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Solstice celebrated at the henge

The shortest day will be observed by several gatherers at Stonehenge Aotearoa. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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Today at 4pm, several druids from Wairarapa and beyond, as well as interested members of the public, will converge, learn and socialise at Stonehenge Aotearoa in Carterton.

The gathering will celebrate the observance of the winter solstice, the year’s shortest day, as well as Matariki, the Maori new year.

Richard Hall is the manager of the site, which opened in 2005, having been modelled on the original Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England.

“There will invariably be some sort of ceremony, but it’s up to people what they do,” Hall said.

“We always do the tales of the equinox and the solstice, looking at the origins of all our stories and major religions around the world.

“Then we go out and see the sunset and have a shared meal.”

The original site in England, approximately 5000 years older than its Kiwi cousin, would have seen simultaneous celebrations observing the summer solstice, but these had to be cancelled due to covid-19, still ravaging the UK.

This means that today’s solstice celebration in Wairarapa will be the only one of its kind in the world.

After the sunset, ushering in longer, lighter days, Hall said there would be a gathering and feast, with people encouraged to bring their own dishes to share, as well as something to drink.

“Looking back at the past, we’ve had some of the biggest spreads when people brought their own plates – and people also bring a bottle of wine along, so it’s just socialising really.

“In the summer we’d often do that around the henge, but it’s winter now, so it’s all going to be done here – we’ve got a lecture theatre and that sort of thing.”

The solstice gathering in Carterton will share its focus with the concept of Matariki, a star cluster, also known as the Pleiades, which rises into our night sky around the same time as the solstice, prompting remembrance of the dead and the celebration of new life in Maori culture.

According to the Maramataka [the Maori lunar calendar], the reappearance of Matariki brings the old lunar year to a close and marks the beginning of the new year.

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