"You can see how cult-ish it is… how they suck the children in at such an early age.”
The time? Yesterday, during the week of the summer solstice
The speaker? An American man, probably a stockbroker, in a buttoned up Oxford shirt
The place? Salisbury Plain, Stonehenge, England
Our reaction? Laughter
The day began with “My Precious” (spoken like Gollum) and I renting a car, and driving from London down to Salisbury. I had always wanted to see Stonehenge, just as I dream of one day seeing the Easter Island and monuments there.
As we pulled into the parking area, the sight of large, double-decker tourist buses and throngs of sight-seers made my heart sink. I should have known. With spirit of Wimbledon and the Glastonbury Music Festival in the air, ‘tis the season of tourists in the U.K. Swallowing my disappointment, I donned my jeans and hiking boots, and headed up the monument.
There, standing in the distance, was the famous monument I’d seen in documentaries, film, books, and my dreams. It looked smaller than I had imagined, but magnificent none-the-less. Despite the crowds, a general quiet descended upon us all as we put our audio phones up to our ears, and listened to the taped commentary. The wind blew in, whipping our jackets about. The only sound we heard was the wind of the Salisbury Plain; no one was talking.
But wait! What’s that I hear? Drums? Celtic music? As I get nearer, I spot a large group of 30-40 robed people inside the roped off area, facing the center in what looks to be a religious ceremony. They’re actually inside the stone circle, behind the ropes, those bastards. How do they rate?
Then I remember the documentary I once saw on Stonehenge: how the druids, recognized as religious group gain admittance to Stonehenge proper. Minus tickets. Minus audio tapes. Minus the rope restriction.
It is then and there that I decide that I want to become a druid. I want to wear velvet robes and leather shoes. I want to carry a staff and feel the wind of Salisbury Plain blow my robes and my hair back like Merlin’s. I want to invoke the spirit of Morgana and call upon the powers of the North, South, East and West, to enter and exit the stone circle underneath the tall staffs of long-bearded, mediaeval men strong enough to overcome the forces of evil. I want stand beside troubadours wearing long, pointed shoes that curl at the toes, and who play Celtic music through ancient musical instruments that sound like bag-pipes. What child (even a grown-up child like me) wouldn’t want to be part of that magic, that drama? What child wouldn’t want to ignore those restrictive ropes and touch those prehistoric stones, first erected by an ancient people over 4,000 years ago? Who wouldn’t want to stand amid those monumental stones with a group of robed worshipers who honor the earth and Mother Nature?
I’m going to find out how to become a druid. Come next midsummer's night, I’m going to be wearing a purple velvet robe with a hood, carrying a drum, and hanging out with a group of eccentric folk who have not only found a way to connect with an ancient religious practice, but to get behind that frickin' rope and stand among the stones. And, if I ever hear a child saying, “But Mommy, I want to become a druid!” I know that there’s a little bit of magic, a little bit of hope left in this world.