Thousands celebrate summer solstice at Stonehenge - in pics

Updated: Jun 22, 2022, 12:33 AM(IST)

The sun was long overdue on Tuesday but when it finally appeared, faces lit up and arms rose as one to greet the summer solstice at Britain's most famous prehistoric monument.

Around 6,000 people gathered for the sunrise and sunset at 9:27 pm, according to the site's manager and police, during the first public summer solstice at Stonehenge since the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc in 2020.

(Text: AFP)

The sun rise

At 5:08 am, the sun finally appeared, serenaded by whistling and cheers but also joined by a collective rise of mobile phones in the air to immortalise the moment.

(Photograph:AFP)

'Summer sun's new energy'

Two women wearing artificial garlands of flowers in their hair, opened and closed their arms to welcome the summer sun's "new energy" which one of them, Joanna Willman, said was so strong at Stonehenge.

A short distance away, a handful of men in togas performed yoga facing the sun, surrounded by the rubbish of the crowds.

Another group, including some with earphones, held hands in concentric circles while gently swaying before hugging each other, moved by the moment and smiling.

(Photograph:AFP)

Chants for Peace

During a ceremony before the sun rose, the Archdruid of Stonehenge, Rollo Maughfling, chanted for peace at the four compass points, with invitations to the sun and the earth, sung in unison by some of those attending.

 

(Photograph:AFP)

The history of Stonehenge

Stonehenge was built in stages, from around 3,000 BC to 2,300 BC, and the standing stones are aligned with the movements of the sun.

"Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world," according to the UN cultural organisation UNESCO, which classified it a world heritage site in 1986.

A theory emerged in the 17th century that Stonehenge was constructed by Celtic Druids but that has since been dismissed by historians.

(Photograph:AFP)

'Own ceremonies'

Heather Sabire, the site's curator, said despite the stones' size, the monument is "fragile", adding, "There are a lot of features that you can't see with the naked eye."

She said many "enjoy being at Stonehenge because it's so special". 

Some hold their own ceremonies, "it's almost like a place of worship for them".

So much so, there were scenes of almost holy embraces and communion with the stones.

(Photograph:AFP)

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