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The Natural & Magical Beauty of Glastonbury

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

A couple of weeks ago I went to Glastonbury for the first time. It was such a lovely experience to visit what some believe to be the original location of the Isle of Avalon. Yes! That Avalon! That sacred space where the dead dwell and the final resting place, as legend says, of King Arthur. Legend also says that this was the place where Joseph of Arimathea came to after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ bringing with him the Holy Grail and the Thorn Tree, and the remants of the Glastonbury Abbey shows the importance of this belief. The Benedictine Abbey of Glaston certainly dominates the town. Athough, to be honest, the first thing I saw when walking towards the city centre from my hotel was...the sheep! Including the black sheep of Glastonbury (not an actual thing!, but I thought it was funny that this goth girl found the only black sheep around!).

In search of breakfast, I managed to find the town's market cross. A market what? A market cross which is "a structure used to mark a market square in market towns, where historically the right to hold a regular market or fair was granted by the monarch, a bishop or a baron" (Wikipedia). So, that means that this is an old market cross, although the 16th century structure seems to have been destroyed and replaced by an 1846 pillar designed by Benjamin Ferrey in a neo-Gothic Permendicular Style. Sorry I don't have a better shot that does not contain my mug in it, but here it is! I bet the medieval one was better looking!

Not sure if on purpose or not, but Glastonbuy High Street is certainly a place that feels like an assault to the senses. Coloured crystals and magic stones everywhere! Tarot card readers and Merlin-type dressed wizards started to fill the street enticing visitors to discover their future! There were also plenty of book stores where Christians, Pagans, and witches would have a field day to top up their libraries! Plus the smell of incense as one walks up and down the street permeates pretty much everything. And all of this was already happening at 9 am on a Saturday!

Anyway, got my lovely breakfast and jumbo-sized capuccino and planned my day ahead. Everything was closed except for the Glastonbuy Tor. So on the first hot day of the British Spring, I thought it might be a good idea to make it to the top before it got too hot! I was just not counting on how windy it would be!

Honestly, the climb was tough and the wind was strong at the top, but the 360º degree view of the surrounding area was worth it! Specially on a clear day as the one that I got. The Glastonbury Tor is what remains of the 14th century church of St Michael, a stone structured that replaced the old wooden church, which had been placed here on top of another sacred site. The area around apparently flooded and made the tor into an island/peninsula. I was awe-struck by how beautiful the sites were from the top and I could believe that this was in fact Avalon...or the entrance to the faerie realm! The amount of legends surrounding this place are many, but being there, I can see why people had strong feelings about it.

I made my way back to the Abbey, which was open by then, although, my first stop was in fact the Almshouses of St Margaret. It is down one of those alleys that seemed unassuming, but that suddenly reveals some interesting secret. This was the location of the hospital that was attached to the abbey from 1250 onwards and it was designed to act as a space of charity for those in need, and pilgrims coming to the site. The interior was reconstructed and it looks quite lovely inside, albeit small and uncomfortable by today's standards!

The next stop was the Abbey of Glaston and that was such a treat! Legend says that the abbey was founded by Joseph of Arimathea in the 1st century, but the archaeological record indicates that it was founded in the 8th century and later on enlarged (circa 10th century). It was destroyed by a major fire in 1184 (totally not surprised!). And of course it had to be rebuilt and by the 14th century, the abbey was one of the richest and most powerful monasteries in England. The abbey was suppressed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII and apparently the last abbot, Richard Whiting, was hanged, drawn, and quartered as a traitor on Glastonbury Tor in 1539, alongside two other monks!

The ruins of the abbey are lovely and the grass too lush not to walk around there barefooted. Although, beware, as it seems like you are not allowed to run topless around the abbey! If there is a rule like there, there is a reason... Still, the ruins are beautiful, specially with all the flowers growing over them. It is said that the church was built over a powerful ley line. Ah! And it also has the tomb of King Arthur and his wife, moved to the abbey from the Tor/Avalon in the 12th century. Missing from here is the kitchen, an outside structure with amazing acoustics and a very big fireplace! But I managed to take a snap from the egg stone!

According to some, it is believed to be a former Pagan shrine that was honored as an Omphalus, which in ancient times was the most universal representation of the great Goddess. Today it seems like Neo-Pagans of the Glastonbury hold various fertility rites at this Egg Stone.

All in all, I finally understand why this place has been kept alive in the collective consciousness, its magic shared through centuries of storytelling until today. I wished I had more time to visit the other sites like the museum of rural life or the wonderful sacred springs, but I was there for another reason and my time to sightsee was limited. Maybe another time!

All photos taken by me on either my smart phone or my Nikon Z6, f4, 24-70mm, in manual mode.


Buck Marchinton
Buck Marchinton
Jun 12, 2023

When we visited the UK back in 2019, my son named being on the Tor as one of the highlights of the whole trip. Conversely, he thought the town felt somehow wrong. I suggested that, unlike the towns he visited previously – those with mostly locals holding similar expectations and ways of thinking – here you have many, many varied outsiders with a wide range of beliefs and expectations, enough to overcome whatever the locals bring to the town. Muddled the energy of the place, as it were.

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It is a strange place, that is for sure! But I agree that with so many different belief systems claiming some sort of hold over the area, the energies of the place might feel different from what we are used to. I actually agree with him in that the town felt a bit displaced. I must go back again. :D

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