Why Thousands Of Pagans Gather At Stonehenge For The Winter Solstice

17 12 2016

The prehistoric site holds spiritual significance for many Pagans and Druids.

While some are buying presents and trimming their tree for Christmas, a very different kind of spiritual celebration gets underway every year at Stonehenge. It’s the winter solstice, also known as Yule in some Pagan circles, and the occasion draws thousands of Pagans, Druids, spiritual seekers and tourists to the prehistoric site for a reverent and ecstatic ceremony.

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The sun peeks through clouds during a winter solstice ceremony at the ancient neolithic monument of Stonehenge near on December, 2015. MATT CARDY VIA GETTY IMAGES

The December solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and this year it falls on Wednesday, December 21 at 5:44 EST.

In ancient Pagan traditions, the winter solstice was a time to honor the cycles of life and death and celebrate the sun’s rebirth as the days would slowly begin to lengthen in the months leading into spring. Many modern practitioners of Pagan and earth-centered spiritual traditions observe the holiday, and at Stonehenge, the celebration is particularly special.

Stonehenge, which celebrates its 30th year as a World Heritage site this year, is believed to be roughly 4,500 years old. Its significance as a link to British prehistory has drawn countless visitors over the years who come to gaze upon what’s considered to be the most architecturally advanced, prehistoric stone circle on the globe.

Apart from its architectural significance, Stonehenge holds a place of sacred importance to many. Much of its history is still shrouded in mystery, though one thing that’s sure is that it was built upon a landscape that had long been used for religious purposes. The stones that make up the massive circle are thought to have been collected from distant places, some as far as 150 miles away, and brought to this particular location. They were then erected using sophisticated, interlocking joints ― but how exactly the builders accomplished these feats is unclear.

It’s also unclear what exact purpose the site served to those who built it. English Heritage, a UK-based charity, notes that speculations on Stonehenge’s original function include “a coronation place for Danish kings, a Druid temple, an astronomical computer for predicting eclipses and solar events, a place where ancestors were worshipped or a cult centre for healing.”

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Rollo Maughfling, Archdruid of Stonehenge & Britain, conducts a winter solstice ceremony at Stonehenge on December 22, 2015 in Wiltshire, England. MATT CARDY VIA GETTY IMAGES

Whatever its intended purpose, Stonehenge remains a place of wonder for thousands who visit the awe-inspiring structure every year. And its significance is especially potent at the winter solstice.

“One of the most important and well-known features of Stonehenge is its alignment on the midwinter sunset-midsummer sunrise solstitial axis,” a spokesman for England Heritage told BBC. “The midwinter sun sets between the two upright stones of the great trilithon.”

In other words, on the two annual solstices ― summer and winter ― the sun respectively rises and sets in perfect alignment with the site’s massive stones.

To witness the astronomical event, visitors typically arrive early in the morning on the day of the solstice to watch the sunrise and stay through to the sunset. Local Druids host a ceremony during the day, as revelers and tourists alike bask in Stonehenge’s ancient atmosphere.

“What we’re really here for is to celebrate the fact that the cycle of the world turns, and from now on the days get longer and it’s the return of the sun,” Druid leader and activist King Arthur Pendragon told BBC at the Stonehenge winter solstice celebration in 2014. “It’s a time of change and hope is renewed ― the same message really from a pagan perspective as from a Christian perspective. That’s what this season is all about ― a message of hope.”

Article source: Antonia Blumberg  Associate Religion Editor, The Huffington Post

Stonehenge Winter Solstice Open Access Arrangements

Please visit the official English Heritage website for full details.

Solstice Events are offering their usual  Stonehenge Winter Solstice guided tour from London and Bath.

 

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Stonehenge: Up close. English Heritage Members Event. February 2017

26 11 2016

Gain a rare and fascinating insight into the famous World Heritage Site with an exclusive tour around the site led by one of English Heritage’s experts.

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Start the tour with exclusive early morning access to the stone circle at Stonehenge accompanied by our expert. Followed by a light breakfast we will then visit key archaeology sites including Durrington Walls, Woodhenge and The Cursus and learn more about the archaeological landscape and investigative work that has taken place in recent years.

A light breakfast is included. This event has been graded as moderate as there will be plenty of walking over uneven ground. Please dress for the weather as there is no shelter on site. Sturdy footwear is a must, as is a torch.

15th February 2017 (7.30am – 12.30pm) £45 per person

This is an English Heritage ‘Members only’ event.  Please visit their website for more details

HOW TO BOOK
Tickets are available now by calling English Heritage direct on 0370 333 1183.

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Stonehenge celebrates 30 years of ‘World Heritage’

19 11 2016

English Heritage is celebrating 30 years of World Heritage Site status for Stonehenge this weekend.

To launch the 30th Anniversary celebrations, students from local Stonehenge School and Avon Valley College are today unveiling a special plaque highlighting the World Heritage Site status of the iconic Wiltshire monument.

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Thousands flock to the site for summer solstice every year. Photo: ITV West Country

n 1986 Stonehenge and Avebury were among the first seven sites in the UK to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

World Heritage Site status gives Stonehenge and Avebury international recognition alongside sites such the Egyptian Pyramids, the Great Wall of China and the Galapagos Islands as a place of exceptional importance to all humanity.

I am really pleased to be asked to help unveil the plaque at Stonehenge. World Heritage status is important because it means that a place is valuable to everyone, from all over the world and we must all look after it well so that everyone in the future can enjoy and understand it too.

– ERIN GALLAGHER,YEAR 9 STUDENT FROM AVON VALLEY COLLEGE

On 19th and 20th November, 30 Goody Bags will be given out at random; 30 Golden Tickets will be hidden around the site and every visitor will receive a special souvenir postcard.

Kate Davies, English Heritage General Manager of Stonehenge, said:

“This year we are celebrating thirty years of World Heritage status and we are excited to be joined by local schools as part of the Kids Takeover day, as we unveil a World Heritage Site plaque and launch our special 30th Anniversary weekend.

” Young people are the future guardians of our heritage, and it is fantastic to see that our local young community are so interested in learning about Stonehenge and what it means to have a World Heritage Site, one of 30 in the UK, on their doorstep.”

Visit the English Heritage Website for more information

Article source (ITV NEWS)

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Celebrating 30 Years of World Heritage at Stonehenge and Avebury on 19th November 2016 #WHS30

12 11 2016

This year Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site is celebrating 30 years since its inscription on to the World Heritage list in 1986.  A number of events are taking place throughout this year.

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The Stonehenge and Avebury WHS Coordination Unit, with the support of their partners, is holding a 30th anniversary conference on 19 and 20 November 2016 to celebrate the many aspects of the World Heritage Site and the gains made over the past 30 years.

On Saturday 19 November in the Ceres Hall, the Corn Exchange, Devizes, a number of speakers including Dr Serge Cassen (University of Nantes), Dr Alison Sheridan (National Museums of Scotland), Dr Heather Sebire (English Heritage), Prof Tim Darvill (University of Bournemouth), Dr Josh Pollard (University of Southampton), Prof Vince Gaffney (University of Bradford) will be joining us to examine developments in conservation, changes in our knowledge through research and archaeology, the impact on culture and how Stonehenge fits into the European and British culture at that time.

CONFERENCE FINAL PROGRAMME

There will be a panel discussion to think about what advances in our knowledge there might be in the next 30 years as well as opportunities to find out about the work of the key partners in helping to manage the World Heritage Site.

On Sunday 20 November there will be limited opportunities for delegates to attend exclusive expert led tours to both Stonehenge and Avebury and to The Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum to explore their related collections.

Tickets are open to all and must be booked in advance through Eventbrite.

This event is supported by Historic England and Wiltshire Council

There’s still time to book your tickets for the conference on 19th November.

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A303 Stonehenge expressway. Contractors called to tunnel meeting: 12th October

5 10 2016

Highways England is holding a market engagement day next week for contractors interested in bidding to build the A303 improvement project by Stonehenge.

Stonehenge Tunnel Project

The ambitious project is expected to cost anywhere between £300m and £1.3bn depending on the final route selected.

A joint venture of WS Atkins and Ove Arup is designing a scheme to improve the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down in Wiltshire. The project includes a tunnel near Stonehenge and a bypass of the village of Winterbourne Stoke.

The A303 at Stonehenge currently severs the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site (WHS) and is one of the last remaining single-carriageway bottlenecks between London and Cornwall.  The proposed scheme would create an expressway standard dual carriageway route.

The scheme is currently in the Options phase, with a preferred route announcement planned for summer 2017 and a DCO application planned for summer 2018. Subject to statutory procedures, construction work should start by April 2020.

Highways England intends to appoint a contractor on an early contractor involvement (ECI) basis, initially to assist with the DCO application and then to design, build and maintain the scheme.

On the project page on the Highways England website, the value of the scheme is somewhat vaguely put at between £275m and £1,321m.

The market engagement day takes place in Bristol on 12th October 2016 to provide more information on the scheme and the procurement strategy. Those wishing to attend should email simon.chohan@highwaysengland.co.uk for the time and location of the event.

Links:
Race starts for £1.3bn Stonehenge expressway
Contractors called to Stonehenge tunnel meeting

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UNESCO report backs Stonehenge tunnel plans

5 05 2016

Plans to build a tunnel under Stonehenge have been welcomed in an influential report.

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The A303 past Stonehenge is a highly congested route

The report by UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites recognised the benefits the 1.8m (2.9km) project.

In 2014 the government announced it would commit to building a tunnel, removing the A303 from the landscape.

Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage also support the plans.

The report highlighted the scheme’s potential to become a “best practice case” for a World Heritage Site.

It said the scheme must “both protect the outstanding universal value” of the site and also “benefit road users”.

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At the moment the congested A303 cuts through the middle of the area.

Helen Ghosh, director general of the National Trust, said the report “recognises the unmissable opportunity” the government’s road improvement scheme offers to address “the blight of the existing A303”.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, welcomed the report but said “sensitive design” would be needed.

Kate Mavor, chief executive of English Heritage, added: “Provided that it is designed and built in the right way, a tunnel would reunite the wider landscape around the ancient stones, helping people to better understand and enjoy them.”

FULL STORY: UNESCO report backs Stonehenge tunnel plans – BBC News

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Experience Sunrise at Stonehenge 2nd March. #Periscope Drone Live Stream

28 02 2016

LIVE! Catch the sunrise at Stonehenge. With Dan Snow #Dronehenge #Periscope.

Stonehenge is a magical place to be, steeped in mystery and History. We’re delighted that English Heritage have given us special access to film from this ancient stone circle, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Live on March 2nd from 6 am. The sunrise is at 6:50 am GMT.

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How do we let people, a lot of people, know about a very special live event that is only happening online without a massive marketing budget? How can live streaming compete with the mass of distractions out there? There’s no TV schedule. No billboards. No iPlayer for this sort of thing.
Live streaming is special; Periscope is special because the audience is there with you. People ask Dan Snow, “Why do you Periscope? The audience isn’t massive…it doesn’t pay anything. What’s the point?”
If you haven’t watched one of Dan’s ‘scopes’ you haven’t experienced the tangible excitement ‘live’ brings to the show. It’s more than a show. From under the bow of the Mary Rose – where they installed wifi especially, to the extraordinary views at Gallipoli, scrambling through the underbrush in Harfleur in the search of Henry V’s battlements, to the cacophony on an airborne Lancaster bomber -one use in infamous Dam Buster raid.Dan Snow takes you to places other broadcasts cannot reach. 
Armed with just his iPhone and a respectable 4G signal, Dan is liberated from the traditional film crew and all that goes with that. Periscope is the app that’s made this possible – in just under a year Dan Snow has filmed almost 100 ‘scopes’ from all over the world, to a global audience.
Dan Snow is the resident ‘history guy’ for the BBC’s ‘The One Show’.
When we heard Periscope had teamed up with action camera company:GoPro we got excited. We could now ‘hand-off’ to an external camera wirelessly – our synapses began to fire.
What could Dan do with an external camera that would enhance the form? We’d seen GoPros – these matchbox-sized cameras with a high fidelity camera – strapped to skiers helmets, screwed to BMX bikes, and stuck on surfboards. What could Dan do to create stunning visuals, to enhance the story, and where should he take it?
“It’s got to be a drone, and it’s got to be Stonehenge,” said Dan, without missing a beat.
After a month of phone calls, planning, testing, tinfoil, and tech-wizardry, we’re ready. And with help from Periscope – we’re delighted that Dan will be able to do something during the live stream that would have been impossible to do otherwise! You’ll have to wait and see!
Tinfoil? Yep! The limitations of wifi range between the iPhone and the GoPro, signal frequencies of the drone (don’t cross the streams!), we’ve learned some expensive lessons. Falling down 7 times and getting up 8. After all the planning and testing we’re ready.
Stonehenge is a magical place to be, steeped in mystery and History. We’re delighted that English Heritage have given us special access to film from this ancient stone circle, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Live on March 2nd from 6 am. The sunrise is at 6:50 am GMT.
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS
We hope you will join us on the ‘scope’. We would love it if you’d help us spread the word by joining this Thunderclap! Thank you!
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