Litha 2008 (Summer Solstice) - Avebury, The White Spring, Glastonbury Tor and Stonehenge

This page includes reports and photographs from the various events I attended during the season of Litha in 2008. Litha is the summer solstice (21 June) or mid-summer (24 June). The sun is now at its high point and so daylight and warmth decline hereafter until Yule six months later. Litha is the time of high energy, handfastings, outdoor activities, the honey moon and the availability of useful plants. The season started early with a ritual at Avebury on Saturday 14 June. A visit to the White Spring for the full moon was booked for 18 June. Then over an absolutely manic solstice weekend I attended the two long days and one evening of the Now That’s Weird Conference in Glastonbury, finding time to visit the Tor with my druid colleagues on Saturday 21st. And on 24 June it was on to Stonehenge with the Druid Network, returning again on 28 June for an event with the Dorset Grove and on the 29th to be with the Dolmen Grove.

The Cauldron of Cerridwen Summer Solstice Ritual - Avebury, 14 June 2008

The Summer Solstice Cauldron of Cerridwen ritual was held at Avebury on Saturday 14 June. This was a week early but it would have been impossible to hold the event on the actual Solstice. The group gathered at the Red Lion and then individuals made their way to the remains of the Southern Inner Circle. During setup various tourists and visitors approached us to find out what was going on. Some joined us in circle and others stood on the outside to watch. The ritual got underway with a reading about the Summer Solstice from Lucara. Sian, Woodoak and Taran cast the circle. The quarters were then called before Willow set the scene for the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. Fae then read the Over Hill, Over Dale poem before the invocations of the Lord and Lady, with Proteus for Cerridwen and Fae for Carnunnos. In welcoming the Lord and Lady, Proteus and Sian were in the charge of the goddess and Fae and Taran were in the charge of the god. Next was the traditional battle of the Holly King and the Oak King. Taran read his entertaining “‘Right now’ said Smudger” poem. The two kings then read two verses each and battle commenced. Entering the second half of the year it was guaranteed that the Holly King would win, but not before fighting with staffs, rolling around and soaking each other with water pistols! Sian crowned the Holly King and both winner and loser read out additional rhymes. The poem On Midsummer Night was then recited by Raveness. Gyfu performed a song for solstice. Sian and Taran then blessed the bread and juice and the two items were taken around the circle. While this was going on I entered the centre of the circle and debuted my 13 verses of Summer Solstice poetry for 2008. Once the juice and bread had completed their circuit it was time to close the circle. Proteus thanked the Triple Goddess and Fae thanked Cernunnos. The four quarters were then released. Woodoak called back the circle. Everyone then joined hands and any onlookers were invited to join in the Druid Vow being recited three times. With that the ritual was over and many people stayed around to chat amongst the stones.

Montage of the complete event

Setting up in the Southern Inner Circle at Avebury

Lucara talks about the season of Summer Solstice

Fae reads the Over Hill, Over Dale poem

It's good to see Taran back in action

Announcing the Holly King

Announcing the Oak King

The Holly King proclaims his power

The Oak King appears seemingly powerful

The traditional Solstice fight is about to begin

Fighting is underway but the result is inevitable

Sticks abandoned, the action now moves to water pistols!

The sticks are back...

...and the Holly King soon wins the day

The Holly King is crowned and will reign for the next six months

The Oak King is gracious in defeat

Gyfu gives us a song for the season

Sian and Taran bless the bread and juice

Fae brings the bread around the circle while I do my poetry in the centre

Finishing off the ritual - the Holly King had to be reminded several times about not being dressed properly!

Closing the quarters. See you again at Mabon (Autumn Equinox)

The White Spring Solstice Full Moon - 18 June 2008

This event was cancelled at late notice because of problems in the local area. As people turn up on spec it’s not always possible to let everyone know. Once I found out what was going on I decided to run a little ritual for those present to avoid disappointing them. I took the group further up Wellhouse Lane. Forming a small circle under a tree I talked about the season and how Glastonbury has good and bad energies, with Summer Solstice being a high point for these energies. I then read my Summer Solstice poetry for the second time this season. I also got the group to recite the Druid Vow three times before giving them a solstice chocolate. Not everything goes to plan in Glastonbury and you sometimes find yourself picking up the pieces and making the most of the situation you find yourself in.

The Western Order of Druids on Glastonbury Tor - 21 June 2008

The Western Order of Druids held its Summer Solstice event on Glastonbury Tor on the morning of 21 June. This wet and foggy day didn't feel anything like Summer Solstice but it proved to be worth the early rise and effort. The main party climbed the Tor to find a large group of people already present, many of whom had been there all night. All those to be involved in the ritual formed a circle in the limited space available during the re-seeding of the ground. Four quarter callers were requested and an attempt was made to open the quarters in the usual way. Pixie then introduced the season and the traditional battle that takes place. Pixie and Glitter then selected two people to take on the role of the Oak and Holly Kings. A mock battle took place, with the Holly King winning as is traditional. The Holly King then selected his Queen from those gathered, with both going on to read their vows in the centre of the circle. I led the toning of the Druid Mantra and after a couple of practice sessions we toned it three times to the Holly King and Queen to bless them as well as the flowers they had been given by the Lady of Avalon. I then gave my Summer Solstice poetry its third reading of the season. I was followed by Michelle, who asked everyone to consider those around them. We then joined hands for the Druid Vow before launching into a drumming session that would normally have been in front of the visible rising sun. Those that were left following the drumming re-formed the circle and the four directions were closed by Steve. The Western Order of Druids then descended the Tor and made for Mead Hall for tea, toast, cakes and further bardic performances. While I was there I did a 100-minute interview with Serena for her druid project. There are no photos this time because of the weather and the need to protect my camera for the conference that followed. But the two videos below do a great job of summarising the event. As I was going to be in Glastonbury for another 15 hours I didn't want to risk getting wet. So I had to be practical with my clothes and leave the druid gear in the car.

Setting up, selection of Holly and Oak Kings, mock battle, selection of Holly Queen plus Druid Mantra (video: mikesey)
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here to choose full screen or high quality options)

Matthew poetry, drumming and event closure (video: mikesey)
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The Now That's Weird Conference - 20-22 June 2008

This event has its own page here.

The Gorsedd of Bards of Cor Gawr for Alban Hefin - 24 June 2008

This Gorsedd occurs at Stonehenge twice a year - at mid-summer sunrise (Alban Hefin) and mid-winter sunset (Alban Arthan). This year the summer event was held at dawn on 24 June - the traditional date for mid-summer. The group of 80 or so members and friends of the Druid Network met in the Stonehenge car park and processed into the site at 04:30. Stopping just before the monument, people entered the stones one-by-one after pausing to reflect on the day. Those waiting to enter had the chance to see an increasingly spectacular dawn sky. Once the circle had formed up, everyone was welcomed and the directional peace blessings were performed. Minutes before sunrise the opportunity was given for everyone to watch. Once the sun was above the horizon the circle re-formed and the four quarters were opened. Then links to the three worlds were established - earth, ocean and sky. The group had a chance to remember anyone who has passed over this year. I entered the circle and talked about Glastonbury’s Samaria in front of the rising mid-summer sun. Any offerings were then requested to be added to the centre of the circle. A Jack in the Green poem followed this, with Jack in the Green himself entering the circle and dancing around. Other people soon joined him with their drums and other instruments. Once exhausted he fell down in the centre and everyone else returned to their positions.

Volunteers were asked to step forward to be initiated into The Gorsedd of Bards of Cor Gawr. Around a dozen of us accepted and we formed an outward facing circle, with everyone else closing in around us. We had to recite the initiation text before the rest of the group toned the Awen three times around us. We then rejoined the rest of the circle as the newest bards of Cor Gawr. Two handfastings were then carried out and their completion was sounded by a trumpeter. The mead and bread were then blessed. Whilst the mead horns and bread were being taken around the circle, the floor was open for bardic performances. I entered the circle first of all, reciting my summer solstice poem for the fourth time this season. The trumpeter followed me, followed by Jenny with a song on her guitar. We then had a song about the goddess followed by a short poem from Jenny’s father Ray. With no one else coming forward I entered again to debut my new 13-verse Stonehenge poem - something that had been written with this day in mind. With that the links to the three worlds were closed, followed by the four quarters. Around 20 minutes of the two-hour period was left and so there was a chance to mingle amongst the stones and admire the increasingly strong sun. The Stonehenge hare came out to play at this time. Overall a most enjoyable ritual, made all the better by the great weather.

Montage of the Alban Hefin 2008 event

Watching the dawn sky as we queue to enter the stones one by one

The dawn sky - red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning?

The dawn sky - red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning?

The dawn sky - red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning?

The dawn sky viewed from the Heel Stone

Getting closer to the front of the queue

Double shepherd alert!

Forming up the circle inside the stones

Forming up the circle inside the stones

Forming up the circle inside the stones

Beginning with the directional peace blessings

The morning waning moon hovers over a trilithon

The ritual breaks so we can watch the sunrise

Growing solar strength

The sun begins to make an appearance on the horizon

The sun begins to make an appearance on the horizon

The sun begins to make an appearance on the horizon

The sun begins to make an appearance on the horizon

The sunrise in relation to the stones

The sunrise in relation to the stones

Opening the four quarters

Opening the three worlds of earth, ocean and sky

Offerings are placed in the centre. I don't know how my thumb got in this picture!

Offerings are placed in the centre

Jack in the Green makes a surprise appearance

Jack in the Green makes a surprise appearance

Joining in the merriment

Joining in the merriment

Jack in the Green is exhausted

Two handfastings are carried out

Blessing the mead and bread

This trumpet solo came after my summer solstice poetry

Then it's over to Jenny for a song

Next a goddess song

Then Ray enters the ring for a short poem

Closing the quarters

Closing the three worlds

The solar alignment now clearly visible

People left the site when they felt ready

People left the site when they felt ready

The Dorset Grove Summer Solstice Ritual at Stonehenge - 28 June 2008

The Dorset Grove and friends converged on Stonehenge on Saturday 28 June for a Summer Solstice ritual. I took along interested work colleagues Patricia and Teresa as well as visiting Austrian Gerti from Glastonbury. Meeting in a reserved area of the car park, it was nice to have everyone in one place prior to the ritual. Ian and Stewart gave some of us loaves of their amazing ritual bread. And I connected to new people with chocolates and my seasonal rhyme. The group processed into the stones just before midday for the ritual. This was one of the busiest weekends of the year and the site was packed with interested tourists. After circling the stones, we found the entrance to the monument was guarded by Stewart as the Green Man. Ian negotiated our access and the group soon entered and formed a ring in the centre. Ian began the ritual by getting Stewart to call the quarters. This was followed by the directional peace blessings, with everyone joining in. A new flag for Dorset was then blessed - a subject of some controversy locally judging by recent TV reports. The blessing of a child came next. Druids surrounded the family in the centre, toning the Awen. Everyone else in the outer circle chanted 'One Spirit, One Place, One People'. Afterwards Ian presented the child with a druid teddy bear.

Then it was over to Jim and Nina for their presentation on Summer and Winter. Jim represented Summer and passed his staff around the circle, asking everyone to shout out a word that best represented Summer for them. Nina then appeared and did the same for Winter. The two seasons argued about which should last forever. They eventually realised they needed each other, if the earth was not to burn or freeze. Two new druids were then initiated. Following this I gave my Summer Solstice poetry its fifth reading of the season. It felt great performing this in the sun on this afternoon. A musical performance followed mine, before Stewart came on to tell us about his role as the Green Man. Ian then entered the centre of the circle with the talking stick. People were invited to grab it to have their say. Around a dozen of us did this, including me with a plea for everyone to remember the importance of Stonehenge and to do all they can to protect it and enhance it. With that the quarters were closed and there was around 10 minutes left for pictures and to enjoy the stones. The Stonehenge hare appeared again to the delight of those present. The group then reformed and started the slow procession back to the car park. Overall an excellent event with old friends and new, with the site having wonderful weather for my second visit of the week. Even so, the weather was quite windy and this can be heard in the soundtrack of the video below. A song has therefore been added to the video to make it more interesting. The video has been included here just to give an idea of what it was like on the day. If you want to hear my poetry then there are better recordings in the other videos on this page.

Processing in and out of the stones, a blessing and bardic performances (video: Teresa Marsh)
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here to choose full screen or high quality options)

Montage of the complete event

Matthew with Teresa and Patricia [Photo: Stewart]

Getting ready in the reserved parking area

Getting ready in the reserved parking area

Getting ready in the reserved parking area

Beginning the procession to the stones

Processing to the stones

Processing to the stones

Processing to the stones

Processing to the stones with plenty of onlookers

Ian guards the entrance

Permission granted, the group proceeds into the stones

In circle in the stones

In circle in the stones

Ian calls the four quarters

The directional peace blessings

The blessing of a new flag for Dorset

Toning the Awen around a child being blessed [Photo: Teresa Marsh]

Jim represents the season of summer

His staff is passed around and everyone gives says the word that represents summer for them

Nina represents the season of winter

Her staff is passed around and everyone gives the word that represents winter for them

Summer and winter agree that they have to share the year for everything to balance out

Two new druids are initiated

Matthew gives his Summer Solstice poetry another outing [Photo: Patricia Bestwick]

Matthew gives his Summer Solstice poetry another outing [Photo: Patricia Bestwick]

Matthew gives his Summer Solstice poetry another outing [Photo: Patricia Bestwick]

Matthew gives his Summer Solstice poetry another outing [Photo: Patricia Bestwick]

Music follows

Ian talks about the Green Man

Ian offers the talking stick for someone to take

Suky is one of many to grab the stick

Matthew grabs the Talking Stick to ask everyone to remember the plight of Stonehenge [Photo: Teresa Marsh]

Closing the quarters

Afterwards in the stones

Afterwards in the stones [Photo: Teresa Marsh]

Getting ready to process out

A group photo just prior to departure [Photo: Teresa Marsh]

Processing out of the stones

Processing out of the stones - a tight fit

Processing out of the stones - a tight fit

Processing out of the stones - a tight fit [Photo: Teresa Marsh]

Processing out of the stones

A bit to eat and drink before hitting the road again

Summer Solstice With The Dolmen Grove at Stonehenge - 29 June 2008

The Dolmen Grove held its Summer Solstice celebration at Stonehenge on 29 June. Everyone assembled in a reserved area of the car park. The site was busy, although nowhere near as busy as the previous day. 47 of the Grove came by coach and so only a few cars were present. I gave out the last few of my Solstice chocolates at this stage. The group formed up in pairs, with robed members at the front and back acting as bookends. The drumming started and the group began its journey towards the stones. I was drumming today so there are no photos going in or out of the site. The group passed into the monument field and circled the stones fully before attempting entry. Even as two or three abreast the group was almost large enough to ring the entire monument. Frank blocked access and permission to enter had to be requested. Once this was granted the group processed within the stones until everyone was inside. Positions were then fine-tuned as this was a large group and everyone needed to be able to see. Taloch got things underway and then the directions were opened with the traditional Dolmen ‘Not I nor Thee’ lines. Franked talked about the recent Managed Open Access and read out a short poem that came out of it. Taloch explained the Awen and did a demonstration. The group joined in with this toning, each time preceded by three beats on Taloch’s drum. Barry was then asked to come into the centre to lead recital of the Druid Vow.

Frank produced a Talking Stick and proceeded to offer this to each person in the circle. People were invited to say or perform something. The Dolmen were thanked for running the event, dedications were offered and a song was sung. Although I think I had a slot later to do my Summer Solstice poetry, I decided to dive in once the Talking Stick came around to me. I spoke about where the poem had already been performed and how a momentum had built up behind it. This was the sixth and final reading of the poem for 2008. Next, parents were asked to step into the centre with their children. Taloch led a blessing for them, with the rest of the group toning around them. Further toning was then undertaken, with each one preceded by three beats of Taloch’s drum. A short interval came up next, a few minutes to enjoy the stones and to take photographs. The Stonehenge hare put in another appearance and bees began to prove quite troublesome. Returning to circle with three soundings of Frank’s horn, this was a time for further bardic performances, including a very poignant poem from a young bard Megan. With that it was time to close the directions with the first full attempt at balancing a ceremony using the ‘From I and Thee’ lines. Everyone with drums was invited to join in. It was then time to form up in pairs again ready to process out. The drumming began and the group left by the point it had entered, fully circling the stones before heading out of the site and on to the protest area being manned by Arthur Pendragon. This is where the event concluded. An excellent celebration and a fine end to a busy Summer Solstice season. Three videos are now available. Note at the time of writing a YouTube problem was preventing videos 2 and 3 from having a high quality option.

Processing into the stones, forming the circle and calling the directions (video: mikesey)
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here to choose full screen or high quality options)

Further into the ceremony and the Talking Stick being passsed around (video: mikesey)
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here to choose full screen or high quality options)

Matthew and Megan poetry, blessing of the children and then processing out (video: mikesey)
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here to choose full screen or high quality options)

Montage of the complete event

Meeting up in the reserved parking area

Frank blocks entry into the temple

With entry now permitted the large group forms up inside the stones

Taloch introduces the event

The quarters are opened

Frank reads a poem created after the recent Managed Open Access

Taloch explains the Owen

Barry leads the Druid Vow

The Talking Stick is passed around

The Talking Stick reaches Kazz

A song as the Stick makes its way around

Matthew grabs the Talking Stick and performs his Summer Solstice poetry [Photo: The Dolmen]

The Talking Stick reaches Taloch

Children and their parents step into the centre for a blessing

Taloch drums three times before each toning session

Enjoying the stones during the break

Enjoying the stones during the break

Enjoying the stones during the break

Young bard Megan reads a wonderful poem

The directions are closed again

The directions are closed again

Getting ready to process out

Outside the stones near the Arthur Pendragon protest

Outside the stones near the Arthur Pendragon protest

Outside the stones near the Arthur Pendragon protest

Outside the stones near the Arthur Pendragon protest


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Page last updated: 13 Jan 2009