Tales from End to End
The Avalonian’s Tale
by Moira Sammonds
I first glimpsed Glastonbury Tor in the late seventies and from that moment I knew I wanted to live within sight or reach of it. Glastonbury does that to you, it draws you in and envelops you in its mysticism. Christian or Pagan, or whatever your spiritual belief, there is something enchanting about the place. This little town in the middle of the beautiful Somerset Levels is like no place else on earth. Let me walk you down the High Street.
We will begin our journey at the top of the town. We are standing outside my church, Glastonbury Methodist Church. Behind us was once a pond for washing carts and nearby is an old drinking fountain with its ancient warning etched on the wall to ‘commit no nuisance.’ We’ll cross the road and make our way down the hill. Note the sign for The Chocolate Love Temple – that’s new! To our right we can see a retreat which offers holistic spiritual therapy and nearby a window displays a reproduction Glastonbury chair. The last abbot of Glastonbury, Richard Whiting sat in such a chair when he was on trial in Wells. His gruesome end was to be hung, drawn and quartered on Glastonbury Tor in 1539 during the dissolution of the monasteries.
Soon we pass the old Woolworths store. Even Glastonbury with its unusual and eclectic mix of shops had one of these. Now it is a store for natural and organic products, very of the moment and very Glastonbury. Across the road we see the rather grand pillared entrance to the United Reform Church, another church building erected in the nineteenth century.
We do try our best to be green and ethical in Glastonbury and soon you will see the Eco Friendly Shop where you can buy all sorts from organic socks to fair-trade footballs. Once I even bought a sheep poo paper air freshener! Of course we have our local Co-op but being Glastonbury you can see we have Enlightenment on one side and Natural Earthling on the other. So while you’re out shopping for your bread and eggs you can go next door for a tarot reading or buy some yoga products to detox and de-stress you. And across the road is a Buddha Maitreya meditation centre which uses sacred geometry to cleanse negative energy.
The visitor is offered so many ways to spiritual healing and enlightenment that Glastonbury should be one of the happiest places on earth. As a Christian I take comfort from the welcome at St John’s Church, whose size and beauty dominates the High Street. The present building was completed by the end of the fifteenth century. ‘Welcome and enter all those who seek peace and the way of Christ.’ Those with other beliefs may find comfort and healing in one of the many crystal shops where the energies of the stones can be explained. In another window we can see images of the Green Man. His is a face surrounded by leaves and although he is related to deities of nature he can often be found in churches. If you look closely you can see next to him some little sachets of dried clay mixed with flowers. These are sacred offerings to honour the spirit of the moon-gazing hare. This hare is a symbol dating back to ancient times. Pagans believe it brings good fortune, growth and re-birth. Look in the next shop and you will see little statues of Ganesha the Hindu elephant-faced deity. He among other things shows man striving to integrate with nature. And so it goes on, the human quest for meaning in our lives.
But let us end our journey at Glastonbury Abbey, which many believe to be the site of the first Christian church. According to tradition, Joseph of Arimathea and his followers built a wattle church here where the ruins of the abbey now stand. When we sing William Blake’s words in that favourite and stirring anthem ‘Jerusalem’, we ask ourselves, could the boy Jesus have been with him? Certainly in the seventh century the Saxons erected a new stone church on the site and of course legend has it that King Arthur is buried there. Once the abbey drew pilgrims from all over England and if you look around you can see that these days we have visitors and pilgrims from all across the globe.
There is just so much more to say about this wonderful place that is Glastonbury. It is a mystical place of legend. It is a centre for spiritual beliefs of all kinds. But above all to me it is a holy place and a place that can be proud of its Christian heritage. So I’ll leave you now to make my way home, past a shop named Bedlam, past the Goddess Temple and the King Arthur pub. You’ll find a lot more to explore and who knows you may end up on Wearyall Hill. Legend has it that Joseph’s staff took root there and the Holy Thorn, I am told, is just breaking into bud.
I am a retired school teacher who was born and brought up in Northern Ireland. However I have lived in Somerset for over thirty years and it has truly become my home. I have been in Glastonbury for eleven years and so am truly an Avalonian. I worship at Glastonbury Methodist Church, as friendly a bunch of people as you could ever wish for. It was a pleasure to meet John and Nancy there as they passed through. I wish them all the very best as they continue their walk to help the people of Sierra Leone.