Stonehenge at Summer SolsticeSummer solstice has been a special moment in the yearly cycle since Neolithic times, thousands of years before humans understood the orbit of the sun and the planets. Since then many civilisations throughout history and around the globe have celebrated the summer solstice also known as midsummer. For the Egyptians the solstice marked the start of the season where the Nile would flood, overflow its banks and give nutrients to enrich the soil to allow crops to grow. The ancient Greeks also saw the solstice as a special time of the year as it would mark time when the Olympic games were about to begin, for which the solstice was the start of celebrations. Some European cultures also believed that the evil spirits were able to roam freely and bonfires were lit to protect themselves.

The significance of the summer solstice throughout history can be put down to the power that the sun has on the spirit world at this time of the year. As we all know the sun has a heavy influence on our lives being the giver of life and energy, for which this is strongest at the solstice. The sprits also feel this energy and become highly active; although some Europeans may have misunderstood the spirits believing that they were evil the sun is actually a source of positive energy. The solstice also marks the day that the days begin to get darker instead of brighter, just as summer has barely got into its stride.

It is the cycle of life and rebirth that the solstice symbolises the most, the continual annular cycle of summer to winter. Although the solstice means that summer is at its peak, the season is now beginning its inevitable journey towards the dark, cold winter. Just like a flower that has blossomed and is at its most beautiful it will now begin to wilt and die. Perhaps this is why some people have made the most of this time in festivities and celebrations while others have seen it as a sign that they are heading towards less fortunate times.

The summer solstice provides a brief spell of energy and it is up to us how we channel and use this energy in our lives. It may not be a coincidence that the most powerful civilisations have celebrated the solstice instead of seeing it as a negative source of energy. It is a significant time in the annual circle of life as we have discussed; which should be accepted that life will always lead to death. In doing so we must also accept the power these cycles give to our spirits that are always with us but are felt more strongly at this time of year.

However you feel about the summer solstice try to take comfort in the energy that the spirits will bring you and celebrate the positive energy you will be feeling at this time.

Stonehenge is an ancient pre-historic site. It has been a place of worship and celebration at the time of Summer Solstice since time immemorial. English Heritage is pleased to be providing Managed Open Access to Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice.

Timings for Summer Solstice at Stonehenge:

    1900 hours (7pm) Wednesday 20th June
    1900 hours (7pm) Wednesday 20th June
    0600 hours (6am) Thursday 21st June
    0800 hours (8am) Thursday 21st June
    1200 hours (12 Noon) Thursday 21st June – see the pages on Travel and Parking for further information on travel and parking arrangements.

Sunset and sunrise occur at the following times:

  • Sunset on Wednesday 20th June 2012 is at 2126 hrs (9.26pm)
  • Sunrise on Thursday 21st June 2012 is at 0452 hrs (4.52am)