Multi-million pound Stonehenge visitor centre to open in time for winter solstice

1 10 2013

Visitors to Stonehenge will get the chance to  explore an impressive new visitor centre close to the ancient site later this  year.

English Heritage today announced that the  first phase of its long-awaited £27million improvements  to the area will be launched to the public on 18 December, in time for  winter solstice on 21 December.

Exploring the past: The impressive new visitor centre will open on 18 December

Exploring the past: The impressive new visitor centre will open on 18 December

The new visitor centre will house a permanent  exhibition that will offer visitors the chance to learn more about the famous  monument.

They will be able to ‘stand in the stones’  thanks to a 360-degree virtual experience before they enter a gallery where they  will be able to view nearly 300 prehistoric artefacts and displays that reveal  facts and theories about the ancient monument.

Many of the archaeological finds – which are  on loan from various museums including the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum  – will be on public display for the first time.

Ancient artefacts: A permanent exhibition will feature nearly 300 prehistoric objects

Ancient artefacts: A permanent exhibition will feature nearly 300 prehistoric objects

The first temporary exhibition will chart  over 800 years of theories about who built Stonehenge – from 12th-century  legends to radiocarbon dating reports in the 1950s.

The environmentally-friendly building,  which  has been designed by Denton Corker Marshall,  features a café, shop, dedicated  education space and visitor’s car park, and will offer tourists free audio  guides.

The centre is 1.5 miles from Stonehenge and  visitors will be transported to the monument on a special shuttle  service

Ambitious: The £27million project features three stages, the first of which is the opening of the visitor centre

Ambitious: The £27million project features three stages, the first of which is the opening of the visitor centre

English Heritage’s chief executive Simon  Thurley said: “This world famous monument, perpetually described as a mystery,  finally has a place in which to tell its story.

“The exhibition will change the way people  experience and think about Stonehenge forever – beyond the clichés and towards a  meaningful inquiry into an extraordinary human achievement in the distant  past.”

 

Easy access: The centre will be 1.5 miles from Stonehenge and visitors will be transported between the sites on a shuttle service

Easy access: The centre will be 1.5 miles from Stonehenge and visitors will be transported between the sites on a shuttle service

 

Volunteers will begin work on the  construction of a group of Neolithic houses in January. The buildings, which are  expected to be finished by Easter, will be based on houses where the builders of  Stonehenge may have lived, complete with furniture and fittings.

The final phase of the project – the  restoration of the landscape around Stonehenge – will be completed by next  summer.

The Avenue, Stonehenge’s ancient  processional approach, has been reconnected to the stone circle after  being  severed by the A344 road for centuries.

The £27million project has been financed  almost entirely by Heritage Lottery Fund money (£10million), English Heritage  commercial income and donations.

From 18 December, entrance to the site will  be managed through timed tickets and online booking opens on 2  December at www.english-heritage.org.uk/stonehenge.

Stepping back into the past: Construction of a group of Neolithic houses will begin in January next year

Stepping back into the past: Construction of a group of Neolithic houses will begin in January next year

Stonehenge, which was constructed between  3,000 BC and 1,600 BC, attracts around 900,000 visitors a year, and is  particularly popular during the summer and winter solstice.

It is still shrouded in mystery as nobody is  sure how or why the giant boulders were transported hundreds of miles to be  constructed at the site.

However, scientists now believe that  Neolithic engineers may have used ball bearings in the construction of  Stonehenge.

The same technique that allows vehicles and  machinery to run smoothly today could have been used to transport the monument’s  massive standing stones from Wales to Wiltshire more than 4,000 years ago,  according to the theory.

Full story: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2438896/Stonehenge-visitor-centre-open-time-winter-solstice.html
By  Travelmail Reporter

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog

 

 





Stonehenge visitor centre and museum to open on 18th December 2013

30 09 2013

A new visitor centre at Stonehenge will open in time for the winter solstice, English Heritage has said.

The £27m project also includes grassing over the A334 alongside the ancient monument and closing another section of the busy road.

The visitor centre and museum will be located about a mile-and-a-half (2km) from the stones.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

The visitor centre and museum will be located about a mile-and-a-half from the stones

Visitors will be shuttled to Stonehenge by a little train, pulled by a Land Rover.

Stonehenge, built between 3,000 BC and 1,600 BC, is thought to have been used for a variety of religious ceremonies.

It attracts around 900,000 visitors a year, about 70% of whom come from abroad.

Lorraine Knowle, from English Heritage, said the “beautifully and sensitively designed” centre “fits into the rolling landscape of Salisbury Plain very well”.

“It will give visitors a real sense of anticipation because the building is really just a stepping stone on the way to seeing the monument,” she added.

Also included is a museum which will be lent artefacts found around the stones, from local collections housed in Salisbury and Devizes.

Joe Studholme, from the Salisbury Museum said for the first time visitors to the stones will be able to put the exhibits in context.

“Before people go to the stones they need to know much more about the background. Previously there hasn’t been any background about the story of the stones.

“We’re thrilled to be in partnership with English Heritage and to be able to tell the whole story about Stonehenge and the wonderful area”

Link source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-24329692

Follow developments on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ST0NEHENGE

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Crowds see in winter solstice at Stonehenge

22 12 2012

Thousands of people have gathered at Stonehenge to watch the sun rise over the ancient monument for the winter solstice

Stonehenge-Winter-Solstice-2012 (35)

Around 5,000 people are thought to have converged on Stonehenge in Wiltshire, to celebrate the 2012 winter solstice, which is around five times the number at last year’s festivities.

This year’s winter solstice coincided with the Mayan Apocalypse, so an “End of the World Party” was held at the monument.

During the winter solstice, the sun is closer to the horizon than at any other time in the year, meaning shorter days and longer nights.

The day after the winter solstice marks the beginning of lengthening days, leading up to the summer solstice in June.

Watch a video here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/telegraphtv/9760577/Crowds-see-in-winter-solstice-at-Stonehenge.html

A good time had by all…………

Merlin at Stonehenge

mpu-bottom advertisement





Arthur Pendragon, Stonehenge and the Solstice

12 10 2012

THE RAVING OUTLAW BIKER-DRUIDS AND THEIR 1575-YEAR-OLD KING

Visit Stonehenge on the summer solstice of any year and you’ll see 20,000 people partying in and around the ancient rock formation. The crowd is usually made up of around one third tourists, one third pilled-up teenagers in sportswear, and one third neo-druids. It’s a genuinely bizarre sight. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy chewing my own face off at archaeologically significant sites as much as the next guy, but in a time when British disobedients seem to spend more time in police kettles than they do in squats, you have to wonder how all of this is, y’know, allowed.

Turns out, it has to do with the guy pictured above, who used to be the leader of an outlaw biker gang, but now claims to be the legendary monarch, King Arthur. Arthur, formerly known as John Rothwell, rose to fame in the 90s when he won his case at the European Court of Human Rights to allow open access to Stonehenge for religious festivals like the summer solstice.

Today, as the elected “Battle Chieftain” of the Council of British Druid Orders, King Arthur and his Loyal Arthurian Warband represent the political wing of Britain’s neo-druid community. I headed down to Stonehenge to visit the only living 1575-year-old king.

Please take the time to read the full article by By Matt Shea, Photos by Andrea Herrada
http://www.vice.com/read/all-hail-king-arthur-uther-pendragon

Stonehenge News Blog sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ www.StonehengeTours.

Merlin says “Always great see Arthur up at the stones doing his bit”

Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge News. Read all about it!

10 10 2012
Once again Stonehenge and Wiltshire is in the spotlight.  The recent revealing 3D laser resilts have uncovered some fascinating facts.  Stonehenge is being talked about across the world which can only be good for South West toursim.  Here is a small selection of Stonehenge Newslinks:

Stonehenge secrets revealed by laser scan
BBC News
Researchers using laser technology at Stonehenge have uncovered evidence which they say shows the importance of the midwinter sunset to its creators. The scan by English Heritage showed significant differences in how various stones were shaped and
 

BBC News
Stonehenge dressed to impress
Stuff.co.nz
A cutting-edge laser scan of Stonehenge has shown how Britain’s enigmatic neolithic monument was built to enhance the dramatic passage of sunlight through the circle of stones at midsummer and midwinter. The slabs were intended to appear at their best 
 
Stonehenge was an ‘art gallery’ suggests new study
TNT Magazine
Laser scans have revealed prehistoric carvings of axe heads, which are invisible to the naked eye. The surface of the 83 remaining stones was scanned using state-of-the-art 3D scanners. These recorded using billions of points of microtopographically. 

TNT Magazine
New Stonehenge secrets revealed
Evening Standard
Professor Clive Ruggles, emeritus professor of achaeo-astronomy at University of Leicester, said: “This extraordinary new evidence not only confirms the importance of the solstitial alignment at Stonehenge, but also show unequivocally that the formal  
Revealed: Early Bronze Age carvings suggest Stonehenge was a huge prehistoric art gallery
Stonehenge News Blog
A detailed laser-scan survey of the entire monument has discovered 72 previously unknown Early Bronze Age carvings chipped into five of the giant stones.

Evening Standard
Lasers find secrets of Stonehenge
This is Bath
They’ve dug under it, mapped it, photographed it and dated it, but a new laser scan of Stonehengehas told scientists even more things they didn’t already know about the ancient Wiltshire monument – including which way the monument ‘faced’. The scan  
The story of British art
The Guardian
From the earliest evocative stone structures at Skara Brae and Stonehenge to the disturbing 20th-century portraits by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, the art inspired by the British isles tells a truly spectacular story. Through painting, sculpture  
Midwinter Sun Link to Stonehenge – ITV News
Read Midwinter Sun Link to Stonehenge latest on ITV News. All the Tuesday 9th October 2012 news.#
Midwinter sun linked to Stonehenge – Stonehnege Tours. The latest 3D laser technology has revealed new evidence of the importance of the midwinter sunset to the ancient creators of Stonehenge. 
Laser uncovers new Stonehenge evidence (From Salisbury Journal)
NEW evidence to suggest the importance of the solstices at Stonehenge to its creators has been discovered by English Heritage. A 3D laser scan was used to 
Blog Sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ www.Stonehengetours.comFor all the latest news on Stonehenge follow us on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/ST0NEHENGE

The Stonehenge News Blog

 





Stonehenge – New Evidence for its Solstitial Function and Approach

9 10 2012

Using the latest 3D laser scanning technology, an English Heritage analysis of Stonehenge has found new evidence of the importance of the two solstices to its creators, including that of the midwinter sunset.

Approach and View from North East Important
The laser scan has revealed significant differences in the way the stones were shaped and worked. These differences show that Stonehenge was not only aligned with the solstices, but that the view of the monument from the Avenue, its ancient processional way to the north east, was particularly important. To approach and view the stone circle from this direction means that the midwinter sunset had special meaning to prehistoric people, and that they made deliberate efforts to create a dramatic spectacle for those approaching the monument from the north east.

The view of Stonehenge as seen from the north east, a view now found to be most important to the creators.

The view of Stonehenge as seen from the north east, a view now found to be most important to the creators.

Stones in the North East Segment Larger and More Uniform

A detailed analysis of the first comprehensive laser survey of Stonehenge reveals that those stones on the outer sarsen circle visible when approaching from the north east have been completely pick dressed – that is, the brown and grey crust on the surface has been removed exposing a fine, bright grey-white surface. By contrast, the outer faces of surviving uprights in the south-western segment of the circle were not pick dressed.

These stones facing north-east are also the largest and most uniform in shape, unlike the south-western segment of the monument where there are several smaller and more irregular stones. The lintels are also exceedingly well worked and finished, compared to those that survive elsewhere in the monument.

Stones on Solstitial Axis most Carefully Shaped and Dressed

The study also shows that the techniques and amounts of labour used vary from stone to stone. These variations provide almost definitive proof that it was the intent of Stonehenge’s builders to align the monument with the two solstices along a north-east/south-west axis.

The sides of the stones that flanked the solstice axis were found to have been most carefully worked to form very straight and narrow rectangular slots. These stones include two of the north-east facing sarsens in the outer circle, the Great Trilithon in the inner sarsen horseshoe, and a now isolated upright stone in the south-west segment of the outer circle.

Since all other stones have visibly more natural, less neat outlines, this strongly suggests that special effort was made to dress those that flank the NE/SW axis to allow a more dramatic and obvious passage of sunlight through the stone circle on midsummer and midwinter solstices.

Laser scan of the Great Trilithon reveals its extremely straight, neat outline and smooth surface, compared with all the other trilithons. It suggests that Stonehenge creators made deliberate efforts to shape and dress it more carefully due to its special position on the solstice axis, just as they did for other stones that flank this axis.

Laser scan of the Great Trilithon reveals its extremely straight, neat outline and smooth surface, compared with all the other trilithons. It suggests that Stonehenge creators made deliberate efforts to shape and dress it more carefully due to its special position on the solstice axis, just as they did for other stones that flank this axis.

Solstitial Alignment Currently Severed by Road to be Restored

Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge Director at English Heritage, said: “The new presentation of Stonehenge will enable visitors to appreciate the importance of the solstitial alignment far better. It’s why we are closing the A344 – which severs the alignment – to enable the stone circle to be reunited with the Avenue.”

The new Stonehenge visitor centre at Airman’s Corner, 1.5 miles west and out of sight of Stonehenge, is scheduled to open in late 2013.

Findings Exceed Expectations

Analysis of the laser scan has also led to the discovery of many more prehistoric carvings, including 71 new Bronze Age axeheads, which bring the number of this type of carvings known at Stonehenge to 115.

Susan Greaney, Senior Properties Historian at English Heritage, said: “We didn’t expect the results to be so revealing about the architecture of Stonehenge. It has given further scientific basis to the theory of the solstitial alignment and the importance of the approach to the monument from the Avenue in mid winter.

“Analysis of the different techniques used to dress the stones may even help to refine the chronology of the construction. Disappointing to some, the scan has also ruled out many poorly defined lines and hollows previously thought to be possible prehistoric carvings.”

English Heritage commissioned the first comprehensive laser survey on Stonehenge in 2011. Archaeological analysis was then carried out to examine the high-resolution data that was produced for all the stone surfaces.

Link: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/stonehenge-solstitial-function/

Blog sponsored bt ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ www.StonehengeTour.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge up close: digital laser scan reveals secrets of the past

9 10 2012

Most detailed analysis yet of prehistoric stone circle shows how masons spent more time making key areas look the best

Like any corner-cutting modern builder, the ancient stonemasons who built Stonehenge lavished the most work and best materials where they would be first seen –shining in the last light of the setting winter solstice sun, or at dawn on the longest day.

Stonehenge: a digital laser scan has revealed tool marks from 4,500 years ago, and graffiti made by Victorian visitors. Photograph: Yoshihiro Takada/Corbis

Stonehenge: a digital laser scan has revealed tool marks from 4,500 years ago, and graffiti made by Victorian visitors. Photograph: Yoshihiro Takada/Corbis

The first complete 3D laser scan of the stone circle has also revealed tool marks made 4,500 years ago, scores of little axehead graffiti added when the enormous slabs were already 1,000 years old, and damage and graffiti contributed by Georgian and Victorian visitors.

The survey, carried out for English Heritage, exposes numerous details now invisible to the naked eye and will be used in displays for the long-awaited new visitor centre, due to open late next year. It shows the stones in unprecedented precision, from the double-decker bus height sarsens from Salisbury Plain that give the monument its unmistakable profile, to the smaller bluestones brought from west Wales by means still hotly debated, and the stumps of stones that have almost been destroyed.

It also confirms the importance of the prehistoric monument’s alignment on the winter and summer solstice. The largest, most uniform and most imposing stones, carefully shaped and dressed through hundreds of hours of work with stone hammers, were set where they would be seen first by people approaching the monument from north-east along the Avenue, a processional way that would have been particularly spectacular at the midwinter sunset.

In an epic piece of work, the stones facing in that direction were laboriously shaped to appear straight and regular, their original rough brown surfaces hammered away, or pick-dressed, to expose the lighter inner layer of stone, which when newly worked would have shone in the sunlight. The gigantic lintels that bridge the uprights were also elaborately worked to even their size and height.

In contrast, on the opposite side of the circle the builders only bothered to pick-dress the inner faces of the surviving uprights. The backs, they clearly reckoned, would never be studied in detail.

Clive Ruggles, emeritus professor of archaeoastronomy at the University of Leicester, said it was already clear that Stonehenge was one of the earliest examples of a monument aligned on the winter and summer solstices.

“Now we can see how the utmost care and attention was devoted to ensuring the pristine appearance of Stonehenge for those completing their final approach to the monument along the solstitial axis. The effect would have been especially powerful at the two times of year when the sunlight itself shone along the alignment – when those approaching had the midsummer rising sun behind or the midwinter setting sun ahead.”

Some hollows, cracks and lines interpreted in the past as carvings have been revealed as natural features, but what astonished Susan Greaney, an English Heritage historian and expert on Stonehenge, is the extent of surviving tool marks.

“Some are quite visible, and have long been noted, but the surprise to me was that everywhere we looked, on every surface, even on very weathered faces of stones which have been lying on the ground for centuries, we could see evidence of the stone working. On some you can see where different groups worked on different areas of the same stone – and with varying skills.”

Long after the monument was built, when Bronze Age burial mounds rich in grave goods began to be scattered across the plain around Stonehenge, and the archaeological evidence suggests those who could make or trade in metal goods had an almost shamanic status, people carved little images of daggers and axes, many now invisible to the naked eye, into the stones. Scores more have been revealed by the scan, including 71 new axe heads, bringing the total to 115 – doubling the number ever recorded in Britain.

“It is wonderful to have discovered so many more, but what is fascinating is that they are carved without regard to the importance or the siting of the stones – almost as if the people who carved them could no longer quite remember the significance of the monument and how it worked,” Greaney said.

Writing about the project in the new issue of British Archaeology, Marcus Abbott, head of geomatics and visualisation for ArcHeritage, and Hugo Anderson-Whymark, an Oxford based expert on ancient worked stone, note that the 850 gigabytes of data covering hundreds of faces of the stones were equivalent to 750m pages of printed text or 200,000 music files.

“Over the months we have recorded and scrutinised every square centimetre of Stonehenge in unparalleled detail, revealing over 700 areas of stoneworking, rock art, graffiti, damage and restoration.”

They processed the data digitally to strip away weathering and surface texture, and as well as revealing carved details, were able to show that some stones that now appear insignificant were originally much more imposing, but have either broken naturally or been quarried for building stone.

“Fallen stones were particularly vulnerable – the analysis suggests that six have lost tens of tons of stone – and as Stonehenge became a major tourist attraction in the 19th century visitors could actually hire chisels to hack away their own souvenirs.

For Greaney their work answers one of the Stonehenge mysteries – but leaves another unsolved. Some had suggested because some stones are so much less imposing and others are missing, that Stonehenge was never finished.

“I think we can say now that the monument certainly was finished – but where the stone went is still a puzzle. At Avebury you can readily see stone reused in nearby buildings from medieval times on, but Stonehenge is some distance from the nearest village, so it’s much less easy to see where the stone would have been taken – although we have looked far and wide, we have not succeeded in finding evidence of the re-use of the missing stones.”
Source: Maev Kennedy The Guardian,       

Sponsored by ‘Stonehenge Guided Tours’ www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle News Blog

 





The Solstice connection. Laser scanning uncovers new Stonehenge evidence.

8 10 2012

English Heritage experts have used 3D laser scanning technology to discover new evidence of the importance of the two solstices to its creators.
The laser scan has revealed significant differences in the way the stones were shaped and worked. These differences show that Laser scanning uncovers new Stonehenge evidence Stonehenge was not only aligned with the solstices, but that the view of the monument from the Avenue, its ancient processional way to the north east, was particularly important.

To approach and view the stone circle from this direction means that the midwinter sunset had special meaning to prehistoric people, and that they made deliberate efforts to create a dramatic spectacle for those approaching the monument from the north east.
A detailed analysis of the first comprehensive laser survey of Stonehenge reveals that those stones on the outer sarsen circle visible when approaching from the north east have been completely pick dressed – that is, the brown and grey crust on the surface has been removed exposing a fine, bright grey-white surface. By contrast, the outer faces of surviving uprights in the south-western segment of the circle were not pick dressed.
These stones facing north-east are also the largest and most uniform in shape, unlike the south-western segment of the monument where there are several smaller and more irregular stones. The lintels are also exceedingly well worked and finished, compared to those that survive elsewhere in the monument.
The study also shows that the techniques and amounts of labour used vary from stone to stone. These variations provide almost definitive proof that it was the intent of Stonehenge’s builders to align the monument with the two solstices along a NE/SW axis.
The sides of the stones that flanked the solstice axis were found to have been most carefully worked to form very straight and narrow rectangular slots. These stones include two of the north-east facing sarsens in the outer circle, the Great Trilithon in the inner sarsen horseshoe, and a now isolated upright stone in the south-west segment of the outer circle.
Since all other stones have visibly more natural, less neat outlines, this strongly suggests that special effort was made to dress those that flank the NE/SW axis to allow a more dramatic and obvious passage of sunlight through the stone circle on midsummer and midwinter solstices.
Professor Clive Ruggles, Emeritus Professor of Archaeo-astronomy at University of Leicester, said: “This extraordinary new evidence not only confirms the importance of the solstitial alignment at Stonehenge, but also shows unequivocally that the formal approach was always intended to be from the north-east, up the Avenue towards the direction of midwinter sunset.

“We see how the utmost care and attention was devoted to ensuring the pristine appearance of Stonehenge for those completing their final approach to the monument at the two times of the year when sunlight shines along the alignment – when those approaching had the midsummer rising sun behind or the midwinter setting sun ahead.”

Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge Director at English Heritage, said: “The new presentation of Stonehenge will enable visitors to appreciate the importance of the solstitial alignment far better. It’s why we are closing the A344 – which severs the alignment – to enable the stone circle to be reunited with the Avenue.”

The new Stonehenge visitor centre at Airman’s Corner, 1.5 miles west and out of sight of Stonehenge, is scheduled to open in late 2013.

Analysis of the laser scan has also led to the discovery of many more prehistoric carvings, including 71 new Bronze Age axeheads, which bring the number of this type of carvings known in Stonehenge to 115.

Susan Greaney, Senior Properties Historian at English Heritage, said: “We didn’t expect the results of a laser scan to be so revealing about the architecture of Stonehenge and its function.”

English Heritage commissioned the first comprehensive laser survey on Stonehenge in 2011. Archaeological analysis was then carried out to examine the high-resolution data that was produced for all the stone surfaces.

Link Source:http://www.thisiswiltshire.co.uk/news/9971558.Laser_scanning_uncovers_new_Stonehenge_evidence/?ref=twtrec
Link: High definition surveying. Laser scanning to 3D models & 2D drawing www.terrainsurveys.co.uk/
Link: http://blog.stonehenge-stone-circle.co.uk/2011/09/16/3d-stonehenge-model-unveiled/
Link: http://blog.stonehenge-stone-circle.co.uk/2011/03/10/laser-scan-for-stonehenge-secrets/

Sponsored by ‘Stonehnege Guided Tours’ www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge Winter Solstice is on 22nd December 2011

19 12 2011

For us in the northern hemisphere, the December solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of 2011 and falls on Thursday, 22nd DecemberAfter the winter solstice, the days will get longer. Celebration time!

Stonehenge Winter Sunrise

Stonehenge Winter Sunrise

December 2011 solstice will occur on Wednesday, 21st December  at 11:30 p.m or 05:30am Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on December 22, 2011. It is also known as the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere due to the seasonal differences.

The date varies from December 20 to December 23 depending on the year in the Gregorian calendar. The 2012 December solstice will be on December 21, 2012, which is a speculated date for “the end of the world”.

Use the Seasons Calculator to find December solstice date in other time zones or other years.

Solstice and Stonehenge

At Stonehenge  on this day, people watch as the sun sets in the midst of three great stones – known as the Trilithon – consisting of two large vertical stones supporting a third, horizontal stone across the top.

In the case of Stonehenge, this great Trilithon faces outwards from the center of the monument, with its smooth flat face turned toward the midwinter sun. In fact, the primary axes of Stonehenge seems to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunset.

This Stonehenge monument – built in 3,000 to 2,000 BC – shows how carefully our ancestors watched the sun. Astronomical observations such as these surely controlled human activities such as the mating of animals, the sowing of crops and the metering of winter reserves between harvests. Stonehenge is perhaps the most famous of of the ancient astronomical monuments found around the world.

Stonehenge on Twitter.  For the latest Solstice information and all the latest Stonehenge news (including images live from the Stones) follow: http://twitter.com/ST0NEHENGE

Stonehenge snow

Will it snow at Stonehenge this year ?

The December Solstice Explained

The December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. Depending on the Gregorian calendar, the December solstice occurs annually on a day between December 20 and December 23. On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south receive 24 hours of daylight.

The sun is directly overhead on the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere during the December solstice. It also marks the longest day of the year in terms of daylight hours for those living south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Those living or travelling south from the Antarctic Circle towards the South Pole will see the midnight sun during this time of the year.

On the contrary, for an observer in the northern hemisphere, the December solstice marks the day of the year with the least hours of daylight for those living north of the Tropic of Cancer. Those living or traveling north of the Arctic Circle towards the North Pole will not be able to see the sun during this time of the year.

What is the Winter Solstice?
The Winter Solstice is a magickal event, yet sadly, it is in the main a forgotten celebration. At this time, Christmas preparations are taking place, and the focus is primarily on ‘what colour scheme to go for?  Will the wrapping paper co-ordinate?  Have I forgotten anyone?  What shall we eat?  Will my funds stretch!’

The Solstice is however, the complete antithesis of what has now become Christmas in contemporary society. Also known as ‘Yule’, the Solstice is generally celebrated on the 21st of December, (although the astronomical date changes from year to year – this year the actual Solstice takes place on the 22nd, at 00.22a.m). The Winter Solstice is the shortest day, and longest night of the year, and is the traditional time to celebrate the truly important things in life: your family, your children, your home and looking forward to a wonderful year to come.

Yule is a time throughout time that honours love and new birth, as well as the collective unity of man. Just as Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, Yule celebrates the birth of the Sun God – child of the Goddess in the Pagan belief system. Yule is primarily the celebration of the rebirth of the Sun. Many people associate the Winter Solstice, or winter itself with death, as it is the season in which nature is dormant, and in which many plants die off and crops are scarce. Conversely, the Winter Solstice, although it is the longest night, (boasting more than 12 hours of darkness), it is also the turning point of the year, as following this night the sun grows stronger in the sky, and the days become gradually longer once more. Thus the Winter Solstice is also a celebration of rebirth, and there are many traditions that stem from this perspective.

Traditions:  Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe

The Holly and the Ivy

The holly and the ivy
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown.

Chorus:
Oh, the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The shining of the winter stars
As the longer days draw near.

The holly bears a blossom
As white as any flower
As our Mother bears the infant Sun
In the winter’s darkest hour.

Chorus

The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood
As our Father bears the hunter’s spear
for His hungry children’s good.

Chorus

The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn
As we shall bear our song of hope
On triumphant Yuletide morn.

Adapted by Hilda Marshal.

The tradition of bringing sprigs of Holly and Ivy into the home pays homage to the masculine and feminine elements. Both of these powerfully magickal plants are evergreen, a reminder in itself that the earth never dies, but merely sleeps during the winter months, (a tradition which was the precursor to our modern tradition of the evergreen Christmas tree). The male element is represented by the prickly holly; with its sexually potent red berries. The mistletoe is the female; entwining, gentle yet powerful. An alternative view of Holly is that the leaves of the plant represent the male, whereas the red berries symbolise the resting Mother Goddess, and life returning to the land.

The symbolism of Holly is especially potent. The Holly King and the Oak King are part of Celtic/Pagan mythology, and they represent two sides to the Greenman, or Horned God. Since the Summer Solstice, the Holly King has ruled the half-year of waning light, yet on this night the Oak King will take his throne to rule. In other words, the Oak King rules over the lighter half of the year, (Yule to Litha), and the Holly King over the darker half (Litha to Yule).

Another account of the Holly King and Oak King imagery is that they do not directly switch places twice a year, but rather both exist concurrently. The Oak King is born of the Goddess at Yule, growing in power through the spring, peaking at Beltane and then weakening through autumn until he dies at Samhain.
The Holly King however lives a reverse existence, and is born at Midsummer (Litha), increasing in strength throughout summer and autumn, reaching his zenith at Samhain. His sway then diminishes until it is his turn to pass at Beltane. Thus the two Kings enjoy a more elaborate sense of duality in this account, and it is perhaps a better illustration of their twofold nature, and their varying levels of influence throughout the year. As such they both have their characteristics. The reign of the Oak King is a time for growth, development, healing, and new beginnings. The Holly King’s time is for rest, reflection, and learning. Thus the Holly King is honoured with the boughs of Holly, and the Oak King is honoured with Mistletoe – the belief being that Mistletoe is best grown on the Oak as Mistletoe’s most powerful host, (a belief strengthened by the opinion of the 17th century herbalist, Culpepper). Ivy is representative of the Goddess; mother of both Kings, both Kings also being her consort – again powerful ideas of duality.

Mistletoe has a most compelling and influential history. According to ancient Druid tradition, Mistletoe was the most sacred of all plants. Mistletoe was used by the Druid priesthood in a very special ceremony; held five days after the New Moon following winter solstice. The Druid priests would cut Mistletoe from a holy Oak tree with a golden sickle. The branches had to be caught before they touched the ground. The priest then divided the branches into sprigs and dispersed them to the people, who hung them over doorways as protection. The folklore, and the magickal powers of this plant, have blossomed over time, although most are now forgotten. It was believed it had miraculous properties that could cure illnesses, antidote poisons, ensure fertility and protect against witchcraft. It was also a sign of peace and goodwill. When warring tribes came across Mistletoe, a temporary truce would be observed until the next day.

However, although Mistletoe carries a broad array of customs, and benefits in ancient times, the tradition which has lived on is that concerning fertility and love. According to most current day traditions, a young woman stands under the mistletoe and awaits her lover’s kiss. But from where did this tradition spring? It is considered that Mistletoe and kissing tradition is borne of a Norse myth.

The Norse god Balder was son of Frigga, goddess of love and beauty. She loved her son to such a degree that she had the four elements: Fire, Water, Air, and Earth- promise that they would not harm her son. However, Loki, an evil spirit, found the one thing that could defy this promise – mistletoe. He made an arrow from its wood, which was shot at Balder’s heart, and he fell dead, and Frigga’s tears became the mistletoe’s white berries. Balder is however, restored to life, and Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the reputation of the offending plant–making it a symbol of love and promising to bestow a kiss upon anyone who passes under it.

In the true spirit of Yule, focus your celebrations as a family upon love, and the fact that every ending is a new beginning. There are many simple rituals that you can enjoy as a family, to seal your bonds and celebrate each other at this magickal time of year.

Link: http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/december-solstice.html
Link: http://brighterblessings.co.uk/articles/yule.htm
Link: http://earthsky.org
Link: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/
Link: http://www.druidry.org/
Linj: http://www.phreak.co.uk/stonehenge/psb/stonecam.htm

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ – www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin says “Happy solstice everyone, see you at the Stones..”

Stonehenge on Twitter.  For the latest Solstice information and all the latest Stonehenge news follow: http://twitter.com/ST0NEHENGE

The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website





Season Greetings…………….

15 12 2011

Merlin says:  For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer –   See you at the Winter Solstice 2011

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle website








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 13,050 other followers

%d bloggers like this: