For me stories grow out of places and I’m always delighted when that love of place comes through to readers. One of the nicest comments I receive is when someone tells me one of my books has made them want to visit Glastonbury, Orkney or Whitby. From Under the Duvet Book Blog reviewed Beltane this week and said that she’s added Glastonbury to her bucket list after reading it. I’ve not written any posts about the locations in Beltane so it’s time to put that right and I’m going to start with the Tor.
I’ve been up the Tor many times and, whichever way you approach it, it’s a stiff climb. There’s a good number of handily placed seats on the path which climbs up from the White Spring and excellent excuses for stopping and looking at the spectacular views across the town and over the Somerset Levels. One of my favourite walks in Glastonbury is over Chalice Hill and then round the back (as I think of it) of the Tor and up the steps. These are steeper than the path but there’s something to be said for getting the climb over more quickly.
The residents of Glastonbury say that the Tor has its own weather system. It definitely always seems to be windy on the summit even when there’s not even the faintest breeze at the bottom. No two visits to the Tor are the same and that’s one of the things which keeps me going back. I’ve been up on autumn afternoons as the light faded and on a summer’s day during the Festival when I could see the massive encampment of tents stretching away to the west.
The Tor is a place of pilgrimage to many and I’ve met people chanting as they sat in the tower or meditating on the grass. It’s traditional to climb the Tor to welcome the sunrise on a number of important dates including the summer solstice. I’ve yet to do that but one day I hope to be there to experience it.
The tower is a remnant of the mediaeval church of St Michael which stood on the summit of the Tor until 1539 when it was demolished as part of the dissolution of the monasteries. There’s a slightly eerie feeling to the tower. It’s open to the sky and has an insidious smell of damp. I’m never particularly keen to linger inside.
“Being this close to the Tor, the myths of fairies, dragons and druids that seemed absurd in London suddenly weren’t so unbelievable.” Beltane
There’s masses of folklore and myth associated with the Tor. It was believed that it was a gateway to Annwn, the realm of fairy which was ruled over by Gwyn Ap Nudd, king of the fairies. Gwyn Ap Nudd rode out with the Wild Hunt each Samhain (Halloween) which was a portent of death and bad luck to all who saw it. There’s a persistent myth of the Tor being hollow and investigations have discovered a network of caves inside. What’s believed to be inside varies with the tales including dragons and a fairy court. There’s also said to be a labyrinth carved into the sides of the Tor which spirals around seven times before arriving at the summit.
There’s many beliefs associated with the Tor which relate to earth energy and ley lines. The St Michael ley line goes through the Tor and many believe that its particularly powerful and concentrated in Glastonbury. In Beltane, Finn as a druid is attuned to these energies (known as awen).
“he located awen deep within the hill, curled in on itself, like a snail in the protection of its shell.” Beltane
I’d been to the Tor many times before I discovered the Avalon Orchard which is tucked away at the base of the slope. It’s a bit of a hidden secret but is definitely worth a visit. It’s a beautiful, peaceful spot, full of ancient apple trees. Legend has it that the Isle of Avalon (translated as the Isle of Apples) is where Excalibur was forged and where King Arthur was taken as he was dying. There’s also a story about Arthur rescuing Guinevere from captivating on the Tor. The orchard is also an excellent spot to sit and reflect after a walk up the Tor. I don’t know if it’s down to the energy or the views or something I can’t name but the Tor has a habit of bringing me face to face with things I’ve been avoiding. A little time to sit and reflect afterwards is usually needed and the Avalon Orchard is an excellent place for that.
If you’ve been to Glastonbury Tor I’d love to hear your stories. What brought you there? What was the experience like? Does it draw you back?
Thanks for reading,
If you’d like to read Beltane, the first of The Spellworker Chronicles, it’s available as ebook and paperback from Amazon.
2 thoughts on “Magic and Myth of Glastonbury Tor”
My late wife and I walked the labyrinth to the top in the late 80s while on a research trip and the Tor has haunted me ever since showing up in dreams and visions. We stood in the tower one misty morning in November as skittering fog ghosts swam above our heads in and out of the upper windows. I tried filming it with the old analog video camera only to playback static. The only time this happened in 6 weeks of shooting. It ended up inspiring an entire album.
That sounds like an amazing experience John. Thanks so much for telling me about it. It’s a great example of the way the Tor has so many layers of meaning and stays with us after a visit.