Pagan wedding to mark summer solstice at Ring of Brodgar

The Ring of Brodgar on Orkney where people will gather to celebrate the summer solstice tomorrow (Wednesday). PIC: Flickr/Alessio Di Leo
The Ring of Brodgar on Orkney where people will gather to celebrate the summer solstice tomorrow (Wednesday). PIC: Flickr/Alessio Di Leo
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An early morning Pagan wedding will be held at the Ring of Brodgar standing stones on Orkney as part of summer solstice celebrations at the ancient site.

The legally binding ceremony will be held at dawn tomorrow, June 21, the longest day of the year when the sun is at the highest point in the sky and believed to be at the height of its powers.

It is a key date for Pagans who believe in the worship of nature with the longest day reflecting growth, light and fertility, as well as the start of the sun’s journey towards winter.

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The couple will wed amid the public celebration of the summer solstice with people due to arrive at the 5,000-year-old site from 3am.

Mead and honey cake are typically offered to those who gather to watch the sun come up.

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The Ring of Brodgar was known locally for centuries as the Temple of the Sun, given its alignment to the midsummer sunrise.

The solstice event has been organised by trainee druid Helen Woodsford-Dean, of Orkney Spirituality, who has a licence from the National Registers of Scotland to hold legally binding Pagan weddings.

Pagan weddings have been legally recognised in Scotland since 2004.

Several rituals may form part of the Pagan wedding ceremony, including handfastings where the couple clasp each others hands and have them lightly bound in cord. The knot is kept and never untied.

Handfastings usually take place within a cast circle, with a sacred space ‘between worlds’ created for using ritual swords, staffs and wands.

Another tradition of the Pagan wedding is ‘jumping the broomstick’ where a traditional besom is laid on the ground for the couple to leap over. It is thought the broom represents the couple’s home and the jumping an expression of the leap of faith the couple are to take.

The Ring of Brodgar is often described as one of the most enigmatic sites of the British Isles.

It was originally made up of 60 stones, with 36 surviving today. At least 13 prehistoric burial mounds are contained within the site.

The Scottish geologist Hugh Miller, visiting in 1846, wrote that the stones ‘look like an assemblage of ancient druids, mysteriously stern and invincibly silent and shaggy’.

Historic Environment Scotland, which manages the Ring of Brodgar site, has given full permission for the summer solstice event.

A spokeswoman said: “The gathering at the Ring of Brodgar is run by the local Pagan group, which run events throughout the year including Pagan weddings at the Ring.

“They are diligent in obtaining appropriate permissions, and great care is taken to respect the site and leave it as it was found.”