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8 January 2005
Winter solstice celebrations

The Long Man of Wilmington was the setting for a celebration of the winter solstice staged by East Sussex druids. More than 60 druids gathered on the top of the flat hill to the west of the Long Man crest. They took part in a rite to mark the 'feast of the unforgotten sun' where their activities were watched with enthusiasm by dozens of Sunday walkers.
Senior druid Dave Smith explained the Christian festival of Christmas was grafted onto the winter solstice. Hundreds of megalithic structures throughout Europe, Africa, North America, Asia, Indonesia and the Middle East are oriented toward solstices and equinoxes. And archaeologists have also revealed that many medieval Catholic churches were also built as solar observatories with a small hole in the roof admitting a beam of sunlight tracing a 'meridian line' along the floor enabling the correct dating of Easter.
     The Long Man ceremony took the form of a mummer's play with actors wearing masks depicting the sun, moon and earth. At one point watchers were asked to close their eyes when the mask was taken off a man and put on to a child, depicting the rebirth of a new year. The winter solstice saw 600 druids, pagans and visitors brave the cold at Stonehenge and a further 60 at Avebury in Wiltshire.

Source: Lewes Today (7 January 2005)

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