SUMMER SOLISTICE 2014
AN estimated 36,000 people in the UK have seen the sun rise at Stonehenge on the longest day in the northern hemisphere, with 25 arrested, largely for drugs-related offences.
THE summer solstice has a long tradition of attracting people to monuments such as Stonehenge, where latter-day Druids gather to witness the sun rising on the longest day.
“We are pleased that the solstice celebrations at Stonehenge and Avebury have been enjoyable events for the majority of people attending,” a police spokesman said.
“There were 25 arrests at Stonehenge and two at Avebury which were mainly for drug-related offences.
“This year we estimate 36,000 people visited the stones throughout the night. There is always a small proportion of people who will try to break the law but I am satisfied that this was a successful policing operation.” – ntnews.com.au
Summer Solstice 2014: Stonehenge Druid Explains Traditions and History of Pagan Event
June 19, 2014 15:47 BST
“Summer solstice for Druids is an event that celebrates the cycles of the universe, with traditions dating back thousands of years.
Frank Somers, from the Amesbury and Stonehenge Druids, has been attending summer solstice at Stonehenge for more than a decade.
Speaking to IBTimes UK, he explained: “Druids believe that everything in existence is interconnected. The fundamental belief is that energy, the stuff we’re made of, our spirits, are part of a continuum that makes up the whole universe. We’re both unique individuals and part of something bigger.
“Everything in nature goes in cycle. A big part of the Druid thinking is there’s this cycle called the year, which fundamentally affects everything we do – when we can grow our food and when we have to hide away next to the fire. If you turn up at the changes between the seasons and observe that change, you can become better attuned to those cycles in yourself and you’re a part of them.”
Summer solstice is when the sun is at its highest point and the longest day of the year. Winter solstice is the opposite – marking the shortest day and the sun being at its lowest on the horizon. Both are cause for celebration, Somers said.
“Each season has its positives – winter season is about family and community, and the darkness, with the cold and the wet and the snow – it cleanses the land ready for a new season of growth. The summer is all to come. Even though the days are getting shorter the Earth’s temperature is increasing and you’ve got the whole summer culminating in harvest, which everyone is looking forward to.
“What you’re celebrating on a mystical level is that you’re looking at light at its strongest. It represents things like the triumph of the king, the power of light over darkness, and just life – life at its fullest.”
Stonehenge Druid traditions
Somers explained some of the traditions that take place among Druids on summer solstice. To begin, he said all Druids will want to be under the open sky – most will gather in small groups of family or friends, so those attending ceremonies at sites such as Stonehenge are the “tip of the iceberg”.
However, explaining the significance of the Neolithic site, he said: “Druids that gather at ancient places do it specifically so that they’re part of the continuum with the ancestors. When you do it at Stonehenge, you’re in the same place for the same reasons as people 5,000 years ago – in a place they marked out as special that they picked out to meet up and do these observances. You become part of something much bigger than we are.”
At Stonehenge there is a sunset ceremony for people who arrive on time. Following this, Druids get into a circle to process around the stones three times as a way of acknowledging the sacredness of the site and as a means of introducing themselves.
As morning approaches, Druids find a spot to set up small circles, which is then opened by one person – called casting the circle – who declares it to be a sacred gathering. They then call to the elements, starting with mother earth in the north, air in the east, fire in the south and water in the west. The elements are symbols of energy. They also call to the shining ones of legend, the fairy folk, to be present and any bright spirits including the ancestors and the great ones.”
After a speech and any announcements people want to make, the Druids turn to face the direction of the rising sun and raise their hands. A drum is beaten slowly to start before picking up speed as the sun rises.
“At the first glance of the sun people cheer. Traditionally the druids blow horns and there is then a chant, where you are raising energy and focusing it from the circle and radiate out around the world – it’s a group prayer, not high magic or anything. Sometimes we recite the Druid’s prayer. We close the circle by saying thank you to the spirits and the gods that have been present with us and say farewell to them.”
Explaining the significance and majesty of Stonehenge, he added: “When you walk inside, the stones seem enormous. It’s almost like you’re stood in a street in New York, you get this sense of them towering over you.
“We think Stonehenge is a sacred place that links the Earth, the Moon and the Sun and the seasons. It’s a place designed to draw people to it and the place would have always been there to teach people and give them a ceremony with which to celebrate what’s going on and be a part of it all – much more than just being a tourist monument.” – ibtimes
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The science of the summer solstice
Families across Britain enjoy the longest day of the year on Friday 21 June. It is the summer solstice of 2013.
We get the most hours of daylight because of the position of the Earth in relation to the Sun.
But the solstice does not necessarily fall on the same day each year. And in some parts of the world the Sun does not set at all.
While it is the day that has the most sunlight, Britain’s weather typically does not become hotter until later in the summer.
Experts from five UK universities explain the science of the solstice.
What makes the solstice the longest day of the year?
Our planet does not spin on a vertical axis. It is titled at 23.4 degrees.
“Our summer solstice in the northern hemisphere is the point in the Earth’s orbit when the North Pole is most inclined towards the Sun,” says Manchester University’s Dr Tim O’Brien, Associate Director at Jodrell Bank Observatory.
“The axis is tipped 23.4 degrees towards the plane of the Earth’s orbit.
“Over the year the North Pole can be tipped towards the sun – summer in the northern hemisphere, or away from it, which is winter.”
This tilt changes the path we see the sun take across the sky.
“On the summer solstice, the sun rises at its farthest point around the eastern horizon,” adds Dr O’Brien.
“At noon the sun is as high above the horizon as it will ever get, and it sets at its farthest point around the west.
“So daylight lasts longer than on any other day in the year.”
Why doesn’t the sun set in some parts of the world?
Around the time of the summer solstice areas of Norway, Finland, Greenland, Alaska and other polar regions experience ‘midnight sun’.
In the Arctic Circle the sun does not set at all. Again it comes down to the tilt of the earth’s axis.
“The sun shines on the hemisphere of Earth that faces it,” says Coel Hellier, Professor of Astrophysics at Keele University. “Our summer solstice is the point in Earth’s orbit when the North Pole tilts most directly towards the sun.”
“The polar regions are continually illuminated and there is 24-hour daylight throughout the Arctic Circle. This is down to a latitude 23 degrees from the pole, matching the angle of Earth’s tilt.”
While the north enjoys constant daylight the opposite occurs at the South Pole.
“When the Northern hemisphere is tilted towards the sun the Southern Hemisphere is tilted away,” adds Prof Hellier. “Anyone in the Antarctic Circle would experience 24-hour darkness.”
Why is Australia’s summer solstice in December?
While June 21 is the summer solstice in Britain, for Australia and countries in the southern hemisphere this date marks the winter solstice.
“They have their summer solstice in the middle of our winter,” says Martin Hendry, Professor of Gravitational Astrophysics at Glasgow University.
“Oceans act as huge storage heaters and absorb heat all through the summer” – Dr Simon Boxall
“It comes in late December when their part of the Earth is leaning most towards the Sun.”
Seasons are determined by the 23.4 degree tilt in the Earth’s axis.
“Midway between the summer and winter solstices the axis is neither leaning directly towards, nor directly away from the Sun,” adds Prof Hendry.
“We refer to these dates as the ‘Equinoxes’ – when the Sun spends about the same amount of time above and below the horizon.
“In the northern hemisphere the spring equinox occurs around March 21 and the autumn equinox around September 21.
“This is when the length of day and the length of night are about equal everywhere on the Earth.”
Why doesn’t Britain get hotter until later in summer?
The northern hemisphere has the longest hours of sunlight around the solstice. But Britain usually sees higher temperatures in July and August.
It comes down to the way our planet retains heat.
- The four seasons of the year are caused by the 23.4 degree tilt in the Earth’s axis.
- The longest hours of sunlight come at the time of the June solstice for the northern hemisphere.
- The seas around Britain store heat, bringing warmer temperatures later in summer.
“The oceans, atmosphere and the land all receive solar radiation,” says Dr Simon Boxall, Lecturer in Oceanography at Southampton University.
“It provides over 99 per cent of the heat on the surface of Earth.
“The atmosphere and land can respond quickly to changes. If the earth was ocean free we would expect maximum temperatures closer to midsummer’s day.
“But over 70 per cent of the planet is ocean, and water takes a while to warm up and cool down.”
This effect is noticeable in Britain because we are surrounded by sea.
“The oceans act as huge storage heaters absorbing heat all through the summer,” adds Dr Boxall. “Think about how long it takes to boil a pan of water and how long it stays warm afterwards.
“The oceans around us hit their peak usually at the end of August or beginning of September.”
Why doesn’t the solstice fall on the same day each year?
The summer solstice falls on June 21 in 2013, but the exact time changes each year. And every leap year it comes on June 20.
“A year of 365 days is only how we humans have chosen to divide time into convenient chunks,” says Dr Somak Raychaudhury, Reader in Astrophysics at Birmingham University.
Changing times of the solstice
The solstice falls around six hours later each year, until a leap year when it jumps back to June 20.
- 2013 June 21 05:04
- 2014 June 21 10:51
- 2015 June 21 16:38
- 2016 June 20 22:34 – Leap year
- 2017 June 21 04:24
- 2018 June 21 10.07
- 2019 June 21 15:54
- 2020 June 20 21:44 – Leap year
“The average duration of a year is approximately 365 days five hours 48 minutes and 45 seconds.
“Even this varies by a few seconds every year, since the Earth’s motion is not just caused by the Sun’s pull of gravity.
“It is perturbed by the pull of the planets and moons in the Solar System. The relative positions of these change from year to year.”
This means the solstice occurs around six hours later every year.
To resolve the difference between our calendar year and the actual time it takes the Earth to orbit the sun, we add an extra day at the end of February every four years.
“This makes the June solstice jump back to the previous date for each leap year,” adds Dr Raychaudhury.
Midsummer celebrations have been held in Britain at the time of the solstice for thousands of years.
Ancient stone circles like Stonehenge are still the focal point for such ceremonies today.
Stonehenge Summer Solstice Sunrise 2014
Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2013 – Updated latest 2014
(Video credit: Breaking Australian)
Secrets of Stonehenge – Documentary
(Video credit:The Historian )