Glastonbury has always been a favourite place of mine as I find it very relaxing and calming. People say that it is situated along lines of power – ley lines and I see no point in trying to disprove this supposition. Glastonbury is shrouded in myth just as the Isle of Glass as it was called was shrouded in mists, which may have been from the Other World. There were said to be places where the veil between this world and the other were thin and Glastonbury was believed to be one of these places.
Modern Glastonbury relies on New Age ideas and tourists to sustain it, so the mystique of Glastonbury lingers on into the 21st century. There is a temple to the Mother Goddess and Glastonbury has become the home of the National Federation of Spiritual Healers. You can buy crystals for healing or simply shop for your groceries, which I suspect most of the locals do! Hippies descended on Glastonbury in the 1960s and in 1971 the Glastonbury Fayre was hailed as England’s Woodstock.
It is the Isle of Avalon (the translation being the Isle of Glass) long associated with Merlin and the tales of Camelot and King Arthur. Annwn from which Avalon may have come, is the Celtic name for the Otherworld. The isle was the Tor and it became an island every year with the winter floods. Over the centuries the monks drained the land, but the Tor and the Tower of Saint Michael still stand. It was thought that the monks uncovered the graves of King Arthur and his Queen Guinevere close to the Abbey.
There are still some pagan traditions that continue in modern-day Glastonbury, one of which is the Glastonbury Carnival held in mid-November after Guy Fawkes Night (5th November). It is thought that this is a throw-back to a pagan fire festival. One is still held in Thrace in northern Greece that I know of.
However Glastonbury is also the centre of the legend that Joseph of Arimathea landed in Britain and planted the Glastonbury thorn in the town. Some also believe that Jesus was with him. Whatever the case, the Abbey in the area dominated it for a thousand years and it was a place of pilgrimage. Hostelries sprang up in the town to accommodate these. The Abbey grounds are now said to be haunted by long-dead monks and some say they have seen these ghosts wandering around the streets too. The George and Pilgrim Hotel, which was built around 1475 has the reputation of being the most haunted place in the town, with guests leaving hurriedly after seeing apparitions in ancient and more modern clothing.
Now Glastonbury is famous for the annual music festival which is held on the last weekend in June at Pilton Farm. Concert goers spend the weekend in a usually muddy field and pay a lot more than I used to in order to see their favourite bands.
The Glastonbury Thorn was replanted in 2013 on Wearyall Hill after being vandalized. The new thorn was grown from the branches of the former one and nurtured in the woody plant nursery at Kew Gardens. Legend has it that Joseph of Aruimathea planted his staff in the ground and it flowered, or it was a piece of wood from Christ’s cross which he had carried with him to Glastonbury. The thorn tree flowers every Christmas, with the Queen being sent a sprig from it every year. It also blossoms in May along with every other hawthorn tree.
If you like mysticism and New Age thinking, then you should pay Glastonbury a visit. It’s about a two hour drive from London and an hour’s drive to the south of Bristol. Don’t go at the end of June if you haven’t got festival tickets or a place (or tent) to stay.