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SUMMER SOLSTICE AT STONEHENGE

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We spent Saturday night at cousin Judy and Rob's, in Ebford, eagerly anticipating the Stonehenge adventure ahead the next day with Judy, Ebu, and the Druids. Unfortunately Judy developed gastro with severe leg cramps, so was unable to come with us. So, after a late supper with cousin Ebu and Jeremy, the excited trio, Ebu, Sandi and David set off for Stonehenge in the van, in the advancing dusk. At registration, we discovered that Jonathan, Judy’s son who had invited us, had arranged for David and Sandi to be banner bearers - an exciting honour to be so close to the "action". This meant wearing white robes and receiving instruction [“don’t stab anyone in the backside with the banner point when going through the tunnel”, etc].
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At 11.45 pm we all gathered in the car park, before setting off in solemn procession for the Midnight ceremony; the Druids in single file led by the sword bearer, followed by the invited guests. There were about 50 Druids and 30 guests, which made the whole celebration intimate, since there were 34,000 people at the public gathering the night before! We marched along a path in silence for about 30 minutes to a special mound.
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We were supposed to be meditating as we walked, but this proved impossible as we tried to avoid stones and holes in the dark! The sky was overcast, windless and there was no moon. At the mound the Druids formed an inner circle and the guests formed the outer circle. The Chief Druid spoke about various issues, as well as a short guided meditation. This ceremony was meant to reflect the autumn and winter of our lives, but the solemnity of the occasion was interrupted by someone farting loudly, followed by another fainting! The skies cleared, the stars came out, and we walked back to base, where we had 90 minutes to rest before gathering for banner instruction. We decided that the best way to spend the time was by drinking No Caf and playing Scrabble in the van.

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At 3.45 am we donned several layers of warm clothes, then our robes, raised the banner and walked in procession through the tunnel to the stone circles of Stonehenge for the Dawn ceremony. The sky was already light and with mist swirling all around us and the stones, it truly was a mystical experience [no pun intended].
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We processed to the 4 points of the compass where items that represent the 4 elements - fire, water, earth and air - were collected.
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The procession then entered the inner circle of stones, from the east, with everyone forming a circle. The Dawn ceremony which is meant to reflect spring, symbolising new beginnings, ended a few moments before the sunrise. It was incredible to feel the energy and warmth radiating from the stones themselves, even though the air was cold [and we expected the stones to be cold too].
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Then the sun, a glowing red orb, rose up through the mist exactly over the Hele or Sunstone in the NE. As it got brighter and cleared the mist, its rays shone through the gap between the stones in the circle, falling on the Stone of Measurement. It was quite mesmerizing and very beautiful to watch. Unfortunately we could not take any photos as our hands were firmly attached to the banner throughout!

We proceeded back to the base park, arriving at 6.00 am, feeling incredibly energized and not sleepy at all! Ebu needed to get back home, but we banner bearers were expected back to participate in the High Noon ceremony. We drove back to Holton, had breakfast with Ebu, then headed back to Stonehenge. Jonathan, who was in charge of equipment, asked Sandi to decorate a fresh floral crown for one of the 2 maids, which was great fun.
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A procession again formed at 12.00 noon, but with the inclusion of a Lady [one of 4 French visiting Druids from Brittany] bearing a horn of wine, accompanied by two Maids.
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The procession was similar in its route around the periphery of Stonehenge to collect the 4 elements, but the difference here was that we were observed by hundreds of curious tourists, who were kept behind the usual barriers to the stones, by security guards. As we were carrying the banner immediately behind the Lady and her Maids, we had hundreds of cameras pointed at us. Our photographs have probably made it to the far corners of the Earth by now!

We then entered the inner circle of stones from the south for what was to be a 2 hour summer celebration.
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By now it was really hot with the sun baking down on us. Amazingly, this time the stones felt cool! A long ceremony commenced, interspersed with a wreath of oak leaves being passed around from head to head, to show that all are equal in honour. The ceremony continued with a ritual sharing of the fruits of the summer harvest.
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Then it was all over,
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and we disbanded, disrobed and headed for a nearby campsite to shower and collapse in the van, the exhaustion finally catching up with us.

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We learnt that the Druid Order is a revival of an ancient order founded in Oxford in 1245. It was reconstituted in 1717 from Druid groups existing in various parts of Brittany and the UK. It recognizes its origins in all systems, which express the 3 great traditions of Power, Wisdom and Love. It embodies 3 fundamental principles of wisdom: Obedience to the laws of Nature, effort for the welfare of humankind, and heroically enduring the unavoidable ills of life. It is concerned with the evolution of humanity in harmony with the Universe, using the techniques of meditation and ritual, following the path of the sun.

A few days later, while visiting Winchester Cathedral, we found a beautiful window decal depicting the sunrise through the stones at Stonehenge.
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It now resides on the back window of our van, as a wonderful memory of that enchanting experience. In the mornings, on waking at dawn, looking out of the back window, there is the sun, rising through the oak trees, twinning with the Stonehenge sunrise decal. Stunning!

Posted by davidsandi 11:04 Archived in England

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