Winter Solstice: Standing With Stones

Callanish6PCRupert Soskin is the writer and presenter of the documentary travelogue Standing With Stones: A Journey Through Megalithic Britain. He lectures and leads groups to ancient sites and natural wonders in Britain and abroad. He is also a much-published nature and travel photographer.

Once again the winter solstice has come around. That magical time when the sun begins to rise again, giving us longer days and taking us into warmer days of plenty. People flock to sites such as Stonehenge and Newgrange to witness the rising or the setting of the sun. Modern-day druids hold ceremonies at these and other ancient monuments, continuing ancient traditions which began so long ago in human history for their origins to be lost in the mists of time.

For many thousands of years man has celebrated this celestial cycle of ebb and flow, seeking to live in harmony with the constant effects of the heavens upon the earth. The British Isles remain one of the most significant places on the planet to find monuments built by our ancestors in celebration of man’s relationship with the sun. Stone circles intricately placed as astronomical calendars; passage graves constructed to allow the solstice sun to illuminate the chambers of the dead; rows of standing stones aligned to the stars, helping the builders plot the comings and goings of the seasons. The accuracy of these constructions still seems extraordinary. How did our ancestors accomplish such feats of planning and building? How many generations placed wooden posts as markers, refining the intricacy and accuracy through the years before finally setting them in stone to remain as permanent as the landscapes on which they stand? When we consider how long it must have taken to plan and build some of the more basic sites, others such as Callanish on the Hebridean isle of Lewis seem almost impossible in their astronomical complexity. Our star-gazing forebears really did have a profound knowledge of the movements of the heavens.

[Disinformation Editor's Note: Standing with Stones is a voyage of discovery, a journey through the extraordinary Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments across Britain and Ireland, from the southern tip of England to the northern Scottish Isles, exploring some of the many marvels of our ancestors deep understanding of the heavens. Never before has there been such an opportunity to see on film the wealth of British heritage which remains as a testament to our ancient connection with the heavens. The trailer is below and the DVD is available in good videostores, online, and here in the Disinformation Store.]

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  • santosh khatelsal

    Today is winter solstice the shortest day of the year that has a special significance to almost all cultures and countries in the world. But there is another significance on a much grander scale to this day, three years from now. On this day 21st December 2012, the plane of ellipse on which the planets of the solar system revolves around the sun completes one full round with respect to the equator of the milky way, this happens once every 26,000 years!! The last time this event happened, earth was in the peak of last ice age. This time around we have had a failed global conference to prevent another impeding climate change.

    But I am digressing; So what will happen on 21st December 2012. For one, it is the end of the Mayan calendar, yep, those very literate, prosperous and great pyramid builders also calculated empirically astronomic movements at a time when humans in other parts of the world were busy hunting and gathering, worrying either for the next meal or mate.

    So the Mayans ended their “long count” calendar on 21st December 2012 and given our compulsion to intellectualize and find answers, there are many opinions on why did their calendar end on this day than any other. Lots of theories of doomsday have been going around; reversal of earth’s magnetic fields, giant intergalactic fire storms destroying planets, apocalypse and the like. There are also some who opinion that earth and its inhabitants will undergo a positive physical or spiritual transformation on this day with one cycle getting over and another commencing. An equivalent of a Hindu “uga” coming to an end. Our cumulative knowledge on this subject is thus effectively limited by our imagination at best.