Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A Magical Summer Solstice?

With the Summer Solstice (21st June 2011) fast approaching, I find myself questioning again what it’s all about? Every year I drag my family off to a sacred site at solstice time where we join with others and hang around the ancient stones until the sun rises. And after each time I am left feeling a little disappointed. Shouldn’t it feel more magical on this ‘special’ day? I mean what else are sacred sites for if not to feel something sacred and why do we migrate towards them at the Solstices? Perhaps, I’m looking too deep and I should treat the Solstice purely as a celebration. But a celebration of what exactly? I mean we’re not like our ancestors where we have to rely on monitoring the seasons and giving thanks to the Oak King for providing a good harvest. Modern-farming methods and food processing have done away with our reliance on honoring the gods for perfect crops! Let’s face it, very few of us even acknowledge Nature for the fruits it gives us. So hardly the reason for most to make a pilgrimage off to a sacred site to watch the sunrise.

As each solstice approaches I find myself questioning whether it’s even worth the effort of going. Our pilgrimage normally involves us getting the kids up at 2am to travel halfway across the country by moonlight in the car. It sounds romantic, but the reality is often entirely different! Our journey is usually fraught as we rush the last 10 miles, watching the sky getting ever lighter by the second and panicking that we will be late - by which time my daughter starts to feel travel sick due to us going full-pelt round winding country lanes and often culminates in my husband lambasting me about not getting my act together and that we should have left earlier, and how we’ll miss the sun coming up altogether!

On other occasions, we’ve made the effort of travelling down the evening before, only to have a cold and uncomfortable sleepless night squashed between the kids in the back of the car - the smell of bonfires permeating the air and the sound of drumming and drunkenness in the background all adding to the heady mix. And that’s aside from the actual days spent standing frozen in the rain, frost and snow (and I’m not just talking about the Winter Solstice!) without a hope of seeing the sun coming up over a cloud ridden horizon, and the kids whining that they want to go back to the car to get warm. Ah, I can almost hear my dad saying, “and you thought you had it bad being dragged off to Sunday mass every week!”

Yes, sometimes the magic seems in short supply. Occasionally though, I have felt something special. Only it’s been on the day before the actual solstice! One year we passed the stones a day earlier on the way down to see my mother-in-law (we used to combine visiting her at Winter Solstice). As we passed Stonehenge, I looked over and the stones were positively buzzing. I could feel the vibration from the car! It was as if the stones were singing. They also seemed to be encased in a blue hue. I remember thinking, 'wow, tomorrow's going to be really good one', only to be disappointed to find the energy had dipped on Solstice morning.

On another occasion, we turned up early, and according to the site security guard, on the ‘wrong’ day. However, we weren’t the only ones and after much discussion with him, we were all allowed in. That morning our small group chanted and held hands and we danced a spiral into the centre of the stones and I felt something truly magical happen.

So what happened then that made it different? Could it have been the lack of lager louts and hoards of people? Don’t get me wrong, I really love the large crowd atmosphere that occurs on Solstice morning – what with the drumming, the throaty didge playing, the pageantry of the pagans and the collective exhilaration that occurs just as the sun peeps over the horizon. It’s a great experience - it just lacks the ‘something special’ that I experienced on that ‘wrong’ day.

Maybe it is to do with choice of day? After all the Druids keep a three-day vigil over the Solstice period. They surely must experience a sacredness – the magic within? And perhaps therein lays the answer – finding the right times and space to move within.

I wrote this note to myself in my journal last year:

Solstice – Summer 2010, Rollright

I did it again today. I was waiting for the magic to happen as I watched the sun come up, and whilst it was beautiful to watch and felt special, if I’m honest the magic didn’t happen. But I was in a happy mood.

Once I crossed over to the stones though, and wandered around the circle both in and outside the perimeter, the magic started to happen. My head felt heavy and full of energy. If I had continued it would have been easy for me to go completely out of the game.

Now some will say I should have grounded myself, but I wonder whether that’s where everything goes wrong. Instead of listening with our heads and trying to control the reaction, we should go with our heart and see where it takes us. The more I think about it the more I think the stones were designed to channel energy to get us into an altered state. That’s why we have so many legends & myths attached to each sacred site. Because the magic happens once you learn how to use the circle correctly. It is a tool to get you out of your box – i.e., out of your logical head and into your heart – to find your Self.

So, having re-read my journal words I have a choice. Should I stay home this coming Summer Solstice and watch the sun rise over the fields out the front of our house? Or should I venture out and combine the power of a sacred site to help me go to the magical place within? I’m guessing that knowing me I’ll decide the night before. And if it’s the effort of pilgrimage that I choose, you’ll probably see us screeching into our destination minutes before the sun rises, playing out our biannual competition with the sun called “See who can get there first – us or the Sun!”


  1. The lyrics of Queen's 'One Vision' flashed through my mind whilst reading your blog post. My interpretation of the lyrics is of a search that starts and ends with oneself. Maybe I sense that you need a physical entity upon which to hang your spirituality, deities to focus your spirituality, rituals to exorcise your spirituality, and reflection to question why you need all three, when already you know that you have all you need within your authentic self.
    I have never understood the human need to 'worship' within a structured environment. Nor can I understand attaching such significance to a pile of stones, a building, a statue or even an animal. Yes, I know these are believed to be representations of higher forces or whatever labels you want to give them, but they are all born out of human myth - and the myth of the myth of the myth......
    What I can absolutely understand is the energy, pleasure and euphoria emanating from a group of people sharing one focus. Indeed, science can now measure the enery being transmitted by the heart up to ten feet away, giving credence to the term 'feel the atmosphere' at pop concerts and the like.
    So perhaps you are looking too deep and you should treat the solstice purely as a celebration: small 's', small 'c'. Gather your own wood, light your own fire, invite a few friends around and let the Qi flow as it will. As you say, it will find the right time and space to move within.

  2. Hi Graham

    Thanks for your comments. Curiously, I had some lyrics by Queen’s lyrics running through my head on the day you posted your comments, too – only the song I was singing was ‘It’s a Kind of Magic’!

    Firstly, I agree with your thoughts about attaching significance to erroneous structures, statues, and the like. That concept has never sat well with me either. But while this human need to do so may be “the myth of the myth of the myth”, the way I look at it is like this: - for some people structures and icons are a way of focusing the mind, much as a wizard might use an incantation to bring about an intention. They’re a bit like a short cut to the subconscious - like a bell to one of Pavlov’s dogs – a form of learned response/reaction. Maybe working like a ‘kind of magic’ if you will?

    Alternatively, perhaps our ancestors actually felt, or even saw the energy of special places and that’s where the myths originated? There is scientific evidence to show that some sacred sites, like stone circles (and also crop circles) actually do alter our state of consciousness thus allowing us to experience the magic, quicker and easier just by being in the place. They literally amplify the natural process. So, rather than looking too deep I think I was more questioning whether the timing of the solstice had any effect on the sacred place - making it more powerful.

    I take your point about treating the solstice as a celebration, but if that is the case, then celebrating what? And why do thousands of people go to the effort of travelling off to a sacred site to do it? Why not just sit in their garden and watch the sunrise? A nice idea by the way - are you hoping for an invite…?

    …As to needing ‘a physical entity upon which to hang my spirituality’… well, I am still searching for the meaning to life it’s true, but I don’t agree with your interpretation. As far as I’m concerned, every thing (success, health issues, happiness, magic, God) is found by going within and bringing about an altered state of consciousness – hence the blog title: Entranced = Enlightened! I’m guess I’m just being a typical Westerner trying to find the shortcuts to reaching an enlightened state ;)