In a typical year, thousands of people would be making plans right now to flock to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England for its annual summer solstice celebration. However, as you are already very well aware, this year isn’t very typical. This year, English Heritage announced it would not be holding an in-person event. But fear not pagans and travelers alike, because they have a plan to bring the celebration to you.
“We have consulted widely on whether we could have proceeded safely and we would have dearly liked to host the event as per usual, but sadly, in the end, we feel we have no choice but to cancel,” Stonehenge director Nichola Tasker shared in a statement.
In its place, Tasker said, the organization will instead hold a livestream so people all over the world can still take part in the celebration.
“We hope that our [livestream] offers an alternative opportunity for people near and far to connect with this spiritual place at such a special time of year and we look forward to welcoming everyone back next year,” he said.
For the uninitiated, let us be the first to tell you this is a very big deal. As Travel + Leisure previously reported, in 2015, about 23,000 people attended the summer solstice event. For a few, it is a mere tourist moment, but for many involved, it is a sacred pagan event.
“In this ancient world, the changing of the seasons and the cyclical nature of growth, death, and rebirth were the most essential truths, upon which the balance of life itself was hung,” CNN reported in 2019. “And it's this powerful connection to the pagan past that still draws people to the site today.”
The stones, English Heritage explained, were erected sometime around 2500 BC, and “were carefully aligned to line up with the movements of the sun. If you were to stand in the middle of the stone circle on midsummer’s day, the sun rises just to the left of the Heel Stone, an outlying stone to the north-east of the monument. Archaeological excavations have found a large stone hole to the left of the Heel Stone and it may have held a partner stone, the two stones framing the sunrise.”
On midwinters day, the entire thing is reversed, showing that the builders likely had intent when constructing the stones.
“The whole layout of Stonehenge is therefore positioned in relation to the solstices, or the extreme limits of the sun’s movement,” the group explained. “The solstice axis is also marked by the Station Stones which are positioned in a rectangle on the edge of the surrounding circular ditch, with the short sides of the rectangle on the same alignment as the sarsen stones.”
While it’s most certainly disappointing for pagans to not be able to celebrate in person, at least this year, the pagan-curious, and home-bound travelers alike can join in the online celebration too. Follow the livestream on June 21 on English Heritage’s social channels and share in the revelry from anywhere.