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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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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Stonehenge Summer Solstice Celebrations. Managed Open Access 2015

2 06 2015

English Heritage is pleased to be providing Managed Open Access to Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice on 20th – 21st June 2015.  Please help them to create a peaceful occasion by taking personal responsibility and following the Conditions of Entry and guidelines set out on these pages. CELEBRATING THE SUMMER SOLSTICE AT STONEHENGE  Stonehenge is an ancient prehistoric site and has been a place of worship and celebration at the time of Summer Solstice since time immemorial.

Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2012

Stonehenge Summer Solstice Sunrise

During Managed Open Access for Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, we support all individuals and groups conducting their own forms of ceremony and celebration providing that they are mutually respectful and tolerant of one another. Stonehenge is a place seen by many as a sacred site – please respect it and those attending. English Heritage continues to work closely with the many agencies and people from all sectors of the community and we would like to thank them for their help and support. Parking and entry to the Monument will be free, subject to the Conditions of Entry. Please do not arrive at the Solstice car park or Stonehenge in advance of the opening times listed below. Please note: As Summer Solstice this year occurs on a Saturday/Sunday, the roads around Stonehenge will be very busy. We strongly advise visitors to leave their cars at home and travel to Stonehenge using public transport.   The nearest train station is Salisbury and there will be a regular bus service from Salisbury to Stonehenge. Please follow @eh_stonehenge on Twitter for travel updates on the night.

Solstice Events UK are offering their usual tours and transport options from London and Bath.  They can be booked here

TIMINGS FOR SUMMER SOLSTICE AT STONEHENGE
  • SOLSTICE CAR PARK OPENS 19.00 hours (7pm) Saturday 20 June
  • ACCESS TO STONEHENGE MONUMENT FIELD19.00 hours (7pm) Saturday 20 June
  • LAST ADMISSION TO SOLSTICE CAR PARK 06.00 hours (6am) Sunday 21 June – or earlier if full
  • STONEHENGE MONUMENT FIELD CLOSES 08.00 hours (8am) Sunday 21 June
  • SOLSTICE CAR PARK TO BE VACATED 12.00 hours (12 Noon) Sunday 21 June

We hope the weather will be kind and wish you a peaceful and celebratory solstice.

SUNSET AND SUNRISE

Sunset and sunrise occur at the following times:

  • Sunset on Saturday 20th June 2015 is at 21.26 hrs (9.26pm)
  • Sunrise on Sunday 21st June 2015 is at 04.52 hrs (4.52am)

Visit the English Heritage Website for full details The Stonehenge News Blog Follow @ST0NEHENGE on twitter for frequent updates





Stargazing in June: From the Stonehenge summer solstice to a cosmic embrace

1 06 2015
Two of our solar system’s most sensational planets will get together for a tryst

Two of our solar system’s most sensational planets will get together for a tryst

Let’s start by winnowing out the mythical chaff from the factual wheat. The Druids didn’t build Stonehenge; they came on the scene about 2,000 years later, and – according to the Roman writer Pliny – they didn’t worship in stone temples but in ‘‘forests of oak’’.

It was only in the 7th century that the antiquarian John Aubrey associated the Druids with Stonehenge. In 1740, a fellow neo-Druid called William Stukeley measured Stonehenge, and realised that its central line pointed ‘‘full northeast, being the point where the sun rises at the summer solstice’’. At that point, the link between Stonehenge, the Druids and the midsummer sunrise was set in tablets of stone.

But hang on. Instead of standing in the centre of the great stone circle and looking outwards, you could equally well place yourself at the Heel Stone and look through the centre of Stonehenge, towards the south-east. That’s the direction where the Sun sets, at midwinter.

In fact, Stukeley’s original account describes this bearing, with ‘‘the principal diameter or groundline of Stonehenge, leading from the entrance up to the middle of the temple to the high altar’’. So why did he choose the opposite direction as being critical to the Druids?

Stukeley was a Freemason. For Masons, the western part of the sky is the direction of death. The north-east is spiritually all-important because it is the point where the Sun rises on the feast of St John (the traditional Christian date for midsummer, on 24 June).

That’s why Stukeley picked out midsummer as the key season for Stonehenge. There’s no reason, though, to believe that our distant ancestors felt the same way. In fact, there are two great monuments in the British Isles which are unambiguous markers for the solstice, because they contain deep passageways that are lit up by Sun only once a year. In the case of Newgrange in Ireland and Maeshowe in Orkney, that date is the winter solstice..

Now archaeologists have provided the clinching evidence that Stonehenge, too, was erected to mark midwinter’s day. Mike Parker Pearson has excavated Durrington Walls, a huge settlement near Stonehenge. Here he’s found the remains of orgiastic feasts: bones of cows and pigs that had been brought vast distances – some from Cornwall, and others from the far north. Clearly, people came from all over the country to hold ceremonies at Stonehenge.

And the bones reveal the season that they travelled. The growth of the pigs’ teeth, and the amount they had worn, showed that they had been slaughtered for the table at the age of nine months. Given that piglets are naturally born in the spring, Parker Pearson is adamant that people were ‘‘feasting on pork at midwinter  most likely around the midwinter solstice’’.

So, if you want to truly celebrate as our ancestors did, don’t go to Wiltshire this month. Instead, go to Stonehenge on 22 December, to view the sun setting behind the giant portals of stone.

What’s Up

This month, two of our solar system’s most sensational planets are about to get together for a tryst. For the whole of spring, luminous giant Jupiter has been lighting up our evening skies. But dazzling Venus – Earth’s twin in size – has been sneaking up in the opposite part of the sky. Our neighbour world, cloaked in a dense atmosphere of carbon dioxide, reflects sunlight amazingly: it is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and Moon.

On 30 June, the two brilliant worlds tangle in a cosmic embrace. Separated by a space less than the diameter of the moon, Jupiter and  Venus will make a stunning sight low in the western sky. Otherwise, the summer constellations are making their appearance. Orange Arcturus, in Boötes, lords it over the night skies. Next to it, the small-but-perfectly-formed Corona Borealis – the Northern Crown – is a beautiful reminder that warmer days are on the way.

What to look out for

1 June: 5.19 pm: full moon

6 June: Venus at greatest eastern elongation

9 June 4.42 pm: moon at last quarter

16 June 3.05 pm: new moon

24 June 12.03 pm: moon at first quarter; Mercury at greatest western elongation

30 June: Venus and Jupiter close conjunction

Read the full story in the Independent. Heather Couper , Nigel Henbest

The Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge Winter Solstice Open Access 2014

15 11 2014

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

Stonehenge Winter Solstice

Please be aware that parking is very limited and there is a thirty minute walk, in low light, from the parking areas to the monument.

Why 22nd December?

Many people – not least diary manufacturers – believe that the Winter Solstice always falls on 21st December. But the celebration of the winter solstice at Stonehenge is not fixed to a specific calendar date – this is because of a mismatch between the calendar year and solar year. (The actual time of the Winter Solstice this year is on December 21st at 23:03 GMT)

The solstice is traditionally celebrated at the sunrise closest to the time when the sun is stationary before beginning its transit to the north or south. This year this occurs late on 21 December, hence the winter solstice celebrations take place at sunrise on 22nd December.

Conditions of entry

Further information and the conditions of entry for the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge will be posted here a month in advance of 22nd December.**

Do not climb or stand on any of the stones – this includes the stones that have fallen. This is in the interest of personal safety, the protection of this special site and respect for those attending. As well as putting the stones themselves at risk,
climbing on them can damage the delicate lichens.

If do not have your own transport and are travelling from London then Solstice UK Events are offering their usual transport option with an expert guide.

**Stonehenge is a world renowned historic Monument and seen by many as a sacred site – please respect it and please respect each other!

The new Stonehenge visitor centre is well worth a visit and opens at 9.30am. Visit the English Heritage website
Directions to Stonehenge
Download the free English Heritage Stonehenge Audio Guide here
English Heritage Winter Solstice Link

Merlin at Stonehenge
Follow Twitter@st0nehenge for Solstice updates
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Halloween History, Pagan Beginnings and Stonehenge Sacrifices

28 10 2014

Halloween is a day of tricks, treat, sweets, pumpkin carving, cider drinking and costume wearing; but the holiday has evolved immensely from its pagan beginnings.

Human Sacrifice at Stonehenge by ancient and modern pagans?

It has never been proven that there were human sacrifices by Celtic peoples to celebrate Samhain (sow-en). However, we do know that the Celtic peoples had a great spiritual reverence of Samhain and it was akin to how one views Easter and many of the other “holy days” today.Stonehenge sacrifice

Stonehenge is a well guarded public monument. Hundreds of Thousands of people visit this incredible site yearly. I have no doubt that it would be impossible to sacrifice anyone or anything at this monument without being caught. Besides, in the last 30 years, I have never heard of any sacrifice being committed at Stonehenge during Halloween, or anytime..

Samhain marks the beginning of the Celtic New Year and the beginning of the agricultural year.  The Celtic peoples

Stonehenge Pumpkin

Tweet us your Stonehenge / Druid / Pagan pumpkin carvings
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believed that the veil between the world of the living and that of the dead is at its thinnest on this night. In the ancient past, it was commonly believed that certain kinds of knowledge were available at the time of Samhain, a night when the sidhe or faery people would come forth to walk amongst mankind.

Over 2000 years ago, the Celts, a people who lived in what is now the United Kingdom, Ireland, and northern France, celebrated their New Year on November 1st. The New Year was associated with the end of summer and harvest season, and the beginning of cold, destructive winters. The Celts would often kill and eat weak livestock that they believed would not survive through the winter.

The Celts, who worshiped Pagan gods, commemorated this time with a festival called Samhain (sow-en). This time of year was associated with death for the Celts; they believed that the wall between the living and dead was thinnest the night before the New Year, which allowed spirits of all kinds to walk among the living.

Many of today’s Halloween traditions derive from the Pagan practices of the Celts. During their last night of the year, all manner of order was forgotten. Men would dress up as women, and women as men; people would play pranks such as moving livestock to different fields, or moving gates and fences from their proper places.

Since they believed that spirits of the recently deceased were most likely to emerge and cause trouble among the living, such as possessing people and ruining crops, many Celts would leave offerings of food and drink to the spirits, to either aid them to the afterlife, or ward them way. They would also feast and celebrate the lives of the deceased. People extinguished all of the fires in their homes in order to prevent evil spirits from haunting them.

A central aspect of Samhain was the worship by the Druids, or Celtic priests. The Celts brought crops and livestock to the priests who would sacrifice to the Pagan gods in large bonfires, praying for protection during the winter. During these celebrations, Celtics would dress in animal heads and skins and read each other’s fortunes.

One of the main influences of modern day trick-or-treating was the Celtic believe that faeries would roam about dressed as beggars and would go door to door asking for food. The belief was that those who helped the faeries were rewarded while those who didn’t were punished.

Ancient Celtic celebrations

Not only did the Celts believe the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead dissolved on this night, they thought that the presence of the spirits helped their priests to make predictions about the future.

To celebrate Samhain the Druids built huge sacred bonfires. People brought harvest food and sacrificed animals to share a communal dinner in celebration of the festival.

During the celebration the Celts wore costumes – usually animal heads and skins. They would also try and tell each other’s fortunes.

After the festival they re-lit the fires in their homes from the sacred bonfire to help protect them, as well as keep them warm during the winter months.

Visit Stonehenge at Half Term
Stonehenge makes a great family day out during half term. Stonehenge now has a transformed visitor experience, with a new world-class visitor centre, housing museum-quality permanent and special exhibitions, plus a spacious shop and café.
Visit their website here

Other Spooky events at English Heritage properties

Visit Wiltshire Website for local spooky events
With many a historic building to be seen, it’s no surprise that Wiltshire has its own share of ghosts and spooky goings on. Halloween in Wiltshire can be a lot of fun with some exciting events including Ghost Walks run by the Salisbury City Guides as part of their Spooky Salisbury event, Halloween activities at Longleat with ghost tours, a pumpkin trail and fireworks set to spine-chilling tunes and a Halloween ghost train on the Swindon & Cricklade Railway

Link resources:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/24/halloween-witch-costumes_n_5965920.html
Links: http://www.ibtimes.com/halloween-history-pagan-beginnings-856991
Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/paganism/holydays/samhain.shtml
Link: http://clonehenge.com/tag/stonehenge-pumpkin/

Merlin says “Tweet us your Stonehenge / Druid / Pagan pumpkin carvings”
https://twitter.com/ST0NEHENGE
#StonehengePumpkin

Stonehenge News Blog





1000’s flock to Stonehenge for Solstice Sunrise

21 06 2014

THOUSANDS of druids, revellers, tourists and families stood side by side to welcome the sunrise at Stonehenge this morning.

Stonehenge Solstice Sunrise

 

The longest day falling on a weekend and the clear sky drew a crowd of about 36,000, 15,000 more than last year, to the Summer Solstice at the ancient monument.

While party-goers banged drums and cheered in the stone circle, the Loyal Arthurian War Band druids performed their spiritual ceremony by the Heel Stone.

People come from all over the world to be a part of the celebrations at Stonehenge and the bumper crowd were treated to one of the best sunrises at the monument in years.

This year’s mood seemed more subdued than previous and Wiltshire Police said 25 arrests were made at Stonehenge and two at Avebury, which were mainly for drug related offences.

Superintendent Gavin Williams said: “We are please the Solstice celebrations have been enjoyable events for the majority of people attending. The road system worked well and many people used the public transport as we advised.

“Every year there are new challenges for us at Solstice but it is always a pleasure to see so many people enjoying the event.”








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