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

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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

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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
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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.”





18th Century William Stukeley book on Stonehenge is now online.

3 02 2014

In 1740, British vicar William Stukeley published Stonehenge, A Temple Restor’d to the British Druids.

In more than 30 illustrations, Stukeley’s book documents the way Stonehenge appeared when he visited it in the early 18th century. The historian was only the 1-stukely-stonehengesecond scholarly investigator (after the 17th-century antiquarian John Aubrey) to take an interest in the site, and the first to publish a comprehensive account of what he found on his visits,  including images of the way that the monument looked in context of the  surrounding farmland.

In maps and vistas, Stukeley tried to capture the layout of the  monument’s stones. Much of his sense of urgency in the task came from  his belief that the stones’ arrangement needed preservation, as the  monument was under constant threat of vandalism and interference. For  example, Aubrey found and documented 20 stones in one area of the monument; a century later, Stukeley found only five remaining.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre: English Heritage current ‘Set in Stone’ exhibition includes an oil portrait of William Stukeley: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/discover/set-in-stone-exhibition

Link: http://tywkiwdbi.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/1740-book-on-stonehenge-now-online.html
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Protests expected in run up to opening of £27m Stonehenge visitor centre

17 12 2013

Two different protests are to be staged at Stonehenge in the run up to the opening of a new £27 million visitor centre on Wednesday.

visitor-centre-2

One protest will involve people living in villages near the A303 who are worried about extra traffic using rural lanes while the other is about the display of human remains in one of the exhibitions in the soon to be open centre.

A spokesman for English Heritage said: “The display of human remains at the exhibition has caused some people who feel very strongly about it to protest on site.

“We respect their views and their right to peaceful demonstration, and have had useful discussions with them about how these protests can be accommodated.

“English Heritage believes that authenticity is important to tell England’s story. We use real objects and artefacts because we believe they are the best way for people to come close to history.

“We only use replicas when the real item is not available. Research shows that the vast majority of museum visitors are comfortable with, and often expect to see, human remains as part of displays.

“Stonehenge is the focus of a ceremonial and ritual landscape shaped by prehistoric people for over 1,500 years. The exhibition puts at its centre the people associated with it and as such, the remains have a rightful place in the exhibition.

“Our position is consistent with current museum practice across the UK and the presentation of human remains in the new gallery will follow strict guidelines set out by the UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport.”

English Heritage Commissioners considered druid leader Arthur Pendragon’s request to use replicas very carefully in September 2013 but decided that the original plan should go ahead.

“The three sets of human remains on display have been in the care of scholarly institutions for at least 10 years and do not include any freshly excavated material,” the spokesman added.

“All the three sets of remains have been scientifically dated: two sets are over 5,000 years old, one set is about 4,500 years old.”

English Heritage says it also respects people’s rights to protest about traffic issues. A spokesman said: “The project has widespread support but traffic problems on the A303 have caused concern in a few local villages.

“We respect people’s right to peaceful demonstration. Together with the police, we have had discussions with the Stonehenge Traffic Action Group (STAG) about how these protests can be accommodated.

“Their main concern is the congestion on the A303 near Stonehenge and the impact this has on nearby villages. Some people consider closing the A344 (a key part of the English Heritage scheme) has made the situation worse, so much so that drivers are abandoning the A303 in search of a faster route through local villages.

“We understand and sympathise with these frustrations, but the reality is that the A303 has long been a very busy road, even before the A344 was closed.

“The majority of traffic congestion on the A303 is caused by the year on year increase of cars using the road and by the bottleneck where the dual-carriageway becomes a single carriageway near Stonehenge.

“We agree that something needs to be done about the A303 but the decision rests with the Department for Transport. We have met with STAG, have discussed the matter with Wiltshire Council and will join with them in urging the Department for Transport to tackle this long standing problem.”

Article source By Joanne Moore: http://www.gazetteandherald.co.uk/news/headlines/10880859.Protests_expected_in_run_up_to_opening_of___27m_Stonehenge_visitor_centre/?ref=rss

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Stonehenge revealed: Why Stones Were a “Special Place”

22 06 2013

Lead archaeologist at Stonehenge discusses his team’s discoveries in new book

The eerie megaliths of Stonehenge have inspired speculation for centuries.

Druids—and sometimes aliens—have been suspected of planting the 4,500-year-old stones. Is Stonehenge an astronomical calendar or a place of healing or a marker for magical energy lines in the ground? For a long time, no one really knew, though some theories were more grounded in reality than others.

Each year revelers like these travel to Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice. Photograph by Jim Richardson, National Geographic

Each year revelers like these travel to Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice.
Photograph by Jim Richardson, National Geographic

But now, we may be a little bit closer to understanding the monumental Neolithic site. Archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson and his colleagues at the Stonehenge Riverside Project, whose research was funded in part by the National Geographic Society, spent seven years excavating Stonehenge and its surroundings. This month, Parker Pearson published the project’s findings in a new book, Stonehenge—A New Understanding: Solving the Mysteries of the Greatest Stone Age Monument.

National Geographic writer Rachel Hartigan Shea spoke with Parker Pearson about what he and his colleagues discovered and how modern celebrants greeting the summer solstice at Stonehenge may have gotten the wrong day.

What got you first interested in researching Stonehenge?

Well, I have to say I didn’t actually have any interest at all in Stonehenge. I was working with Ramilisonina, a Malagasy archaeologist. He comes from a megalith-building culture, so I thought he’d be interested to see Stonehenge. I took him to take a look, and he said, “What do you mean you don’t know what it’s for? It’s obvious.” Then he said, “Mike, have you learned nothing in all of our work together with standing stones in Madagascar?”

He explained to me it was surely built for the ancestors. In Madagascar, they build in stone for the ancestors because it is a permanent medium—permanent like the ancestors—whereas they live in wooden houses because those will perish just like human life will end. I laughed initially and said, “Well, I don’t think that’s necessarily really going to have anything to do with Britain 5,000 years ago.”

But I realized that actually we did have timber circles very close to the stone circle of Stonehenge. That was quite a bombshell for me.

How were the excavations that you worked on at Stonehenge different from previous excavations there?

I think the important thing was not to dig just at Stonehenge but to actually investigate the wider landscape around it and to begin by looking at this area of the timber circles close by. It was there that we found that the place of wood had indeed to do with the living. (See Stonehenge pictures.)

When we came back to Stonehenge and dug there, we recovered some 60 cremation burials inside Stonehenge. What we now know is that Stonehenge was the largest cemetery of its day.

Ramilisonina’s ideas about a place in stone for the dead and a place in wood for the living started as a theory but has actually become a fact as a result of our investigations.

The timber circles were located at a site called Durrington Walls. How was that the place of the living?

At Durrington Walls, we have two of these great timber circles—a bit like Stonehenge in wood—at the center of an enormous village. From where we’ve excavated, you’re looking at a fairly dense settlement of houses.

We discovered that they’d been feasting there on a very large scale. We estimate that about four to five thousand people may have gathered there at the time they were building Stonehenge. (Take a Stonehenge quiz.)

We also know that there were seasonal influxes into the settlement at Durrington Walls. Through analysis of the age patterns on the teeth of pigs, we can see that there are particularly high points in the slaughtering patterns. The pigs had given birth in spring, and what we’re seeing is a culling in the middle of the winter.

Here we are on the summer solstice, but this evidence suggests that people were gathering in large numbers at the winter solstice. We’ve been getting it wrong in modern times about when to gather at Stonehenge.

So Stonehenge was built to commemorate the dead?

Stonehenge wasn’t built in order to do something, in the same way you might build a Greek temple to use it for worship. It seems much more likely that everything was in the act of building—that you’d construct it, then you’d go away. You’d come back 500 years later, you’d rebuild it in a new format, and then you’d go away.

I think we have to shake off this idea of various sorts of priests or shamans coming in every year over centuries to do their thing. This is a very different attitude to religious belief. It’s much more about the moment. It’s about what must have been these upwellings of religious—almost millennial—belief, and once the thing is done, then everyone disperses and goes back to their lives.

What do the summer and midwinter solstices have to do with where Stonehenge is located?

One of our discoveries in 2008 was on the avenue that leads out of Stonehenge. As you are moving along the avenue away from Stonehenge, you are looking toward where the sun rises on the midsummer solstice. If you turn 180 degrees and look back toward Stonehenge, that’s where the sun sets on the midwinter solstice. Underneath the avenue, we discovered a natural landform, formed in a previous ice age, where there are grooves and ridges that by sheer coincidence are aligned on that solstitial axis.

Right next to this landform are pits dug to hold posts that were put up 10,000 years ago, much older than Stonehenge. Another archaeological team has discovered down by the river next to Stonehenge a huge settlement area for hunters and gatherers, which seems to have been occupied on and off for something like 4,000 years before Stonehenge itself was ever built.

We think that long before Stonehenge this location was already a special place. These hunters and gatherers may have been the people who first recognized this special feature in the land where the earth and the heavens were basically in harmony.

This interview has been edited and condensed.
Full Article: : http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130621-stonehenge-summer-solstice-archaeology-science/

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Stonehenge Solstice Ancient Celebration. June 21st 2013

16 06 2013

With the Summer Solstice fast approaching we start to see our visitor numbers increase in Wiltshire. It is a bumper time for our tourist industry as people from all over the world descend upon our county and join in with this ancient celebration.

The Summer Solstice is known to Pagans as ‘Alban Hefin’ which means ‘Light of the Shore’. It occurs on the 21st June when the sun is at its highest point in the sky and the days are at their longest. The nights begin to draw in after this date, which is a scary thought as summer has only just got going. The Druids celebrate this event with special ceremonies and rituals that are believed to date back several millennia. Although the 4000 year old monument of Stonehenge has been the centre stage for these ceremonies; Avebury, Woodhenge and the Kennet long barrow have also attracted worshippers at this special time of year.

Looking into our local studies archives I have discovered that the Solstice festivities have not always been peaceful as the Druids would wish.

In 1901, Salisbury Police invoiced the landowner of Stonehenge, Colonel Sir Edmund Antrobus ‘for police services rendered’ for the night of 20th June. He was charged for one Superintendent, one Inspector, two Sergeants and seven Constables a total of £3. 4s.2d. presumably this would have been for crowd control or public order duties.

During the 1950s the Druid procession was accompanied by the Military Police and members of the Army. The security operation was overseen by the Ministry of Works (a government department responsible for building projects). Public gatherings at Stonehenge increased not only by the number of people but also in disorder. There were reported to be many barrels and crates on site, presumably of beer. The ‘high jinks’ was quashed in 1956 when young officers threw ‘thunderflashes’ in to the unruly crowd.

By the early 1970s a small music festival was conceived, which took place in woods near Amesbury during the days leading up to the 21st June. This was the beginning of the Free Festival which continued to grow in popularity and controversy throughout the ‘70s until 1984 when it ended abruptly.

During the early 80s a new wave of ‘new age travellers’ replaced the ‘hippy’ label of the ‘60s. Large numbers of travellers would congregate on private land and were reported to have committed trespass, criminal damage and public order offences.

On June 1st 1985, events came to a head culminating in the infamous ‘Battle of the Beanfield’. It wasn’t until June 2000 that a truce was finally made between the authorities and members of the public; 5000 people were given the privilege of entering the sacred circle.

On Thursday 5th September, one of our archaeologists, Rachel Foster, will be giving a talk on ‘Stonehenge & Avebury World Heritage Sites’ at the History Centre, contact the centre for further details. Alternatively, records are available to view by members of the public. We have copies of newspapers on microfilm, newspaper articles in our ephemera collection and also scrapbooks on ‘The Battle of Stonehenge’. We also hold the book ‘The Battle of the Beanfield’, edited by Andy Worthington, published by Enabler Publications in 2005 and utilised for this article.

Article by: Anna Ervine Local Studies Assistant
Source: http://www.wshc.eu/blog/item/the-summer-solstice.html

Link: https://blog.stonehenge-stone-circle.co.uk/2013/06/01/stonehenge-summer-solstice-celebrations-2013/
Link: https://blog.stonehenge-stone-circle.co.uk/2013/06/10/summer-solstice-2013-stonehenge-managed-access/

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