Goddess Pilgrimages in Glastonbury’s Sacred Landscape
by Kathy Jones
These wonderful Goddess pilgrimages invite you to enter deeply into the mysteries of the Isle of Avalon, that Otherworldly Paradise which can be found within the sacred landscape of the small country town of Glastonbury, England. Based on Kathy’s many years’ experience of living in Glastonbury, where she has daily walked the earthly body of the Goddess in Her landscape forms of Maiden, Lover, Mother and Crone. Over the years Kathy has led thousands of pilgrims to the meet the Goddess in this special and holy place that has been known since time immemorial as the Isle of Avalon.
215 pages, illustrated, ISBN 978-1-872983387
£12.95 plus P&P
Avalon: An Otherworldly Paradise
The Isle of Avalon is an Otherworldly Paradise, a golden Isle of Blessed Souls where the Goddess reigns forever. It is a magical land lying far to the west across the waters, veiled in mystery. Avalon means the place of apples and in the many apple orchards of this beautiful land the red and gold fruits of the goddess’s immortality grow in abundance. In some tales Avalon is one of the Fortunate Isles, a fabled Island of Women, where women and our mysteries reign and people live a hundred years and more. Birds of omen, large and small, flock to the sacred land, singing with great sweetness of her beautyways. Here too there are animals, black or white with red ears, all beloved of her. In particular Avalon is a land of transformation, sometimes known as the Western Isle of the Dead, a place of dying, healing and rebirth.
Avalon is a sacred place veiled from everyday human eyes, but visible to the eyes of the soul. It is a vibrant and beautiful land where the turning wheel of the seasons reveals the beauty of the goddess’s nature with all her glory. Here the Maiden makes her appearance with the first ewe’s milk and the tender white and green flowers of the snowdrop at Imbolc around February 1st. The radiant sexual Virgin Lover displays her beauty in the bright flowers and fresh vibrant greenery of Beltane and Mayday. The Great Mother with her pregnant belly becomes visible with the swelling Lammas fruits and grains and the generosity of her abundant nature as August arrives. While the Dark Goddess, Samhain’s Underworld Redeemer appears at Hallowe’en as the days shorten and red, orange and gold leaves fall from the trees. With the increasing darkness she becomes the Crone whose bare rocky bones can be seen sticking out from the cold dormant winter earth.
Mortal women journey to Avalon to serve in the goddess’s sacred groves and temples, to marvel at the mystery of her ways, to learn of her wisdom and to embody her energy. Mortal men are enticed by her beauty into surrendering to her those parts which no longer serve the greater good, becoming the champions and guardians of her nature and world. Venturing into the orchards of Avalon the goddess speaks to us in a language that our souls understand. Here we sense the wondrous patterns woven in the shining threads of the web of wyrd. Here we experience the awesome beauty of life on this planet and our longing for communion with the divine is satisfied. Here we can dream the future and receive inspirations which can then be expressed in the outer world. Here transformation, release from the constrictions of old ideas and forms and the birth of a new life is catalysed.
The Goddess in Avalon
Avalon is ruled by the Lady of Avalon, a goddess of awesome love, beauty, power and wisdom, a Lady of Light and Darkness who appears in several forms and under several names. Among the most ancient are those of the Ninefold Sisterhood of the Morgens, whose names were recorded by the Welsh poet Taliesin in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th Century Vita Merlini. They are Moronoe, Mazoe, Glitonea, Gliten, Cliton, Tyronoe, Thitis, Thetis and Morgen la Fey unknown names except for the latter, who was much maligned in Arthurian legend and only recently somewhat redeemed in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s inspired retelling of the tale in The Mists of Avalon.
These Nine Morgen sisters encompass all the qualities of the Goddess on the continua between light and darkness, sweetness and sour, positive and negative, creative and destructive. The Morgens are famous for their learning and knowledge of the seven liberal arts, particularly of astronomy, astrology, mathematics and physic. They are renowned for their healing arts and skill in herbal lore, for their beautiful music and sensuality, for prophecy and the ability to shapeshift, to appear in different places in a moment in time.
In legend they are nine women, three triple goddesses ranging in age from maiden to mother to crone. They are nine dark cloaked figures who sit in circle with the cauldron of inspiration, immortality and rebirth, in a cave deep beneath Glastonbury Tor in the Underworld of Annwn. Or they are nine huge shimmering beings visible in the ethers surrounding the top of the Tor.
Sometimes they are seen in the forms of the willow trees that guard the magical isle and as shadowy figures hiding behind the trees in the apple orchards of Avalon. Occasionally they may be glimpsed by mortals as they disappear away into the mists that often surround the sacred Isle. In Glastonbury’s natural landscape they appear in the forms of black crows, white doves, green woodpeckers and hawks.
When the legendary King Arthur was dying of his fatal wounds from the battle of Camlan, he was taken to the shores of the waters surrounding the Isle of Avalon. He was placed in the black barge of Avalon and ferried through the mists by the boatman Barinthus – he who knows the patterns of the waters and of the stars of the heavens. On their passage they were accompanied by three Faery Queens: the Queen of Northgalis, the Queen of the Waste Lands and Morgen la Fey, Arthur’s half sister, who is Morgen the Faery or Morgen the Fate, the third of the three Fates. In her role as Midwife of Souls Morgen Ia Fey helps those who are dying to cross over to the Other Side of life. Also present was Nimue, chief Lady of the Lake.
Morgen’s name probably derives from the same root as the Irish Morrigan or Mor Rigan – Great Queen, just as the Welsh Rhiannon is derived from Rigan Tona, another Great Queen. Morgen also means sea-borne. In Welsh Morgen and Modron or Madron both mean Mother. Morgen la Fey is also known as Morgaine and Morgana, meaning that she is also Morg Ana – Great Ana, one of the earliest named goddesses in the British Isles (Spinning the Wheel of Ana by Kathy Jones, Ariadne Publications). In writing her name I prefer to use the feminine Welsh form of Morgen, where Morgan is the masculine.
Avalon and Glastonbury
According to tradition the ancient Isle of Avalon lies within the unique natural landscape of the small country town of Glastonbury in Somerset, England. Visitors coming to the town today are greeted by the sign which announces this ancient association.In 1191 monks at Glastonbury’s great Benedictine Abbey claimed to have found the bodies of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere lying buried beneath two pyramid-shaped tombstones to the south of the Mary Chapel. They placed the bodies in a black marble tomb which for several centuries lay in the nave of the great Abbey church, until Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Roman Catholic monasteries in 1539, when bodies and tomb disappeared. To this day it is said that Arthur still sleeps in Avalon with his Queen Guinevere, whose name is originally Gwenhyfar or White Phantom. In Welsh legends there were three Gwenhyfars, three aspects of the ancient Sovereign goddess of the British Isles. Arthur himself is the son of Artha, the Great She-Bear visible in the heavens. He was the sacred consort who in order to truly become king must marry the Sovereign goddess of the land. Together Gwenhyfar and Arthur await the call to return to life.
In earlier days Glastonbury was known as Ynys Witrin or the Glass Isle and some say that its present name derives from Glass Ynys borough or Glass Isle borough, an odd mixture of Keltic and Saxon. Perhaps in those days when surrounded by an inland sea, the green and fertile island reflected in the smooth waters, was like an image in a looking glass, a veritable glass isle. In legend towards the end of his long life Merlin the magician and seer, was imprisoned or surrendered (depending on how you read patriarchal myth) to Nimue, Lady of the Lake, going to live with her on the Glass Isle. The inspiring Merlin energy can be strongly felt on this sacred isle.
Today Glastonbury is unique among small towns in the British Isles because of its rich mythic heritage and present day diverse and expanding spiritual community, whose residents encompass goddess, pagan, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Sufi and new age beliefs. The people who live here are an eclectic mix of individuals each following their own distinctively personal spiritual paths.
Glastonbury is famous world wide as a spiritual centre. It is known for its mystical vibrations, for the energies which people feel when they come here, for the synchronicities which begin to accumulate as we walk her streets and fields. It is no ordinary place to visit or live within. It is a place of pilgrimage for thousands of people who travel here from all over the world drawn by the mystery that is Avalon.
The Relationship between Glastonbury and Avalon
In my experience of living in this magical place for nearly a quarter of a century the relationship between Glastonbury and Avalon is that of two worlds separated by a shimmering veil. Where the town is the outer world where we all live and work and express our humanity, Avalon is the inner world where the goddess lives and our souls find their freedom. The two worlds of Glastonbury and Avalon are separated only by a veil of perspective, how we look at things.
The Veil of Avalon is like mist, like the fog which in autumn and spring often hangs low over the Vale of Avalon, shrouding the sacred land in mystery, hiding familiar landmarks, emphasising sounds and making us look more closely at the paths we are taking. For the Somerset folk this mist is known as the White Lady, who rises mysteriously up out of the watery Somerset levels at dawn and at dusk, drawing her veil across the landscape hiding her beauty.
Sometimes like fog the etheric Veil of Avalon is dense and impenetrable and at other times it thins and we can catch glimpses of another reality, which is the beautiful Avalon. This thinning of the veil seems to occur in a rhythmical pattern at particular seasons of the year, around the eight cross quarter and quarter days, and at the new and full moons. Then it is easier to pass into Avalon and to return safely.
The thinning of the veil is also personal. It concerns our individual spiritual unfoldment. It occurs naturally as we begin to open our consciousness to the existence and reality of the invisible worlds. We begin to see and feel what was formerly hidden from our eyes. We glimpse the shimmering etheric threads which connect everything and hold all life in form. As we walk upon Glastonbury’s soft hillsides we catch glimpses of beings and objects which are not physically present.
We may see structures from another age, standing stones, mounds, goddess temples, groves, the ancient abbey in all its glory, the monastery on the Tor, as well as visions of buildings of the future. The beings we see may emerge with indistinct forms, or as heightened colours or heavenly scents, or in more familiar shapes. We can see fairies, dwarfs, elementals, devas, Otherworldly creatures, humans, goddesses and gods. If we are lucky these beings may accompany us on our pilgrimages, whispering words of wisdom into our ears, answering our questions, guiding us into a new reality.
The veil that separates is both an outer and an inner reality. It is the misty Veil of Avalon which we cannot see or walk through without permission and an open heart. It is also the inner etheric veil that separates our material reality from the invisible worlds of intuition, soul and spirit. As awareness develops and consciousness expands these inner veils also thin allowing the subtle energies of the heart and mind to penetrate our everyday awareness.
Dion Fortune described the Veil of Avalon as fiery. In her experience of living for several years at Chalice Orchard at the foot of Glastonbury Tor in the 1930’s, she saw a veil of fire surrounding the Tor, separating Avalon from earthly Glastonbury. This fire could only be penetrated by initiates, the unevolved would perish in the flames. Perhaps there are many more initiates in incarnation today who are able to journey safely between the visible and invisible realms. Over the years I have met thousands of pilgrims who come to Glastonbury in order to pass through this Veil to experience the energies of Avalon and they succeed to some extent or another.
For some the pilgrimage to Avalon is unconscious. People are attracted to Glastonbury by the image of the Tor, by what they read in books and newspapers or see on TV or view on the internet. They come in large numbers to the many annual festivals held in and around the town in the summer months, including the huge Glastonbury Festival (a music and arts festival held five miles away at Pilton), the Children’s Festival, the International Dance Festival, or with spiritual intent they come to the fabulous Goddess Conference held here each Lammas to honour the goddess in the sacred landscape of Avalon. Every day more people arrive here for this purpose.
Which is not to say that the experience for anyone is necessarily all wonderful, because to pass into Avalon is to enter the place of transformation, to open oneself to change and that is not usually an easy thing for any of us to do. We may ask for transformation but we do not always know what that means, what we are asking for. Sometimes journeying through the Veil of Avalon can seem more like a passage through a veil of tears. We find ourselves weeping as deep emotions are brought to the surface of consciousness, as we face those parts of ourselves that have long been repressed and hidden away. They burst forth into everyday reality in powerful and overwhelming ways. We cry often at the sorrow and the sweetness of our earthly human lives and find suppressed anger spilling over at inappropriate moments out of our shadow selves.
Also there are those whose auras and psychic spaces have already been damaged in one way or another by life’s experiences, whose inner veils are erratically thin in places. As they come to Avalon to receive the Morgens’ healing touch which they need, individuals can be burnt by the experience of passing too quickly through the fiery veil. Some care and preparation is necessary.
People who have lived in Glastonbury for some time, who chose to come here to experience the powerful energies of the place, find that after an initial transformative experience which can last for several years, we are able to live to some extent in both worlds at once. We have one foot in the everyday reality of living in Glastonbury and one foot in Avalon. Our feet are on the ground and our hearts are in eternity and the process of transformation continues at ever deeper levels of consciousness.
The many faces of the Goddess in Glastonbury / Avalon
As well as the Nine Morgens who dwell upon the Isle of Avalon, there are other goddesses who are strongly associated with both Glastonbury and Avalon. They make their appearance in legends and folk tales, in the topography of the landscape and sometimes they are associated with particular places. Their qualities and attributes can be traced back to ancient goddesses who were once honoured everywhere in Brigit’s Isles (the British Isles). Research has revealed lots of information for some of them, but for others there is still little, perhaps only a name and a faint echo of their presence, the perfume of their passage. As we make our present day goddess pilgrimages across the sacred landscape we are invoking their presence, calling to them to return to consciousness so that they become more visible to us, and known in the outer, as well as the inner worlds.
Our Lady of Avalon – Brigit Morg Ana
Our Lady of Avalon is the goddess who rules over Avalon. It is in her service that we who love her, live and move and have our being. She is the one revealed in this sacred place by the many. She is Queen of the upper, middle and lower worlds. She is Sovereignty, Goddess of the Land and of Nature. She is Lady of the Waters, of the Springs and Wells, and Lady of the Lake. She is Mystress of the Underworld of Annwn and Queen of Heaven. She is Brigit Morg Ana, from Brigit the Fiery Arrow, Mor meaning Great and Ana the originating goddess whose name appears in many forms throughout the British Isles (Spinning the Wheel of Ana by the author, Ariadne Publications).
Mari0n Zimmer Bradley wrote eloquently of the Lady of Avalon in her great novel, The Mists of Avalon and in The Lady of Avalon. These books speak deeply to many women, triggering memories of past and future incarnations lived here, celebrating women’s truths, bringing them on pilgrimage to Glastonbury in search of the goddess and her priestesses. It is Our Lady of Avalon who calls us to Glastonbury, where in her sacred landscape we can experience the beauty, wisdom and power of her transformative nature.
Brigit, Bridie, Bride, Brighde or Bridget is one of the most well known of Glastonbury’s goddesses. She is the ancient triple fire goddess in both Ireland and Brigit’s Isles. The Hebrides in Western Scotland are named for her, HeBrides, and she was widely honoured there until the end of the nineteenth century as Bride and as Mary of the Gael. She is also Brigantia who was once loved throughout western Europe, whose name became Britannia or Brigit-Anna, a combination of Brigit and the Great Ana. Britannia is goddess of the grain whose picture still appears on British bank notes. Today’s martial images of Britannia show her with a sheaf of grain in her lap or on her arm, a sun disc which has become a shield, and a spear as her secret consort. The elements of the earlier bountiful and peace-loving goddess are still there in the image for those with eyes to see.
Bridie is goddess of healing particularly connected to sacred wells and healing springs, and there are many healing Bride’s Wells throughout Britain and Ireland. Bridie is goddess of poetry and inspiration often received and spoken outdoors in nature or beside the tinkling waters of holy springs. She is goddess of the sacred hearth found at the heart of all homes and her sacred fire is renewed annually at Imbolc, the Keltic festival which falls around February 1st. Brighde (also pronounced Bridie) is goddess of smithcraft, the alchemical art in which metallic ores are heated in the fire until the impurities slough off, leaving pure metals, like gold and silver, which are transformed into articles of great beauty. As an allegory of the alchemical process smithcraft describes the means by which we as human beings are purified by the goddess’s fire to reveal the beauty of our souls. Bridie is thus equated with Sophia, goddess of wisdom, whose presence is sought by all those who follow the alchemical quest to find the Philosopher’s Stone – to earth the wisdom of Sophia.
Bridie is particularly associated with Glastonbury/Avalon through the natural swan-shape of the island, the swan being one of Bridie’s totem creatures. In the landscape the swan can be seen flying from the northeast to the southwest, across the flat Somerset levels, her outstretched body encompassing all of Glastonbury’s hills and vales. Wearyall Hill is the swan’s extended neck and head, and the Tor, Chalice Hill, Windmill Hill and Stonedown form the rest of her body and wings. In folklore Bridie is a Swan Maiden, who flies from the emotional waters to the heavenly spaces, transforming herself from the beautiful Maiden whom men adore on sight and wish to marry, into a snowy white swan. Among Bridie’s other totem creatures are the White Cow with red ears, the Snake and the Wolf.
Bridie is also associated with Glastonbury in Christian legend through St Bridget, who is said to have lived here for a time in 488CE staying in a hermitage dedicated to Mary Magdalene on a small mound to the southwest of the town, which today is known as Bride’s Mound. It is also called the Salmon (after its fish shape) of Beckery, or Little Ireland, named because of the numbers of Irish folk who stayed here. A church was later built there to St Bridget, which now lies beneath the surface of the mound. Not far away beside the River Brue (a name also derived from Bride), there is a small carved stone which once marked the site of St Bride’s Well. As has become clear through feminist scholarship and research where there was a saint there was usually a goddess there before. Where we find St Bridget we know that the goddess Bridie once was honoured.
In the present day in Glastonbury Bridie is particularly celebrated at the festival of Imbolc at the beginning of February. Bridie Dolls are made, ceremonies are held at the White Spring and Chalice Well, and in the Glastonbury Assembly Rooms. A pilgrimage is made to Bride’s Mound located in what is now a derelict part of the town. With complete disrespect for the ancient sanctity of the Mound the town’s sewage farm was built upon its slopes.
The Friends of Bride’s Mound are attempting to save the mound as a sacred site for the future.
The Crone of Avalon
Viewed from above at a higher contour level in the Glastonbury landscape, a second figure of an Old Woman seen from the side, is visible. She kneels upon the swan’s back in a contrasting Picasso-like image. This Crone of Avalon has a hunched back, sagging breasts and womb and a crown upon her head. Her breast is Chalice Hill, her ancient womb is Glastonbury Tor, Stonedown is her bent and hunched back and Windmill Hill is her head with its starry crown. She is the Old Woman of Avalon, the Dark Goddess whose image signifies the powerful underworld forces which can be experienced here in Glastonbury. She is a Morgen – Tyronoe the Crone, who rules the Western Isle of the Dead with its gateway to Annwn, the Underworld of the goddess, where souls await rebirth. The entrance to the underworld is located on Glastonbury Tor. It is guarded by Gwyn ap Nudd, the white son of Nudd or Nodens, who is Lord of the Underworld and guardian of its gateways. On Midsummer’s Eve Gwyn can sometimes seen riding across the slopes of Glastonbury Tor with the red-eared dogs of Annwn sweeping the souls of the dead into the Dark Mother’s cauldron.
On this Isle of the Dead we are taken down into the depths of our own unconsciousness to explore all that has been repressed and forgotten. For women this often happens through our relationships with individual men who play for us the role of Gwyn ap Nudd, leading us through love towards the entrance to the underworld where we must face our fixed animus shadows. For men it is often women who play out the role of the bad Morgen la Fey, seducing them with beauty into a dark and anima ridden world.
Once in the Underworld Tyronoe holds a minor to our shadows, bringing us face to face with our darkest deepest secrets. As we slowly begin to recognise them she keeps us imprisoned in her depths, watching silently as we dig ourselves deeper and deeper into the darkness, until finally we reach the river of creativity that lies beneath the bottom of her realm. Only then does she allow us to return with the treasures of her world, gleaming like jewels, revealed by the light of consciousness. Hers are the initiations of the heart, asking us always to expand and grow, to become more inclusive and more loving of ourselves and others. Her presence in the landscape warns of the deeply transformative processes which await those who venture into the heart of Avalon. She is not to be taken lightly as she brings death to our illusions before our rebirth into a more loving world.
The Great Mother
One of the glories of the goddess is that she is mutable, ever-changing, presenting different faces to each person who goes in search of her. She is one and she is many, and within each of the many the one is also to be found. So too when we look at her sacred landscape we can see more than one image of her in the same physical location. Just as we can see the outline of the Swan Maiden and the Crone in the topography of Glastonbury’s hills, the third goddess in the triplicity of Maiden, Mother, Crone, is also visible. As many people have noticed the Great Mother appears in the form of a giant woman lying on her back on the flat Summerland meadows. In this goddess image her head shoulders and right arm sink back into the earth as the folds of Stonedown, the lower hill on the northeastern side of Glastonbury Tor.
The Tor itself is the Great Mother’s left breast reaching up to the sky with an erect nipple created by St Michael’s tower, visible from miles around. And just like any woman who lies on her back the Great Mother’s right breast has slipped round to the side, becoming flattened and not so visible as the left, but still there. Chalice Hill is the Mother’s pregnant belly, a soft and dreamy hill filled with all that is new and awaiting birth. Wearyall Hill is her left leg with its knee slightly bent, the foot sunk down into the earth near Bride’s Mound, while her right leg is tucked under as St Edmund’s and Windmill Hill. As she lies on the earth the Mother Goddess continually gives birth to the town of Glastonbury from her vulva beneath Chalice Hill.
In the Trioedd Ynys Prydein, the Welsh Triads, translated by Rachel Bromwich, there is mention of a Mother Goddess Modron, mother of Owain and a daughter of the lineage of Avallach, out of Avalon. I like to reclaim this Modron or Madron as Mother of the lineage of Avallach, she who is also known as Mystress Glitonea, one of the Nine Morgens and as the Great Mother in the landscape of Avalon.
As Geoffrey Ashe noted Glastonbury has long been a place where the new is born, from Christianity to the New Age. It is a place where ideas and spiritual impulses are brought to birth out of the Great Mother’s dreaming womb.
The Lady of the Lake
In legend as well as in present day experience the Lady of the Lake is connected to the waters which once surrounded the Glass Isle and Isle of Avalon, as well as to the sacred springs which flow from the slopes of the island. In the Arthurian legends she is named as Vivienne, who gives the magical sword Excalibur forged on the Isle of Avalon to King Arthur, who is also the foster-mother of Lancelot. But she has other names given in Caitlin and John Matthews’ best written book Ladies of the Lake (Aquarian Press), where she is Igraine, Guinevere, Morgen, Argante, Nimue, Enid, Kundry, Dindraine and Ragnell. As Lady of the Lake she is keeper of the treasures of the emotional watery realms. She is guardian of the heart, of the contents of the Holy Grail of Innocence, of the Chalice of Love and all the magical Cauldrons of Plenty, Regeneration, Poetry and Wisdom. In legend all of these evocative and symbolic wombs of transformation are carried and guarded by women, some in groups of nine like the Morgens and others by individuals, such as the Grail Queen, Morgen la Fey or Keridwen with their Cauldrons of inspiration and regeneration.
In the winter months floodwaters frequently overflow from Bridie’s River Brue which passes around the southern flank of Glastonbury’s low hills, and also from the many rhynes which crisscross the Somerset levels. Glastonbury’s hills become almost completely surrounded by water reminding us of the time when Ynys Witrin was a physical island or peninsula surrounded by tidal waters, lakes and marshland, where the Lady of the Lake was honoured for her bounteous nature. Then the rich waters teemed with fish and fowl and safe refuges were created in Lake Villages, built on timber and brush wood platforms above the tidal pools. The oldest wooden trackway across the lake marshes has been found here preserved in the peat dating from the 4th millennium BCE. It is also from that time, that a goddess dolly was found buried in the peat bog. Originally named by archeologists as a god dolly because there is a lateral protrusion, she actually has large discernible breasts.
Perhaps then the lake peoples living in the Summerland took the bodies of their dead to the sacred Isle of the Dead for sky burial, leaving them on top of the Tor, the only high ground for miles around, to be eaten by carrion birds, vultures, eagles, buzzards, ravens and crows. The latter still fly here today.
This goddess of the waters is also the Lady of the Wells and Springs which flow from her body. She is Lady of the Red Waters of the Blood Spring and Lady of the White Tor Waters, who is also Bridie. Today deep springs still pour from the slopes of the island. Two of them are particularly honoured: the strong iron-rich red waters of Chalice Well which arise from beneath Chalice Hill and flow out through the beautiful and peaceful Chalice Well gardens; and the clear sweet waters of the adjacent White Spring, which arise from beneath Glastonbury Tor, coming to the surface in the dark cavern of a stone building which was formerly a reservoir. These two, the red and the white springs are the ancient colours of the goddess, representing both her powerful menstrual blood and her white fertile vaginal essence, colours of creation and regeneration. Red and white are also the alchemical colours of feminine and masculine potency which when brought into balance within human beings, bring the gifts of wisdom. At the present time the Red and White Springs are separated from each other by Wellhouse Lane, the road up to the Tor, and many of us await the day when the two springs which arise so closely to each other will flow once again within a single garden.
Our Lady Mary of Glastonbury
Mary is the divine woman who was the mother of Jesus. After receiving a dream Joseph of Arimathea dedicated a small round wattle church to Mary the Mother of God, or as we know her, Mary the Mother Goddess who is Mother of all the Gods. The expressions of Goddess Mary as loving mother, as Mary Magdalene the healer, sacred harlot, lover and wife of Jesus, and as Black Madonna, all play a part in local mythology to the present day. As in other places many of Mary’s attributes as a goddess are hidden here beneath the layers of Christian tradition. We can still find signs and symbols of Goddess Mary’s presence as we make our pilgrimage to Our Lady Mary of Glastonbury.
Ariadne of the Red Thread, Arianrhod of the Silver Wheel
Ariadne of the Red Thread is perhaps best known to most of us through the Kretan story in which she leaves a trail of red thread for the sun hero Theseus to find his way into and back out from the centre of the labrynth, in which the frightening Minotaur Asterion is contained. In this tale she is presented as the daughter of King Minos and the Moon Goddess Pasiphae. In fact Ariadne is much more than this. Among her earliest names she is called High Fruitful Mother of the Barley, Very Holy, Very Manifest One, Wise Virgin, Mother of All and Mystress of the Moon Maze or Labrynth. Her partner is Dionysus, the ecstatic Bull God of the vine and she too is a goddess of ecstasy, of creative fire and emotion. It is Ariadne who can lead us through the inner labrynth of our unconscious minds to the core of ourselves, to face our own Minotaurs, with their divine and inhuman qualities.
Ariadne’s celestial home in the heavens is Corona Ariadnae, which is the Corona Borealis or Crown of the North Wind. This collection of stars is also know as Caer Arianrhod, the home of the Keltic goddess Arianrhod of the Silver Wheel, thus equating the two goddesses Ariadne and Arianrhod. In her mythic life Arianrhod appears as the goddess of love the Flower Maiden Blodeuwedd, transforming herself into the Owl of Wisdom and later into the Old Sow of Samhain who eats her own offspring. She is the triple goddess and a transforming and redemptive power.
In the landscape of Avalon Ariadne of the Red Thread and Arianrhod of the Silver Wheel reveal themselves to us as we journey through the huge labrynth formed by the terraces which encircle the slopes of Glastonbury Tor. The sevenfold pattern of this labrynth is based upon a universal design which is found all over the world dating from ancient times, engraved on rocks and found on early Kretan coins. To walk this labrynth in a ceremonial manner is to make a journey of transformation inwards to the self and a spiralling passage to the celestial Caer Arianrhod. On the slopes of the Tor the shape of the labrynth is elongated and in some places difficult to follow, but still possible. To walk the labrynth with consciousness is a powerful and transformative rite of passage, a very physical and yet spiritual journey into the mysteries of the goddess in the sacred landscape of Avalon.
Rhiannon of the Birds
Rhiannon of the Birds is the ancient White Mare from the Sea. Her name, like Morgen and the Saxon mare goddess Rigantona, means Great Queen. She is Queen of the threefold crossways between the upper, middle and lower worlds and she can help us to travel between these worlds. She is imaged as a beautiful woman radiant in white, green or gold, riding a white mare surrounded by clouds of small birds. She is Queen of Elfiand and a day in her world is equal to a year and a day in the human world. There are stories of seekers in search of mystery falling in love with her on sight as she rides by. Climbing up onto her mare’s back they ride away with her into the hollow hills where the faeries live, to return sometimes many years later as true poets and prophets, or white haired and mad.
Glastonbury Tor is traditionally a hollow hill with secret tunnels beneath its slopes. Here if we are lucky we may see Rhiannon riding by on her white mare.
For more information on these and other British goddesses buy this book to see the individual pilgrimages given in it, and see Kathy’s earlier books, The Goddess in Glastonbury, The Ancient British Goddess, Spinning the Wheel of Ana and On Finding Treasure (Ariadne Publications).
Seeing and Hearing in Avalon – the perfume of Her passage
If you are naturally clairvoyant and clairaudient you will have no trouble seeing and hearing in Avalon, in scenting her passage. As you walk in the natural landscape of Glastonbury, colours and forms will appear all around you. As you hear the goddess’s sweet birds singing in the orchards you will see her sitting beside them and hear her words of wisdom whispered on the wind. But you do not need to be naturally clairvoyant or clairaudient, just open your heart, focus your attention on moving through the Veil of Avalon and you will begin to see and hear what was formerly invisible. It just takes practice.
My advice to those beginning the journey of exploration in the nature of Avalon is simple:
- Suspend disbelief. It is only an attitude of mind, not the truth of how things are.
- Open your eyes as you walk through the landscape. Notice the birds who come to speak to you, the animals and people who appear at relevant moments. Notice any movements and objects which you see out of the corner of your eyes and allow them to be there. Don’t dismiss them as nothing. Let shapes and forms emerge into greater detail so that you can see them. They may be objects, figures, people, faeries, priestesses of old, monks from the Abbey, Morgens, goddesses or gods.
- Visualise the shining threads of the web of wyrd which connect everything in the landscape and allow your visions to become actual. See yourself walking along the threads of wyrd. See yourself leaving a trail of shining light as you move from one place to another in the landscape.
- Open your ears as you walk or as you sit quietly in the sacred landscape. Allow the phrases and words that come into your mind to be real and to have been spoken by someone other than yourself.
- Give yourself time to just be here in the landscape, soaking in the vibrations and energies which surround you. There is no hurry here in Avalon.
- Remember that your ability to see into the invisible worlds not only depends on your own openness but on whether the invisible beings want to be seen. For long ages the Nine Morgens have been unrecognised by humankind and have thus receded far away into the mists. When I first began to be aware of their presence I glimpsed them only as dim grey shapes who seemed to hide behind trees and who always seemed to be retreating. After several years of attempting to communicate with them they have begun to take on womanly forms, but it is a long process of developing mutual trust until they become easily visible once again.
- Finally, take note of the synchronicities that begin to pile up as you walk through the landscape of Avalon. Synchronicity is a mark of magic.
Pilgrimage to Avalon
This book contains a series of pilgrimages for both women and men, through the natural landscape of Glastonbury in the nature of Avalon. They are designed to bring you into direct communication and experience of the goddesses of this sacred land. This is not to say that gods do not exist here too, but Avalon is traditionally an Island of Women and I have consciously made this choice of focus. Entering Avalon is all about consciousness, awareness and perception. It is about opening the heart to other dimensions of reality as we walk through the town and countryside of Glastonbury. Its about recognising that there is more to life than meets the human eye. Its about seeking and finding mystery beneath the surfaces of the obvious.
To make a goddess pilgrimage is to journey to her holy places as an act of spiritual devotion, an act of love for the goddess. Traditionally there are four phases to any pilgrimage. The first is the pilgrimage to the sacred place itself, your journey to Glastonbury made with spiritual intent. The second phase is entry into a defined sacred enclosure or temenos, in this case the sacred landscape of the Isle of Avalon. The third phase encompasses your personal prayers to the goddess at the various energy centres, power spots and natural and human made altars, within the sacred landscape. The fourth and final phase is your return to everyday reality bringing the fruits of your communion with the goddess back into the world.
Most of the following pilgrimages begin in the actual town of Glastonbury and then lead out into the natural landscape of Avalon, passing through the veil that separates the visible and invisible worlds. Some are dedicated to a particular goddess, others to several aspects of the one goddess who rules all hearts. Once in the sacred landscape we open ourselves to her through prayer and meditation. We listen for her voice and watch for her presence in the nature of Avalon.
In some cultures it is traditional when making a pilgrimage to repeat a mantra as you are walking along, which helps to keep the mind focused on the purpose of the pilgrimage as well as invoking the presence of the divine. At the beginning of each pilgrimage I have suggested an appropriate mantra which you might like to repeat as you walk in the nature of Avalon for this purpose. Throughout each pilgrimage I have also made suggestions for prayers to be said in particular places to the different goddesses of Avalon/Glastonbury. They are given in the first person singular but can easily be changed to the plural for people walking together. None of the mantras, prayers or visualisations are obligatory but are given as an aid, to help you focus on your intentions in making your pilgrimage. You do not need to use them at all to be able to enter Avalon, but they can help.
You may like to take with you small candles and incense to light at particular places on your journey, using them as a focus for prayer or vision. Small night lights are convenient since they contain the wax they burn. Take the used holders home with you. Candles may need to be protected from the wind, especially on any high ground such as the Tor where there is nearly always a breeze, if not a strong wind. Incense to burn can be in the form of incense sticks or cones, or as sage, rosemary or any natural British dried herbs which burn to ash. Carry small offerings of herbs, flower seeds, incense or grains to scatter in gratitude on the ground wherever you stop to pray. All offerings should be biodegradable so that they return harmlessly back to her body. Bring holy red and white spring water or milk as both refreshment for yourself and to pour on the earth as a libation to the goddess. Take small ribbons to tie on her sacred trees so your prayers can continuously flutter in the wind to her waiting ears. You may like to take a small note pad and pen to record intuitions, flashes of inspiration and poetry that comes to you through the Veil of Avalon.
The pilgrimages vary in length and difficulty in walking. At the beginning of each one as a guide I have given an average time taken to walk them including some time to sit and meditate and gaze at the landscape and the views. You may take longer or shorter times. For most pilgrimages you will need to be physically fit to have the best experience as you will be walking some distance up and down hills and through fields. Some pilgrimages can be made by car. Some of the paths followed cross private land and pilgrims should observe the Country Code:
- protect wildlife, plants and trees
- leave no litter
- keep dogs under control
- fasten all gates
- guard against causing fires
- avoid damaging fences, hedgerows and walls
- walk carefully on all roads.
Each pilgrimage is complete in itself but some parts of the pilgrimage can be made separately. For example, Our Lady of Avalon pilgrimage includes a visit to the White Spring and Chalice Well. On another occasion you might prefer to make this part of pilgrimage on its own as a separate alchemical healing pilgrimage.
To state the obvious your experience of walking the Glastonbury landscape will be different at different times of the year. A pilgrimage in the summer sunshine is not the same as a pilgrimage in November’s rain and winds, but both can be equally potent. Some pilgrimages are more attuned to particular seasons than others, for example, a pilgrimage to Bride’s Mound at her festival time of Imboic is potent but again this pilgrimage can also be made at any time of the year. Follow your intuition in choosing which is right for you.
Preparation for Pilgrimage
It is traditional to prepare oneself for a pilgrimage, spiritually, mentally and emotionally as well as physically. It is important to spend some time beforehand thinking and praying about your purpose in making such a journey. You may be making a pilgrimage to Avalon out of curiosity, to see if you can feel something, to see if you can penetrate the Veil. Or your pilgrimage may be an act of devotion to the goddess – walking with consciousness in her sacred landscape, offering her your love, offering yourself to her. You may be asking the goddess to help you to become more conscious of her presence or asking her to open you to deeper insight or to shower you with her blessings. You may be making a pilgrimage to ask for healing of your physical, emotional, mental or spiritual wounds. You can make a pilgrimage on behalf of others – family, friends or the wider society. It can be a good idea to write down your intentions before you begin and then record your experiences as you walk and when you are complete.
Some walks take longer than others, but always give yourself enough time to stop and feel, to sit and relax in the energies of Avalon. Pilgrimage is not a race and with the goddess the pathway to her is the goal. Give yourself permission to take your time making your pilgrimage in the nature of Avalon, offering the Lady of Avalon the devotion which is due to her.
As you begin your pilgrimage I offer a prayer for your journey: