Happy Summer Solstice All You Pagans Out There

(Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

You’ve probably seen the History Channel show Ancient Aliens which tells the story of humanity’s technological progress by ascribing major advances to the intervention, inspiration, and/or assistance of extraterrestrials.


We poor humans are too stupid to build the pyramids or move the giant stones that make up the Easter Island statues. We’ve always needed the help of kindly aliens who, for some reason, have taken an extraordinary interest in our health and well-being.

I hate to disappoint those of you who listen to that guy with the crazy hair, but to believe that aliens had anything to do with major technological advances of human beings badly underestimates human ingenuity, human intelligence, and the spark of divine wit that has propelled humanity forward since the end of the last ice age approximately 20,000 years ago.

We didn’t need aliens to figure out that some plants that were good to eat could be grown and harvested. Nor did we need E.T. to figure out the migratory patterns of game animals so that our wanderings had a purpose.

And what made those breakthroughs as well as much more possible was our ability to keep track of time. This ability allowed civilization to develop as humans learned by following the sun and the stars when to plant crops when the rains came, and most importantly, when they should appease the gods so that their harvests would be bountiful.

The ancients were incredibly observant, carefully cataloging the position of the sun and stars so that they knew — as scientifically as any observer today — when the shortest day of the year was and when the longest day of the year was.


Today is the summer solstice, and there’s no better place to be to observe the longest day of the year than at Stonehenge, the combination astronomical observatory and church that is still yielding its secrets after 5,000 years.


During the June solstice (or summer solstice), the sun reaches its highest and northernmost points in the sky. Delivering the maximum daylight hours of the year for the Northern Hemisphere and minimum daylight hours of the year in the Southern Hemisphere, according to Chris Vaughan, amateur astronomer with SkySafari Software who oversees Space.com’s Night Sky calendar.

This year, the summer solstice officially occurred at 10:57 a.m. EDT (14:57 GMT), when the sun reaches a point directly overhead of the Tropic of Cancer (latitude 23.5 degrees north).

As well as the longest day of the year and the start of summer, the June solstice also occurs at the moment the northern half of Earth is tilted toward the sun, resulting in the Northern Hemisphere receiving sunlight at the most direct angle of the year.

Being at Stonehenge for the solstice is an extraordinary experience, and when the sun rises, you get goosebumps.


Druids and pagans joined a colourful mix of visitors to mark the longest day of the year at the ancient site near Salisbury, Wiltshire.

On the solstice, the sun rises behind the entrance to the stone circle, and rays of light are channelled into the centre of the monument.

Many people travel from around the world to celebrate at the stones.

Stonehenge’s distinctive formation aligns to both the midsummer sunrise and the midwinter sunset.

If nothing else, you walk away from the experience with a new-found respect for those humans who lived many thousands of years ago. They really were very clever and managed to figure a lot of stuff out without all the tools we possess today.

And although we can’t be 100% sure, it’s not likely that aliens helped the Druids build it.



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