OF GLASTONBURY TOR
folk-lore and strange experiences
The soft green hill of the Tor, crowned with its
enigmatic tower, has become a symbol of Glastonbury.
It dominates the town and the surrounding landscape, and is the first sign to
the traveler that Glastonbury
is drawing near.
In archetypal symbolism, hills and high places are
like bridges between earth and sky. They represent a link between material
reality and the unseen dimensions.
The early Celts thought of high places as gods –
powerful beings in a world where all nature was inhabited by conscious
entities. Roman influence later modified that idea, saying it’s not the hills
that are alive, but the gods who inhabit them.
Glastonbury Tor has long been seen as the most magical
hill in the land. Centuries of legends and folklore have gathered around it. In
their various ways, these tales all demonstrate one thing – that the Tor is a place where the veil
between the worlds is thin.
Strange experiences here are usually interpreted
according to the beliefs of the times. An otherworldly being met on the Tor
might be called a fairy in one century, a nature spirit in another and ET in
more recent years.
the Tor has come to host a large variety of mystical beliefs. Nature mythology,
paganism, Christian legends, and newer ideas about life the universe and
everything have all found a comfortable niche for themselves within Tor lore.
It’s as if the Tor can attract and foster all kinds
of ideas, but is always bigger than any of them - like a giant ancient tree
with its ever-changing population of little birds and squirrels.
THE TEMPLE ON THE TOR
It’s certainly ancient. Modern archeology agrees
with the folklore about that.
Legends say that on the top there was once a stone
circle like Stonehenge. Recent archeology
research has found that two thousand years ago there really was a stone
structure on the Tor.
A West Country seer described her vision of how it was: 'The Tor is not the same now as it was then. There used to be a white temple on
the top. It was like a Greek temple, but circular.
'The top was domed. There were twelve columns
around it. Inside was the most beautiful
mosaic floor, in the design of a zodiac. Under the floor there was a hidden
vault. There were seven guardians there in pale blue robes.
'The temple had trees and rushes and water all the
way round. There was a very fragrant scent there. Just being on that little
island was restorative.'
The Tor was an island for centuries. 'Somerset' is
short for 'summer settlement' because the area was too flooded to inhabit in
winter. The Tor was called 'Ynis Witrin' or 'Isle of Glass'. It was connected
to the mainland by only a narrow strip of land at low tide.
The earliest tales of the Tor were about the
fairies who lived there. In those days, fairies were nothing like our twee
pictures of them. They were described as tall, youthful despite great age, and
“fair” – i.e. beautiful.
They were also associated with certain constellations
- the Pleiedes, Ursa Major, and Sirius. People said they gave knowledge to them,
especially about astrology and healing. Different peoples from all over the
world have strikingly similar mythologies.
A large number of fairy encounters are associated with
magical hills. Fairy hills were thought of as hollow, in the sense that there
was another realm within them. This inner realm was called Annwn or Avalon. A
persistent ancient belief says there’s an entrance to Annwn somewhere on the
Not many sought that entrance, because of certain
dangers that everyone knew about in the old days. One problem was the
difference between fairy time and ours. More than one medieval experiencer
reports having spent only half an hour or so with the fairies – but when they
returned, found that many years had passed in their world. Everyone they knew
had grown old or died.
Another danger was the food. The rule was, if you
visit Annwn, don’t eat or drink anything. Any human who accepts fairy fare will
never be able to leave their world again.
That food and drink might stand for magical powers
or advanced knowledge available in the other realms. Once these are assimilated
– understood - it would be impossible to return to the old ways again.
A famous Tor story is the encounter between
St.Collen and Gwynn ap Nudd, the King of the Fairies. St.Collen, a devout
Christian monk, had heard about the heathen fairies of the Tor, and decided to
do something about it.
He found the special place on the Tor that locals
said was the entrance to Annwn, settled himself down, and waited. Before long,
He led St.Collen into his court, where the fairies offered him their
food and drink.
The monk refused these offerings, and threw holy
water at his hosts.
At that, he was instantly back on the grassy slopes of the
Tor surface. He wound his way home, satisfied that his actions had banished the
fairies from the Tor.
TREASURE AND SECRET TUNNELS
Glastonbury Abbey was once one of the richest
Abbeys in the land. After the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth
century, that wealth was meant to go to Henry 8. But there’s a
good chance he didn’t get all of it.
Secret tunnels are said to radiate out in many
directions from the Abbey. One of them apparently goes straight to the Tor. At
the time of the Dissolution, some of the Abbey’s assets may have been smuggled
out through these tunnels.
Many think this is why Henry VIII had the Abbot,
Richard Whiting, hung, drawn and quartered on the Tor for treason. His ghost is
still said to haunt Dod Lane in Glastonbury.
There are stories about monks who found these
tunnels, but when they returned were “insane” or “unable to speak”. Maybe this
was to put off people who thought of looking for those tunnels themselves.
researching the Tor’s legendary tunnels, I received this intriguing e-mail: 'I
have a story from a very old source - 17th century - which tells of a large
tunnel leading into the Tor. It led to a big cave in which two pools of natural
spring water flowed underground to the Chalice Well.
said that the cave was part of a Druidic initiation - a journey into the dark
and inner self. There were also steps leading down from the top into the cave.
was re-discovered then promptly covered up for reasons unknown. As for the cave under the Tor, it was bricked up by the local water board until recently.
local who was very interested in the history of the site told me all this. He
also relayed to me that in the 60's his father was part of a project to hollow
out the Tor further and place a water tower inside to harness the natural
spring. The idea was to hide the eyesore ruining the cave, and profit at the
same person showed me one of the tunnels which still leads into the Abbey from
outside of town. The bit I walked seemed to be several hundred yards.'
Dowsing methods have now traced many power lines in
the earth that for centuries were known to folklore. These are geomagnetic
lines in the earth - like acupuncture meridians in the body.
Ancient people found that using them made all forms
of travel and communication easier. Christian churches later replaced the older
sacred sites that were built along these lines.
The Michael line is called that because most of the
churches on it are dedicated to St.Michael, who was the Christian version of
the protective male deity originally associated with this line.
In the same way, St.Mary churches delineate the
Mary line and replaced older shrines to a nurturing and gentle earth mother.
The male and female nature of the two lines was thus preserved and continued by
the Christian interpretation.
The Michael and Mary lines are especially powerful.
They connect major sacred sites throughout the South West and beyond. But it’s
only on the Tor that their energies combine. In a harmonious dance of earth
patterns, the lines move ever closer as they approach the summit. At the top,
they merge and unite.
When they flow down from the Tor again, the lines
then pass through other major Glastonbury sites – Chalice Well, the Abbey and
Wearyall Hill. Their energy may be an important source of the strong mystical
element that’s been associated with these places for many hundreds of years.
Apart from their connection with sacred sites,
these lines are also associated with strange lights, and other unexplained
phenomena. Over the years, a substantial number of credible witnesses have seen
balls of light around the Tor.
These are described as luminous, alive, and
People say it feels as if the lights present
themselves on purpose in some way.
They can be round, oval, small as ping pong
balls or big as beach balls; misty, sparkly, luminous or glowing; sometimes
alone, sometimes in groups; hovering, floating or travelling purposefully
through the air, appearing and disappearing at will. Not only white, but reds,
greens, mauves and other colours have been reported.
During the great solar eclipse of August 1999, two
separate and unconnected groups of people reported seeing a large orange ball
of light hovering to the south of the Tor.
Adventurous people who sleep in the tower talk
about strange and vivid dreams, and a white light that sometimes fills the
place. Whatever these lights are, they seem connected in some way with the powerful
energies of sacred sites and earth meridians.
THE TERRACED MAZE
A physical indication of what might have been some
ancient ritual, is the terraced pathway that spirals around the Tor. Although
very worn now, it can still be traced.
Scientific surveys currently think that
it was made about four or five thousand years ago – at about the same time as
Starting at the bottom, it winds around and up the
Tor in a spiralling maze. The pattern it makes is almost identical to the
labyrinth found on ancient Cretan coins. It also echoes the Native American
Hopi people’s representation of Mother Earth.
An examination of this path has found that it seems
to end before getting to the top. The place where it suddenly disappears is
marked with a large, smooth, oval-shaped stone – locally known as the eggstone.
There are very few big stones on the Tor, and from
their positioning they look like deliberately placed markers.
When the solemn
St.Collen decided to have it out with the King of the Fairies, he chose the
best spot he’d heard about for this kind of contact. He described it as 'a
little place under a rock in a secret, out of the way place'.
This sounds like
the eggstone, which is quite difficult to find, being in an obscure spot hidden
by bushes and brambles.
Like much else about the Tor, the terraced pathway
still seems active. Some have seen it glowing with a strange light.
Fortune said: 'Many times the Tower is reported to have been seen rimmed in
light; a warm glow, as of a furnace, beats up from the ground on wild winter
nights, and the sound of chanting is heard from the depths of the hill.
Towering forms of shadow and light are seen moving on the lower slopes.'
THE GLASTONBURY ZODIAC
Other mysterious marks in the landscape around
Glastonbury are the giant signs of the Zodiac. Some think that the Phoenicians
created them more than four thousand years ago. The Elizabethan magus, Dr.John
Dee, was the first to discover this map.
That was forgotten until 1929 when the artist
Katherine Maltwood found it again.
In the map, the Tor is in the sign of
Aquarius. This is depicted as a rising Phoenix with wings outstretched, symbolising
Legends say that when the secret treasure of the
Tor is found again, it will herald a new age of peace and happiness. This
secret treasure probably isn’t a chest overflowing with jewels and gold. I
think it’s more likely to be about the mysterious energies that have been there
for centuries – and according to many reports, are still as strong as ever.
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