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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

watch it: “neopagans chanting at Stonehenge”

I shot this at Stonehenge last Monday, September 29, in the early morning:

Someone asked in comments — which I’m slowly catching up on — to my previous post on Stonehenge how I was able to get so close to the stones. No, English Heritage, which manages the site has not rescinded its restrictions on visiting Stonehenge… at least not for the general public. If you show up during the regular visiting hours, you can only walk around the site of the stones from a distance of several hundred feet, on a special path — you can’t get on the grass, and you can’t get anywhere near the stones. But if you make a special appointment (my friend Bonnie made ours a year in advance), you can get an hour actually within the circle with a limited number of other visitors before regular visiting hours. You pay about twice what the public admission price is, and one of the few guards on site actually told us that while visitors to the circle are not supposed to touch the stones, they would pretend not to see it if we did.

Our appointment was for 6:45am, which meant we had to leave our B&B far away in Stratford-upon-Avon by 3:30am. (We actually ended up arriving early to Stonehenge, at around 6am, but we weren’t sure how long the drive would take and didn’t want to be late.) The busload of German neopagans — there were about 25 of them — were the only other people there, except for maybe one other couple who we thought were probably not there for the chanting.

The neopagans were actually kind of annoying: they seemed to think that their purposes for being there trumped anyone else’s, and tended to rather hog the place: it was hard to get any pictures without at least one of them in it, and they all seemed to be wearing the most garishly colored bad-weather gear (it was cold and windy, but not raining… though it looked like it might) and hauling neon-colored backpacks. Then again, I suppose even rude chanting Germans who looked like they’d just stepped out of a Land’s End catalog are an indication that this is a living place, not a mere historical footnote.

More video of the Germans here: I shot that one earlier in our visit, so it’s darker and harder to see the Germans, but it’s from a different angle, and the silhouettes of the stones against the predawn sky is more dramatic.

(I’ll find some good photos from my visit and post ’em soon, either here or at MaryAnnJohanson.com.)

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