Stonehenge is one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world and every year more than 10,000 people come at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice, which usually takes place on June 21st.
Druids who wear hooded white cloaks, dancers, hippies and travelers from all over the world meet at the famous monument, on the longest day of the year. Music, chants, and dances surround the area in a burst of freedom and joy.
These modern celebrations have their roots in ancient times, when it is believed that rituals were held at Stonehenge. In the last centuries, the land belonged to many people from King Henry VIII to Sir Cecil Chubb who finally returned the monument to the British government in 1918. After that, it became a place of interest and a meeting point for the New Age believers.
Stonehenge Free Festival
In 1972 the Stonehenge Free Festival was held, which became hugely popular and by the 1980s gathered up to 30,000 people. Unfortunately, the festival was canceled by 1985 and because of the somehow wild nature of it, access to the stones was restricted in 1977. People could no longer dance or stay on the stones and a fence was placed around them to protect the monument.
In 1985 a violent fight between the police and some New Age travelers led not only to the cancelation of the festival, but to a “no access” rule all over the site. No one could come close to the monument, not even for religious reasons.
The Beginning of The Modern Celebrations
Luckily, in 1999 this restriction was lifted following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. The ruling was based on the fact that you can’t forbid any member of a genuine religion to worship in their own church. Stonehenge was seen as the place of worship for Neo-Druids, Pagans, and other ancient cults.
The summer solstice celebrations began shortly after the ruling and in 2003, the Stonehenge Summer Solstice gathered more than 30,000 people. The Winter Solstice is also celebrated and in 2019, 5,000 people gathered at Stonehenge.
Summer Solstice 2020 LIVE
Due to the current situation all around the world, the Summer Solstice 2020 is canceled. The site is closed since March and people are not encouraged to come anywhere near Stonehenge next month. The good news is that the sunrise will be streamed LIVE all across English Heritage‘s social media channels from YouTube to Facebook. This is fantastic for all travelers and for those who didn’t get the chance to visit Stonehenge yet. Although a live stream is not the same as actually being there and feeling the energy of the site and the crowd, it still is a great solution! We just have to use our imagination 🙂
Why is Stonehenge a Mystery?
So, what is so special about Stonehenge? Let’s explore some facts and theories that make this site so important and a mystery:
- Stonehenge is the most architecturally complex and sophisticated stone circle in the world; it is also the only surviving monument of such nature.
- The stones were carried from a very long distance – the Preseli Hills in Wales, which is 150 miles / 241 km away.
- The stones are joint in a very sophisticated way, using unique techniques that were not seen at any other prehistorical monument or construction.
- It’s 5,000 years old.
- It is the subject of many legends and theories, some believe it is the creation of wizards, others believe giants made it. One thing is certain: it was really difficult to be made by the “engineers” of that time.
- No one knows the reason it was built and there are lots of ideas of its purpose from a coronation of kings, a Druid temple, an astronomical clock to a cult healing center.