Pagans mark summer solstice at replica Stonehenge

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 21, 2014 at 8:44 pm •  Published: June 21, 2014
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MARYHILL, Wash. (AP) — As their sons returned dead or wounded or not at all from heavy fighting across the Atlantic in 1918, people in this small Columbia Gorge town sought to commemorate their sacrifice.

On a visit to the original Stonehenge in England, a Quaker named Sam Hill heard stories of dark doings and ritual killings. What better way to mark the Great War then raging, he thought, than to construct a replica near his estate in Maryhill, Washington, a town on the state's southern rim with Oregon.

Hill argued that combat between nations was an irredeemable folly and the dead soldiers an offering to the "god of war." So he built a West Coast incarnation of Stonehenge in tribute.

The monument nearly lines up with sunrise on the solstice, just like Stonehenge — though stories about Bronze Age human sacrifices there were almost certainly false. The original structure was likely one of the earliest calendars.

And much like Stonehenge, the replica draws a coterie of neo-Druids, pagans and wiccans each year on the summer solstice. On Saturday, about 30 turned out in small groups from Oregon and southern Washington.

Hill's testament to the World War I dead stands alone on a reedy outcropping several hundred feet above the Columbia River. Inscribed inside are the names of slain soldiers from Klickitat County. Like Stonehenge, it contains an outer ring of 16-foot-tall stones, an inner grouping of 9-foot-tall stones and five pairs of arch-like stone pillars called trilithons.

Religions that treat the sun as a deity turned to the summer solstice as a holy day. Greeks celebrated their god of agriculture, Vikings planned raids and early governance around midsummer, and Plains Indians, including the Sioux, marked the occasion with a dayslong ritual.