Within the Hearth of the Turning Wheel it has become something of a tradition as with many, to make a pilgrimage to a particular sacred site or place on one or other of the Solstices. This pilgrimage which has taken the form of camping trips, short breaks or simply a one day trip; is sometimes to a local site and sometimes to one of some notable distance. These trips have happened so often and it is with a nod to Professor Hutton; that we often referred to them as 'something we have always done.'
So it was that in the early hours of the 21st of December 2013 a small number of us journeyed to Stonehenge by car with the aim of meeting friends and watching the sunrise. As usual we travelled in hopeful expectation of a visible sunrise, in the full knowledge that such an occurrence is rare. The further south we travelled, the heavier the rain appeared to become and we were forced not unexpectedly, to accept that our hope was a vain one.
Parking up at about six we found ourselves directed to a lane reasonably close to the stones, joining a single file of parked vehicles that extended behind us as more joined the line. This gave us almost an hour before the police would allow access and so we settled down for a nap, it had been a long enough journey with only one 'refreshment' stop and our designated driver appreciated the break.
During this time we had a telephone call from the friends we were expecting to meet and were pleased to discover, that they had parked up only a few cars behind. So it was that once the all clear was given by the Police, some half dozen of us made our way along the lane to the gate and our entry into the site.
The weather did not really improve and I was grateful that I had come in my heavier winter cloak, as it kept me quite warm and importantly dry, underneath. Standing on the bank we awaited the dawn, if one can call it that and had a moment of peace, amongst the grey clouds and the increasingly heavy rain.
We walked our way around the circle, preferring in my case to keep to the perimeter and avoid the crowd in the centre. I was rather slower in my perambulatory circumnavigation, as I kept bumping into people I knew or being asked to stop and pose for a photograph. You would think people had never seen a man in a woollen green cloak carrying a horn before.
Amongst these friendly enquirers was the usual grouping of journalists and semi-professional photographers, including a young lady by the name of Emma Wood who took the picture I use on this BLOG post. By the time I had finished playing the part of a media tart, posing with and for various curious solstice attendees and blowing my horn for the professionals, my friends had not only completed their own circuit but started a second.
Photograph of the Summoner at Stonehenge on the 21st December 2013.
Picture copyright Emma Wood photography 2013: http://www.emmawoodphotos.co.uk/blog/
Post this wet, grey dawn we travelled on to Woodhenge, so that those members of the Most Ancient and Venerable Order of the Skylark and Hawthorne, could claim another mark towards their eventual chivalric knighthoods. Here too the wind and the rain continued and we were eager to return to the cars and depart for Avebury.
At Avebury as per our wants and obviously it is something we have always done, our own tradition as it were, we lunched at the Red Lion before taking our walk around the stones. Once again we bumped into one or two people we knew, including Bill Willth Thorpe, a Druid from Swindon. Indeed in the Venerable Order of the Skylark and Hawthorne, Bill is titled as a Knight of Swindon.
Our walk about the Avebury Stones themselves, in continuing heavy rain was also subject to strong gusts of wind. So strong and bearing in mind that many of us had cloaks, that part of the walk along the bank was at times dangerous. It was however, a very pleasant and worthwhile day.
On the 22nd of December and allowing a day for recovery, the Hearth of the Turning Wheel met at Caer Bran for our Yuletide observance and our usual exchange of gifts. Our Yuletide ritual includes our version of the Secret Santa, which we like to refer to as the Secret Odin. This once again has become something we have always done. This year the ritual was written by Lady Jane, an invited guest who renamed the ritual as Rudolphmas.
Yuletide is a celebration and the exchange of gifts, coupled with a little humour, can lift our spirits in the depth of winter, which is obviously an important element of any mid-winter festival.