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!”