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Glastonbury Tor

Tor

Glastonbury, in the county of Somerset in south western England, has been a place of sanctity and pilgrimage for at least several thousand years. Glastonbury Tor (just called 'the Tor') with its single tower, dominates the area sticking up well above the flat Somerset Levels, which are at, or a bit below, sea level.

It is not sure when the Glastobury area was first occupied. The Sweet Track (dated 1380 BCE) the oldest marsh walkway known is not far away in Mere. The first people we know occupied Ynys Witrin, or the Isle of Glass, were the Celtic Druids. It is said that Glastonbury (at that time a small cluster of islands rising above the submerged Somerset Levels) was the location of one of three Druidic perpetual choirs. These eternal choirs made music twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. They were literally enchanting the land.

According to tradition, in 37AD, Joseph of Arimathea, the man who provided Christ his tomb, came here. He set foot on Ynys Witrin on Wearyall Hill, where he planted his Jerusalem Thorn staff and rested his feet from the long journey. The staff took root, and it is said that a scion of the tree grew on Wearyall Hill until fairly recently.

Tor
Glastonbury, as seen from the HolyThorn on Wearyall Hill,
is in the upperleft-hand corner. The Abbey is below
the first 'Y' on the bottom branch. On the right horizon,
Chalice Hill is just to the left of the Tor.

Glastonbury Abbey


Chapel

Notice that the arches are Romanesque - half round.

  This chapel marks the site of Joseph of Arimathea's original church, said to be the first above-ground purpose-built church in all of Christendom. Glastonbury is the only place that claims King Arthur's grave. It was found in the the Abbey cemetery - to the right in this view.

The Celts had a deity named Easus who died and was supposed to come back to life. When the Druids heard about Jesus from Joseph of Arimathea, they saw it as the return of Easus in the story, and they gave Ynys Witrin to him.

 

Abbey

The Gallillee is the section below the right hand tower above. The Gothic arch in the door at the top of the stairs of this building to the right frames the rest of the Abbey.

The Gothic Arch came after the Romanesque arch, and is made with the top half of a vesica pisces.

Today the Abbey is a pilgrimage site for all who come to Glastonbury. Its grounds are beautifully kept, and it is a place of silent meditation for all who enter.

 

Nave   Arthur's grave

This was the birthplace of Celtic Christianity. It grew to be a powerful site of pilgrimage for Christians - so powerful that, when Henry VIII created the Anglican Church, he had to send his men to Glastonbury to find a pretext to take over the Abbey's land. They found a chalice in Abbot Whiting's office. They said that it should have been in the treasury, so Abbot Whiting was obviously stealing it! They hanged him on the Tor on trumped-up charges and then drew and quartered this unfortunate Catholic Abbot. After that, the Abbey treasure was taken and the building was allowed to fall into ruin.

 

The Choir. In the foreground is where King Arthur's bones were moved after they were discovered in the Abbey cemetery. Behind that is the black-chained area that marks the High Altar. The pillars behind the altar mark the beginning of the Edgar Chapel, and way behind that, the Edwardian Manor House that is now an Anglican Retreat Centre. 

Bligh Bond at the Glastonbury Abbey

BondDateW.jpg Bond marked any structure he added to support the ruined Abbey with the date he did it - note 1909.

In the first part of the twentieth century, the Anglican Church hired Church architect Frederick Bligh Bond to do a dig at the Glastonbury Abbey.
His discoveries were amazing, including the unexpected Edgar Chapel at the head of the Abbey (in foreground). His success was due to a series of automatic writings in which Bond communicated with a thirteenth century monk, who spoke to him about the layout of the Abbey and grounds. Unfortunately for him, Bond wrote about this communication in a book called The Gate Of Remembrance, published in 1918. He very quickly lost his job and was not often hired as an ecclesiastical architect after that. Bond also designed the vesica pisces lid on the Chalice Well.

The Chalice Well

Chalice Well

 
Here you will find a place of beauty, peace, and healing. Spiritual Pilgrims of all kinds have come to this special place from time immemorial. The waters of this holy well are known for its healing and for it's connection with the Earth Mother, the red waters of the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, England. This is a visual visit up through the garden to the Chalice Well, known locally as the Red Spring, or the Blood Spring. There are so many special places to visit in this garden. Here are some of the high points along the way. Welcome again to the garden and the Chalice Well. May you find what you seek here.

The head of the well is at the top of the garden. The first spot you will reach at the bottom of the garden is this vesica pisces shaped pool that has Chalice Well water flowing in to it through a series of flow forms. The vesica pisces is a sacred geometrical symbol in which the circumference of one circle goes through the center of another identical circle. The bit in the middle is the vesica.

Vesica pisces

The Vesica Pisces is the sacred geometrical figure of the last two thousand years. Extend one end of the Vesica and you get a fish - the symbol in Roman times that you were a Christian. The top half of the Vesica made the Gothic arch. It is a symbol that comes up again and again in these gardens. It is one of the five major sacred geometrical symbols. If the radius of either circle is one, the major axis of the vesica is the square root of three.

Chailce Well pool

The Lion's Head under the Glastonbury Tor

The Chalice Well is nestled at the base of the Glastonbury Tor. You can see the tower on the Tor through the trees. Below the tower is the Lion's Head, where pilgrims are welcome to drink of these waters. It is always a place of special prayers and personal ceremony. The tree above and to the left of the Lion's Head is a holy thorn, scion of The Holy Thorn Tree (Crateagus Monogyna Praecox) that Joseph of Arimathea brought from the Holy Land. It is a special thorn because in late October and early November, around the time of Samhain, the Celtic time of death and rebirth, this tree, and others like it around Glastonbury have both berries and flowers.


This garden is a place of transformation.

Just a short stroll above the Lion's Head is the goal of our pilgrimage, the Chalice Well itself.

The vesica pisces on the lid of Chalice Well was designed by the excavator of Glastonbury Abbey, Frederick Bligh Bond, resident archaeologist of the Glastonbury Abbey in the early 1900's. It was given to the Chalice Well as a thank-offering for Peace in 1919, and ideal symbol for Universal Peace, by friends and lovers of the Well and of Glastonbury, representing every type of thought, Eastern and Western among them. The Chalice Well Trust carries on this philosophy today, and the gardens are open to individuals of all spiritual paths. The vesica pisces clearly symbolizes this.

Chalice Well
Chalice Well lid The waters of the Chalice Well have never been known to fail. It was the only source that kept on working through the drought of 1921 -22. Under Bligh Bond's lid, 25,000 gallons of water gush upwards to the surface of the Earth every day filing several human-built small-room-sized subterranean chambers. For millennia, both Christians and Pagans (as well as followers of many other spiritual paths from other lands) have come to this holy place to seek healing, new visions, and renewal. Come visit the garden yourself, taste the water, and take time to be in the silence and enjoy the beauty. This is but one of the sacred places on the Isle of Glass where you can experience the Spirit of Glastonbury.

 

Blossom

 

Holy Thorn with both Blossoms and Berries

It is as if both birth and death, flower and fruit can happen at the same moment. The Holy Thorn truly reflects the spirit of the Samhain, the Celtic New Year. There are two Holy Thorns in the garden - one is next to the Vesica Pool, and the other is the tree in the centre of the picture above - just above the Loin's Head. This blossoming and berries are still happening at the WInter Solstice when the Mayor of Glastonbury cuts a branch or two from the Holy Thorn in St. John's Church yard, and sends it to the Queen for her breakfast table on Christmas morning - again, a time of birth.

Vandalism on Wearyall Hill!

In addition to the Tor, the Abbey and Chalice Well, one of the major icons in Glastonbury is the Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill. The mythtory tells us that when Joseph of Arimathaea arrived in the Land of Avalon after Christ's crucifixion, he rested his feet on this hill, surveyed the Scared Earth before him, and leaned on his Jerusalem Thorn staff which took root where he stood. It grew there until the mid-seventeenth century when one of Oliver Cromwell's men cut it down in that rampage to destroy all icons and other sacred images and objects. (I find it quite ironic that two different men named Cromwell have come to this town and destroyed much of our spiritual heritage - Richard Cromwell played a major role in the destruction of the Abbey in 1539. Oliver's men came just over a hundred years later.)

Fortunately, there were/are a number of cuttings of this holy thorn growing here in town - in the St. John's Churchyard, in the Abbey and at Chalice Well Gardens. In the early nineteen-fifties, a new holy thorn (which came from a cutting from one of these trees) was again planted on Wearyall Hill, and it has stood there for the last sixty years as a living symbol of the sacredness of Glastonbury.


The Holy Thorn
With the Abbey (to the left), Chalice Hill and the Tor (on the right) in the background

Sadly, on 9 December, 2010, when Karin and I returned from The Nethelands, we heard that some AS _ H_ LE (please excuse my bad language, but I can not find a more appropriate description) had sawed of all of the limbs of this wind-blown holy relic! What could have possibly have motivated anyone to commit such a senseless act of desecration? Fortunately, the metal fence around its base kept the vandal(s) from cutting down the entire tree, and there is talk that pollarded trees many times grow back stronger than before, but that is beside the fact. Glastonbury citizens from all walks of life are mourning this mindless act.

We still do not know who committed this travesty, but it has brought the town together as everyone is appalled by this dastardly deed. So a good thing has come out of a dark dark day. We trust that new branches will sprout, and the Holy Thorn will renew itself.

Holy Thorn, Glastonbury chopped down
(Notice the starlings above what is left of the Holy Thorn.
They come to the Somerset Levels in their millions at this time of year.




























The Glastonbury Tor

Tor from the air


Tor means "natural hill." Some say the Glastonbury Tor is actually a three-dimensional labyrinth.
My feeling is, if you see it, it's there. If you don't, is isn't.

We end up where we began on this all too brief tour of Glastonbury, at the Tor. This 518ft high natural hill dominates the Somerset Levels and the hills that contain the Levels. It has Druidic, Arthurian, Christian and other spiritual connections. Go there on any Celtic Cross-quarter day - there will be people celebrating on the Tor. I have been there for many seasonal celebrations. One full Moon-eclipse-and-the-comet heavenly light show is particularly memorable. At times like this there are usually a hundred souls up there celebrating with the drumming, chanting and other activities, it is quite powerful.

Tor & Moon


Running up from St Michael's Mount near Penzance in South-Western Cornwall, there is a narrow geomantic corridor that runs for a few hundred miles to the North-East through a number of significant sacred sites including the Tor and the edge of the Avebury stone circle, and a large number of sites and churches dedicated to St Michael. With a level horizon, this alignment points to the rising Sun on the Celtic Cross-quarter day of Beltane (May Day), and the setting sun on Samhain (Halloween).

Sumset over the Tor

John Michell first proposed this 'Michael Line'. Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst dowsed it and found that it was actually two sinuous lines - one was yang, the other yin. They called them the Michael and Mary lines. This geomantic corridor, and the Michael and Mary lines converge on the top of Glastonbury Tor. It is at the top of the Tor where Glastonbury connects with the rest of the world.

This connection can be felt at all times of the day or night. One of my favourites is in the evening at Sunset. Many pilgrims walk up the Tor at that time. The entire town benefits from the energies of this magical sacred space, and it radiates this spiritual awareness, love, readiness for change and openness to alternative thinking and living out into the rest of the world.

Sunset

If you are planning to visit Glastonbury, be sure to get a copy of Palden Jenkins ley map called The Ancient Landscape Around Glastonbury. A wonderful ley map of the Glastonbury and a great overall view of this magical pilgrimage town. A must have map if you plan to visit Glastonbury. Glastonbury: Gothic Image Publications. ISBN 0 906362 66 0. £3.99

This is the end of our MAG tour of Glastonbury.

There are a number of other sites that focus on Glastonbury. Here are some:

Isle of Avalon is the Glastonbury Alternative website. It contains numerous web pages from "The Glastonbury Archive" and "The Knowledge Bank," both resources Glastonbury ideas much by Glastonbury authors, to a guide to the millennium, several guided tours 'round the Land of Avalon, a good astrology section, and "Avalon Articulates" (an e-zine), and much more. IMHO, the best site for alternative Glastonbury.

Mystical-WWW is Mell Paul's wonderful site. This has a section is devoted specifically to Glastonbury - all the sacred sites, a history, and a special emphasis on Arthurian connections. This has much solid information.

Welcome to Glastonbury. A good site for when you come here for the first time. Good on the practical stuff - how to get here, where to stay, shopping, business directory.

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