Good morning and welcome to another edition of Breakfast On The Blog. Today we’ll take a look at Solstices.
THE TIMES CHANGE, BUT THE STONES REMAIN THE SAME
Of course as everyone is aware, the Winter Solstice is an astronomical phenomenon that marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Which means our friends down in the Southern Hemisphere are having their Summer Solstice. Which is a lot nicer than the winter one. Celebrating the shortest day and longest night here in Northern Europe has its drawbacks. It’s bad enough getting up in the morning and going to work while it is still dark and then coming home in the late afternoon and it’s dark again. I’m just always glad that after the Winter Solstice the days start getting longer. Spring, summer and Paris are on the horizon.
Naturally though, there are those who do want to celebrate in the snow and the cold. And where better to do that than Stonehenge. As they do in the summer, the English Heritage people will be opening Stonehenge for access to celebrate the Winter Solstice. “English Heritage will once again welcome people to Stonehenge to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Sunrise is just after 8am on Monday 22 December and visitors will be able to access the monument as soon as it is light enough to do so safely.”
Now, I have never attended a Winter Solstice celebration, but in 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983 and once again in 2007 I celebrated the Summer Solstice each time within the stone circle. In the last millennium from 1974 until 1984 there was always an illegal free festival organized by Nik Turner from the band Hawkwind and Sid Rawle, one of England’s leading counter culture icons, in the summer until the authorities finally banned it. Rawle’s nomadic Albion People held their religious ceremonies with in the stones as an alternative to the stuff-shirted businessmen masquerading as “Druids,” who, on the day of the Summer Solstice were always granted access to the stones. Rawle’s “hippies” brought holy water from the sacred well in Glastonbury and baptized and named new babies and paid tribute to the ancient English deities. Of course, liberal amounts of hashish, magic mushrooms and psychedelics fueled the celebrations. Sadly Sid passed away in August 2010. He was a pioneer in land reform and organizing free festivals. I knew him personally and he was a kind, mellow and generous human being.
When I returned for the first time after 23 years in 2007, the free festival was no more but English Heritage was still opening up the stone circle to public access on June 21st (something normally not permitted; you can only view Stonehenge from a short distance away and walk around it, but not into the circle itself). But by then the magic of the old gathering was long gone, and thousands of teenagers drinking ale and wine were there raising hell all night long waiting for the sun to rise over the Heelstone. The times change, but the stones remain the same. So, if you really want to celebrate a solstice, visit Stonehenge. And if you’re like me, and prefer the warmer weather, visit it during the Summer Solstice. I can assure you that there are few other experiences one can have comparable to sitting within the stone circle with a belly full of psilocybin magic mushrooms and communing with whatever spirits you might find there…
Photo of Stonehenge taken at the Summer Solstice in June 1980.
Photo of Sid Rawle holding a baby up during the naming ceremony in the stone circle at Stonehenge on June 21st 1982.
Photo of people dancing in the stone circle at the Summer Solstice celebration at Stonehenge on June 21st 1983.
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