Since the exclusion zone that was set up during the Thatcher years to prevent people getting to the stones and to hammer the death knell into the memory that was the Stonehenge Free Festival this world heritage site has been the topic of arguments, flame wars, political posturing, and also a lot of really positive spiritual discussion and ritual. But I’ve noticed that you open your mouth to speak your mind about the site with a sense of impending peril.
Why am I writing about Stonehenge? After the Solstice, for the first time that I can remember, the focus of some newspaper reports was on the litter left behind. This resulted in me receiving a number of Facebook PMs and emails outraged at the ‘Pagans’ and particularly the ‘Druids’ leaving behind such a huge amount of litter at such an important ancient site. I get the outrage, but I think the anger is a little misdirected. The Summer Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge attract a vast range of people – from Druids and other Pagans, to partiers out for a good night, to people stopping off on their way to Glastonbury Festival. We just don’t really know what percentage of the people attending are actually Pagan and are there for the spiritual aspect of the Solstice sunrise.
Am I then blaming the non-Pagans for the litter?
Well, I would hope that those who follow an earth-centred spiritual path would walk their talk and take care of the planet they revere by placing rubbish in bins or taking it home with them. But I also know that this is not always the case. People are people.
Let it be known that I have never been to Stonehenge for the Solstice but I’m writing this to address all of the people who have contacted me about it, just so you know I listened, and you’re not being ignored. But also there might be others out there who may be thinking the same way.
The thing is that the Solstice has been open at Stonehenge for years now, and this is the first time I’ve seen pictures of the litter. So to me this suggests that something fundamental to the organisation of the event changed this time. It was the first one since the new visitors centre was opened, so was a new system was being introduced? Did people have to park further away? Were there enough bins? Were there food vendors on site (this always increases rubbish)? What was it that had changed so that the focus was on the rubbish left behind?
Maybe there is always rubbish after. The main moaning came from the Daily Mail, a rag I detest and will not link to from this blog as I don’t want to increase the traffic to their horrible publication.
The Daily Mail has never been the Pagans’ friend.
Maybe the litter has always been there. Maybe it’s an accepted thing when you get 35,000 people staying overnight at a space with food and drinks vendors, and some of those don’t have as much of a vested interest in the preservation of the space. When I heard that the stones were opening up for general access at the Solstice I knew in my heart that this kind of thing might happen. Being at the centre of such violence, with riot police and protests, the stones became a symbol of freedom, a symbol of defiance against authority. The arguments that still go on around them are really an echo of that struggle.
Either the litter has always been there after the Solstice, or something changed this year. If something changed, then maybe more bins are needed. Make sure the vendors have bins nearby. If it’s always been there, well, more bins would still be good! If English Heritage need help with the clear up, and you go to the stones for your deep spiritual connection at Solstice time, then maybe next time stay behind and help pick up any litter. Hopefully by next year they will have registered the problem, and will have put procedures in place to deal with it.
So I’ve written about Stonehenge.
Be gentle with me…