The 4th song on the upcoming Cunning Folk album; Ritual Land, Uncommon Ground is titled What Has Been & Gone Before, & this is what inspired it.
On the 17th June 601AD Pope Gregory gave a letter to Abbot Mellitus, who was departing for England:
“When (by God’s help) you come to our most reverend brother, Bishop Augustine (in Kent), I want you to tell him how earnestly I have been pondering the affairs of the English: I have come to the conclusion that the temples of the idols in England should not on any account be destroyed. Augustine must smash the idols, but the temples themselves should be sprinkled with holy water & alters set up in them in which relics are to be enclosed. For we ought to take advantage of well-built temples by purifying them from devil worship & dedicating them to the service of the true God. In this way, I hope the people (seeing their temples are not destroyed) will leave the idolatry & yet continue to frequent the places as formerly, so coming to know & revere the true God. & since the sacrifice of many oxen to devils is their custom, some other rite ought to be solemnized in it’s place such as a Day of Dedication or Festivals for the holy martyrs whose relics are there enshrined. On such high days the people might well build themselves shelters of boughs round about the churches that were once temples & celebrate the occasion with pious feasting. They must no longer sacrifice animals to the Devil, but they may kill them for food to the glory of God while giving thanks for his bounty as the provider of all gifts.”
In this letter were the blueprints for the erasure of old ways.
I grew up near Knowlton Church, a ruined church built inside a Neolithic henge monument on Cranborne Chase. The ruin is evidence of the village of Knowlton which was wiped out by the Black Death in medieval times.
As children we would run around the ramparts & hide in the small Yew grove & climb on the ruin. It was rumoured that witches would meet there on dark nights. That would have been a fascinating example of continuity of purpose echoing past beliefs.