Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Stonehenge and Summer Solstice
Summer Solstice (June in the Northern Hemisphere – occurs in December in the Southern Hemisphere) is traditionally, the longest day of the year – or the day with the longest period of daylight, since technically it still has the same amount of hours and minutes and isn't really any longer than any other day. (FYI: Solstice is a Latin word meaning the "sun stands still.")
For us here in Southern England, it also means the time when the pagans and druids come en masse to watch the sunrise at Stonehenge. So many people attend that English Heritage, the organization that watches over and maintains Stonehenge, has to close normal tourist admission to the site.
This morning, June 21, 2011 there were 18,000 people attending. Here are some links to the Facebook page of English Heritage with a picture of this morning's ritual:
Crowds at Stonehenge
Druids at Sunrise Ceremony
History of Stonehenge
Stonehenge, originally built around 3,000 BC, was first a circular ditch and bank with probably a ring of 56 wooden posts. About 500 years later, bluestones, brought from Wales (150 miles away), were set up in an arc on the banks
Not long after that, the bluestones were taken down and replaced by the sarsen, or sandstone, blocks seen today. (As a side note: Sarsen stones were found to be terrible for building houses as they draw damp in the winter and rot everything inside. They last forever though and are great for sidewalks and fences.)
The bluestones were later re-erected between the main outer ring and the inner ring. The inner ring is made up of five sets of stones (each set shaped like the symbol for pi) forming a horseshoe, with the open end looking towards the midsummer sunrise.
Stonehenge isn't an isolated Neolithic monument. There are tons (literally) of barrows, burial mounds, tombs, monuments in the area. CLICK HERE for an interactive map.
The pictures used in this blog entry are from English Heritage. If you want to learn more, check out the English Heritage page here: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/
We are members of English Heritage and totally support the work they do to maintain and champion the historic places here in the UK.