June 23th to June 30th 2003
This time, I left the kids at home. In a rare moment of family unity, the younger ones all agreed. “A once-in-a-lifetime eclipse is fair enough, Dad... but this is just the solstice dawn. It happens every year. And the Sun comes up every single morning. Why have we got to go all the way to Wiltshire, just to watch it?” So I got them a babysitter and found, instead, some adult travelling companions who were not quite so serious and sensible. On the long drive down from North Yorkshire though, I considered what my children had said. A little too late, I came up with the perfect reply. “Of course it happens every day. That’s the point. If we want to really enjoy our lives to the full, we only ever have two options. We can keep seeking out new experiences... or we can learn to find deeper magic within the ones we usually take for granted.” On balance, I decided against ringing up at 2am from Watford Gap services, just to share this little insight with my sleeping smart alecs. But it set me thinking.
By the time I was standing beneath those majestic monuments, watching a glorious sky turn slowly blue with streaks of electric pink, I was starting to understand something else. The ancients may have been a whole lot wiser than we realise. Today’s experts all take much the same rather patronising view.
“Primitive people built Stonehenge,” they explain in smug, superior voices, “as a temple to the sky. They lived in fear that somehow, if all the proper rituals were not performed on the appropriate day, the sun god would frown on them. He might decide not to rise up any more. The crops would fail. The land would freeze. All would die in the darkness.”
Of course, they don’t actually KNOW any of this, nor do they have the first clue about how Stonehenge was actually constructed. But hey, it’s obvious isn’t it? We are sophisticated and civilised. All those poor pre-Christian pagans were just dumb and deluded. Nobody can prove anything, because it all happened so long ago. But if stones DO hold memories and if those memories can be released at special times by sensitive people, they may well have been trying to get a message across on Saturday morning.
Thirty thousand people turned up from all over the land, not to stand around in some awe-struck silent reverie... but to dance and drum and sing and dance away the night before greeting the Sunrise with a spontaneous outburst of stamping, shouting, whistling, chanting, cheering... plus wild, rapturous applause.
Didn’t we all know full well that the Sun was going to rise anyway, regardless of whether or not we made such a gesture? Well, of course. But for a moment, we were willing to suspend our disbelief, to enter into a spirit of child-like innocence and to show some appreciation for the miracle of nature that brings us all a wonderful new sunrise every morning.
Maybe that’s all the ancients were ever trying to do, too!
Maureen, who lives near this ancient sacred site, points out that Avebury is “1,500 years older than Stonehenge and 14 times larger. Silbury Hill is one mile away and was built at the time of the Great Pyramid.” Please visit, she adds.
And a reader called Steve says: “Did you know that the dew, on midsummer’s morn, is supposed to have special healing powers? Traditionally, women skip naked through it, to make themselves more fertile.”
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