The New Yorker and Stonehenge

A friend sent me a seven-page article on Stonehenge from the April 21 edition of The New Yorker magazine. It’s good background information and completely in keeping with the story told in The Stonehenge Scrolls. I’m always intrigued that Stonehenge continues to fascinate us after four thousand plus years, especially in these times when the latest trend or hot news story becomes so quickly outdated or replaced by the next newest thing.

Unlike the hype surrounding the summer solstice sunrise at Stonehenge, The New Yorker article focuses on a winter solstice visit. I believe the winter solstice was more important to the Stonehenge builders than the summer–as evidenced by the fact that the tallest trilithon at Stonehenge is aligned with the winter sunset. But the numerous modern-day Druids the article describes gathered at the wrong time of day, sunrise instead of sunset.

The author had the privilege, as I did, of entering the circle and standing alongside the huge forty-ton stones. That truly awesome experience inspired several scenes in The Stonehenge Scrolls

Are modern-day Druids wrong about the summer solstice at Stonehenge?

As they do every year on the summer solstice—which this year falls on Friday, June 21—modern-day Druids and assorted revelers will gather at Stonehenge to watch the sun rise over the heel stone outside the entrance to the circle. But I think these New Age Druids have it wrong.    

The winter sunset, not the summer sunrise, is what the Stonehenge builders were more likely celebrating. The very design of Stonehenge itself confirms my conclusion, because the tallest upright stones in the monument were aligned to the winter sunset. 

It makes sense to me that the Stonehenge builders would have considered the tallest structure in their design as the most important. That would have been the center trilithon, which is composed of two 25-foot tall upright stones with a third stone connecting them at the top. The Stonehenge Scrolls calls them doorways, because that’s what they resemble. Four thousand years ago, the sun would have set between the uprights of this huge doorway during the winter solstice. Unfortunately, we can’t witness that today because only one of the stones of this structure is still standing.

Many other stone circles and other ancient monuments throughout the UK, Ireland and Brittany are aligned to the winter solstice, the start of the solar new year when days begin to lengthen again. In effect, Stonehenge was the site for New Year’s Eve celebrations.

So why do so many persist in flocking to Stonehenge on the first day of summer?  The Stonehenge Scrolls offers a fictional explanation. Hint: It’s somebody’s birthday.

Questions for Book Clubs

At the request of several readers who recommended The Stonehenge Scrolls as a selection for their book clubs, today www.TheStonehengeScrolls.com launches a new section, Book Club Questions. I’m honored by those who see enough “meat” in the book to offer it up for discussion.

The suggested questions prompt readers to probe the relationships between the main characters, Myrddin, Sulis and Gwyr as well as to to ponder several recurring themes of the book, including religious rituals supporting political power, the definition of genius and attitudes toward death. One question raises issues about women’s rights, then and now.

If you’d like to suggest a question, email me at info@TheStonehengeScrolls.com.

I’m available to attend book clubs in the Washington, DC metro area to discuss The Stonehenge Scrolls and will be meeting with a club in Fairfax, VA later this month.

New Stonehenge Discoveries

Several readers sent me a link to recent Associated Press story about new theories of Stonehenge. I’m always amazed that, after 5,000 years, Stonehenge still makes news! Many of us continue to be fascinated by this wonderful structure from the Neolithic age.

I’m happy to report this latest theory from University College London supports many of the ideas in The Stonehenge Scrolls, including that the Stonehenge site was used for generations before the stone circle was erected. And that building the circle took only a decade or so. And that the building project served to unite the clans of Britain.

When I was writing and revising and re-revising The Stonehenge Scrolls, I was always terrified that some new archaeological discovery would completely undermine the premise of my novel. Of course, since the building of Stonehenge occurred in pre-history, no one can really say for certain what happened. But fiction can sometimes contain more truth than readers suspect!