When I moved to the UK in 2004, I came partly with the expectation of immersing myself in the history of a nation so old, that you can't really sneeze without discovering something fascinating. I'd created a bucket list over the years of places I absolutely 'had' to see, and slowly, I'm going to work my way through them.
Yesterday's journey was a double-barreled one - being the ambitious type but not wanting to be guilty of a 'Griswold Family Vacation' :p, we decided Glastonbury would be the starting point. Because I know I have a fair number of American readers who might not be aware of some of the history of these places, I'll be giving an abbreviated amount of information about them (because there's just so MUCH!), as well as my own personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences while I was in each of them. My British friends can either accept my apologies for my discourse and read, or scroll on - I promise not to be offended lol.
Never let it be said that I plan too far ahead...although we arrived early enough to grab breakfast, most shops seemed to be closed - and they stayed that way throughout our visit, as most are closed on either Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or both! LOL! But...I digress. It absolutely pelted down with rain for the first part of the drive to Glastonbury. I don't mind the rain, but spending the day squishing as I walked wasn't what I'd hoped for. Traffic moving at a slightly slower pace gave me the chance to really absorb the beauty of Somerset. Everywhere I looked, rolling fields made a patchwork of browns, yellows, and greens on either side of the road.
The old adage of 'make hay while the sun shines' was apparent in either huge rolled bales scattered across a field, or towering blocks of bales ready to be loaded and brought to barns. Although the majority of the foliage was still quite green, the verdancy was dulled and here and there was evidence of approaching colder weather in the scattered leaves on the roadside or in a hint of amber and gold peeking through the roadside hedges. Beautiful thatched cottages with colourful flowers growing in profusion lined narrow roads; buildings so old their bricks now askew begged the question as to whether they or the ancient timbers that framed the buildings were supporting some structures.
On first view, Glastonbury was much as I'd expected...a very old place with charming buildings now turned into shops or eateries. The town obviously caters to 'New Agers' - and don't think for a minute I'm saying that as an insult...especially since that's very much my line of work as well. Everywhere you look you see tie-dye and batik clothing, crystal and magic shops, vegetarian restaurants, tea rooms and cosy bookstores selling what seems to be every book ever written on magic, witchcraft, healing - name it! There are also those lovely little alleys you can stroll down that open into hidden treasures of more shops and eateries...a surprise every few feet. However, being me...if you can't shop...find the history, lol...and so we did. Glastonbury Abbey. Where do you even begin? The land the Abbey sits on and the Abbey itself have seen more history than most people (certainly I), could ever begin to conceive of. Just a few FYI's:
In 63 AD Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy follower of Jesus, arrives carrying with him a staff that became part of the legend of the Abbey. Supposedly, when Joseph arrived in Glastonbury with his twelve companions he climbed Wearyall Hill, whose name derives from his proclaiming 'we are weary all'. He planted his staff in the ground while he rested. The following morning the staff had taken root, and it allegedly grew into the thorn tree - a tree that blossoms only twice a year - at Easter and Christmas. Legend has it that he and his 12 followers founded the first monastery on the grounds, and built the first church out of daub and wattle.
Now think about this: The Romans swept across England and the UK beginning in 43 AD - and didn't withdraw their troops until 410 AD. That's just a tiny bit of perspective on the age of the Abbey. 443 (ish) AD - St Patrick visits the Abbey
940-963 AD - Dunstan is Abbot of the Abbey and establishes Benedictine Rule.
967 King Edmund is buried in the Abbey
1066 The Battle of Hastings
1077 Abbott Thurstin replaces the standing Saxon church with a much larger Norman one - then promptly gets himself replaced for allowing his soldiers to kill monks by the High Altar
1191 Tombs of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere found on the Abbey grounds (kinda sorta :P)
1539 Dissolution of the Abbey per King Henry VIII war on the Church
1908 Consolidation and repair of the Abbey begins; the Abbey is purchased by the Church of England Trust me when I tell you that this is NOTHING in the history of the Abbey and its lands; it's seen wars, kings, queens and more come and go as though they were nothing. What remains of the Abbey is what you'll see in the pictures in this album: there's a digital camera still full of photos I've not yet uploaded. Being a foodie, I couldn't resist spending some time in the Abbot's Kitchen - that's the little round building in the pictures. I couldn't decide if I wouldn't mind cooking over an open fire all the time or not...to me, it wouldn't be much different than camping and cooking an open fire. At least in a kitchen (granted, the Abbot's was much better appointed than most 'kitchens' of the time were...they spared no expense) like that Abbot's, you had the ability to raise and lower cast iron cookware with the help of gears and levers.
The energy of the property itself surprised me. There was definitely an air of sadness or perhaps melancholy would better describe it. Even looking at the remaining walls you can feel 'strength' being exuded from them. It's a remarkably peaceful place now; but if you listen, you can still hear whispers of the hustle and bustle of a very busy and very wealthy religious community just under the surface.
On more than one occasion, I heard the sound of monks singing...it was very light and faded in and out...but it was there at least for me. The legend of Joseph of Arimathea intertwines with the legend of King Arthur as well, and you really can't tell that story without including the Isle of Avalon and the Lady of the Lake. Today, there really isn't a lake visible to the human eye near the Abbey or the Tor...but in many years past, there was. Some say that the Isle of Avalon, home to the Lady of the Lake and High Priestess of Avalon, still resides there, hidden in the mist, until the time comes when Arthur returns and she is needed once again. I hope you enjoy what there is so far...let yourselves sink into the energy of the landscape and the stones. Ask yourself what the gargoyles might have seen...
Marisa Ward is the founder/CEO of White Light Enterprises UK, Reiki Master and Teacher, and professional Psychic/Intuitive Reader.