Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2010

I should update about TAG Bristol at some point, but I caught a horrible chest cold and have been pretty much bed ridden since Sunday. Except…!

Damn the illness–we decided at the last minute to go to Stonehenge for the winter solstice. Sadly, English Heritage has closed off the rocks to tourists, limiting access for most people most of the time. But twice a year they open up the stones for druids to worship during the solstices.

While I’m not particularly religious (or a druid!) I wasn’t really interested in seeing Stonehenge unless I could lay hands on the thing, so it was perfect timing for me.

We woke up at 5, and got on the road from Bristol by 6, and were at the monument by 7:30. At first I had heard that there wasn’t going to be parking available, so we had pulled up to park on the highway, but were waved off by the police. They let us park in the parking lot anyway, and were actually pretty pleasant, for being up on a very cold and snowy morning in England, right before Christmas!

We walked up to the stones and it seemed that there were mostly onlookers there, not as many druids. People kept telling me that “travellers” were going to be there, and as I have no idea who these people are, I was interested to see them. They just looked like folks from San Francisco to me! It was very laid back, and everyone was friendly and happy. There was some kind of small ceremony in the middle and a war veteran who just arrived from Iraq was knighted.

Then the crowd started to disperse, and people seemed content to just touch the stones, take photos, and chat. The sunrise after the longest night was somewhat of a non-event–you couldn’t seen a thing in the hazy white English pre-dawn. A bit after the druids started clearing out a snowball fight erupted in the middle of the stones, with people ducking behind them and firing away! Sadly, I don’t have very good photos of that, but there’s a pretty good one here.

We went to Avebury afterwards, which was deserted, but had some distinct remains of rituals past, and lots of tracks in the snow. I was delighted to see the monuments still being used and lived with and loved.

12 responses to “Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2010

  1. Good to see my friend Arthur Pendragon is still out there keeping things alive. They are a really great community of people that I think make some very valid points about the unspoken limits of religious freedom.

    Hope you are enjoying the snow, it’s all a bit slushy and muddy in in SoCal.

  2. I was going to say, it’s always good to see Arthur Pendragon in action; I’m happy to endorse someone who proves his tolerance by citing the range of people he’s been arrested with. I haven’t heard of him knighting people before though, and especially a current soldier, which I would have thought raises issues with the oath to the queen given that Arthur claims to be the true king! This medievalist wants to know what words are used in the ceremony…

  3. Also, a late welcome to England!

  4. So excellent! A pre-dawn, winter field trip inside the stones was pretty much the highlight of grad school. Then we tromped through the avenue of stones to Avebury under a cold, grey sky.

  5. You can perhaps understand that, from a structural archaeologists perspective, that Stonehenge was a timber building [with stone bits]; all that standing around waving things at the sky in all weathers, is not much fun!

  6. Yes, absolutely! Though I’m interested in the biographies of the stones as well–how they have been used and continue to be used today.

  7. I have some dawn summer solstice photos from 1982ish, with a wonderful mix of druids, hippies, police, with sundry Japanese and American tourists looking on. It’s was quite difficult to photograph, it’s a big space; and I felt a bit inhibited.

    The druids would probably be lost without the sky to wave at. However, baring a few, and predictably short lived exceptions, religion, ritual, and ceremony is best practised indoors, or you end up confined to bed, [I hope you are fully recovered]. Although, some appear to contend that roofed social space was a Roman introduction, along with windows.

  8. Geoff – I’d love to see those photos!

    I am finally fully recovered, but only just. I can’t believe how terrible that illness was!

  9. mmm, so would I – see what I can do, glad to hear your better.

  10. Guess what I found, now in post/e-mail!

  11. . . . well not quite .. let you know if you want them

  12. Totally amazing in the snow. Loved the photos. Thanks!

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