All hail the sunshine! Stonehenge welcomes 8,000 visitors for the summer solstice

STONEHENGE, England (AP) — They all salute the sunrise.

About 8,000 revelers gathered around a prehistoric stone circle on a plain in southern England to pay their devotion to the sun or enjoy some group fun.

Druids, pagans, hippies, locals and tourists, many dressed in an array of colorful costumes and even centuries old, have resided and celebrated at Stonehenge. at night and received sunrise on Wednesday, which is the longest day in the northern hemisphere.

At dawn, the sun rose behind what is known as the Heel Stone in the northeastern part of the horizon, and its first rays climbed into the heart of Stonehenge, one of the world’s most famous monuments and a World Heritage Site.

A sun-soaked dawn was followed by a slightly misty sunrise, greeted with drumming and cheering.

“Stonehenge continues to attract people and bring them together to celebrate the seasons, just as it has for thousands of years,” said Nicola Tasker, director of Stonehenge at English Heritage, a charity that manages hundreds of historic sites.

“It was amazing from sunset to sunrise, and everyone had a great atmosphere in the morning,” she added.

Local police said two people were arrested on suspicion of public order offenses after they were denied entry for being drunk.

“Everyone was delighted, enjoying the event and having a great time, it was peaceful and safe,” said Katherine Roper, Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police, who first attended the solstice.

In addition to the 8,000 people in attendance, English Heritage said nearly 154,000 people tuned in from around the world to watch the sunset and sunrise on the charity’s live broadcast.

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Across the UK, optimism will prevail as summer officially begins. It is no coincidence that the nearby Glastonbury Festival, one of the biggest music events in the world, opens its doors on Wednesdays as well. Both Stonehenge and Glastonbury are supposedly located on ley lines – mysterious energy connections throughout the UK

For the thousands making pilgrimages to Stonehenge, about 80 miles (128 kilometers) southwest of London, it’s more than just looking forward to Elton John. At Glastonbury or a few cider in the sun. Many Stonehenge attendees will make the short 50-mile (80-kilometer) trek west to Glastonbury over the coming days.

For druids, modern spiritualists associated with the ancient Celtic religious system, Stonehenge has had significance for centuries, and they performed their solstice rites in their traditional white robes. It is effectively about the cycle of life, death and rebirth.

This year, the summer solstice is at Stonehenge It started at 7 p.m. Tuesday and ran until 8 a.m. Wednesday. On this night, devotees are allowed to spend some time inside the stone circle. Some chanted, played acoustic guitars, or beat their drums. Alcohol is prohibited as are sound systems. Blankets are allowed, but no sleeping bags please. And certainly do not climb on the stones.

The rules have been tightened over the decades, most certainly during the coronavirus pandemic. Back in the less conservative past, tens of thousands would travel by foot, car, bus, or motorbike to worship at the solar temple, or have a little fun.

Stonehenge is a symbol of British culture and history and remains one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions, despite the seemingly permanent traffic jams on the nearby A303 motorway.a popular route for motorists traveling to and from the South West of England.

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Stonehenge was built on the flats of Salisbury Plain in stages beginning 5,000 years ago, with the creation of a unique stone circle in the late Neolithic period around 2500 BC. Some of the stones, called bluestones, are known to have come from the Preseley hills in southwest Wales. , about 150 miles (240 kilometers) away, but the origins of the others remain a mystery.

The meaning of the site has been the subject of intense debate, with some theories sounding more exotic, if not bizarre, than others.

English Heritage points to several explanations – from Stonehenge being a coronation place for Danish kings, a druid temple, a cult center for healing, or an astronomical computer for predicting eclipses and solar events.

The most generally accepted explanation, the charity said, is “a prehistoric temple consistent with the movements of the sun”.

After all, the stones are exactly in line with the Sun on both the summer and winter solstices.

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Bellas reported from London.

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