(Stonehenge) About 8,000 revelers gathered around a prehistoric stone circle on a plain in southern England on Wednesday to express their devotion to the sun or to have fun together.

Druids, pagans, hippies, locals and tourists, mostly dressed in colorful costumes and even deer antlers, spent the night at Stonehenge and celebrated sunrise there on Wednesday, the longest day in the world. ‘northern hemisphere.

At dawn, the sun rose behind the so-called Heel Stone on the northeastern part of the horizon, and the first rays lit up the heart of Stonehenge, one of the most ancient prehistoric monuments. most famous in the world, listed as a World Heritage Site.

A sunny dawn followed a slightly hazy sunrise, greeted by drums, chants and cheers.

“Stonehenge continues to captivate and bring people together to celebrate the seasons, as it has for thousands of years,” said Nichola Tasker, Stonehenge Director at English Heritage, a charity that manages hundreds of historic sites. .

“There was a wonderful atmosphere from sunset to sunrise, and everyone enjoyed a very atmospheric morning,” she added.

In addition to the 8,000 people in attendance, English Heritage said around 154,000 people watched the sunset and sunrise from around the world thanks to the charity’s live broadcast.

Across the UK, optimism reigns supreme as summer officially kicks off. It’s no coincidence that the Glastonbury Festival, one of the biggest music events in the world, opens its doors on Wednesday. Both Stonehenge and Glastonbury are believed to be on leylines, mystical energy connections that cross the UK.

For the thousands of people who make the pilgrimage to Stonehenge, about 130 kilometers southwest of London, it’s not just about waiting for Elton John at Glastonbury or drinking ciders in the sun. Many of those present at Stonehenge will be making the short 80 kilometer journey further west to Glastonbury in the coming days.

For the Druids, modern spiritualists linked to the ancient Celtic religious order, Stonehenge has centuries-old significance, and they performed their rituals around the solstice in their traditional white robes. It is actually the cycle of life, death and rebirth.

This year, the summer solstice at Stonehenge began at 7 p.m. Tuesday and continued until 8 a.m. Wednesday. For this night alone, worshipers are allowed to spend time inside the stone circle. Some sing, play acoustic guitar or drums. Alcohol is prohibited, as are PA systems. Blankets are allowed, but sleeping bags are not. And it is absolutely forbidden to climb on the stones.

The rules have been tightened over the decades, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. In a less restrictive past, tens of thousands of people traveled on foot, by car, by bus or by motorbike to gather in the solar temple, or simply to have fun.

Stonehenge is a symbol of British culture and history and remains one of the country’s top tourist attractions, despite constant traffic jams on the nearby A303 motorway, which is very busy with motorists heading south -west of England or return.

Stonehenge was built in stages on flat land on Salisbury Plain 5,000 years ago, with the single stone circle erected in the late Neolithic period, around 2,500 BC. Some of the stones, the “blue stones”, are known to come from the Preseli Hills in south-west Wales, nearly 240 kilometers away, but the origin of other stones remains a mystery.

The significance of the site has been the subject of heated debate, with some theories seeming more outlandish, even alien, than others.

English Heritage suggests several explanations: Stonehenge would have been a coronation site for Danish kings, a druidic temple, a center of worship for healing or an astronomical computer for predicting eclipses and solar events.

The charity said the most generally accepted interpretation “is that of a prehistoric temple aligned with the movements of the sun”.

After all, the stones perfectly correspond to the sun at the summer and winter solstices.