spirituality, in every one of Her cloaks: come blizzards, hurricane, deep night, rain and mist. Nature is, and always has been, my finest partner. I’ve had an adoration of climbing waterfalls, olde trees, vivid mosses and the forgotten skins of endless lichens since I was a child. These simple elements are integrally tied into my own cosmos as much as that of the megalithic world when our ancestors lived and breathed the animistic realism binding them to the world as it is: a relationship that most modern people have all but forgotten…
I am available to do excellent guided walks to the prehistoric archaeological and sacred sites in Yorkshire, England and Perthshire in Scotland: the standing stones, stone circles, rock art, settlements and ancient tombs – with multidisciplinary overtones. The best guided walks where you will get to visit most sites are those I do on Ilkley Moor – and no one else even comes close to the exceptionally broad knowledge imparted on such walks. I am also available to do talks and lectures, and my specialised fields are:
Holy Wells & Sacred Springs of Yorkshire
Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeology of West Yorkshire
Prehistoric rock art of Yorkshire
Rombald’s Moor: Folklore & Archaeology
The Rollright Stones: Folklore & Archaeology
Transpersonal psychology and shamanism
Email me at email@example.com if you are interested in a day’s walk with a small group, or have need for a speaker on the subjects above.
* On the down-side of things, I’ve lost all tolerance of puritanical reductionists (idiots), autocrats, politicians, addicts (of sex, drugs, money, power, etc), capitalists, intellectual masturbators, the Kleptocracy and Born-Again religious followers – all of whom are deviant lost zealots in their relative ways. These seemingly disparate groups of people have each abrogated themselves from their own subjectivity and, where they can, cull others into and under their delusional boughs, draining dreamers, children and natural scientists of their spirit. These dangerous people who view the world as inorganic, lifeless, as a tool for the use of men, are fucked-up at their very roots. The Himalayan people call such individuals ‘dundro‘ – the lost and empty human, unable to even feel the world that feeds their lungs.
The best bio I’ve read so far… and a nice insight into the man behind the information I’ve been digging for years. Rombalds Moor is my ‘home’ in as far as I have one… spent most of my childhood with the stones and my grandfathers there and barely scratched the surface. I really, genuinely appreciate the archive you continue to build here.Thank you.
Thanks Sue. That’s much appreciated…
Aye, I know what y’ mean about the moors…. Every time I come back daan Yorkshire, whichever way I go round the Rombalds region, I simply call it “my home” when I look up to it, as I know it so so well. I used to sleep up there, in all weathers, with and without tents, under rocks, behind walls, in grouse-butts, or the open heather, etc. There are still many many sites up there that remain out of any record-books that sit simply in mi memory or old notebooks. I long since stopped talking with the archaeo’s round there, as most of them seem ignorant and not really interested in the vast wealth of olde things that still live in that region, under peat and heather, at the edge of bogs, or increasingly destroyed by the encroachment of their reconstructed footpaths and high opinions of themselves.
One day I’ll get my book, “Ilkley Moor – A Mythic History” truly finished – and give that region the CV that it truly deserves. Thanks again – PB
“increasingly destroyed by the encroachment of their reconstructed footpaths and high opinions of themselves”… a man after my own heart! I understand the arguments about erosion and support accessibility, but…
I’d been exiled in the south for twenty years, and that little patch of moor pulled at me, like a hand in the gut. The past year of two I’ve been finally able to go home, and each parting feels like it tears at me. I get to be there for the weekend, though in ten days’ time with a few friends, and show them some of the places I love. At least one of them ‘feels’ the place as I do and looks at the petroglyphs with the heart, not just the intellect. Last time we were there the mists came down over the Apostles and a harrier hawk circled, outlined against the early morning sun. It isn’t hard to see through older eyes at times like that.
I have your little book on the standing stones and circles… I hope you do get the Ilkley Moor book out. I can guarantee I will want it.
Bloody Brilliant – what more can I say.
I have been following this very interesting blog for a short time and have reblogged some of your posts. Then today i stumbled upon this About page which i find fascinating too. I think we would get along smartly. May i ask your age sir? I am 61 in body, 35 in mind, and with an illness sometimes feel in my 80s, but i carry on. You carry on too and happy hunting, and may the Old Gods lead you to their Old Lairs. Blessed Be. Lee / Shawnus http://blausternschlonge.wordpress.com/ and http://covenofthecatta.wordpress.com/
A man after my own heart – I would love to explore the moors in your area
I’m hooked on British prehistory , folklore , herbs and wandering wild Wales in search of stories
I love your adventures and stories and thank you so much for all you share
Thanks Gillian. Much appreciated.
…But there are tons of old stones and animistic histories scattering the Welsh hills too. You could, perhaps, meander and feel towards them and do your own write-ups about them for TNA. We could do with some good Welsh correspondents on here. :)
Can I send you my latest book? Co-authored with Tim Walter who did a lot of filming with Hamish Miller down in Cornwell.
First book ‘Heal Your Home’ is selling well but the new one is more relevant to your website.
Drop me your address and I will post it to you. Best to use my firstname.lastname@example.org email.
New website (www.dowsingspirits.co.uk) just launched, you might like to have a look. Best wishes as always.
PS We must meet for that talked about cup of coffee one day.
Hi …I hope you may be able to help me..I think I may have found a undiscovered stone circle above Oswaldtwistle .there are whitish large stones in a circular fashion in one field and a few upright stones in the adjacent field.i have been on lidar finder and Google earth and it looks very circular with a possible ditch round it. I hope you may be able to help and I am more than willing to be contacted to show you the fields I mean .I hope this is ok .thanks.
Andrew Norton: Hi Andy – please email me at – email@example.com so we can discuss this further. It would be good to have a look and see what you’ve found. All the best – Paul
At the end of my working day, I have spent every day of lockdown up on Ilkley moor and with a bit more time discovered many more carvings that I had walked past loads of times previously. Brought up in Leeds, I obviously visited when I was younger but am now fortunate to live on the edge of it so it truly is my home. An amazing place with an amazing feel as you say, I just feel privileged to be able to wander about on it, it’s always an incredible and ever changing canvas, but dotted with unbelievable works of art. I am truly worried about the ongoing vandalism taking place, just through mindless numbers rather than any agenda on the whole. If you are heading down for a walk down here sometime, I would be very happy to tag along. Just read the legendary rocks book too, good of you can one day complete your Ilkley Moor book.
I enjoyed your book “The Old Stones of Elmet” and your Northern Antiquarian website. To be honest, I am not overly interested in ancient stones or archeology – only where strange phenomena is recorded close to them. I also enjoyed Paul Devereux’s “Places of Power” and Andy Roberts’ “Ghosts and Legends of Yorkshire.”
I am writing a book called “Supernatural Yorkshire” to be published this October and I wondered if I could include a chapter about your experiences at Backstone Circle?
Thanks very much.
Andy Owens https://owensandy.com
Hi there, I’m wondering how to contact you with update info about Reaps Cross. I repaired in early 2000’s and can supply details and pictures if you are interested. Please reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org