Halloween in Glastonbury, England

Halloween in Glastonbury, England

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In 2005, while I was living in Wales, I decided to treat myself to a Halloween stay in Glastonbury. This is my original blog entry about that trip.

 

Originally posted: November 3, 2005

My horoscope for the day:

“If you’re involved with someone new at the moment, whether it’s platonic or romantic, your friends won’t be seeing much of you for the next couple of days. You’re in the mood for privacy, but that certainly doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily need to be alone. In fact, you may end up hibernating with someone in an exotic locale — or at least making plans for just that. Sounds like far more fun than doing it solo, doesn’t it?”

For those of you not familiar with Glastonbury, it is supposed to be one of the most ethereal religious centers in the world. It draws pagans and Christians alike who are drawn to the Glastonbury Abbey, Chalice Garden, and Glastonbury Tor for a variety of reasons. Some go there for the Holy Grail legends. Some go there for King Arthur legends. Some want to visit a place where the Goddess is prevalent. Some want to find the entrance to fairyland within the Tor. So it’s an interesting place. I went there a couple of years ago as part of a tour that included Stonehenge and Avebury and knew that one day I would want to return.

I also treated myself to the book “The Mists of Avalon” over the summer. Now that I have more information about Glastonbury, I want to re-trace some of the places in the book. I have a MUCH better idea of what things are meant to be now…

Glastonbury at sunset

I didn’t get up there until late Friday evening. It took all day to travel there but thanks to a Classical Studies girl named Mariya, I got a lift to Bristol. From there it was only a short bus ride to Glastonbury. I checked into my hostel, a large blue structure in the center of town, and then went on to search for food. That’s pretty much the first thing I always do when going to a new place. Before I went out I laid out my pajamas and stuff I would need on my bed so that when I came back I wouldn’t have to go through everything.

Glastonbury Hostel

I ended up having dinner at an Italian restaurant since I am getting a little burned out on pub grub. I ordered the penne arrabiatta, one of my favorite dishes, and had tiramisu for dessert. I sat next to a friendly couple from Cornwall who were in town for the weekend and after a long conversation about the joys of Western Ireland (she went to Inishere as a child to learn Gaelic) they invited me to Cornwall at a later time to visit them. It was a very pleasant evening.

When I returned to my hostel room, the lights were out and someone was in one of the beds asleep. I had to use my cell phone as a torch to find my bed and my things. I managed to wash my face and get undressed in the dark, but was not adept enough to take out my contacts. A little while later another girl (we were in an all girls’ room) came in and did the same thing. I was just about to go to sleep when the first woman started screaming in her sleep. Scared the shit out of me. She carried on for most of the night.

The next morning I woke up and met one of my roommates-the girl who had come in after me. She was a cute, perky little brunette with glasses that looked 1950’s style. Her name was Lauren and she was there with her boyfriend, Mike. The hostel hadn’t had enough room for them to stay in a coed dorm so they were split up. She is Wiccan, he’s a Druid, and they were touring around religious places in the UK. The first thing she told me was that she liked my pajamas.  They’re pink fleece with big blue cats all over them.  We talked for a few minutes about the sites and what our plans for Halloween were. She said that she and Mike were going to go on the Tor. That sounded like a nice Halloweenish thing to do and she offered to let me walk up with them if I decided that I wanted to go.

Mike & Lauren

The weather wasn’t great, but it wasn’t raining either so that was good. I didn’t need a coat, but took all of my film, my book, and my journal. I was set. The first place I went to was the Glastonbury Abbey. To read more about the Abbey click http://www.glastonburyabbey.com/. I guess it was early enough in the day that there weren’t many tourists out. Actually, there weren’t any tourists out. I was the only one. For about an hour I had the grounds to myself. It’s very peaceful there and I was glad that I had done some reading up on it before I went this second time. I wish that there were some way that I could describe the height of the structures. That seems to be the one thing that has continuously impressed me. They’re huge. When the doorframes are on a cathedral you tend not to notice them as much, but when they’re part of a ruins it’s difficult not to.

Glastonbury Abbey

I paid my respects to King Arthur and (grudgingly) to Guenivere and spent a little bit of time wandering around the orchard. It is heavily influenced by Christians, but the grounds have a kind of spiritual, non-denominational feel to them and there is still something a little mysterious about them. After about an hour I started getting stomach cramps and had to find the bathroom. They hit really hard and I had no idea what they could have been from. I hadn’t eaten that day yet.

King Arthur Tomb

From the Abbey I walked up the hill towards the Tor and Chalice Gardens. It’s about a mile walk and it’s mostly uphill, but it’s a pleasant walk. I was glad I hadn’t worn my coat.

Glastonbury Tor

It’s an amazing site to behold the Tor from a distance. If the town itself hadn’t been so built up I’m sure you could see it from the center. Although it just looks like a hill with a thing on top, there are numerous legends and lore surrounding it and if you go armed with this knowledge it’s almost a spiritual experience looking at it for the first time. I really wanted to go to the Chalice Garden first to miss the crowd, but once I saw the Tor I was drawn to it and had to go on up.

And it IS up. Straight up. I couldn’t do more than two or three steps at a time without stopping to catch my breath, but in my defense I had been sick lately. It’s very difficult to describe, but as you walk upwards toward the tower something really does take over you. It’s like having a rubber band attached to your chest. It just keeps pulling and pulling. Although I was gasping, panting, and sweating like crazy by the time I made it to the top I just wanted to lie down and cry.It’s quite overwhelming. I wanted to do the Tor Labyrinth, but I knew I couldn’t. The lines are 4,000-5,000 years old which puts them on par with Stonehenge. You can see them when you’re walking up (and in some of my photos) and there are many legends attached to them. My favorite is that if you follow them correctly and do it right then the mountain opens up and you are transported into another world. It takes sometimes months of preparations and on average five hours to do it properly. I do not have that kind of physical, or spiritual, training. Maybe one day when I go back.

The wind had a huge part in slowing me down as well. I heard later that it was 40 mph. Every step was a chore and once I made it to the top I saw a woman holding on to her little dog pretty tightly. It was bad. I sat inside the tower for a little while, catching my breath and getting away from the wind. Everyone else had the same idea. While in the tower, I asked if anyone knew of any good pubs at the bottom near the Chalice Garden. A man sitting alone in the corner said that he knew of one called the George and Pilgrim but that it was in town. He described it and it sounded good to me. I thought that would be the end of our conversation but the next thing he said was very strange. The conversation went something like this…

Him: You should really go to the garden.

Me: I was planning on doing that after I left here.
Him: Yes, you really need to go. It’s a pity, though, that YOU have to pay.

Me: Yes, but I guess the money goes to help the upkeep.

Him: Yes, but YOU shouldn’t have to pay.

Okay, did he know something that I didn’t?

On the way back down, the wind was even fiercer and I was regretting the fact that I didn’t have something to munch on with me. I was starving. After about fifteen feet I heard footsteps behind me and soon the man from the tower had caught up with me.

Him: It’s easier going down than it is up, isn’t it?

Me: Yes, as long as a big gust of wind doesn’t come and blow me off.

Him: Don’t worry,you’re sheltered.

With that, he walked around me and down the path and the wind suddenly stopped. The air was deathly quiet and not even a faint breeze fluttered for the rest of my descent.

Man on Tor

On the Tor’s website, there’s a nice quote: “Watch people trogging up the hill, and then watch them coming down – singing, chatting, looking bright, and changed.”

To read more about the Tor and some of the history and legends behind it, visit http://www.glastonburytor.org.uk/.

From the Tor I went to the Chalice Garden. You have to turn off your mobiles there and it’s a great place for meditation and quiet reflection. I chose NOT to heed Nicky’s advice and drank from the spring. Several glasses, in fact. The water was unlike any that I have ever tasted. It’s wrought with iron, but it’s incredibly sweet.

Chalice Well

The water itself is supposed to have healing powers. The Holy Grail is said to be buried under the Chalice Well. The organization runs a fantastic website at http://www.chalicewell.org.uk/home.html. The well has been used for over 2000 years and dates back to Prehistoric times. In that time the spring has not run dry. A nice quote from the web: “To be at the well head, and drink the water and absorb the atmosphere of the place is truly an inspirational experience.” It’s true. The flowers were still in bloom and with the rain holding off I was able to spend a couple of hours on a bench, writing in my journal and enjoying the day. The giftshop is an interesting experience there as well. On one side they have the Christian stuff like rosaries, crosses, and bibles. On the other side they cater to the mystical crowd and offer crystals, spell books, and other witchy things. It’s actually quite nice. I love that about Glastonbury.

Upon leaving the well, I returned to town and had lunch at the place that the Mystery Man told me about. It was inside an old hotel that dates back to the 1500’s. I ate in the pub and my old wooden table had a red candle on it. The server loved my southern accent.

I spent the rest of the day walking around town and window shopping. This would be a good time to mention the stores in Glastonbury. I love them. There are more New Age shops on High Street than there are in my entire state at home. With names like the Psychic Piglet, Charm, Mists of Avalon, The Green Man, Witches & Brooms, and Man & Magik you just can’t go wrong. You can buy anything from herbs to crystals to candles and wands. If you’re not into New Age then you can also buy anything having to do with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sufism. It’s the strangest montage of shopping I have ever seen. The stores themselves are interesting as well. Although some of them are really just commercialized souvenir places, some of them have real honest to goodness energies about them and if you were spell shopping you could get some great stuff. On my trip I ended up buying a pentagram necklace, a wooden box, a silk Indian outfit, and wool pants. Very eclectic.

The Pilgrim

Back at the hostel I met my new roommate, a Wiccan girl named Sarah who was there with her boyfriend Neal. She was a pretty redhead, very tall, and with several piercings in her face. I still had Lauren in my room and for most of the night the three of us stayed up and talked. It was like a slumber party.

Sarah

Lauren had me rolling in the floor laughing about the sleep-talking woman. She had apparently met her and before meeting me that morning had thought that I was her. She had come into the room the night before after I had left and had noticed and liked my pajamas. So she was in the room reading when the woman barged in, really drunk. Lauren was like, “I like your pajamas” and the woman slurred, “Huh? I don’t have any. I live here. I’m just too drunk to drive home so I’m sleeping here. Turn out the light!” Poor Lauren. She was glad to find out that I was the owner of the pajamas. Apparently they had also been suffering from slight ailments since they had arrived as well. One from a headache and one from an upset stomach. We wondered if it was due to all of the extra energy that was around for Halloween.

We talked about everything under the sun that night. World War III, industrial revolution, pagan societies, sex, chocolate-nothing was left undiscussed. Even after we had turned out the lights we continued to talk until I finally went to sleep. I think the other two were still carrying on though. Right before I went to sleep we were talking about how weird it is to have an erotic dream about someone you know but have never thought of in a sexual way before. And how sometimes when you wake up you’re kind of like, “Ewww…” But then sometimes you wake up and are like, “Huh. Interesting…”

So of course I had to dream about one of the guys that I live with. I know it was the girls’ fault. I told everyone when I got back to Wales, too, and now it’s really hard to walk into the kitchen. I’m kind of like, “Hi Nick! Hi Megan! Hi Rachel! Pete…” (averting eyes and looking down…)

I spent the next day shopping. I had lunch at the pub in our hostel and found a great outfit at a second hand shop that reminded me of a sari. I really wanted it, but it was kind of expensive so I talked myself out of it. I talked to Sarah for a little while on one of my breaks back to the hostel. She was in town for an art project and wanted to interview people about their spirituality and feelings toward the Tor. She was also planning to go up for Halloween.

Dinner that night was weird. I went to a vegetarian restaurant and had to sit at a table with other people dining alone. There I met a man who may or may not have been hitting on me. He was kind of nice looking, in a hippy sort of way, and kept making comments that came close to making me feel uncomfortable. For example, when I told him that I was studying Religious Experience he asked me if I had ever had one. When I said no he goes, “Do you WANT to have one?” From the way he said it and the emphasis he put on the words I got the feeling that he seemed to think that he could give me one.

Later when I told him that I lived with vegetarians and had learned to cook for them he goes, “So I guess you could say that you know how to satisfy a vegetarian, huh?” The whole thing was odd. Back at the hostel we watched “The Mothman Prophecies” and “Stargate.” I had seen the former before and wasn’t that impressed with it, but I had fun rewatching it with a group.

On my third night, I told Lauren that I didn’t care if Mike stayed in the room with us. Sarah and Neal were able to get their own room. Even though our room was girls only it didn’t bother me to have him in there so he joined the party. That night all three of us stayed up late talking. Lauren and Mike were a nice fit for each other. I got a good vibe coming from them. It was clear that Mike was completely infatuated with Lauren and she was so cute and bubbly that it was hard not to like her. They really broke the whole Goth/Wiccan stereotype. Here’s an example of a conversation between them.

Lauren: I was thinking about getting you a kitten in January.
Mike: January, what about Christmas?
Lauren: Because I’ve heard that it’s not a good idea to get a kitten for Christmas.
Mike: Ah, that means I have to wait a whole nother month for my very first kitten.

They were adorable. They also sleep with teddy bears.

 

And then came Halloween. I ended up buying not the first Indian outfit that I looked at but another one. It’s very wedding oriented. White silk with red and gold embroidery. It was even more than the first one so I don’t know why I was worried about money.

For most of the afternoon I wandered around and took photographs. I also visited the Goddess Temple. I wasn’t going to at first because there are a lot of people that really believe in the goddess and I didn’t want to be a casual observer to something that other people feel really strongly about. But curiosity overcame me and I went in anyway. You had to take your shoes off before entering and the temple room was really nice. Quiet music, nice incense, lots of candles, cushions on the floor…reminded me of being at home. I sat in a corner for awhile and meditated and then I filled out a prayer card and left it near the wicker man. (Still want to see that movie before the remake comes out.)


Mike and Lauren bought a pumpkin and carved it together while I got dressed and then the three of us walked up to the Tor. It was pitch black and really creepy. I was glad that I had them with me. They both had headlamps, too, and gave one of them to me so that I could see once we split up. We thought there would be a lot of people up there, but there weren’t at all.

 

At first, Mike and Lauren told us that they wanted to do a ritual to banish internal demons. However, on the way up they admitted that they wanted to CONJURE a demon, which is a whole other can of worms.

“Uh, guys?” I said. “Not sure I’m into that. I have enough bad luck as it is.”

“Sure,” Lauren shrugged. “No problem. You wanna just, like, meet up when we’re done?”

Yeah, that was cool. Except how long DOES it really take to conjure a demon? Can you set a watch by it? What if he gets chatty?

So they went on into the tower to set up. I had bought some white candles earlier and wanted to do a peace offering on my own. I set up on the side of the Tor and tried to clear my mind. Others were scattered around below me, but nobody was very close. I tried my best to do my spell, figuring that NO place could be as receptive as the Tor on Halloween, but the wind was so strong that it kept blowing out my match before I could even light my candle. And I sat down on some nettle, too. That didn’t feel the greatest. It was all very unsettling and frustrating.

(Apparently in my white silk I looked like a ghost, according to Lauren, so that might have been why people stayed away from me.)

I went on to the tower to see if I could do anything in there and ran into Neal and Sarah. They were just hanging out because, apparently, the other two had gone on down the hill to try to conjure by the gate. I guess the demon was picky after all. The three of us talked for a long time and Neal cleared the air with incense. It was actually a lot of fun being up there, in the tower, watching the flickering candles on the hill below us.(How DID those people manage to keep their candles lit?)

We were having a nice time until a group of teenagers barged in. They ran right through us and started screaming and shouting and acting generally foolish. That broke the mood considerably. There was a small group of people outside trying to do a ritual and they ran around them screaming several times, waving fake wands in the air and attempting to put out the other people’s fire. Not cool at all. “They wouldn’t have done that in a church,” Neal seethed.

Sarah suggested that we all start chanting and scare them off.

View through the chapel door

After that I couldn’t get back into the mood so Sarah, Neal, and I left and went down to the pub to wait for Lauren and Mike. They were still invoking down by the gate, and I wasn’t particularly keen to be around for that. It’s one thing to be up on the Tor at Halloween but it’s a whole other ballgame when you start asking demons to come into the mix. Anyway, it gave me a chance to get to know Neal and Sarah better. And to have some whiskey.

We passed a house with a beautifully carved pumpkin along the way.When Mike and Lauren finally caught up with us, Lauren mentioned it.

“Did you guys see that awesome pumpkin?” she asked.

We said we did.

“I wrote them a little note and left it under it,” she said. “Nobody should go to that much effort without a thank you.”

Back at the hostel we, along with the others who had filtered back in, watched “Rosemary’s Baby.” I have grown up watching that movie but have never watched it with a group of witches before. It really adds to the viewing pleasure. Most of them hadn’t seen it and some were offended at the bad light that the witches were portrayed in. “Blasphemy!” they cried when Rosemary claimed that witches sacrificed newborns for their blood. Still, everyone enjoyed it and with all the comments and booing whenever someone would say something they didn’t like (Mia Farrow’s husband saying that there was no such thing as witches for instance) we had a great time.

It was sad to leave the next morning. Mike and Lauren went as far as Bristol with me and then we split so that they could go to London and I could go back to Wales. We all exchanged contact information though and hopefully I can catch up with Sarah and Neal soon.

People back in Wales seemed glad to see me. Megan said that they were going to wait another day before sending out the search party. I’d spent much longer in Glastonbury than I’d planned and, honestly, had only left because I’d blown my budget on my costume. Everyone liked my outfit and the postcards that I brought back for them and except for the fact that I’m having a difficult time looking at Pete* in the eye everything is pretty much back to normal here.

Now, where can I go next?

Chalice Garden

*Pete and I later married and just celebrated our 12-year-anniversary.

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