Saturday, 21 May 2016

avalon and did those feet in ancient times

A few days after visiting the birthplace of King Arthur, we came to Glastonbury in Somerset, which also proved to be a pretty amazing coalition of traditions and myth coming together, primus inter pares, the fabled Island of Avalon, where the once and future king went to recover after being mortally wounded and live out the rest of his natural life.
Indeed, geological evidence suggests that the high-ground of Glastonbury, dominated by the Tor, a high, manicured hill topped with the ruins of the medieval Saint Michael’s Tower, was once an isle in a marshland that was long-since drained.
Climbing up was a rather mystical experience, accompanied by procession of druid women with drums and tambourines (though we weren’t to be privy to any performance or ritual), plus a ladybird that refused to fly away home until I brought her to the summit. Walking back down through the neighbourhood closest to the Tor, we saw that there was a burgeoning independence movement for Avalon—though there are other claimants to the location but local authorities don’t want to dispel any of these long-held beliefs and associations. In town, we explored Glastonbury Abbey, which may be the remains of the eldest church in the world—founded on the spot where Joseph of Arimathea, conveying the Holy Grail to England for safe-keeping, rested.
Where he struck his walk- ing stick into the ground, accordingly, a hawthorn tree blossomed—a phenomenon unique to the Glastonbury cultivars—though the tree presently at the site is a graft, clone of the original having succumbed to vandalism. Furthermore, on the abbey campus, just under the great nave, after a devastating fire in the late 1100s, monks claimed to have found the tomb of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, and though attested by several contemporary historians and chroniclers, perhaps like the chalice called the Glastonbury Bowl (which is far too old to be a candidate for the Grail), the acts may be pious forgeries to attract pilgrims—especially after the fire.
The tomb’s relics and the entombed vanished, presumably sometime during the Reformation and subsequent Disillusion of the Monasteries. The setting was no less remarkable, nor did the myth and the general mood of the place, esoteric shops lining the streets that were fun to examine, detract from verifiable studies that are too intimately intertwined to try to separate.
We paused before venturing onward to reflect with a coffee outside of the medieval scullery and discovered that this style of picnic tables with the seating attached is called a Glastonbury, the carpentry having been developed there—though no answer whether the Knights of the Round Table had a similar seating plan.