6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Somerset Life today click here

Somerset town: The spirit of Glastonbury

PUBLISHED: 15:31 12 June 2017 | UPDATED: 15:31 12 June 2017

Glastonbury Tor and town (c) Woolfenden

Glastonbury Tor and town (c) Woolfenden

David Woolfenden

Glastonbury is a kaleidoscope of colour, culture and beliefs. Andrea Cowan looks at what makes this Somerset town such a magical melting pot

A walk down the High Street gives a not-so-subtle hint that Glastonbury is no ordinary market town. From shops such as ‘Man, Myth and Magik’, and ‘The Goddess and the Green Man’, to the vegan restaurant, Excalibur, to the courtyard housing the Library of Avalon and Goddess Temple, it’s a vibrant concoction of history, legend and religion bustling with a diverse mix of people.

To get beneath the skin of the area, you need to look at its rich history. Glastonbury has been a place of sacred pilgrimage for several thousand years, dating back at least to the Bronze Age. The Tor, by its prominent, physical presence has always drawn people to the area.

Glastonbury is reputed to be the birthplace of Christianity in England. It is suggested that Jesus may have visited the area as a young man, brought by his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. After the Crucifixion, Joseph is said to have returned and built the first Christian church, on the site of what later became Glastonbury Abbey.

It is no surprise then that the woven connection between pagan and religious beliefs is intrinsic to the area. Two thousand years ago Glastonbury was the site of a Druid college and a perpetual choir, making music 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Chalice Well decorated for Beltane in MayChalice Well decorated for Beltane in May

The choir may no longer exist but druidism is alive and well. I met with the Archdruid of Avalon, Dreow Bennett who runs the Bardic College of Ynys Witrin, the ancient name for Glastonbury.

Drawn to Glastonbury at 17 years old and after a series of circumstances including two years of training with a wizard on the Isle of Wight, Dreow received the title of Archdruid of Avalon in 2005.

“It is a philosophical way of life rather than religious,” he explains. “Our first allegiance is to the land. We follow tenants set down by sages over the ages.”

Dreow is increasingly involved with interfaith work; he has participated in a church wedding service, whilst the mayor and local vicar have attended a ceremony to celebrate the spring equinox. For natural health and flower essence practitioner, Sophie Knock, it is Glastonbury’s unique energy field that aids her work.

Sophie Knock, a Natural Health Practitioner based in GlastonburySophie Knock, a Natural Health Practitioner based in Glastonbury

“Through ages of healing, teaching, spirituality, working with nature co-creatively, connecting with the cosmos and the higher forces ‘a field’ has been created here,” she explains.

“According to physicist Rupert Sheldrake, the universe is made up of different morphic fields - interacting vibrational fields of energy which hold information and can thereby be accessed and tapped into.”

Sophie harnesses this energy, which influences the flowers that she collects for her essences, combined with spring water from Chalice Well.

This connection to nature resonates throughout the town, from the Green Man to the Goddess. Kathy Jones, a Priestess of Avalon, has been instrumental in raising the profile of the Goddess.

The 50 ft dragons ready for the procession through the high street in celebration of Samhain (c) Vanda LloydThe 50 ft dragons ready for the procession through the high street in celebration of Samhain (c) Vanda Lloyd

She is co-founder of the Glastonbury Goddess Temple; opened in 2002 and believed to be the first of its kind in Europe for 1,500 years. A wonderful, serene space, it is available to visit every day.

Increasing interest has led to the opening of the new Goddess House in Magdalene Street, with a holistic Natural Health Centre, a Goddess Educational Centre and workshop spaces. It will host this year’s Goddess Experience Week from June 10 - 16 and the internationally- renowned Goddess Conference in August, attended by visitors from all around the world.

Myths and legends enhance Glastonbury’s rich tapestry – and this includes dragons. Artist and founder member of the Glastonbury Dragon Celebrations, Yuri Leitch, explains: “Glastonbury is situated upon a great Ley Line known as the Michael Line (modern Druids call it the Great Dragon Line); Michael of course is a dragon-slayer.

“St George, another dragon-slayer, was celebrated in Glastonbury every year in olden days. There was a St George chapel in the Abbey and in St John’s church, and our wonderful 15th century hotel is the George and Pilgrim. Wherever George is ‘there be dragons’!”

Kathy Jones, a Priestess of Avalon and co-founder of the Glastonbury Goddess TempleKathy Jones, a Priestess of Avalon and co-founder of the Glastonbury Goddess Temple

The Glastonbury Dragon Celebrations take place twice a year, for Beltane (May Day) and Samhain (feast of the dead), and feature a red dragon representing summer and a white dragon for winter.

The colours also represent the two sacred springs below Glastonbury Tor - the Chalice Well and the White Spring.

This year’s Beltane celebration begins on April 29 with a Dragon Conference and ends with the traditional Glastonbury Maypole event at Bushy Combe on Bank Holiday Monday. There is a May Fayre on the Sunday with the Dragon Procession along the High Street.

Yuri continues: “At last count we have over 90 faiths, cults and traditions in Glastonbury and somehow we all get on.

“If we can’t achieve peace in this sacred isle, at the heart of the world, we can’t anywhere.”

Places to visit:

Wearyall Hill

It is here that Joseph of Arimathea is said to have placed his staff in the ground, which then sprouted and became the Holy Thorn, the descendants of which still blossom today at Christmas. A cutting of the Holy Thorn is sent to the Queen every year just before Christmas for her festive table.

Glastonbury Tor

The iconic landmark hill, which was once an island, has huge spiritual significance.

Glastonbury Abbey

The Abbey is set in 37 acres of peaceful parkland in the centre of the town. According to Arthurian legend, King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are said to be buried in the grounds.

Chalice Well

This is one of Britain’s most ancient wells, set in beautiful landscaped gardens at the foot of Glastonbury Tor. Joseph of Arimathea is said to have buried the Holy Grail here.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Somerset Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Somerset Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Somerset Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Tue, 09:51

Summer is the perfect time to visit Bath, as the sun shines on the glorious honey-coloured stone and the elegant Georgian streets are brought to life with a golden hue and fabulously fun things to do

Read more
Thursday, August 3, 2017

Laura Briggs discovers that as Somerton expands with new residential and commercial development, the community is pulling together to create a ‘destination town’ with people at its heart

Read more
Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Are you planning a wedding or know someone who is? Bride: The Wedding Show returns to Westpoint Exeter from October 7-8 for a bigger and better event than ever before...

Read more
Monday, July 24, 2017

This month Andrea Cowan visits Priddy - think circles, barrows and Mendip wallfish. Not forgetting the folk festival

Read more
Friday, July 21, 2017

From playtime and pastimes, to ephemeral and esoteric, Simone Stanbrook-Byrne looks at 30 reasons why we love being at the seaside in Somerset

Read more
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bath may be steeped in history but the city’s gardens show that this World Heritage Site is still as fresh as a daisy

Read more
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Boasting some of the prettiest coastline in the country, it’s always a pleasure to spend a day at the beach in Somerset. From the dramatic landscape of Porlock Weir to the peaceful sands of Sand bay, these pictures will have you running to the seaside!

Read more
Friday, July 7, 2017

There’s nothing better than a long afternoon spent wandering the grounds of a stately home finished by an afternoon tea. We have gathered some of the best stately homes with stunning gardens in Somerset

Read more
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

This month Andrea Cowan takes a walk through Nether Stowey, described as the Gateway to the Quantocks and full of character

Read more

Shepton Mallet is brimming with community-minded initiatives. Andrea Cowan chats to the locals to find out what’s in store for the rest of 2017

Read more
Monday, June 12, 2017

Glastonbury is a kaleidoscope of colour, culture and beliefs. Andrea Cowan looks at what makes this Somerset town such a magical melting pot

Read more
Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Simone Stanbrook-Byrne seeks out a varied selection of things to do and see in the south of the county

Read more
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Colourful floral displays, rolling green countryside and blossom-adorned trees await with our pick of eight Somerset walks to try this spring

Read more
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

We scroll through the alphabet and reveal 26 reasons why Somerset is such a wonderful place to visit and for residents to call their home

Read more
South West Life advert link
A+ South & South West
South West Life advert link
South West Life advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
subscription ad

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Somerset Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Somerset's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search