Solstice


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

 

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Stonehenge is perhaps the most iconic and mysterious of Britain’s many wonders. A large earthen levee surrounding two rings of massive stones located on a vast plain in Wiltshire County, Stonehenge is generally considered a sacred site, but experts differ in their opinions of the site’s original purpose. Although commonly linked to the Druids, Stonehenge was completed long before the first known Druid population arrived in the area. Perhaps it was a burial site for ancient kings or a centre of prehistoric astronomy. Whatever its origin, the mystical Stonehenge draws visitors of all ages and backgrounds

History of Stonehenge

Modern methods date Stonehenge’s earthen levee to approximately 3000 BC, although there is evidence that clearing and preparation of the site might have begun earlier. The inner circle was completed around 2200 BC and the outer circle finished sometime between 1500 and 1200 BC. The stones are arranged on mystical lines known as ley lines, which are said to harness magical energy and are aligned toward the summer solstice. UFO sightings and paranormal activity have been reported around Stonehenge throughout modern history. Until 1978, visitors were permitted to freely wander through the stone circles, leading to vandalism and theft. The popularity of Stonehenge led to a proliferation of highways, parking lots and street vendors. Today, the British government is committed to preserving the site and has undertaken extensive projects to protect the monument and limit the carnival atmosphere.

Daytime Tours

Numerous tour companies offer day trips to Stonehenge from London. These tours generally combine a visit to Stonehenge with a tour of nearby Bath and other local attractions. Daytime tours are an excellent choice for those with limited time. Private, customized tours are available at a higher rate. Ask for tour recommendations at your hotel or at any visitor center in London.

Inside the Circle Tours

Some tour companies, including The Stonehenge Tour Company and Salisbury Guided Tours, have negotiated access to Stonehenge’s inner circle. These tours are pricier than traditional tours and availability is quite limited. Contact the company of your choice as soon as possible to book your tour. Some Inside the Circle tours take place at sunset or sunrise, offering a different view of the monument than that available during the day.

Solstice Tours

If you will be in the area during June, plan to take a solstice tour of Stonehenge. Most Stonehenge tour companies offer a special overnight solstice tour. Visiting on the solstice allows you to view the monument as the ancients intended, with the sun positioned directly over the Heel stone, Slaughter stone and Altar stone. Not all solstice tours provide access inside the circles, so make sure you understand exactly what you are getting.

Touring on Your Own

If you prefer to travel independently, you may visit Stonehenge on your own. English Heritage manages the site and admission is free to members of the National Trust. All others pay a nominal charge. Note that you will not be allowed to enter the circles, but a visitors’ walkway around the site allows you to view it from all angles. Audio guides in 10 languages are included in your admission fee. The walkway is wheelchair accessible.

Nice to see our tours recommended on USA Today:  http://traveltips.usatoday.com/stonehenge-tours-11402.html

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The Original and still the bet Stonehenge Tours – http://www.StonehengeTours.com

The mysterious structure of Stonehenge may have been built as a symbol of peace and unity, according to a new theory by British researchers.
During the monument’s construction around 3000 B.C. to 2500 B.C., Britain’s Neolithic people were becoming increasingly unified, said study leader Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield.Stonehenge
“There was a growing islandwide culture — the same styles of houses, pottery and other material forms were used from Orkney to the south coast,” Parker Pearson said in a statement, referring to the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland. “This was very different to the regionalism of previous centuries.”
By definition, Stonehenge would have required cooperation, Parker Pearson added.
“Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labor of thousands to move stones from as far away as west Wales, shaping them and erecting them. Just the work itself, requiring everything literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification,” he said. [ Photos: A Walk Through Stonehenge ]
The new theory, detailed in a new book by Parker Pearson, “Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery” (Simon & Schuster, 2012), is one of many hypotheses about the mysterious monument. Theories range from completely far-fetched ( space aliens or the wizard Merlin built it!) to far more evidence-based (the monument may have been an astronomical calendar, a burial site or both).

 

The culture of Stonehenge
Along with fellow researchers on the Stonehenge Riverside Project, Parker Pearson worked to put Stonehenge in context, studying not just the monument but also the culture that created it.

What they found was evidence of a civilization transitioning from regionalism to a more integrated culture. Nevertheless, Britain’s Stone Age people were isolated from the rest of Europe and didn’t interact with anyone across the English Channel, Parker Pearson said.
“Stonehenge appears to have been the last gasp of this Stone Age culture, which was isolated from Europe and from the new technologies of metal tools and the wheel,” Parker Pearson said.
Stonehenge’s site may have been chosen because it was already significant to Stone-Age Britons, the researchers suggest. The natural land undulations at the site seem to form a line between the place where the sun rises on the summer solstice and where it sets in midwinter, they found. Neolithic people may have seen this as more than a coincidence, Parker Pearson said.
“This might explain why there are eight monuments in the Stonehenge area with solstitial alignments, a number unmatched anywhere else,” he said. “Perhaps they saw this place as the center of the world.”

Theories and mystery
These days, Stonehenge is nothing if not the center of speculation and mystery. The monument has inspired its fair share of myths, including that the wizard Merlin transported the stones from Ireland and that UFOs use the circle as a landing site.
Archaeologists have built some theories on firmer ground. Stonehenge’s astronomical alignments suggest that it may have been a place for sun worship, or an ancient calendar. A nearby ancient settlement, Durrington Walls, shows evidence of more pork consumption during the midwinter, suggesting that perhaps ancient people made pilgrimages to Stonehenge for the winter solstice, Parker Pearson and his colleagues have found.
Stonehenge may have also been a burial ground, or a place of healing. Tombs and burials surround the site, and some skeletons found nearby hail from distant lands. For example, archaeologists reported in 2010 that they’d found the skeleton of a teenage boy wearing an amber necklace near Stonehenge. The boy died around 1550 B.C. An analysis of his teeth suggested he came from the Mediterranean. It’s possible that ill or wounded people traveled to Stonehenge in search of healing, some archaeologists believe.
Other researchers have focused on the sounds of Stonehenge. The place seems to have “lecture-hall” acoustics, according to research released in May. One archaeologist even suggests that the setup of the stones was inspired by an acoustical effect in which two sounds from different sources seem to cancel each other out.

By Stephanie Pappas. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47923931/ns/technology_and_science-science/#.T-Vv7Ree5gM

The Stonehenge Tour company – www.StonehengeTours.com 

Stonehenge has confounded archaeologists and academics alike since its early beginnings

Einstein once declared that ‘the most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious’, and this statement is particularly fitting as regards Stonehenge. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1986 and retains its intensely spiritual and otherworldly ambience, despite the number of tourists it attracts. If you choose to visit this extraordinary site, ensure you also spend some time delving into the captivating areas that surround Stonehenge. Explore picturesque Windsor and beguiling Bath.

Modern archaeological techniques and a number of recent digs have helped to form new theories about the stones that constitute Stonehenge. However, their definitive use stays as enigmatic as ever; it is suffused with a continuing sense of mystery. Stonehenge stands as an authoritative witness to the once extraordinary civilisations of the Stone and Bronze Ages of around 3,700 BC to 1,600 BC. Similarly, its surrounding areas stand as testament to these mighty cultures.

There is no place on earth quite like Stonehenge. Its brooding, pervasive mysticism, its intense spirituality and its endless aura of mystery all combine to make it an inimitable, idiosyncratic landmark. Take a Stonehenge tour and discover just why it continues to fascinate and perplex people from all over the world.

You may not know that Stonehenge is not the only ancient site in this region. Yet, in fact, a mere 25 miles north of Stonehenge is the impressive Avebury complex, which is a robust contender to be the most grandiose of all the residual prehistoric earthworks in Europe. The Avebury stone circle is actually much greater than that of Stonehenge – but the stones are smaller. A strong benefit that comes of visiting Avebury is that you can in fact touch its stones. Woodhenge, which consists of a circle of wooden posts, is an even more obscure and oft overlooked landmark.

Theories as to the use of Stonehenge range from the eminently believable to the absurd. In the twentieth century, both Fred Hoyle and Gerald Hawkins fascinatingly argued that not only was Stonehenge used as an observatory, but also to calculate future astronomical events such as eclipses. Yet it is probably von Däniken’s theory about Stonehenge that has led to the most furore, conflict and general disputation. Däniken claims that either extraterrestrials, or humans who were aided by extraterrestrials, built Stonehenge. He then goes on to argue that Stonehenge is an exact replica of our solar system, including the asteroid belt.

Why not merge a visit to Stonehenge with visits to its nearby districts, which hold their own captivating and idiosyncratic attractions? A combination Bath and Stonehenge tour from London is one of the most extraordinary tours you can do. Bath is, without a doubt, one of the most absorbing destinations to explore in the UK. An especially great number of visitors assemble to view the extraordinary sunrise at the summer solstice.

Link: http://pressitt.com/smnr/Stonehenge-A-Sacred-Burial-Site/10709/

The Stonehenge Tour Company
http://www.StonehengeTours.com

Residents of the Northern Hemisphere are downright giddy this time of year with the official arrival of spring. In honor of longer days, sunshine and the tantalizing prospect of summer on the horizon, Cheapflights.com has chosen its top 10 list of places around the world to see a magnificent sunrise.  Reuters has not endorsed this list:

1. Stonehenge, England

Equinox devotees will gather every year for the Vernal Equinox. A place of sun worship still, Stonehenge is a mysterious destination that holds deep spiritual value for many travelers. Some researchers suggest the formation was erected as early as 2200 BC, while others argue it was even earlier, in 3000 BC. No matter the date of creation, Stonehenge is a powerful landmark, and well worth the visit for a beautiful—and perhaps magical—sunrise.

Stonehenge Equinox Sunrise

Stonehenge Equinox Sunrise

 

2. Svalbard, Norway

The sun doesn’t set in Svalbard—at least not between mid-April and late August each year. It’s obvious, then, why the sun rising holds an almost magical appeal for visitors. Situated north of the Arctic Circle, the northernmost inhabited spot on the planet features the midnight sun, a phenomenon where the sun stays continuously in the sky for 24 hours a day. Glaciers and mountains clutter Svalbard’s horizon, painting a landscape that merely enhances the event.

3. Angkor Wat Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Wat any time of day is powerful, but arriving early enough to watch the sunrise offers visitors an even greater spectacle. The preserved temple attracts travelers to Cambodia from around the world, providing them architectural insight into Khmer and Hindu mythology and history. We advise that visitors dedicate more than a day to exploring the sacred grounds (and that one of those days begins before dawn).

4. Fiji

Smack dab on the 180-degree longitude line, Fiji is one of the first spots in the world to see the sun rise every day. The South Pacific destination, a favorite among lovers of turquoise seas and white-sand beaches (and who isn’t), offers unrivaled scenery and inspirational landscapes. Itinerary tip: Follow an intoxicating sunrise up with a morning exploration; the “soft coral capital of the world” offers some of the best scuba diving in the world.

5. Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is on practically every adventure traveler’s to-do list. With the enormous undertaking comes a chance to see one of the most enchanting sunrises in the world. From Kili’s summit—19,341 feet above sea level—dedicated souls can reflect on their ascent, a massive accomplishment, while soaking up an unparalleled sight to see.

6. Haleakala National Park, Hawaii, USA

Boarding a bus in the wee hours of morning is a pain, particularly on vacation when the greatest indulgence is sleeping in. But the alarm-clock acknowledgement is worth it if the payoff is watching a sunrise from above the clouds, on the top of a volcano. Various van tours offer the trip through Haleakala National Park in Maui, picking visitors up at 3 a.m. and dropping them off to see the event from the summit. Should you want to (and we highly recommend it), you can bike the 28 miles down the mountain, back to sea level.

7. Tres Cruces, Peru

A six-hour bus ride from Cuzco, the gateway to Machu Picchu, Tres Cruces is undeniably worth the long trek. The Incas held the mountain spot, situated on the Amazon basin, sacred. Nowadays, it’s visitors looking to experience a mind-blowing sunrise who sanctify the destination. The view famously boasts celestial hues and Polaroid moments from above the clouds.

8. Tulum, Mexico

The coastal oasis of Tulum draws spiritual travelers and yoga-types year-round to soak up exquisite culture, history and scenery all in a single spot. The destination’s think-green mentality and efforts toward sustainability set the tone for a raw form of vacationing, where visitors are up with the sun (and often in bed shortly after the sun goes down). No need to set an alarm in Tulum, where sun worshipers gather at the shoreline daily to watch the sunrise.

9. Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

The most impressive sunrises in the continental United States occur every day across the Grand Canyon. Cool purples melt into shades bronze and orange against the awe-inspiring scenery, arguably America’s greatest natural wonder. There isn’t a best place to see the sunrise in the Grand Canyon, but Maricopa, Hopi, and Mather points, and along the South Rim are recommended highly by in-the-know travelers.

10. Mount Sinai, Egypt

First a history refresher: Jews, Christians and Muslims alike believe that Moses received the 10 Commandments at the biblical Mount Sinai, as mentioned in the Torah, Bible and Koran. Still an important religious destination, Mount Sinai today draws believers who scale the route by foot for religious purposes, and for the chance to see one of the most inspiring sunrises in the world.

Link: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/03/30/us-travel-picks-sunrise-idUKBRE82T13D20120330

The Stonehenge Tour Company 
http://www.StonehengeTours.com 

We go back in time to rediscover the true spirit of Druidism.

To most of us the Druids conjure up images of a mysterious, religious sect wearing strange robes and conducting archaic ceremonies out in the open air

Druids at Stonehenge
Stonehenge has special significance to DruiInside Out takes a look inside the secret world of the Druids. We go back in time to rediscover the true spirit of DruidismTo most of us the Druids conjure up images of a mysterious, religious sect wearing strange robes and conducting archaic ceremonies out in the open air.

The problem is that they’re a secretive bunch. They don’t write down their ideas nor do they have a Holy Book.

Inside Out met a family whose mum became a Druid and looks at how it changed her and her familiy’s lives.

A family story

Zoe Brice know better than anyone about having a Druid in the family. Zoe is 28 years old, and by day she works as a housing officer for a local council.

She and her half brother and sister were brought up by her dad after her mum walked out on the family and became a traveller.

Twenty years later her mum, Denny Price, is the archdruidess of the Glastonbury order of druids.

Glastonbury Tor
Glastonbury Tor and the nearby Zodiac are sacred sites

It’s taken Zoe a long time to understand her mum’s actions and learn about her beliefs.

Druid beliefs

To fully understand Druidism, you need to immerse yourself in ancient history, fantasy, myth and mystery.

The lineage of the Druid spiritual tradition can be traced back many thousands of years.

The origins of the Druids were as important religious figures among the Celts, who came to Britain in 1500 BC.

In this pre-Christian era, Druids acted as judges, doctors, diviners, sages, mystics, and clerical scholars. They were considered amongst the wisest and most respected members of Celtic society.

DRUIDS –
THE DRUID PATH
Druidry fosters the love of the land, earth, and the wild including:

* Love of Peace

* Love of Beauty – the bard and artists within

* Love of Justice – non punitive justice and law

* Love of Story and Myth – the power of mythology

* Love of History and Reverence for Ancestors

* Love of Trees – sacred groves and study of treelore

* Love of Stones – stone circles and crystals

* Love of Truth – wisdom

* Love of Animals – druidry sees animals as sacred

* Love of the Body

* Love of the Sun, Moon and Stars

* Love of Life

The name Druid itself is connected with the Celtic word for ‘oak tree’.

Modern Druids

There are around 10,000 practising Druids in Britain with Druid orders being spread around the country.

These Druid orders meet up regularly and continue the traditions of reading Celtic poetry, while dressed in robes and wearing ancient Celtic symbols.

There are three sets of people who Druids hold in exceptional honour – the bards, the ovates and the druids.

The bards are singers and poets, and the keepers of tradition.

The ovates are diviners and natural philosophers.

The Druids are learned in natural and moral philosophy.

Each of the three groups has specific tasks and jobs to perform.

In 1989 the Council of British Druid Orders was formed with two or three founding member orders.

There are now twelve major orders all over the United Kingdom.

The Glastonbury Order of Druids is thousands of years old with its roots in antiquity.

There is evidence of early Druid activity in the giant earthworks south of Glastonbury Tor – known as Glastonbury Zodiac – which date back to 2770 BC.

Spiritual rebirth

Druids are believers in reincarnation. They believe that the soul is immortal and after a person dies, they are transported to the ‘Otherworld’.

They also believe that that person will come back again in another human body.

Some put the growing interest in Druidism over the past decade down to the fact that spiritual concerns are once again coming to the fore in society.

Druid ceremony
Some historians claim Druids originated in Britain

There is also growing interest in the environment and the myths and legends of England.

This philosophy has proved attractive to a growing number of New Age travellers in the British countryside.

Stonehenge

The traditional meeting place of the Druids is Stonehenge which is pre-dates Druidism.

Druids claim that their religion has marked the summer solstice at Stonehenge for nearly 800 years.

Today’s Druids form their traditional circle around the stones every June, with the conch shell sounding to herald a new dawn and new season.

The Glastonbury Druids joined their colleagues in this celebration once again this year.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/south/series3/druids.shtml
Links: Stonehenge and Amebury Druids http://www.stonehenge-druids.org/

The Stonehenge Tour Company
Daily guided tours of Stonehenge Stone Circle
http://www.StonehengeTour.com