Summer Solstice past: The Rite of the 13 Megaliths
2020Simon Costin, the MWM Director writes;
The first thing I remember is the rain. I had often been a passenger -I don’t drive- on the ride over Salisbury Plains past Stonehenge, but had never had the opportunity to actually visit it. Pictures and friends’ reports of the desecration that takes place over the Summer Solstice period had always put me off ever setting foot in the place around that time. However, when the phone rang in 2005 and my friend Ralph Harvey asked if I would like to come to Stonehenge to be part of the Rite of the 13 Megaliths, I naturally jumped at the chance, especially as it was due to take place before June 20/21st.
Ralph said that as his coven had permission to close the site for private worship, they wanted to perform something before the solstice, almost as an apology to the site for what takes place there every year.
My very dear friend Marti Dean had also been invited to take part and friends, Ray and Lynda Lindfield were to lead the proceedings along with Ralph. The day arrived and I made my way to Salisbury by train, meeting Marti and several others at the main line station. It had been a grey and chilly day and now the rain fell in ever increasing sheets as we all boarded several mini bus’s and made our way to the henge carpark. Ralph and Audrey seemed totally unconcerned with the ensuing deluge and now I know why. My heart sank when we arrived and I peered through the mini bus window, unable to see the stones through the pelting downpour. There was some bustle at the front and Audrey, clutching an umbrella, opened the door and bravely disappeared. I could just about make her out, standing beneath her umbrella, gesticulating with one arm towards the heavens. A few minutes later, a rather damp Audrey boarded the bus and said, ‘Give it ten minutes’. Everyone was by this time getting into their robes and handing out the text to the Rite. I can remember looking at Marti dubiously and contemplating spending the next hour getting soaked to the skin.
And then ten minutes later, the rain stopped. Over the next ten years, I was to witness Audrey perform the same miracle, with the nonchalance of making a cup of tea in her kitchen in Shoreham-by-Sea. Our arrival had been timed so that we would be at the circle roughly an hour before sunset. Traditionally, the rite is performed by thirteen people, the Master and Lady with six women and five men, who arrange themselves alternatively, deosil in the order of their roles. However we were 23 in number, so Ralph arranged things differently.
Audrey sat to one side with Marti looking after her while Ralph directed the rest of us into a circle with Lynda Lindfield in the centre. The words of the Rite are really quite beautiful and to hear them spoken in the henge, devoid of other people, as the sun was beginning to set, was incredibly moving.
Ralph made an address to the stones as we were all watched by the crows perched above us on the rocks. A circle was cast, the quarters called and 13 of our member read out the following, one after the other…
Once the Rite had been completed and the circle closed down, we all linked hands and threaded our way in and out of the stones, finishing at the West side of the henge, where we gathered to watch the, thankfully unclouded, sunset.