Glastonbury Somerset England - the Myth and Magic continues.
Ancient Glastonbury - at the London Olympics 2012
The opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games 2012 featuring Glastonbury Tor was inspirational. As the athletes planted flags of countries from around the world it was intriguing to see a symbolic tree on the Tor, green and glowing.
Glastonbury, a small town in England’s Somerset, around 220km west of London, is regarded as a sacred, spiritual site. Myth and legends abound. There’s a theory that this was once the legendary island of Avalon. The Tor is a conical hill which rises out of the Somerset Levels.
A spiritual centre – a melting pot of Christian worship - Glastonbury also attracts New Age believers, Celtic worshippers, people retracing the steps of Joseph of Arimathea and the Arthurian legend.
Legend – Wearyall Hill.
Poet and artist William Blake was aware of mystery of the area when he penned his poem Jerusalem (later set to music) – And did those feet in ancient times, walk upon England’s mountains green?
And did those feet in ancient times, can perhaps be interpreted as - did Joseph of Arimathea visit Glastonbury with his nephew, the boy Jesus?
And did he build the first Christian wattle and daub church here? The answer, we gather, is affirmative.
Later, after the crucifixion of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea supposedly came again, this time bearing the Holy Grail – the cup Jesus used in the Last Supper and used by Joseph to catch the his blood. This connects with Arthurian folklore.
Exhausted on arrival, before Joseph succumbed to sleep, he is said to have wedged his wooden staff into the soil on Wearyall Hill at the foot of the Tor. When he awoke it had miraculously flowered into a thorn tree.
Appropriately, it became a place of pilgrimage for Christians across Europe.
The tree, known as the Holy Thorn is said to bloom twice a year around Christmas and Easter. Each year a sprig is cut to send to the Queen for her Christmas table.
This Holy Thorn, so well documented, with religious roots going back 2000 years was indeed a feature of the landscape.
And then murder most foul. Sadly, In 2010 vandals attacked and reduced the tree to a severed stump. Enormous efforts to save it failed.
You'll now find a Holy Thorn tree planted by the side of a World Peace Pole close to Glastonbury Abbey.
In addition many other thorns have been planted in various locations. Let the spirit of Glastonbury continue.
On the pinnacle of the Tor stands a tower, a relic of the chapel of St. Michael de Torre. Walking to the peak in the stillness of early morning or evening, remembering the past, is quite eerie. Visitors come from near and far and often report feeling changed after the climb: rejuvenated, re-energized.
As for the Holy Grail that Joseph brought, he saw this safely buried below the Tor. Not long afterwards a spring erupted, known today as the Chalice Well. It’s purported to have been flowing and in use for around two thousand years. It has never dried up not even in drought conditions.
The water is said to possess healing qualities or bring eternal youth to the drinkers. I can’t vouch for this but I’m hoping.
The Holy Grail
Despite the fact that Arthur and the knights and the grail may not have existed - the theory seems perfectly feasible when you’re confronted with evidence.
I’m prepared to believe this is where Arthur and Guinevere reigned, lived, loved, parted and died.
The Abbey at Glastonbury confirms the connection. Once a prosperous and powerful monastery, the abbey was suppressed by King Henry V111 and soon became one of the ruins that he knocked about a bit. Henry has much to answer for.
Today the ruins abide in 36 acres of peace and tranquility. Visitors roam amongst trees, flower beds, benches and picnic spots in this most historic setting.
Wandering around the grounds a local historian, wearing a cloak and dagger and showing visitors around is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the place.
When he tells me I’m standing at the graveside of King Arthur and Guinevere I’m astonished but a tad confused. I’m tempted to ask where Lancelot is.
I’m a sucker for films and remember Camelot.
Despite pledging her troth to Arthur, Guinevere fell truly, madly, deeply for Lancelot. Film buffs will remember Franco Nero (Lancelot) singing ‘If ever I would leave you’ It still makes me go all goosebumpy. They were destined to be together.
A walk down the main street of Glastonbury confirms the New Age philosophy status. Shops are themed, from crystals, handmade jewellery, incense, Goth and pagan goods. And don’t be surprised if a real life goddess serves you.
Pubs are plentiful, mostly with accommodation, food and real ale. A sense of history recorded in the names, here’s just a few - the King Arthur, the George and Pilgrim, the King William Inn and the curiously named Who’d A Thought It
This place certainly seems immersed in everything spellbinding. Check out the leylines in the area. To add to the mysteries there are sightings of strange coloured lights hovering around the Tor.
This is a place for travelers, poets, artists, buskers, and is also famous as Glasto, the largest green field open air music and arts festival in the world. Glasto attracts a whirl of free spirited followers, of songs, performers, mud and tents.
The first Glasto festival was held in 1970. Since then leading pop and rock artists have appeared. Held in the open over three or four days and is now attended by around 175,000 people.
The Tor is famous for many things – Joseph of Arimathea, the Arthurian fort, home of faeries, a place for UFO convergence, and mythical portal to the Underworld.
Add to that the recreation of hope, of achievement, a celebration of unity at the London 2012 opening ceremony.