Stonehenge is a madhouse on the day of the Summer Solstice. Unlike most tourist attractions, there are practically no facilities near it. The stone circle itself is owned and protected by the British nation. It can not be disturbed or developed in any way, as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The land for miles around it is free of fast food, gas stations, and hotels, being mainly owned by the National Trust. It is truly possible to feel as though you have time-traveled back to the dawn of human history when you see the stones standing alone on a vast, empty plain.
But all that changes every year on June 21. Last year 35,000 people jammed themselves in and around the rock formation. Comparisons with Woodstock (the first one) come to mind. The police are there, keeping the crowd in order and confiscating drugs. There is always a hard core of serious individuals – modern-day Pagans, Druids, and other spiritual seekers – who peacefully gather and perform their own rituals. The Druids are as real as it gets. This year it rained, so there were only 18,000 at the site. The Independent (London) posted a video of the revelers on their website. King Arthur Pendragon, Druid leader and former motorcycle gang member, makes an appearance: Stonehenge Solstice 2011 Video (Sorry, there is a brief commercial at the beginning of this video.
I was wondering how the Solstice was celebrated in places where access to the real Stonehenge is not convenient. One such place is Stonehenge Farm in South Africa, north of Cape Town. They have one of the wildest celebrations on the planet. Even though the place is called “Stonehenge Farm” it has nothing to do with Stonehenge, and the celebration does not take place on the Solstice. It’s called AfrikaBurn, modeled after Burning Man, the festival that takes place every year in a remote desert in Nevada.
To quote someone who was there:
“AfrikaBurn is a place where you can get your butt branded, your palm read, and where you can get married in a five-minute ceremony on the back of a pick-up truck, flanked by two costumed cowgirls in bright make-up and wigs.
The marriage certificate is valid for the duration of one’s stay at the festival.”