Over twenty thousand people celebrated the summer solstice at Stonehenge in 2013. This ritual has been going on there since possibly the neolithic age, according to some studies. But many things remain a mystery about this ancient monument. Scientists cannot agree on how Stonehenge was created, but they do know that solstices and equinoxes have probably been celebrated there for approximately five thousand years, giving it historical significance, as well as spiritual significance, to those who come there today to celebrate.
As far as carbon dating can determine, the neolithic Britons began the creation on Salisbury Plain with a massive circular ditch and bank, or henge. Several hundred years later eighty stones were added, forty-three of which still remain intact. The third phase of building took place around 2000 B.C. and created the outer crescent. Evidence has pointed at this area being a burial ground. But the historical practices that took place there are unproven.
Significance of the Celebrations
For many pagans, druids, and sun worshippers, the Wheel of the Year is divided into four basic parts: summer, winter, spring, and autumn. Those parts are signified by two solstices and two equinoxes. The summer solstice marks the longest day of the year and the winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year, with the spring and autumn equinoxes marking the two days of the year that day and night are equally balanced.
Celebrating the solstices and equinoxes at Stonehenge continues each year as pagans and druids congregate there to hold many different ceremonies, worship and celebrate with music, dance, prayer and chanting. Many pagans choose to hold handfasting ceremonies on these dates, which is a pagan marriage ceremony. Others come to celebrate with them, as well as witness the powerful event at this mystical location, with organised trips available from cities such as London – to find out more, click here.
From those who worship the sun, to those who are simply curious to witness the celebrations, Stonehenge offers free entry to the actual circle of stones only on these dates. The events are overseen by English Heritage, who maintain the site. There are security, parking, lighting, catering facilities and toilet facilities available on site for the events. Many come the night before, spending the night in the circle, celebrating all night to be there at sunrise to welcome the sun.
Meanings Behind the Celebrations
Spring (vernal) equinox – It takes place on the 20th of March each year and is a celebration of rebirth, the emergence of life after winter and fertility.
Summer solstice – falling on June 21st or 22nd, it is a time to reflect upon the growth of the season, the first harvest, and a time of cleansing and renewal.
Autumn equinox – celebrated on September 22nd/23rd, it is when night and day are in balance. It is the celebration of the second harvest, the start of winter preparations, giving thanks to the sunlight and paying respect to the darkness to come.
Winter solstice – held on either December 21st or 22nd, it marks the shortest day of the year. Usually containing gifts and feasts.
The mystical draw of this circle of stones has been felt by many, with thousands of visitors every year. The solstices and equinoxes offer the rare opportunity to set foot within the circle of one of the oldest creations of man and feel the energy of Stonehenge.
Written by Thomas Edwards. Thomas has been an international traveller since the early ‘80s. He has travelled across Europe, the USA and as far afield as Thailand, Hong Kong and China. He has written as a business, individual and family traveller and a language or two has given him the opportunity to engage with locals in most places he visits.