Following the annual pilgrimage of 20,000 people to Stonehenge, we take a look the history behind this annual celebration.
First let’s explore the science behind summer solstice. Twice a year the tilt of the Earth’s semi-axis, in either in the northern or southern hemisphere, is most inclined toward the sun, therefore 23° 26’. At this moment the sun is in the highest position in the sky and this is usually on the 21st June in the UK and Europe. The word solstice derives from the Latin word sol (sun) and sistere (to cause to stand still).
Summer solstice was of significant importance in prehistoric time. Summer was a particularly jubilant time for those who lived in the northern hemisphere. The frozen land had thawed and the spring flowers began to emerge from the frost covered earth. This meant that herbs could be collected for both medicinal and culinary uses. It was much easier to find food and the crops would be harvested in the forthcoming months.
Between the planting and harvesting was an important time for our ancestors. The first moon in June is known as the Honey Moon, it is said to have been the best time to harvest honey, rich with spring blossom.
June was also the traditional month for weddings as they did not want to compete with the ‘grand union’ of the Goddess and God that was believed to occur in early May. Honey was incorporated into some wedding traditions with the newlyweds fed food and drinks containing honey for a month after their nuptials to encourage fertility and love to blossom within the marriage. This tradition lives on in the more recognisable form of the ‘Honeymoon’ that often occurs immediately after the ceremony.
Unsurprisingly Stonehenge and the surrounding areas get booked up early during the summer solstice, so British History Breaks is now taking group bookings for 2016. Click here to view the full tour.