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Frank's travels around Britain 2007.

Glastonbury, Somerset.

The epicentre in England for the gullible and those with an alternative lifestyle ... & how!

Glastonbury is a stunningly beautiful Somerset town, known the world over by the picture of it's ruined church on the Tor. It seems to be the headquarters for all free thinking people with any hint of wanting to be different & willing to believe the power of anything you fancy. It's very difference draws you in. You begin to see Avalon. An Ashram below the Tor is normal. A charity shop for the Sufi's on the main road is not strange. Fairies, Dragons, Native American dream catchers, stones of all hues that claim all kinds of properties, is just standard fare. Every one seems to have lost all reason & logic. It looks like facts & proof would just ruin a good story.  (there is a suspicion that the reason & logic gene is removed before you enter town). Why live "normally" when you can follow anything you wish for & know its true because you said so! On the other hand, is it that the people here have chosen to believe something different because they don't fancy reality. The entire town is given over to being different. It draws tourists for over the entire world. People seem to be mesmerised. Goods with signs that make claims that would be sued if they were in Tescos. Joss sticks to bring peace & enlightenment, stones to heal you and prices to melt your brain.

Perfectly normal banks, newsagents & Pizza shops rub shoulders with the Stone Age shop, ("to promote the practical use of crystals and gemstones for healing & transformation" that's one hell of a claim!) the Green Man shop and ladies claiming psychic powers. Just as the middle class & life's drop outs mingle with tourists. All nationalities & tongues spoken here. Nothing is too weird or too normal.

Stories, myths & legends all become real here. Joseph of Arimathea, the man who gave Jesus his tomb, suddenly becomes his Uncle, bringing Jesus to Glastonbury as a child, according to a Somerset tradition. A much-loved legend is that Christian Glastonbury began with the arrival of Joseph of Arimathea. He figures in the Gospels as a rich follower who allowed the body of Christ to be laid it in his tomb. Some say he was an older kinsman and had brought Jesus here as a boy, perhaps on a trading voyage to Britain. I just love the way Glastonbury sign's & explanations are covered by the words "Some say"! (The word "Reputedly" is used a lot) Reputedly in the years after the Crucifixion, he came to this remote country on a mission with several companions. They made their home in Avalon and remained there as a community of hermits. An offshoot of the legend concerns a local variety of hawthorn known as the Glastonbury Thorn. It is said that Joseph planted his staff in the ground, and it became a tree that blossomed at Christmas. Descendants of a medieval hawthorn on Wearyall Hill actually do blossom at Christmas or thereabouts, while no other English hawthorn does this, there are some that do in the Middle East, including Palestine.

Even King Arthur has a marked grave in Glastonbury Abbey. The poor man must have been chopped up into little bits and buried all over! They certainly claimed to have his body in lots of different places around England! The first narrative account of Arthur's reign is found in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th century Latin work Historia Regum Britanniae ("History of the Kings of Britain"), an imaginative and fanciful account of British kings from the legendary Trojan exile Brutus to the 7th century Welsh prince Cadwallader. Geoffrey places Arthur in the same post-Roman period as the Historia Brittonum and Annales Cambriae. He introduces Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon, and his magician advisor Merlin, and the story of Arthur's conception, in which Uther, disguised as his enemy Gorlois by Merlin's magic, fathers Arthur on Gorlois' wife Igerna at Tintagel. On Uther's death, the fifteen-year-old Arthur succeeds him as king and fights a series of battles, similar to those in the Historia Brittonum, culminating in the Battle of Bath, and then defeats the Picts and Scots, conquers Ireland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Gaul, and ushers in a period of peace and prosperity which lasts until the Roman emperor Lucius Tiberius demands tribute. Arthur refuses, and war follows. Arthur and his warriors, including Caius, Bedver and Walganus, defeat Lucius in Gaul, but as he prepares to march on Rome, Arthur hears news that his nephew Modredus, whom he had left in charge of Britain, has married his wife Guanhumara and seized the throne. Arthur returns to Britain and defeats and kills Modredus on the river Camblam in Cornwall, but is mortally wounded. He hands the crown to his kinsman Constantine, and is taken to the isle of Avalon to be healed of is wounds, never to be seen again. The main point being, it's "an imaginative and fanciful account of British kings". Still, so long as it gets the tourists in, good on king Arthur.

The Tor is the teardrop-shaped hill at Glastonbury. Its only standing architectural feature is the roofless St Michael's Tower of the former church. Tor is a local word of Celtic origin meaning 'conical hill'. Rising out of the Somerset levels, it is probably the most dramatic symbol of this very ancient area of religion. There are many myths and legends associated with the Tor, one is that it is the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, the Lord of the Underworld and King of the Fairies, and a place where the fairy folk live. In early-medieval times there was a small retreat on top of the Tor for monks', founded probably in the time of St Patrick in the mid-400s. This was followed in the early 1100s by a chapel, St Michael de Torre. This was destroyed in a powerful earthquake in 1275 and a second church, built in the 1360s, survived until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 when the Tor was the place of execution by hanging of the last Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey. The tower is all that remains today. The climb to the top of the Tor is steep & arduous, the views spectacular and it is the  powerful world wide symbol of Glastonbury & it's eccentricities. As one web site puts it. "The myths associated with Glastonbury Tor are extraordinary. It has been called a magic mountain, a faeries' glass hill, a spiral castle, a Grail castle, the Land of the Dead, Hades, a Druid initiation centre, an Arthurian hill-fort, a magnetic power-point, a crossroads of leys, a centre for Goddess fertility rituals and celebrations, a converging point for UFOs".

It is said that there are hundreds of ley lines and their intersection points that past thru the Tor & Glastonbury. To the new age people, they resonate a special psychic or magical energy, often including elements such as geomancy, dowsing or UFOs, stating that, for instance, UFO's travel along ley lines (in the way that one might observe that cars use roads and highways). These points on lines have electrical or magnetic forces associated with them. While I was there, I saw a lady with a very small child in one arm and in the other hand she carried her dowsing rods.

Is this town in the centre of a powerful energy, it attracts millions of visitors like a magnet? It's certainly a lovely English centre for eccentrics, nutters  & tourists, a sea of purple & lilac where every truth begins with "legend has it" or "Some people say". It's full of very nice people & stuff you only ever thought you'd read about ... even pure old septic sceptics like me just love the place!

Some people say it's really magic.


Links for information on this page:

Isle of Avalon

A more normal view

Joseph of Arimathea

King Arthur

The Tor