As we sweat our way through the longest day of the year, pagans and revellers in Wiltshire are probably heading for bed after spending the night beneath the stars in one of the oldest celebrations in the world. Summer solstice marks the longest day – and shortest night – of the Gregorian calendar and at 04:52 this morning, around 13,000 people saw in the beginning of the day at Stonehenge, the Neolithic site where the sun and moon have been celebrated for more than 4,000 years.
“I initially went to Solstice at Stonehenge to expand on a personal project I was making on traveller culture, called Gypsy Gold,” photographer Sophie Green explains of her Solstice series. “I went because I expected to see travellers there but the turnout was totally different to what I had anticipated. I ended up starting an entirely new project all together because I was so excited by what I encountered."
Sophie first shot the crowds at Winter Solstice 2015 before returning last year for both the summer and winter solstice. “It was really fun,” she explains. “It’s a very beguiling and intriguing event, encompassing a diverse range of people, all wonderful and unique. It was a really uplifting, happy and spiritual experience.”
Explaining what it was like spending the night crowded among the near-mythical stones, Sophie explains: “the main ceremony begins with the marking out of a circle, a symbol of sacred space which has neither beginning or end and where every one stands as equal and the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water are acknowledged. The crowds fall silent and joyously welcome the first rays of the sunlight at sunrise. Celebrations include meditation, chanting, music, prayer, dance, poetry reading, drama performances as well as the sharing of food and drink.”
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