Druids gather in London for 300-year-old ancient ceremony to mark end of summer

A group of druids gathered in London yesterday to hold a ceremony celebrating the autumn equinox, marking the arrival of the harvest.

Members of The Druid Order, clad in white robes and walking in file, held their annual ceremony at Primrose Hill in northwest London.

The ancient ceremony itself dates back to 1717, although The Druid Order is a contemporary group that was founded in 1909 by George Watson MacGregor Reid.

The autumn equinox is when the sun appears directly above the equator, meaning that days and nights are roughly the same length for everyone around the world. It typically occurs between September 22 and 24.

This year it took place at 8.20pm yesterday, and the same thing happens again in March for the spring equinox. Druids view the autumn equinox as the beginning of their year.

A statement on The Druid Order's website read: "This is the start of the Druid year, when day and night are equal. The harvest festival, when the power of heaven is infused into the fruits of the earth, and you reap what you have sowed.

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"You see the full reality, what you made of your dreams, projects and plans, the actual reality, the truth that gives understanding and wisdom.

"The start of the academic year, of inner work, of assimilation and unbiased reflection that will later be the proper basis for the choosing and sowing of seeds.

"The auto-tombing process of autumn, judgement day, Libra, sign of balance, cardinal air."

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The earliest reference to druids dates back to the fourth century BCE.

They were originally members of the high-ranking class in ancient Celtic culture, tracing their origins to Wales, and could be religious leaders, medical professionals, legal professionals, and political advisors among other things.

Historically, druids have faced periods of persecution, first at the hands of the Roman Emperors after their invasion of Gaul during the 1st century CE, and later here during the 12th century from the Roman Church.

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Nowadays The Druid Order runs weekly classes on philosophy and religion in a house they own in south London.

There are other benefits enjoyed by modern druids too. Some of yesterday's group protected their eyes from the glaring equinox sun with sunglasses, which their ancient forefathers would have struggled to do.

More than 200 druid groups still exist worldwide and they are open to anyone.

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