Were there ever any sacrifices at Stonehenge?

2 03 2017

The mythology of Stonehenge is deeply tied to the Druids.

Stonehenge sacrifice

The Slaughtering Stone

This is because some historians in the 17th century felt that the monument represented a temple and that it had been built by a pre-Roman society. As the only pre-Roman society that they knew of was the Ancient Britons and because the Romans had spoken of a priesthood called the Druids, it was obvious to them that Stonehenge was a Druid Temple.

This turned out to be the wrong conclusion, but the idea stuck.

druids_inciting_the_britons_to_oppose_the_landing_of_the_romansOne thing that everyone thinks they know about Druids is that they performed human sacrifice – that information comes to us from Julius Caesar in his accounts of the Gallic Wars of 58BC to 50BC, but he may have been exaggerating the ferocity of the Gaulish tribes to increase the prestige of his victories.

The famous imagery of a Wicker Man stuffed with prisoners and set alight comes from these writings.

Certainly the Druids were a problem for the Romans, being the closest thing to a centraldruid-human-sacrifice authority held in respect by the many tribes and with the notable ability to raise opposition to the invading armies.

Other classical writers wrote that the Vates (part of the priestly class) used to slice open the guts of a victim and read auguries of the future from the twitching entrails on the ground, while a Druid presided over the ceremony.

By the 19th century one recumbent stone at Stonehenge had acquired the name “The Slaughtering Stone” because the hollows on its upper surface fill with rainwater that turns red – supposedly from the blood of the victims sacrificed upon it, but in fact due to iron in the stone and particular algae on it.

human_sacrifice_druidAs with so many other myths, this bloodthirsty idea has stuck.

So far so gruesome, but when it comes to Stonehenge is there actually any evidence of sacrifice being carried out there?
We have records of four bodies having been found within the area enclosed by the henge bank and ditch earthwork.

Of these burials, two are missing entirely: the one found in the centre of the stone circle is long lost and the whereabouts of the partial burial from the henge ditch on the eastern side is also unknown (the excavator believed it not to be ancient).

The other two are more interesting – one was found close by the southeastern side of the monument just outside the stone circle in 1923 and the other was found in the ditch to the west of the main entrance in 1978.

The southeasterly burial was that of a man who had been decapitated from behind with a sharp bladed instrument, probably a sword – the evidence is in the cut marks through his 4th cervical vertebra and below his jaw – and then unceremoniously stuffed into a grave hole not quite big enough for the body. This is certainly an execution but it dates to between 600AD and 690AD, the Anglo-Saxon period.

The final burial is very interesting. When discovered, the body was in a neatly prepared grave (rather than a hurriedly scraped hole) and accompanied by what appeared to be grave goods – a stone “bracer” or wrist guard to prevent his bow-string hitting his wrist, and several flint arrowheads. The young man buried in the grave was dubbed “The Stonehenge Archer”.

On closer inspection it became clear that the tips of these arrowheads were embedded in the bones of the body, so he was the Stonehenge ArchEE, not the ArchER. He had been shot in the back, at least three times from different directions, and the coup de grace had been delivered when he was face down on the ground – the final arrow pierced his body and ended up in the back of his breastbone. The victim was killed between 2400BC – 2140BC.

800px-stonehenge_archer_-_salisbury_and_south_wiltshire_museum

Does the care taken in preparing his grave, coupled with the prestigious position of it next to the entrance, mean that he was a ceremonial sacrifice?

Perhaps.

For now, this remains the only clear evidence of a violent death at Stonehenge during the time when the monument was almost certainly in active use.

The Stonehenge Archer’s remains are now on display at Salisbury Museum.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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Thousands gathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the winter solstice

22 12 2016

Thousands of people gathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the winter solstice.

solstice2016

Stonehenge was built over 5,000 thousands years ago and remains a place of spiritual significance for many. Credit: PA

Druids and pagans were among the crowd that watched the sun come up at 8.13am on the shortest day of the year.

People, some dressed in traditional pagan clothing, danced, played musical instruments and kissed the ancient stones.

One South African woman said she had made the trip to the UK “especially for the solstice”.

She said: “I am a Pagan, a witch and this is about the best place to be.”

Kate Davies from English Heritage, who manage the prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, said: “We were delighted to welcome approximately 5,000 people to Stonehenge to celebrate winter solstice this morning.

It was a very enjoyable and peaceful celebration and the ancient stone circle was filled with the sound of drumming and chanting.”

There will be just seven hours, 49 minutes and 41 seconds of daylight on 21 December, almost nine hours less than the year’s longest day in June.

Stonehenge was built over 5,000 thousands years ago and remains a place of spiritual significance for many people.

Crowds gather at the UNESCO World Heritage Site on the shortest and longest days of the year as the stones are aligned to the sunset of the winter solstice and the opposing sunrise of the summer solstice.

Some experts believe the winter solstice was more important to our ancient ancestors than the summer solstice as the longest night marked a turning of the year as the days begin to grow longer.

Article source: ITV NEWS

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Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2016: Travel Trade News

26 11 2016

Arrangements for Groups on Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st December

Stonehenge closes to visitors at the usual time of 5pm on Tuesday 20th December ahead of the annual Winter Solstice celebrations on the morning of Wednesday 21st December.

stonehengewinter

The last timed-ticket admission for pre-booked groups is the usual time of 3pm, providing a 2-hour window for groups arriving at this time to view the monument and enjoy the exhibition and other facilities in the visitor centre.

All coaches and minibuses and their passengers must be off-site by 5pm as usual.

Stonehenge re-opens to visitors from 11.30am on Wednesday 21 December.

Coach Parking for Winter Solstice 2016

Parking for coaches and minibuses bringing visitors for the Winter Solstice will cost £50 per vehicle and is provided from 6am until 10am in the Stonehenge Coach Park.

Coach and minibus parking for Winter Solstice is limited and tour operators and group travel organisers should contact the Stonehenge Bookings Team from today to book coach or minibus parking. Booking is essential.

There will be a number of temporary road closures in the local area. There will be no access to Byway 12 throughout the Winter Solstice access period.

Further Information for Winter Solstice

Access to Stonehenge for solstice is subject to the Conditions of Entry which we would ask tour operators, group leaders and drivers to ensure their group members are aware of and adhere to.

Stonehenge is in a field in the middle of Salisbury Plain and the weather in December will be cold and wet. Even if it isn’t raining, the ground will be wet from the dew. There may also be frost. Sensible footwear and warm, waterproof clothing are essential.

There is at least a 30 minute walk (in low light or darkness), from the coach park to the monument. Visitors are therefore strongly advised to wear strong, waterproof footwear and bring a torch with you.

Toilets at the monument field will only be available once the access period begins. There are no catering facilities in the monument field, however the café at the visitor centre is open for hot drinks and breakfast rolls from 6am.

On Wednesday 21 December, sunrise is at 8.09am.

The monument field will open at approximately 7.45am, depending on light levels and will close at 10am.

Stonehenge re-opens to day visitors from 11.30am on Wednesday 21st December.

Please visit the official English Heritage website for more details

Solstice Events are offering their usual small group Winter Solstice guided tour from London and Bath, ideal if you do not have your own transport. Visit their website

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Stonehenge and the Druids

20 10 2016

Back in the mid 1600s one man came to the realisation that Stonehenge was far older than previously thought. Based on his studies, John Aubrey attributed the monument to the British pre-Roman priesthood called the Druids.

This began an association that has persisted for over 350 years despite all attempts by archaeologists to shake it. In the minds of most people, the Druids built Stonehenge.

The popularisation of the idea really took off in the 1700s when William Stukeley wrote a book called “Stonehenge – A Temple Restor’d to the British Druids”. So convinced was Stukeley that he styled himself as the Druid “Chyndonax” in the frontispiece of his book.

Stukeley as Chyndonax.jpg

Inspired, perhaps, by this vision of an ancient British tradition one of the first of a number of modern Druid groups was founded in 1781 by Henry Hurle. Called the “Ancient Order of Druids” (AOD), it was created as a fraternal organisation and quickly established a quasi-Masonic lodge structure that eventually spread to the USA and Australia.

What followed over the next century was the creation of a plethora of groups, orders and groves whose history is intertwined and overlapping. Making sense of this Druidic family tree is an almost impossible task but in broad outline it is as follows.

In 1792, a Welshman named Edward Williams (aka Iolo Morganwg), who claimed that the rites and customs of the ancient Druids had survived the Roman invasion, founded the Gorsedd of Welsh Bards at Primrose Hill in London. His literary works were to have a profound effect on the early neo-Druid movement and his influence persists to this day.

In 1833 the AOD split over a disagreement about lodge independence from the central Grand Lodge and a group of more than 100 lodges set up a new group called the “United Ancient Order of Druids”. Such arguments and secessions have been a hallmark of neo-Druidism ever since.

The Ancient and Archaeological Order of Druids (AAOD) was founded in 1874 by Wentworth Little, a Rosicrucian and Freemason, with the intent of studying the links between freemasonry and ancient Druidic tradition.

By 1905, the AOD were holding ceremonies at Stonehenge to initiate new members into their order, up to 250 at a time. Some of the press ridiculed the use of cardboard sickles and fake beards, but many of their members were respected members of society – lawyers, doctors and clergy – who wanted to remain anonymous.

Sir Winston Churchill and Sir Edmund Antrobus (then owner of Stonehenge) were members of the AOD, although Churchill has also been associated with the AAOD.

ancient-order-of-druids-stonehenge-1905

In 1909 another new group – “The Druid Order” was founded by George MacGregor-Reid. Somewhat confusingly they were also known variously as “The Ancient Druid Order”, “The British Circle of the Universal Bond” and “An Druidh Uileach Braithreachas” (ie “The Universal Druid Brotherhood”). This group claims to have been founded in 1717 by John Toland, though this is disputed.

Ultimately this group also split – in 1964 – to form the “Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids” under its leader Ross Nichols. The group offers correspondence courses to those interested in Druidry.

Of all the Druids that celebrate Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, it’s The Druid Order that arguably has the longest tradition. They begin at midnight at the barrows southwest of Stonehenge, continue with a dawn observance and ultimately hold a noon ceremony within the monument itself.

The Druid Order at Stonehenge.jpg

More recently founded neo-Druid and pagan groups also hold ceremonies at Stonehenge at various times of the year. These include – in no particular order – the Dolmen Grove, the Dorset Grove, the Cotswold Order, the Loyal Arthurian Warband (LAW), the Stonehenge and Amesbury Druids and the Gorsedd of Cor Gawr.

the-dolmen-grove

Although the details of the ceremonies are varied, one theme is the re-enactment of a ritual battle between the Oak King and the Holly King which occurs twice a year, at Summer Solstice (when the Holly King wins) and the Winter Solstice (when the Oak King wins). Usually this is carried out using swords or wooden staves, but it has been seen done with rubber chickens and water pistols!

For the Open Access events at the Solstices and Equinoxes, at which everyone is allowed in to the centre of the monument to witness the sunrise, a pre-Dawn ceremony is usually led by some of the most recognisable of the modern Druids – notably King Arthur Uther Pendragon of the LAW and Rollo Maughling of the Glastonbury Order.

These are inclusive ceremonies that allow the general public an insight into the beliefs and traditions while serving to highlight the continuing modern use of Stonehenge as a Druidic Temple.

loyal-arthurian-warband

Here are links to some of the Druid Orders.

The Ancient Order of Druids – http://www.aod-uk.org.uk

The Druid Order – http://thedruidorder.org

Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids – http://druidry.org/

The Dolmen Grove – http://www.dolmengrove.co.uk/

The Dorset Grove – http://www.dorsetgrove.co.uk/

The Cotswold Order – http://www.twistedtree.org.uk/

The Loyal Arthurian Warband – http://www.warband.org.uk/

The Stonehenge and Amesbury Druids – http://www.stonehenge-druids.org/

The Gorsedd of Cor Gawr – http://bards.org.uk/

The Glastonbury Order of Druids – http://www.glastonburyorderofdruids.com/

Article written by guest blogger Simon Banton. Local historian and Stonehenge expert.

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Stonehenge Autumn Equinox Open Access Arrangements: 22nd September 2016

4 09 2016

The 2016 Autumn Equonox is September 22nd at 14:21 GMT

English Heritage are expected to offer short period of access, from  first light or safe enough to enter the monument field (approximately 06.30am) until 08:30am.
More details as we get them.(source)

Autumn-Equinox-Mabon_Stonehenge-2014 (11)The Autumn Equinox (Mabon)
It is the time of the autumn equinox, and the harvest is winding down. The fields are nearly empty, because the crops have been plucked and stored for the coming winter. Mabon is the mid-harvest festival, and it is when we take a few moments to honor the changing seasons, and celebrate the second harvest. On or around September 21st, for many Pagan and Wiccan traditions it is a time of giving thanks for the things we have, whether it is abundant crops or other blessings. It’s a time of plenty, of gratitude, and of sharing our abundance with those less fortunate.

Mabon is a harvest festival, the second of three, that encourages pagans to “reap what they sow,” both literally and figuratively. It is the time when night and day stand equal in duration; thus is it a time to express gratitude, complete projects and honor a moment of balance.

The word ‘equinox’ itself actually mean ‘equal’ (equi) and ‘night’ (nox).

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When is the Stonehenge summer solstice 2016? Everything you need to know including times and rituals

28 05 2016

Here’s everything you need to know about the longest day of the year and traditions surrounding the summer solstice

Midsummer-Solstice-celebrations-at-Stonehenge

Party time: Druids, pagans and revellers take part in a winter solstice ceremony at Stonehenge

Every year, around this time, we start talking about the summer solstice.

Mostly it’s because it’s the longest day of the year, and there’s a very British pessimism that says the days will immediately start to shorten into winter from now on.

But there’s also the shenanigans at Stonehenge, general celebrations and a pause to celebrate the summer.

But what does it all mean?

What is it?

It’s generally understood to mark the middle of summer – even though some of us may feel like we haven’t really had the first half yet in the UK.

Technically, it’s when the tilt of Earth’s axis is most inclined towards the sun, and that’s why we get the most daylight of the year.

In the winter solstice, we’re tilted furthest away from the sun, hence shorter hours of daylight and the shortest day.

The word solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).

Read more: New Stonehenge alignment theory proved right as monument’s tallest stone points at solstice sunset

When is it?

In the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice takes place between June 20 and 22. This year it’s on Monday, June 20.

As it happens twice annually, the winter solstice in the UK is between December 20 and 22.

In London on the summer solstice, the sun will rise at 04:43 and set at 21:21.

Near Stonehenge in Salisbury, sunrise will be at 04:52 and sunset will occur at 21:26.

Why Stonehenge?

The midsummer solstice is being celebrated at Stonehenge on Saturday into Sunday and at the Avebury stone circle from Friday until Monday.

Thousands flock to the English Heritage site for the solstice in a tradition which has its roots in pagan times, when Midsummer Day was considered to have power.

Of those who attend, many are druids, but some are tourists.

This year it’s falling on a weekend for the first time in more than a decade and is expected to draw much larger crowds.

The way that the stones are positioned is said to be aligned with sunrises on the two annual solstices.

Read more: Stonehenge attracts thousands as Pagans mark longest day of the year with celebration

Although not much is known about its formation, those facts are thought to be involved with whatever religious, mystical or spiritual elements were central to its construction.

The monument field at Stonehenge is open from 19:00 on Monday 20 June to 08:00 on Tuesday 21 June. Admission is free, but parking fees apply.

The Solstice Car Park opens at 7pm on 20th June with last admissions at 6am (or when full, if earlier) on 21st June. The car park will close at 12 noon on 21st June.

Visitors, including sunrise-worshipping Druids for whom it is a religious occasion, are encouraged to use public transport or arrange to car share.

How else do people celebrate it?

It’s not just for the arch-druids in Wiltshire – there are celebrations worldwide among lots of different cultures.

The holidays, festivals and rituals do tend to have themes of religion or fertility.

Read more: ‘Fridgehenge’ pranksters mark summer solstice with homage to Stonehenge – made out of white goods

In Latvia there’s Jāņi, when women wear wreaths on their heads. Estonia has Jaanipäev or St John’s Day, which marks a change in the farming year.

Wianki happens in Poland, with roots in a pagan religious event, and Kupala Night happens in Russia and Ukraine, where people jump over the flames of bonfires in a ritual test of bravery and faith.

Are the days going to be shorter now?

They will of course get shorter between now and the winter solstice on December 21, but don’t worry, we’re not talking early dark nights quite yet.

Read more: Stonehenge and Statue of Liberty ‘in direct and immediate danger’ from climate change

Article Source: Kirstie McCrum ,  (Daily Mirror)

Stonehenge Summmer Solscice Open Access

“We strongly advise anyone planning to come to Stonehenge for solstice to leave their cars at home and travel by public transport. Salisbury is easily accessible by train and the local Salisbury Reds bus company will be running a special service from Salisbury to Stonehenge through Saturday night and into the next day. Solstice Events are offering their usual transport from Bath and Stonehenge guided tours are offering their small group tour from London.

Follow  @St0nehenge @EH_Stonehenge @HighwaysEngland and @Wiltshirepolice for#summersolstice updates on the night.

If you are unable to visit Stonehenge on the Solstice you can watch our LIVE PERISCOPE BROADCAST

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WINTER SOLSTICE AT STONEHENGE 2015

29 11 2015

English Heritage will once again welcome people to Stonehenge to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Sunrise is just after 8am on Tuesday 22nd December and visitors will be able to access the monument as soon as it is light enough to do so safely.

frosty-sunrise

Why 22nd December? 

Many people – not least diary manufacturers – believe that the Winter Solstice always falls on 21st December. But the celebration of Winter Solstice at Stonehenge is not fixed to a specifiic date – this is because of a mismatch between the calendar year and the solar year.

MANAGED OPEN ACCESS PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Please read and respect the Conditions of Entry for Winter Solstice 2015 and the English Heritage website.

Public Transport is being provided by Salisbury Reds buses and will be running from 06:00 from Salisbury.  Stonehenge Guided Tours are offering their usual transport with expert guide service from London and Bath. Booking essential (click here to book direct)

Please be aware that parking is very limited. There is a thirty minute walk, depending on where you are parked, in low light or darkness, from the parking areas to the monument. You are therefore strongly advised to bring a torch with you for personal use.

Accessibility – parking provision for people with disabilities

A limited number of permits will be avaialable for blue badge disabled parking and there will be dedicated accessible transport to the stone circle – which will begin just prior to the opening of the monument field. Please apply to Sandra.Ross@english-heritage.org.uk

Please note that there are no other amenities or facilities available to visitors until such time as  commences.

Conditions of Entry

Please read and respect the Conditions of Entry.

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