Where better to celebrate the Summer Solstice than Stonehenge?

This reminds me of my trip to England two years ago, when my wife and I did visit Stonehenge:

However, what I'd really love is to have the title this guy has:

Druid King Arthur Pendragon told the BBC shortly before sunrise: "It's a very nice atmosphere and everything's fine at the moment.

"There have been more police present this year, more security, but everything's passed off very jovially and everyone's in a good mood.

"And the police for the most part are wishing people a happy solstice and so are the security guards."

Druid King? How cool is that? Think of it: Druid King Orac. Personally, I think that sounds even better than Druid King Arthur Pendragon. Still, I have a hard time not thinking of a certain scene in This Is Spinal Tap.

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"Druid King" is not his title. He's a druid (a member of one of the various druidic organisations in Britain), and his name is King Arthur Pendragon. He believes that he is an incarnation of the Pendragon whose mission is to actively and non-violently resist threats to the British land and to religious freedom, which he does with admirable consistence and persistence. Whether or not he's actually an incarnation of King Arthur is neither here nor there - what counts is that he is a man of integrity who knows that his eccentricity is a great media-magnet, and uses this to draw attention to some truly heinous decisions to destroy sites of outstanding natural beauty, cultural value (such as ancient monuments), and special scientific interest.

Many Happy Returns of the Night, everyone.

Sorry, Orac, but taking a title of Druid King isn't going to help your cred in the anti-woo world. How about being a Warrior King instead?

K, you make him sound far too pompous. I've met King Arthur on several occasions. While he's all that you say, he's also fond of riding motorbikes, drinking good ale, and ahem, 'initiating' maidens at midnight in the middle of stone circles (to their audible satisfaction!). As kings go, he's pretty much what a people would want.

Way back in 1956, The Goon Show (staring Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, and Harry Seacombe) had an episode ("The Spectre of Tintagel") in which the lead idiot character is convinced that he's descended from the legendary king because he was christened "King Arthur Seagoon". I wonder if this idiot is related?

But Orac, what happens when you turn your "woo meter" to 11?

@karen
I dont know druids had a fairly fearsome reputation, just read Tacticus description of them at Mona. Of course that that that was pretty much the end of them does kind of damage the modern day lot who do have some rather annoying habits, eg claiming seahenge.

So who are these people, and what are they doing? Does anybody know?

Druids? Celts? Are they like Cardinals are to catholics or some other kind of chieftan or leader, I dunno and don't know if anybody really does. If modern pagan nature worshiping folks like to get together and hoist some ale and play around, more power to 'em.
I love Stonehenge and made it my 8th grade science project, which I won with a fantastic model of the structure and it's astronomical alignments all layed out...nifty.
It's antiquity is really intriguing as were the ancient cultures (what we think we know of 'em)that were most likely responsible for their being built, and rebuilt throughout their long history.
The modern celebrators didn't seem to mind that the day seemed kind of dreary. Good cheer, which is what makes any get together particularly worthwhile. Just dont teach it as objective history or science and I'm prety OK with it.

James@7, I wonder if this idiot is related [to a comedy character]?

Whilst the guy projects an eccentric personality in public, and did indeed change his name to King Arthur Pendragon, I'm with k@2 and sophia8@5: The guy might be slightly nuts, but he's also thoughtful, apparently sincere, persistent, and somewhat effective. He's perhaps an example of the so-called Great British Eccentric, who can be both funny and profound, and sometimes achieve things of lasting worth. I've never actually knowingly met the guy, so my information is admittedly all second- or further-hand. However, in the interviews with him that I've read, he's never come across as an idiot.

And Arthur Pendragon was supposedly King Arthur's name, so I suspect the similarity to the comedy character's name is coincidence plus a limited range of choices. If you're going to change your name to that of your favourite (probably fantasy) hero, there isn't a lot of room for variationsâ¦

As the ancients who built Stonehenge may not even have been druids or nature-worshipers, why should these people have any more claim to the site than anyone else ?
But hey, it's still a free (more or less) country, so if they want to party like it's 1099, more power to them.

I think that everybody who was gathered at Stonehenge already knows that the real Druids had nothing to do with Stonehenge - the original Druids only started up in about 500BC, while Stonehenge goes back to 4000 or so BC. The modern Druids are a 19thC 'revival'.
But current archeaological theory indicates that the place was used for several different puposes over the millenia, by a number of different tribes. One of the purposes - from the rubbish buried outside - seems to have been partying, so the modern celebrations are just continuing a grand old tradition.

James@7 - The Goons were a pretty well-read gang, with at least two of them university graduates. They knew (as also did a lot of their listeners, in fact) the legend and full name of King Arthur; Seagoon was a character invented by them, so "King Arthur Seagoon" was a comic mashup.
Kevin@10 - it was only a very small self-appointed group of Druids and pagans who protested at the moving of the Seahenge stumps to a museum. Nobody else minded all that much.

I only live about 25 miles away from stonehenge..

Although I do sympathise with the whole druid/new age thing (they have the best parties, for one) living in the south west UK does put you into UK woo central.

And it was very dark and overcast yesterday. Quite hard to tell your 3-year-old daughter about it being the longest day of the year.. 'But Daddy, it's already dark.'

By Andrew Dodds (not verified) on 21 Jun 2009 #permalink

Andrew @17: Crop circles and Glastonbury! Say no more.

I agree pretty much with sophia8 but would like to point out that the alignment of the stones of Stonehenge is not to mark the sunrise on the summer solstice. Current research indicates it marks sunset on the winter solstice.

Claims for a summer solstice sunrise alignment at Stonehenge should be discounted. No back sight has ever been located at the centre of the monument to fix an alignment with the Heel Stone; an upright Slaughter stone would have obscured sight of the Heel Stone from the centre; no clear horizon can be seen to the north east; and the summer sun does not rise over the Heel Stone, but three solar diameters to its left. There are strong reasons to accept that the main alignment is to the south west rather than the north east: the north east entrance through the encircling ditch and the Avenue were the main route into the monument for all phases of its construction, and both look to the south west; the âdishingâ of stone 1 keeps the winter solstice alignment open when viewing from the left hand side of the Heel Stone; the nearest trilithons are aligned to focus on the Heel Stone; the Altar Stone provides a durable and raised horizon into which the winter sun will appear to set into the apparent centre of the monument when viewing from the Heel Stone.

When we imagine a reconstructed sarsen Stonehenge from the Heel Stone in elevation view, rather than plan view,
the paradox is created of observing an almost solid seeming
wall of stone (see Figs. 170176 in North 1996). This
âobscurationâ effect does not work in the reverse direction, towards the north east and summer solstice sunrise.
From about 11 metres before the Heel Stone, approaching the monument uphill along the Avenue, and right up to
the âentranceâ between stones 1 and 30, just two gaps could have been seen along the main axis. The lower gap was
aligned on winter solstice sunset. Anyone processing slowly along this axis from the right hand side of the Heel
Stone would have experienced the effect of the sinking winter sun being held still, the upward movement of the
walkerâs eye exactly cancelling out the sinking movement of the setting sun. When standing on the left hand side of
the Heel Stone, the upper gap is aligned on the southern minor standstill moonsets (see Fig. 170 in North 1996).
Both these alignments can be seen by an adult male observer of average height for the late Neolithic and early
Bronze Age, and the Heel Stone ditch allows a variety of standing positions to allow for observers of variable
height*

* http://homepages.uel.ac.uk/J.W.Macdonald/JohnWebsite/ebooks/Lighting%20…

In other words we need to turn round and look behind us in the opposite direction and six months later! It makes no sense that such an elaborate avenue and 'entrance' would have been constructed - in all phases - to observe a phenomenon taking place behind the observers on the mid-summer sunrise.

On the other hand who the hell wants to party at Stonehenge for the sunset on a dreary, wet day in December? Only the dedicated turn up for this date - and even then they miss the significance and come for sunrise!

I visited Stonehenge about ten years ago, and was struck by its isolation. Not that there aren't roads, but there are no Olde Stonehenge Motels, or Druid Giftshoppes, or Solstice Ice Cream Parlours. At least not in sight.

When we were there, all that was in sight was sheep. The parking lot and Visitors Center was in a depression on the other side of the road, and, at that time anyway, there was only a plastic fence to keep the sheep at bay.

I was incredibly impressed.

My wife and I visited Stonehenge in the summer of 2007, and that's what we remember. Other than an unobtrusive visitors' center, there was not much of anything other than farms and sheep in the area surrounding the stone circle, with a two-lane road running by. The fence keeping the sheep out wasn't much sturdier than what you describe, either.

STONEHENGE!!! Where the demons dwell, where the banshees live, and they do live well! Stonehenge, where a man's a man, and the children dance to the pipes of Pan...

Seriously, it astounds me how utterly catchy the Spinal Tap songs are! Though they were written for comedy, they all have these really great musical hooks, and... gah, I could go on and on about Guest and company and their astounding musical abilities.

Er, the actual Stonehenge is nice, too. :D

Orac, if you visit the UK again, try to see the Castlerigg stone circle. It's isolated - you have to drive up a tiny single-track lane to get to it - and in an amazingly beautiful setting surrounded by fells and peaks. There isn't even a proper car park, let alone a vistors centre.

Salisbury plain is beautiful generally; it has tons of stone circles, cairns, barrows, rows and other oddities. As well as stonehendge I recommend Avebury stone cirle its HUGE and encompasses half a very nice village.

Lots of these things can be found all over the British Isles (get hold of an Ordnance Survey map and you can generally find a few). My only gripe with Druids and New Agers is the amount of woo they promote otherwise they tend to be a really nice group of people... ah well can't have everything.

I have a former student who was fixated on Carhenge.