In addition to welcoming summer, there is a scientific reason for all the excitement surrounding this day.
Ralph Mistlberger, a professor of psychology at British Columbia's Simon Fraser University, said there is anecdotal evidence that people, especially those in the north, sleep less and are highly energized during longer days.
"The day signifies the goddess being at her fullest and her ripest," which could explain why June has been the traditional month for marriages, said Wessell.
One of the popular spots to celebrate the summer solstice is at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, where people gather to watch the sunset on the horizon. In 1986 the British government allowed solstice goers to view the sunset from six kilometers away. In 1999, James said, Britain decided to allow groups into Stonehenge for one hour at a time.
Thousands Gather at Stonehenge
This year, thousands of New Age people, aging hippies, mystics and those merely wishing to escape the crucial England World Cup game against Brazil gathered at Stonehenge in a peaceful celebration of the summer solstice.
The dawn, although hidden by thick cloud, was greeted with a cacophony of gongs, drums, whistles and whoops. The revelers came from all over, travelers, druids, hare-krishnas, who all celebrated the solstice in their own manner amid a cloud of smoke and incense haze.
A few brought St. George flags with them, standing on the stones to cheer on England against Brazil.
The Kings Drums group banged out a rhythm in their torchlit parade akin to a Brazilian samba.
The site, whose origins are lost in four thousand years of history and legend, is open to the crowds, after being closed for years, but carefully monitored.
Clashes between crowds and the police in the past culminating in the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985 led to a six-kilometer exclusion zone being set up around the stones.
Police and conservation authorities said there had been only 11 arrests made mainly for drunkenness and drug offences among the estimated 22,000 revellers by Friday morning.
The crowds began gathering late on Thursday and were later allowed to congregate near the stones themselves. Glass bottles and fireworks were banned, as was climbing on the stones.
Police said some people had flouted the rules including a number who climbed on top of the stones, and a few were ejected from the site.
Jeremy Wickham, who supervised the police operation said the atmosphere had been good. "There have been the odd bits and pieces, most of them drink or drug related, but I think we have learnt our lesson about how to do things over the years."
Traditional British witch John Rothwell, 39who is also a computer technicianand Texan witch Melizande Veritas said the atmosphere had been good.
"It's such a cool place to be. People have been doing this since Year Dot, even though we have no written records of why," Rothwell said.
Copyright 2002 The Canadian Press and Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH
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