Why does Stonehenge exist? We explore the pick of the theories, which are all totally sane and reasonable.

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From archaeologists to modern-day pagans to Spinal Tap fans, Stonehenge is truly a place of wonder where the demons dwell, where the banshees live and they do live well. The prehistoric monument has been the source of a great deal of speculation over its meaning, purpose and construction. Here are some of the theories surrounding those ancient stones.

Merlin did it

Not as popular a theory among historians as it once was, the Merlin Hypothesis suggests that King Arthur’s pet wizard had Stonehenge constucted with the help of a local giant, the Devil or his own mysterious magic. Notable fabulist Geoffrey of Monmouth was a big supporter of this theory, which was pretty popular into the 14th century.

From archaeologists to modern-day pagans to Spinal Tap fans, Stonehenge is truly a place of wonder where the demons dwell, where the banshees live and they do live well. The prehistoric monument has been the source of a great deal of speculation over its meaning, purpose and construction. Here are some of the theories surrounding those ancient stones.

Merlin did it

Not as popular a theory among historians as it once was, the Merlin Hypothesis suggests that King Arthur’s pet wizard had Stonehenge constucted with the help of a local giant, the Devil or his own mysterious magic. Notable fabulist Geoffrey of Monmouth was a big supporter of this theory, which was pretty popular into the 14th century.

It was a very fancy cemetery

Over the years, the remains of 63 different people have been exhumed from the site – in the form of more than 50,000 cremated bone fragments. Apparently the burials occured way back around 3000BC, roughly 100 years after the first stones were placed on the site. Given those rubbery figures, its possible the initial structure was designed as an over-the-top headstone arrangement.

It was designed for healing and pilgrimage

There’s another theory about why those remains were found there, and it’s based on the fact that a lot of them appear to have suffered from illness or injury. This suggests that people saw Stonehenge as a place to travel when you weren’t well, in the hope of getting magical first aid. Further investigation revealed fragments of the first stones had been chipped away, which could have been so people could craft them into healing talismans. (Or they were just touristy vandals.)

Aliens did it

There was once a strong school of thought that held that ancient people were idiots who couldn’t build anything as amazing as the wonders still standing among us today, so they must have had help. Obviously Merlin and his fairy minions are ridiculous, but aliens – well, it makes sense that they would pop down and help our forebears construct monolithic calculators. All you have to do is squint, fudge a few measurements, take liberties in the interpretation of ancient artworks and/or Bible passages, and it makes perfect sense.

Druids used it as a measuring instrument

If you want to know exactly when the Winter Solstice is coming, Stonehenge can help you calculate that. The avenue connecting Stonehenge to the River Avon aligns with the sun that day. Apparently there are key points around the complex that could have been used to predict eclipses, too, which is pretty cool if true. By the way, the “Druids did it” theory began in 1640 but has been pretty well debunked. Sorry.

It was a feel-good collaboration to celebrate unity

And by “unity”, we mean “you’ve all been conquered, now help us build a stone circle so you’ll never forget it”. Everyone except the alien and fairy enthusiasts agree the work of bringing these stones to the site and erecting them in a circle would have required the efforts of many people working together. Under this theory, the Neolithic locals spontaneously banded together to create the ancient equivalent of the Statue of Liberty.

It’s monolithic porn

Look, it seems unlikely, but in 2003 one researcher claimed Stonehenge looked like female genitalia and was meant to celebrate the Earth Mother. This theory requires even more squinting than the alien one.
By Shane Cubis SBS

Join the Stonehenge experts and a guided tour and hear all the latest theories

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Operating Stonehenge Tours since 1995
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At various times and in different (mostly Northern European) cultures, the solstice has gone by different names, such as Yule, Midwinter, and Jól. Nowadays, the solstice gets overshadowed by its more commercial and religious winter relatives: Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa; but plenty of people still celebrate the winter solstice in its own right.

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If you’ve ever wondered what the solstice is, or why it matters, here’s the lowdown.

What is it?

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. From June to December, the days shorten and shorten until the solstice. After the winter solstice, days gradually grow longer again (yay!), which brings warmer temperatures. On the actual solstice, the North Pole gets zero energy from the sun — that is, no sunlight at all.

In the summer, we celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. (In the Southern Hemisphere, everything is flip-flopped — they’re celebrating the summer solstice in December.)

When is it?

Each year, the winter solstice falls on either December 21 or 22. This year, it takes place Tuesday, December 22 at 4:48 UTC (December 21 at 11:48 p.m. EST).

But I noticed the sun started setting later before the solstice…

An astute observation! Depending on where you live, the shortest day of the year doesn’t necessarily fall on the day with the earliest sunset or the latest sunrise. This has to do with what’s called “true solar noon,” the time when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. In early December, solar noon is about ten minutes earlier than it is when we hit the solstice. Thus, depending on the latitude where you live, the sunset may actually be slightly later on the solstice than it was earlier in the month. The closer you live to the Arctic, the more closely the earliest sunset and the winter solstice will match up.

What about the latest sunrise?

Unless you live in the Arctic Circle, the latest sunrise usually arrives in early January, which makes sense, knowing that solar noon moves later in the day starting in early December. There’s a variation in solar noon and noon on the clock, because of the tilt of the earth’s axis and the earth’s not-quite-circular orbit around the sun.

How long have we known about the solstice?

Our earliest ancestors tracked the seasons and years by changes in the sky: the movement of the sun, stars, and moon. Stonehenge is one of the most famous monuments in the world built to observe and celebrate our trek around the sun. Nowadays, 3,000 to 5,000 people visit Stonehenge to watch the sunrise on the winter solstice and up to 30,000 visit for the summer solstice.

Article source: Refinery 29

Solstice Events U.K operate guided tours from London and Bath.  Experience sunrise on the Winter Solstice, a truly magical experience!

Stonehenge Guided Tours

For people from overseas visiting England, or even English people that want to experience something different, the summer solstice is a big draw. For anybody in or near to Salisbury on 20th and 21st June (every year), I strongly recommend a visit to Stonehenge which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with it’s neighbour Avebury.
Theories about Stonehenge - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The story of Stonehenge is still not 100% known, there are many theories ranging from an alien landing site to an ancient temple. While some theories hold more weight than others, none have been confirmed to be 100% true yet. However the National Trust (the body that looks after Stonehenge) has allowed for the site to be open each summer solstice,  at the request of druid and other pagan communities. This is to allow the druids to celebrate the sunrise of the longest day, but the opening is not restricted to just druids, over 20,000 people attend the event each year and it really is a great atmosphere. There are acoustic instruments, dancing, hula hooping and just about any other natural form of entertainment you can think of. There are food stalls to cater for all of the hungry attendees and portable toilets around the area. With police and st. John’s ambulance in attendance people will be happy to know that they are safe.  The venue usually opens at 7pm on 20th June and closes at 7am on 21st June. I have been 6 times before and I would strongly recommend this to anybody in the area.

Summer Solstice 2012: Astro-Science & Pagan Ritual | Cierra

a travel blog by Graham Targett
Full story at the ‘bigger than England’  website

U.K Solstice Events offer Stonehenge tours of the Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox and Autumn Equinox.

Stonehenge Guided Tours
http://www.StonehengeTours.com

Stonehenge is one of the most speculated about prehistoric landmarks in the world and it is located right here in Britain.

Close to quaint countryside Wiltshire holiday cottages, it is easy to visit and many often base whole holidays around this most famed of attractions. With English Heritage having recently opened a brand new visitor centre, as reported in this previous article on our sister site, curiosity over Stonehenge has never been higher.

Following on from this article on Stonehenge we have asked the experts for answers to some of Stonehenge’s biggest questions.

Why is Stonehenge so important?

As mentioned earlier, English Heritage recently opened a new visitor centre. The centre has plenty of information about the site and the Druids that not only answer some of the questions visitors might have about the monument, but also provoke new questions. Their recently opened Neolithic Houses show reconstructions of how they think the people that built Stonehenge lived, provoking thoughts on the people of the times themselves. To read more about these fascinating houses see this VisitWiltshire article.

Stonehenge Neolithic Houses

Here English Heritage themselves tell us a bit about why they think Stonehenge is so important.

• “Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated and only surviving lintelled prehistoric stone circle in the world.

It is a unique prehistoric monument that forms part of an extraordinary ancient landscape so rich and varied that it was designated a World Heritage Site in 1986.

It does not stand in isolation, but forms part of a remarkable archaeological landscape of early Neolithic, late Neolithic and early Bronze Age monuments. This landscape is a vast source of information about the ceremonial and funerary practices of Neolithic and Bronze Age people and helps to shed light on how prehistoric society was organised.”

– English Heritage

For more information on Stonehenge from English Heritage, see the StonehengeEH Facebook page where they regularly post the latest news and views on this fascinating site.

Further to English Heritage, Stonehenge.co.uk acts as the ultimate guide to the historic site. From how it was built to visitor information and resources on other ancient sites in the area, the independent website is a great guide for planning a trip to the Wiltshire area. Here they shed some light on the historic structure.

• ‘The importance of Stonehenge rests with its longevity, unique position, but above all its enduring enigma. We shall never truly know its origins or the thoughts of those clever people who designed, built, embellished and maintained the site. Experts may come and go, but their delving and surmise may be no better than that of any other. Long may it last.’

– Stonehenge.co.uk

Why do you think people are still so intrigued by Stonehenge and its history?

VisitWiltshire have some fantastic current information of the Stonehenge site. Here is what they said about Wiltshire’s most famous landmark.

Stonehenge in Golden Light

• ‘We think the reason people are so intrigued by Stonehenge is because of the mystery that still surrounds it. There are so many different theories about how it was constructed and why it is where it is. Continuous archaeological discoveries in the area keep the mystery alive too as bits of the puzzle are slowly unveiled.’

– VisitWiltshire

When visiting the Wiltshire area and staying in English country holiday cottagesit is definitely worth going to VisitWiltshire’s website for local information on what to do and see.

Are there any guided tours of Stonehenge?

For those looking to take a tour of the area the options are endless – whether you want to go it alone with the information provided in this guide or use one of the reputable tour guides in the area, both are sure to make for an unforgettable experience of this magical landmark.

Stonehenge Guided Tours are fantastic Stonehenge tour experts and have been operating small group guided tours of Stonehenge since the early 1990s. They offer a highly personalised and professional service that is ideal for individuals, families and groups. Here is what they said about Stonehenge:

• ‘Stonehenge – Britain’s Best Historic Site Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument without parallel. Voted ‘Britain’s Best Historic Site’ and ‘UK’s top wonder’ in a list of the country’s unmissable attractions, the ancient site also topped a survey of the ‘Seven Wonders of Britain’. Part of an ancient landscape, Stonehenge is one of the most thought-provoking and keenly debated ancient monuments in the world.’

– Stonehenge Guided Tours

Are there other historical sites to see as well as Stonehenge?

If you want to explore further afield once you have visited Stonehenge to gain a greater understanding of the area and its relevance to the site, there are some great tour operators that provide some fantastic insights. The Stonehenge Tour company is operated by Salisbury Reds and they cover a wide area and have plenty to offer their guests by way of information and views of the magnificent local landscape.

The Stonehenge Tour

• ‘Stonehenge is a historical, famous landmark, over 5000 years old. It is truly magnificent and mysterious and many visitors are in awe of such a wondrous monument.

The tour is a unique way to experience Salisbury, Old Sarum and Stonehenge – tour bus visitors get priority upon arrival to Stonehenge and you don’t have to worry about booking a time slot. Our all-inclusive ticket includes Stonehenge admission and a cathedral donation.

There are fantastic views from the top deck as well as a knowledgeable commentary throughout the trip. Visitors can board the tour in the city centre at stop U in New Canal or from the rail station.’

– The Stonehenge Tour

What exactly are Druids?

In answer to this question we though it better to go to the people themselves and asked Aes Dana Grove or, as they are better known, the ‘Amesbury Stonehenge Druids’ if they could shed some light on their practices and tell us about their faith and traditions.

Stonehenge Druids

• “Druids are the priests of the native spiritual tradition ‘the old religion’ of the peoples who inhabited the islands of Britain and Ireland, spreading through much of Europe. It is increasingly understood, and within the Druid community acknowledged, to be of an older indigenous if ever-evolving religious tradition sourced within these islands.

As an ancient pagan religion, our belief is based on the reverential, sacred and honourable relationship between the people and the land. In its personal expression, it is the spiritual interaction between an individual and the spirits of nature, including those of landscape and ancestry, together with the continuities of spiritual, literary and cultural heritage.

Druids may be men or women, or any social class, and born to any race. In ancient times the Druids were an educated spiritual elite who coordinated resistance to expansion of the Roman empire into France and Britain and hence were outlawed under Roman law and vilified in some cases by this enemy who wrote many of the historical accounts.

In 2010 the Druids became once again a recognised religion in England and Wales ending nearly 2000 years of social exclusion.”

– Frank Somer, The Stonehenge Druids

You can find out more and see for yourself at www.stonehenge-druids.org.

Expert View: What is the most interesting question you have ever been asked about Stonehenge?

Kindly, Mike Parker Pearson of the Institute of Archaeology and a well-regarded English archaeologist specialist of Neolithic Britain provided us with his insight into the wonders of Stonehenge.

• “Ramilisonina, my colleague from Madagascar who I have worked with for many years, asked me in 1998 if I realized that Stonehenge was built for the ancestors. I laughed at first but it soon dawned on me that he had a really interesting insight. That led to the start of the Stonehenge Riverside Project 4 years later, and to a complete reinterpretation of Stonehenge.

Books of relevance are my paperback ‘Stonehenge’ published by Simon Schuster, and Marc Aronson’s ‘If Stones Could Speak’ (for younger readers) published by National Geographic. If you take a look at them, you’ll find plenty of information of interest to visitors.”

– Mike Parker Pearson

You can read more on Pearson’s views on the ancient site in his publications, ‘If Stones Could Speak: Unlocking the Secrets of Stonehenge’ and‘Stonehenge: Exploring the greatest Stone Age Mystery’.

Image Credits: Visit Wiltshire, English Heritage, VisitWiltshire/Paul Chambers, The Stonehenge Tour- Diana Jarvis, Aes Dana Grove

Article source: http://www.hideaways.co.uk/news/answers-to-stonehenge-s-biggest-questions

Hideaways offer a carefully chosen selection of english country cottages, country homes, farmhouses and apartments in rural and coastal settings and in historic towns and cities throughout the West Country, Wessex, the South East and the Heart of England: http://www.hideaways.co.uk/

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Though the Druids undoubtedly existed, their place in our history is now

Druids at Stonehenge

Druids at Stonehenge

more legendary than factual, as so few records or artefacts exist to throw light on who they were and what they did. The Romans , who regarded them as enemies of the Roman state and who were horrified by the human sacrifices supposedly made by the Druids, attempted to wipe them out. The Christians too attacked them for their obviously non-Christian beliefs – one of the few things we can be truly sure about the Druids is that they held certain oak and hazel groves sacred, as both Romans and Christians were at pains to chop them down and burn the wood.

From the Roman and Greek sources, however, we can be fairly sure of a few basic facts about the Druids and their place in Celtic life (across Gaul and beyond as well as in Britain).

First and foremost they were a class, although not a hereditary class but one open to those of ability willing to undergo a long training period – perhaps as long as 20 years. They formed a learned class within the Celtic people, a mixture of judge, scholar, counsellor, doctor, diplomat and priest in one. Part of their demise has been put down by some writers as due to the antipathy of tribal chiefs and regional kings whose power would be lessened by the influence of Druids, said to have the right to speak before them in tribal gatherings, and able to intervene in and stop conflicts of which they did not approve.
It seems that as well as oak and hazel, mistletoe played a part in their worship practises, as did reverence for sacred sites such as hills and rivers, and fire. Theirs was a polytheistic religion. From the Romans we can be fairly sure they used sacrifice in their worship, and possibly in divination, these sacrifices being both animal and human – tales of blood gushing from hearts stabbed with sacred daggers if not strictly true still make interesting reading.

The training of a Druid was lengthy, and in all likelihood carried out away from prying eyes, or more significantly eavesdropping ears – much of it was concerned with learning sacred verses by heart.

Although some aspects of Druidism may have survived into medieval times and even beyond – the bardic culture of Wales is surely linked in some ways – as a power they were to a great extent finished by the Roman attack on Anglesey in AD61 (an attack that Boudicca took advantage of, rebelling in the East while the Romans were engaged in Wales).

Modern Druidism is a mixture of surmise, romantic imagination, and the gathered misconceptions of writers from recent centuries, a creative version of something about which few facts remain, or more kindly a sincere religious faith to which the perhaps ill-fitting label Druidism has been attached. This ‘creativity’ is perhaps seen most clearly in the use of Stonehenge , which long predates Druidism, as a sacred site for some Neo-Druids.

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(Operating tours of Stonehenge since 1995 – The original and still the best! )