MEDIA REPORTS SUMMER SOLSTICE 2000
Jun 22 Salisbury
- and letter Jun 29
Western Daily Press
Jun 21 AP
NEW DAWN AT STONEHENGE
PEACE REIGNS AS 7,000 ATTEND FIRST OPEN SOLSTICE IN 16 YEARS
By Sarah McQuillen
PEACE reigned at the summer solstice - the first for 16 years in which there was open access to Stonehenge for all. Druids, hippies and party-goers mingled happily throughout the night dancing, bearing flaming torches and beating drums to tribal rhythms. Up to 600 police were to have been on standby in case of trouble but in the event just 40 officers mingled amicably with the estimated 7,000-strong crowd. Not a single arrest was made. Revellers sought out police and shook their hands and patted them on the back, thanking them for keeping a relaxed low-key presence. The mood of the night was out and out celebration. Visitors said they were so overjoyed to be able to walk among the stones at long last that they didn't want to let anything spoil the moment. The only incident of excess high spirits in which a man climbed onto the stones was brought to a peaceful conclusion when he was persuaded back to the ground by fellow revellers. Police and English Heritage officials joined visitors in hailing the occasion as a giant success. The only criticism to be heard was of the drizzly weather, which meant the longest day dawned wet and grey rather than glorious. A soaked Superintendent Andy Tatum said: "The way it all went is a major relief. We would all be absolutely delighted if it wasn't for the rain." Small clusters of people and families, many with tiny children, arrived gradually, setting up makeshift camps around the perimeter of the stones and selecting the best vantage points within the site. The only group out in force were the druids - in previous years the only ones allowed within the stones to perform their religious ritual. But this year the dawn belonged to the crowds enjoying the freedom of Stonehenge as a novelty. When the sky lightened the stone circle was still occupied by dancers and drummers who seemed to have no inclination to stop the party. Quietly and without any fuss the druids moved their misummer ritual down to the edge of the site and carried it out with just a few hundred respectful spectators.
A POLITE INVASION
Far from resenting being displaced, they welcomed the free influx of visitors to their sacred site and were even to be seen posing for photographs as mementoes for visitors. A few years ago most people would not have believed it possible that the tone of the night could be so polite. There was little or no pushing and shoving for the best positions and littering was kept to a minimum, with collectors diligently passing rubbish bags around throughout the evening. When a particularly heavy shower broke out a number of city gent-style black brollies went up within the stones. One reveller surveyed the scene and with a broad smile said: "This is the way the summer solstice was always meant to be."
Ignoring the chill and the damp,
the first opportunrty for 16 years to experience
a peaceful and legal daybreak among the great
stones of Stonehenge yesterday moming. The PIC 1
crowd was estimated at about 7,000, far fewer
than in the 1970s heyday of the so-called
Stonehenge free festivals, but the atrnosphere
this year was uniquely relaxed and celebratory.
Picture: ROGER ELLIOTT.
Music and light show
THERE was no recorded or amplified music at Stonehenge but the crowd contained hundreds of ama· teur musicians. Every small huddle of peo· ple seemed to possess at least one guitarist, flautist, accordionist or bongo player A saxophonist played the national anthem and a set of bagpipes sounded from a corner of the site. Whenever a group of musicians banded together and set up a particularly insistent beat, they were immediately rewarded with an audience of hundreds of appreciative listeners.
THE narrow beams of a few red laser pens traced across the surface of the stones. Just before dawn one of the beams was passed through a projector and resolved itsell into the outline of a victory V sign.
Food for thought
THE real gamble of this year's solstice proved not to be the granting of universsl access to the stones but the contracting out of a 'natural healthy food' van for hungry revellers. By placing it less than 100 yards from the stones, organisers clearly thought they could cajole those suffering the inevitable attacks of the munchies to opt for fresh salads, mineral water and vegi-burgers. But only a handful were fooled, with the vast majority choosing to trudge more than a kilometre to the mass car park and join the endless queue for hot dogs, chips and burgers at the tra· ditional full-fat kiosk.
Grin and bare it all
AS late-comers arrIved for the rain-soaked sunrise during this year's solstice they were handed leaflets aimed at drumming up support for a naked protest march in London later this year. With the biting south-westerly wind sweeping over the site, it came as no surprise that there were few willing to sign up to have a crack at this.
Bin there, done that
FORMER Wilton Mayor Tim Abbott was at large among the crowd drawing on his solstice experience and handing out generous swathes of bin liners to unprepared souls who had come without a rain coat.
An incredible light show keeps revellers entertained through the night. PIC 2
Musicians keep the police entertained as the day dawns wet and gray. PIC 3
Dancers with umbrellas enjoy the drumbeat. PIC 4
Masks and flaming torches in a party of a lifetime. PIC 5
A druid surveys the spectacle. PIC 6
GREAT GAMBLE PAYS OFF FOR ALL
Report by Duncan Craig Staff pictures by Roger Elliott and Herbie Fatherly
IT was a huge risk but one that paid off as more than 7,000 revellers converged on Stonehenge to take peaceful advantage of the first full access summer solstice for 16 years. Wiltshire Constabulary had promised a low-key approach to policing the midsummer sunrise ritual and they were true to their word as officers mingled among the huge cross·section of people at the 4,500-year-old monument. "I think it's brilliant that you lot have chosen to come and join in," slurred a confused traveller to a pair of offcers. "I've got to be honest with you love, I don't think I'd be here unless I was getting paid for it," replied one with a smile. Flexibility seemed to be the watch-word of the police operation - and it proved a huge success. Gone was the riot-gear, replaced only with smiles. When scores of people turned up half-an-hour before access to the site was to be granted, the gates were opened early Regulations circulated in advance by English Heritage banned camping, animals and bottles near the stones. All were in evidence during the night, but a blind eye was turned. As a result there were no repeats af the ugly scenes that marred last year's celebrations and as the festivities progressed into the early hours of yesterday morning there emerged a collective pride in the friendly carnival-like atmosphere.
Meandering through the crowd, druid leader Arthur Pendragon seemed suitably impressed by what he surveyed. "This is exactly what we set out to achieve," said Arthur, who a decade ago began picketing the stones as part of a campaign to allow the free access that was now, to his great delight, everywhere in evidence. "Tonight is the culmination of much negotiation between all the bodies involved and it's a special time. Everyone is enjoying themselves including the police and long may it continue." Elspeth Henderson, press officer for the stones' guardians English Heritage would not be drawn on the future of the famous midsummer ritual, but expressed pleasure at how the gamble had turned out. "It has been a highly successful occasion, despite the miserable weather'" she said. "There are no guarantees that the solstice will be run the same way next year but we will be taking this experience away with us for consideration."
Dancing with delight: revellers greet the dawn in party mood. PIC 7
Coming together - Druid Arthur Pendragon and Chief Constable Elizabeth Neville. PIC 8
AN EVENT TO SAVOUR WITH PRIDE AND JOY
ALLOWING people unrestricted access to Stonehenge for the summer solstice was a high- risk strategy. The decision to lift the ban on solstice gatherings for the first time since the violent eruptions leading to the infamous Battle of the Beanfield 16 years ago could have gone terribly wrong. After all, trouble had flared again when limited access was permitted as recently as last year. But despite that breach of trust, English Heritage and Wiltshire Police took the gamble of going for unlimited admission to the stones this time - and it paid off. More than 7,000 revellers converged on the monument for yesterday's sunrise ritual - and the occasion passed off without trouble or a single arrest. There was a carnival-like atmosphere as police and security guards kept a low profile arid mingled with druids, travellers and other visitors. The thousands who braved a stormy night to join in the celebrations appeared to be overjoyed to be able to walk among the stones at long last - and were determined not to let anything spoil the moment. They had been given the free access they wanted and put on trust to behave themselves. And they rose to the oecasion - even if the sun didn't. They can all feel proud of themselves - as can English Heritage anrl the police for having the courage to back their judgement and allow the people back.
David Vallis, News Editor
Salisbury Journal 29-6-00 [letter]
Sacred site's special appeal
AT 6.30 this morning, Wednesday,
June 21 the sun shone! Everyone was still rather damp from the earlier
driving rain which prevented us from witnessing the sunrise, but it really
didn't seem to matter.
The moon, ever curious at a spectacle she must have witnessed thousands of times, made a brief appearance about an hour before the sun was due. We all cheered.
Inside the stone circle was warm, the atmosphere was friendly and so good-natured. We danced to the continual music of drums, pipes and whatever anyone else could make a noise with. When asked what had brought me here or about my beliefs, I was accepted without question.
There were accents from all over the country and languages from all over the world. I met people from Liverpool, London, Devon, Australia, America, Germany and Holland.
All had made their own special pilgrimage for different reasons, but with one common factor: an overwhelming respect for this awe-inspiring, sacred site.
I was lucky enough to be part of a group given access to Stonehenge last winter solstice, but this morning was something else.
Despite the obvious need for limited access, I truly believe it is the right of everyone who feels drawn here, or to any other sacred site, whatever their reason.
I extend my heartfelt thanks to every group and organisation who played a part in making this possible today.
Western Daily Press 22-6-00
IT'S A STONEHENGE LOVE-IN
Disturbances of the Past Forgotten as 6,000 Celebrate
By David Humphrey
THE summer of love made a comeback
on rain-lashed Salisbury Plain yesterday as 6,000 people celebrated the
solstice at Stonehenge.
Exotic substances wafted on the breeze, bearded gurus wandered among smiling policemen and drums echoed around the trilithons.
If it had not been for the bleak surroundings, the baffled camera crew from Nippon TV could have been forgiven for thinking they had gone back in time to San Francisco, circa 1967.
Wiltshire Police mounted a charm offensive that had even hardened travellers smiling in admiration. Fifteen years of animosity were forgotten as constables exchanged polite gossip with the likes of King Arthur Pendragon.
Every element of society was there – backpacking students, well-dressed families, the spaced-out and the downright weird.
And the crowd showed they appreciated English Heritage’s act of trust by throwing open the monument for the first summer solstice since 1984.
When one or two rowdies climbed on top of the stones, they came under a barrage of abuse from the rest of the crowd.
English Heritage said the success of this year’s event paved the way for greater access in the future.
A spokeswoman said: “We are very happy that a lot of people came along and it was a happy and peaceful atmosphere. The fact that it’s gone so well means that we will be looking at more arrangements in the future.”
Wiltshire police said they did not have to make a single arrest.
One member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, who would only give his name as Shaun, travelled from Southampton.
He said: “Opening Stonehenge to everyone is the best solution. If people get to know the stones they will learn to respect them.”
Veronica Hammond, from Cheltenham, the Arch Druid of the Cotswold Order of Druids, said: “I think opening it up is a very good decision. I was crowned on Saturday and it’s good to be here.”
Computer programmer Emile Joubert from Salisbury said: “The people I was most surprised about to see mingling in so well were the police. They made a very useful contribution to the social atmosphere.”
It was all so different to last year when an organised visit for 150 people, including religious groups, was disrupted after gatecrashers pushed down fences and scaled the stones.
Stonehenge was originally closed to the general public during the summer solstice in 1984 and a four-mile exclusion order was put in place following a series of disorder problems.
Miranda Young and Rob Miller of
Secular Oreder of Druids from Bath join the happy throng PIC 1
SUMMER PEACE [editorial]
WHAT pleasure to be reporting
on scenes of peace and harmony at Stonehenge for the first open summer
solstice since 1984.
The generally good behaviour of most of those all who attended, from all walks of life, which left a delighted Wiltshire police force reporting not one single arrest, has surely paved the way for similar open arrangements from now on.
The contribution of a very relaxed police presence to the success of the day must also be noted as the model for future occasions.
The Times 22-6-00
Modern pagans reclaim Stonehenge
BY SIMON DE BRUXELLES
THE tribes of ancient Britain
who congregated at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice yesterday
could hardly have been less colourful than their ancient predecessors.
There were the New Age travellers in dreadlocks and home-knitted woollens, the "brew crew" with cans of lager and mohican haircuts, a Brazilian samba dancer dressed in a chain-mail bikini and even a handful of yuppies with picnic hampers and BMW estates.
Every strand of British culture was represented, from "crusties" to a handful of "crumblies" who found themselves standing in a field in the rain longing for a cup of Horlicks long after their usual bedtimes.
And then there were the druids, wizards, warlocks and witches who like to think they are continuing a tradition that dates back to the 4,000-year-old origins of Stonehenge.
It was their lobbying that persuaded English Heritage to reopen the site for the midsummer celebration for the first time in 15 years.
But the druids could not even agree among themselves on the appropriate way to welcome the dawn on the longest day of the year.
Some huddled in a private conclave beneath the stones. Others blew horns made from the dried stems of giant seaweeds. Members of the Insular Order of Druids formed a circle near the Heel Stone while their leader announced, "I'm no Pam Ayres" and read a poem he had composed.
His reading was interrupted by a Liverpudlian called Bob who removed all his clothes apart from his woolly hat and proudly demonstrated the consequences of drinking far too much Ice Dragon Cider.
"I'm going to get pneumonia or get arrested," he shouted, before staggering off towards the stone circle, leaving his discarded underpants to be trampled in the mud.
Three women dressed in black capes sitting on a tartan rug stared angrily at the crowds surrounding the druids. "Why is everyone so interested in the druids?" one asked. "What about us witches?"
Dylan Ap Thuin, Archdruid of the Insulars, hinted that not all was peace and harmony within pagan ranks. Two years ago, after 100 worshippers were permitted to see in the summer solstice, there were bitter complaints that the event had been "hijacked" by Rollo Maughling, self-styled Archdruid of Stonehenge, who appointed himself master of ceremonies. "This time we're not having any organised celebration," said Mr Ap Thuin. "It led to too much trouble last time."
Trying to recreate Stonehenge's ancient rituals is like reconstructing the story of Christianity from the floor-plan of St Paul's Cathedral.
Although the detail may have been lost, the atmosphere was still magical, according to those who stayed up all night to watch the Sun fail to appear through a blanket of cloud and drizzle. The giant stones were illuminated by the ghostly green glow of arc lights set up by English Heritage. From the shadows emanated hypnotic drumming and exotic aromas.
Julia Newman, a lecturer from Southampton, said: "I just wanted the chance to walk among the stones which you are not normally allowed to do. It's so completely different at night. There's a very medieval feeling about it, with all the drums and musicians and fire jugglers."
More than 6,000 people made the pilgrimage to Stonehenge. Some drove all night to arrive in time for dawn at 4.44am. Craig Cotton, a video producer from Worthing, West Sussex, packed his wife and three children into the car at 10pm. It was his daughter Yasmine's ninth birthday.
He said: "We wanted to give her a birthday she wouldn't forget. It's just a shame it's raining." Asked what she thought, Yasmine replied: "Cold and wet. . . but fun."
Lew Pope, 78, had driven up from Torquay with his wife Ginny, 58. "She was planning to come on her own but I thought I'd better come along to look after her," he said.
John Candy, a healer from Exeter, arrived with the Arthurian War Band who wore cardboard crowns and blue face paint. He said: "I'm with them but not one of them. I refuse for personal reasons to go under the sword."
The woad-covered warriors stood in a circle and sang "Reunite the Stones of Our Ancestors". The Barking Batteria, a group of drummers from East London, ensured the carnival atmosphere was not dampened by the rain. Blowing whistles and waving torches, they paraded around the stones dressed in little more than their counterparts in Rio.
As daylight chased the revellers home, police said they arrested nobody - not even Bob the Liverpudlian.
For English Heritage, the night was a vindication of its open-stones policy. Elspeth Henderson, a spokesman, said: "A happy and peaceful solstice was had by all."
Revellers celebrate the summer solstice
at Stonehenge after
they were granted permission to gather at the sacred stone PIC 1
circle to mark the occasion for the first time in 15 years.
RETURN OF THE NATIVE [editorial]
An open stones policy at Stonehenge
Yesterday came the summer solstice and with it the return of a time-honoured tradition to Stonehenge: it rained. Who knows? - perhaps the sun had spotted all those would-be druids ironing their bedsheets the day before and so decided to join in the general festivities and get out some linen fancy dress of its own. It made its 4.43am entrance swathed in damp sheets of stratus which, judging from the drizzle of accompanying rain, must have been pulled still wet from some celestial washing machine. Not that that mattered to the covens of witches and warlocks, wizards and weirdos who had gathered to welcome it under Stonehenge's triluthon lintels. They tootled their greetings on seaweed-stem horns.
Worshippers were grateful, quite simply, to have been permitted entrance, for yesterday was the first time in 16 years that Stonehenge has been admissible to anyone but the man with the mower. Seven thousand or more gathered to give gratitude to the great gods of English Heritage: hordes of hippies and tribes of transcendentalists, scrums of spiritualists, armies of new agers. Some were pagan, others were simply practical: some came with their oak leaves, others with picnic hampers; some with bongo drums, others with umbrellas.
But then the only truly traditional thing about the entire event was the rain - which was just as well for, in probably the only first hand account that exists of druidical ceremonies, Pliny describes a ritual slaughter of two white bulls which, in this day and age, would have gone down as badly with the EU abattoir regulators as it would with the animal rights protesters who were very probably among the festive groups. Certainly the only human sacrifice that appears to have been performed, was that made by one, Bob, who disapparelling himself of all but his bobble hat poured out libations of Ice Dragon Cider on the grass.
Bogus it certainly is. Today's
ancient orders of the druids date back about as far as the Celtic revival
of the 1970s which - though that might seem to some readers like remote
history - is but the whisk of a dreadlock on Stonehenge's 4,000 year timescale.
But still the fact that a horde of would-be barbarians managed to mark
the solstice so jubilantly without a single arrest being made, or any damage
being done to the site, vindicates the open stones policy of English Heritage.
And although cacophonies roused by warring styles of celebration may have
broken in on the peace preferred by some druids, at least it would have
drowned out the modern rumble of early morning traffic on the A303.
The Telegraph 22-6-00
Druids fail to see the light at Stonehenge
Sean O'Neill joins the Druids, witches, New Age Travellers and revellers at the first festival at the prehistoric monument for 16 years
STONEHENGE was opened yesterday
morning for more than 6,000 people to celebrate the first summer solstice
of the new Millennium.
Druids, pagans, black and white witches, New Age travellers, astrologers, anarchists, American tourists and curious locals wandered freely among the stones for the first time since the festival on the site was banned in 1985.
This was a particularly English summer solstice and the most important guest of all, the sun, failed to put in an appearance. Instead a blanket of rain swept across Salisbury Plain, saturating everything and everyone in its path.
At 4.45am, when the first rays of the sun should have appeared beside the heel stone on the outer edge of the monument, the horizon was barely visible through the thick, grey gloom. However, the weather did not extinguish the spirit of a good-natured event which passed off without injury, incident or arrest.
Throughout the night drummers encamped in the inner circle of the henge kept up an incessant rhythm, encouraged by yelps and whoops from dancers. The drumbeat was accompanied by bagpipe playing, the occasional blast of a saxophone and the trill of mobile telephones.
The tang of cannabis smoke hung in the air and undoubtedly contributed to the shedding of inhibitions as the night went on. By morning a dancer with a troupe of minstrels calling themselves the King's Drummers had flung open her velvet robes to reveal a chain- mail bikini.
Even less inhibited was Bob, a naked Liverpudlian, who burst into the solemn ceremony of the Insular Order of Druids wearing nothing but a woolly hat and clutching a bottle of cider.
At 4am, as light seeped across the scene, a clutch of rival fire processions and ceremonial events began. Beneath one circle of flaming torches a woman with long blonde dreadlocks and dressed in a bandsman's uniform preached the need for "a complete restructuring of society, a new sisterhood and brotherhood". Ten yards away, under more torches, a group of people with their faces painted turquoise sang a repetitive dirge.
Near the heel stone, Dylan Ap Thuin recited New Age poetry to his followers, a band of Druids in white robes who waved staffs adorned with horns, antlers, bells and greenery. Television cameras gathered around the Druids, much to the annoyance of a coven of witches sitting nearby on a tartan blanket. "Everyone wants to talk to the bloody Druids," grumbled one. "What about us witches?"
And amid all the alternative tribes on display there were many ordinary Britons. Lew and Ginny Pope, from Torquay, Devon, left home at 10.15pm on Tuesday to get to Stonehenge and soak up the atmosphere. Mrs Pope, 58, said: "I have wanted to come for years and years and years. I have been to Stonehenge before but not up close to the stones and not at solstice.
"The crowd is friendly, they leave you alone if you leave them alone. It can't be any worse than an England game. This is a spiritual thing for me. I believe the sun is all important to us and to see the sunrise here is very special."
Mr Pope, 78, was less enthusiastic. He said: "She was going to come on her own, but I wouldn't let her. I thought I had better come along to look after her."
Craig and Stella Cotton and their three children reached the monument at 3am after a five-hour journey from Worthing. They made the trip to mark the ninth birthday of their middle child Yasmin. Mr Cotton said: "It is a bit disappointing that it's raining. It must be glorious when the sun shines."
Rollo Maughling, the self-styled Archdruid of Stonehenge and Glastonbury, pronounced the event a "terrific" success. He said: "In the past few years we Druids felt so alone. We were doing it for ourselves and that is not the purpose of Druidry. It's meant to be a celebration for the whole of the public."
English Heritage, which manages the monument, also pronounced itself happy although its prohibition of pets, bottles and fires on the site was openly flouted.
Chief Insp Gerry Wickham, of Wiltshire police, who has witnessed much more violent scenes around Stonehenge, was equally delighted. He had 60 officers on the site and dozens more in reserve nearby, but they were not called upon to make a single arrest. Mr Wickham said: "It was a brave decision by English Heritage to go down this road and throw open the site. But it has proved very successful."
A dancer with the King's Drummers
troupe of minstrels PIC
welcomes the dawn wearing a chain-mail bikini
Some of the 6,000 people who attended
the first summer PIC
solstice of the new Nillennium at Stonehenge
Torch-bearers wait for the dawn
to cast its first light PIC
on Stonehenge yesterday
The Guardian 22-6-00
The weird and wonderful return to get stoned at Stonehenge
Somewhere around 4.20am, half
an hour before sunrise, a semi-naked man clambered on top one of the great
sarsens of Stonehenge and began inciting the crowd to follow him.
In the spooky light and the driving rain, it was a gesture of defiance, a potential return to the 1970s when the Stonehenge free festival became an ugly battleground and the authorities responded by putting the stones off limits at the summer solstice for 15 years.
The police - just a few on site but plenty more stashed round the Wiltshire lanes in case of trouble - held their breath. English Heritage, the government's site custodians who had gambled that the masses could police themselves, as they had argued for 15 years, crossed their fingers.
The crowd of at least 6,000 - hippies, bards, students, locals, representatives of more than 30 druidical orders, horny road protesters, travellers, witches (white and black), teenagers, gents in robes and wings, the brew crew, resplendent knights of King Arthur's Round Table and a who's who of alternative England - just about stopped dancing to the relentless drums.
The women were first on the case: "Gerroff, yer silly bugger", came the first cry from the middle of the stones. "Stupid fucker... we'll never be allowed back," said another, dressed as a Queen of the Night. "Idiot," said the third.
In seconds, the man slithered down the 20ft stone and retreated into the rain. The first and only real point of tension had passed and the early morning salesmen got back to working the crowds.
"Skunk truffles, trunk scuffles... £1 a go... wibbly wobbly truffles anyone?" Even the ancient order of HM constabulary, who could not have failed to have seen what was going on, or to have breathed deeply the billowing clouds of cannabis drifting in on the wild wind, had to laugh.
That 6,000 people should want to walk miles to spend all night in the middle of a bleak wind and rain lashed moor to celebrate the invisible rising of a midsummer sun and get stoned out of their collective skull, never ceases to amaze tourists and middle England.
But for those who have embraced romanticism, paganism and the many strands of druidism and the counter culture, the stones hold a symbolic and physical power of place.
"Scum and germs... remember your culture", cried Helen, self-styled Lancastrian mistress of the night's ceremonies, dressed somewhere between Simon Bolivar and an Italian traffic cop - but with specs and a three foot horn which she blew frequently to the four winds.
"It's calm, just as it should be", said Des, the mild - or perhaps stoned - Quest Knight and Battle Chieftain of the Loyal Arthurian Warband, parading a banner embroidered with the names of road protests of the last decade.
"It's a return to the spirit of the free festivals of the 1970s," said Tim Sebastian, whose title - Archdruid of Wiltshire, Chosen Chief of the Secular Order Of Druids, Conservation Officer for the Council Of British Druid Orders and Bard of the Gorsedd of Caer Abiri (Avebury) - defied any state-conferred nobility in its arcane absurdity. "We are seeing a return to Celticity."
Sebastian, a star in the druidic firmament, argues, controversially, druids should unite in "brotherhood of love and peace" and give up any pretence of high ritual or priesthood.
"That idea should have died with William Blake. Modern-day druids disclaim druidism from being a religion," he says.
Where other druids had come garlanded in white and green, lugging antlers, staves and the paraphernalia of their cults, Sebastian had come as a jester and bearing mistletoe - the "golden bough" - to counteract, he said, the "macho oakiness" of the occasion. But like them, he had performed some rituals round the stones.
Should the police, the bards or even New Labour want to award medals for gallantry and saving the day from being a potential battlefield, they should consider the bizarre Barking Balleria - a collection of up to 100 salsa players who acted as pied piper to the crowd.
Made up of several different London groups, including students of anthropology at East London University and Reclaim the Streets, they were last seen leading the Mayday throng past the Cenotaph.
Led by flaming torches and gals in bikinis, they alternately drummed, danced and ritually sang the crowd through the shortest night. And crucially, as the official 7am deadline to leave the site approached, they led the crowd quietly back to the car park.
"Happy solstice," said one, conferring a huge smacker on a policeman. "See you next year."
More than 6,000 people spent Tuesday
night in the middle of
a bleak wind and rain lashed moor to celebrate the invisible PIC 1
rising of the midsummer sun. Photo: Martin Godwin
Crowds included hippies, locals,
druids, witches and a who's PIC
who of alternative England. Photo: John Taylor
The Independent 22-6-00
As the midsummer sun rises, crowds gather to see what Stonehenge has been missing for 16 years
Surrounded by Druids, a naked man
greets the dawn of
the year's longest day at Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Up to PIC 1
5,000 people were let into the stone circle yesterday,
the first time it has been open since 1984. Photo: Brian Harris
The Independent 26-6-00
Sir: On Tuesday 20 June my son
Robert borrowed money frorn me to fund a trip to Stonehenge with four mates.
They all wanted to celebrate the summer solstice at the circle together
I dutifully supplied some cash and food, as mothers do, telling him to
have a good time but behave himself and take care. He arrived home quietly
enough on Wednesday night, remarlung that the trip had been "mega".
By Thursday morning I knew what he meant when I purchased The lndependent.
Lo and behold, on the front page, one very bare offspring, captured by
photographer Brian Harris as the sun rose over the stones. Fortunately,
all the onlookers, including the Druids, seemed quite unperturbed, so no
Mrs MAUREEN MADDOCK
Financial Times 22-6-00
Stone roses: the sun rises over
Stonehenge at 4.43am
yesterday as around 5,000 members of the public were
allowed to gather in the stone circle to mark the summer PIC 1
solstice for the fist time in 16 years. An exclusion order
had been in force because of public order problems.
Daily Express 22-6-00
Thousands see the dawn of a peaceful party at Stonehenge
by Sarah Getty
THOUSANDS of people took part
in peaceful summer solstice celebrations yesterday after Stonehenge was
opened to the public for the event for the first time since 1984.
Druids, revellers and the police mingled freely as about 6,000 gathered at the historic Wiltshire site. English Heritage said the success paved the way for greater access in the future.
A spokeswoman said: "We are very happy that a lot of people came along and it was a happy and peaceful atmosphere. The fact that i'ts gone so well means we will be looking at more arrangements in the future. There was a lively festive atmosphere with no confrontations. It was a big success."
Wiltshire police said they did not have to make a single arrest as the crowd waited for the sun to rise at 4.44am. Before daylight, the night sky had been lit up by fire eaters.
The centre of the stone circle was packed with cheering revellers and, while students from the University of East London entertained crowds with their colourful costumes and samba drums, druids in their traditional attire performed a ritual ceremony.
As the sun rose through the mist, druid processions weaved in and out of the dancing crowd. King Arthur Pendragon, chairman of the Council for British Druids Order, said: "We have been fighting for free access to the stones for everyone for years. Look around, you can feel the peace, unity, freedom and love."
A member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, who would only give his name as Shaun, travelled from Southampton for the ceremony. He said: "Opening Stonehenge to everyone is the best solution. If people get to know the stones they will learn to respect them."
Veronica Hammond, from Cheltenham, Glos, who is the Arch Druid of the Cotswold Order of Druids, said: "I think opening it up is a very good decision. I was crowned on Saturday and it's good to be here. The majority of people have behaved."
The move to open Stonehenge for the summer solstice came just one year after an organised visit for 150 people, including religious groups, was disrupted when gate-crashers pushed down fences and clambered on the stones. Stonehenge was originally closed to the public during the summer solstice in 1984 and a four-mile exclusion order was put in place following outbreaks of disorder.
This year, apart from a few over-zealous revellers climbing on top of some of the lower stones, proceedings were light-hearted and everyone respected the ban on amplified music at the site.
Computer programmer Emile Joubert, from Salisbury, said: "The people I was most surprised to see mingling in so well were the police. They made a very useful contribution to the social atmosphere. I'm very glad there hasn't been any violence."
A Wiltshire police spokeswoman said: "The atmosphere has been carnival-like. People have come and enjoyed themselves and the only thing to let them down is the weather."People were coming up to police officers and shaking their hands. We're very pleased with the way it's gone."
SUNRISE: Revellers gather to
celebrate the summer
solstice. It was the first time the site has been open PIC 1
to the public since 1984
AT PEACE: A druid yesterday PIC 2
Jonathan Cainer: PIC
Daily Mail 22-6-00
SOLSTICE AT THE STONES
How I joined the druids at Stonehenge for Dawn of the longest day - and discovered just what has made this place so magical
by Colin Wilson, author of Mysteries, a treatise on standing stones
AS YESTERDAY'S dawn rose behind
the megaliths of Stonehenge, a great cheer went up from the 3,000 or so
people who had been waiting all night Unfortunately, it was an act of faith
rather than conviction, for the steady drizzle made it impossible to see
The drumming became deafening, hippies dancing among the stones whirled like dervishes and druids in white robes, belonging to different branches of the Celtic Church, ignored one another as they performed strange ceremonies.
For the first time in 16 years observers of the summer solstice had been allowed into this extraordinaiy monument to see dawn rise on the year's longest day Only the huddled pollcemen waiting for the hot drinks that should have arrived two hours before, failed to share the mood of exhilaration.
For me, this was also a kind of anniversary Fifty years ago, when I finished my National Service, I came to Stonehenge to fulfil a dream and spend the night among the megaliths.
In 1950 Stonehenge looked very different: no tourist centre, no fences and no one who gave a damn, even if you clambered all over the stones, many lying on the ground, where they had been for thousands of years.
It was a clear, moonlit night, and the megaliths looked magical as I settled down beside the Altar Stone to have a good view of the rising sun. But I found it too cold to doze off. In the early hours I crept into a haystack and the dawn came and went as I slept soundly.
In those days, after World War II, few shared my romanticism about Stonehenge. Like Avebury's stone circle and Silbury Hill burial mound nearby it was just a puzzling historlcal site, built by Stone Age farmers.
MOST believed it was s temple for Celtic druids, performing human sacrifices on the Altar Stone- though even the altar was more than 2 000 years old when the Celts came on the scene.
Stonehenge remained a mystery until, in 1966, astronomer Gerald Hawkins fed its measurements into a computer, and realised Stonehenge is a giant computer designed to calculate the movements of the sun and Moon over a 56-year cycle.
The basic implication was that Stonehenge was a temple to the Earth goddess, to ensure fertility. Hawkins's book became a bestseller, particularly in the U S., and thousands of students began to flock to the megaliths.
And yesterday, as I watched hippies embracing the stones, some spreading out their arms so they looked as if they were cruciffed, I recalled how I had first seen this in the late Sixties, when the authorities began to talk about fencing in the stones for their protection.
BY THEN, I had made anotber interesting discovery A friend had asked me to drive him to a Cornish stone circle, the Merry Maidens. There, he produced a dowsing rod: two plastic strips tied together at the end with cotton. He held the two ends and, when he approached the stones, the rod twisted in his hands.
Then I tried, feeling dubious. I took hold of the ends of the rod and approached the nearest stone. Nothing happened My friend said: `No, you re not hold ing it properly. Twist the plastic until there's a spring on it '
This time, as I approached the stones, the rod seemed to come alive in my hands. It twisted up so hard it hurt my fingers. I couldn't believe it. Every stone I approached made it twist. But the most powerful place.was the centre of the circle of stones.
Though nothing was vlsible, there was obviously a powerful force under the ground By the time I flnished dowsing that afternoon, I was exhausted and had a headache I had a feeling that this force, if misused, could be dangerous.
This was borne out when I was in Britanny the following year, examining Carnac and other megaliths. The weather was beautiful, the food marvellous.
Yet I felt tired and irritable. My wife - a far better dowser than I am - was fascinated by the long rows of stones, and convinced that they had been erected above streams of water But when she held her dowsing rod, she felt that the power of the stones had been drained by the crowds of visitors.
As we drove back, we noticed a field with many smaller stones and climbed over the stile. It was obvious these had been overlooked, and were full of power. My dowsing rod began to twist when I was many yards away But within ten minutes, I had a splitting headache and had to give up.
It was then that I realised why I had been so tired - the whole area was permeated with this strange energy.
I couldn't wait to try out the dowsing rod at Stonehenge. Next time I went there, the stones were inaccessible behind a wire fence. But since I was with a TV crew, I was allowed in. I took out my rod and walked up to the nearest megalith Just as I had expected, the rod twisted vioiently upwards in my hands.
This time, I was cautious. Atter I had been dowsing for half an hour; I trled somethuig else: laying both hands on the stone. There was a strong tingling sensation, as if I had tuned in to an electrical force. I learned that afternoon that Stonehenge is the centre of a huge spiral of some kind of Earth-energy.
And that answered another question that had puzzled me: why the monument had been built in the middle of a flat and featureless plain. It was because the Earth in that particular spot was, in some sense, alive.
I found another clue. The medieval chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth stated that Stonehenge had been built by the wizard Merlin, who had brought the stones from Ireland.
They used to be known as `the Giant's Dance'. And many of these circles are associated with legends of dancing. The Merry Maidens are supposed to be girls turned to stone because they danced on a Sunday.
The Iate Cambridge archaeologist Tom Lethbridge, who knew more about stone circles than anyone else, was convinced that the stones are 'accumulators', charged by the vital energy of people who dance around them.
All this came back to me yesterday as I watched the crowds of people dancing among the stones, indiffferent to the rain and biting wind. Why had so many flocked to Stonehenge at the end of a 16-year ban on direct contact with the stones?
There was no doubt that this euphoria was not simply the effect of canned beer and perhaps a little pot-smoking- even children seemed to feel it.
I believe these people have an instinctive knowledge of the purpose of the megaliths. That is why they wanted to touch them, even embrace them. They knew the stones are giant batterles that can store some kind of living energy.
LETHBRIDGE believed part of the purpose of the stones was healing: people pressed against them to cure illness. Near my home in Cornwall, there is a holed stone called Men-an Toll, and children are still made to crawl through it to prevent them getting rickets.
There are probably many practical uses of this Earth-force that we do not even begin to suspect. But why is Stonehenge also an astronomical computer? Why would prehistoric farmers need a complex knowledge of the sun, Moon and planets? It is almost certainly because the movement of heavenly bodies influences this force.
And the force can not only influence the human mind, but can be influenced by it. The more I study Stonehenge, the more I am convinced its purpose is connected wlth some prehistoric science that our civilisation has long forgotten.
As I left the site at 7am, my thoughts were on a hot breakfast. But as I plodded along with hundreds of other wet people, I was struck by the fact that no one seemed tired or depressed.
Whoever built Stonehenge, they knew some secret that we badly need to rediscover.
Feel the force: Self-styled King
Arthur Pendragon PIC
was one of the thousands at Stonehenge yesterday
Source: AP | Published: Wednesday June 21, 3:58 PM
Thousands greet a rainy summer dawn at Stonehenge
Stonehenge, England: Amid the
beating of drums, the sound of cheers - and, in fine English fashion, the
pouring rain - thousands of revellers celebrated the summer solstice at
the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge today.
For the first time since 1984, the body that oversees Stonehenge allowed observers to watch the sun rise on the year's longest day at the ancient monument, 130 km southwest of London.
The sun was not forthcoming, but that didn't seem to bother the 6,000-strong crowd of druids, New Age followers and curiosity-seekers. Samba drummers mixed with berobed druids, and thousands of revellers packed the centre of the stone circle as dawn came at 4:44 am (1344 AEST).
'People came here to party, to celebrate,' said Stephen Wilson of the Council of British Druids. 'It's the first solstice of the millennium.
'It's been an astonishing experience.'
In contrast to previous years, there were no arrests and no reports of disturbances. Police praised the 'carnival-like' atmosphere.
Revellers were banned from holding solstice ceremonies at the 5,000-year-old site in 1985 after clashes with police, and a 6.5 km exclusion order was later put in place following a series of disorder problems.
In 1998, English Heritage allowed 100 people to gather within the encircling rocks at dawn to celebrate the summer solstice as part of a step toward admitting larger crowds.
Last year, Stonehenge was opened to 150 druids who planned a sunrise ceremony. But about two hundred people gatecrashed the event, clambered on the stones and clashed with police.
Sixteen people were arrested, and others remained there in defiance of police, prompting the cancellation of the druid celebration.
'Opening Stonehenge to everyone is the best solution,' said a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, who gave his name only as Shaun. 'If people get to know the stones they will learn to respect them.'
The stones are the remnants of the last in a sequence of circular monuments aligned along the rising of the sun at the midsummer solstice - the longest day of the year.
There has always been intense debate over exactly what purpose Stonehenge served and how it came to be built. Some experts believe it is aligned with the sun simply because its builders came from a sun-worshipping culture, while others believe the site was part of a huge astronomical calendar.
Others theorise that Stonehenge was a druid temple.
English Heritage, which manages the site, said the success of the event augured well.
'The fact that it's gone so well means that we will be looking at more arrangements in the future,' said a spokeswoman.
Belfast Telegraph 21-6-00
Stones host summer solstice
THOUSANDS of people took part
in peaceful summer solstice celebrations this morning after Stonehenge
was opened to the general public for the event for the first time since
Druids, revellers and the police mingled freely as about 6,000 people gathered at the historic Wiltshire site.
English Heritage said the success of this year's event paved the way for greater access in the future.
An English Heritage spokeswoman said: "We are very happy that a lot of people came along and it was a happy and peaceful atmosphere.
"The fact that it's gone so well means that we will be looking at more arrangements in the future." Wiltshire police say they didn't have to make a single arrest as the crowd waited for the sun to rise at 4.44am.
The move to open Stonehenge for the summer solstice comes just one year after an organised visit for 150 people was disrupted after gatecrashers pushed down fences and clambered on the stones.
CNN Newswire 21-6-00
Crowds return to Stonehenge for summer solstice
posted at: 11:34 p.m. EDT (0334 GMT)
SALISBURY, England (CNN) -- For
the tourists, druids and New Age travelers who had been kept far away for
16 years, Wednesday's welcome back to Stonehenge was pure magic.
"For most Druids, Stonehenge is one of the most sacred places ... nestling as it does in the center with its observational horizons. It's an absolutely magic place," said Matthew McCabe of the Order of Bards, Druids and Ovates.
Druids believe Stonehenge is a sacred place, that the stones are charged with energy. Others believe it is a prehistoric calendar, a burial ground or even an astronomical observatory.