It is twenty years to the day since I and my two sons left Yorkshire and headed to Glastonbury. I think back and gaze upon all I have learned on my passage through our two decades in the West Country. I have been so blessed to have many teachers, companions and friends. My sons have grown into two beautiful men; one being a first-responder for Glastonbury's Fire and Rescue crew and the other, well the other I can't really say. Something about having signed the Official Secrets Act.
The photo below is of our Millennium Beltane after we had moved here in 1999. I don't quite know how I have managed to age forty years in those twenty but I am sagely advised it is 'something do with the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey thing'. Apparently its effect allows us to live life more fuller here.
It's damp, misty and wet in Glastonbury. The fields are looking very soggy and interminable rain shows no sign of clemency. The trees are now adorning themselves in their finest of colours, exquisite against the grey canvas. Even on days like this, there is much beauty and spirit to be enjoyed. Personally, October and November are magical months being the time in the seasonal year when it is easier to feel a little closer to the golden spirit of Avalon, a little closer to connection with the divinity within this landscape. It also serves to link me with the energies of my beloved Yorkshire moors above the Calder Valley, something not often felt during the warmer months.
My roots and bloodline are Brigantian and there is a well-known statement, usually spoken by Yorkshire folk and being one not many will venture to disagree with or challenge, “You are in God’s own country now”. This popular idiom refers to the legend that as a boy Jesus visited England with his great-uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, inspiring the musical prelude to William Blake's poem Milton. Considered England’s unofficial national anthem, the piece ‘and did those feet in ancient times’ fondly known as "Jerusalem" asks ‘did Jesus visit England and, in so doing, create the New Jerusalem, heaven on earth? To idealists, “New Jerusalem” is not so much a physical place rather a state of being, expressed through spiritual harmony and understanding in the hearts and the minds of all humanity; thus creating heaven, on earth.
Rising above the ‘dark satanic mills’ in the valleys, and wandering the wild moors of Yorkshire, often in solitude and grey mist, ‘escaping’ from the real world, it was easy to feel that the next step up from being on top of the world was to step directly to some place not of this earth.
Glastonbury too feels this same anthem is its own and asks the question, ‘Did Jesus come here?’ Certainly, a fair amount of people undoubtedly feel so and the legend is indeed persistent. There is something to be said about the sheer strength of stories, perhaps changed in many forms yet still based on a central ‘truth’ to withstand the death of time and pass down through generations. Combined with the numinous ‘feel of the place’, the enigmatic Tor surely sparks, regardless of our beliefs and backgrounds, a powerful connection to something so much bigger than our little ordinary selves and suggests that here be something very special indeed. During this numinous time of year, that connection, and feeling, is so much stronger and easier to access.
This ‘New Jerusalem’ (to me) represents a place where, despite the differences, all can recognise the one-ness in their common humanness and where kindness, love, care, support, encouragement, peace and unselfishness reign sovereign. Where the physical earth is cared for and nurtured to the best of our abilities. ‘Heaven on Earth’........Spirit and Matter together in Harmony..........Paradise. That vision doesn’t seem anywhere like near a reality right now though does it? In fact, it’s pretty hellish for so many and very easy to despair. The dark of Winter rolls in, even in the sunniest places around our world. Chaos, anxiety, confusion, fear and anger is becoming a normal part of the group mind. Friends are turning on friends, sides are being taken, each withdrawing into isolation from perceived enemies. A wet, grey insular Glastonbury, enclosed in mists, reminds me of that. So, what can I do?
On the moors of Yorkshire, I step up…In Glastonbury I step side-ways…and into the mists. Suitably attired, head up and back straight, striding onto the land gives me an opportunity to truly connect with the elements, ancestors and the many legends that abound here. Listening, and sensing, can bring insights and understandings.
Here is a wonderful route around the town, starting at the Peace Pole outside Glastonbury Information Centre,
I head towards and up the High Street. I love how the brightly painted buildings remind us that even in the darker, greyer times, there are still many hues and shades in the world around us and how, not misplacing sight of that seems even more important in these social climates of extreme polarisation. Heading to the staggered crossroads at the top of the High Street I continue up Bove Town and when the road bears right, step into Wick Hollow. The trees, in this very Fae corner of Glastonbury, and their complex, visible root systems, serve to remind me of the network of diverse healthy roots that are needed to underpin a strong society.
If you are following this route with me, keep going up until you get to a T- junction. Continue forward, through the gate and onto Paradise Lane.
Wick Hollow, Paradise Lane…and soon Gog Magog and Stone Down…how can it be possible to not get transported into the magic through these names alone? Wandering along this old lane, through the trees and the gates, I marvel at an often-unseen view of the lie of the land itself - its contoured shapes, suggestive of water lapping and shaping, and the view over to ‘dragon hill’, knowing it as a place with its own mythology of a time where dragons roamed the land and the locals appeased.
At the end of Paradise Lane, fields open before me and I descend the line of trees on the left, through the field towards the next stile in the hedgerow at the bottom. Now on an old medieval road, here I can hear footsteps from a distant past as shadowy shades pass by me.
Passing over the stile, through the next field, I travel on down to another stile in the hedgerow. Once through, and turning left, I come to the two old Oaks of Avalon, known as Gog and Magog on my right. After taking my time and paying my respects here, I retrace my steps but continue along the lane, through the next gate and turn right into Stone Down Lane. Up, up I go, until I come out at the foot of the Tor. Another climb beckons.
The summit of the Tor can often be shrouded in grey mists during these months; the magnificent views obscured from view. It is at this moment when the Inner Eye, which looks beyond the concept of time, can be employed. Now, I am also on the moors of Yorkshire, knowing that here is the closest point for me to be next to ‘heaven’ in ‘God’s own Country’. In the grey of the mists, I am blinded to the world around me. It would be entirely forgivable to want to simply be in the moment, blanketed in the almost-conscious mantle of grey, listening to the sounds around me but if I continue to look outward on my Inner, I see a world filled with colour, diversity, a multitude of magnificent sights and ventures. Hopeful visitors, pilgrims, all journeying towards ‘something’. People doing all they can to create their own little versions of heaven. All over the world. 'May Peace Prevail on Earth' - the message of the Glastonbury Peace Pole, where my journey began.
Descending the Tor and stopping to take the benevolent waters running freely outside the White Spring and Chalice Well, I bless this journey of mine and ask that all I do be to serve the higher good. In these chaotic times of fear and anger, we can all endeavour to ‘do our bit’ and if, just for a wee while permit ourselves to travel into those numinous spaces, these places where we can feel a connection to All that is Good. Perhaps in doing so, we can help to anchor ‘Heaven’ to ‘Earth’ and reach that place of true peace that we all aspire to experience. Even if we cannot create it in the wider world and bring it only into our own lives, it is surely still a wonderful gift and a further stride towards creating Something Very Good in a world that is going to hell on a handcart.
Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea made frequent visits to the area and is reputed to have been accompanied by Jesus as a young boy. The image above is a banner and can be seen in St John the Baptist, parish church of Pilton, formerly known as St Mary's and renamed after the Reformation. It was embroidered in the early 1930's and shows Joseph and Jesus arriving at Pilton 'harbour'. Formerly known as Pooltown, the village is on the edge of the Somerset Levels, which formed a vast tidal lake in Saxon times.
“And did those feet in ancient time" is a short poem by William Blake from the preface to his epic Milton a Poem. The date of 1804 on the title page is probably when the plates were begun, but the poem was printed c.1808.Today it is best known as the anthem "Jerusalem", with music written by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916.
The poem was inspired by the apocryphal story that a young Jesus, accompanied by Joseph of Arimathea, a tin merchant, travelled to this area and visited Glastonbury during the unknown years of Jesus.
Google the hymn and you will find many versions. However, I rather like the one below, Emerson Lake and Palmer giving their own tribute to the hymn and to the Tor.
When I first came to Glastonbury, 20 years ago now, it was a Pagan/Esoteric pathway that led me here. After about a decade, and the birth of the Glastonbury Unity Candle, I had experienced and taken part in many different representations of belief and I could feel these involvements were pushing my understanding and self-imposed boundaries to recognise how each different path was simply a representation of the whole town. For me, to not acknowledge that with love and understanding was to fail to see the bigger picture and the whole of the landscape and its people.
Glastonbury/Avalon of the Heart, a Facebook group I initiated in 2008 the day before my 49th birthday, consists of people from all over the world with very diverse beliefs; yet each sharing a common love for the energies of this small Somerset town. There, we can find a shared connection and common bonds, regardless of our differences and here we create a heart-space for everyone; not solely for those of any one persuasion. All are welcome to be free there and to express their own selves. Avalon/Glastonbury of the Heart has room for everyone, of good intent and loving kindness. Unity through Diversity.
"A human being is part of a whole, called by us the 'Universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." Albert Einstein
The second outing of the Glastonbury Unity Candle at Chalice Well, prior to being hosted at the Festival of Lugh in the White Spring. Lammas 2010.
My experiences are as yours - filled with challenges, pain, joy, laughter and love.
The settings of our scenes might be different but along our journey together, we will discover similarities and shared experiences.
Adventure with me for a while, for it is in the Journey, we become One.
High Sierra Winter Solstice
Postcards from America (1)
God's Own Country
An Avalonian Anniversary
..'And did those feet?'
Glastonbury/Avalon of the Heart
Finding Colour in the Grey
Lessons from Morocco
Under African Skies
The Earth Mother
The Glastonbury Unity Candle goes to Knight's Enham