STONEHENGE, England (AP) — All hail the rising sun.
Around 8,000 devotees gather around a prehistoric stone circle on a plain in southern England to express their devotion to the sun or for some communal fun.
Druids, pagans, hippies, locals and tourists, many dressed in colorful costumes and antlers, stayed at Stonehenge to celebrate. night and greeted sunrise on Wednesday, the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere.
At dawn, the sun rose behind the so-called Heel Stone on the northeast horizon and the first rays shone into the heart of Stonehenge, one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments and a World Heritage Site.
A sun-filled dawn followed by a slightly misty sunrise was greeted with drumming, chanting and cheering.
“Stonehenge has continued to attract people to celebrate the seasons for thousands of years,” said Nicola Tasker, director of Stonehenge at English Heritage, the charity that manages hundreds of historic sites.
“There was a wonderful atmosphere from sunset to sunrise and everyone enjoyed a very atmospheric morning,” he added.
Local police said two people were arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct after refusing entry while intoxicated.
“Everyone had a great time, enjoying the event and it was peaceful and safe,” said Chief Constable Catherine Roper of Wiltshire Police.
In addition to the 8,000 attendees, English Heritage reported that around 154,000 people from around the world came to watch the sunset and sunrise live streamed by the trust.
As summer officially begins, across England, optimism is at its peak. The nearby Glastonbury festival is no coincidence, one of the biggest music events in the world, also opens its doors on Wednesday. Both Stonehenge and Glastonbury are said to have ley lines – mystical energy links across the UK.
For the thousands who make the pilgrimage to Stonehenge, about 80 miles (128 kilometers) southwest of London, Elton John is more than expected. Some ciders at Glastonbury or in the Sun. Many of those at Stonehenge will make the short 50-mile (80-kilometre) journey west to Glastonbury in the coming days.
For the Druids, modern-day mystics linked to the ancient Celtic religious order, Stonehenge has held significance for centuries, and they perform their rituals around the solstice in their traditional white robes. It is effectively about the cycle of life, death and rebirth.
This year, it’s the summer solstice at Stonehenge It started at 7pm on Tuesday and ran until 8am on Wednesday. For this one night, worshipers are allowed to spend time inside the stone circle. Some chanted or played their acoustic guitars or beat drums. Alcohol was banned, as were sound systems. Blankets are allowed, but no sleeping bags, please. And of course, no climbing on rocks.
Rules have been tightened for decades, certainly during the coronavirus pandemic. In the unregulated past, tens of thousands would travel by foot, car, bus or motorbike to worship the Sun Temple or just for a bit of fun.
Stonehenge is an icon of British culture and history and remains the country’s biggest tourist attraction, despite permanent traffic jams on the nearby A303 motorway.A popular route for motorists traveling to the South West of England.
Stonehenge was built on the flat lands of the Salisbury Plain beginning 5,000 years ago, in the late Neolithic period with a distinctive stone circle erected around 2,500 BC, with some stones, called bluestones, known to have come from Presley. The mountains, in south-west Wales, are nearly 150 miles (240 kilometres) apart, but the origin of the others remains a mystery.
The site’s meaning is the subject of intense debate, with some theories seemingly more if not stranger than others.
English tradition suggests many interpretations – Stonehenge was a coronation site for Danish kings, a troop temple, a cult center for healing, or an astronomical computer that predicted eclipses and solar events.
The charity said the generally accepted explanation was “a prehistoric temple attuned to the movements of the sun”.
After all, the stones align perfectly with the sun at the summer and winter solstices.
Bylas reported from London.