Glastonbury is one of the most famous sacred sites in the UK and it has long been associated with Goddess energy, faerie realms, sacred geometry and Arthurian legend.
I was inspired to visit this charming town again after I had finished reading The Mists of Avalon. It’s a novel set in the time of King Arthur but is told from the point of view of the women in his life, and primarily that of Morgaine, who is often named Morgan le Fay and portrayed as a villainous sorceress in traditional Arthurian stories. The book is often lauded as a seminal work of pagan fiction, but as well-written and thought-provoking as it is, it is flawed and more difficult to read given the accusations made against the late author, Marion Zimmer-Bradley in recent years. It has influenced my sudden love for all things Avalon, however (reading every book I can get my hands on, buying The Arthurian Tarot and Wisdom of Avalon oracle deck, plus binge-watching the BBC series Merlin on Netflix). I’m also keen to watch the TV film adaptation of The Mists of Avalon, starring Anjelica Housten, Joan Allen and Julianna Margulies (although I think Eva Green will always be the perfect Morgan le Frey in my mind).
I stayed at a b&b called The Covenstead, which is right in the town centre, adjacent to the car park for Glastonbury Abbey. I had seen adverts for The Covenstead in the Magical Times, as well as seeing it featured in Spirit & Destiny magazine many moons ago. It is unusual for harbouring many artifacts and paraphernalia of witchcraft and magick. There are books on magick and herbalism everywhere, as well as skulls and a mermaid statue in the lounge. My favourite feature was the mural of Glastonbury Tor on the stairway leading up to the second floor, complete with a depiction of the Horned God, a resplendent white stag and the ‘hounds of hell’. Each bedroom is themed, so for example, there is a handfasting room, perfect for romance, and I stayed in the Halloween room, complete with a four-poster bed, chinoiserie and a tapestry of John Collier’s Lilith.
I remembered from my first visit, the many bookshops which line Glastonbury high street (imagine a typical British high street and swap all the shops for witchy ones), so as my bookworm senses were tingling, I headed off to indulge in some retail therapy – I’d already prepared a wish list of things I was after. As much as I adore shopping for metaphysical items, I can only do so much shopping otherwise my bank account would dry up. To recharge, I went along to the Goddess Temple. It is a tranquil place reserved for meditation, reflection and of course being with the goddess. I went there on both days – I wish every town had one. The temple is set in a small courtyard which also houses bookshops, the accompanying Goddess Temple shop, the country’s only esoteric library, the Library of Avalon and one of my favourite pit-stops, Starchild, a herbal apothecary which sells just about every herb you could need, and helpfully sells online too.
After some quiet time, I headed toward Glastonbury Abbey. The Abbey ruins are supposed to be the (one of many) resting place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Of course, many historians debate whether in fact this great King actually existed, but given my romantic leanings, I like to think that he did. Avalon itself means Isle of Apples and indeed many hundreds of years ago, the land around Glastonbury was made up of islands, rivers and marshes. From the Abbey, Glastonbury Tor can be glimpsed standing over the town, and I must admit, when I first glimpsed the Tor on the road towards Glastonbury, I did feel a shiver and got a feeling that I was entering a mystical land (I’ve had a similar feeling in Tintagel – Arthur’s supposed birthplace; seeing the waterfall for the first time at St Nectan’s Glen, as well as numerous spots in the Celtic lands of Scotland, Ireland and Wales).
That evening, I retired to my bedroom in The Covenstead, happy with my purchases and inspired by the Abbey and general feel of the town. I had some really interesting conversations with like-minded people in bookshops, prompted by some of the tomes I chose to buy, and my head was whirling going over the events of the day. I must admit that I had a headache upon arriving in the town and it didn’t leave until after I’d left. I’m not sure if this was because Glastonbury is such an energetic place – indeed, it is believed by many to be the heart chakra centre of the earth. It is a place of converging ley lines and lots of other mysteries. I highly recommend the book The Isle of Avalon: Sacred Mysteries of Arthur and Glastonbury by Nicholas R Mann if you want to read further into the geological details of Glastonbury and the surrounding land.
On day two, after a satisfying breakfast in the gothic dining room of The Covenstead, I set off on foot to walk the Tor. Of course, I overpacked and ended up lugging a handbag and tote all the way up there. Still, it was a pleasant walk in the sunshine, though, be warned, the walk up the hill itself is quite arduous (I really need to work out more!). Many people believe that the hill is hollow, and in legend, that it leads to the Underworld, or Faery realm, known as Sidhe. It is from this hillside that the two different springs come from, creating the White Spring and the red spring at the Chalice Well.
At the top of the Tor, it was a clear day – none of the legendary Avalonian mist to be seen – and there was a beautiful 360-degree view of green fields and meadows, of the town, itself stretching over to Wearyall Hill where there is an ancient holy tree known as the Glastonbury Thorn. I sat for a while at the Tor and meditated there, taking it all in, remembering to be present instead of trying to just Instagram everything (I did that too).
On the walk back down, one of the meadows was full of sheep and adorable lambs who were quite curious and came up to get a better look at me. Leaving the path to the Tor, I crossed the road and went to the Chalice Well and Gardens. I had been hoping to visit the White Spring as I heard it was a really magical place, but unfortunately for me, it was closed on Wednesday. The Chalice Well has stunning gardens and plenty of places to sit quietly. You can take healing water from the well – I filled a couple of bottles so I have a good supply to use for potions.
If you enjoyed this post, why not check out my guest blog about the delights of Hampstead Heath, London for the Travel Guides: Fit for a Heroine series over at the lovely Heroine Training. Link here
Until next time!