Page last updated at 11:45 GMT, Saturday, 21 June 2008 12:45 UK

Pagans' seaside trip for solstice

Barry Island
The pagans' summer solstice ritual was on the beach at Barry Island

A group of pagans have celebrated the summer solstice at Barry Island rather than Stonehenge - because the town's beach offers convenience and quiet.

A group of devotees took the train to the seaside resort usually associated with bucket and spade holidays to mark the passing of the year's longest day.

Their sacred ritual of dance and music finished with them leaping a bonfire.

Organiser Kim Huggens said Barry Island was as "sacred to us at that moment as Stonehenge is to the druids."

The members of Cardiff and Swansea universities' pagan societies said the midsummer ritual was a "spontaneous" event as it fell outside term time.

Ms Huggens, 24, who has just finished a masters in religion at the Cardiff campus, said the location was a mutually convenient destination for the worshippers with work commitments.

Pagans' offerings
It's a bit of thanksgiving to all the energies that have helped us and it's a request for these energies to stay in our lives as a positive force
Kim Huggens, organiser
She said beforehand: "For us, every part of nature is sacred. It really doesn't matter where we do our ritual.

"There's quite a nice beach and we can light a fire, which is an important part of the ritual.

"The police let us go about our business and we can go and have a barbecue."

Devotees were taking an item which was "a symbol of their personal power" to be placed on an altar made of driftwood or rocks, said Ms Huggens.

After forming a sacred circle, there would be a procession to the sea "to give offerings of food and biodegradable things to the ocean to be carried out in to the world".

'State of ecstasy'

The chanting, singing, music and dance around the camp fire aimed to induce a "state of ecstasy" and finished with people leaping the bonfire, in the same way the sun reaches its zenith.

She said: "It's a bit of thanksgiving to all the energies that have helped us and it's a request for these energies to stay in our lives as a positive force."

"It's quite a spontaneous thing. The solstice is a time of liveliness and joy."

The university's pagan society describes itself as "a group of diverse individuals who all share similar views and interests in the occult, pre-Christian religion, Earth-based religion, New Age topics, and magic".

The group's website says the organisation does not "try to evangelise or convert" people to paganism, adding "as far as we're concerned diversity is beauty".

On the first weekend of next month, the Pagan Federation Wales is holding a Midwest Summer Camp near Llanmadoc on the Gower Peninsula.

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