Tonight thousands of people are gathering at Stone Henge in Wiltshire, England, and camping over night ready to welcome the Solstice sunrise. In fact I just heard a news report that there are over 30,000 people there right now and more are expected.
You might think there would be trouble at a gathering that large, but no. People meet there every year, to celebrate in one way or another (religiously or just to party) and it is always a joyous and peaceful event.
I wish I had the time to write a long post on both the significance of the Solstice and of the particular significance of Stone Henge (only one of many many amazing stone circles in the UK, I myself live only a couple of miles from one that is a mere 4000 years old) but you can easily look up the details. So I shall simply add in the words of an email I was sent by a reader.
So, thank you Linda for your outline of the Solstice (see below) and I will send you free paperback copies of my relevant books: Halloween Magic & Mayhem, Werewolf Magic & Mayhem and, of course, Solstice Magic & Mayhem. And if anyone else would like to send me anything to add to my blog then please don't forget to include your address so that I can send you a paperback or two too! Stella!
The Summer Solstice
Summer solstice is a ritual of Celtic origin. This tradition dates back to thousands of years. The specific place where this biannual ritual takes place is at Salisbury Plains and the particular stone formation is called Stonehenge. Every year on the twenty first of June and on the first day of winter marks as the day of summer solstice and winter solstice. It is celebrated by the pagans and druids who in the modern day are also known as neo-pagans and neo-druids. Every year, thousands of people head towards Salisbury plains a day before the set date and they spend the whole night over there. Meanwhile, the groups of people either hangout separately or share parties together.
It is a universal cycle when the sun has such a setting that it aligns with the central stone of the Stonehenge as it rises at dawn. Along with this, two other stones perfectly align with the sun and the central stone and this repeats every year. The difference between winter and summer solstice is that in summer solstice sun is at its highest while in winter solstice, it is the exact opposite. Summer solstice also marks the beginning of the harvest season. According to pagans, this is done in order to thank to all the major forces, sun being the most powerful of all, because of which is the harvest was made possible. In winter, however, the solstice has a whole new meaning.
A lot of people of pagan and druid community consider it a good omen to start a new cultivating season, while other consider it a good opportunity to get married and even get united with their older folks in solidarity. There is folk music to brighten up the atmosphere as well as cultural costumes of pagan and druid origins.
Apart from the believers of Stonehenge solstice, there are general public as well in the audience. At times their attendance is more than the followers of solstice. The celebrations start at dusk and last till dawn when the sun rises and lights up the world with its first rays. At the time of dawn there is pin drop silence as sun approached the horizon. The first ray of sun is followed by a specific prayer that the pagans chant in order to pay tribute. These chants become louder and louder and so is the specific of drum. And when the sun is perfectly aligned, the ritual attendees kiss it and hug it in order to than for the previous years.
It is a great opportunity for the people who do not believe in solstice as well. They get to know more people and interact with them. While all this is going on, in the central area of Stonehenge, celebratory events keep on happening from time to time which keeps the attendees not only interested in the ritual but also their culture. This has been an going process for ages to come now and it takes place twice a year which actually supports the consistency of summer solstice in the Salisbury plains of England.