Glastonbury

brianellwood

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It's not so far as I know a path worn in the grass by tourists, it was cut into the side of the hill deliberately, similar to that of a ziggurat, and is rarely walked by visitors other than people with pagan interests. Hence not so easy to see. There are plenty of examples of 'pilgrimages' that take a winding route to a hill top, some in ireland I believe and not restricted to pagan beliefs...but when it was done, I don't know.
marion...any info?
 

Jerry_B

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Perhaps so, but this is exactly the sort of thing an archaeological survey would spot - and then make a fuss of as a find, as it would be an important one. But so far, it's never been mentioned, and the site has been surveyed and investigated quite well. Obvious features like the sort of path you mention would be the first thing to be noted. I've lived in that part of Somerset for most of my life and have been to the Tor more times than I can remember, but one hears various tales about the place that tend to paint it in a more rosy light than is actually the (archaeological) case ;) Some people also think, for example, that it's the highest spot in the surrounding landscape - it isn't, but a hill not too far away is and was also the site of a Romano-Celtic temple, possible early Christian site, a small cemetary and perhaps also a pre-Roman religious site. In comparison, the Tor doesn't seem to have been associated with any much religious activity before the Christian era.
 

marion

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brian ellwood said:
marion...any info?
I'm here!The routes on the ridges up round the sides aren't clear when you are actually there,it is possible to walk them easily and some parts have worn paths but its not a straight spiral going up and there is no clear start either,the ridges end and restart and overlap,I think if there were a clear and definite maze it would be easier to find and walk and there would be a well worn path delineating it-which there isn't. I go up the Tor at least two or three times a week and often wander round the sides instead of going up the top then coming back down! It has been suggested they are medieval strip lynchets, non flooding land is at a premium around Glastonbury. Could be lynchets taking advantage of earlier earthworks though.

The Tor is owned by the National Trust who are currently restoring damage to the tower and hill top caused by weathering and imbeciles-please don't dig it up!The tower will be covered in scaffolding and inaccessible all summer,so visitors might be disappointed-I overheard someone complaining in the Chalice Well garden today about how the scaffolding on the tower was messing up all the ley lines that went through it so again if you are after them wait til the work has finished. It doesn't look so good from a distance at the moment either,but the work has to be done if the tower isn't to fall down.

The top of the Tor was excavated extensively in the 60s by Philip Rahtz,you can read about them in the English Heritage Batsford publication 'Glastonbury' by Philip Rahtz, finds indicated the top was inhabited in the dark ages as well as at other times,the earliest finds were upper paleolithic.

You can see the big shiney fence round the festival site now from the top of the Tor-I missed out on getting a ticket (boo) so I'll have to try for a residents only Sunday ticket instead,if I can catch them when they are released! ( I'm not working there-never again!)

ADDITION-the ridges on the sides of the Tor are thought to be in part caused by the differences in hardness and thickness of the layers of rock that make up the Tor,it is not a man made mound by the way,the natural bedrock is not far below the surface!
 

brianellwood

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thanks, Marion. that sums it up very nicely and also proves that the info one of my friends gave me is wrong! I have visited the Tor several times with my family and also walked up around the sides. The last time I went to the abbey as well when I picked up my son, Simon, from centreparcs. He was very interested in King Arthur's grave, which took a little looking for. Lovely area, especially out of season when we went.
 
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Anonymous

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A Quick Google, And...

Glastonbury Tor Maze, by Geoffrey Ashe
The Glastonbury Tor Maze
Geoffrey Ashe
Author of Traveller's Guide to Arthurian Britain


The Theory

Visitors to Glastonbury often ask whether the Tor is artificial. The answer is that it is a natural hill, but one that shows signs of having been artificially shaped. Along its sides are a number of terraces, one above another. From the upper part of Well House Lane, several of them can be seen running along the north face. They are worn and weathered, but traceable over long stretches.

According to a theory put forward by Geoffrey Russell, they are the principal remains of a maze: not in the sense of a puzzle, but in the sense of a long, twisting, devious approach to a centre. Made in the remote past for ritual purposes, it spirals round the Tor seven times, and ends - or may be supposed to end - at the summit where the tower now stands. ...
Maybe archaeologists haven't been looking for a maze?

Mysterious Britain.co.uk (Glastonbury Tor)
From Mysterious Britain Site:
The tor has been associated with magic and mystery for thousands of years. It seems likely that early man used the tor for rituals, and maze like path has been identified spiralling around the tor seven times. Professor Philip Rahtz dated the terraces to the Neolithic period, and concluded that they may have been part of a maze.
 

marion

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Rahtz does discuss the possibility the ridges are a maze in his book. Remember though the excavations on the Tor were commissioned by Wellesley Tudor-Pole and Rahtz was probably obliged to consider the esoteric aspects of the Tor in his work. I'm not saying the ridges aren't,or weren't originally, a maze-its not easy to make anything out when you are actually there though.
 

marion

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Living Rock

This stone (the larger one of the two and one of three near the path on the Western end of the Tor) is called the Living Rock on some maps and is supposed to cover the entrance to tunnels containing treasure , King Arthur or various other goodies and be under some sort of enchantment.The smaller rock in the picture has one of those masonic symbols carved in it that you see on buildings round towns and cities.
 

marion

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According to an article I have just read in an old publication, the Tor was a Sun temple 8000 years ago! This was discoved by one J.Foster Forbes and his trusty ancient-site-psychometrist Miss Campbell in 1945.
So now you know!
 
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Arthur

Hi there. I'm new to this site and i find this type of thing quite interesting. Here's a though, while maybe Arthur wasn't actually a real man, he could be a metaphor or a symbol for the embodiement of the spirit of man. It's just something that i read somewhere. So maybe while he wasn't real in a physical sense, he was at least real in a spiritual sense. Well anyways, like i said it's just a thought but i would be interested in what other people think.
:)
 

marion

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The stories of Arthur in connection with Glastonbury go way back further than anything that might have happened in Romano British times, the whole fight with Melwas on the Tor for Guinevere echoes the fight between the underworld and overworld,dark and light,winter and summer,for the companionship of the sun goddess. This story is echoed in several legends,including the Greek story of Persphone ; the tales of Gwynn ap Nudd's perpetual fight with his twin brother for the hand of the sun godess Creiddyladd ; the Egyptian goddess Isis and the struggle beteen Osiris and Set and the Hopi legend of the founding goddess 'spiderwoman' and the twin war gods who fight by means of a ball game!
With the May Day alignments and the Red And White mineral springs (which used to combine after they surfaced before the White spring was as good as destroyed in the 19th Century) it seems pretty obvious to me that Glastonbury was very important as a spiritual centre from long before the Christian times.

Reference: The Isle of Avalon:Sacred Mysteries of Arthur and Glastonbury Tor, Nicholas R. Mann
 

Jerry_B

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Well, I'm still not convinced ;)
 

marion

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Breakfast said:
What happened to the white spring?
The Town council in 1872 decided it needed a clean supply of water following a cholera epidemic. They hacked out the beautiful little valley where the spring rose out of a cave leaving a deposit of white calcite on everything around creating what was called then 'fairy dropping wells' ,as well as the remains of small monk's cells, and built a hideous dark reservoir building which is still there today and backfilled the rest of the valley behind. There was opposition at the time but now most people have forgotten it ever existed as a mineral spring that was as important as the Red spring of the Chalice well.

EDIT- The White spring water is still available free from the building opposite the public red spring water supply and can also be bought in bottles in town.

(reference as above)
 

marion

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I went to my local Earth Mysteries group last night where we talked about the Glastonbury Zodiac, the talker was pretty convinced the zodiac was thousands of years old,maybe connected with the Phoenicians. I don't think that personally though I do think its there now-saying it doesn't exist is a bit like saying the Mona Lisa doesn't exist because it wasn't there before it was painted.
As well as the twelve zodiac signs there is the central dove,a symbol supposedly found in the centre of most landscape zodiacs, a whale and the outlying Gurt dog, apparently landscape zodiacs have an outlying guardian animal. The nose of the dog is supposed to point to the opening to the underworld (Anwn)
There are supposed to be many landscape zodiacs around the country,nearly all rediscovered-apart from one in Cumbria which was never lost, the knowledge being passed down orally by local 'druids'.
people use the zodiac spiritually, maybe by going to their own birthsign and walking it,meditating there and connecting with it. Some people do this in each sign when the sun is in that sign,other people find the springs that occur in them,or the churches or the ley nodes,whatever helps them on their quest or path.
Saying all that yes I do think the zodiacs are constructed from the minds of the people who 'discovered' them, but that doesn't mean they can't be used to help people on their spiritual path.
 

Jerry_B

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For most of the time, yes, until the surrounding area was drained for farming in the Middle Ages. But then again, so were alot of other hills across that part of the county.
 

marion

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Breakfast said:
Wasn't it an island?
When man first settled there the low land was dry and only flooded later when the climate became wetter.
 

marion

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JerryB said:
Looks like they went to Lamyatt Beacon instead - there's evidence there of a possible pre-Roman religious site (a circle of buried red deer antlers). As the 'Landscape Mysteries' prog showed tonight, the Tor had to be pretty heavily altered to support any sort of crop, was covered by woods in the Neolithic, and that pre-Roman socities nearby instead chose to use others areas in which to live in. I tend to think that the whole shebang about the Tor is all down to those monks who used to live down the road in Glastonbury, which was amplified by the New Age movement ;) I think it tends to boil down to believing something about the Tor, rather than having anything tangible to focus on.
Like I said-no real evidence for pre-Roman activity beyond the usual (though I've come across mention of megaliths reported as still existing right into the 1960s around Stonedown), guess you just have to assume there was something going on before cause of the unusual landscape and springs. Its pretty dramatic topographically.
 

Jerry_B

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what do you mean by 'unusual landscape'? And WRT springs, there are alot of them dotted about the whole area - Eyewell Wales (nr. Yeovilton) for example. There's one at Cadbury too.

As you may have guessed by now, I don't think Glastonbury is actually a 'special' place other than being so in the minds of modern visitors and various people after the Medieval period ;)
 

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Yeah any hill rising above the flat land of the levels is gonna be noticable and dramatic, The hills around Glastonbury are the most noticable, I guess Brent Knoll comes second. Even if the whole place were heavily wooded its gonna be striking, its visible from a long way all round, its possible there is little archaeological evidence not because there wasn't any to start with but because so much has been going on over the millennia that it has obliterated earlier stuff.It is true ( I believe), that ancient people put a lot of import into the shape of the landscape and anywhere remarkable was thought of as special.

Why do you think the first Christian church in the UK was built here?

The springs are mineral springs, the only other one I know locally is the sulphur spring at Shapwick. They have a constant flow and temperature and aren't the same as other land springs, holy or not.
 

stonedog3

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er.... was the first church in the UK built there?

Kath
 

marion

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Thats what the tourist guide says :D
 

stonedog3

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oh - well, that must be right then..... ;)

I think I'll reserve judgement however! especially if they say it was founded by Joseph of Arimathea.

Kath

***Edited for being an idiot and pressing post too soon!***

how about Canterbury, where Augustine set up shop for Bertha, authorised by an ethelbert. Or possibly an egbert. Or maybe an egcfrith.

And there's always the likelihood/possibility of the type of housechurch which seems to have happened in the heart of the empire before constantine?

I know that Charles Thomas's view of what constitutes "christian" as opposed to mithraian, imperial, mystery/isis, nothing to do with religion etc etc etc now seems a wee bit simplistic (the e-w orientation debate and so on) but there's lots of physical evidence that has to be assigned to something.

what do you mean by church?

Don't have a copy of, for example, the Rahtz excavation reports on the tor but someone may?

Kath
 

marion

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It was supposed to have been a wattle and wood affair, don't have the Rahtz book (though I covet his new one and will succumb sooner or later).
 

Jerry_B

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AFAIK, the first true church building in the UK doesn't originate at Glastonbury. Yet again, Lamyatt Beacon seems to beat it - there's evidence there of an early Christian (4th Cent. AD, IIRC) oratory structure and a small associated cemetary that adjoins the remains of the former Romano-Celtic temple site on the hill itself. Also, the hill is higher than the Tor - in fact it's the highest point in all of Somerset ;)

Yet again, I don't think that the Tor is really anything 'special', mineral springs or no. Going by how sites in the area were treated in a religious sense, Lamyatt Beacon has far far more going for it (it even has it's own nefarious night-stalking entity too). But doesn't have the ol' Arthurian pseudo-mystical hoo-ha attached to it. This is my main point - if you delve into the history and archaeology of southern Somerset, you soon find that the Tor is really a relative newcomer onto the scene as far as folklore, archaeology, etc. is concerned. In fact, I would go as far to say that the Tor is pretty mundane with regards to these sorts of aspects.
 
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JerryB said:
Yet again, I don't think that the Tor is really anything 'special', mineral springs or no.
Considering it's being wooded at one time, I'm going for its being a sacred spring and grove.

Who needs structures? ;)
 
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FraterLibre

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Gasps of Dismay

You mean to say it wasn't a landing site for the motherships from the planet Avalon?
 

Jerry_B

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AndroMan said:
Considering it's being wooded at one time, I'm going for its being a sacred spring and grove.

Who needs structures? ;)
Well, most of that part of Somerset was covered in woodland up until the early Medieval period. It was part of what was called Selwood, which stretched in from neighbouring Wiltshire. Part of it survives up the road from Glastonbury at Penselwood, which is host to the downright corny 'Alfred's Tower' and quite alot of Iron Age earthworks.
 
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JerryB said:
Well, most of that part of Somerset was covered in woodland up until the early Medieval period. It was part of what was called Selwood, which stretched in from neighbouring Wiltshire. Part of it survives up the road from Glastonbury at Penselwood, which is host to the downright corny 'Alfred's Tower' and quite alot of Iron Age earthworks.
I Just like that picture of it being surrounded by marsh and fenland, sticking out like a real island and with something, now removed and replaced by the chapel (of which only a tower now remains), on its summit.

It needn't have been very imposing, a sacred grove, is all.

And supposing the mediaeval strip fields following the contours of the terraces round the Tor, were making use of a pre existing maze path?

Perhaps, there was originally a sacred apple orchard/grove maze? Sacred apples to make the sacred nectar of the Gods in that part of ancient Britain: Scrumpy! ;)
 
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