I live in Glastonbury, the Land of Avalon, one of the few places that claims physical evidence that King Arthur might actually have been "real." This past week, I went to a full day of lectures put on by the Glastonbury Abbey entitled, "Footsteps of King Arthur." The speakers were, for the most part, academics, and they discussed the various Arthurs from the Dark Ages, Geoffrey of Monmouth, and on to the likes of Tennyson's Idyls of the King, Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and then modern versions like The Mists of Avalon.
All the speakers were attempting to move toward an historical, academically acceptable "real" Arthur. And yet all were also speaking about the myth, or as I say, the mythtorical Arthur - half myth, half history / half truth, half lies - you make up your mind.
Arthur was buried here.
The nave of the Glastonbury Abbey in the background.
So this great British hero was discussed from about every direction …. but one. And that one has intrigued me for a number of years now. It's what happened on Bride's mound, on the western edge of Glastonbury.
I don't understand, in a pilgrimage centre like Glastonbury, why Bride's Mound is so neglected. Perhaps the rather sad small memorial stone best demonstrates Glastonbury's lack of attention to this important sacred space. (Although, I am glad to report that at the moment, it looks like the interest is increasing despite the lack of governmental funds. Even so, it's about time!):
The solitary Bride Stone
at Brides Mound
I've often wondered why Arthur became so popular with the Saxons - he was a Celt who fought them. And as far as I gnow, it was because he became a Christian. And the mythtory tells us that that happened on Bride's Mound.
According to the Friends of Bride's Mound (based on Perlesvaus, an Old French Arthurian romance dating to the first decade of the 13th century), King Arthur is said to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child there. This caused him to convert to Christianity and to change his banner to an equal-armed cross in a green field with the virgin and child in the upper left quadrant. (A similar version became the symbol for Glastonbury Abbey.)
of Glastonbury Abbey
Similar to Arthur's Shield
Initially, there was a wooden shrine dedicated to Maria Magdalena on the mound. St. Brigid of Kildare (Brighde) stayed here in 488 AD. It is in an area of town called "Beckery." "Beck" is a bend in a river (in this case the River Brue). The "..ery" part is Erie - Ireland. Bride/Bridget comes from Kildare in Ireland, and the mound is named after her.
When I brought up Arthur's conversion on Brides Mound at the Footsteps of King Arthur Conference, it was dismissed out of hand as the equivalent of the work of similarly little important "The da Vinci Code." While I would certainly agree that there is a certain amount of made-up story in Dan Brown's book, the same certainly can be said of almost every other author who wrote about Arthur - ?The Connecticut Yankee?. And then there is an ironic connection between this mound in Glastonbury and Brown's book of revisionist mythtory about southern France. In both cases, it dealt with someone who the Church would rather be forgotten - Mary Magdalene. (Just to add anogther Glastonbury connection, the road on the western side of the Abbey grounds is called Magdalene Street.)
Sadly, the Brides Mound and Arthur connection was not mentioned again at the Conference that day. But I couldn't end without mentioning Historian Ronald Hutton whose final talk of the day was entitled "The Historical Arthur." He gave great credit to an earlier speaker, Geoffrey Ashe M.B.E. It was wonderful to hear Glastonbury's nonagenarian Arthurian scholar being so sweetly recognised by the Professor of History at Bristol University!
Ronald Hutton in the Glastonbury Abbey
Ronald covered all of the different places where Arthur might have been - from Scotland, down through Wales, Glastonbury, Cadbury Castle, and Tintagel over to Britany in France. He ended up being asked by someone in the audience, "So, do you think that there was an historical Arthur?" Prof. Hutton refused to take one side or the other - myth or history.
So Arthur remains firmly a figure of mythtory, and his connection with Bride's Mound could fade back into the mists of Avalon.
There is a deja vu that happened the very next day. I meet most mornings with a group of folks in downtown Glastonbury I think of as my geriatric coffee klatch. The subject of the Cathars in southern France came up, and so I felt that it was appropriate for me to bring up the Arthur at Bride's Mound and The da Vinci Code that had had no reaction the day before at The Footsteps of Arthur. What I had to say dropped like a rock again. No one had any reaction to what I had just said. It was ignored. The conversation resumed as if I had not said anything.
I have spent most of my Earth Mystery career contesting out-of-date academic paridigms. Several examples: In New England in the seventies when I worked on my Master's Degree in Sacred Space, as far as people reaching the New World other than over the Bering Straight, "Columbus was first!" We now now different.
And then, over here in Blighty when archaeoastronomy was first being espoused by Prof. Alexander Thom and in Ireland by Martin Brennan, the academic reaction was "The primitive savages who built those Neolithic monuments weren't sophisticated enough to include accurate astronomical alignments." Another academic paradigm that has now very fortunately bitten the dust.
For me, running up against other people's paradigms especially twice in less than twenty-four hours is a day sign. The stifling silence to this story left me with the belief that there must be something to the Arthur Bride's Mound connection.
I would appreciate hearing your comments which you can put in the <Comments> window on the menu on the left-hand column on any page of this website.
Totally Different Topic
I'm offering a workshop on labyrinths.
It will introduce you to this fascinating subject. During the day you will:
• Learn the interesting history of labyrinths
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• Learn and practice the different uses of these powerful spaces
Walk the Glastonbury Tercentennial Labyrinth
Please bring your own packed lunch.
A B&B list can be provided.
Further Information & Booking:
Call 01684 576969 ?or email email@example.com
Glastonbury, Somerset BA6 8JE