Saturday, July 28, 2012

Glastonbury Tor

As the British people placed the Tor front and center in their opening ceremonies for the Olympics last night, I thought I would share our experience. I am certainly glad that my wife and I made it there on our trip to Britain two years ago. It's always good to find places the local people go for holiday, and Glastonbury is one of those. Climbing up the Tor was right in line with the British custom of walking the hills of that "green and pleasant land." I'll start with this excerpt from my "Journal of the Trip" picking up on the top of Cadbury Hillfort which some consider to be the original Camelot.

Glastonbury Tor from Cadbury Hillfort, Somerset

August 23, 2010

. . . .When we crested mounds and moats of ancient fortifications, now covered in greenery, it was so huge and the view was absolutely stunning. It was like being at the top of the world as all of southwestern England was in view off to the Cornish Hills and the sea south and northwest with even a vague hint of Wales on beyond. And there were so few people there as we walked along in the sun and the howling wind. Making the large circuit around the fortress, we headed through some cows to the high ground in the center. There, on the highest spot was a circular monument with a metal circle on top pointing out in all directions what sites could be seen. And to the north was the clear hump of Glastonbury Tor with the Tower of St. Michael’s on top. It was 11 miles straight on even if much farther by road. We walked down the trail and headed north to Avalon at Glastonbury.
I tried to find a place we could park and walk up the Tor while it was still sunny. There were storm clouds threatening. But we ended up in the middle of town and in the car park of the Abbey. But there were a couple of spaces in the tight car park, so we paid our fee and tried it out from there. The guy in the gift shop said that we could walk up High Street and get access to the Tor.

Since we were at the Abbey, we paid and went in to see the ruins along with the 12th Century forgeries of the graves of Arthur and Guinevere. We then headed up High Street past all the New Age shops and the hippies. Glastonbury is England’s Santa Fe. We climbed up High Street, then up a green forest and fields, then finally up the peak of the Tor itself. We visited with a man from near Dartmoor who was on holiday with his two teenage sons. There were a lot of tourists, but they seemed to be all British which makes sense as it has been an important British religious site steeped in legends of Joseph of Arimathea as the Uncle of Jesus and maybe even a visit by the Lord himself while a young boy. The Catholic and Anglican churches officially recognize the founding of the Abbey by Joseph of Arimathea but who knows what is myth or not? It is interesting to visit a land that claims a visit by Jesus or at least those closely associated with him.

The wind was howling on top but oh, what a view! It was stupendous. And there was another marker pointing the directions of all the things you could see up there. It did not account for the things you could imagine to see. I took a picture of a new-ager fellow sitting cross-legged on the Tor facing Glastonbury and meditating. On the way down we followed a family with some young girls and at each gate which swung open within a little half circle just enough to let one person pass at a time, the mum bent down and kissed the girls as they came through. She hollered back at us that it’s the law that we have to kiss at the gate, so we started doing it at the gates too. Apparently, this is an old custom at a “kissing gate.”

We went back down the High Street visiting a Co-op Grocery and buying up their good potato chips - sort of an odd purchase among the new age “majik” shops. We asked around a couple of shops, all run by earthy women, for any green man figures or any other likeness of a yew tree. They knew what I was talking about but nothing was available. My theory is that as the yew tree is a holy tree to ward against evil spirits, the Glastonbury practitioners of witchcraft would not be interested in it.

We mapped out a route back to Avebury and navigated it very successfully in an hour and a half – not at all a far distance for western Americans, but our hostess at Manor Farm was surprised the next morning that we had driven so far and didn’t go to Salisbury. But we had to find Camelot, and we did.

At the Kissing Gate

Meditating Glastonbury

St. Michael's Tower and me above Glastonbury
Glastonbury Tor and St. Michael's Tower
The only thing to add from what we learned visiting numerous churches in England and Wales is that the frequent name of St. Michael's, sometimes including "and All Angels," indicates that the site may have been a pre-Christian holy site. The name of St. Michael was used to indicate the conquest of pagan gods as Michael the Archangel did with the dragon. "How art thou fallen from heaven?"

Our landing was rather soft in the ancestral lands of Britain.

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