the Miracle of the Solstice
Part One ~ The Spectator
I have always wanted to go to either the Summer or the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge, but I usually find myself too far away to make the trip. This year was different, as we were performing in Crawley only 90 miles away from the ancient monument and so I weighed up the pro’s and con’s…
…There seemed to be a lot of reasons against going. We do a very hard schedule with two performances every day (and three on a Saturday) – it’s great, but it doesn’t leave much time for anything else…unless…unless a real effort is made. Also, my health has not been at it’s best over the past two years…probably just that I’m getting older…but I find that hard to accept…and so I decided to go.
I packed a thermos of coffee, together with my winter anorak and set off from Crawley after the evening show. The weather was black and drizzly and I began to have misgivings when I saw the repeated message “long delays on M3” flashed up on the information boards on the crowded motorway, which looked like a scene from Bullitt or the Gumball Rally. (Driving standards in the UK have become a joke).
I stopped for a meal at the first services on the M3, only to find a barren overpriced franchise-arcade. The vision of an expensive but delicious grill faded in the reality of the municipal toilet-paved concourse, with it’s Burger King and KFC stalls, complete with diffident staff. After wandering around for a while, I settled for a self-service coffee and a packed sandwich and continued toward Stonehenge.
As it was, the “long delays” turned out to be a stop-start pause of around ten minutes, due to “cone-practice” – (a long line of cones and no workmen) and I soon found myself diverted into the Solstice car park. It was still only half-past two so I sat in the car and had a coffee. Time passed slowly as I watched the neighbouring van, with it’s hippy throw-back passengers and booming speakers. I began to have misgivings as to exactly what I had let myself in for.
I got out of the car at 3.30 and set off in the drizzle and mud, through the car park, which looked like a scene from “Close Encounters”, towards the meeting-point, where at last I managed to get a bacon sandwich. I was really hungry by this time and ate it along the way (and wished I had bought two). There is something very special about a bacon sandwich in the cold morning air.
The atmosphere around me was becoming tribal, with people talking to each other more openly and excitedly than in their day to day lives.
“You been comin’ here for years, ‘ave yer?”
I looked at the young hoody – “No, my first time”
……”Really?” he replied.
(I wondered what he meant….)
“see yer later mate”
(mate!) …. “Yes…See You”.
Then I realised that with my white beard, I looked the most ‘really-Druid’ of all the visitors there – maybe as much as my fantasy mythical (?) ancestor , who it seems put the whole thing up in the first place. So there…
…I stood in the light rain, as the sounds grew and the atmosphere built towards the crescendo of dawn. A group of student revellers sang and chanted to drumbeats and horns, on a sacred platform of sandstone, erected 3000 years before the birth of Christ.
Were the fuzzy orbs on my LCD screen, spirit visitors from 3000 BC – or just condensation from the humid air? Certainly the spirit of the swaying mass before me was strong, but not at all dangerous. I am always cautious of group atmosphere in a crowded situation – this one was rowdy but good natured.
I stumbled around the perimeter of prehistoric cathedral, which over the ages has been used as a temple, a burial ground and an observatory of the universe. Stonehenge is 6,000 years old and it continued to be rebuilt, extended and modified, from it’s inception, up until around the time of Jesus.
This suggests that the motivation for continuing the work, was passed down from generation to generation, rather than solely from within the political and social events of any particular era.
The Pagan wheel of the year turns on the axis of the Winter and Summer Solstices. The Summer Solstice marks the point at which the sun is nearest to us in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the time of masculine strength and there is nothing random in the fact that Father’s Day occurs around this time. Many of our calendar dates derive from the old beliefs. Most people know that our days of the week include the Sun (Sunday) and the Moon (Monday) and that old gods such as Thor are represented as the weekdays. Fewer realise that even the term “Month” derives from “Moonth” The cycle of life on earth is governed by the “Nurturing Goddess” and the Celestial cycle by the “God-Creator” Now the Goddess has conceived once more.
After a while, I retreated from the pushing and jostling and watched the blue dawn from a nearby ridge, in company with a photographer, a tripod and his bored wife, who had wrapped herself in an exposure blanket and who stood, motionless and miserable with the raindrops running down her face like tears.
The sound and the beat continued to grow with the light and I decided to leave, thinking that I had seen ‘it’ and that ‘it’ had been a bit dismal with not so much as a glimmer of Sol. But something was missing. I knew I could now say that I’d ‘done’ Stonehenge, but to me that would have been rather like flying to another country and staying in the arrivals terminal. So I returned and pushed my way into the edge of the inner circle of stones.
Stonehenge is made from gigantic slabs of sandstone, transported hundreds of miles by ship and land and constructed directly and mysteriously on a ley-line. Ley lines are the paths of the earth’s natural energy – the energy was there and it was growing….
The Stonehenge Trilogy
The Miracle of the Solstice ~ Part One “The Spectator”
The Miracle of the Solstice ~ Part Two “The Player”
The Miracle of the Solstice ~ Part Three “The Biggest Joy”
All photography by (c)soulMerlin