2020 Summer Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge have been cancelled because of the ban on mass gatherings prompted by the coronavirus.

13 05 2020

English Heritage said it was cancelling the event “for the safety and wellbeing of attendees, volunteers and staff”.

Summer solstice is the longest day of the year

Summer solstice is the longest day of the year

Traditionally about 10,000 people have gathered at the Neolithic monument in Wiltshire, on or around 21st June, to mark midsummer.

The summer solstice is one of the rare occasions that English Heritage normally opens up the stones for public access.

On the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone, the ancient entrance to the Stone Circle, and rays of sunlight are channelled into the centre of the monument.

English Heritage said it had consulted with the emergency services and the druid and pagan community, among others, before making the decision.

Stonehenge Director Nichola Tasker said:

“We are very sorry to be the bearers of this news today. Given the sheer number of major events worldwide which have already been cancelled across the summer, from Glastonbury to the Olympics to Oktoberfest, I doubt this will come as a huge surprise, but we know how much summer solstice at Stonehenge means to so many people.

We have consulted widely on whether we could have proceeded safely and we would have dearly liked to host the event as per usual, but sadly in the end, we feel we have no choice but to cancel.”

Senior druid King Arthur Pendragon said it was disappointing but unsurprising.

Visitors at most other times of the year are usually kept at least 5m away from the ancient sarsen stones and bluestones. Stonehenge special access tours do allow you to enter the inner circle before or after the monument is officially open

You can stream this year’s summer solstice live from Stonehenge and we will provide the link on this website soon.

RELEVANT SOLSTICE LINKS:

Coronavirus: Stonehenge summer solstice gathering cancelled – BBC NEWS
Summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge CANCELLED – SPIRE FM
A Pilgrim’s Guide to Stonehenge. The Winter Solstice Celebrations, Summer Solstice and Equinox Dawn Gatherings – STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG
Stonehenge may have been pilgrimage site for sick – REUTERS
Background to the Stonehenge Solstice Celebrations – THE STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG
Stonehenge Solstice and Equinox Tours – STONEHENGE GUIDED TOURS
The Stonehenge Pilgrims – STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG

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The Stonehenge Pilgrims

1 05 2020

Since our Neolithic ancestors erected Stonehenge thousands of years ago and exulted in its majesty, people have continued to gather at the hallowed stones. Centuries worth of pilgrimage and spiritual congregation have continued to endow the monument with meaning. All visitors, pilgrims and revellers connect with our ancestors and with the enigmatic and arcane origins of the stones, and ultimately give Stonehenge its primal energy and continuity that any visitor enjoys today.  In this piece, I wanted to examine the history of the pilgrimage associated with the monoliths and how the people who visit and celebrate in the presence of the stones are so important to its continued vitality.

A pilgrimage is ‘a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about the self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience.’  The aim of pilgrimage is spiritual growth, enlightenment or even epiphany (the ancient Greek term for encountering and learning from a god) – the aim is to be overawed by something greater than yourself. For over a millennium, the monoliths of Stonehenge have held enough power to be a continued inspirer of pilgrimage.

Many believe that Stonehenge had religious significance for our ancestors who built it, and many would have made the journey to the stones from far and wide, to witness the grandest monument in existence at the time. It could even be said that the stones themselves and the people who carried them made the greatest pilgrimage of all – the blue stones travelling an astonishing 160 miles from south Wales. The point being, that through its dedicated construction, Stonehenge became a spiritual hub, drawing together people and connecting them with one another. Archaeological digs have uncovered evidence of ritualistic slaughter and feasting in and around the landscape of Stonehenge, dating back to the time of construction. Research at the University of Sheffield has even suggested that the specific dates for the feasting, pinpointing Midwinter celebrations. This proves that celebration and community have always been at the heart of Stonehenge.

Today, in our heady modern lives, which are so absorbed by technology, which purports to bring us together but leaves us more isolated than ever, we are more in need of pilgrimage than ever, for renewal, vitality and peace. To this day, Stonehenge plays hosts to gatherings of thousands of pilgrims and recreates the spiritual gathering of the past; gathering to celebrate the modern-day summer and winter solstices.  For centuries the stones fell out of public ownership and the arcane rituals of the past seemed lost for good. However, the Stones were given to the nation in 1918 and the festival scene has returned to Stonehenge over the last century, giving a home to the most spiritual gatherings and modern-day pilgrims. The summer Solstice is especially popular, the nature of which is joyous and brings together people from all walks of life, including: Druids, wiccans, witches, pagans, tourists, astronomers, locals and revellers of all descriptions. In a country with comparatively few national holidays, a celebration with such deep-rooted history as well as joy, is as cleansing as it is necessary, one of the greatest modern festivals.

The true power of the modern celebrations at Stonehenge lay in their connectivity. Not only do todays pilgrims disengage from modern life and connect with their fellow man – but they connect to our ancestors, across the centuries, preserving their memory and continuing to bestow the monument we all cherish with renewed energy for generations to come.

RELEVANT LINKS:

A Pilgrim’s Guide to Stonehenge. The Winter Solstice Celebrations, Summer Solstice and Equinox Dawn Gatherings – STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG
Stonehenge may have been pilgrimage site for sick – REUTERS
The Great Stones Way. This pilgrimage links the North Wessex Downs to Salisbury Plain, across the Vale of Pewsey – connecting us with our deep, prehistoric past. – THE BRITISH PILGRIMAGE TRUST
Go on a Pilgrimage. Feed mind, body and spirit with a pilgrimage along these 10 historic trails – ENGLISH HERITAGE
Background to the Stonehenge Solstice Celebrations – THE STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG
Stonehenge Solstice and Equinox Tours. Join the megalithic experts for a magical sunrise tour at the annual access gatherings. – STONEHENGE GUIDED TOURS
A Huge ‘Highway’ of Roads and Rivers Brought Stones and Pilgrims to Build Stonehenge – MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE

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International Day For Monuments and Sites 2020. World Heritage Day is observed every year on 18th April. #WorldHeritageDay

18 04 2020

World Heritage is the shared wealth of humankind. Protecting and preserving this valuable asset demands the collective efforts of the international community. This special day offers an opportunity to raise the public’s awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage and the efforts that are required to protect and conserve it, as well as draw attention to its vulnerability.

Download the World Heritage app and discover all the UNESCO world heritage sites!

On 18th April 1982 on the occasion of a symposium organised by ICOMOSin Tunisia, the holding of the “International Day WHSfor Monuments and Sites” to be celebrated simultaneously throughout the world was suggested. This project was approved by the Executive Committee who provided practical suggestions to the National Committees on how to organise this day.

The idea was also approved by the UNESCO General Conference who passed a resolution at its 22nd session in November 1983 recommending that Member States examine the possibility of declaring 18th April each year “International Monuments and Sites Day”. This has been traditionally called the World Heritage Day.

A World Heritage site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties.

Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites is a UNESCO World Heritage site

Stonehenge and Avebury, in Wiltshire, are among the most famous groups of megaliths in the world. The two sanctuaries consist of circles of menhirs arranged in a pattern whose astronomical significance is still being explored. These holy places and the nearby Neolithic sites are an incomparable testimony to prehistoric times.

“Celebrate it with a virtual visit to Stonehenge and observe a minute of silence for the ones we have lost to insensitive developments” Visit the English Heritage website and click the hotspots to find out more.

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Monumental Lockdown: A period of Rejuvenation for Stonehenge

13 04 2020

On the 23rd of March, Boris Johnson announced strict ‘lockdown’ measures to curb the spread of the Coronavirus. This followed similar measures put in place worldwide. Subsequently, people have been restricted to their homes, allowed out only for essential work and shopping. Global tourism has been placed in indefinite suspension.

Stonehenge wildlife

One of Britain’s rarest – and strangest – birds is back at Stonehenge. The Great Bustard was affectionately christened by Stonehenge staff as “Gertrude”

Although a grave shame, the restrictions are essential for the fight against the terrible Coronavirus, and there are even environmental positives to the lockdown. The break in tourism has given the worlds cities and monuments a well needed break, a chance to rejuvenate. A silver lining in the crisis, appears to be a global drop in air pollution – Paul Monks, professor of air pollution at the University of Leicester, told the Guardian: ‘this fact ‘this might give us some hope from something terrible’.  The positives of this rejuvenation are becoming visible. In Venice have cleared and wildlife has returned in droves: “It is calm like a pond… We Venetians have the feeling that nature has returned and is taking back possession of the city,”

This period of rest for the worlds monuments and natural resurgence is set to benefit the world and will improve the tourists experience when they return. Nature needs time to breathe, so it could be that the way tourism is viewed may alter to allow nature further breathing space.

This period of rest is also set to benefit the ancient monoliths of Stonehenge, which remains unvisited for weeks, in a number of ways. Firstly, just like in Venice, the latent wildlife surrounding Stonehenge will have reclaimed full rights to the area – not only the grasses and plants that make up the verdant surroundings of the stones, but also birds and insects that call the planes of Wessex home. The resurgence of the nature in the surrounding area will surely make the site all the more pleasant when it reopens.

The drop-in air pollution and return of wildlife signal a return to environmental conditions closer to that of the stone’s erection, thousands of years ago. It is believed that this is crucial for the rejuvenation of the site’s primordial energies. For thousands of years, the site would have only seen large gatherings of people once or twice a year. Today, the rate of foot fall has increased exponentially. Experts in earth energies believe a short period of rest for the stones is sure to revitalise the wealth of energy that flows beneath the stones, and indeed all the lay lines which run through Wessex and the country as a whole.

All these factors combine to create a healthy environment for all monuments across the world, cleaner air, healthier wildlife and rest is sure not only to improve the aesthetics of our country, but also the deeper health of the monuments and even our own health when experiencing them. Across the land, nature is reclaiming land, allowing us to reconnect with nature and recreating a healthier environment for us to return to when normal life resumes.

RELEVANT LINKS:
Coronavirus: Is wildlife the big beneficiary of the COVID-19 lockdown? – EURONEWS
Venice canals clear up due to Covid-19 lockdown – BUSINESS TRAVELLER
Wild animals wander through deserted cities under Covid-19 lockdown –RFI
People in India can see the Himalayas for the first time in ‘decades,’ as the lockdown eases air pollution – CNN
UNESCO supports culture and heritage during COVID-19’s shutdown – UNESCO
UK road travel falls to 1955 levels as Covid-19 lockdown takes hold – THE GUARDIAN

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Origins of Easter Customs. A Natural Blend of Pagan and Christian Beliefs

10 04 2020

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Easter at this time of year? Or better yet, why we give one another Easter eggs? Or, where the Easter bunny comes from? Where does the word ‘Easter’ come from?! The traditions and symbols of Easter that we engage in today are in fact a grand amalgamation of various traditions from all over the world – these tangled strings, pagan and Christian, have combined to give us our modern-day celebration.  Here, I will answer the most common questions relating to origins of our Easter customs, tracing the often-overlapping story across Europe and beyond.Although

Easter has become known as a Christian holiday around the world, celebrating the sacred death and rebirth of Jesus, the true pagan Easter and its symbols is a clear testament to the historical melting pot of cultures and traditions that make Easter what is is today.

Stonehenge origins

Easter Bunny at Stonehenge. The rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility.

Eostra
Starting in the UK, the word ‘Easter’ has Saxon origins – stemming from ‘Eostra’, the saxon goddess of spring. We have this connection on good authority, the writings of the Venerable Bede (672-735 AD), an influential chronicler and monk. He elucidated later Anglo-Saxon Christians on the etymology and his influence was thus that the name stuck and developed into ‘Easter’ as we have it today.

The connection with goddess ‘Eostra’ from Saxon tradition is deeper than mere nomenclature. A pagan celebration of the goddess took place at the vernal equinox, around the 20th of March. Not only is this day extremely close to when we celebrate Easter today, but it also has symbolic significance. The celebration of Eostra was a celebration of Spring, of fertility, new life. Crucially it was a time when light conquered dark and the world was reborn. These celebrations had a deep thematic connection with the story of Jesus Christ’s rebirth. The celebration of Eostra was the obvious celebration to be replaced by that of Christ.

Rebirth
Pagan celebrations of rebirth and fertility in the spring time were commonplace all across Europe. Many ancient cultures had stories relating to rebirth. In ancient Greek culture, Persephone, daughter of the goddess of fertility Ceres, was kidnapped by Hades and taken to the underworld. A distraught Ceres was too miserable to tend to the world and all crops and plants withered.

Unbeknownst to Persephone, imbibing the food of the underworld was a life sentence in that realm, and Hades laid on a feast.  When she is found in the underworld, it is discovered that she has eaten six pomegranate seeds and Zeus decrees she must henceforth stay in the underworld for six out of the twelve months of the year.  Therefore, when her daughter is free Ceres tends to the world like a garden, bringing bounty and prosperity. But, when her daughter is taken she lets the crops wither and die.

This story of fertility is common across the pagan beliefs in Europe, a cyclical story of descent into darkness and lights eventual triumph.  It is one of a number of accounts of dying and rising gods that represent the cycle of the seasons and the stars. For example, the resurrection of ‘Horus’, in Egypt or the Sumerian goddess ‘Inanna’ and the Mesopotamian ‘Ishtar’. This gave the Christian story of resurrection a natural home in the springtime.

The Rabbit and the Egg
The symbols of Easter have similarly tangled origins. The egg is an extremely common symbol of spring all across the world, representing fertility, renewal and rebirth. Similar to us, ancient Persians painted eggs at this time of the year and the Egyptians believed the eggs symbolised the sun and its rebirth in the spring time.

The rabbit was a common symbol of the goddess Eostra, who was also an important deity for the Saxons of mainland Europe. Thus, we find the first mention of the ‘Easter bunny’ in German writing dating from around 1572. Although the bunny was perhaps born in Europe, it is believed that the modern tradition of an Easter bunny, was largely formulated and developed by German immigrants in the united states – as opposed to puritan settlers who didn’t believe in Easter celebrations.

All of these symbols of Easter are a result of a natural blend of pagan and Christian beliefs and demonstrate the power the natural world has over our celebratory calendar.

RELEVANT LINKS:

The pagan roots of Easter – THE GUARDIAN
The Ancient Pagan Origins of Easter – ANCIENT ORIGINS
Pagan Easter: Where Did the Modern Tradition Really Originate? HISTORIC MYSTERIES
Origin of Easter: From pagan festivals and Christianity to bunnies and chocolate eggs – ABC NEWS

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The 25th Century BC: Stonehenge vs The Great Pyramid of Geeza  

4 04 2020

When people think of the greatest wonders of the ancient world, they will almost certainly consider the pyramids of Geeza and Stonehenge. However, a surprising fact about two of the world’s most heralded monuments is that they were built in the same century- and are perhaps the two most significant features of their century from today’s perspective. These seemingly immortal monuments possess a similarly mesmeric quality – gained through their sheer antiquity and the mystery surrounding their construction. Given their temporal bond I thought I would compare and contrast the two great monuments, Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Geeza: their size, their construction, the civilizations which constructed them and the myths that have followed them to this day.

Stonehenge and the Pyrimids

Is the construction of Stonehenge far more interesting than the Great Pyramid?

Size
If this were a competition, then the great pyramid would win this round- it quite literally would tower over our beloved stone circle. Stonehenge’s largest stones, the Sarsens stones, boast a height up to 9m and an individual weight of up to 35 tonnes. On the other hand, the Great Pyramid of Geeza stands at 146.7m, with a length of 230.34m- the whole mass weighing in at an estimated 6.5 million tonnes. Stonehenge comes in at an estimated 680 tonnes. The sheer scale of the pyramid is truly astonishing.

Construction
But is the construction of Stonehenge far more interesting than the Great Pyramid? Again, if this were a competition this round might end in a draw. Of course, the scale of the pyramid is more impressive, but the two monuments share a similar sense of mystery when it comes to their construction. With both, there are very few facts surrounding construction – we deal mainly in inferences and theories. A key theory about the construction of the pyramid is the theory that great ramps were constructed linking the pyramids to quarries and allowing the workmen to reach such a great height without the advent of the crane.

One of the greatest discoveries surrounding the construction of Stonehenge was the location of a quarry in Preseli hills, Pembrokeshire, south wales where the smaller Blue stones were sourced – 140 miles away from the site of Stonehenge! Theories of how the stones were transported are multifarious (and the myths are even more wide ranging). However, a popular theory chimes with the construction of the pyramids as some have suggested a continuous proto-rail system was constructed between the sites to push the stones along.

Alas, the pyramid might score more points on the transportation of materials – there is a suggestion that some stones from the King’s Chamber in the The Great Pyramid were brought from 500 miles away.

Civilisations
The scale of the Great Pyramid in comparison to Stonehenge is easily explained in reference to the two different civilisations that built them. Whilst most of Europe in this period was literally stuck in the stone age – Britain lagged particularly behind and was mostly inhabited by relatively primitive farming peoples. In comparison, the civilisation of Egypt was the greatest civilisation on Earth at this point and one of the greatest civilisations in the history of our planet. They had far more advanced construction techniques, paper and writing on which to plan, complex irrigation systems, artwork… the list goes on. I would argue that the relative primitiveness of the society which constructed Stonehenge makes It more impressive.

Myths
The mystery which inexorably links these two monuments will always spawn the most fascinating mythology. Out of the possibly thousands of myths about the monuments I will pick my favourite about the construction of each. Egypt had its own mythology, but modern-day thinkers have added to that treasure trove with their own theories about the pyramids. A popular myth is that the pyramids were constructed by either a lost civilisation with advance technology or perhaps even aliens (as reported in the Daily Express). As for Stonehenge, it has long been claimed that it was magically constructed by Merlin, the wizard of Arthurian legend.

Whichever you think is the ‘best’- there can be no doubt that these two great monuments of the 25th Century BC share an extraordinary history of intrigue.

Relevant Links:
From the pyramids to Stonehenge – were prehistoric people astronomers? ZME SCIENCE
To understand the pyramids and Stonehenge, look up – not down – THE GUARDIAN
Egypt SHOCK: Aliens BUILT the pyramids claims INTERGALACTIC medium – THE EXPRESS
The Lore and Lure of Ley Lines –LIVE SCIENCE
The pyramids, the Minoans, Stonehenge: 6 of the greatest unsolved mysteries in history – THE MIRROR

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BREAKING NEWS: Plans for proposed dome to cover Stonehenge from 2021

31 03 2020

Stonehenge is one of the countries most beloved sites, the Neolithic monument becoming a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986. Although many measures have been taken since to protect the ancient stones, the current climate crisis is beginning to take its toll; increased carbon dioxide levels and acid rain have both contributed to the stones’ deterioration.  On top of that, vandalism and even the threat of terrorism has led English Heritage, in partnership with UNESCO, to seek drastic measures for the preservation of the prehistoric wonder:  namely covering the stones with a glass dome.

STONEHENGE GLASS DOME

Stonehenge Dome Architectural Illustration. Copyright Thor Design

The dome is the simplest way to preserve the monument, both protecting the stones from any external threat whilst allowing a nitrogen rich atmosphere to be maintained within the dome, preserving the delicate lichen which grows on the surface of the stones – slowing the rate of decay inexorably. An English Heritage representative excitingly described the project as an attempt to create “the world’s first climate-controlled stone circle”

Proposed Glass Specifications: UV resistant | Water resistant | Wind resistant |EN 1090- 1:2009+A1:2011 Compliant | Polyethylene 140 g/m2 

At this stage various firms are bidding for the project and their exact specifications
differ. An Exeter based architectural firm has proposed ‘a polycarbonate titan arch’, whilst another unnamed bidder has put forward a ‘louvre style pyramid’. The most likely option seems to be the idea put forward by the London based architectural engineering firm PCMR, who specify an ‘Igloo style dome’, designed with a PVC weatherproof cover. PCMR’s patented scratch resistant glass is reportedly ‘perfect’ for the project.

Sources at PCMR say the dome will take nothing away from the viewers experience whilst its “…magnifying properties would also make the stones look bigger from the outside as many tourists are disappointed by the size of the stones”.

However, with conservative estimates of the project getting into the millions, cheaper alternatives may have to be considered. Local councils have suggested more of a ‘gazebo’ style design or even a giant poly tunnel.

The plans have been labelled ‘project snowglobe’- and have summer Solstice organisers are excited by the technological prospects the project could bring to the celebrations. The dome allows for advanced lighting and sound systems to be installed; the Chemical Brothers are already rumoured to be interested in playing the maiden show and tickets could retail from upwards of £100.

Some plans even include adding additional features within the globe. One proposal plans to utilise the climate-controlled environment and plant an elegant orange grove, adding some continental beauty to Neolithic stones as well as the prospect of Wiltshire’s first orange juice vintage. Although the orange grove idea has been met with enthusiasm by residents, suggestions that the giant globe design could also be used for growing herbs has been called a waste of thyme.

However, the glass isn’t all rose tinted.  Representatives of the World Greenhouse Federation (WGF) have registered concerns as to the magnifying capabilities of the proposed dome, releasing a statement that nearby villages such as Amesbury and perhaps even parts of Salisbury could ignite if the sun was to shine on the globe from particular angles. Furthermore, local window cleaning firms have been fervently bidding for the job of cleaning the proposed dome, it being called the biggest job in the industry since the Shard. But things have turned nasty and there have been reports of threats and even of violent clashes between rival firms in the build up to the announcement. On top of that, Salisbury window company, Curt & Rod are disappointed local companies were not contacted and one preeminent Archaeologist claimed the greenhouse idea would be a costly and a real pain.

However, setbacks haven’t stopped the tide of incoming ideas. British Company Vision Express submitted plans for a grand ‘Crystal Palace’ design, however UNESCO dismissed the design and said, ‘we should have gone to Specsavers.’

Let’s hope whoever lands the contract, goes out there and absolutely smashes it.

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