Sunday, June 21, 2015

Thousands to gather at Stonehenge for Summer Solstice

Up to 40,000 people are expected to take part in an annual pilgrimage to Britain's most pre-historic site, Stonehenge.

Their mission is to celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, at the world-famous circle of stones, acknowledged as one of the wonders of the world.

Stonehenge, a few kilometres outside Salisbury in Wiltshire County, attracts a million visitors a year from around the world. But solstice is its high point for worshippers of the sun.

Most of the visitors to the pre-historic site will be tourists and revellers, but among the crowd will be members of the pagan and druid communities, dressed in their traditional gowns. For the sunrise-worshipping Druids it is a religious occasion, as well as being an important event in the pagan calendar.

For the gathered crowd the critical moment will come precisely at 4:52 a.m. British Summer Time on Sunday when the sun rises at the start of what will be the longest day of the year. The dawn chorus will be loud music, beating drums and lively dancing and singing, and ritual chants of the formal celebrants.

Extra police will be on duty throughout the night to control the crowd and seek out drug-takers. Last year there were 25 people arrested by police, mainly for drug-related offences.

Built into the structure of Stonehenge is a fundamental alignment, and on the longest day the sun rises from behind a large stone, known as the Heel Stone, with the first rays of the sun shining directly into the very heart of the Stonehenge circle.

Kate Davies, manager at Stonehenge for Britain's official cultural custodian, English Heritage, said: "We are looking forward to a peaceful celebration and as solstice falls over the weekend we anticipate the area will be very busy."

"We are working very closely with the local authorities plus the druid and pagan community to ensure access to Stonehenge will once again be a success. We ask all attending to respect the stones and the people celebrating the solstice," said Davies.

Stonehenge is one of the wonders of the world. Its great stones were raised more than 4,000 years ago as a temple to the sun, with the surrounding banks and ditches even older.

Experts continue to marvel at the construction of Stonehenge, saying moving just one of the huge 40 tonne stones would have required a team of 200 people. Each stone was manually moved to the site over a distance of more than 30 km. Even the smaller stones were transported to Stonehenge from Wales, a distance of 240 km.

Many secrets remain within the silent stones of Stonehenge, who actually built it, how it was built and its significance in pre-historic Britain. As today's visitors will demonstrate, the sun and daylight continues to play an important part in daily lives. 

   Xinhua -

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