Solstice on the (Cotswold) edge

Up bright and early, well ok, earlier than that, and into the camper van for a short drive up to Coaley Peak. Only hours before I’d collected Charlotte and Rory from Temple Meads railway station. (Happily, despite the drone warfare at Gatwick Airport and the suspected terrorists at Stuttgart Airport they made it back from Munich in time for Yule).

On top of the escarpment, on Frocester Common and next to Nympesfield Longbarrow [pic from 2006], I did my best to stand in the tremendously strong winds coming off the Severn estuary, cradling a hot cup of tea in a thermos mug… waiting to see who would arrive for the sunrise. Because of the parental taxi thing I’d not decided definitely to attend until quite late.

And people arrived, in ones and twos, and I even knew some of them. And soon knew the others. Great! I texted the Druid who was leading the ceremony at sunrise, to find he and his companions had decided (again, at the last minute) to pilgrimage up to Coaley Peak from Stroud… some six miles across the commons and up the hill.

Sunrise was at 08:13 and although the sky was generally brightening there was never any option of seeing him face to face, nor even a glimmer. Nevertheless, some of us are more deeply into modern technology than prehistoric re-enactment, and my augmented reality astrolabe app pointed us all at the appropriate horizon. But where were the pilgrims?

Comes the moment, someone has to step in. Grasping at the ‘verse for support, there was a reasonable stab at a druid ceremony, replete with cascading Awens and reverence and honours to the landscape and to ancestors of blood and tradition, to those unseen who watched and listened and perhaps took part… and hey, there was mead! At the right moment my black coat was thrown aside and I was wearing a white hoodie (damn, I’m such a drama queen!) đŸ™‚

The mead was a fab outcome. Someone in my village keeps bees and makes and sells excellent beeswax and honey, and also brews a little mead (though he doesn’t drink himself). You never do know how it’s going to turn out until the bottle is opened, but in this case it was a gorgeous dry and warming fire, and the circle and the sacred land on which it stood shared, drank and libated to those they each honoured.

Having welcomed the sunrise, however hidden by cloud, the circle closed ritual in more Awens and maximum huggery. As if welcoming the light, the clouds started to part releasing blue sky above us. And that was nice too.

The group began to disperse; happy to have had the opportunity to be fully in the moment. And the pilgrims breasted the hilltop! No matter; some mead remained, and the shortest morning was rededicated to inspiration, celebration and community. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, and twice!

However you marked the Solstice, may your days and the year ahead be fulfilling, inspiring and challenging, but not too challenging. Be the best person you can be, and help others to be likewise.

And if you slept through it, hey, no worries, the sun still rose. And there’s plenty of time; unlike the fire festivals that can be seasonally adjusted, solstices are astronomical occurrences, and the midpoint to today’s is 22:23 UTC this evening. Hail Sol.

2006.12.16, Nympsfield Long Barrow at Sunset 2

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