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Saturday, June 20, 1998 Published at 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK


Druids are coming home

Druids: Stonehenge is at the centre of beliefs

BBC reporter Stephen Ray reports from Stonehenge: "You can't actually see the sun"
Druids are celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge for the first time in a decade.

The police and English Heritage banned people from the ancient stone circle in 1988 after public disorder problems with groups of travellers who had tried to start a festival.

But at 0400 BST (0300 GMT) on Sunday a group of 100 pagan worshippers were allowed to watch the sun rise over the axis of the ancient stones on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.

BBC reporter Clinton Rogers: "Future plans will depend heavily on a trouble-free solstice"
The group will comprise members of the Druids and other pagan groups.

Before the solstice, Rollo Maughfling, Arch Druid of Britain, said his members were looking forward to the event, which marked the high point of their nature-worshipping religion.

"We have been stood outside the stones at various important times of the year for 10 years," he said.

Rollo Maughfling: "We believe in the divinity of nature"
"Obviously it is only limited access but we hope this will be increased and that we will get full access somewhere down the line."

"It's our most revered site, holiest of holy sites," said the Arch Druid.

The traditional summer solstice ceremony carries deep mystical significance for the Druids and their religion.

[ image: Stonehenge at dawn: Holiest moment]
Stonehenge at dawn: Holiest moment
Scientists say when the stones were erected thousands of years ago the sun would rise exactly above the main horseshoe of stones. The solstice is now slighly out of line with the stones.

This has led many to say the circle was a giant astronomical calendar used by ancient peoples to measure the passing of the seasons.

But Arch Druid Maughfling said: "Stonehenge was put there by man so that we could mark forever the longest day of the year.

"But the most important use was that the sun is at its height (on the solstice) and makes fertile the whole of nature, our crops and animals.

Jonas Trinkunas: "Blood scarifices is the wrong image"
"For without the sun we would not be."

He added that the ceremony would also be used to draw attention to the decline of the English oak tree, which is linked to the Druid's religion.

Meanwhile, pagan groups from the rest of Europe, Russia and the United States gathered in Lithuania for a World Pagan Congress.

The organiser of the congress, Jonas Trinkunas, said the movement remained an important part of European tradition.

He said: "In Europe and America there are many groups which call themselves pagan. But in eastern Europe we are interested in native or indigenous traditions.

"We are not hippies or travellers."

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