Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is the remains of a ring of standing stones set within earthworks. It is in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.
On the night of Friday the 20th June thousands descended on Stonehenge to mark the summer Solstice and the sun rise the next morning which marks “the Solstice”. “Solstice” literally means stopping or standing still of the sun. It is used as a name for the longest day of the year – 21st June – when the sun is at its highest point in the northern hemisphere.
It has become a sacred site to the Druids sect who preserve the beliefs of the Gods of Ancient England and 'the old ways'. They have many followers and many who cling to the ways of our forefathers.
As the evening before the Solstice descends, thousands of good natured revelers and celebrants throng to the stone circle of Stonehenge around which the usual protective barriers have been removed. We can now enter the beautiful stone circle and see and touch the magnificent and massive Bluestones - hewn from quarries as far away as the Preseli Hills in Wales 150 miles (240 km) away - and which were believed to have been transported by human ingenuity nearly 4,000 years ago.
The sunset is time for gentle contemplation of the season, life and the history of the stones. For many it is just a delight to be at this truly spiritual event.
Whilst period dress is optional, many adopt the costumes of the supposed period, Gandolfs, Merlins, knights and wizards but in reality the site the site was probably raised much earlier around 2400 years BC.
Beards abound with the occasional hat that looks more at home in Australia than the owner's magical staff.
Colour, vibrance and celebration are to be seen all around. It is, without doubt, a delightful 'alternative' festival to attend. And this year the weather was very kind with sunshine and a warm evening - the best in the past 8 years!
There were only few Druids this year but characters of all shades abound. Even my own dear hippy joined in the enjoyment.
The short hours between sunset and the coming sunrise are spent by some sleeping among the stones and by others (us) contorted as best we could in our car. Comfortable to a degree in that I was able to fall asleep until the mobile temple of a London based Hari Krishna sect (???) established itself a few yards away and treated us all to some excellent drumming and mantra chanting at a shade after 1 o'clock in the morning. At least they knew all the words, many, many, many times.... Quite how Hari Krishna connects with Stonehenge baffles me just a little.....
Then at 3.30 am we awoke, stretched and walked the mile or so from the parking in adjacent fields to join the assembled throng who were expectantly waiting for the sun rise of the Solstice. We were among an estimated 37,000 fellow-celebrants that morning and it was an truly emotional moment.
Finally at around 5.00am the very first glimpse of the sun rise appeared between the stones and gradually the flaming orb creeps higher and gradually lights more of the stones and the many revelers.
As the sun ascends people smile and hug, laugh and dance around the stones. Walking round to the sunlit side of the stones towards one of the remaining 'marker stones' (that appear to mark the sun rise points for the 4 seasons), you will see celebrants hugging and feeling the ancient power of the stones surging through their hands.
And still more delightful characters are to be found....
And finally as the sun brings warmth to the morning. Tightly wrapped blankets are dropped and we look forward to the Solstice itself which will occur just before midday.
Another gentle mile hike back to the field and the car park and then a relaxed hour and a half before our vehicle was able to move out. Ah well, this was a once in a lifetime experience and we are still totally entranced.