When robed Druids gather at Stonehenge for the summer solstice in 2011, they will be worshipping at the prehistoric stone-circle monument for the first time as members of an established religion under British charity law. The classification means members of the ancient pagan tradition, which some see as a curiosity of Britain's ancient past, have mainstream status equal to the Church of England. The change of status, which is controversial, gives them tax advantages.
Opponents of the change of status regard it as a mistake made for the sake of political correctness by a government agency, the Charity Commission. The see it as the first step to recognition of Scientology, sorcery, witchcraft or even the Jedi as religions eligible for tax-exempt status. The 2001 census recorded the country as having some 390,127 Jedi, the fictional Star Wars religion, in England and Wales.
After a four-year campaign by the Druids, the Charity Commission says it accepts that they worship nature and believe in the spirits of places such as mountains and rivers, as well as in divine guides.
Druids are best known for the gathering at Stonehenge each year on Jun 21 to greet the dawn, but they hold festivals eight times a year to mark stages in the solar and lunar cycles. Encyclopedia Britannica describes the ancient Druids as members of the learned class among the Celts. They do not worship a single god or creator, but seek to cultivate a sacred relationship with the natural world. The earliest known records of the Druids come from the 3rd Century BC