When robed Druids gather at Stonehenge for the summer solstice in next week, they will be worshipping at the prehistoric stone-circle monument for the first time as members of an established religion under British charity law. The classification means members of the ancient pagan tradition, which some see as a curiosity of Britain’s ancient past, have mainstream status equal to the Church of England. The change of status, which is controversial, gives them tax advantages.
Opponents of the change of status regard it as a mistake made for the sake of political correctness by a government agency, the Charity Commission. The see it as the first step to recognition of Scientology, sorcery, witchcraft or even the Jedi as religions eligible for tax-exempt status. The 2001 census recorded the country as having some 390,127 Jedi, the fictional Star Wars religion, in England and Wales.
After a four-year campaign by the Druids, the Charity Commission says it accepts that they worship nature and believe in the spirits of places such as mountains and rivers, as well as in divine guides.
Druids are best known for the gathering at Stonehenge each year on Jun 21 to greet the dawn, but they hold festivals eight times a year to mark stages in the solar and lunar cycles. Encyclopedia Britannica describes the ancient Druids as members of the learned class among the Celts. They do not worship a single god or creator, but seek to cultivate a sacred relationship with the natural world. The earliest known records of the Druids come from the 3rd Century BC.
Druids: Worshippers of nature who were said to sacrifice humans (Telegraph 2 Oct 2010)
MELANIE PHILIPS: Druids as an official religion? Stones of Praise here we come (Daily Mail 4 Oct 2010)
THOUSANDS of revellers are expected to descend upon Stonehenge for this year’s Summer Solstice.
Sunrise will occur at about 4.45am on June 21, which is the longest day of the year.
English Heritage is opening Stonehenge to the public from 7pm on Monday, June 20, to 8am the following day.
The Solstice car park, just off the A303, will open from 7pm on Monday, June 20, with last admission at 6am on Tuesday, June 21. Access to the stones and car park will be free of charge but organisers have advised people to use public transport where possible.
Wilts and Dorset bus company will be running a regular service from Salisbury railway station, via the bus station, from 6.30pm on the Monday evening through to 1.15am on Tuesday. A return service will operate frequently from 4am to 9.45am on Tuesday – with buses stopping at any recognised bus stop along the Amesbury route
Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ www.StonehengeTours.com
Merlin at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle website