Stonehenge – Saturday 15th December
It’s most definitely solstice season. On the byway next to the Stonehenge monument field, trucks are gathering, already parked up for the winter solstice celebrations, ceremonies, end of the world parties, or whatever.
In the car park people are getting into robes and cloaks, dressing themselves for an early ceremony up at the stones.
The farmer drives his Landrover across the field to the sheep while one of his dogs rounds them up ready for inspection.
Mark is back onto his silverpoint study today. He says he’s getting a strange sensation drawing this trilithon now. He’s so concentrated on it and all its minute details, he feels sometimes as though he’s become miniaturized and is traveling the surface of the mighty stones. Who needs drugs? Mark Anstee has art.
A procession of Druids travels up the tarmac path, onto the forbidden grassy zone and into the centre of the Stonehenge circle. They are led by a man dressed in a long black cloak covered in greenery, a type of foliage shawl and a brimmed hat embellished with gold tinsel. I think this is a nice festive touch but actually, the group looks quite serious.
They have some fabulous staffs with them, the old craft of woodcarving seems to be alive and well in this part of the world. One outfit I particularly like involves a green and brown tattered jacket and fur headdress complete with slender antlers.
A young man steps over the guide rope near to Mark, but the EH staff are quickly onto him to explain it isn’t open to anyone to go into the circle. It’s difficult. This group of friends are American and they wanted to get a photo ‘planking’. I ask what they mean and they explain that there’s a thing out there where people go to special sites of historical interest and lay flat and stiff like a plank on their bellies and have their photo taken. This one’s new to me. I’m very familiar with the jumping shot, but ‘planking’? No. Not caught onto that. Anyhow, denied the shot they actually want, they just stand and smile for each other, with Neolithic stones and druids in the background, and take photos on their cell phones.
Visitors are intrigued by the goings on in the circle, but it isn’t a display for the outside crowd, it’s strictly invite only. It’s like the VIP lounge in a club. People are separated from you and although they look like they might be famous or important, you don’t actually recognise anyone.
A small group from the gathering walks around the outside of the stones – at last a photo opportunity for everyone.
The sun is bright but it starts to spit. For a brief few moments a rainbow appears in the sky above Stonehenge.
In the stone circle, food is being passed around person to person, and there’s a huge blue goblet from which people are taking a swig before passing that on. It all looks very rooted in Christian ceremony, but with a bit more to eat. Or is the Christian ceremony rooted in this?
The sky grows slate grey and it’s obvious the heavens are about to unleash. Mark and I head for our truck and it pelts down. Sheltering from the rain, we watch a procession of slightly bedraggled druids hurrying to their vehicles in the car park, and as they do, hailstones bounce vigorously off our roof.
I do hope they managed to complete their ceremony. It’s a long twelve months before the next winter solstice.