June 21, 2009 - This year Summer Solstice brought together more than 35,000 Pagans, partiers, tourists and curious event goers to one of Earth's most prehistoric monuments for the annual Summer Solstice; a mid point of summer and the longest day of the year. The crowd of people were met by the Sun's rays at approximately 4:58 a.m. BST. Crowds of people gathered together the previous afternoon for dance, music, alcohol and celebration. For many, the Solstice provides an opportunity to dress in traditional Druid garments and to network with like-minded history buffs and authorities of faith.
Stonehenge, which remains a mystery to many scholars who ponder its history and purpose, is located 80 miles south of the city of London. Many believe Stonehenge to be a part of an ancient astronomical calendar, while others have introduced evidence that the pilgrims believed it to have healing powers. Regardless of its purpose then, Stonehenge remains one of the most visited prehistoric monuments in the world with an average of 750,000 visitors to Salisbury, England each year to revel in its magnificence. One visitor remarked,
"This place actually gives people so much energy and thoughts, things that we kind of neglect in the daily lives and wish for, we can come here and make them come true."
The annual celebration has only been open to the public since 2000. English Heritage, the body in charge of the ancient site, had closed the grounds in 1985 due to clashes and violence between celebrants and local police. The grounds were re-opened to the public for Solstice Celebration in 2000. Although this past celebration had about 30 arrests, related to alcohol, drug and public-order offenses; the overall mood was very peaceful and calm. Many celebrants staying up all night with bonfires and hula-hoops to keep them awake for the Solstice sunrise. Peter Carson of English Heritage reflected,
"There has been a great atmosphere and where else would you want to be on midsummer's day?"