Druid chief condemns Just Stop Oil ‘random attention seeking’ after Stonehenge stunt

Adrian Rooke performs a handfasting ritual (Adrian Rooke)
Adrian Rooke performs a handfasting ritual (Adrian Rooke)

Druids and witches have united in criticising Just Stop Oil for allegedly throwing orange powder over the sacred Stonehenge ahead of the Summer Solstice.

Two Just Stop Oil activists are accused of allegedly spraying rocks at the ancient site on Wednesday – the day before thousands of witches, pagans and visitors arrive to celebrate the longest day of the year.

The alleged attack was condemned by both prime minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Just Stop Oil protesters spraying an orange substance on Stonehenge (Just Stop Oil/PA) (PA Media)
Just Stop Oil protesters spraying an orange substance on Stonehenge (Just Stop Oil/PA) (PA Media)

Adrian Rooke, 66, a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids for over 20 years, told The Independent druids sympathise with Just Stop Oil’s message, but he criticised its tactics.

“We know we have to come together collectively as a species if we are going to have any future,” he said.

“But these random acts of attention-seeking, like King Charles’ painting and Stonehenge – they don’t gain support.

“It may impress people who are firmly in their camp but it causes anxiety and annoyance to a lot of other people who could sympathise with their ideals. We don’t condone random acts of vandalism.”

Activists at Stonehenge (AP)
Activists at Stonehenge (AP)

An English Heritage spokesperson said the orange powder has already been removed but that it could still have a harmful impact by eroding the stone and damaging the lichen.

The organisation has not commented on security for the summer solstice tonight, the biggest event in the druid calendar.

But Mr Rooke warned against additional measures, having battled with Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s to get the site opened to the public.

He said: “If you put a big, glass bubble over Stonehenge and you are forced to look at it from a distance. You don’t get the sensual experience you get from being in there, having the freedom to sit and touch gently. I wouldn’t want any more restrictions in place – that is counter-productive.”

He said the summer solstice is the one day of the year on which people can “connect with the stones and have a proper relationship”.

“There are very strict rules in place where you can’t take water or fire in to bless the circle. You can’t even touch the stones – it’s gone too far already,” he said.

Adrian Rooke is a therapist and a Druid (Adrian Rooke)
Adrian Rooke is a therapist and a Druid (Adrian Rooke)

He said he will be “singing, dancing and making merry” this summer solstice.

He added: “It’s food for the soul. It’s going to be beautiful and they will not stop us or Stonehenge. It will outlast Just Stop Oil and a lot of other things – maybe even us eventually.

“Druidry teaches us to live in the day, to look for what’s good in the world rather than the bad and appreciate the gifts and blessings we have in this little life we lead.”

Sarah Kerr said Pagans would defend the stones if attacked again (Sarah Kerr)
Sarah Kerr said Pagans would defend the stones if attacked again (Sarah Kerr)

Self-proclaimed witch Sarah Kerr, 44, president of the Pagan Federation, said a lot of pagans were furious at the protest, with some calling for jail time for those involved.

She told The Independent: “I was heartbroken. It’s not just the act itself it’s the thoughtlessness behind it.

“Whilst they say the paint is harmless they don’t know that. That eco-system could be devastated by what they’ve done.”

She called for Just Stop Oil not to carry out any further action at the site, adding: “I would think pagans are very protective over things that are important them. They will stop [protesters]. I expect them to form a circle around the stones and create a human barrier.

“What would have happened if they attacked the Church of England ahead of Easter?

“We would support their cause but actions like this have alienated almost the entire community. They are attacking the arts, and areas of spiritual importance – that is not going to harm the oil industry.”

A 73-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman have been bailed after being arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, damaging an ancient monument and deterring a person from engaging in a lawful activity.