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The International Writers Magazine
: Stonehenge

Everyone Loves Druids
Colleen Luxem

reek and Roman mythology, Irish sagas, British folklore, Norse tales: At one point of my life, I devoted hours to studying these stories. It began with Greek myths in the fourth grade and grew into an obsession for the tales of old. Most recently, my interests turned to British and Irish lore, especially covering the tales of the Druid culture.

Fueled by historical fantasy like Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters Trilogy (The Daughter of the Forest, The Son of the Shadows, and The Child of the Prophecy), chronicling life in Ireland in the Dark Ages, and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s rendition of Arthurian Legend, The Mists of Avalon, the archaic Druid culture came to fascinate me. The ancient way of life based on the importance of our balance with nature has its roots in the British Isles. The most famous monument associated with this lifestyle is Stonehenge.

Stonehenge, a magnificent landmark, sits just outside Salisbury, England. Built before the Romans entered Britain in the first century AD, Stonehenge’s exact purpose remains unknown. Many historians view it as a type of calendar; others see it as a "temple." Surrounding Stonehenge on the encircling hills sit large mounds, the group burial sites of the Druids, supporting the idea that Stonehenge held religious significance for the Druids, though its creation date most likely occurred much earlier than the height of Druid culture in England. Other henges exist throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, all thought to be connected somehow with Druid culture.

As soon as I moved to London for a semester, I knew Stonehenge would make the list as a place I visited more than once. In early March, with friends visiting from Villanova, I jumped on the train at Waterloo station and began my journey to Salisbury. The voyage, just under two hours, twisted through the rolling hills of England. Once in Salisbury, we took a double-decker bus through the countryside to reach Stonehenge. The most amazing part of this trip are the huge hills surrounding Stonehenge; this way, when driving there, the great, ancient monument peaks out from over the hills to reveal its wonder. I had dreamed of seeing a monument so mythical ever since I first read the stories of the Greek pantheon.

Once inside the gated, outdoor museum, I stood dumbstruck by the sheer size of Stonehenge; I had seen pictures, but they did not do the monument justice. Stonehenge is immense. I wandered around the stones, listening to my audio guide (which actually had a ton of interesting information about the site), simply taking in the presence of such an old landmark. My excitement rose out of control; everything about Stonehenge is perfect. After my friends had asked multiple times if I would pose with them for a picture, as I just continued staring, my friend Misti wisely remarked: "This is one of the best days of Colleen’s life; give her a moment." My own camera proved my love of the monument; I took over fifty pictures of the stones alone, but, in my defense, from many different angles.

Each different stopping point on the tour held significance. By standing in a certain place, one can observe the exact stones the sun rises through on the Winter and Summer Solstices and the Autumnal and Vernal Equinoxes. While these points held significance for ancient farmers and their knowledge of the harvest, they also mark the holidays of the Druids. I visited Stonehenge on a Thursday the first week of March, sadly missing the Equinox. The sky was filled with clouds all day and did not allow us to see where the sun lay compared to the stones.

Though that Thursday overall seemed quiet and the site filled with a mix of tourists and college students, I did get to see an uncommon occurrence. My friend, Damian, and I rested just outside the boundary rope taking more pictures, and I jotted down some thoughts in my journal. After we had sat for a little while, a young man around our age eased himself to the ground a few feet away from us. The boy sat cross-legged and raised his hands to the sky to begin praying. His body shook with convulsions while the other tourists just walked past him. Damian quickly videotaped the boy for a moment while I looked on in amazement. Unlike the paintings of Druids from the dark ages in Great Britain and Ireland where they dress in long robes with hoods, this boy simply wore jeans, a fleece coat, and a knit hat. Obviously, I’m not completely sure that his religion was Druidry, but the image still stuck with me seeing a person worshipping in front of the stones. The stones held some religious meaning for him, and that was enough for me. I loved seeing Stonehenge continued as a religious monument for people in England.

A month later, I went back to Stonehenge, this time with friends from high school. We took the same train from Waterloo to Salisbury and the same bus to the stones. The familiarity of the trip surprised me; I knew the way, I expected to see the stones over the hills. The feeling gave me a connection with the site. This time, however, the boy praying over the ancient monument was not there, just the typical tourists. A month after that trip, I left England and returned to the United States. Stonehenge definitely holds the award for most pictures taken. The visit signified the completion of a childhood dream to see a great monument of an old religion, and I know I will return one day to see the great stones again.

© Colleen Luxem April 2005

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