DRUIDS, HIPPIES AND COMMON PEOPLE THE SHORTEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR IS ALSO THE CROWDEST

7..13

Waterloo station platform 6 one special Saturday evening was magically transformed into a multitude of human characters.

Neo hippies sporting sandals and carrying wreaths, musicians with bongos, loving couples and groups of friends, professional and amateur photographers armed with latest generation of cameras.

All gathered behind the yellow line waiting for the train that would take them to see the dawn of a new day during the northern hemisphere’s shortest night of the year.

Once in Salisbury, bus shuttles were at the ready and waiting to collect the crowd that was growing by the minute.

Thousands of people were already there: families and mystery seekers together in the large uncultivated field above the circle of megaliths.

Another 15 minutes of walking among the multi- coloured vehicles, Volkswagen surfing vans and hundreds of tents, under a dome of stars that you cannot even imagine when in London.

Finally they arise. Huge, cold, and yet somehow alive. The enormous stones, nourished by the energy of barefoot bodies dancing around them, lead by the Druids’ chants.

For the first time I laid my hand on one of those 5000 year-old stones.

The Summer solstice in Stonehenge is far more than just a summer festival.

It’s a night of expectation, of sharing and joy for people coming from all over the world to chase the elusive English sun on the first day of summer, which climaxes when the sky begins to be tinged with yellow and thousands stand in a chorus of voices singing and praying.

We waited until 4,52am. The sun played hard to get but when it happened it was such a dazzling emotion that our long wait was duly rewarded .

The Neolithic 25-ton stones of Wiltshire County (England) are the most famous prehistoric site in the world, symbol of the earliest origins of British culture.

The monument has long been studied by archaeologists and astronomers alike for the particular alignment of the stones in the direction of the sunrise during the summer solstice and the sunset of winter solstice, which suggests that Stonehenge was an ancient calendar with mystical functions.

It has always been a place for ancient rituals, but it is only with the hippie culture that it has acquired a special value to New Age cultures.

Between 1974 and 1986 it became the destination for thousands of visitors for the Stonehenge free festival, the hugest celebration of the summer solstice in UK, until police cracked down on the event.

It was only in 1999 that the English Heritage allowed the public to enter the site to celebrate the early summer.

Thus for years neo-pagans, new age prophets, and druids gathered around the stones awaiting the sunrise, dancing and praying all night long.

Although the Stonehenge summer solstice is well known, few people know that in Italy, in the hinterland of Sardinia, there are more than one hundred prehistoric sites comparable to the archaeological English complex.

The land of the sun hides in the countryside of Goni, in the province of Cagliari, a sacred esplanade of over fifty menhirs and megaliths arranged according to the sun’s movements.

Discovered in the early 80s by professor Enrico Atzeni and his team, the Italian stones of Pranu Muttedu align the route to a ceremonial complex of shrines, graves and a mausoleum dating from the 12th or 13th century BC.

Nevertheless Goni is only one example of the huge Sardinian heritage, which sometimes is still left in a state of neglect, surrounded by wild vegetation and flocks of sheep.

Beautiful places rich in history, proving how the British and Italian cultures are closer than expected and connected by at least one common denominator: the cult of the sun.