druids at stonehenge
Druids at the summer solstice in Stonehenge in the 1970s.Getty Images

Summer solstice for Druids is an event that celebrates the cycles of the universe, with traditions dating back thousands of years.

Frank Somers, from the Amesbury and Stonehenge Druids, has been attending summer solstice at Stonehenge for more than a decade.

Speaking to IBTimes UK, he explained: "Druids believe that everything in existence is interconnected. The fundamental belief is that energy, the stuff we're made of, our spirits, are part of a continuum that makes up the whole universe. We're both unique individuals and part of something bigger.

"Everything in nature goes in cycle. A big part of the Druid thinking is there's this cycle called the year, which fundamentally affects everything we do - when we can grow our food and when we have to hide away next to the fire. If you turn up at the changes between the seasons and observe that change, you can become better attuned to those cycles in yourself and you're a part of them."

Summer solstice is when the sun is at its highest point and the longest day of the year. Winter solstice is the opposite – marking the shortest day and the sun being at its lowest on the horizon. Both are cause for celebration, Somers said.

Summer solstice at Stonehenge
Summer solstice at Stonehenge last year.Reuters

"Each season has its positives – winter season is about family and community, and the darkness, with the cold and the wet and the snow – it cleanses the land ready for a new season of growth. The summer is all to come. Even though the days are getting shorter the Earth's temperature is increasing and you've got the whole summer culminating in harvest, which everyone is looking forward to.

"What you're celebrating on a mystical level is that you're looking at light at its strongest. It represents things like the triumph of the king, the power of light over darkness, and just life – life at its fullest."

Stonehenge Druid traditions

Somers explained some of the traditions that take place among Druids on summer solstice. To begin, he said all Druids will want to be under the open sky – most will gather in small groups of family or friends, so those attending ceremonies at sites such as Stonehenge are the "tip of the iceberg".

However, explaining the significance of the Neolithic site, he said: "Druids that gather at ancient places do it specifically so that they're part of the continuum with the ancestors. When you do it at Stonehenge, you're in the same place for the same reasons as people 5,000 years ago – in a place they marked out as special that they picked out to meet up and do these observances. You become part of something much bigger than we are."

At Stonehenge there is a sunset ceremony for people who arrive on time. Following this, Druids get into a circle to process around the stones three times as a way of acknowledging the sacredness of the site and as a means of introducing themselves.

summer solstice
Druids gathered in the stone circle for summer solstice.Getty Images

As morning approaches, Druids find a spot to set up small circles, which is then opened by one person – called casting the circle – who declares it to be a sacred gathering. They then call to the elements, starting with mother earth in the north, air in the east, fire in the south and water in the west. The elements are symbols of energy. They also call to the shining ones of legend, the fairy folk, to be present and any bright spirits including the ancestors and the great ones."

After a speech and any announcements people want to make, the Druids turn to face the direction of the rising sun and raise their hands. A drum is beaten slowly to start before picking up speed as the sun rises.

"At the first glance of the sun people cheer. Traditionally the druids blow horns and there is then a chant, where you are raising energy and focusing it from the circle and radiate out around the world – it's a group prayer, not high magic or anything. Sometimes we recite the Druid's prayer. We close the circle by saying thank you to the spirits and the gods that have been present with us and say farewell to them."

Explaining the significance and majesty of Stonehenge, he added: "When you walk inside, the stones seem enormous. It's almost like you're stood in a street in New York, you get this sense of them towering over you.

"We think Stonehenge is a sacred place that links the Earth, the Moon and the Sun and the seasons. It's a place designed to draw people to it and the place would have always been there to teach people and give them a ceremony with which to celebrate what's going on and be a part of it all – much more than just being a tourist monument."