Yesterday, thousands of people gathered at Stonehenge in Wiltshire to watch the sun rise on the shortest day of the year when daylight on 21st December lasted for just seven hours, 49 minutes and 41 seconds.
Beneath a misty sky, blanketed with clouds, crowds of pagans and druids were among those to flocked to visit the ancient Neolithic monument late on Tuesday night.
The welcoming in of the Winter Solstice is the most important day of the year at Stonehenge and a truly magical time filled with ad hoc celebration bringing together England’s New Age Tribes including druids, pagans and Wiccans with ordinary families, tourists, travelers and party people – in droves! Anyone who has been witness to the breath taking energy that washes over the crowd drawing to an awestruck silent hush as the sky begins to brighten.
Stonehenge is carefully aligned following a sight-line that points to the winter solstice sunset as opposed to other sites such as New Grange in Ireland, which points to the winter solstice sunrise, and the Goseck circle in Germany, aligned to both the sunset and sunrise.
Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC and it is thought that winter solstice was of greater significance than the summer solstice to the people who constructed Stonehenge as the pagan calendar marks the “re-birth” of the sun for the new year.
The winter solstice was a time when cattle was slaughtered (so the animals would not have to be fed during the winter) and the majority of wine and beer was finally fermented.
The solstice can happen on December 20, 21, 22 or 23, though December 20 or 23 solstices are rare.
Main image: Stonehenge winter solstice in the 80’s