stonehenge druids

It remains one of the mysteries of history, and there are dozens of passionately held theories of what it is. But in my history of England class, Stonehenge remains one of the most popular topics, along with the intimate life of King Henry VIII and the dubious theory that J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” is a secret allegory of World War II and the ring of power is the bomb.

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Photo taken recently by one of our Tour Guides on a Stonehenge Sunset Tour

Setting those other two colorful topics on one side permanently, it’s worth recalling what this large stone critter is.

Stonehenge is an ancient collection of huge stones in a circle, located on a plain in Wilshire about eight miles from modern Salisbury in England. It consists of a circular ditch and bank of earth, with a series of stones placed in rings. The site was built, revised, abandoned, reoccupied and modified over a period of more than 15 centuries, probably by several different prehistoric cultures. The name Stonehenge means “hanging stones” in Anglo-Saxon English. The ancient name of the site is lost.

Earliest construction may have occurred around 3100 B.C., but evidence suggests that the site was used by primitive peoples even before that, possibly as early as 8000 B.C. The earliest construction at Stonehenge was probably wooden posts placed in a circle, with an entry gate that points in the direction of the summer solstice. The posts were placed in holes, which can still be identified.

The wooden posts were then replaced by stone columns, called the “blue stones,” around 2600 B.C. after the beginnings of the Bronze Age. These stones were placed in a large circle, and possibly were moved later, but their original positions also pointed in the direction of the solstice.

The stone itself seems to be drawn from mountains at least 150 miles away, but some scholars have suggested that it may be quarried from rocks left much closer and deposited by glaciers. Legend has it that Merlin the magician moved the stones, a theory that this author much prefers. These early rings of stones weigh about four tons each and stand about seven feet high.

Some time after 2400 B.C., another ring of stones, called the “sarcen stones,” of even larger height was placed in a circle. These weigh at least 25 tons each and are about 13 feet high. Some of these larger stones are the ones placed flat on top of the standing stones, giving the appearance of gates, although over the ages some of these have fallen.

Within the inner circle several similar stones, of even great weight – up to 50 tons – were added at this period in a large U shape. They are about 3 1/2 feet thick, and 45 feet across the shape of the U. In the centuries that followed these stones seem to have been moved slightly, and other stones placed nearby. A solitary distant stone, called the “head stone” was placed some distance away about the same time as the U was established at the center.

Medieval legend says that the devil arranged the stones, and then threw the headstone at a monk to shut him up about the identity of the builder. It hit him on the heel and so the stone is called “friar’s heel” to this day. Construction seems to have ceased around 1600 B.C. On several of the stones images of ax heads are carved, which seem consistent with Bronze Age technology, but when these were added cannot be determined.

But what is Stonehenge? One theory says that it was some kind of burial site, and several graves have been found in the area. Several other deposits of cremated human remains have been discovered in the Stonehenge complex, and while these seem to have been deposited over a 500-year period, they may well have been added after the site was built, after it was known to be a sacral place, but it does not follow that it was designed to be a burial place.

Another theory was that it was a place of healing, like Lourdes is for modern believers. Yet another theory is that it had a political goal, and that ancient kings used it as a kind of national project to unify their people in one massive work project, which would have certainly required thousands of laborers.

It seems that the pyramids of Egypt served that purpose as well as being burial chambers, and so it is not impossible. But since modern historians cannot accurately say exactly how the thing was built, this theory is at best incomplete.

Yet another theory is that it was some kind of ancient astronomical site, from which people could track the movement of the sun and stars between solstices in the changing seasons of the year. The would make it one very large calendar.

British neo-pagans hold that Stonehenge was a site associated with the ancient Druids, and modern Druid believers are allowed to perform religious rituals on the site. But the age of the ancient Druids is believed by secular historians to have been much later than the known period of the actual constructions.

The original Druids were Celtic priests who lived much closer to Roman times. The earliest known reference to the actual Druids is found in Greek writers, and the earliest detailed description of them is found in Caesar’s Gaulic War, which dates at around 50 B.C. Modern Druid movements date to the Romantic period in modern literature, in the later 17th century A.D.

The medieval historian Geoffrey of Monmouth has a wonderful story that in the fifth century A.D., the last of the Romans, Aurelius Ambrosias, had hoped to raise a memorial to the thousands of British and Roman nobles who had fought to keep the Saxons out of post-Roman Britain. So he sent his son, Uther Pendragon, to go fetch the stones from Ireland, but after killing a bunch of Irish warriors, the knights required Merlin to use magic to transport and then raised the stones in what they called the “Giant’s Dance.” There Aurelius was buried, and Uther Pendragon went on to become the father of King Arthur. This story was known to many as the background for the romantic novel “The Crystal Cave” by Mary Stewart published in 1970.

Today Stonehenge continues to attract visitors, who are normally not allowed direct access to the stones but may walk around it. Closer visits are also permitted, but one is not allowed to touch the stones at all. These restrictions did not apply when I visited the site in 1972, and one could wander all over it. It does have a very strange quality to it, which is hard to put into words.

But it remains a mystery as to exactly what it is. Still, what would people in the distant future think, were they to uncover the ruins of one of our medieval cathedrals, and wonder what all the gargoyles and altar tables meant? There are Sundays when I hardly know what is going in my own church, much less what happened centuries ago.
Gregory Elder, Correspondent –

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Sacrilege, a huge inflatable Stonehenge replica, will briefly appear in London parks this summer.

A section of Sacrilege, the life-sized inflatable model of Stonehenge conceived by Jeremy Deller Photo: Jeremy Deller

A section of Sacrilege, the life-sized inflatable model of Stonehenge conceived by Jeremy Deller Photo: Jeremy Deller

As part of the London 2012 Festival celebrations, Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller has created Sacrilege, a life-sized inflatable replica of Stonehenge which has popped up unexpectedly in locations throughout the country. With the Olympics beginning shortly, the massive bouncy castle is now set to begin its brief tenure in London.

 First seen in Glasgow, the work is a co-commission between the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art and the Mayor of London, and has been supported by Creative Scotland and the Arts Council England.

Deller has described the work as “a way to get reacquainted with ancient Britain with your shoes off” and access to the bouncy castle will be free and open to people of all ages. Mayor of London Boris Johnson expounded on the broad range of people it is likely to appeal to, saying: “’You don’t have to be a specialist in ancient British history or an acolyte of the summer solstice ritual to be aware of the unending fascination that Stonehenge continues to inspire around the world. Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege is a wonderfully witty, quite literal leap into that history and a fantastic example of the irreverence that are hallmarks of our great British humour and our incomparable artists. I have no doubt it will be a great hit with Londoners as well as visitors to the capital.’

Although exact opening hours of the portable Stonehenge are unconfirmed a list of London opening dates and locations have been released and are listed below. Dates are subject to change so it is advisable to confirm before departure for the venue. For updated information on times and local weather conditions members of the public are asked to follow sacrilege on Twitter @Sacrilege2012.

Sacrilege tour dates (subject to change)

Sat July 21 – Sunday July 22
Central Park, Greenwich, London

Wednesday, July 25
King Edward VII Park, Brent, London

Saturday, July 28
Paddington Recreation Ground, Westminster, London

Sunday, July 29
Cheam Park, Sutton, London

Tuesday, July 31
Ravenscourt Park, Hammersmith & Fulham, London

Wednesday, August 1
Hampstead Heath, Camden, London

Thursday, August 2
Clapham Common, Lambeth, London

Saturday, August 4
Burgess Park, Southwark, London

Sunday, August 5
Barra Hall Park, Hillingdon, London

Tuesday, August 7
East Ham Central Park, Newham, London

Thursday, August 9
Crystal Palace, Bromley, London

Friday, August 10
Alexandra Palace, Haringey, London

Saturday, August 11
Christchurch Green, Redbridge, London

Sunday, August 12
The Waterworks Nature Reserve, Lee Valley Park, Enfield, London


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The summer solstice as celebrated at Stonehenge is a night and dawn of peace, love and quality loon-spotting opportunities.
Neo-druids, pagans and general New Age types don their glad rags (and, in some cases, fake beards) to watch the sun rise on this long day of summer. All-night celebrations help revellers stay awake until dawn.

Stonehenge Summer SolsticeWhy: An important date for pagans, the summer solstice festival dates back thousands of years. It celebrates the longest day of the year, when the sun is at its maximum elevation. About 20,000 people flock to prehistoric Stonehenge to see it in as atmospherically as possible each year.

Do it because: It’s one of the few opportunities to get close to the stones, as English Heritage provides open access especially for the occasion. Be aware that only small amounts of booze are permitted per person and that camping is not allowed.


Solstice Tour:

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Olympic project was almost scuppered by discovery of similar inflatable monument created two years previously

Two thousand people a day have come to frolic on Jeremy Deller’s latest artwork – a bouncy castle that is a precise replica of Stonehenge. Men, women, children: all leap, stride and somersault on Glasgow’s new favourite playground before it travels south to become one of the attractions of the London 2012 festival.

A neat idea, you might think. Sacrilege, as Deller has called his work, is not only a lot of fun (it is impossible not to smile when you shed your shoes, dignity, and understanding of gravity), but also thought-provoking.

The artist has transformed a great symbol of British history into a party. In real life, you cannot get near Stonehenge. Open to myriad interpretations and fantasies over its long history, it has now been given yet another existence through Deller’s impish version of a grand public sculpture

It turns out that Deller is not the first artist to have made an inflatable megalithic monument. In 2010, two years before Deller’s work was launched at the Glasgow International art festival, Jim Ricks, a California-born artist, Galway-based, unveiled his Poulnabrone Bouncy Dolmen – a precise, double-size replica of a megalithic table tomb built around 6,000 years ago in the Burren, Co Clare. The work toured various locations in Ireland last summer.

So is this a case of plagiarism? Or sheer coincidence? Are bouncy castles having what in fashion is known as a “moment”? Why, after several millennia of human creativity, have two inflatable megalithic monuments come along at once?

Deller became aware of Ricks’ sculpture, he said, while researching a manufacturer for Sacrilege. According to Ricks: “Jeremy contacted me in October and I didn’t think much of it … I didn’t register who it was.”

“I consider it an identical concept,” Ricks told the Guardian. “In terms of the description of the work, they are incredibly similar,” admitted Deller.

But Deller said that the idea for a bouncy Stonehenge had long pre-dated Ricks’s Dolmen. He had originally thought of submitting an idea for bouncy-castle versions of historic sites to an Arts Council England-run public-art competition in 2009, but was too busy at the time. Finally, he decided to realise the idea for Glasgow International, with the London mayor’s office as co-funders.

“The Olympics people got really nervous in case Jim decided to sue us,” said Deller.

Happily for them, he was not minded to. In fact Ricks forgot all about it, until: “I spoke to the manufacturer by chance about six weeks ago and it dawned on me, so I decided to go over to Glasgow. Part of me was like, ‘I’m ruined!’ It was the same idea done bigger and more visibly. But another part of me is delighted because Sacrilege is awesome, Jeremy was a cool down-to-earth guy, and it’s nice to know we’re on the same wavelength … in a ‘great minds think alike, fools seldom differ’ way.”

“You can be generous about it,” said Deller, “and realise that two people can have a very similar idea. It is, after all, a very simple idea.”

According to Ricks: “Jeremy is a lovely man, and I have no reason to doubt his story.”

Where the works differ, perhaps, is in the nuance. “Sacrilege is a way for people – not just kids – to enjoy a historical monument that is supposed to be revered,” said Deller. “It’s comedic, it’s absurd. It could be something you’d see in a satire on the Olympics or on art. I like to think of it as beyond parody.”

Ricks said that his sculpture had come out of observing the power of the Poulnabrone Dolmen as a regional and national symbol. He added: “At the height of the Celtic Tiger period, on every special occasion there seemed to be a bouncy castle around. Bouncy castles became a sort of vernacular monumental sculpture. So I decided to bring those two things together, and create a sort of hybrid version of Irish identity.”

The story of the megalithic bouncy castles is not yet at an end. Deller hopes that Sacrilege will travel to Northern Ireland as part of its Cultural Olympiad tour. If it does, he will invite Jim Ricks to bring his Poulnabrone Bouncy Dolmen over the border to visit. Let the bounce-off commence.

Full article in the Guardian:

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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.

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.


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.

Links: Stonehenge and Amebury Druids

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Daily guided tours of Stonehenge Stone Circle


The world is full of the most mysterious and secret places. These are locations all around the world that we either don’t know anything or about or, quite simply, are afraid to venture any further!

Stonehenge is surely Britain's greatest national icon, symbolizing mystery, power and endurance. Its original purpose is unclear to us but some have speculated it was a temple made for the worship of ancient Earth (pagan?) deities. It has also been called an astronomical observatory for marking significant events on a prehistoric calendar. Others claim it was a sacred site for the burial of high-ranking citizens from societies of long ago. While we can't say with any degree of certainty what it was for, we can say it wasn't constructed for any casual purpose. Only something very important to the ancients would have been worth the effort and investment that it took to construct Stonehenge

There are so many unexplained phenomena… who built some buildings… who created those statues… why do planes and ships disappear here… why do radios not work in some places… the list goes on and on.

In addition, there has often been so much uncertainty about these places. It is understandable, of course. After all, who is really brave enough to fly into the Bermuda Triangle just on a dare?

As we said, there are several such places all around the world and we couldn’t possibly write about them all.

Nevertheless, click on “Slideshow” above, check out the following most mysterious places in the world… and tell us what you think…



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Theories about the purpose of Stonehenge range from a secular calendar to a place of spiritual worship. Now, an archaeologist suggests that the Stonehenge monument in southern England may have been an attempt to mimic a sound-based illusion.

If two pipers were to play in a field, observers walking around the musicians would hear a strange effect, said Steven Waller, a doctoral researcher at Rock Art Acoustics USA, who specializes in the sound properties of ancient sites, or archaeoacoustics. At certain points, the sound waves produced by each player would cancel each other out, creating spots where the sound is dampened.

It’s this pattern of quiet spots that may have inspired Stonehenge, Waller told an audience Thursday (Feb. 16) in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The theory is highly speculative, but modern-day experiments do reveal that the layout of the Stonehenge ruins and other rock circles mimics the piper illusion, with stones instead of competing sound waves blocking out sounds made in the center of the circle.

In support of the theory, Waller pointed to myths linking Stonehenge with music, such as the traditional nickname for stone circles in Great Britain: “piper stones.” One legend holds that Stonehenge was created when two magic pipers led maidens into the field to dance and then turned them to stone,

Waller experimented by having blindfolded participants walk into a field as two pipers played. He asked the volunteers to tell him whenever they thought a barrier existed between them and the sound. There were no barriers in the field, but acoustic “dead spots” created by sound-wave interference certainly gave the volunteers the impression that there were.

“They drew structures, archways and openings that are very similar to Stonehenge,” Waller said.

Waller believes the people who built Stonehenge more than 5,000 years ago may have heard this sound-canceling illusion during ceremonies with musicians and thought it mystical, spurring the creation of the stone circle.

Though the theory is unlikely to settle the mystery of Stonehenge, Waller said he hopes to highlight the importance of considering sound in archaeology. Rock art sites are often in areas where cave acoustics are particularly prone to echoes, he said, suggesting that ancient people found meaning in sound.

“Nobody has been paying attention to sound,” Waller said. “We’ve been destroying sound. In some of the French [rock art] caves, they’ve widened the tunnels to build little train tracks to take the tourists back – thereby ruining the acoustics that could have been the whole motivation in the first place.”

By: Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Published: 02/16/2012 06:16 PM EST on LiveScience

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