Sunday 20th June, 2010 – Glastonbury, Somerset.
This is the fourth in the series of Summer Solstice posts, and by far the most ….important, astonishing, profound? In previous posts I have detailed my quest to finish off my tasks for the previous eighthpart of the year, and then to discover the purpose of the next eighth-part. Bothof these were very successful, and involved working with the heart chakra to bring about a harmonisation and integration within me. Then I had been posed a riddle to solve that would be the key to the next phase of the year from the Solstice to Lammas. With that safely determined, I could relax (could I relax any more?) and just “be”. I would say I was in a state of “openness” at this point, and ready to chill out in the lovely Chalice Well gardens, given that it was a fantastic sunny day. So, off we went down the Tor in a state of contentedness.
If there’s one place in the whole of Glastonbury that I appreciate more than any other it’s the tranquil space and beauty of the Chalice Well gardens. Its serenity is such an oasis from the hubbub of the Tor and the High Street, sandwiched as it is between the two. As we approached the ticket boothour thoughts were already turning to the “mindlessness” that such a place engenders and were were both quiet in preparation. The bearded man in the booth looked us up and down and then commented on the beauty of my ash staff. Thus began a special moment in my spiritual journey – I met Brian Conquer, ArchDruid of Glastonbury, for the first time.
How To Inlay A Staff
The conversation with Brian began with him asking about how I came across the staff. I told him the story that it had asked me to rescue it, how I had heard its call, revived it and how now I wanted to decorate it. Now we were inseparable companions, the staff and I. Straight away I felt as though he understood what I meant, which rather surprised me, but hey – we were in Glastonbury and people must hear comments like that all the time. Brian began to explain how I might decorate the staff usinga particular technique involving twisted copper wire, superglue, a soldering iron with a square head, and some sandpaper. It sounded like it was just the piece of information that I had been waiting for because I had been holding off from carving the staff for a while now feeling that this was not the right thing to be doing, and having dowsed that the marks I was making needed to be more distinct. Here was Brian telling me exactly how that could be achieved!
Brian’s technique for inlaying the staff in copper was firstly to burn a shape into the wood using the soldering iron. Then, twist the copper wire, glue it in place, and use the sandpaper to cause heat via friction which blends the copper and glue until the finish is smooth. Well, it sounded simple enough, and I said I would go and practise that. He commented that he would be holding a workshop on how to do exactly that in late August here in the Chalice Well gardens. I made a special note to leave a space in my calendar. This was just the guidance that I needed to complete my “side quest” of transferring the shapes I am dowsing, the sigils of the genius loci of various sacred sites, and putting them onto my staff. Here was a man who was experienced in just that technique.
There was even more information on offer too, though. Brian informed us about the red spring (female water) that emerged from under the Tor and had been enshrined here in the gardens. Over the road in the white spring, the male quality of the water was surfaced, channeled and enshrined. So, on either side of the road that separated the White Springs from the Chalice Well, the two qualities of water were available.
Another nugget of information was that there was an old yew tree with special qualities in the churchyard of St.Andrew’s church at Compton Dundon nearby. Brian reckoned that the yew tree was around 1500 years old, but also that it was the home of a friendly female dryad – a tree spirit. Having met only male dryads so far I made a mental note to go visit this should I get the chance. Some other arrivals at the gardens overheard this conversation and took an avid interest as well. Mr Conquer was holding court to a rapt audience!
Meeting The Goddess
Kaland I thanked the old man for his effusive and passionate display of knowledge. He had given us so many ideas to play with in such a short time that we felt we needed to spend some time in the gardens now to assimilate it all! Kal went off doing his thing (he loves the gardens) and I went off following a dowsing rod to find the best place for me to be. I started by asking if there was anywhere I could re-energise my healing ash staff – this was, after all, the quintessential healing place. I was lead to a sun-drenched circle of sawn tree trunks through a narrow archway that overlooked the main running spring water. ‘Idyllic’ is barely an adequate word! Perfect for re-charging – in terms of sunlight, the geometry of the space, and the quietness. I felt perfectly fine leaving the staff there whilst I went off elsewhere to find my own perfect spot.
After spending time on a fruitful trail moving from beneath various types of tree – beech, then willow, then rowan, and finally yew – I wandered down to where Kal was playing into the channeled spring, observing its flow. It looked like he was doing something akin to Schauberger’s principles of flowing water, but he didn’t elaborate. Seeing he wasn’t finished I didn’t interrupt, but began to wander aimlessly. That was when Brian nipped out of the ticket hut to shout some advice across to me: “Why don’t you try standing between the yew trees facing down the hill, groudn your staff and calling on the Goddess?“, he suggested. I had already been between the yew trees on my last visit, and again on this one, but his additional instructions made me think he knew something I didn’t, and beside – how the whole garden was watching to see what I would do! Nothing like a bit of pressure!
I stood in the centre of the two yews and asked them if they minded me doing this little experiment. I got a pleasing feeling, and so I thanked them and carried on. There was a lady behind me who seemed to be taking a very keen interest in this procedure, but I did my best to screen everyone out and followed the instructions. I faced down the slope, unfixed my attention and then struck the earth with my staff. At that precise moment I sent my attention up and down into the earth and sky. Once I was connected above and below I looked into the middle distance and called mentally upon the Goddess to visit me in this place. Would anything happen? Or would I just look foolish?
A gentle but powerful force arrived surrounding me in a maelstrom of whirling energies– a veritable vortex of coiling charge built up around me. I could feel my aura expanding and pulsing in and out in slow and very strong heartbeats. The American lady behind me, whom I had completely forgotten about, so awed was I by this ‘visitation’, was saying things like “Whoa – I’m being pushed backwards – now I’m moving forwards again!”. I continued feeling like I was in the centre of a storm and couldn’t imagine what it must look like from the outside – did people see this swirling vortex of subtle energy like I was feeling it?
I had a question I wanted to ask my visitor. I guessed she might be able to help me with this one. I asked if I might ask the question, to which the winds increased in strength momentarily. I imagined my question to her: “What was the nature of the dragon that I had to awaken? Was it a hill, an energy, a skill, a tale, or what?” The answer came back immediately, “It is the serpent fire within you. Can’t you feel it?” she whispered witha strong hint of humour. Of course I could! It was swirling all around and through me now! I was happy with that clear guidance, and thanked her for helping me. I released my mental grip, re-focusing my attention back into the present world and the winds around me began to ease off. As they did so I thanked the visitor for the experience – the single most powerful and exhilarating experience of that nature that I have ever had. The American lady behind me looked equally shell-shocked and could only say “Thank you! Thank you for that – that was amazing!” over and over again as she walked away, wide-eyed. I smiled and looked over at Brian in his wooden ticket office. He winked at me and smiled too. He seemed to know what that had been like for me.
I returned to Kal again and he still seemed to be busy meditating. I suddenly noticed that there were lots of herbs planted along one side of the garden’s walls and I wandered over to stroll amongst them – touching and smelling each in turn. I had never paid any interest at all to herbs before, but suddenly they it seemed to me that they were very important, and that I should learn their properties. I have no idea why this suddenly seemed so important, but since then I have been buying herb seeds, studying their lore, and have designated a space in my garden ready for planting them! Most odd. Or maybe just a natural progression on this druidic path?
As I wandered around Brian appeared again with a conspiratorial wink, and handed me a small wrapped hand-sized package. “A present from the Goddess.” he winked and smiled before chuckling to himself as he walked away. I thanked him as he retreated, and I unfolded the paper – it was a large prism of clear quartz. A present from an Archdruid? A treasured possession already! I was very humbled.