Welcome back, Grian!
It’s nothing new, marking the turning of seasons by the waxing and waning appearance of the sun. Certainly the most striking is during the morning of the winter solstice, when once-lengthening nights roll over into ever-lengthening days and the promise of warmth, new crops, and renewed life. So of course ancient people celebrated the midwinter return of the sun.
And where better to experience it than through the carefully-aligned great trilithon, the largest of the standing stones of Stonehenge? It and the others were lined up thousands of years ago to pinpoint the specific morning that for eons has heralded the return of Grian – which Celtic people called the sun.
I spent the evening before and morning of the winter solstice at Stonehenge, celebrating the rising of the new sun while enduring the prancing and skipping about of costumed gambolers, and respecting the prayerful and hopeful.
I even met Arthur Pendragon, an earnest fellow who championed the right to assemble within the otherwise fenced-off standing stones during the winter and summer solstices.
Couldn’t help but notice that the officially-appointed King of Druids and I have an uncanny gray-maned resemblance, and wear the same flat cap. And believe a lot of the same stuff about teaching others to care for the world.
Reverent, Not Religious
Though they continue to honor the ancient priests, the mostly self-appointed Druids of today have no real links to ancient practitioners; today – with the exceptions of those standout individuals and small groups who believe fervently in all things supernatural – they are mostly a reverent spiritual movement aligned with the natural world, including environmental protection.
Trying to keep the main thing the main thing. And the beginning of a new solar year is a thing to be revered.
I have been to Stonehenge several times. But though I don’t buy into superstitions, I freely admit that in that unique ancient site, on that particularly moving midwinter day, I sensed a palpable feeling of profoundness.
So here it is – the rising of the new solar year at Stonehenge.