Druids led thousands of people in a celebration of the winter solstice at Britain’s Stonehenge, a world heritage site famed for its iconic, 4500-year-old stone circle.
“We were delighted to welcome approximately 5000 people to Stonehenge to celebrate winter solstice this morning,” said Kate Davies, the general manager of Stonehenge on Friday.
“It was a very enjoyable and peaceful celebration and the ancient stone circle was filled with the sound of drumming and chanting,” Davies said in a statement.
Druids base their worship of natural forces on ancient spiritual and shamanistic practices in Britain and other parts of Europe, especially Celtic traditions.
The annual winter solstice in the northern hemisphere falls when the earth’s axis is tilted furthest from the sun, making the sun appear at its lowest in the sky and bringing the year’s shortest day and longest night.
This year’s solstice began late Thursday in darkness and people flocked to Stonehenge before dawn to mark the event at sunrise on Friday.
Archaeologists believe the main 30-metre-diameter circle at Stonehenge was built for religious, political or other ceremonial use.
Seasonal agricultural cycles are thought to have inspired Neolithic people to align the huge, 25-ton silicified sandstone boulders to the movements of the sun.
The stone circle is normally off limits to visitors, to protect the site from damage, but it is opened to the public for the winter solstice and other special events.