Druids' Summer Solstice Ceremony

Druids' Summer Solstice Ceremony

June 23
Stonehenge, the ancient stone circle located on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, is believed to have been built between about 3050 and 1600 b.c.e. The alignment of the monument's stones have led some to theorize that its builders were sun worshippers: at the Summer Solstice, when viewed from the center of the monument, the sun rises through the entrance and just between two of the large stones.
In popular lore, Stonehenge has been associated with the ancient Celtic priests known as Druids. However, Stonehenge was built more than 2,000 years before Druids existed. Nonetheless, today modern Druids and other Neopagans gather at Stonehenge for ceremonies, although the date has been pushed forward a couple of days to avoid the crowds of tourists who flock to Stonehenge on the solstice. Wearing white robes and scarlet hoods, the Druids keep a vigil throughout the night, and when the first rays of the rising sun shine on the Altar Stone, they walk in procession around the circle, gathering at the Altar Stone to recite prayers and salute the rising sun.
Neopagans holding ceremonies in the 1980s had several run-ins with the police, so English Heritage—the British government agency that administers the national monument—closed the monument to solstice celebrations. Since 1998, however, English Heritage has gradually been allowing more and more visitors access to the monument. More than 14,000 Druids and other Neopagans peacefully saw in the summer solstice at Stonehenge in 2001.
CONTACTS:
English Heritage
P.O. Box 569
Swindon, Wiltshire SN22YP United Kingdom
44-87-0333-1181; fax: 44-17-9341-4926
www.english-heritage.org.uk
SOURCES:
EngCustUse-1941, p. 79
FolkCal-1930, p. 137
YrFest-1972, p. 48