So who was there?
It’s hard for me to break down and categorize the individuals at the Hedge, due in large part to the vast diversity present. I’ll rely on my old undergraduate dissertation crutch and conform the myriad of groups into three relatively irrelevant entities: the devout (authentic Druids, New Age-inspired magicians, and the heavily intoxicated, most reverend at these events), the conventionally pious (LARPers, Aging Hippies), and the worldly (flat-out tourists). Since I’ve been out of the liberal arts loop for over a year, my classifications are not up to snuff. For the official, if now outdated, list of terms, check out the various joke guides that all play on the pseudo-scientific classification of subgroups   , but I’m just breaking down the groups to decide the order to post my photos.
First, a brief word that the “stewards” of Stonehenge, the security detail there that searched bags at the entrance and confiscated any glass bottles really controlled events brilliantly. The only serious incidents that occurred resulted from people accidentally falling from stones and suffering mild concussions. They were all quickly attended to. From my vantage point toward sunrise, I saw the security detail go into overtime and escort numerous people out for various infractions, including perching on higher stones….
Unfortunately, there were many people dressed like stewards who were not in fact stewards or had anything to do with security.
There didn’t appear to be any serious theft at the site, personal property was reasonably secure and there were few, if any, altercations between individuals.
Overheard Conversation from this Idio:
“This is a once in a thousand years event! (Even though it’s every year…)”
-Druids [see previous post]
-Possible Druids/ New Agers/ Grieving Family Members Illegally Disposing of Human Remains. Not sure what type of ashes these women were scattering over the crowd, but they got them on hundreds of people, and then proceeded to sprinkle them on the rocks too.
-Musicians in the Sacrificial Mosh Pit
-Industrious People on our former rock who raised a crystal rod to try to catch the sunbeams…sadly, there was no sun.
-the Disabled, this might be a bit un-PC to single them out, but I was shocked and impressed at the number of people there in wheelchairs and with walkers at the site. These people were camping out like the rest of us and I saw them touching the stones, making me wonder if they made this pilgrimage expecting something. That’s intense, especially because I often mistaked their walking canes and gray hair for cheesy wizard costumes.
-Long Distance Tourists/ and the extreme version: long distance tourist families.
-Witches burning basil/other herbs and shoving it into natural holes in the stones. Is it legal? This is a Grade I Ancient Monument – defacing it is a criminal offense.
Overheard Conversation from this Idio:
“So what do you think? Yeah, I guess it’s cool, kinda like a rave without electric.”
-Those surrounding the musicians in the Mosh Pit who cheered and snapped their fingers like they were at a lame poetry reading. I don’t know what they should have been doing, I was nearby and trying to sleep…
-Photographers going to the extra length standing on others shoulders, climbing the large post sarcens for the excellent picture while risking expulsion, bringing your own tripod… (I saw others who climbed great heights just to drink…maybe that’s in devout category, but it’s also stupid, should have brought a camera up there…)
-Artists of various sorts, their paintings and other work might not be spectacular but they can claim they did it from life and up close.
-Families: it takes guts to allow your kids to jump around on crowded slippery wet rocks over five feet high, while among the craziest members of society.
-Roving bands of costumed musicians, or simply the processional possessed.
-Political Message Mongerers, a***oles who brought banners to unfurl in the center of the Hedge at sunrise….they didn’t make it to the core, I think they were driven out in fact. “Save [Something]…” No idea what there message was since it was too packed.
-Stay still, you have Merlin on your neck! The beard here was real. It’s debatable if full beards and pointy hats should be added to the devout, I doubt that he grew it to fit in with this crowd…
Overheard Conversation from this Idio:
“Could all of you just bend your necks to the right, I NEED this photo…”
-Casual photographers, I can’t stand seeing so many people taking pictures with their cell phones. This ticks me off. They’ll claim they don’t have the cash to get a real camera, but then they’ll spend the rest of the day calling international talking about trivial things. These are people who need to have cell phones with them at all time, they need to be in touch at all time. Where’s the fun in camping out at the Henge and not being isolated from modern society. The photos is not going to come out, either, so why do they try?
-Posers, tourists who posed near the costumed folks…like this guy next to a warlock with a dead ferret on a stick.
-Tourists more interested in getting a group photo up close than with anything substantial in the background. A photo isn’t a photo unless it has a good structure somewhere in it. Why don’t these people wrestle back in their suburban homes?
-There’s nothing better than having reserved great spots and then contently sleeping through sunrise while occupying triple the ground area needed. It was so packed with people trying to get this close, that no one woke any of the multiple sleeping couples up out of spite for the space they continued to take. Who suffered there?
-People who quit the wait around the stones for the allure of the charcoal fire (no questions on how I have a photo of said fire.)
Our position throughout the night looking east, high up in the inner circle on one of the fallen slabs. This was near the center of the sacrificial mosh pit, where there was a nightlong drum banging concert. Maybe it was music, maybe. It was cheered and had many replacement musicians. The final twilight shot includes the ominous cumulus cloud that here forms a lintel but soon joined with other clouds to block the sun.
Sunset: 9:26 pm
Sunrise: 4:58 am
With that said, I will state that my group was running late…. The bus dropped us off after nine and a good mile or so away from the Henge, nevertheless, we could see the pink-glowing stones. Having now seen the Henge on several occasions and in different lights, I’ll tell you it is like the Taj Mahal, which continuously changes color during the day. However, this being England, the stones are mostly gray due to the overcast climate. Sure enough, before we could get a good shot of the pink stones from afar, a cloud moved in and blocked the sun. This became a theme of the experience: relatively cloudless skies skewered during the final moments by a streak of clouds. Why the ancients ever decided to build the monument dependant on sun-caused shadows in England beats me, but they did – and I came.
While walking with thousands of others through the fields to get to the Henge, I began to familiarize myself with those in attendance. There was a good number of students, many parents with children, several elderly and disabled individuals, many adult tourists/hikers, an overwhelming number of twenty/thirty something New Agers, with the rest of the large cast made up of adolescents with Lord of the Ring or Dungeon and Dragon inspired consumes. Also, I met several tourists from quite a far ways away in the US and Canada who came with large families for this event.
Were there any Druids without these pop-culture inspired robes, frills, and walking sticks? Hardly. Somewhere in that mix were the Emos, Goths, Hipsters, and Punks. It’s fair to say that every single person in England who had a shaved head or mohawk was at this event. And one in every two people in attendance had dreadlocks. This will be better detailed in tomorrow’s post on the people there.
Because all of these subgroups were all English, (I assume), they were all quite polite – even the excessively moody ones. One robe-wearing girl (or young woman) with gnarly walking stick, who appeared to be quite old from behind stammered out a thank you when I held a sheepgate open for her. Those words looked like they were killing her. She was supposed to be an elf, or witch, and supposed to be deeply lost in thought – but she yielded to the civilized culture. Very odd.
Early on, the Druids were kind of lame [Lame, Better, Nice]. I saw one solemn adolescent Druid in a brown Franciscan robe with cord being escorted around by his decidedly middle-aged, ordinary, and slightly embarrassed parents. I explained that many of what might be considered Druids at the event owed more to D&D or LotR, and others were more like aging hippies, but I don’t know. The ones that were there had banded together to chant and play on small drums or recorders, truly the devil’s instrument. One group, reduced to hyping modern tourist gimmicks, tried to get folks to vote for Stonehenge as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Only later did I see Druids throwing (hopefully non-human ashes into the crowd) and sprinkling them at the base of each stone. That seemed cool (largely because I avoided being hit with the suspect ashes.)
There’s too many photos to post here, so I won’t try even uploading that many. None were great.
The center of the Henge had one or two bongo/drum players at all times. There was sometimes a recorder or horn there. These were not Druid musicians, who were forced outside of the Henge with their screeching animal horns. Whenever a musician handed over the bongos to another, there was clapping but no audible change in music. I stayed in the center perched high on a slab for most of the night; the night was clear and the stars were incredible from inside the Henge…and the outside of the Henge glowed blue from floodlights set up by the authorities for that night.
There were bands of Druids roaming outside with horns and other small drums, but the funniest other musician was a lone bagpiper outside the Henge for a long time. Not one person was listening to him, it was extremely sad and he eventually quit.
At twilight, it began to rain lightly and then quit, just God’s way of washing Druid-hippies. I usually hate umbrellas but here they looked interesting in profile and in shadow. It had been clear, if quite cold, all through the night … but as sunrise neared clouds suddenly moved in. It was like a race between the sun and the clouds. Everyone knew when the sun would rise over the hill and they could figure that the overhead clouds’ speed meant that there was no hope in seeing the sun unobstructed. Some left, but others continued to hope since they were only minor clouds….nothing happened. More clouds came and what had been a clear day turned into one that was completely overcast. Thank you England. Twenty minutes after sunrise a very small hole in the clouds cleared that allowed the sun to be seen, if not shine through. It disappeared before I had zoomed in on my third picture.
If I can manage it, I’ll post some videos….and more photos tomorrow.
Camped out last night/this morning for the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. It was quite an experience as there were thousands of people (as tomorrow’s post will detail) there and it was actually chilly. Normal visitors are not allowed to go near the stones while we camped out on them, so it was worth it to go just for that reason — I have now touched all the stones (and others did much worse). Below, an image the Druids might think was magic — all the cell phone cameras and digital camera screens glowing amidst the twilight and the ancient monument.
This abyss, this lightless void
this abyss of world destroyed
this abyss, all deep, all wide
this abyss of being denied
Even in the darkest forest
Fireflies are flickering…but not in
this abyss of black increase
this abyss without surcease
Even in the deepest ocean
is a little moonlight…but not in
this abyss of night unbound;
this abyss without sound
Even in your bedroom shadows
There is something moving…but not in
This abyss, this all-below
This abyss; this death, this “no.”
–“This Abyss”by the Gothic Archies.
Hey, I won’t be checking this very often for a week or two but will get back to everyone after that.
Went to the Christmas service concert at Salisbury on the 20th….a beautiful old place.
Figure of St. Andrew
Height: 60 inches
Width: 20 inches
Depth: c8 inches
Ever stare at something for a long time? I’ve been watching this west facade of Bath Abbey like a hawk, which is why the statues and their surroundings have bothered me. At the Salisbury lecture, I learned that Salisbury’s west facade has the most preserved medieval stonework (mostly plain ashlars) even though most of its façade statuary was clearly Victorian (they’re wearing wigs, etc.) from Gilbert Scott’s notorious true “restoration.” Scott demolished anything that was built after the cathedral was first completed, and rearranged the remaining original fabric of the interior to make it symmetrical. His actions were a contributing impetus for conservation studies.
Anyway, I took this photo of St. Andrew (and several other statues) a while back and then found a case study on it by Roland Newman examining the previous restorations of the statue and the late 1990s conservation efforts that resulted in what you see above. The main efforts seem to have been removing the previous restoration addition’s use of cement and replacing it with a built-up sacrificial layer of lime mortar.
There have been four major restorations of the abbey:
1833 G.P. Manners
1860-73 Gilbert Scott: his work here was the considered scholarly and responsible (having gone in and replaced or removed most of Manner’s altercations)
1900 Thomas Jackson
1957-1960 (I believe carried out by English Heritage)
And the late 1990s conservation efforts by English Heritage.
The canopy around St Andrew is carved from Clipsham stone and dates from 1900, as much of the Bath stone weathers poorly. (This is infamously seen by its poor performance in the restoration of Henry VII’s Westminster Abbey Chapel, London.) Newman provides a very good explanation on the causes of decay at Bath Abbey, and Bath in general. “The weather in Bath is mainly from the South West, so the parts of the stone facing in that direction get perpetually washed whist those facing in other directions do not. This gives rise to mechanical erosion on one side of a figure and a build up of dirt and salts on the other.” (Newman, 17. See citation below.)
Will answer the demands of the Ruth, Natalie, and JC in tomorrow’s post.
Just got back from Stonehenge and and a lecture given by the architect in charge of Salisbury Cathedral (tallest Crossing Tower of British Cathedrals) at Sarum College in Salisbury. Nothing to report yet.
Seems almost inhuman to go from the sunny Ionic column posts back to the medieval Overcast Kingdom.
I should add that from this angle and distance, the tallest spire in Britain and accompanying cathedral looks porportionately very similiar to a small New England village church and steeple.