A sacred town with hidden Mysteries or or a cool kind of hippie Village with lots of colour and some fun things to do?
I suppose I can’t give the definitive answer on this.
First of all yes it is a cool kind of hippie village, exceptionally colourful, beautiful
and well kept and with some fun things to do. For example, you can climb the Tor,
you can visit the beautiful landscaped Chalice Well Gardens. There are lots of beautiful countryside walks nearby, you can camp, and there are some great pubs. So yeah, Glastonbury is a
fun place to go for a bit of holiday. (I’ve never been to the music festival,
which isn’t in Glastonbury but at a nearby village’s farm.)
And what about the other aspect of Glastonbury? About the idea that it is a sacred site? According to various legends, it’s possibly the burial place of King Arthur, perhaps connected along ley lines to other holy sites in Britain, maybe a kind of natural Homeland for witches and other spiritual practitioners.
Well, I decided to go there with an open mind, not to be closed to the idea of this sacredness or spirituality but at the same time not necessarily ready to believe in every single thing I see or hear. Actually, what was great about Glastonbury is that nobody will shove “woo” down your throat at all; instead, everything is available to you, and you can take from it what you want, leave behind what you don’t want. There is a beautiful ‘Goddess Temple’ where they do ceremonies, drum circles, and you can also just go there and meditate. We participated in a drum circle as well as meditated for a bit. It was welcoming and pleasant.
One of the main features of Glastonbury is a plethora of excellent bookshops. They don’t only sell magical things, but they do have significant collections of esoteric books, many of that would be very difficult to find elsewhere. And because they’re physical bookshops, you can actually look at them and decide if you want to buy the book rather than taking the stab in the dark that is most online book buying. I particularly liked Courtyard Books and Labyrinth books.
Because I’m writing a novel about magic (artist-magicians in eighteenth-century London, to be precise), I was looking for books that might help me in my research. Still, I ended up with quite a variety of different things. The most important, I guess, is simply the little book “Glastonbury” by the novelist and occultist Dion Fortune. I had previously read her excellent novel The Sea Priestess, and I think it’s a great novel and that she was a superb prose stylist. I think her talents and abilities as a novelist were disdained a bit because of her practice as an occultist and founder of an occult movement. I think The Sea Priestess deserves a place in the early 20thC Canon of critical writing by women. It is a great read, and likewise, her guide to Glastonbury is very subjective but so beautifully written it gave me a feel for the place.
The first and most crucial part of Glastonbury is probably Glastonbury Tor, the large Hill just on the outskirts of the town centre which was a pilgrimage site and which you can climb to find the remnants of a church. It’s quite a substantial climb, and it was raining but by the time we got to the top the Sun came out and the weather was glorious, so in a sense, it was a pilgrimage through some initial difficulty.
We decided to practice a little magic. So, before the ascent, we stopped off at Wyrdraven, a little shop that describes itself as a shop ‘for all things Viking’ to purchase a bottle of good mead and some drinking vessels. I got a drinking horn; the others bought mead cups. After that, we started our journey up the Tor. It wasn’t easy, and it was a bit muddy at first. But at the top, we laid out our mead cups, poured the golden libations, invoked the Goddess and the sun god and drank the delicious mead. Then we played some suitably witchy music (Coil) and danced around on the top of the Tor for a while, eventually having a nice lie-down. After a time, we made our way back down and popped into the Rifleman Pub for a beer and a plate of vegan nachos (nom!).
The next day we first visited the glorious ruins of Glastonbury Abbey (founded in 700AD), then took a very long walk out into the fabulous countryside to see the remains of a stand of oak trees over 1000 years old. Though only two trees are left, seeing all the young oaks in and around Glastonbury was wonderful. The walk was beautiful, refreshing and challenging in a good way. We brought some pasties with us from the local Burns the Baker, which turned out to be a good choice.
Things close early in Glastonbury, and there aren’t many restaurants, so it is a good idea to either eat at mid-day or keep some food in your accommodation since it cannot be sure that you will get dinner. However, I can thoroughly recommend the Queen of Cups, one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at in the UK. There are some great pubs. At least for a drink, it is mandatory to visit the 15thC George and Pilgrim – we went twice. You can stay there too – it is an inn. I also liked the King Arthur, where we went several times.
Glastonbury isn’t an ‘art’ centre in any way, but it has a remarkable collection of contemporary folk art, naive art that reflects the interest in mysticism, esotericism, Goddess-worship and myth. This is mainly seen in the murals and the wonderful wall hangings inside the Glastonbury Assembly Rooms and the decoration of the buildings.
Some of it I liked and some I emphatically did not. I was rather taken with the work of Sandra Brant, a local artist who was showing her work at the tiny, beautiful St Margaret’s Chapel and Almshouses. I bought a giclée print of one of her paintings, which is very much in the tradition of English folk art but also reminded me of the Mexican folk images of the Virgin of Guadalupe. We had a wonderful chat about Dion Fortune, too.
The White Spring Temple
‘Glastonbury has two springs, the copper-rich Red Spring, which is in the Chalice Well Gardens, and the White Spring. It is one of the greatest mysteries of the Isle of Avalon that two different healing springs, one touched red with iron, the other white with calcite, should rise within a few feet of each other from the caverns beneath Glastonbury Tor. Both have healing in their flow.
In honour of the Spirit of the White Spring, a Temple has been created here in gratitude for the gift of pure water. A Victorian built Well House that nestles beneath Glastonbury Tor was ideal for this purpose, a blessing indeed. Cavernous and set apart, in blackness or candlelit, mysterious it remains—a wonderful contrast to the sunlit gardens of Chalice Well of the Red Spring. The interior consists of three domed vaults 16ft high, with beautiful bowed floors – like the hull of a boat moored at the portal to the Otherworld. With its constant temperature and the sound of the perpetually flowing water, it is a unique and sacred space.
A series of pools were built according to the principles of sacred geometry, and simple shrines in honour of the ancient energies and spirits of Avalon have been created within the Temple. All enhanced by the ley line known as the Michael line, which flows through this place all the way to Avebury Standing Stone Circle. We honour Brigid as guardian, Our Lady of Avalon, the King of the Realm of Faery, and their ancient presence in this sacred space.’
I entered the Temple and felt a shiver of change come upon me. It was a genuinely uncanny feeling. I bathed in the sacred pools in the candlelit Temple. Afterwards, I emerged into the brilliant sunny daylight, and it was clear I had experienced a significant shift in conc=sciousness. I no longer felt troubled by the petty things that had been invading my headspace. Hmmm. I also drank quite a lot of the spring water and took some home.
So was it a sacred and mystical experience to go to Glastonbury? Although I certainly went there as a skeptic, I guess it was pretty mystical for me. I left the town calmer and with a greater sense of inner harmony than I had before and with a greater feeling of love and gratitude toward those around me.
*The Art Traveller stayed at Haydn House in Glastonbury and recommends it. 13A Silver Street, Glastonbury, BA6 8BS, United Kingdom