They were once caricatured as be-robed bearded druids with an odd Victorian  belief in the spirits of nature, but paganism – especially in the West – is  fast-growing and almost mainstream now.

The number of pagans has doubled in the past decade and with Glastonbury TorAvebury and Stonehenge, the West is leading a religious revival in our  pre-Christian beliefs. Yesterday, pagans said they hoped to have finally  convinced the public at large they are peace-loving nature  devotees, and called  for greater recognition of paganism and pagans, after figures showed it was  probably the fastest growing religion in the country

Pans and Druids at StonehengeProfessor Ronald Hutton, from Bristol University, reckons there could be as  many as a quarter of a million pagans in Britain – probably the highest number  since Roman times – and now boosted by the results emerging from the recent  census, they are getting firmer in asserting their beliefs in a largely secular  or Christian country.

Pagan leaders have highlighted the numbers of people who declared themselves  to be pagans in the 2011 census, which reveal that 79,473 people said they were  in England and Wales, compared with 42,262 in the whole of Britain back in  2001.

Chris Crowley, the president of the Pagan Federation, said that figure was  important because pagans were not awarded their own tick box on the census  forms, and to declare their religion as ‘pagan’, people had to tick the box  marked ‘other’ and specifically write ‘pagan’ next to it.

Emboldened by the rise in numbers to make paganism the seventh biggest  religion in this country, Mr Crowley said he was pleased people were more  accepting than previously. “We take issue with people using our beliefs in  tawdry and cavalier fashion,” he said.

“When we first approached the Charity Commission for Wales and England in  1997 seeking charity status, one of its officials asked us if we sacrifice  humans. I think we’ve come an awful long way in public understanding since  then,” he added.

Pagans have long been drawn to the West with sites like ancient Pre-Christian  sites like Glastonbury, Avebury and Stonehenge as important symbols of their  beliefs.

“We are far from an amusing curiosity. Pagans are a serious and growing  religious group and these latest census figures reflect that,” added Mr  Crowley.

The British Isles perhaps are best known as the home of the Druids, but those  are only a small number of modern pagans, explained Prof Hutton, a leading  expert in pre-Christian Britain.

Pagans celebrate events such as the summer and winter solstice by gathering  before sunrise in gardens, forests, hilltops or beaches for organised rituals or  their own personal reflection.

Read more (Western Daily Press) : http://www.thisisbath.co.uk/Paganism-longer-cloaked-mystery/story-18889957-detail/story.html#ixzz2SOxVqVem

Stonehenge Tour Guide


Looking to join in with Winter Solstice celebrations – then head to Glastonbury or Stonehenge on the 21st December

If the annual hustle and bustle of the Christmas rush is getting you down then how about experiencing a different sort of celebration this December?  The Winter Solstice celebrations at Chalice Well Garden in Glastonbury, and also at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, may just be the trick for a bit of peaceful meditation. 

Stonehenge SolsticeChalice Well is known as a World Peace Garden.  Run by The Chalice Well Trust, it is a place of peace and tranquillity for those of all faiths, and also those who do not have one. People gather together, not in a building or structure of worship, but in the beautiful garden, with the idea being that this will allow a shared acknowledgement of the sacred and divine that members believe transcends borders and differences.

The festivals held here are grounded in the following common principles; welcome, stillness, silence, reflection, grace, communion, community, relationship, celebration, gratitude and blessing.  One such festival, The Wheel of the Year Festival, is a Winter Solstice meditation, and will be held in the Garden on Friday December 21 between 12.00 and 12.30pm.

On this date people will be gathering at the Well Head at 12pm for celebration and meditation until 12:30.  At 12:30 they are invited to join around the fire on the Lower Lawn for informal ’conversation’, the hope being that this will be an opportunity for people to share ideas, thoughts and beliefs, and perhaps also a chance to increase connection through understanding.  Refreshments will be available on the day.

Head to Glastonbury, Somerset, for the Winter Solstice with the Challice Well Trust

If you would prefer to experience the Winter Solstice like the druids do, then you may want to undertake a tour to Stonehenge instead.  Each year on December 21st, visitors from around the world gather peacefully at the English Heritage site early in the morning to mark the most important day of the year at Stonehenge, and to see the sunrise above the stones.

The Winter Solstice is an ad hoc celebration that brings together England’s New Age Tribes (neo-druids, neo-pagans, Wiccans) with ordinary families, tourists, travellers and party people for a magical and spiritual experience.  Stonehenge is carefully aligned on a sight-line that points to the winter solstice sunset.  At dawn the central Altar stone aligns with the Slaughter stone, Heel stone and the rising sun to the northeast.  The exact time for the Solstice on the 21st is 11.39pm, UK time.  The sunset is at 3.53pm and the sunrise at 8.04am.

Coach tours to Stonehenge are available and some come with a guide, allowing you to spend 1-2 hours inside the stone circle and witness the sun rising, Druid Ceremony and festivities.  The complex is usually roped off, meaning visitors normally observe the stones from a distance, but pre-booked winter solstice tours do allow you to be amongst the stones for a short period of access before the site opens to the general public, likely to be from approximately 7.30 to 9.00am.

How exciting! If you fancy joining in in the solstice celebrations, let us know where and do send us a picture!

Link source: http://news.hugofox.com/2012/11/27/an-alternative-december-celebration-winter-solstice-2012/

Stonehenge Guided Tourswww.StonehengeTours.com