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Glastonbury: legends, myths and zodiac energy

Glastonbury: legends, myths and zodiac energy

The site of the legend of King Arthur, as well as the place he was allegedly laid to rest, the famed fesitval town of Glastonbury in the south of England is shrouded in centuries of legends and myths and attracts visitors every year drawn by the town's zodiac energy 

There is something different about Glastonbury. Even before reaching the bustling little Somerset town, which has an unusually large proportion of New Age shops offering all manner of alternative therapies, visitors cannot fail to be struck by the geography of the place.

"Today the Tor stands as a monument to a world of pagan mystery, legend and spirituality that still casts a long shadow"

The 158m (520ft) high cone of Glastonbury Tor, topped by the roofless St Michael's Tower, rises out of the surrounding countryside rather like an island amid a sea of green.

With half-closed eyes it is not hard to imagine it as it was 7,000 years ago, when the Tor was indeed surrounded by water; today it stands as a monument to another time and another world—a world of pagan mystery, legend and spirituality that still casts a long shadow. 

King Arthur's ancient tomb 

Sword in stone Credit: steved_np3

The 12th-century author Geoffrey of Monmouth was among those drawn by the power of Glastonbury's aura, which in those days was greatly augmented by the town's claim to the be the site of the oldest Christian church in the western world.

It was Geoffrey who, in his History of the Kings of Britainstated that Glastonbury was "the ancient and blessed Isle of Avalon", where the legendary King Arthur first acquired his sword Excalibur and where Arthur was later taken, mortally wounded, after his confrontation with the evil King Mordred. 

"Glastonbury was 'the ancient and blessed Isle of Avalon', where the legendary King Arthur first acquired his sword Excalibur"

Some 50 years after the publication of Geoffrey's book, in or around 1193, the monks of Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have recovered from the grounds a massive wooden coffin and a lead cross inscribed with the words Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arthurus in insula Avalonia—"Here lies the renowned King Arthur in the island of Avalon". Inside the coffin were the bodies of a giant man and a woman—said to be Arthur and his queen Guinevere.

The find became the talk of the country, attracting pilgrims to Glastonbury by the thousand; both bodies were eventually reburied in 1278 at a religious ceremony attended by the then king, Edward I and his queen Eleanor. 

A pilgrim publicity stunt? 

The murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral Credit: Christine_Kohler

Cynics have since pointed out that the affair was more likely to be a publicity stunt, devised by the monks of Glastonbury to ensure a continuing lucrative flow of pilgrims in the face of stiff competition from the shrine of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury, who had been murdered in 1170.

There is no other evidence linking the town with Arthur, the seventh century warrior who defended Celtic Britain from the invading Saxons—although why the monks would have bothered is not clear, for the foundation of their own church is the subject of an altogether more intriguing legend. 

Joseph of Arimathea

Glastonbury Thorn in front of a village Credit: Ken Grainger

According to the late 12th century French poet Robert de Boron, it was Joseph of Arimathea, the man who donated his own tomb for the burial of Christ, who first brought the gospel to Glastonbury long before the foundation of the church of Rome.

Arriving by sea in the company of 11 fellow evangelists, Joseph is said to have carried with him the Holy Grail—the vessel used by Christ at The Last Supper. Upon his arrival, Joseph reputedly struck the ground with his staff, bringing into being the equally legendary Glastonbury Thorn—a hybrid of the hawthorn tree that flowers once in spring and once in midwinter, and which grows only in and around the confines of the ruined abbey.

(Although the original tree is long since dead, the winter blossom from one of its cuttings is traditionally presented by the town to the ruling monarch on Christmas Day).

Joseph's journey to Glastonbury 

Glastonbury Abbey, Arthur's burial site Glastonbury Abbey—King Arthur's burial site. Credit: Internet Archive Book Images

Controvery surrounds Joseph's supposed journey to Glastonbury, which over the centuries grew more intertwined with Arthurian legend, as well as acquiring embellishbments of its own.

One version states that Joseph actually visited the area in the company of the boy Jesus. However, it is known that the nearby Bristol Channel lay on an established Phoenician trade route, and that connections between Celtic Britain and the Holy Land pre-date Christianity by several centuries—the Phoenicians trading cloth, dyes and spices for much-prized Cornish tin.

"Connections between Celtic Britain and the Holy Land pre-date Christianity by several centuries"

Perhaps therein lie the origins of the story, which has persisted in spite of the pre-eminence of the Roman Catholic church over the older Celtic Christian church from the 7th century onwards. 

Spiritual energy 

Glastonbury Tor from drone Glastonbury Tor. Credit: Andybarisaphotography

In more recent times, Glastonbury has again become a focus for those in search of a more spiritual life. Visitors are in part drawn by the town's legends, btu also attracted by Glastonbury's reputation as a source of earth energies.

In 1935, one of the first of them, a woman named Katherine Maltwood, had a vision in which she pictured the topography of Glastonbury and its surrounding villages to trace out the 12 signs of the zodiac—the so-called "Glastonbury Zodiac".

Like so much connected witih this mysterious place, it is an ethereal concept, intertwined with the remnants of ancient beliefs. But for New Age truth seekers this only adds to the enigma. 

Like the story of Avalon itself, Glastonbury's mystique refuses to die. Each year a new generation is drawn—like their medieval ancestors before them—to experience the town's enduring power. 

Banner credit: CaptureLight

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