Stonehenge Adapts, Livestreams Solstice

Site is closed to tourists, but millions watch online
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 21, 2020 10:00 AM CDT
Stonehenge Moves Solstice Rites Online
Arthur Uther Pendragon, left, and visitors turn to face the direction of the rising sun next to the closed Stonehenge on Sunday near Salisbury, England.   (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

The coronavirus pandemic has prevented druids, pagans and party-goers from watching the sun rise at Stonehenge to mark the summer solstice this year. The ancient stone circle in southwestern England usually draws about 10,000 people to mark the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. But Britain has banned mass gatherings as part of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. English Heritage, which oversees Stonehenge, livestreamed the sunrise instead, the AP reports. It said more than 3.6 million people watched as dawn broke at 4:52am Sunday (11:52pm EDT Saturday), though senior druid King Arthur Pendragon had said earlier that it was "not very pagan" to watch a "false sunrise" on a screen, per the BBC.

Stonehenge, a World Heritage site, is believed to be 4,500 years old. It is known for its alignment with the movements of the sun. Government and Stonehenge officials had pleaded with the public not to attend this year. "We know how strong the draw to come is for some people," Stonehenge's director said. But some dedicated druids were determined to watch the sun rise in person, gathering in a field near Stonehenge in a morning rain. Pendragon said it had been "very wet," but he was undaunted. "You can't cancel the sunrise," he said the BBC. "It's going to happen, and we were there to celebrate it." The site is scheduled to reopen to tourists July 4, per Sky News.

(More Stonehenge stories.)

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