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Curious Tourists and Modern-Day Druids: Marking the Solstice at Stonehenge

Curious Tourists and Modern-Day Druids: Marking the Solstice at Stonehenge


In the predawn darkness, a procession of druid monks in white robes carry banners by the monoliths of Stonehenge, the traditional British archaeological website. There is an aroma of burning sage; a bagpipe calls within the distance. As daybreak approaches, fever-pitched drumming mounts. If you hadn’t already felt the ability within the stones at this summer time solstice celebration, there is no such thing as a denying the bodily vibration because the solar rises in alignment with the stone circle.

Most of the time, visiting Stonehenge — which is owned by the British crown and managed by English Heritage, a nonprofit that oversees greater than 400 of the nation’s historic websites — requires buying tickets and retaining far-off from the stones, that are usually cordoned off by ropes. But since 2000, 4 instances a 12 months, on the solstices and equinoxes, the ropes come down and guests are invited to wander the stone circle, staying in a single day and previous dawn if they need.

On Thursday, to mark this 12 months’s summer time solstice, the monument opened at 7 p.m., as guests started arriving on shuttle buses from close by Salisbury, a visit that took most of an hour in site visitors. The guidelines had been strict: Blankets for picnics and heat are allowed, however no tenting tools or chairs. Snacks are OK. Alcohol is prohibited.

The crowd ebbed and flowed, with a night wave of vacationers who got here to picnic, then left earlier than dusk. People staying in a single day confronted night temperatures of about 50 levels Fahrenheit with out shelter. Those who stayed drummed, chanted and communed with the stones, which had been lit by a virtually full moon and purple floodlights. Flower crowns topped many heads. The depth constructed by the night time and picked up with quicker drumming and chanting when the sky lightened simply earlier than 4 a.m.

There had been additionally meals vehicles providing wood-fired pizzas, loaded fries, curries and doughnuts, and a merch tent for souvenirs.

Arthur Pendragon, 70, a modern-day druid (the traditional druids had been Celtic monks), wore white robes with an embroidered pink dragon, chunky silver rings and a silver dragon crown. He referred to as the stones “a cathedral.” Charlotte Pulver, 45, an apothecary from Hastings who makes a speciality of pure treatments, has been coming to the location for 12 years. She mentioned it feels “particular to assemble in neighborhood to honor these tides and alignments of the earth.” Some American vacationers within the U.Ok. to see Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour had “determined to swing by.” In all, about 15,000 individuals visited.

Crowds walked the inside of the circle, touching the sarsens (sarsen refers to the kind of sandstone used at Stonehenge) positioned right here round 4,500 years in the past. Some held ceremonies, welcoming the brand new season with chants of “coronary heart to coronary heart and hand handy.” Some positioned their arms on the stones and closed their eyes, seeming to attract energy from them. The surfaces are grey and uneven, scarred with graffiti from the Bronze Age and, on one, a carved signature from Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The orange powder sprayed on them in a local weather protest on Wednesday had already been washed away.

The monument has been credited to varied teams over its historical past, together with Phoenicians, druids and Romans. Jennifer Wexler, a historian for English Heritage who makes a speciality of prehistoric websites, mentioned that the archaeological consensus is that Stonehenge was in-built phases and used in another way over 1000’s of years, from the late Neolithic interval to the early Bronze Age, or between about 3000 B.C. and 1500 B.C.

The druid hyperlink is hazy however is undoubtedly a part of Stonehenge’s fashionable id. In the seventeenth century, one of many early excavators instructed that the druids had been the seemingly builders. Even after this was disproved (the earliest recognized references to the druids date to the 4th century B.C., nicely after analysis suggests Stonehenge was constructed), the thought caught.

It’s becoming {that a} fashionable group, impressed by the previous, has co-opted Stonehenge for its personal use. As the archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes wrote in a 1967 essay titled “God within the Machine”: “Every age has the Stonehenge it deserves — or wishes.” The poet William Blake referred to as it a “constructing of everlasting demise.”

Appreciation of the solar and the solstice echoes down the centuries in Britain, with references in Anglo-Saxon literature and ties to the Medieval thriller performs. Of course, there’s additionally Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Britain’s comparatively northern place means there’s lower than six hours of sunshine in midwinter, however on the solstice the solar rises earlier than 5 a.m. and doesn’t set till virtually 9:30 at night time.

Dr. Wexler, the English Heritage historian, mentioned the solstice alignment is on the heart of Stonehenge’s design. This is probably not stunning given how distinguished the sky and seasonal rhythms would have been within the late Neolithic interval: the motion of the solar and the celebs dominated life.

Druid Chris Park, 51, a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids from Oxfordshire, is an artist and beekeeper. He mentioned he sees the solstice as one thing that transcends religions and nationalities as a result of it’s accessible to all and subsequently “can unify us in significant moments of peace and celebration.”

At 4:52 a.m. on Thursday, standing in a subject on Salisbury Plain, with druids in white robes and vacationers wrapped in blankets, we had been all trying in a single path on the similar time (albeit a few of us by cellphone screens). This collective consideration to the solar was a hyperlink to one another and to those that stood on this place 5,000 years in the past to gaze on the solar from the identical angle — appreciating darkness giving solution to mild.

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