My time at Stonehenge: that's how I lived the (surreal) summer solstice night


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"We celebrate the union between the Earth and the Sun, we celebrate the union between the Earth and the Sun." This phrase and others calling for peace or evoking the ancestors are repeated again and again, in chorus, among the crowded crowd. It is the afternoon of June 20, the longest day of the year, and thousands of people have traveled to Stonehenge (Wiltshire, England) from different countries to say goodbye to spring and welcome summer celebrating the solstice.

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The rarest summer rituals: this is how Saint John is celebrated in the world

Tradition rules . Although it is unknown who put the stones there forming concentric circles and with what intention, that their origin dates back to the Neolithic and their relationship with the astronomical are evident. Both in the winter solstice and in the summer solstice, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, it precisely crosses the axis of the construction, slipping between its stones. And that is the scene that thousands of people have come to witness one more year. Or does it openly acknowledge that most are here to capture it with the mobile?

Los fans de Stonehenge

Stonehenge fans © María L. Villodres

A temple to the Sun built by the Druids is the version about its history that gains more followers. Therefore, when I finally cross the entrance to the monument after almost three hours of travel - I come from Bristol and to get there I have taken a train, shared a taxi with five people and walked almost half an hour offroad - I am looking forward to bumping into some of those who frequent the celebration every year. It happens.

I see a druid with a red cape and a basket of flowers getting off a bus that they have put exclusively for people with reduced mobility. Together with the group of friends I've made at the station, I follow him until he can see the stones.

It is the only day of the year they can be played. Those who have come to visit it say that on the usual tour you hardly see them up close. People who embrace them, who sit to meditate on them or who touch them trying to decipher them and get energy are a scene that will be repeated continuously from seven in the afternoon, at which time they have opened the monument, until the afternoon of the day next, when it closes to return to normal.

El chamán de Stonehenge

The Stonehenge Shaman © María L. Villodres

The rituals begin . Women who have assembled an altar with natural elements and plastic candles (due to space safety restrictions). Different groups of druids that gain ground among the stones or families and groups of friends who take out instruments and food. Suddenly, I fuss . Within the circle and next to the altar stone, the Druids have begun to sing. In family or in groups, with layers, branches and flowers on the head and without releasing their wooden sticks, they make their pagan ceremony. Everyone is invited to repeat their songs and follow their drums.

When the priest who is in charge of the rite (the same that we continue to arrive) is about to "close his circle of peace", an interruption. A woman dressed in red, who leads a group of women dressed in this color, wants to say something: “The ancestors, we are going to sing a song to the ancestors. It is important that they are present .

Druids look at each other and the feeling is clear: the idea is not welcome. But the women in red keep going, the Druid master is in the middle, and we who have witnessed the scene give little credit. All with the exception of the couple who has been with me all this time making a live Facebook and saying hello to their friends, who have been trapped in the reality of their screens.

Las mujeres de rojo durante el solsticio

Women in red during the solstice © María L. Villodres

The sunset comes with the drums and since then they will not stop sounding, they are everywhere. Among the noisiest, those of a band of almost ten men looking like Vikings. The thing starts to divide . On the one hand, those who will remain inside the circle dancing until one thousand, on the other those who choose to throw ourselves in the blankets. People smoking, chatting, playing or sleeping wrapped in warm clothes because the temperature has dropped ten degrees. Almost everyone has just met and the company is welcome. Tetris and teaspoons among strangers to get warm and a couple of hours of sleep badly missed to wait for the solstice, which will arrive at dawn.

It's a little after three when the noise of dishes and some songs wake me up. Me and many others. They are the Hare Krishna touring the entire area to warn that it is already beginning. Little by little, we are all looking for a location to see it well. Now it is the outer part of the circle where more people congregate, to see well how sunlight enters between the stones it is better to take a little distance. "My phone says it gets up at 4.51 hours, " I hear around. I know because I have also looked at it. Nothing of complex mathematical calculations as before, the pilgrims of 2018 do not have so much merit.

El sol cae… y empiezan los clics

The sun goes down … and clicks begin © María L. Villodres

"There are seven minutes left, three, one!" Is heard. It is not up to eat the grapes, although it seems. He has to shoot to get the best photo, the one that manages to prevent the burning screens of others from sneaking inside and capturing the flash of the Sun rising between the stones. But the sunrise is not instantaneous, it takes time to arrive and the time frame for the shot is about five minutes . There are many 'clicks' and, suddenly, the thing has dissipated a lot. - Where have people gone? -.

The first return buses have already left but in the circle there are still several scenes to greet Helio. People together in concentric circles that hold hands with their ears covered by helmets, women climbed on the stones to dance with perspective, more drums (because no, they have never stopped ringing).

An unstoppable man dressed in sequins shakes the glitter of his face, young men with jaws dislodged walk around howling, the most mystics have started to meditate or practice yoga in the middle of the revelry and there are mothers who breastfeed. The magic of Stonehenge is that, among its scarce 30 meters in diameter, there is room for everything.

Bienvenido, Helio

Welcome, Helio © María L. Villodres

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The rarest summer rituals: this is how Saint John is celebrated in the world