Recently I went on a solo pilgrimage to my “Heart Home” – Glastonbury.
My day began with a visit to the Glastonbury Thorn on Wearyall Hill which looks across to Glastonbury Tor.
The original Thorn Tree was said to have blossomed from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea who, according to legend, was said to have visited Glastonbury. He arrived, weary (hence Wearyall Hill), planted his staff in the ground and it immediately blossomed.
The staff was said to be from Christ’s Holy Crown of Thorns, and when Joseph thrust it into the ground, announcing that he and his twelve companions were “Weary All”, the thorn staff immediately took root. It can be seen there still on Wearyall Hill.
The tree was seen as sacred, blossoming at Christmas and Easter, marking the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
By the 1530s, not long before the Dissolution of the Monasteries, three thorn trees grew on Wearyall Hill (sometimes known as Wirral Hill) about 1km south-west of Glastonbury. The trees were very unusual because they flowered twice – once in the spring around Easter, and a second time at Christmas. Not surprisingly, they were seen as holy thorns. In the Civil Wars of the 17th century Puritan soldiers cut down the only remaining thorn because they saw it as an object of superstition. However, local people had kept cuttings, and it is from these that the thorn now growing in the abbey grounds is believed to descend. It continues to flower around Easter and again at Christmas.
The custom of sending a budded branch of a Glastonbury thorn to the Queen at Christmas seems to have begun in the early 17th century, when a branch was sent to Queen Anne, King James I’s consort. A spray is still cut from the thorn in St John’s Church yard and sent to the sovereign each Christmas by the Vicar and Mayor of Glastonbury.
Next stop on my journey was to visit Glastonbury Abbey – so full of a combination of history, myth and legend which includes the story of Joseph of Arimathea and the Once and Future King Arthur- said to have his resting place next to his Queen Guinevere in Abbey.
William Blake’s dramatic poem ‘Jerusalem’ familiar nowadays as an inspirational hymn, draws on the myth that Christ himself may have visited Glastonbury with Joseph of Arimathea and ‘walked on England’s mountains green’.
The Gospels record that Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy follower of Christ who buried Christ’s body in his own tomb after the Crucifixion.
In the Middle Ages Joseph became connected with the Arthurian romances of Britain. He first features in Robert de Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie, written in the twelfth century, as the Keeper of the Holy Grail. He receives the Grail (the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper) from an apparition of Jesus and sends it with his followers to Britain.
Later Arthurian legends elaborated this story and introduced the idea that Joseph himself travelled to Britain, bringing the Holy Grail with him and then burying it in a secret place, said to have been just below the Tor at the entrance to the underworld. The spring at what is known as Chalice Well is believed to flow from there. In their quests King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table searched for the Grail.
Various strands of the myth are set around Glastonbury Abbey. When Joseph arrived in Britain he is said to have landed on the island of Avalon and climbed up to Wearyall Hill (sometimes called Wirral Hill). Exhausted, he thrust his staff into the ground and reste and , as mentioned above, his staff took root (see the Holy Thorn). With his twelve followers he established the first monastery at Glastonbury and built the first wattle church; in one version of the story Christ himself travelled with Joseph from the Holy Land and helped in the building work. Finally it was believed that Joseph also had been buried somewhere at the abbey.
The Lady Chapel
For those who enjoy growing herbs and love a good kitchen garden then the Medieval Herb Garden at Glastonbury Abbey is worth a visit.
A medieval kitchen garden in the style once seen hundreds of years ago at Glastonbury Abbey is to being recreated.
Centuries ago the abbey would have grown its own produce for use within the Abbot’s Kitchen which catered for the abbot and his high-status guests such as the Royal family of the time as well as to feed the monks and employees.
Standing outside the pretty little Chapel of St Patrick in the Abbey grounds is another Glastonbury Thorn – grown from a cutting of the original Thorn tree on Wearyall Hill.
A stroll around the corner into the High Street revealed the New Age and Spiritual Shops in abundance.
There’s something for everyone – no matter their path or persuasion – to be found in Glastonbury High Street – so full of Colour!
After the Abbey, and in direct contrast, I made my way up the High Street to the beautiful space of the Glastonbury Goddess Temple. An absolute MUST when you go to Glastonbury. I love the peaceful and gentle feminine energy embodied in this lovingly created sacred space and I took the opportunity to meditate and tune into the beautiful goddess energy .
Profound thanks to the beautiful Angie Twydall who made me so welcome. Merry met Soul Sister !
A few words from those who hold the energy of the temple:
“The Glastonbury Goddess Temple is dedicated to the Lady of Avalon, who is Goddess of the Sacred Isle of Avalon, which is the Otherworldly counterpart to the everyday world of Glastonbury. This Temple is a very special place and we hold it with open hearts and wide loving consciousness as a Sacred Space of Goddess. People travel from all over the world to visit our Goddess Temple, to commune with the Lady in this sacred space specially dedicated to Her.”
Following on from the Goddess Temple, I then proceeded to Goddess Healing House – once again made so welcome as if I was “expected”. Another sacred space full of wonderful Goddesses and their healing energy.
I then visited the beautiful Magdalene Chapel was such a treat and a delight. The Chapel and its small but pretty garden are a perfect place for quiet contemplation and they have a wonderful Finger Labyrinth upon which one can meditate.
While the sun was still shining I made it to the gorgeous gardens of the Chalice Well – one of my favourite places.
Chalice Well is one of Britain’s most ancient wells, nestling in the Vale of Avalon between the famous Glastonbury Tor and Chalice Hill. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and orchards it is a living sanctuary in which the visitor can experience the quiet healing of this sacred place. For over two thousand years this has been a place where people have gathered to drink the waters and find solace, peace and inspiration.
As whenever I visit, I drank deeply of the waters from the Lion Head Fountain, bathed my feet in the water and spent time in gentle contemplation next to the sacred well itself. I had delightful encounters with fellow travellers and revelled in the beauty of the lovingly tended gardens.
Finally, at the end of my big day, I walked up the steep incline to Glastonbury Tor.
The soft green hill of the Tor, crowned with its enigmatic tower, has become a symbol of Glastonbury. It dominates the town and the surrounding landscape, and is the first sign to the traveller that Glastonbury is drawing near.
Centuries of legends and folklore have gathered around The Tor . It is believed to be the place where the veil between the worlds is thinnest.
The Tor has come to host a large variety of mystical beliefs. Nature mythology, paganism, Christian and Arthurian legends, have all been associated with this place of great energy -also regarded as the Heart Chakra of Gaia (Mother Earth) herself.
The Tor was an islet for centuries, as the floodwaters took a long time to recede. ‘Somerset’ is short for ‘summer settlement’ because the area was too flooded to inhabit in winter. The Tor was called ‘Ynys Witrin’ or ‘Isle of Glass’ (or Isle of Seeing), connected to the mainland by only a narrow strip of land at low tide. The people who recognise it enhance the power of any sacred place. This long period of semi-isolation may have not only preserved the otherworldly nature of the Tor, but also added to its special aura in the eyes of the people and those who believed in the ancient ways and legends.
In archetypal symbolism, hills and high places are like bridges between earth and sky. They represent a link between material reality and the unseen dimensions. The early Celts thought of high places as gods – powerful beings in a world where all nature was inhabited by conscious entities. Roman influence later modified that idea, saying it’s not the hills that are alive, but the gods who live in them.
All in all,a wonderful day of pilgrimage to my special place Glastonbury, which is not only the Heart Chakra of Gaia – this beautiful planet Earth – but is also deeply connected to my own Heart Chakra.