Mystical Mythical Glastonbury

You have no doubt heard of the Bronze age and how most weapons, as well as many other items, were made of Bronze. When the Romans invaded the British Isles they found that the area around Glastonbury had a great amount of tin, which is crucial in making bronze. This put Glastonbury on the map and started it on the road to fame at the beginning of the first century. Glastonbury is virtually an island, for it is completely surrounded by marshland. Glastonbury is also known as Avalon. Thus the mystical and mythical tales begin.

Avalon was the Otherworld home of one of the Celtic Otherworld Gods, Afallach. Both names relate to the Apples that grew in this mystical land and show Avalon's possible relationship to other legendary realms such as the Garden of the Hesperides from Greek Mythology. The real confirmation comes when you hear an old legend about Glastonbury Tor. The Tor , that dominates the countryside around Glastonbury, is said to be the entrance to Annwfn, the Celtic Otherworld, and the Palace of Gwyn ap Nudd, the primary Otherworld God (and Afallach's brother), stands within it. The 7th century hermit, St. Collen was often told that Gwyn lived there, but the saint would have none of it; until, one day, he was invited to visit by one of the God's fairy-folk followers. He entered the Tor and the Fairy Palace and sat through a fairy banquet but refused to eat anything. He then flung holy water all around him and all his surroundings disappeared! So Glastonbury was considered to be the entrance to the Celtic Otherworld, be it Annwfn or Avalon, and the town's claim to be the Isle of Avalon may not be quite as outrageous as some think.

In the First Century there were a large number of Jewish settlers in the area who were likely tin miners, therefore Glastonbury was known to the Jews in Israel. The legend begins with Joseph of Arimathea who was possibly Jesus' uncle. Joseph asked Pilate for Jesus' body and buried Jesus in his own tomb. Joseph was said to have caught some of the blood from Jesus' wounds in the very cup Jesus used at the last supper, thus creating the Holy Grail. Joseph thought it wise to leave Israel and came to Glastonbury, having both the Holy Grail and a Hawthorne, or Thorn, staff. This Thorn staff is of a variety native to the Holy Lands. When Joseph of Arimathea arrived in Britain he is said to have landed on the island of Avalon and climbed up to Wearyall Hill. Exhausted, he thrust his staff into the ground and rested. By morning his staff had taken root and grown into a miraculous thorn tree that bloomed twice a year. In 1585, the year of our Faire, that tree is still at Glastonbury and still blooming.

Joseph of Arimathea is said to have buried the Holy Grail at the base of the Glastonbury Tor, and a spring of blood gushed from the ground. The Chalice Well was formed, and the water was thought to be healing. On our Glastonbury Faire poster there is a copy of the well cover of that magical spring the Chalice Well . To this day the Chalice Well cover is the symbol of Glastonbury.

The story gets much more interesting. From at least the 12th century the Glastonbury area has been associated with the legend of King Arthur , a connection promoted by medieval monks who asserted that Glastonbury was Avalon . In Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae, we first learn of King Arthur. That history was written between 1135 and 1139, and placed Camelot in Caerleon, South Wales. This established the area of Avalon as the location of Camelot. If they had only known their history better the Knights of the Round Table would have been searching around the Glastonbury Tor for the Holy Grail. Alas, they failed to look there.

It is no surprise then that King Arthur and Guinevere are said to be buried at Glastonbury. Recounted in detail by Gerald of Wales in 1193, a grave containing  King Arthur’s sword-chipped, giant-like skeleton and that of his queen, Guinevere, was discovered by monks in 1191 buried between two stone pyramids. These were re-interred in a marble tomb in the church. It was said that Joseph of Arinathea founded a church and monastery in Glastonbury and one of the first abbots was the future St. Patrick.

However, things didn't go well for Glastonbury. Glastonbury abbey controlled large tracts of the surrounding land. The abbey was valued as the second wealthiest in England – only Westminster Abbey was richer – with an annual income which was greater than that of the king. That's a No-No. The abbey was suppressed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII of England . The last abbot, Richard Whiting (Whyting), was hanged as a traitor on Glastonbury Tor in 1539.

And then there are Ley Lines. Glastonbury is said to lie on a  Ley Line . Ley Lines were first popularized by amateur  British archaeologist Alfred Watkins in the 1924 book  The Old Straight Track , when he noticed that notable sacred or prehistoric sites could be linked by straight lines on a map. The most famous joins  St Michael’s Mount  and the stone circles known as  The Hurlers  in Cornwall, continues through  Avebury in Wiltshire  and over a series of stone prehistoric mounds, churches, castles and monuments in a line right across the base of Southern England to Hopton on the Norfolk coast. The line – named the St Michael alignment, due to the number of landmarks referencing to the saint along its length – bisects Glastonbury Tor and St Michael’s Tower on the top of Glastonbury Tor. There is certainly enough cultural basis to suggest that at one point these alignments could have been significant, and the belief was strong enough to be propagated throughout the centuries.