Putting the sol in solstice

AMESBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 21: Revellers watch as the midsummer sun rises just after dawn over the megalithic monument of Stonehenge on June 21, 2010 on Salisbury Plain, England. Thousands of revellers gathered at the 5,000 year old stone circle to see the sunrise on the Summer Solstice, which is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.  (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

A reader sent in a poor example of how to cover a major Pagan holiday -- the Summer Solstice. The Telegraph devoted only a few words to how the festival was celebrated at Stonehenge:

The solstice annually attracts an eclectic mix - Druids, hippies, sun worshippers and those who are curious to experience the ancient festival.

Nearly 20,000 people attended the event, with 15 arrests overnight for minor public disorder, a Wiltshire Police spokesman said.

There were a few other details but precisely no explanation of the religious angles. Many media outlets didn't even cover the festival -- at least not as a religious one.

Thankfully there were some good stories. The Associated Press had a nice basic write-up that the Washington Post used for its story "First day of summer welcomed; the solstice is greeeted (sic) by new agers, neo-pagans at Stonehenge." The package includes some great photos and a video as well. Unlike the previous story, this one actually quoted people who made it to the festivities:

As the sun rose, a woman climbed a rock in the circle center and blew a horn, welcoming in the longest day of the year north of the equator. Drums, tambourines, and cheers reverberated in the background.

"It means a lot to us ... being British and following our pagan roots," said Victoria Campbell, who watched on, wearing a pair of white angel's wings and had a mass of multicolored flowers in her hair. The 29-year-old Londoner, who works in the finance industry, also said that "getting away from the city" was a major draw.

Of course, it would be nice to see some papers use this festival as a hook to discuss other issues in the Pagan community. I thought of that when reading this reflection on maintaining Pagan practices from generation to generation over at Killing the Buddha. I was pleasantly surprised to see a similar story in an actual news outlet. A Warrensburg, Missouri, community news service of the University of Central Missouri's paper reported on a local Pagan community that has begun meeting:

The group [Matthew] Wertz leads tries to meet at least once a week in the park but sometimes they have to skip a week. They work around schedules to try and meet with all 14 members as often as possible. There are no age requirements and his youngest member is 13 years old and the oldest is 58. If there is a scheduling conflict and a member can't make it, there are no repercussions, as they understand people have other things to attend to.

The only advertisement they have is word-of-mouth, and as a whole, they don't support preaching to obtain members. However, if anyone has any questions or would like to come and see how the meeting takes place they are always more than welcome.

Okay, so it's a bit vague and puffy, but it allows readers a chance to learn at least something about Pagan and Wiccan worship practices. Finally, this Beliefnet blog post reflects on some of the spiritual meanings to Summer Solstice and other days in Pagan calendars.

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