Stonehenge and the Druids – who are the Druids?

23 02 2020

Stonehenge’s mysterious beauty affects us all in different ways, but for many it is a sight of genuine religious importance.

Stonehenge Solstice Celebrations

Stonehenge Solstice Celebrations

‘Druids’ is the general term used to refer to this multitudinous group who see Wiltshire’s world heritage site as a place of worship. In reality, Druidic beliefs vary, with different groups including neo-pagans and wiccans. Nonetheless, a whole host of Druidic worshippers converge on Stonehenge for the solstices, equinoxes and beyond. Today, there are over 7,000 members of the British druid order and I wanted to take a look at the history of druidism and its ties with Stonehenge’s arcane monoliths.

History of Druidism

DruidDruids pre-dated the Roman invasion of Britain and in ancient Celtic cultures they were members of highly respected shamanic class. They were typically religious leaders, but also law keepers, chroniclers, doctors, and even political advisors. They were first mentioned in the 2nd century BC in roman sources and were even reported by Julius Caesar in 59 B.C. Druid’s were the arbiters of spirituality in pre-roman Britain and had a deep connection with the lore of the isles.

With first the Roman invasion (Roman religion tended towards assimilation, absorbing deities of other faiths in the hope of conversion) and then the rise of Christianity, Druidism faded into near non-existence. However, something of Druidic traditions remained and was eventually revived.

Two figures of huge importance to the Druidic revival were John Aubrey (1626-1692) and William Stukely (1687-1765). Aubrey was the first to suggest that Stonehenge had been built by Celtic Druids, the most prominent theory on the formation of Stonehenge until the 20th Century. Stukely (also famous for discovering the Cursus and Avenue at Stonehenge), proliferated the theory that Druid’s built Stonehenge and also worked hard to revive the culture, eventually proclaiming himself a Druid. Stukley worked hard to popularise Druidism, reviving pagan lore and dress whilst throwing parties in accordance with ancient beliefs. For Stukley, Stonehenge was a temple of worship – eventually publishing Stonehenge: A Temple Restor’d to the British Druids.

The origin of the word ‘Druid’’ is unclear, but the most popular view is that it comes from ‘doire’, an Irish-Gaelic word for oak tree (often a symbol of knowledge), also meaning ‘wisdom’. Druids were concerned with the natural world and its powers, and considered trees sacred, particularly the oak.

Today, the most prominent druid could be said to be a Salisbury Druid by the name of Arthur Uthur Pendragon – who has spent 33 years a Druid. A religious enthusiast, he can be found at every Stonehenge celebration and he also leads campaigns to reduce parking fees and has even run for MP.

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Arthur Pendragon

Druidic Beliefs

From the time of the Celtic Druids, Druidism has had a strong bond with the natural world as well as the cosmos. Although Stukley determinedly linked his version of Druidism with Christianity – dubbing it ‘Patriarchal Christianity’ – Druidism since ancient times has been polytheistic, with different deities existing in the elements around us. The community largely believes that Stonehenge was built by ancient Druids as a place of worship – it being aligned with the midsummer sunrise so perfectly. Stonehenge thus represents the spiritual connection of man and the elements which is intrinsic to the beliefs of the Druid community.

Druids at Stonehenge

Although the 21st century has seen a decline in Druidism, (In the 2001 census 30,569 people described themselves as Druids), the numbers are once again on the rise. Perhaps in a digital age, more and more people are seeking a deeper connection with the elements. A connection that Druidism certainly offers. Who knows? Maybe you too will feel this spiritual connection on your visit to the stones.

Stonehenge and the Druids links:

The Quarter Festivals and the Druidsm – The Stonehenge News Blog
Who were the Druids? History UK
Who Were the Druids? Live Science
A Brief History of Druidry | Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids – The Druid Way
Stonehenge and the Druids – Stonehnege News Blog
Druid Leader King Arthur Uther Pendragon, Head of the Loyal Arthurian Warband. The Stonehenge News Blog

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/

Our sponsors at Stonehenge Guided Tours offer an exclusive opportunity to join the Druids at Stonehenge for the Equinox and Solstice celebrations

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King Arthur takes council to court in Stonhenge parking row

30 09 2016

Even kings have problems with councils, it seems.

King Arthur in all his glory (Picture: SWNS)

King Arthur in all his glory (Picture: SWNS)

Arthur Pendragon, the self-titled druid king of Britain and who says he’s the reincarnation of King Arthur, is suing over a parking charge at Stonehenge.

He’s also taking action against a police force and English Heritage over the £15 fee.

King Arthur believes the charge is ‘illegal’ for worshippers to the stones for the summer solstice, dubbing ‘pay to pray’.

The charge was introduced for this year’s event on June 21, which saw 12,000 people flock to Stonehenge, in Salisbury, Wiltshire, to mark the longest day of the year.

When Mr Pendragon refused to fork out – saying the £15 fee is ‘grossly unfair’ as it is three times what tourists pay on any other day of the year – he was barred from the UNESCO World Heritage site.

The 62-year-old, who rides a motorbike, decided to take action against the ‘money-grabbing’ authorities because it breaches his human rights.

Mr Pendragon – an ex-soldier and biker gang leader who was born John Timothy Rothwell to parents May and Wilfred – said he will do ‘whatever it takes’ to win.

Who is the modern-day King Arthur?

Mr Pendragon is an English eco-campaigner and Neo-Druid leader of the Loyal Arthurian Warband, who believes he is the reincarnation of King Arthur.

He rose to fame in the 90s when he won a case at the European Court of Human Rights to allow open access to Stonehenge for religious festivals.

He said: ‘If you go to Stonehenge as a tourist today you will pay £5, but if you go there on the solstice as a pilgrim they make you pay ££15.

‘As soon as they bring in a parking charge, it means it is virtually impossible to attend unless you pay. They are stopping me from praying.’

English Heritage has previously stated that it needs to charge the fee as £60,000 is spent on parking facilities during summer solstice.

He said: ‘It is all about money. Stonehenge is getting 1.3 million tourists a year – it is English Heritage’s biggest cash cow.

Read the full story on the Metro website

More relevant links:

Arthur Pendragon Facebook Page: (Arthur is a Warrior, Druid, Witch and Pagan High Priest defending environmental and libertarian causes) https://www.facebook.com/arthur.rex.984

Arthur Pendragon at Stonehenge: Live Periscope video footage from the Autumn Equinox 2016 celebrations: https://www.periscope.tv/w/1vOxwRaaZMdJB

King Arthur launches Stonehenge parking legal action | Plymouth Herald

NEWS: Senior druid launches legal challenge over £15 parking charge at for solstice: http://www.spirefm.co.uk/news/local-news/2106390/king-arthurs-stonehenge-parking-wars-to-be-shown-on-tv/

King Arthur sues council, police and English Heritage over ‘pay to pray’ scheme: 

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