Response to the Druid Network's attack on public access at Stonehenge.
After the recent news that the Druid Network has gained charitable status, Emma Restall-Orr was interviewed by Channel Four News, on Sat 2nd Oct 2010, with a huge studio backdrop of Stonehenge. The interviewer apologised for the photo of Stonehenge, and said that he knew that she "hated it", to which she replied "yes, thank you"
He then asked her again "do you hate it?" to which she nodded, again in the affirmative.
She went on to say, that Stonehenge, "wasn't important to druids", and that those who celebrated there, were "protest organisations who call themselves druids, who campaigned for free festivals at Stonehenge."
The member orders of the Council of British Druid Orders (CoBDO), and others, who celebrate at Stonehenge regularly at the solstices and equinoxes, by kind permission of English Heritage, are druids who are public ceremonialists, not free festivalers. We are also stewards for these events, and facilitators for public access.
No free festival has taken place at Stonehenge since 1984, whilst managed open access has been taking place at Stonehenge every year since 2000, without any significant trouble. The highest attendance, was some 36,000 people at summer solstice 2009, who all seemed to enjoy the event, and entered into the spirit of the solstice, with open hearts and minds, and respect for one another, and the different beliefs and spiritual paths.
As a druid who has personally been involved in the 20 year task of re-opening Stonehenge to the public, and as a steward who has worked tirelessly at Stonehenge, with others, to make sure that it has always been a safe and worthwhile event, I feel very cross with Emma for a number of reasons.
She has always spoken against the re-opening of our greatest national shrine, Stonehenge, to the public, and has spoken with great disdain about the sort of people who like to go and witness the sunrise there. She wanted to keep it closed to the public, but have private access for her own fee paying group instead. Apparently, she feels that the general public are not worthy to be allowed into their own national shrine, and that, according to her, the Druid Network are somehow an "elite" group that have no need to respect the public, or the "congregation", or for that matter, other druids.
It is largely due to this philosophy of hers, that the Stonehenge event struggles to provide enough "druid stewards", to enable the event to keep going for future generations. Does she denigrate the event, because she is actually afraid of the general public and the inhabitants of Britain ?
Druids, and those who call themselves druids, need to get over their fear and ignorance of the people who are moved to go to sacred sites at special times, and who have every right to do so. Being only concerned with their own members, and the perceived need to qualify for charitable status, is not a good reason for condemning the spiritual objectives of other druids, who already work in the public arena, and who promote free access for all.
I do not personally believe in charging money to teach people druidry. After all, whoever heard of people paying to become Christians ? I am not against official registration, but why should it be used to attack the people who love and look after Stonehenge?
People are interested in Druidry because public minded druids at Stonehenge have achieved a level of recognition for druidry, that private druid clubs, like the druid network, seem only to want to criticise and undermine.
Stonehenge is our greatest national shrine, a magical and beautiful treasure, a model of the structure of the universe, and a link to our ancient ancestors. It should be loved as such by druids, and not hated.
Stonehenge Archdruidess & Steward
PROUD: The solstices are marked at Stonehenge by all types of pagans