The Heritage Journal is about raising awareness of ancient sites and this article by sociologist Tom Shakespeare suggested a way. He says when he looks at other cultures he has “a strong sense of festival envy” – for instance Solstice is often widely celebrated abroad but far less so here and he thinks we’re the poorer for it.
Maybe it’s because solstice is portrayed in the British media (and the EH website!) as about Druids, pagans and other enthusiasts gathered at Stonehenge. They’re entitled to do their own thing but it may cause others to see it as someone else’s festival, not theirs. That’s quite wrong though, it’s everyone’s – it didn’t start with Stonehenge but far earlier, with Mankind!
So is there a case for promoting it as something for people in general to enjoy at their local ancient sites, far from Stonehenge? Such sites, often built with an eye to the heavens, make ideal venues but that doesn’t mean celebration must be in the form of speculative Bronze Age re-enactments. For most people spirituality, intonations and white robes are not part of their own appreciation of the ticking of the celestial clock. Last week 300 people celebrated winter solstice in Australia at a modern stone circle in a 21st century way. Shouldn’t lots of people have been doing that here? We’ve let our solstice slip, both physically and conceptually. Should we claim it back?