Stonehenge Summer Solstice: Thousands gather for longest day

21 06 2018

THOUSANDS of revellers have gathered at Stonehenge in Wiltshire to celebrate the arrival of summer and the year’s longest day, in a ritual that dates back thousands of years.

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About 9,500 people were at the Neolithic monument to greet the start of the longest day of the year, according to Wiltshire Police.

The sun appeared behind the Heel Stone at 04:52 BST to cheering and applause from the crowd.

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

As with last year’s event, Wiltshire Police confirmed it had stepped up security with armed police on patrol.

Although thousands attended the solstice, the force said 3,500 fewer people came to watch the sunrise compared with 2017.

Supt Dave Minty, Wiltshire Police’s overnight commander, said behaviour at the stones was “brilliant”, with no arrests made.

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“The sunrise was amazing, and we don’t see many of those,” he added.

“People seem to have adapted really well to the heightened level of security and they’ve been really patient with it.”

On the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone, the ancient entrance to the stone circle, and sunlight is channelled into the centre of the monument.

It is believed that solstices have been celebrated at Stonehenge for thousands of years.

The site holds special significance for members of the Druid and Pagan community, who perform rituals and celebrations at the summer and winter solstices.

FULL STORY (SOURCE) BBC NEWS

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Stonehenge and Ancient Astronomy

4 06 2018

Stonehenge is one of the most impressive and best known prehistoric stone monuments in the world.

sun

Ever since antiquarians’ accounts began to bring the site to wider attention in the 17th century, there has been endless speculation about its likely purpose and meaning, and a recurring theme has been its possible connections with astronomy and the skies. was it a Neolithic calendar? A solar temple? A lunar observatory? A calculating device for predicting eclipses? Or perhaps a combination of more than one of these? In recent years Stonehenge has become the very icon of ancient astronomy, featuring in nearly every discussion on the subject. And yet there are those who persist in believing that it actually had little or no connection with astronomy at all. A more informed picture has been obtained in recent years by combining evidence from archaeology and astronomy within the new interdiscipline of archaeoastronomy – the study of beliefs and practices concerning the sky in the past and the uses to which people’s knowledge of the skies were put. This leaflet attempts to summarize the evidence that the Stonehenge monument was constructed by communities with a clear interest in the sky above them.

This leaflet is one of a series produced by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). An electronic version is available for download at http://www.ras.org.uk.
To find out about modern astronomy in Britain see http://www.astronomy2009.co.uk

Download the PDF here

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Vernal (Spring) Equinox at Stonehenge.

25 02 2017

The Spring Equinox in 2017 falls on March 20th and occurs at 10:28am GMT. The time is for the instant when the Sun crosses the celestial equator moving northwards and has a celestial longitude of 0°. Everywhere on Earth has a day and night of almost equal length and it marks the beginning of the northern spring season.

Druids and Pagans enjoying the Equinox sunrise celebrations at Stonehenge.

Druids and Pagans enjoying the Equinox sunrise celebrations at Stonehenge. Copyright

There is considerable debate in the archaeoastronomy community as to whether the Equinox had any special meaning for the builders of Stonehenge. They had no accurate clocks by which they could determine when the day and night were almost exactly equal and discovering the mid-point between the Winter and Summer solstice can be done in a couple of obvious ways.

You can count the days and divide by two. Or you can mark the summer and winter sunrise positions along the horizon and divide that line into two equal parts. These two methods give different results.

For example, counting the days between Winter Solstice 2016 (December 21st) and Summer Solstice 2017 (June 21st) gives 182 days. Half of that is 91, meaning the midpoint would fall on March 22nd 2017 – two days after the actual Equinox.

north_season

The time is for the instant when the Sun crosses the celestial equator moving northwards and has a celestial longitude of 0°

 

Using the “divide the horizon” approach causes an additional problem – at the Solstices do you mark the first gleam of the Sun appearing, the point when half of it is above the horizon or when it has fully risen and the full orb is standing exactly on the horizon?

The difference in position between using “first gleam” and “full orb” is about 1.5° because the Sun rises at an angle. As a result the halfway position could be 0.75° different depending on your choice and that is one and a half times the width of the Sun’s disc, potentially putting your Equinox out by a day or so.

In any event, there is no alignment through Stonehenge for the Equinox and what’s more there isn’t even a clear sightline directly through the monument that runs true East-West towards the Equinox sunrise position, in the way that there are clear sightlines for the Solstice sunrises and sunsets.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get a nice photo of an equinox sunrise when it’s clear, because you can.

equinox-sunrise

English Heritage Charitable Trust allows everyone in to the centre of the monument for the Spring Equinox sunrise, in the same way that they do for the Autumn Equinox and the two Solstices, through their “Managed Open Access” events. It’s one of only four occasions in the year when open access is allowed.

It’s worth checking with their customer services department (0370 333 1181) a week or so ahead because sometimes they set the actual day of the open access to be different to the day when the Equinox occurs.

Equinox open accesses attract fewer people than the Solstices – in the several hundreds rather than tens of thousands – and there are modern Druid ceremonies which are held in the circle around dawn, so if you prefer a quieter experience then attending an Equinox is a good choice.

If you do visit Stonehenge on the Equinox please respect the special terms of entry and read this blog: ‘Respecting the Stones’

If you are considering visiting Stonehenge for the Solstice or Equinox celebrations you can join a specialist organised small group tour.  Use a only a reputable tour operator who respect the conditions of entry.  Stonehenge Guided Tours are the longest established company offering award winning discreet tours from London. Solstice Events offer small group sunrise tours using only local expert guides.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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Stonehenge NEWS and updates from the World’s most famous ancient monument.

20 01 2017

Featuring independent, unbiased, alternative news and commentary on Stonehenge Stone Circle. We have 10’000’s of followers on Twitter and our Stonehenge News Facebook page.  Our media channels have a vast local / international audience and our daily Stonehenge News blogs are shared globally – frequently having a readership reaching 100,000’s

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We are keen to hear your Stonehenge news and stories.  If you are a guest blogger, local or international newsgroup, an archaeologist, local reporter, historian, travel reviewer,  tour guide or a member of the general public we want to hear your Stonehenge news.
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Ordnance Survey Benchmarks at Stonehenge

18 11 2016

Amongst all the various carvings on the stones at Stonehenge, from the modern graffiti of the 17th to the 20th century and the ancient axe heads and daggers from about 1700BC, there are three that are not often noticed.

These are the Ordnance Survey (OS) benchmarks.

The OS website says: “Bench marks are the visible manifestation of Ordnance Datum Newlyn (ODN), which is the national height system for mainland Great Britain and forms the reference frame for heights above mean sea level.”

The original reference datum levelling survey was begun in Liverpool in 1840 using a benchmark on St. John’s Church, and in 1844 it was changed to the tidal pole in Victoria Dock. The reference Mean Sea Level (MSL) for the datum was established over a nine day period of tidal observations.

A second levelling survey was carried out in 1912-21 and the datum was changed to MSL at Newlyn in Cornwall. In the 1950s a third survey was performed, still making use of the Newlyn datum.

The OS benchmarks at Stonehenge are in the traditional form of three lines / | \ beneath a horizontal bar which is the indicator of the reference height above the datum’s MSL at that spot.

stone-16-annotatedCoincidentally, this is a similar form to that of the Druidic “Awen” emblem which also uses three lines / | \  but positioned below three dots rather than a horizontal bar. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Awen for the history and an explanation of this symbol.

At Stonehenge two of the benchmarks are on the Heel Stone and one is on Stone 16.

Stone 16 is the tooth-like stone at the southwest side of the monument directly behind the tallest stone on the site, and the benchmark is low down on the left of the southeast face.

 

This references the Newlyn datum, is 103.114m above MSL and was last verified in 1957.

The Heel Stone is the massive leaning stone some 80m northeast of the stone circle which famously (but only roughly) indicates the position where the sun appears on the horizon at the summer solstice as seen from the centre of the stone circle.

Its benchmarks are low down on the right hand side of the northeast faceheelstone-annotated

The upper one references the original Liverpool datum, is 101.346m above MSL and was last verified in 1900.

The lower one references the Newlyn datum, is 100.7m above MSL and was last verified in 1957.

From the Newlyn benchmarks, you can work out that there’s a drop of 2.414m from the one on Stone 16 to the one on the Heel Stone.

None of these benchmarks are visible from any of the visitor paths around the monument, although if the light is right (early morning or evening in summer) the upper one on the Heel Stone can just be made out from the National Trust field.

To see them properly you’ll need to come to one of the Managed Open Accesses at the solstices or equinoxes.

Alternatively, you can book a private Stone Circle Access visit which take place most days of the year before and after regular opening times.

STONE CIRCLE ACCESS

Stone Circle Access visits, give you a unique opportunity to experience up close this world famous monument. The visits take place outside of our normal general admission opening hours and are subject to very limited availability. Please note that this is not a guided tour, and touching of the stones is not permitted.  You can try Stonehenge Guided Tours for these special access tours

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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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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Hundreds of druids and pagans descend on Stonehenge to celebrate the Equinox which marks the official start of autumn

23 09 2016
  • Visitors headed to famous 5,000-year-old site in Wiltshire to see the sun rise this morning
  • Autumn equinox is one of four public annual events when people can get so close to stones
  • Hundreds of attendees sang and wore variety of extravagant outfits as onlookers watched on
  • Temperatures stayed high as Britain entered astronomical autumn after we had 23.6C yesterday

Hundreds of druids and pagans descended on Stonehenge today to celebrate the equinox as autumn began.

Visitors headed to the famous 5,000-year-old site in Wiltshire in the dark to ensure they got to see the sun rise.

And they made the most of one of only four public annual events that allows people to get so close to the stones.

Photographs showed attendees singing and wearing a variety of extravagant outfits as onlookers watched on.

Autumn Equinox Celebrations

Big event: The equinox happens twice a year around March 20 and September 22, between the summer and winter solstices

Read the full story in the Daily Mail
By MARK DUELL FOR MAILONLINE

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