As a person who is passionate about space as well as prehistory, and having recently moved near Avebury Stone Circle, I had to experience the summer solstice there. Yes, I knew that the stone site was most likely built to celebrate the Winter Solstice (just like Stonehenge), which was a more important date to the people who had made these monuments, but I thought I'd go along with the modern folklore.
So, on the longest day of the year, I woke up in the middle of the night and cycled my way to the famous Neolithic site in time for the astronomical dawn around 4 am. On the way there, I saw the Moon and Venus above the Ridgeway, an ancient path linking many prehistoric sites in the South of England. Both celestial bodies accompanied me as I got nearer to the site.
When I arrived at Avebury, I was taken aback by the view that laid upon me: illuminated by the twilight, a large crowd had gathered amongst the stones, dancing, chanting, shouting, flame-throwing, and more. The atmosphere was electric as well as eerie. I walked amongst the people gathered. They were mostly young, excited and seemingly having a great time.
As we passed the nautical and civil dawn, the sky brightened up further into beautiful hues of yellow and pink, and a tingling sense of expectation was growing – the sunrise was approaching.
And then it happened. At 4h50 in the morning, wild cheers and shouts of joy erupted as the Sun appeared to the East, above the Ridgeway.
I couldn't contain a sense of wonder upon seeing the bright yellow circle rise upon the horizon, illuminating the plains surrounding Avebury. Very soon, the Sun's glow, warm and inviting, filled the scene. It was mesmerizing. In a single instant, I felt one with the people present and those that had erected the stones around me so long ago. It was an unusual feeling, one of wonder and glee.
I will return to Avebury in six months to celebrate the Winter Solstice and reaffirm my bond with our Sun and ancestors. And this time, I'll probably bring a drink along to celebrate this special event.