Pagan Pilgrimage: Stonehenge

Pagan Pilgrimage: Stonehenge November 9, 2014

15247596807_9dfc7ab528_zI’m fascinated with history and sacred spots. I was lucky enough to recently visit the United Kingdom and wanted to share some of my experiences there on Raise the Horns. Instead of a boring travelogue I thought I’d provide a little context on the places I was able to visit and perhaps offer some tips to the next Pagan traveller. Previous entries in this series include trips to Rosslyn Chapel and Glastonbury.

Our Trip: I’ve been interested in Stonehenge since elementary school. Unlike the other sites written about in this series (Glastonbury and Rosslyn Chapel) I’ve known about Stonehenge nearly my entire life. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit, and going into our recent UK trip it was the stop we were probably most excited about. We were going to go inside Stonehenge! It was a truly once in a lifetime sort of experience.

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Our visit to Stonehenge started at about 3:45 am, at least that’s when the alarm clock went off. After shaking off the Sandman and getting cleaned up my wife and I walked a mile and a half through early morning London to catch our tour bus at 5:00 am. After a few stops we arrived at Stonehenge a little after 7:00 am. We assumed we’d be getting into the stones shortly after arriving but there was a Druid wedding going on that morning so we were forced to wait a bit. (A Druid wedding at Stonehenge! How cool is that!?!)

1926846_10152693259853232_6391476319504371533_nAfter our little wait we got into a shuttle that dropped us down near the stones. Our morning at Stonehenge was spent in a pretty heavy English fog, which we thought was absolutely perfect! Our tour guide kept apologizing for the weather, but it was exactly what we were hoping for. Riding in the shuttle and then seeing the monument draw ever nearer was breathtaking.

We spent a little less than an hour inside Stonehenge walking between and around the stones. I think the stones look bigger on TV than they do in person, but they are still damned impressive. There wasn’t a moment inside Stonehenge that I won’t treasure forever. Even looking at the graffiti on the stones was fascinating. Our visit was worth the lack of sleep.

Why visit Stonehenge?: No one can say with absolute certainty exactly what happened at Stonehenge 4500 years ago. As a Pagan I assume pagan gods were once worshipped and/or honored there but we have no idea if that’s true. I’m certain ancient pagans were doing something spiritual there, but was any of it close to what we do today?

15430969811_e7bacf3703_mBefore our trip I would daydream about what our visit to Stonehenge might be like. I visualized the mist and the stones of course, but I also tried to imagine what Stonehenge might feel like. Would I be able to feel an echo of the pagan past among the stones? As a child I was interested in the mystery that is Stonehenge, as a Pagan adult I’m drawn to Stonehenge because of the ghosts that dwell there.

I’m certain that the ancients who lived and died near Stonehenge worshipped differently than I do, but I can’t also help but feel close to those people. That something from the oh so distant pagan past survives today and continues to intrigue people around the world brings me a joy that I can’t put into words. Pagans then and now have always done great things, big things, and it makes me proud of the path I walk.

15247353799_ffa320be74_z (1)How does one get inside Stonehenge?: Most visitors to Stonehenge view it from a distance, but it is possible to get inside the stones (away from the Summer Solstice). Private tour companies offer access, and it can also be obtained by contacting English Heritage. Visits inside the stones are limited to early morning and late evening and no more than 25 people are allowed inside the stones at any one time. We purchased a tour package that got us inside Stonehenge. It wasn’t cheap, but it was certainly money well spent.

Inside access does come with certain rules. Time is limited, no more than an hour, and touching of the stones is not permitted. I’ll admit to that last rule being hard to observe. During my trip I wanted nothing more than to embrace the stones and give them a big hug. One of my fingers accidently traced over a sarsen stone, but other than that I was able to behave myself.

15434131255_34b3ee6cec_zDid you feel anything while walking around the stones?: I’m not especially sensitive to energy or anything but I definitely felt echoes of something while walking around Stonehenge. I specifically remember squeezing between two sarsen stones and feeling a wave of energy wash over me. It was slight, but it was most certainly there. On a related note my wife does not do well when traveling by bus and felt quite nauseous when we arrived at Stonehenge. After a few minutes of walking around the monument she felt much better, and that might be related to the stones.

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Stonehenge consists of two different types of stones. The most famous ones are the large sarsen stones that ring the monument. Inside the sarsens are the blue stones, which are all much smaller. It’s been theorized that the blue stones were used for healing when Stonehenge was first built because they radiate an indescribable warmth. (Blue stones are literally warmer to the touch than the sarsen stones.) Perhaps my wife was healed by those stones. (They have a sarsen and a blue stone you can touch outside the visitor’s center.)

10351143_10152795712778232_4175649456397628158_nGetting to Stonehenge: Stonehenge is about ninety minutes from London and is right off the highway. In fact it’s so close to the highway that one can see it from their car. We visited Glastonbury the day after our Stonehenge trip and snapped some pictures of it while driving by.

Admission Fees, Gift Shop and Amenities: The regular admission fee into Stonehenge runs around fifteen pounds. We paid considerably more for our tour, which obviously included transportation, but also a visit to Bath. It ran us near 200 pounds each, certainly not cheap.

15247506967_136d7d8b66_zThe visitor experience at Stonehenge has changed a great deal in the last few years. The visitor center is new, as is the parking lot. There are also some exhibits outside of the gift shop worth seeing. I’ve already mentioned the “touchable” sarsen and blue stones, but there’s also insight into how the people who built Stonehenge actually lived. Great stuff.

I assumed we’d go crazy in the gift shop, but we didn’t buy anything. I just don’t need a shirt with Stonehenge on it, and I don’t like to buy things I’m not going to use/wear etc. A Spinal Tap-sized Stonehenge replica might be cool to have but I don’t see any use for one. On the plus side I was surprised by the large amount of Modern Pagan books available for purcahse. There were contemporary (Llewellyn) accounts of Wicca and Druidry and Ronald Hutton’s Pagan Britain was featured prominently in a gift shop window.

Final Thoughts: In every sense of the word I loved Stonehenge. It wasn’t quite the overwhelming spiritual experience that Bath and Glastonbury’s White Spring were, but it was still amazing. Being able to walk backwards in time and share the tiniest bit of experience with my ancient pagan brothers and sisters is something I’ll never forget and will always cherish.

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