As regular readers may know I have begun a tradition – to visit Glastonbury for the Summer Solstice. I go alone, but usually at some point Kal is involved and joins me for part of the quest. This solstice was no different so Kal will make an important appearance throughout this quest’s tale, but I spent the solstice day itself alone in Glastonbury performing a pilgrimage from site to site, meditating or performing some ritual acts at each place.
This solstice I did some preparation for the forthcoming journey by drawing some tarot cards to guide me because when I had dowsed as to what activities I might be doing at Glastonbury the only answer that had come back was that I must learn to follow my own intuition, and that I must not take my dowsing rods! You can imagine how much this filled me with a sense of wariness, because I use dowsing rods for almost all quests and journeys involving energy or decision-making. Oddly, even though they were my primary information sources, the one thing the dowsing rods insisted on was that they would not be involved in this solstice quest! Well, that information has been coming to me from many sources recently too, so I took the hint and left all of my rods at home.
Saturday 18th June
I did a tarot card reading before I got to Glastonbury using the new WildWood Tarot cards that I had recently purchased. Like all the tarot decks that I seem to respond to this reading proved incredibly portentous, very personal, and contained mainly important face cards, rather than innocuous suit cards.
The draw would be five cards. Three cards to give me enough information to work out a starting point for my quest, and then a card to tell me which obstacles I would face on the quest, and a card to inspire me with a reward if the obstacle was overcome. I drew the cards with the intention of the card in mind, and then revealed and interpreted each one in turn.
- 3 cards to identify the start point:
- Queen of Stones – The Bear – “Often linked to Arthurian legend, the bear remains a symbol of power and protection of the land.” If the King Bear is Arthur, then the Queen Bear is Guinivere. The constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor – fixed stars in the cycle around the Pole.
- The Ancestor – could relate to burial sites, meeting ancient archetypes. The Pathfinder. Elen of the Roads/Ways. Ley line and ancient places of power.
- King of Arrows – the Kingfisher – The Fisher King. The guardian of the Grail. Associated with Bran the Blessed – the Celtic god of regeneration – whom I meet regularly at Dinas Bran. Links the health of the land to the health of the king. Gwalchmai and Gawain associated with this image. Impulsiveness.
- 1 card to identify the obstacle:
Eight of Vessels – Rebirth, learn from past mistakes, take positive action, don’t fear to ask.
- 1 card to identify the reward:
The Journey – Renewals, a new birth, a new quest, death to the old modes and concepts.
Monday 20th June
I arrived in Glastonbury with mixed weather – dark clouds all around and threatening a downpour. I got into my accommodation and picked up my piece of paper which contained the hastily scribbled notes about which tarot cards I had picked. The best place to find a decision is at the bottom of a glass of locally-brewed real ale, so I headed off to a local hostelry with the intention of seeking inspiration. Luckily, Kal had ventured into town for the evening so we strode into the King William pub and began to get inspired. As I quizzed him about possible interpretations of the tarot cards I kept noticing that the pub was bedecked with Arthurian paraphernalia – a genealogy of Arthurian personae and a map of the country’s best Arthurian sites were situated right in the corner where we sat and chatted. I looked around the pub – no other walls had such decorations! Our first coincidence.
We interpreted the reading as meaning that I should start my quest at a place where an ancestor was buried, where ley lines run, and linked to Arthur and Guinivere. I knew this place to be the burial site of Arthur & Guinivere at Glastonbury Abbey. I happened to be staying at a Bed & Breakfast called Magdelene House. I had picked the accommodation because it had been the only one in the town that had a room close to the solstice because I booked quite close to the midsummer date. When I arrived I found that Magdelene House is the closest accommodation you can get to Glastonbury Abbey short of camping in the abbey grounds! The second coincidence of the journey so far. The signs were good.
Tuesday 21st June
1. Glastonbury Abbey
“Glabbey”, as I call it, is the remains of several incarnations of devotional structures, each more impressive than the last. The original wattle and daub church has long since gone, replaced by a small church which was then added to and reconstructed as an abbey of some size considering the relative size of the town around it. The importance given to Glastonbury is now a distant memory, but in its day it was a major spiritual centre, and has now revived some of this importance in a Pagan guise that has superceded the Christian prominence.
My interest here was sharply focused – I wouldn’t be here to wander about – I had work to do. I aimed to meditate at the grave site of Arthur and Guinivere. Before I did that I needed to prepare and cleanse – important steps before beginning any spiritual endeavour, I have come to realise. I visited a huge red beech tree (‘copper beech’ as it is colloquially known) and there I secreted myself in the tree’s hollowed trunk and began to rid myself of my worldy energies. That done, I walked towards the abbey until I picked up a ley line that feeds into the ruin, and then flows down the main central axis. I wove about from side to side and then was taken around the end of the abbey (where there is an underground section on display), past the remains of St Dunstan’s small church, and into a spiral at the place where the remains of Arthur and Guinivere were supposedly interred.
At the grave actual site of Arthur and Guinivere (which I dowsed to be six feet away from the signpost) I did a deep meditation. As I let my mind drift into the earth two figures appeared before me in my mind – a man and a woman who joined hands. There was real love in their eyes as they looked at each other. I didn’t need to guess who it might be. They spoke to me about each other in one simple phrase each.
The man said of the lady that she had “the power of beauty“. The lady in turn said that the man who she was with had “the beauty of power“.
This was something that the saw reflected in each other. Alone they did not possess these qualities. I took this to mean that they had to be a couple, a combination of male and female energies, in order for power and beauty to combine in that way and emerge from the union, one aspect reflected in the other.
With this information I returned to consciousness and looked around me. Where should I go next, I wondered? Where was the next link in the chain? How could I find out without my dowsing rods? I exited the abbey and then felt for a ‘pull’ in one direction or another. Left – away from the centre of town. I walked away thinking of the phrase – ‘the power of beauty/the beauty of power’ – and keeping focused on where I felt I should go next. I walked through the Morrisons supermarket car park just in time to see a wonderfully decorated camper van pull up in front of me. It was obviously going to Glastonbury Festival. I chatted with the owner as he got out of it and he let me take some photographs, then I wandered onwards. There before me was Wearyall Hill. It seems I was due to go there next.
2. Wearyall Hill
I knew that I would not see the usual familiar sight of the thorn’s branches as I reached the ridge on Wearyall Hill. I knew they had been cut down this year by some ill-intentioned people, for some inexplicable reason. The Thorn is considered by the mainstream press and Christian pilgrims as one of their holy sites, but it is just as special to a druid – it is an ancient and powerful tree whose welfare is just as much my concern and any religious person’s. I would venture to suggest that actually I am more interested in the physical tree than in what it symbolises. My reasons for visiting were simply to offer some protection and healing to the tree.
I set up protection around the Holy Thorn Tree using my protection crystal set. I lit two incense sticks during the ceremony, and then cleared everything up. I gave the tree some healing too, to help the young shoots survive, and implored it to grow strong and healthy, by imagining that the earth was providing the growth energy it needed. I fed my plant growth energy into the tree too – the first time I had used this new energy form since I had gained it a few weeks earlier.
As I walked away I followed the ridge of the hill until I could see the Tor and Chalice Hill. I knew that I needed to reach Chalice Hill, even though it was raining, and the sensible option would be to head for town. I also knew that I needed to get to Chalice Hill with my incense sticks still lit! This spurred me on to climb the hill in the heat and humidity. Don’t ask me why this was important, but I just felt that it was. Wherever the sticks stopped burning would be my next stop. I walked with a focus and purpose through the trickling rain.
3. Chalice Hill
The walk up Chalice Hill is steep but short. In the summer heat and humidity I expected it to completely wipe me out, but my recent fitness work meant that I was only slightly out of breath, even if I was leaking water like a sieve. As I reached the summit a strange but welcoming sight awaited me…a red and white clothed tree trunk!
I stood admiring the view over glastonbury and listening to the strum of a guitar player in the dell at the side of the hill. The sun came out so I went over to take a look at the pole. I saw that a tree trunk, twenty feet high, had been planted in a hole and then wrapped in ribbons of many colours. The mixture of red and white ribbons made me think of the red and white streams of water that flow under the Tor. I knew that my next task would be to mix the waters of the two springs. I didn’t need any further hints – it was obvious to me that this would provide the union of the red and white, and that it would be useful for some purpose that I might discover later. So, I headed off following my intuition as to how to get there. Within minutes I had arrived there by the most direct route.
4. White Spring and Chalice Well Spring
The cavernous dark interior of the White Spring is charmingly lit by tea light candles, and harbours a heady mixture of incense and associated aromas. Of course the spring was open on the Solstice, and there were casual visitors and dedicated troopers of the pagan cause doing their devotions or simply admiring the atmosphere. I followed my intuition and ended up at one of the points where the spring falls into a terraced pool at a convenient height. I lit some incense inside adding to the already beautiful smell, then collected some water from the spring, half filling the empty Chalice Well bottle I had brought for a reason that I only now understood. I took the water into the amazing twig cave that forms one of the altars to the goddess of the waters. There I had the water blessed. Again I knew not why.
As I emerged out of the darkness into the light my eyes grew accustomed to the scene and suddenly I saw a spring on the other side of the road that I had never noticed before. It was the Chalice Well spring – the Red Spring – on the opposite side of the road to the White Spring. I filled the other half of my bottle. Now I had a mixture of both types of waters – a union of the red and white streams, both literally and symbolically. I felt that now I should use this “potion” for some end, and my mind turned to where I could visit next that might inspire such a union. Why not at the very site where Arthur consolidated his power – Camelot? I would go to Camelot, I decided.
That is my next part of this year’s Solstice story.