Stonehenge is one of a large number of ancient structures around the world that is lined up with the Winter Solstice. Other examples include Newgrange in Ireland, Maeshowe in Orkney, Scotland, and Hovenweep National Monument in Utah. The reason is because the middle of winter is very difficult time. Agricultural people have to rely on food they have stockpiled which begins to run low. At this low point, they would beg the natural forces, such as the Mother Earth Goddess, to take pity on them, and not forsake her children. They have ceremonies to call back the dying Sun. Thus the Winter Solstice had profound significance for them. Indeed, our modern holiday of Christmas can be traced back to such origins. Stonehenge was aligned with the Winter Solstice. Coincidentally, it must therefore be aligned with the Summer Solstice. People in the 20th Century, guessed incorrectly that Stonehenge was deliberately aligned with the Summer Solstice. Thus modern people who call themselves Druids, dress up in white robes, and dance around Stonehenge on the Summer Solstice when the Summer Solstice held zero significance for the people who built it. Also, the fact that Stonehenge is aligned with the solstices has inspired people to claim to find other astronomical alignments which probably don’t exist. Some people claim it is aligned with the phases of the Moon which is highly dubious. Other people claim ridiculous elaborate astronomical alignments which are obviously off the wall.
Stonehenge is similar to the pyramids in that as a very impressive ancient structure, it has inspired all sorts of folklore and belief throughout history. The idea that stone circles were built by giants is derived from the fact that people tried to imagine someone who could lift the stones all by themselves. Many stone circles are associated with stories of giants. Some are named after Long Meg who was a giantess, who among other things, ran a house of prostitution. Another common theme in the folklore of stone circles is the idea that they were once people who were turned to stone. The Merry Maidens, which are near another group of stones called the Pipers, were supposedly a group of girls who snuck out at night to go dancing. Carnac in France was said to be a Roman army turned to stone. One story about Stonehenge states that dancing giants were circling around on the Salisbury plain. For some reason, they were turned into stones. The shape of the megaliths somewhat resembles the shape of giants holding hands.
Two major mythological constructs in Britain were Christianity and King Arthur. Stonehenge has been associated with both. According to one story, Stonehenge was made by the Devil. He bought stones of an elderly woman from Ireland, and used his magic to transport them to their current spot on the Salisbury plain in England. He then set them up. He got egotistical, and bet that no one in the nearby village would be smart enough to count all the stones. When asked, a local friar said “that is more than thee canst tell”, which means “that is more than can be told”. That was the correct answer. Now the devil was mad, because his plan was foiled. He picked up a stone, and threw it as hard as he could at the friar. The friar thought quick, and bounced it off of his heel. His heel was so hard that it caused a dent in the stone. To this day the stone is called the “Heel Stone”.
The Arthurian connection with Stonehenge is told by the twelfth century writer, Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his History of the British Kings. In this story, Merlin brought the stones to the Salisbury Plain from Ireland. Sometime in the fifth century, there had been a massacre of 300 British noblemen by the treacherous Saxon leader, Hengest. Geoffrey tells us that the high king, Aurelius Ambrosius, wanted to create a fitting memorial to the slain men. Merlin suggested an expedition to Ireland for the purpose of transplanting the Giant’s Ring stone circle to Britain. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the stones of the Giant’s Ring were originally brought from Africa to Ireland by giants The stones were located on “Mount Killaraus” and were used as a site for performing rituals and for healing. Led by King Uther and Merlin, the expedition arrived at the spot in Ireland. The British were unsuccessful in their attempts to move the great stones. At this point, Merlin realized that only his magic arts would turn the trick. So, they were dismantled and shipped back to Britain where they were set up as they had been before, in a great circle, around the mass grave of the murdered noblemen. The story goes on to tell that Aurelius, Uther and Arthur’s successor, Constantine were also buried there.
Today, Stonehenge continues to be associated with the occult. It is a symbol and Mecca for modern day Druids, psychics, and followers of New Age, pagan, wiccan, and gothic belief. It also figures in UFO belief, with some people claiming it was made by aliens.