No Booze at This Year’s Stonehenge Solstice: Druids Pissed, Not Pissed
English Heritage, the charity that manages many historical sites around the U.K., has banned alcohol at Stonehenge during today’s annual celebration of the summer solstice. The group said it was concerned for the safety of the monument and attendees, after drunken misbehavior marred the occasion in previous years. Prominent members of the druid community (yes, there are enough druids in existence to comprise a community), who mark the longest day of summer with rituals at sunset, have already spoken out against the ban.
Pagans, including druids, celebrate each of the year’s eight solstices and equinoxes with revelry—often involving booze. Attendance at the Stonehenge celebration has exploded in recent years, from 10,000 people in 2000 to about 40,000 in 2014, as more people (both pagan and not) have caught wind of the tipsy festivities and want a chance to see druids get down in full ceremonial regalia.
Unfortunately, for every well-meaning group of druid supporters, there have also been groups of vandals, who defaced the monument so terrifically in the past that the Heritage Journal pushed last year to ban revelers from even getting near the stones.
Following in his heroic namesake’s steps, senior druid King Arthur Pendragon has led the fight against the increased regulations, which also include a 15 pound charge to park nearby, which the druid leader dubbed as a “pay to pray policy.” Pendragon also warned of a slippery slope if the druids let the “heretic” regulators start charging for any part of the holiday.
Similarly, Steve Andrews, known in the druid community as the Bard of Ely, suggested worshippers attend celebrations at more hospitable stone circles. The bard added that the ban at Stonehenge might even encourage covert drinking and illegal drug use.
It’s unclear as of yet how the conflict will affect festivities at Stonehenge in seasons to come. For this year at least, it looks like a discreet flask—per the bard’s observation—is the best way to ring in the solstice. Good thing there’s plenty of room to hide one in those druid robes.
Update (June 21): Attendance at the solstice festival fell sharply from years past, possibly because of the updated liquor policy. Only about 12,000 people showed up to the monument on Monday. English Heritage attributed the low turnout to poor weather, the weekday timing, and the English and Welsh Euro 2016 matches on the same day. We just think no one wanted to face blustery English weather without a drink to fortify the (pagan) spirits.