Friday, June 22, 2007

20,000 people meet for Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

England - Thousands of modern-day druids, pagans and partygoers converged on Stonehenge early Thursday to cheer the dawn of the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere — the summer solstice.

Clad in antlers, black cloaks and oak leaves, a group gathered at the Heel stone — a twisted, pockmarked pillar at the edge of the prehistoric monument — to welcome the rising sun as revelers danced and yelled. . . . Dancers writhed to the sound of drums and whistles as floodlights colored the ancient pillars shades of pink and purple, and couples snuggled under plastic sheets.

Solstice celebrations were a highlight of the pre-Christian calendar. People in many countries still celebrate with bonfires, maypole dances and courtship rituals. In more recent years, New Age groups and others have turned to Stonehenge to celebrate the solstice, and the World Heritage Site has become a magnet for those seeking a spiritual experience — or just wanting to have a good time.

But the celebrations also can attract their share of troublemakers. Police closed the site in 1984 after repeated clashes with revelers. English Heritage, the monument's caretaker, began allowing full access to the site again in 2000. Police were deployed early Thursday to keep the hedonists from getting out of hand, and to prevent revelers from climbing the stones.

And no, I wasn't there, not writhing under pink lamps, not wearing antlers and not snuggling under a plastic sheet! I know - I'm getting old.

For those wanting more information about Stonehenge, see the official Stonehenge website.