Courtesy of Ayla Cardinali. . . . . . medicinewoman@witchdoctor.co.uk
Solstice at Stonehenge

We arrived at about 10pm and walked the mile or so from the car-field (more field than park, there were even loads of horses) to the stones. Even then the sight was amazing, people were arriving in a constant stream of happy faces. We settled for a quick picnic lunch before taking turns to walk around the stones and guage the atmosphere. It was already packed inside, some people were playing bodhrans, djembes, pipes... all sorts, there were dancers, sleepers and people just sitting down and soaking it all up.

We gathered up our bags and went into the henge as a group, found a small patch of ground not yet populated and settled down in a circle with a candle for light. We brought out some drinks, I had my chalice with me, and joined the celebration. I was blowing bubbles around and they were being carried by the wind up around the stones and into the night. There was a very prominent red "star" in the sky, we were debating what it was but I think we settled on its being Jupiter.

[Well you were wrong then, according to very ancient pagan tradition, the red star just had to be Mars, sorry about that - ED]

At various points little groups of us went off to explore. When I went, there were people dancing with fire diablos, chains and other throwable objects, lots of consistent drumming and fabulous music. By about 3am or so a procession of fire eaters, dancers, musicians and people dressed up as the Lord and Lady made a procession sunwise around the circle, surrounded by hoards of happy people dancing and singing along. From back inside the stones, I watched the procession enter in and go to the very center, where the representatives of the Oak King and Holly King performed the oldest battle, to cries of "Fight! Fight! Fight!" from the crowd.

A chant went up through the crowd, the calls moving widdershins around the inner circle, of "Turn the lights off!" to the tune of the drumming and bells. The floodlights were switched off, so that the coming of dawn could be seen properly.

We moved to underneath one of the stone arches, I was sitting with my back against one of the stones and the coverstone above my head, the feeling was electric. From there we kept the vigil for sunrise.

The Bard brought a photographer to us who wanted to take my picture, and so I went off with her for a while. She said she worked for the Reading Chronicle and since I was from Reading was bound to go in there *laughs*

As the sunrise was dawning one chap on a hang-glider came over the crowd to cheers and laughter, and three aeroplanes described a triangle as they passed over the henge. A cry of "turn the light on!" briefly passed over the crowd, the drumming continued, and then, we saw it, a little later than expected because of a low cloud on the horizon, a tiny diamond of orange light which moved quickly into the sky as everyone there roared and cheered and clapped. It was the most amazing feeling, and the best damned summer solstice I have ever had.

Well, there it is. The figures quoted for the numbers who showed up are between 10,000 and 14,500, on the whole it was entirely peaceful, I even got a photo of the police smiling and not really having to do anything since the crowd weren't causing any trouble. Only a couple of people broke the rules by climbing the stones but they were removed quickly and most people just had a good time. I can honestly say I am proud of our pagan community, a decent bunch the lot of them.

Well done everybody! See you next year?

Click on www.aylawitch.com to go to Ayla's website.


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