Druids take the spring initiative: Horn-player sends message to all corners as he performs an ancient rite beside the Tower of London

THE MIDDLE-AGED man in a white robe turned his back to the midday sun, pointed a three-foot horn like a blunderbuss towards the press photographers scuttling along a flat roof, puffed out his cheeks and blew, an ancient and primitive sound.

He turned through 180 degrees and the reason for his otherwise incongruous pair of shades became obvious as he squinted at the sun and fired a blast over the Tower of London.

Then he turned another 90 degrees clockwise, and repeated the exercise towards St Paul's Cathedral, and with a deep breath and reddening face completed the process in the direction of Docklands.

The druids, 40-strong and enrobed, were welcoming the spring equinox a day earlier than the secular world, but correctly as the sun entered Aries, according to their own calculations. They always welcome the spring equinox at this spot next to the Tower, in east London, where a plaque informs the world that Donald Soper spoke weekly for more than 65 years.

The chief druid, David Loxley, 47, counselled the chattering druids to put external thoughts aside, to make sure that they were relaxed, and to imagine a brilliant circle of light spiralling anti- clockwise around them.

They closed their eyes, and processed across the road, many with their eyes closed, the traffic halted by two policemen, and gathered in a cirle for a ceremony read from well-thumbed pamphlets, and lasting nearly an hour.

The peace they sought was not much in evidence. Peter Moore, London's town crier for the past 20 years and paid to promote the Tower of London Pageant, stood at the entrance tolling his handbell loudly, handing out leaflets that were offering 50p off. 'If my bell's good enough for Lord Soper, it's good enough for the druids,' he said uncompromisingly, posing in his red robes for yet another tourist.

Teenage foreign visitors gathered chattering around the druid ceremony, pleased to have something to photograph. 'Oh look, they're going to sacrifice a baby,' a girl said to her friend, pointing to a druid holding an infant.

Maidens with flowers in their hair brought in a horn of plenty, filled with cider. Pumpkin seeds were also brought in and scattered on the ground. A sword was partly unsheathed, and the trumpet was sounded.

There was a sermon which could have been delivered from almost any Anglican pulpit, enjoining the druids to have a vision of goodness rather than pursue material goods for their own sake.

We may know that trees will grow leaves in the spring, but the first time there was a spring, it required faith to believe in the leaves. 'Without this vision, which is a non-evidential vision, nothing will have leaves on,' the druids were told.

Afterwards, Mr Loxley said the tolling bell had been unfortunate, but the druids had to accept this was a public place, with a cross- section of society present. Sadly, he added: 'There didn't use to be a McDonald's here.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...