Monday, 14 January 2013

Glastonbury Landscape

This will be my last post on the absolutely remarkable place called Glastonbury. I hope you have enjoyed learning more about this amazing and sacred of places. I will be visiting this part of the United Kingdom later on this year and will give you a first hand experience of the magic of this unique part of the world then.

Again coming from the website we talk today of the Ancient Landscape around Glastonbury by Palden Jenkins.

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Landscape Temple

The Mid-Somerset landscape has three distinct elements: the wetland Somerset Levels, the Mendip Hills to the north and the rolling, once-wooded area south and east of Glastonbury. The Mendips were a different world - a roughly flat beech-wooded plateau - separate from that of the Levels, but they form a backdrop and northern edge to Mid-Somerset.

The Levels have for millennia been wetlands, flooded to different degrees at different times. Glastonbury sticks out between the land and the wetlands. Apart from Glastonbury Tor, the scale of ancient remains in the area is not great - we have no stone circles closer than Stanton Drew near Bristol, and no significant standing stones. Yet the landscape as a whole is imbued with a beauty, mystique and numinescence which has made it well loved over many centuries, and the haunt of many advanced souls.

About the waters of the Somerset Levels

The landscape around Glastonbury has undergone immense changes throughout human history. This is because the large flooded area west of Glastonbury has gradually been drained, both by natural means (rising of land levels relative to the sea) and man-made means (drainage in the Glastonbury vicinity carried out by medieval monks and then across the whole Somerset Levels by Dutch engineers in the 1600s-1800s).

It began as shallow sea some 7,000 years ago, gradually turning to freshwater wetlands from around 6-5,000 years ago onwards. The arrival of sand dunes on the west coast of Somerset, helped by the Romans through the planting of Mediterranean dune-loving species, helped separate the sea and the tidal saltmarsh in the Levels in the west. A series of clay banks and piled-up peat around Westhay and Wedmore separated the saltmarsh of the west from the freshwater peatbogs and lakes further east, fed by the Somerset rivers.

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In the photo above the blue shows areas covered by water or by boggy, regularly-inundated and uninhabitable land – this varied over time. The lightest green shows land areas susceptible to flooding. The thick green line shows the true edge of the wetlands and the beginning of the dry, habitable zone (50ft above mean sea-level). Contours then rise in 50ft (15m) intervals to a height of 1,000ft (305m). The Isle of Avalon (Glastonbury) lies at the centre of the map. The map is about 40 miles (65km) wide, stretching from Bridgwater to Frome.

The monks of Glastonbury Abbey oversaw the cutting of a canal west from Glastonbury, which became the re-routed River Brue, helped drain the area. Before this, the Brue flowed north from Glastonbury, joining what is now the River Axe. But serious drainage and clearance of the wetland woodlands (alder carr), to make dry pastureland, took place only from the 1600s onwards (following a disastrous tsunami which inundated the whole Severn estuary in 1607).

During the 20th Century the Somerset Levels were pastureland serving mainly the beef industry – a relative desert which depleted the function of the Levels as an international bird-migratory stopover on the Atlantic seaboard. In the 1980s-1990s conservationists won a long-standing battle to raise water-levels somewhat, so that the pastureland could become soggy meadowland. Also industrial peat-digging was adapted to create pools in the peatlands, for migrating and wading birds and water-loving creatures such as otters.

About the leyline map

Mid-Somerset, the area around Glastonbury, was rich in megalithic sites big and small. These are shown on the map here. This map was first researched, hand-drawn and published by Palden Jenkins in 1982 (see the original version below). It went out of print by the end of the 80s.

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This is the older map hand produced in 1982
The author, during the 1990s, was occupied with other things but, by 2000, decided to publish a second edition. This required new fieldwork and redesigning the map on computer. The new map has now been republished on paper in large A1 format in July 2005. It is available for purchase in shops in Glastonbury and also online through Gothic Image of Glastonbury.

The full map, showing ancient sites and medieval churches (red), natural features (green), ley alignments (brown), great-circle lines (yellow) and Roman roads (light brown), is below. The full detail is visible on the A1 poster-sized, full-colour printed map, which would look just great pinned up on your wall. 

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This is the new, second edition of the map
republished in 2005 by Gothic Image of Glastonbury.
Isle of Seeing - Energy-engineering

Ancient megalithic landscape-engineering, the principles and mathematics of which lived on into medieval church architecture, was rooted in a wish to enhance, channel and modify the subtle energy-flows within nature and between earth and cosmos. Geometry and proportion were seen to express divine principles, and the building of carefully-designed temples would therefore lock these principles on the earth plane, affecting the fortunes of earth and people.

Megalithic works were intimately connected with patterns of underground water (domes, streams and veins), which can be identified by dowsers. The Tor, riddled with underground water-flows, has strong traditions mentioning caves inside it, from which the water company today taps water for the mains system. When surrounded by water and marsh, Glastonbury would have been a veritable water-temple. It was an inland island, guarded on its one land entrance by Ponter's Ball, a long mound today straddling the A361 east of Glastonbury, which was built in Celtic times.

The purpose of megalithic engineering was to harmonise the energy-flows of heaven, earth and humankind. This in turn would affect weather, fertility, prosperity, social harmony and the overall state of things. Sites such as Glastonbury will have been used for ceremonially accessing deeper levels of consciousness and reality, for psychic communication, healing and engagement in the creation-process. It still does so today. Glastonbury, Avebury and Stonehenge, forming a triangle, function together as a three-point global node, and the consciousness-activity in all three places, created by both residents and visitors, might perhaps help globally.
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The somerset levels from Glastonbury Tor.
Alternating realities

Living in and visiting Glastonbury today involves interfacing two, or several, contiguous realities – Avalon and Glastonbury. There's a busy modern reality and an archetypal, timeless, magical reality – both of which have their pleasures, inspirations, knocks and scrapes! The town is psycho-socially polarised too, to add to the excitement, between 'Glastonians' and 'Avalonians'. Staying tuned to both realities is the challenge. If you don't, you go bankrupt or mad.

If you're visiting Glastonbury, do take time to sniff around its local energy-spots and ancient places. Leave the cream teas till later! The best panorama of Glastonbury and its environs is from Wearyall Hill – go there first. When visiting power-places, sit down, go quiet and take it all in, not just through your eyes. Talk less, think less, stick your antennae up: 'listen more closely to things than to people'.

Let your aura be blown clean atop the Tor. Wash out your insides with Chalice Well water. Send up a prayer for far-off people from the underground crypt in the Abbey. Wander up Bushey Combe after midnight. Try out places like Butleigh Cross, Panborough Hill and Dundon Beacon. Take note of your night-time dreams. Come to the periodic mystery plays, conferences, festivals and other events this town stages. Follow intuitive threads and let yourself encounter people you wouldn't usually talk to. You might experience amazing things. And then go sample a cream tea!

The Angel of Glastonbury
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Mystical-magical people in Glastonbury, each in their own way, recognise an energy, an overriding presence – thought of by some as the 'Angel' or 'Goddess' of Glastonbury. Visiting the town has a strangely stimulating and changeful effect on the human spirit. The isle is like a repository of archetypal imagery, an evolving akashic tapestry, a centre of intensity, operating in its own reality-bubble.

Visitors find their emergent truths mirrored in their experiences, and they are surreptitiously drawn into an elastic, dimensional and paradoxical reality which is deeply educational and life-enhancing. Glastonbury has a very specific flavour – in my experience, the only places with a similar energy-flavour are the island of Iona in Scotland and Jerusalem in the Holy Land.

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It is a place of transformation, a place for making deep decisions, for experiencing truth and illusion, for crossing thresholds and for seeing things afresh. Some people studiously avoid the place, or they get mysteriously repelled, while others get irresistibly sucked in, whether by choice or 'by chance'. Normality as most people know it doesn't operate here. Glastonbury's place-energy obliges us to yield to the experience of swimming in a much larger, more mysterious reality.

Subtle energy-dynamics are magnified and amplified here, as if the veils between reality-levels are unusually permeable – especially at 'high times'. That's what has drawn many people here over the centuries – there's a certain intensity which, when it 'peaks' and thrums, is very special. It's a light-and-dark, heaven-and-hell kind of place, where the best and the worst can come into view. It has a fluxing energy too, encouraging change, awareness and inner elasticity.

Some locals refer to 'the Angel of Glastonbury', because there is something individualistic and intelligent about the above-mentioned forces and characteristics of the place. Different people respond differently to it and put different contributions into it - after all, Glastonbury is not a place just for getting and receiving, but also for giving and contributing. Another characteristic of the Angel is that it seems to conceal itself - it influences us through the backdoor of our lives.

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