Touching Avalon

Glaston weekend 086Waking to a glorious morning on Sunday there was only one thing to do. You can’t go to Glastonbury for more than a day and not climb the Tor. The weather had been wild overnight and the wind was still high, but here the sun shone and the land was green and beautiful… and I needed to blow the cobwebs away.

Glaston weekend 143

The Tor is an island in many ways, some obvious, some perhaps less so. Once upon a time it was called Ynys Witrin, the Isle of Glass.  Maybe the name came from the water that surrounded it, reflecting the terracing of the processional way in its surface like a vision of the Otherworld.  Perhaps it refers to the manner in which this hill lifts you higher than your feet can tread to a place where you seem to see into the mirror of the soul. Certainly it reflects the liminal quality of the place, a threshold between the levels of perceived reality…a numinous window on the worlds.

Glaston weekend 149As the path winds its way up the Tor you inevitably pause to look back to Wearyall Hill where once, it is told Joseph of Arimathea rested on his staff and it grew leaf and branch, giving us the Holy Thorn that flowers every winter. I had seen the first flowers the day before on one of its descendants while another flourishes in a village near my home. The original tree is long since gone, but its scions travelled the world carrying the story of that time and place and flower still. Christian lore tells that they flower at Easter and Christmas for the resurrection and birth of Jesus.

Glaston weekend 144 There are other stories too, other interpretations… and the flowering staff is a symbol that reaches very far back in our own folklore and sacred history, while in the biblical story of Moses it is Aaron’s staff that bursts into life, bestowing the priesthood on the tribe of Levi.

Glaston weekend 175Looking over to Wearyall hill the grassy spine of the hill seems like an emerald dragon. Yet in spite of the brilliant sunlight you seem to see torches illuminating the darkness, snaking across the landscape of another time.  Legends and dreams weave a rich tapestry of colour and memory, carried on the wings of ravens and even the sun seems other than you know. Climbing the final stretch, the wind at your back seems to carry you towards the stark, iconic outline of St Michael’s Tower.

Glaston weekend 162The tower is all that remains of St Michael’s church, he who holds the dragon at the point of his lance… and dragons abound in this landscape. The first church on the site was a wooden structure, destroyed by an earthquake in 1275 AD. The second church, of which only the Tower still stands, survived till the Dissolution in 1539 when the Tor also became the site of the execution of Abbot Whiting and his monks. But history is only one layer of reality here. The doorways of the ruined tower seem to be portals that traverse the boundaries of perception.

Glaston weekend 168The wind funnels through the weathered stone, the roofless structure offering no shelter from the elements. Indeed, here they are wild and primal and the heart leaps in answer as you pass the threshold that marks the transition between worlds both inner and outer, the world of sunlight and the shadowy realms of otherness. For this is Avalon and legends hold their own truth and meaning, a verity that follows a different path than history and logic.

Glaston weekend 196Here King Arthur was brought, it is told, wounded in his final battle and carried by three queens to the Isle of Apples. Some say he sleeps beneath the mound, awaiting the need of Albion. For others Merlin waits in the hollow hill, and older still are the tales of Gwyn ap Nudd and the threshold of Annwn. The common thread is that of transition, a journey from one state of being to another and in this place, suspended between earth and sky, surrounded by a memory of water that is more than memory, the Summerlands  seem very close and the air sparkles.

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About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
This entry was posted in Ancient sites, England, Goddess, History, Landscape, Life, Love and Laughter, Photography, Sacred sites, Spirituality, Stuart France, The Silent Eye, travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Touching Avalon

  1. my God you are in the midst of magic

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  2. Beautifully photographed and so beautifully expressed. Thank you for sharing your journey, Sue.

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      It amazes me how much we seem to get into the days on these journeys without ever rushing….as if time opens up for us. x

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      • Then you know the art of “stretching the clock”. Time is so relative. Avalon/Glastonbury is one of those places I’ve wanted to visit, but haven’t yet. Your photos opened up a new window for me to see them. I’ve always read about the apples there in ancient times, and was a little surprised to see your photo of the current apple orchards. It reminded me of the story “Iduna and the Magic Apples” that I my sixth graders read and discussed each year. What an interesting experience it must be to visit there so close to Samhain, and how much more to experience… Best wishes *

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        • Sue Vincent says:

          It is still the Isle of Apples… many orchards there and at this time of year, of course, the trees are heavy with them.

          Amongst other things they use them for the famous Somerset ciders 🙂

          I rather wish I was still there.. the computer nightmare continues…. 😦 x

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  3. windhound says:

    Delicious! This reminds me of a favourite place in Scotland that has the same ability to alter time.

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  4. Dear Sue, Your photos and comments are exquisite. Here in California our ruins are not even two hundred years old and definitely not spiritual but our natives left clearings in perception altering places on hilltops. I have found many places where there are updrafts and outcroppings of granite where acorns were ground. The updrafts drive mosquitos away and the views are superb. I am transported to another time when I find such a spot. But now after reading your comments I will have to see the places you speak of.
    Lynn

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      There are some spectacular places tucked away in the history of every culture.. it is all the history of a single race and its journey towards now. Often the most impressive places seen like nothing much on the surface, but the effects on us can run deep.
      Thank you Lynn.
      Sue

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  5. Adrian Lewis says:

    Very good to see these pictures, Sue! Adrian

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  6. ksbeth says:

    king arthur is my favorite legend

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