Why pagans party at Stonehenge on solstice

Solstice, it only happens twice a year.

This past weekend, as happens every summer solstice, something special reportedly happened at Stonehenge. As the Associated Press reported:

Thousands of neo-Druids, New Age followers and the merely curious flocked to Stonehenge on Sunday, beating drums, chanting and dancing in celebration of the longest day of the year.

The ancient stone circle at the prehistoric monument in southern England is the site of an annual night-long party — or religious ceremony, depending on perspective — marking the northern hemisphere’s summer solstice.

“There has been a great atmosphere and where else would you want to be on midsummer’s day?” said Peter Carson of English Heritage, who is in charge of the monument.

Camera flashes bounced off the stones through the night until patchy rays of sunlight peaked through the clouds at 4:58 a.m. BST (0358GMT). A weak cheer went up as dawn broke and an estimated 35,000 people, some of them wrapped in blankets, greeted the sunrise.

Police arrested about 30 people on charges including drug offenses, assault and drunk and disorderly conduct, but said the event was largely peaceful.

“They come for a complete range of reasons,” said archaeologist Dave Batchelor of English Heritage, the site’s caretaker. “Some belong to the Druidic religion and think of it as a temple, others think of it as a place of their ancestors, or for tranquility and others come to see it as a way to celebrate the changing of the seasons.”

The AP reporter goes on to discuss the mystery surrounding Stonehenge. Is it an ancient burial ground or the temple of some sun-worshipping society? And how in the world did its creators ever relocate from up to 150 miles away those several-ton stones that dwarf the stage props in “This is Spinal Tap!”

But what the reporter makes no mention of is why Druids feel a religious connection to Stonehenge. Or, for that matter, what exactly a Druid is.

All I know about Druids comes from Spaceballs, but I’m pretty sure the troubles of the Druish Princess Vespa has little to do with what went on at Stonehenge Sunday. Those neo-Druids consider themselves the ancestors descendants of a group that figures heavily in Celtic mythology. The Druids were reportedly wiped out by the Roman Empire in the first century. But their pagan legacy lives on.

Peter Berresford Ellis writes in A Brief History of the Druids:

Many will remember being taught at school that the Romans saw the Druids as bizarre, barbaric priests who indulged in the most horrendous human sacrifices, searching for auguries in the entrails of their victims. According to others, they were simply ancient patriarchal religious mystics, generally portrayed in white robes and beards, who worshipped nature, particularly trees, and who gathered in stone circles to perform religious rites at the time of the solstice. To some they were powerful magicians and soothsayers.

Well, that explains why neo-Druids would congregate at Stonehenge every year, though I’m still not sure what solstice or stones have to do with this religion. And it would have been nice if the AP could have helped the reader out a bit with this one.

Print Friendly

  • MichaelV

    The bit about it being, depending on your perspective, a “night-long party” or a “religious ceremony” made me wonder if the article was hinting at some kind of conflict between the two. I guess that would depend on what kind of religious ceremony we’re talking about – solemn, festive, or something else… but we’re mostly left in the dark about that.

  • Julia

    Those neo-Druids consider themselves the ancestors of a group that figures heavily in Celtic mythology

    You probably mean descendants.

    [My probate-days radar picked that up immediately.]

    And from History Channel programs, I learned that Stonehenge was completed and abandoned long, long before there were Druids.

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

    So one of your first posts makes a Spinal Tap AND Spaceballs reference when talking about modern Druidry? Nice. I mean, I don’t mind people having a little fun, but that’s just kinda lazy. Can we expect some Life of Brian references in your next post about Christianity?

    Also, the AP is hardly the best news service to turn to when looking for theological background. There were dozens of news articles that talked about Midsummer, Stonehenge, and modern Druids, and I think that a somewhat more thoughtful and in-depth overview of that coverage would have better served the mission of this site.

  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    Can we expect some Life of Brian references in your next post about Christianity?

    I may be wrong, but I think this has happened around here before.

    Also, the AP is hardly the best news service to turn to when looking for theological background. There were dozens of news articles that talked about Midsummer, Stonehenge, and modern Druids, and I think that a somewhat more thoughtful and in-depth overview of that coverage would have better served the mission of this site.

    By all means, give us some links.

  • Martha

    Modern Druidism, as represented by the Eisteddfod, is pretty much an invention out of whole cloth by Iolo Morganwyg in the late 18th century. Round about the same time as James MacPherson was “discovering” and “translating” the poems of Ossian (Oisín).

    Neo-Druidism, as represented by the various factions pitching up at Stonehenge, is a melange of 60s remnants with 90s rave culture.

    Sorry, Jason: we’re coming down with dolmens, holy wells, fairy forts and the likes round here, but no Druids. There isn’t a theology of Druidism that holds up as a genuine thread of inheritance from the Draoi, anymore that the Gardnerian tradition is a genuine continuation of historical Wicca. I have no objection to people calling themselves Druids, pagans or whatever they like, but I do get faintly annoyed at the Princess Sparkly Blossom element which knows even less than the folk-religion charms and cures I learned as valid traditional peasant lore from my background.

  • Dave

    Brad, an in-depth treatment of the beliefs of the Druids would represent only a fraction of the faiths and paths represented at Stonehenge at Summer Solstice. A broader treatment of the gathering would be like trying to profile, in the same manner, the attendees at an American Pagan festival like Starwood.

  • http://tmamone.blogspot.com Travis Mamone

    “And oh, how the little children danced . . .”

    Sorry, I had to do it!

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

    Martha,

    I disagree with you, obviously, but based on your history of comments about modern Pagan religions on this site I shouldn’t be surprised by your scorn. The biggest misconception is that a “genuine thread of inheritance” is needed to make modern Druidry a relevant, or valid form of religious practice. It isn’t, and your crude shorthand of modern Druids as “60s remnants” and “90s rave culture” is incomplete and ignores the very real historical link between 18th and 19th century Druid orders and the explicitly Pagan manifestations that emerged in the 60s. I suggest you check out historian Ronald Hutton’s “Druids: A History”, which explores the many different Druid orders that Britain has spawned.

    Fr Greg,

    I don’t want this comment to end up in Get Religion’s spam trap, so instead of giving you a bunch of links, I’ll simply point you to Google News. With the keywords “Druid”, “Stonhenge”, “Midsummer”, and “Solstice”, I think you’ll have no problem getting a measure of the volume of “ink” spilled on this event.

  • Ben

    Jason Pitzl-Waters writes:

    The biggest misconception is that a “genuine thread of inheritance” is needed to make modern Druidry a relevant, or valid form of religious practice.

    I am a firm believer that a religion does not need an ancient history to be relevant. However, it can be argued that modern Druids bring this upon themselves. The are, after all, calling themselves “Druids” and historically have claimed such a connection. Some still do. Clearly, such a thread was important to practitioners of the religion at some point.

    It annoys me how much the ancient Druids are misunderstood precisely because the practices of modern Druids are clouding the issue. This is what annoys me about Princess Sparkly Blossom and her ilk.

  • Pingback: The Wild Hunt » Dragging Out the Spinal Tap Joke (Again)

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    Actually, Jason, with me you usually only have to worry about 3 pop culture references: The Big Lebowski, Seinfeld and, quite frequently, South Park.

  • T Stanton

    Wow Brad – Jason just called you lazy… Welcome to GR… ;)

  • S Amis

    The stated purpose of this site is to give more in-depth, complex, and relevant coverage of religious topics than one finds in mainstream media.

    You have failed at this, quite miserably. Not only are you not living up to that standard, you’re not even living up to the low standards of the AP story you’re quoting. You managed to take a factual if not terribly informative story and clutter it up with Spaceballs and Spinal Tap.

    If you’re completely ignorant of a topic (by your own admission) and therefore CAN’T do your job, maybe you should refrain and let someone who knows something … anything … about the subject write about it. Or bother to do some research before you start typing away, either one.

  • http://www.uraniaswell.com Diotima Mantineia

    I found this site through a link from The Wild Hunt. After reading this post, I checked the “Why we are here” link and found the following:

    “There are many fine writers out there — some believe the number is rising — who are doing an amazing job of taking religion news into the mainstream pages of news, entertainment, business and even sports. We want to highlight the good as well as raise some questions about coverage that we believe has some holes in it.

    Most of all, we want to try to create a clearing house of information and opinion on this topic. This is what blogs do best.”

    I certainly would applaud anyone who is encouraging substantive, thoughtful, well-researched coverage of religion and religious news — as a Wiccan for almost a quarter of a century, I have spent years trying to plug some of the holes in the coverage of Pagan religions. Sadly, it seems that this blog will not be raising the bar on coverage of modern Paganism.

    Brad, I find myself wondering why you posted this on a blog dedicated to improving the coverage of religious news. Pointing out that the AP did a poor job of covering the Druid’s ritual at Stonehenge could have been accomplished without the flip and mocking tone and complete lack of research on the religion you were writing about. 5 minutes with Wikipedia would have answered those two questions you ask at the end of the post, and many more.

    So, this blog hopes to “create a clearing house of information and opinion”? Speaking of coverage with holes in it…

  • Dave

    Ben (#9), you’re talking about a problem Paganism in general shares with Christianity. At the beginning of the 20th Century modern Pagans thought they could trace a direct lineage to the Pagans of antiquity. As that century came to a close it was abundantly clear to all but the very insistent that that was generally untrue. Some family traditions and some isolated shamanic traditons may have that kind of lineage but the larger “denominations” are modern (ie, post-Renaissance) inventions.

    (I should say here that I am talking mostly about European descended modern Pagans. Native American and Native African traditions almost certainly do have this kind of lineage.)

    Modern Pagans who won’t give this up are precisely parallel to Christians who insist that Genesis is accurate history. Some go so far as to claim, in a legal sense, that science is a stealth religion for holding to the contrary. Princess Sparkly Blossom and her ilk are small potatoes compared to those folks.

  • Stephen A.

    Back to the story… it seems to lack any (or at least much) solemnity one would associate with a religious observance, and indeed, to an outsider or even to some pagans themselves, it might appear very much like a “be-in” from the 60s or a rave from the 90s, so the comment was certainly a valid observation.

    Perhaps if the participants treated it more like a religious gathering rather than a drunken, drug-crazed party (and obviously the vast majority didn’t treat it as such) then it would be written up as a religion story and not a mob scene and/or carnival.

    One paper noted the massive amount of trash they left behind:
    http://www.halifaxcourier.co.uk/virginia-mason/Stonehenge-litterbugs.5395088.jp

    The Daily Sun headline was “Stoned Henge” and managed to note: “Some wore traditional robes to add to the carnival atmosphere as guitar and drum music filled the air.” Hardly a “religious” observance.
    http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/view/85921/Stoned-henge/

    A penetrating media analysis of why paganism has shunned the idea of evolving into some from of Organized Religion(s) so fiercely – something that baffles me, frankly – is long overdue.

    Again, obviously, there are usually some robed neo-Druids there *attempting* some semblance of a valid religious observance. Why not report on that, too?

    And so I’m not misunderstood, I’m not anti-pagan in any way. Far from it. If the weather and my schedule had permitted it, I would have trekked to my local “henge” that morning myself to see the sights, even though it is of dubious historical provenance. – http://www.stonehengeusa.com

  • Jerry

    valid form of religious practice. It isn’t

    “Can of worms” does not begin to describe the potential uproar over what is valid religious practice and what is not. First, of course, define religion precisely after which we can consider whether or not their self-proclaimed practice is legitimate or not.

    Given the uproar about who is a Christian (or Muslim for that matter) given groups that claim they are while others say “nay”, I’ll leave the issue to those wiser than I.

  • Dave

    Stephen A, I would point out that “carnival” is at its root a religious observance, the farewell to consumption of meat before Lent (carni+vale). Just because the Abrahamic faiths have become so sweepingly Apollonian in their “‘religious’ observance” does not detract from the validity of Dionysian practices. In fact, some of the attractiveness of Paganism may be due to exactly that lack of balance.

    (Of course there are exceptions such as Sufis and Chasidism to the generalization I’m making here.)

    As to substance use, it’s an old Shamanic tradition which has been all but eliminated from the Abrahamic temple, chapel or mosque, but that doesn’t make it any less valid as a religious practice.

    Bottom line: The MSM, determinedly secular though they may be, are as deep in the trap as anyone on this board of assuming that the big-name religions around them define the nature and validity of the religious.

    As to why Paganism doesn’t evolve into organized religion, ask ten Pagans and you’ll get twelve opinions. Mine is that “organized” is the sticking point. Too many Pagans don’t want to be remotely reminded of the Sunday Schools they were forced to attend, or the churches appertaining thereunto. (Those that can tolerate it, become UUs ;-) .)

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    Bottom line: The MSM, determinedly secular though they may be, are as deep in the trap as anyone on this board of assuming that the big-name religions around them define the nature and validity of the religious.

    Dave, I couldn’t agree more.

  • Stephen A.

    Dave, the widespread belief among pagans that paganism in the ancient world was simply an excuse for revelry is a gross misreading of history. I would say 90% of Neo-Pagans view themselves as Dionysian, and necessarily that means eclectic in belief as well as devotion to general revelry. It’s no wonder why the media cannot determine whether this is a rave or a religious observance.

    To me, that seems like the pagan equivalent of “pew warming.” It’s easy, and a bit lazy, not to have respect for ritual (which I’m sure could be quite moving and beautiful) But that’s just me.

    I’m not sure to which Apollonius you’re referring, but the one from Tyana (1st Cent. CE) was a sober fellow who went around helping priests of Zeus, etc. do their rites properly, and suggesting new ones where none had existed. The mere mention of othopraxy among pagans today sends them into hysterics and perhaps to flashbacks from those Sunday School classes you mentioned. Again, it’s a mystery why.

    UUers at least hold semi-structured meetings, and indoors, which I suppose are quite the compromises for those pagans who attend them. ;-)

  • Stephen A.

    In comment 20, I meant, of course, “orthopraxy” (pertaining to the right performance of ritual.)

  • Stephen A.

    Let me agree with Dave and others here that it’s dangerous for reporters to be determining what is and is not a “valid” religion.

    Then again, where is the evidence that this was a “religious” celebration at Stonehenge at all?

    I did find a video on YouTube in which SOMEONE was able to find some actual Druids – or a reasonable facsimile thereof (I thought 20-30 of them marched in wearing robes.) It’s a rather shabby performance by 3 of them, with them shouting over an unruly, uncaring crowd:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1kihxQDTSw

    Again, I’m certain there are some “high church” pagans out there who yearn for structure and reverence in their worship of the gods. Reporters have yet to find them, I guess, even though I have myself spoken to such folk.

  • Dave

    Stephen, I suggest you make the effort to get invited to attend a Wiccan circle that admits the occasional outsider. Or find a grove of ADF (Ar nDraiocht Fein/A Druid Fellowship); they supposedly are open to drop-ins. Or read any of the books by ADF Arch-Druid Emeritus Isaac Bonewits on Pagan ritual. You’d find a deep respect for ritual in the heart of neoPaganism. You might not find their rituals worthy of respect, but the issue is whether we respect our own rituals.

    Every now and again a reporter interviews a Witch or a Druid around Samhain (Hallowe’en), or covers a blowup in a Pagan festival sponsoring organization that erupts into the public eye. I suppose in this era of newspaper retrenchment and re-invention (the Cleveland Plain Dealer is putting its section titles on the left instead of the center!) it’s too much to ask them to do any of the things I’ve suggested to you, but it would give them a lot more depth when they do cover Samhain or a witch war.

  • Stephen A.

    Dave, I deeply respect ritual, including NeoPagan ritual, which is far further than most people will say. I’ve seen a Wiccan circle cast during a local Pagan Pride Day, and have had great talks with a local Asatru practitioner and a believer from the Lithuanian Baltic tradition Romuva.

    As I noted above, though, I see very little visual or written evidence of “ritual” or religion of any sort occurring in the Stonehenge event, nor much respect for the little that occurred, so I’m not really surprised at the lack of focus on religion by reporters.

    BTW, was drumming part of ancient Druidic culture? Was freestyle dancing? Is it part of “ritual” in the modern Neo-Druid faith? Just asking.

  • http://www.aoda.org John Michael Greer

    Brad, just as a media report on a drunken Christmas office party is not exactly a good gauge of the nature and relevance of Christian spirituality, the antics of the party crowd that has taken over Stonehenge in recent years is a poor measure of the contemporary Druid movement. You’re quite right that the AP reporter might have done a better job, though I have to admit your Spinal Tap and Spaceballs references don’t exactly contribute much either.

    A few basics might be useful. The modern Druid movement emerged in the 18th century; it came into being in Great Britain out of a blending of Latitudinarian Anglicanism, Deist and pantheist philosophies, and surviving scraps of Celtic tradition, strongly shaped by the desire of many thoughtful people of that time for a meaningful spirituality of nature to counter the ideologies of the Industrial Revolution. You’ll have a hard time finding anyone who claims any sort of direct connection to the ancient Druids, who is taken seriously by other Druids. Rather, the founders of the Druid Revival drew a significant part of their inspiration from what little information survived about the ancient Druids, and took the name of Druids in much the same spirit that the Freemasons identified themselves symbolically with the builders of Solomon’s Temple.

    Stonehenge and other megalithic sites became a focus of modern Druid ritual from the 18th to the early 20th centuries — at times when most authorities believed that these sites had in fact been built by the ancient Celts — and many contemporary Druids still worship at the old sites out of a respect for our traditions and a sense of reverence for the beauty of these ancient places. Whether or not the ancient Druids built them is hardly relevant to their present place as centers of Druid reverence, any more than the Pagan origins of many Christian sites and customs make those less relevant to the Christian faith.

    If you’re interested in learning more about the modern Druid tradition, there are plenty of sources that will provide you with better guidance than a puff piece from AP. For that matter, you might consider asking some Druids — there are a fair number of us around these days, you know, and most of us are delighted to talk about our faith.

  • Dave

    BTW, was drumming part of ancient Druidic culture? Was freestyle dancing? Is it part of “ritual” in the modern Neo-Druid faith?

    Stephen, one of the touchstones of my Paganism is “Don’t teach what you don’t know.” I’m not a Druid; others on this board evidently are, and can answer your questions better than I.

  • Julia

    The modern Druid movement emerged in the 18th century; it came into being in Great Britain out of a blending of Latitudinarian Anglicanism, Deist and pantheist philosophies, and surviving scraps of Celtic tradition, strongly shaped by the desire of many thoughtful people of that time for a meaningful spirituality of nature to counter the ideologies of the Industrial Revolution.

    Didn’t you mean the 1800s? I don’t believe the Industrial Revolution was around yet in the 18th century.

    I’m just finishing a delightful book on Julian the Apostate which says that he failed in reviving paganism, largely because his world-view had been “polluted” by a Christian upbringing – so he was trying to set up a pagan religious system to counter-act Christianity. The author notes that there were just too many local gods and types and varieties of practice to have an organized “church” of paganism.

    So – it seems if Julian hadn’t tried to herd cats he might have been successful in encouraging the re-emergence of paganism. Emperor Julian should have checked out this blog for advice.

  • http://thegodsarestillhere.blogspot.com/ Geoffrey

    Ye gods. Spaceballs? Spinal tap?

    Seriously?

    Julia: I’m just finishing a delightful book on Julian the Apostate which says that he failed in reviving paganism, largely because his world-view had been “polluted” by a Christian upbringing – so he was trying to set up a pagan religious system to counter-act Christianity. The author notes that there were just too many local gods and types and varieties of practice to have an organized “church” of paganism.

    I would think his failure ought to be attributed to his dying hardly three years into his reign as Augustus. Though organizing paganism was a monstrously huge job, he only had to be partially successful–and ensure that his immediate successors to the throne at least tolerated paganism.

  • dalea

    Since I have been following GR, a few months at least, this is the second newstory on a Western NonAbrahamic religion. Both the coverage and the commentary here are sadly lacking in respect and intelligience. The press here is allowed to do its usual linking of NeoPaganism and The New Age. And to settle on the Druids as the representative religious group.

    All this shows the general sloth and laziness of the MSM. And particularly those on the religion beat. They are not religious reporters; they are usually Christianity reporters.

    Many of the comments here are really disrespectful.

  • dalea

    Julia,

    when I studied Economic History, many years ago admittedly, we traced the genesis of the Industrial Revolution to the 13th century when large scale wool production and processing began. The growth of industry was a slow steady process until the 18th century, when the factory system emerged. Wedgwood’s Eturia factory is the prototype for the modern factory system.

  • http://www.aoda.org John Michael Greer

    Julia, the industrial revolution was a going concern in the 18th century; Thomas Savery’s original steam engine became an economic force in mining within a decade of its invention in 1698, and James Watt made the steam engine a prime mover throughout the economy in the 1760s. As for the Druids, the oldest well documented Druid group was the circle around William Stukeley in the 1740s, and there’s some reason to think there were people calling themselves Druids and practicing some form of nature spirituality for a couple of decades before that. By the 1790s, Druid groups were solidly enough established that one could get away with public ceremonies on Primrose Hill in London. Certainly Druidry came of age in the 19th century, but the roots of the Druid Revival were in the 18th.

  • http://www.kingshart.co.uk colin shearing

    I have atended this summer solstice event at stonehenge since 1975 when it was a hippy free festival.At that time the Council of British Druids held an all night vigil and the hippies invaded the circle the next day.Naturally some of these hippies fuelled with LSD and magic mushrooms had a religious experience and decided to invent their own druid orders. after “the Battle of the bean field”, (google it) Stonehenge was closed on the Summer solstice and most hippies went to Glastonbury festival. eventually English Heritage decided to allow a small number of these Neo-Druids, Arthur Pendragon and his ilk ( who are even sillier than princess sparkly blossom) took over the “rituals”. the only druidic thing about this unwashed gang of pranksters is their costumes. Druidism is a cultural event in Wales ( The National Eistedfodd )(google it)not a religious one. There is absolutly no evidence that Stonehenge was a temple to anything. these neo druids simply use it for a party which costs the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds, anyone can get a quasi religious experience by getting very stoned.
    However on a brighter note, to go into the centre of Stonehenge ( booked in advance through English Heritage) when all is quiet is just awesome, but keep away on june 21st it is just dreadful, and like all modern religions they make it up as they go along.

  • William Harrington

    S. Amis. Where do you see giving more in depth coverage of religious news as the stated purpose of this blog? The stated purpose is to cover the stories about the stories, not the stories themselves. The point here wasn’t that there was a gathering at Stonehenge, but that we didn’t learn a heck of a lot from the story that purported to cover it. The post is dead on to the purpose of the blog but you were looking for something else and wanted this blog to be something else. This blog is not about religion, its about media coverage of religion.

  • Franklin Jennings

    I agree with Dalea that all this hysterical shrieking about pop culture references does no good. Makes pagans look like my maiden aunt, Mathilda. Its as if, even with spells, you can’t grow a pair between the lot of ya.

  • Julia

    I mis-remembered the start of the Industrial Revolution as being the 1800s. That’s when I erroneously thought the steam engine first appeared. Probably influenced by Dickens’ writing about the evil side effects of child labor and unhealthy factories and dirty air in the 1800s.

  • http://godsrbored.blogspot.com Anne Johnson

    Stonehenge serves as a symbol of pre-Christian worship on the British Isles. It was not built by Druids, nor is there archeological evidence that Celts worshiped there. Does that matter in modern times? Not a bit. Anyone who perceives Stonehenge as part of a personal religious path should be able to engage in worship there of any sort, provided that this worship remains sensitive to the age and physical vulnerability of the site.

    We have several holy days that stem directly from Celtic worship, most notably Halloween. Solstice is a late addition to Druidic ritual. Again, does that matter? Religions that become mired in dogma don’t appeal to everyone.

    For a thorough and constantly interesting site on treatments of Paganism in the news, one cannot improve on the work of Jason Pitzl-Waters, one of the contributors to this thread. His blog is “The Wild Hunt.”

  • Dave

    This blog is not about religion

    Except when it is. When the subject is abortion/stem cells or gay marriage, the GetReligionistas explicitly reserve the right to post when there is not question of whether the press gets religion, but only of whether it treats the subject in a “biased” fashion.

  • http://www.nhreligion.com Stephen A.

    Colin’s first-hand comments about the Stonehenge solstice event confirmed my fears about what this event was all about.

    The problem I would have as a religion reporter covering this myself would be to FIND the “religion” here.

    While it’s certainly true that everyone has their own conception of religion, and it may or may not include corporate rituals or even participation with others at all, that’s not an “event” that is to be covered.

    (A reporter or blogger, if I was just to accept ALL things were “religious” if someone framed it that way, I’d simply be able to interview every one of my readers about their feelings about religion and assume I’d done my job. But that wouldn’t be religion reporting, it would be taking a religious census. Words have meaning, including the word “religion.”)

    In the case of the Solstice celebration at Stonehenge, there was no public ritual to cover. While many there were having an “experience” of some kind, I would bet it wasn’t what normally constitutes “religion” – although the vague term “spirituality” may fit, but just barely.

    That’s no indictment of those who are spiritual but not religious. It’s just that from the RELIGION REPORTER’S point of view (and that’s what we MUST focus on here) they would be left with very little to report, other than a mass party that USED to (as Colin noted) include a rather solemn procession of Neo-Druids who saw this as a cultural and religious event. A “happening” in the 60s sense of the word, is not a religious event. I’m sorry if that’s disrespectful, but one has to report facts on the ground, not wishful thinking.

    On a personal note, as I said before, I really DO wish there had been a real Neo-Druid ceremony there. If so, I would eagerly swim the pond every year to witness it and honor their faith. What happens there now surely doesn’t honor anyone’s ancestors or faith. What a shame.

    Also,

    …provided that this worship remains sensitive to the age and physical vulnerability of the site.

    I saw a video on YouTube of a person climbing a stone and diving off of it into a crowd, concert style. That’s not respect. I discern very little respect, reverence or even loosely defined religion happening here. The three poor Druids (if they were such) in that video I posted could not be heard over the shouting and chaos.

  • http://www.nhreligion.com Stephen A.

    Dave, the exposure of blatant bias in religion reporting is one of the great things about this blog (another is the “ghosts” that exist when religion is ignored for whatever motive reporters or editors may have for ignoring it.)

    I want to see bias of ALL kinds exposed, and I’m sure if you have evidence to present they would appreciate you tipping them off about it and we all would enjoy reading the post and your response to it.

  • Dave

    Gimme a break, I’m typing as fast as I can. ;-)

  • http://www.aoda.org John Michael Greer

    Stephen, if you want to attend a Druid solstice ceremony in an ancient stone circle, go to Avebury instead — it’s a modest drive north of Stonehenge. Unless things have changed, there’s a Druid ceremony there on each of the eight festivals of the modern Pagan calendar, sans stoned hippies.

  • dalea

    One problem with the story is that while the Druids are the featured players, the majority of NeoPagans are Wiccans. That being said, Druidry does not have a very organized 30 second presentation. Wiccans do and have had more experience giving it to the press. It would run along the lines of: today is the longest day of the year, the Sun rises at its northern most point. We join in observing the risen Sun just as we join in observing the Winter Solstice. These two events mark the birth and death of the Sun. We stand vigil, feasting and contemplating, awaiting the Rise.

  • http://www.nhreligion.com Stephen A.

    John Michael Greer: Thanks so much for the tip!

  • http://www.nhreligion.com Stephen A.

    And dalea, thanks for sharing this. I have no doubt that the ceremony is quite thoughtful and moving. I do wish that sort of observance would get more press. Or at least *some* press.

  • dalea

    Found a site that shows Solstice ceremonies from all over the world:

    http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/photos/2009/06/summer-solstice.html

    Rituals in Russia, Stonehenge, Latvia, Bolivia, Slovenia at another ancient stone circle and Columbia.

    Another Pagan Blog on the subject:

    http://2witches.com/blog/wicca-paganism/summer-solstice-%E2%80%93-litha-%E2%80%93-midsummer-%E2%80%93-info-images/

    Watch the video. This comment by a reader captures some of the meaning of the holiday:

    I love this time of year! We always spend the Solstice picking and preserving strawberries – kind of our feeble attempt to capture the essence of what we’ve come to associate with this season and carry the “light” into the darkness of winter ;).

    The MSM is getting overrun by the NewMedia on this.

  • http://www.nhreligion.com Stephen A.

    The MSM is getting overrun by the NewMedia on this.

    That is happening a LOT lately.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    “Or find a grove of ADF (Ar nDraiocht Fein/A Druid Fellowship); they supposedly are open to drop-ins. Or read any of the books by ADF Arch-Druid Emeritus Isaac Bonewits on Pagan ritual.”

    I can assure that while Isaac was setting himself up as an “authority” on “druidism”, any real Irish-speakers within range were laughing up their collective sleeve at him.

    I would suggest “The Apple Branch” by Alexei Kondratiev, who knows all there is to know about Celtic culture (and probably most other things.) Or the works of the aforementioned Hutton, mostly devoted to elucidating the cavernous gap between what Everyone Knows and what we really know.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X