Myth, Mystery, and Legend

Both of these places are steeped in a long history full of myth, mystery, and legend,  which of course is why they were two specific points of interest for this trip.  Another is far southwest Cornwall, Penwith to be precise, but that tale will come later as it has yet to unfold.

At present I am finishing up my last day here in Avebury.  My laundry is going and I thought I’d at least get started on the Glastonbury/Avebury post, so here we are.  Let’s begin with the former.

As mentioned, Glastonbury is a place of great and ongoing myth and mystery.  A mighty Celt/Druid presence underlies Christianity here and who knows what underlies that. Did you know the Druids were the priests of the Celts?

If just two of the persistent legends are to be believed, which they are  by many, Glastonbury is the Isle of Avalon housing the graves of King Arthur and Guinevere, as well as being a place frequented by Joseph of Arimathea the tin trader, shipping magnate, and Uncle to Jesus, The Christ and Son of God.  Additionally, Glastonbury as well as Avebury, lie on some of Earth’s many ley or energy lines.  Plus, there is an Alignment of Sacred/Holy Sites most often dedicated to St. Michael or Mother Mary along what is called, The St. Michael Line, which runs from far southwest Cornwall across England to Hopton on Sea in Norwich. Many of the places I’m visiting are associated with this Alignment and the earth energies flowing around it, much like the caduceus.   Learning about leys and earth energies years ago along with a developing interest in Christianity’s pre-Christian roots is what drew me to these particular areas in the first place.   

While in Glastonbury, I hoped  to see and experience all I could of this wondrous place which has attracted so many people throughout the Ages.   The Chalice Well and Gardens, The Glastonbury Tor, and The Glastonbury Abbey ruins, were of particular interest along with the descendant of the Holy Thorn tree said to have grown where Joseph of Arimathea first planted his Hawthorn staff on Wearyall Hill.

Let’s take a look beginning with the Chalice Well and Gardens starting with a photo of the 19th century wellhead. The spring water rises to less than 2 feet from the vesica piscis cover you see in the photo.

“Since ancient times, wells have been regarded as sacred places, giving access to the mysterious and Divine. People have been coming to Chalice Well for thousands of years for the healing and restoration it offers”.  It is also known as the Red Spring or Blood Spring  because, as some believe, is due to the iron in the water which leaves the red deposits on everything it touches as seen in the Lion Head fountain photo below. Of course there is no lack of myth and legend explaining why the water is “red”, several involving Jesus’ blood and/or Joseph and the cup from the Last Supper and/or what I like to call, “The Marys”. 

There is a White Spring very nearby, which carries its own history of myth and legend. 

The pure spring water flows directly underground to this Lion Head fountain, the only place where the water can be safely drunk, before continuing down to fill the healing pool, pictured to the right and on down into the city.  These waters once provided a plumbing system to the Abbey which was well in advance of its time. 

Many, many, many people come and have come to “take the waters” of this sacred and holy spring.  This rectangular pool and garden was built in the mid 1800s, though archaeology tells us the well has been in almost constant use for over 2000 years.

Just beyond the Chalice Well Garden wall lies the entrance to the path leading up to the top of Glastonbury Tor.  “Artefacts from human visitation have been found, dating from the Iron Age to Roman eras. The original wooden church and monk’s hermitage, circa 10th century, was destroyed by and earthquake in 1275, and the stone Church of St. Michael was built on the site in the 14th century.  Its tower remains, although it has been restored and partially rebuilt several times.”

Imagine if you will, three hilltops sticking out the the watery marshes which made up the lands around Somerset WAY back in the day.  Wearyall Hill, Chalice Hill, and Glastonbury Tor were the three land masses at the time and if one were in a boat, one could have sailed right up to any of them.

Below is a photo of what remains of the 14th century Church of St. Michael, which sits atop the Tor which in turn rises over 500 feet above the surrounding countryside.  The Tor itself is steeped in myth and mystery, Pagan and Christian alike.  If you wish, you can learn more by copying and pasting the link below.  My apologies, my Live Link function seems to be once again on the fritz, so copy and paste you must.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/somerset/glastonbury-tor/history-of-glastonbury-tor

A 360 degree view is for the taking from atop the Tor.  In the photo below, you can see out across the town of Glastonbury and over the Wearyall Hill in the middle distance, marked by the black line pointer.

Wearyall Hill is, according to legend, where Joseph of Arimathea first landed and after climbing the steep hill from the watery marshes below, he planted his staff in the ground which resulted in the springing forth of a Holy Thorn Tree.  It is an accepted fact that this particular variety of Hawthorn tree only hales from the Middle East, lending a certain heft to the legend. This variety of tree has a shelf life which isn’t nearly 2000 plus years, so it is said cuttings have all along been taken and rooted so to this day, a descendant of Joseph’s tree still grows on the very same spot where he planted his staff.  There is a descendant tree growing at The Chalice Well and at the Abbey, with a number of “back stock” saplings being grown at a nearby nursery of sorts in an effort to keep the line alive.

While taking a tour of the Abbey Ruins, the guide happened to mention this story and said the tree on Wearyall Hill was vandalized and killed a number of years ago and a new  descendant tree was planted just the previous week, so go take a look I did.

Here it is pictured below with the Tor and tower in the far distance.  You can see by all the ribbons, feathers, and other trinkets left in less than a week that it is a place of special importance to many.  During the 20 or so minutes I was there, two separate people came to kneel and offer prayers and/or their respects all the while a group of about a dozen dressed in white were winding their way single file up the hill, I imagine to do the same.

Fun Fact:  Every Christmas for over 600 years, a child of Glastonbury has cut a sprig from this tree.  This sprig is sent to the current Monarch where it is used as part of the Christmas dinner table decoration.  Just last Christmas, King Charles received his first sprig.

Let’s move on to the Glastonbury Abbey which holds its own many myths and legends as it would, being the oldest Christian church/monastery in England with a significant pre Christian history prior to that.   Since Medieval times, which covers roughly 476 AD to 1450 AD, the abbey has held the legendary status as being founded by Joseph of Arimathea AND being the burial place of King Arthur.  It was a place of great holiness and healing and therefore a place of great Pilgrimage throughout the Ages.  In the early to mid 1500’s, the Margie version of history tells us fat King Henry VIII needed money and a divorce, neither of which the Catholic church would not grant, so he threw a fit and created the Church of England with himself as its leader,  banning Catholicism and Catholics.  Glastonbury Abbey was very large, wealthy, and powerful at the time and this would never do, so ransack, pillage, and murder he did commit upon it, going so far as to trump up charges against and hang the last Abbot in the Tower on the Tor!  It is such a long, interesting, and colorful history.  There is a wonderful, at a glance, timeline you can see by following this link. Copy and paste.

https://www.glastonburyabbey.com/history.php

The banner photo at the top of the page is of the Abbey ruins. I so enjoyed my time there.  The ruins and grounds are so beautiful and have such a lovely feel, I went back several times.

The banner photo at the top was taken looking down the axis of the church from the far right in the diagram below,to number 1, The Lady Chapel. The dotted rectangle perpendicular to the axis toward the far right represents the former placement of the High Altar.  A bit to the left of that is a tiny rectangle parallel to the axis.  This is said to be the former tomb of King Arthur and Guinevere and is marked as such by signage.  Bones were found, monks moved them…twice!, intrigue ensued and continues to this day.

Intrigue continues at The Lady Chapel, pictured below.  This is where it all began as it is said to not only be the first Christian Church in England, but also to be built and founded by Joseph of Arimathea.  This part of the Abbey began its humble life as a timber structure long before the Abbey was built. Later it was built in stone and was used for many, many years before the rest of the Church was built.  There is a well in the crypt (Joseph’s Well) beneath the Lady Chapel emitting some kind of energetic Goodness which permeates the entire chapel.  To my view, it is quite something indeed.  I went back to sit in the  Lady Chapel numerous times during my days in Glastonbury and could easily devote and entire post to it.

Showing some peeps for scale in the photo below, though in hindsight, they are way too far in the foreground to be of any use. Ha!  This photo is looking from the Lady Chapel up toward King Arthur’s and Guinevere’s former resting place and the High Altar after that.  the building seen in the distance was built much later, maybe the 17 or 1800s and lies outside the Abbey walls.

And below is our final photo from Glastonbury Abbey.  This one I took from the Abbey grounds looking up to the Tor.

And last, but most assuredly not least, we now move on  to Avebury, just about 50 miles away.  How different could Avebury and Glastonbury be?  Very, is the answer to that question.

From a macro view, to me, Avebury is a Village, a Henge, a Stone Circle, and a Landscape holding multiple associated sites.  And like Glastonbury, is underpinned strongly by these earth energies I mentioned earlier.

I’ve copied and pasted this next bit from the interweb in an effort to get us going with some basic mainstream background info.

“The village is known for the extraordinary wealth of prehistoric monuments that lie in and around it. Its importance was recognised by UNESCO in 1986 when Avebury was named as part of a World Heritage site that included Stonehenge.

At the heart of the World Heritage Site is Avebury Henge, which contains the largest prehistoric stone circle in the world, while a mile to the south is Silbury Hill, the largest manmade mound in Europe.

What makes Avebury even more enjoyable to explore is that the henge and stone circle enclose half the village. Or, to put it another way, the village grew up outside the henge but extended eastward through a gap in the earthworks until it occupied much of the henge interior.

The first written record of the name Avebury appears in the Domesday Book of 1086, but the village began to develop several centuries earlier during the Saxon period. The first settlement was further west, between the henge and the neighbouring village of Avebury Trusloe. As the settlement grew its buildings spread east until they breached the walls of the henge.

Over the medieval period, the village grew up inside the henge until it filled the entire interior of the ancient monument. Cottages jostled for space with huge standing stones, and the stones suffered. Many were removed or simply toppled to make way for human habitation.”

I’m back and I love the photo below.  It’s actually a photo of a photo of a photo, circa 1994.  I love how it shows the size of the Henge and how it has been cut into quarters with a main and secondary road running right through it along with the the village encroaching well into its center. Plus there is the fun crop circle which this area has seen more of than any other area of England. 

A Henge by definition is a circular earthen bank with a ditch on the inside.  If I remember correctly, the Avebury Henge encompasses 28 acres of land and as stated earlier, holds the largest stone circle in the world.  It’s fun to say I visited the second largest as well.  It is called Stanton Drew, located about 20 miles north of Glastonbury, and is not nearly as intact as Avebury, but like Avebury, has Cove stones as well that long predate the circle.  The Stanton Drew stones as well as so many at Avebury were toppled for a variety of reasons. One being to be broken up and used as building stones for the villages and another is said to be by the Church to “do away” with any remnants of pre Christian knowledge and ideas which might undermine the Church and its power over the people.

Fun Fact:  Stonehenge is not actually a henge because its ditch lies on the outside of the embankment.

Now you’ve read about Avebury being a Village and a Henge, I can tell you about it being a Landscape.  The Avebury Landscape is about 3.5 to 4 miles wide and includes the Henge, the stone circle, the Village, The West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill, Windmill Hill, The West Kennet Avenue, The Beckhampton Avenue, two other long lost Avenues, The Sanctuary, the Swallowhead Springs, and various other mounds and standing stones.  I spent my days walking about a 6-7 mile circuit covering most to all of the above and loved every minute of it, rain or shine.  Given the layout of these individual places, I found it difficult to capture good representative photos, so to come are a few of my faves showing bits and pieces. 

The stones below are called, The Cove stones and are said to have been placed there in 3000 BCE. They predate the rest of the Henge standing stones by at least 1000 years, some say 2000 years.  The Cove stones are in the Lunar circle and are aligned with a particular moon cycle which comes around every 18.61 years, if memory serves.  There are two smaller circles within the larger outer circle at Avebury.  One is precisely aligned with particular movements of the Sun and the other with the Moon.  Pretty amazing how these ancient, megalithic people in the BCE thought to be “knuckle draggers” my some had the mathematical and astronomical knowledge and skill to create such precise cosmic alignments with gigantic slabs of sarsen stone, not to mention how they got the stone slabs from miles away to the site and into precise position. I read most of the stones of Avebury average 20 tons, but there are a handful ranging between 60 and 70 tons, each.  Hmmmmm.  Gives one pause, doesn’t it?  It does me.

Looking at the photo below, the 3 stones on the left and the marking pylon showing where an original stone once stood are part of the inner Sun circle while the two very large stones in the distance are part of the outer ring of stones and mark the entrance into the circle from the West Kennet Avenue.  I understand there were originally 4 avenues of standing stones leading to the Henge from the countryside, two of which lead to/from other sites in the Avebury Landscape I’ve previously mentioned. In this photo, you can see a bit of the bank rising up though it was originally much higher and would have been bright white since it was made from local ground chalk.

I nabbed the photo of a photo below from the internet.  It shows a reconstruction aerial view depicting the Henge of white chalk, the outer stone circle and the two inner circles along with the four entrances from the four avenues.  Can you imagine what it must have been like to come upon this site back in its heyday and to what it’s purpose(s) may have been?  My goodness.

With an eye toward wrapping up this post, I’ll leave you with a few more photos. 

The West Kennet Avenue is about 1.5km long and many of the standing stones are either there or are represented by cement pylons.  It’s a lovely walk leading out into the countryside.  At the far end of the Avenue is where I consistently found these young cows gathered around this particular stone.  I think these youngsters were likely taken from their Mothers’ side against their wishes and without their consent and the stone must emit some sort of Mothering or Nurturing energy because they seemed to always be gathered quite close around it whenever I passed by.  

I took the one below in the setting sun.  Its a standing stone in the West Kennet Avenue.  Can you tell I really liked the West Kennet Avenue?  

Note the diamond shape of the stone above and below.  The stones were “dressed” in either a diamond shape to represent the Feminine or a straight vertical rectangle or phallic shape to represent the Masculine.  Throughout these sites, these Feminine and Masculine stones are used in alternating fashion, creating a balance.  Pretty interesting, huh?

And finally,  a copse of trees growing out of the embankment at one of the openings.  I love the above ground root system, in particular.  This must be a special place to many given all the ribbons, notes, and trinkets tied to lower branches.  Perhaps these are wishing trees of some sort?  Or perhaps like many of the copses on mounds in the area, they mark a sacred/holy healing/restorative space much like a spring?

I hope I’ve been able to give you some sort of feel for the exceedingly long history,  mystery, and intrigue surrounding Avebury, and Glastonbury, for that matter. I find it quite curious and amazing.  

Since I’ve written this post over several days, I now find myself in Penzance, for my final week or so.  The district of Penwith, in far southwest Cornwall, houses one of the greatest concentrations of ancient sites in all of England. I look forward to visiting many of them, especially if the storms subside, so stay tuned for the final chapter of this particular trip.

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Comments:

  • Heather

    September 20, 2023

    Wow….so interesting Margie! Thanks for sharing all this!

    reply...
  • Anonymous

    September 21, 2023

    Margie,

    Great pics. I love the cows!

    Have fun! Mare😉

    reply...
    • Margie

      September 23, 2023

      Thanks Mare, and thanks for the fun Cow meme!

      reply...
  • Tena

    September 23, 2023

    I spent time at Avebury many years ago. Just a couple of hours as I was in London with friends and took a tour of Stonehenge, Avebury and the countryside. I loved Avebury more than any other part of the tour. I sat on one of the stones for a while; walked through the stones and the sweet little town. I resonated strongly with the energy there. I didn’t see any cows; did see a crop circle or two and was disappointed that they are apparently made by creative locals instead of alien visitors (but aren’t we all descended from aliens? My galactic ancestors are from Arcturus.) I truly loved that many of the houses in Avebury are actually made of the henge stones, though I wish the stones had been left untouched. I’d like to live in one of those cottages! Is that politically incorrect? I hope not.

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