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Tip o' the Week # 59 - The Mythtory Continues

Dear [firstname]

Last week I gave a number of examples of Mythtory - one-third myth, one-third  history, one-third herstory.  Everything about mythtory is true, everything is lies.  Make up your own mind.  I feel mythtory is important because it can give much greater insights into our past than history alone can do - especially when it comes to the more spiritual aspects of our past.

Bride's Stone Symbol  Bride's Mound,Tor, & Wearyall Hill
     Bride's Symbol Bride's Mound (below the Tor & left of chimney)
The Glastongbury Tor & Wearyall Hill to the right

Last Saturday (22 MAy 2010), was an important day for the sacred spaces of Glastonbury. Somerset County Council under the direction of County Archaeologist Bob Croft, opened the doors of the Beckery Chapel, internationally known as Bride's Mound, to the public for the first time.

Friends of Bride's Mound have been working for over a decade for this moment.  While it has been one of our town's most ignored sacred spaces, this rather visually insignificant mound at the western end of Glastonbury has an exceedingly rich mythtory that the establishment seems to have done their best to hide.

According to myth, Saint Brigid of Kildare or Brigid of Ireland (Brigit, Bridget, Bridgit, Bríd or Bride), a.k.a. Mary of the Gael (Irish: Naomh Bríd) (c. 451–525) is one of Ireland's patron saints.  She came to Glastonbury during her life time and set up a small chapel on Bride's Mound.  (She is one of the four holy people celebrated with a small stone monument in the Glastonbury Tercentennial Labyrinth.) 

St. Bride Stone
Saint Bride Stone
by the River Brue

There is a stone that marks Bride's Well down by the Brue (river) that runs below the mound.
On Saturday, Bob Croft showed a group of us around the newly opened and cleared mound itself.

Bob Croft
Bob Croft - Somerset County Archaeologist

He led us to the top of the mound where we saw a depiction of the chapels and Priest's House that had been excavated by Philip Rahtz in the late sixties.

Priest's House and Beckery Chapel   Philip Rahtz's excavation plan 
Priest's House and Beckery Chapel Philip Rahtz's Excavation Plan

These excavations clearly proved that the Christians had been there around the turn of the first millennium CE as one of the outposts of the Abbey.  At that time, it is said that the Beckery Chapel was dedicated to Mary Magdalene.  But it was the pagan altar dedicated to Bride that caught my attention:

Altar to Bride

Pagan Altar to Bride on the top of Bride's Mound

Today, it is said that "beckery"means "bee-keepers island;" however, the Irish influence in Glastonbury can not be denied. But Beckery is also known locally as "Little Ireland;" derived from the Gaelic "beag Eiriu."  Today, the Irish call their country "Erie." 

I have always been fascinated as to why the English (read: Anglo-Saxons) like King Arthur.  He was a Celt who spent his life fighting them!  But many times one of the techniques Christianity used to overcome the indigenous people was, when they converted, the Church adopted (?or should I say tolerated?) some of their local customs.  Part of the Bride's Mound mythtory tells us that King Arthur had a vision of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus in the Beckery Chapel and that led to his conversion to Christianity.  I believe that this "mythtorical event" is the reason why the English like Arthur.  I am amazed that the church hasn't taken this one up.

The Blue Bowl
The Blue Bowl

And then there's the story of the Blue Bowl.  Actually it is more history than mythtory, but it is part of the ambience that continues to draw seekers to Avalon.  Wellesley Tudor Pole, who founded the Chalice Well Trust (in 1960), bought a small glass blue bowl in Italy. When he returned to the UK, he hid it in the Brides Mound Holy Well, where it was later found by three women from Bristol.  It now resides at Chalice Well where it is treated as a sacred object, and the mythtory is that it might even be the Grail Cup.  IMHO this is a beautiful story, but historical rather than mythtorical.

It is wonderful that Bride's Mound is now open to the public, and Bob Croft tells us that further improvements are under consideration like marking out the chapel and perhaps the Priest's House that would help visitors to better visualise where these small buildings had been.  This small mound is a lovely place to visit and a wonderful addition to the ongoing mythtory of Glastonbury.


Sig Lonegren, Geomancer
9 Bove Town
Glastonbury, Somerset BA6 8JE

p.s.  If some of you did not get last week's Tip due to a spam filter on your ISP, you can read "Mythtory" here.