It lifted my spirits today to see the revellers at Stonehenge first thing this morning, celebrating the summer solstice when the sun rises in a direct line with the main axis of the monument. Of course the belief that somehow the Druids were responsible for Stonehenge is generally regarded these days as moonshine. Virtually all that is known of the Druids at or before the time of the Romans in Britain, comes from the writings of that period – mainly Julius Caesar, Tacitus, and Pliny the Elder. The Druids were:
philosophers, teachers, judges, the repository of communal wisdoms about the natural world and the traditions of the people, and the mediators between humans and the gods.
They left no written records and almost no archaeological evidence, and since none of the ancient writers mentioned Stonehenge, there was nothing whatsoever to connect it to the Druids. It was the antiquarian John Aubrey writing in the 17th century who first suggested that Stonehenge and Avebury predated the Romans, and since the Druids were known to have been in Britain before the Romans, the stone circles might have been their temples. William Stukeley, writing in the 18th century, embraced this idea, and created a positive Druidic industry; after Stukeley, no one could doubt that the Druids had built Stonehenge and the stone circles at Avebury and elsewhere, and used them for their rituals.
Nevertheless Druids or no, Stonehenge was the brainchild of some great architect, a British Imhotep with whom he was more or less contemporary. Dating from 4,500 years ago, Stonehenge provides us with a real and tangible connection with our remote ancestors. It is right and proper that it should be celebrated on its significant day.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs