Saturday, 12 January 2013

The Glastonbury Zodiac

Continuing on with the information on Glastonbury today I would like toshare the Zodiac that exists in this very special land again from by Frances Howard-Gordon extracted from the book Glastonbury - Maker of Myths , published by Gothic Image of Glastonbury.

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Map adapted from
Map of Ancient Landscape of Glastonbury
by Palden Jenkins
Many Glastonbury enthusiasts have regarded the Zodiac as the key to all the myths associated with this place. Some would go further and suggest that the Glastonbury Zodiac is a most important discovery in that it is the story of creation. Indeed, it is a fascinating, thought-provoking phenomenon but, like so much of our dim and distant past, it is wide open to interpretation.
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In 1935 Katherine Maltwood announced her discovery of the Glastonbury Zodiac. She had been asked to do illustrations for the medieval romance, The High History of the Holy Grail, reputedly written at Glastonbury Abbey, and as she researched her material, she found that the castles and adventures of the knights of the Round Table corresponded to places in the Vale of Avalon. As she read about the knights' encounters with dragons, lions, giants and others, then traced on the map the places where these adventures took place, she began to notice the outline of a huge lion delineated by the river Cary and an ancient road.

Other figures slowly revealed themselves, delineated by streams, tracks and boundaries, and before long she had discovered twelve signs of the zodiac in their correct order, with the thirteenth figure – the great dog of Langport – outside the circle to the southwest, guarding the winter signs to the north and the summer signs to the south. She called her discovery the Temple of the Stars because, placing a map of the stars over the circle of effigies, the stars and their respective constellations corresponded.

Associations with the zodiac

There is a wealth of symbolism in these giant figures and, in fact, the zodiac can represent all things to all people. The word zodiac means simply the way or path which the sun appears to follow among the stars in the course of a year. However, it can also be regarded as the twelve steps in the story of creation or the twelve steps to awareness and perfection as found in The Labours of Hercules. Yet again it can mean the search for knowledge and enlightenment as told in the stories and legends of the Holy Grail. Each quest can be seen as an initiation. And indeed according to the Norman Quest for the Holy Grail, King Arthur's Round Table means 'the round world and round canopy of the planets and the elements in the firmament, where are to be seen the stars and many other things'.

The number twelve is certainly worth noting as, apart from the well-known twelve tribes of Israel, there are numerous examples of twelve-tribe societies throughout the ancient world. These nomadic twelve tribes would move around in a twelve-monthly cycle reflecting the procession of the sun through the zodiac. In Celtic societies King Arthur took on the role of the sun and as he progressed through the twelve signs of the zodiac, King Arthur's court would preside over meetings, festivals and judgements. We can well imagine this Arthurian mythic cycle taking place around the Twelve Hides of Glastonbury for there is such a wealth of Arthurian lore and legend in the landscape.

The Signs in the landscape

This figure is two miles long. It is a hornless lamb with its head turning back and outlined by the town of Street with its feet tucked underneath. Just as Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, the sign of spring, so Gawain is the first knight in Arthurian legend. His story is that of youthful folly, being thrown out of the Grail Castle for failing to ask or understand its meaning until he is older and wiser. In The Labours of Hercules this sign sees Hercules attempting the capture of the man-eating mares. It is the first step in the circle of experience.

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Only the bull's head and forefoot are delineated here in a smaller figure a mile long. The outlines are very clearly made by ancient roads. The Pleiades constellation falls on the top of Collard Hill, the bull's collar; Hood Monument is a third horn on the bull's head, and coiled earthworks make up his ear. In Arthurian legend, Taurus could be Sir Ector, young Arthur's foster-father, for Taurus can be regarded as the solid provider of shelter. In The Labours of Hercules Taurus sees Hercules capture the Cretan Bull.

Here the large head of a child or baby is shown, a mile and a half long, made up by the round steep fort of Dundon Hill. The figure's chest is Lollover Hill and the stars of Pollux, Castor's twin brother, fall on his upraised arm while Orion's stars fall on his body.Orion was once the most famous of giants representing the sun in the west. Here his Arthurian counterpart would be Arthur's son Lohot who had a habit of failing asleep on the bodies of giants he had slain. In The Labours of Hercules Gemini is the gathering of the Golden Apples of the Hesperides.
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Unlike all the other effigies, this figure is inanimate: its outlines are completely straight and made by water dykes. It is the shape of a ship with the Gemini child rising out of it. Three miles long in all, the main mast of the ship is over a mile. Its shape comes from the constellation Argo Navis; the stars of the hare Lepus fall upon it and, interestingly, to the Ancient Egyptians, Lepus was the name of Osiris' funeral barge. In Arthurian legend the ship is King Solomon's – made to last forever until the perfect knight should come. In The Labours of Hercules Cancer is the story of the capture of the doe or hind, the doe who was sacred to Artemis, the goddess of the Moon, but who was also claimed by Diana, Huntress of the Heavens.

This is a three-mile-long heraldic lion near Somerton, ancient Saxon summer capital of Wessex. The lion's underside is outlined by the River Cary and its mane is Copley Woods. In Arthurian myth, Lancelot – the Summer Sun – symbolises Leo. The Celts called the winter solstice Alban Arthan and therefore it can be said that the Sun of Winter (Arthur) was hunting the Sun of Summer (Lancelot). Arthur imprisons Lancelot but has to let him out in due season. Because of its large size, Leo includes the whole constellation of Cancer in its neck as well as Castor and Pollux from Gemini. The head of the Hydra is within its body and Leo's Royal Star Regulus is there too. In The Labours of Hercules Leo is represented by the slaying of the Nemean Lion.

The figure here is of an old crone four miles long, one of the aspects of the Goddess. Her profile is outlined by the River Cary and she stands on Wheathill suggesting the harvest Goddess who holds wheat in her hand. In fact, the object in her hand at Stickle Bridge is three-cornered and could be either a wheatsheaf, a broomstick or a trident. In The High History of the Holy Grail Virgo is the Damsel, Sir Perceval's sister, called Dindrain as well according to Katherine Maltwood. But to Mary Caine, author of The Glastonbury Zodiac, she is also Guinevere because of the River Cam, Camel Hill, West Camel and Queen Camel nearby, and because the figure leans towards Leo, who is Lancelot. In The Labours of Hercules Virgo sees Hercules seizing the Girdle of Hippolyte.

Here at Barton St David is the shape of a dove a mile and a half long. Unlike the Roman symbol for Libra of the scales, the dove represents mercy and pure spirit in many ancient mythologies. Libra's stars do not correspond here. Instead, the largest constellation of all, the Plough, falls on this figure. In Arthurian legend the dove flies across the hall of the Grail Castle, preceding the grail procession and lighting up the scene like a supernatural messenger. In Libra Hercules captures the Erymanthian Boar.

The tail is the most convincing part of this effigy with its sting at West Lydford, very close to Arthur's head at Catsham. Scorpio has four legs on either side at Four Foot Farm and Bridgefoot Bridge. Libra's stars fall on Scorpio's claw, the stars of Lupus and Serpens are within the figure, the Royal Star Antares and five other Scorpio stars mark the centre of its body along the Fosse Way. In The High History of the Holy Grail Scorpio is the dead hermit Callixtus whose wasted life is weighed against him by quarrelling demons and angels. The angels win by a hair's breadth. Scorpio could also be Mordred in Arthurian lore, for the Persians used to call the month of November Mordad. Destroying the Lernaean Hydra is the story of Scorpio in The Labours of Hercules.

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Here is the five-mile-long figure of King Arthur on his horse. His head is at Catsham, his outstretched arm at Baltonsborough, and his knee at Ponter's Ball. The horse is shaped by the Pennard Hills with Arthur's Bridge by its tail. Almost the whole constellation of Hercules corresponds with this effigy while all the stars of Lyra fall on his back. The figure can be seen as the archer Sagittarius with arms outstretched drawing a bow. Killing the Stymphalian Birds is the Sagittarius episode for Hercules. In Malory's Morte d'Arthur there is a description which could fit the Arthur/Sagittarius effigy, for Capricorn, Scorpio and the Whale are all threatening him:

King Arthur dreamed a wonderful dream... it seemed he sat upon a chaflet in a chair... fast to a wheel, and thereupon he sat in the richest cloth of gold that might be made; and the King thought there was under him, far from him, a hideous deep black water, and therein were all manner of serpents and worms and wild beasts, foul and horrible, and suddenly the king thought the wheel turned upside down, and he fell among the serpents, and every beast took him by a limb.

Here are the perfect outlines of a goat three and a half miles across. The goat's back is traced by the road from Glastonbury to Shepton Mallet, and its horn is at the earthwork of Ponter's Ball (this horn is known locally as the Golden Coffin), making it more like a unicorn. The lion-and-unicorn symbolism fits well here because the unicorn's figure points southwest to the lion's paw in Leo. In The High History of the Holy Grail Capricorn is the King of Castle Mortal who makes war with King Fisherman, but the knight Perceval finally gets rid of him. In The Labours of Hercules Capricorn is the slaying of Cerberus, Guardian of Hades.
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One and a half miles across in Glastonbury itself, Aquarius is represented by the figure of the phoenix or eagle with wings spread out. The wings, body and head are completely outlined by hills with the Tor on the bird's head. Chalice Well is at the end of its beak – perfect Aquarian symbolism for the water-carrier. In sun-worship symbolism, the phoenix represents the sun being purified by fire at sunset and rising at dawn out of the ashes of the night. The Tor's spiral maze delineates the throat of the bird, which turns towards the Chalice Spring's regenerative powers. Chalice Hill forms part of the body and Glastonbury Abbey is on its tail. Sadal Melik, Skat, and several other stars of Aquarius correspond with the wings, and Markab from Pegasus falls by its crest.

In The High History of the Holy Grail Perceval is the sun in the first quarter of the year, and his title Par-lui-fet means 'he who has made himself', which is just like the phoenix who remakes itself and is resurrected. In The Labours of Hercules Aquarius sees Hercules cleansing the Augean Stables.

Here are the effigies of two fishes and a whale. One fish is Wearyall Hill; the other is in the town of Street. The whale extends from Hulk Moor west of Pomparles Bridge along the River Brue to close to Wallyer's Bridge. In the mythology of sun worship, a fish was supposed to swallow the sun as it sank down into the sea – an appropriate image for the lake villagers of Glastonbury and Meare.

In The High History of the Holy Grail the Castle of the Whale episode tells of the whale with a serpent's head. Perceval rows down the river, finds the snake's head (according to Katherine Maltwood, the head is in the exact centre of the zodiac at Park Wood) and, piercing the animal's throat, pulls out the key with which to release the prisoner of the Whale Castle. The stars of Pisces correspond with the tail of the whale, one of the fishes, and the road connecting them. Pisces is represented by the capture of the Red Cattle of Geryon in The Labours of Hercules.

The Thirteenth Giant
This is a five-mile-long figure of a dog standing outside the zodiac. It is larger than life and cannot be ignored. It is known as the Great Dog of Langport and is referred to in the old Somerset Wassail song:

The Girt Dog of Langport has burnt his long tail
And this is the night we go singing wassail

Immediately southwest of the zodiac circle, the figure is like the Egyptian dog Anubis, Guardian of the Underworld. Here the dog could be said to be guarding the zodiac. Its tail is appropriately at a place called Wagg, and the bright Dog Star of Canis Major – Sirius – falls on the dog's nose. Just by its nose is the bill at Athelney, which is one of the line of hills making up the longest alignment of prehistoric sites in southern England. In The High History of the Holy Grail the dog is female. She is the questing beast who gives birth to twelve hounds who tear her with their teeth 'but no power had they to devour her flesh'. Hecate, the goddess of the crossroads and of witches, was accompanied by a dog.

According to Katherine Maltwood, who discovered the Glastonbury zodiac, it could have been the Sumerians (who might have given their name to Somerset) who designed it around five thousand years ago. Others see the zodiac as the magnetic action of the sun, moon and stars printed on the sensitive Glastonbury landscape long before astrology was even thought of.

However we see this strange phenomenon, as we enquire into its origins, the figures and shapes give us meaning. Made up as they are of historical and cultural archetypes, they help us relate to abstract principles and cosmic harmonics, even if this is on a purely subliminal level. Without doubt we owe a tremendous debt to Katherine Maltwood for making us aware of how the ancient world related to the landscape and the stars; in rediscovering their geomantic works today, once again we find the landscape speaks to us.

If your appetite has been whetted and you cannot afford to hire a helicopter or take lessons in levitation, you can experience the Glastonbury zodiac by walking around it. It will be a long trek, so be sure to take a map.

The Glastonbury Zodiac by Andrew Collins again from

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An example of a mystery that should not exist but does is the so-called Glastonbury Zodiac.

In the late 1920s a London-born graphic artist and sculptress named Katherine Maltwood (1878-1961) was asked by the publisher J M Dent to submit black and white illustrations for a new edition of an Arthurian romance entitled Perlesvaus, better known as The High History of the Graal, written in c. 1210 and translated from Old French into English by Sebastian Evans. With an interest already in folklore, myth and legend she accepted the challenge whole-heartedly, knowing that on the last page of the medieval text was a statement claiming (quite probably falsely) that the whole thing was recorded down in Glastonbury Abbey.

From her home at Chilbolton Priory, on the Taunton to Glastonbury road, Mrs Maltwood compared mythical scenes in the 'High History' with the Glastonbury landscape in the hope of determining the paths taken by the questing knights. It was whilst in this frame of mind that the outline of a lion jumped out at her from the map. Topographical features, such as hills, rivers and contours, as well as artificial features, such as roads, ditches and field boundaries, brought it alive. Located in and around nearby Somerton, she recorded the feline's whereabouts before noticing another landscape figure a little to the west. This time it was a giant child traceable around the village of Compton Dundon.

Mrs Maltwood began to consider that she was bringing alive the geo-mythical reality that inspired the 'High History'. However, she also came to believe that these landscape effigies formed part of a larger design, and very possibly a terrestrial zodiac. The lion obviously represented Leo, while the giant child she took to be Gemini, which she also identified with Lohot, a knight and son of King Arthur beheaded whilst lying asleep by a giant that then laid down upon him. She thus looked closer and discerned on the mape a circular arrangement of twelve key figures, all as they were positioned in the night sky. For her, these features were not chance designs - they were purposely engineered by a Sumerian priesthood who sailed to Britain from ancient Iraq and laid the foundations for this divine ground-plan on a spring equinox around 2700 BC.

Having determined the twelve signs, she attempted to substantiate her discoveries by linking the astrological influence of each 'sign' with the Celtic-Arthurian imagery of the 'High History'. This was in turn backed up with local folklore, topography and place-names.

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Convinced now that she had something special, she decided that the twelve signs were the key to achieving the Holy Grail, the ultimate expression of divine illumination and wisdom. Medieval Grail knights and, in ages past, Celtic warriors would have navigated the paths tackling the psychic constructs of the terrestrial zodiac, before experiencing the zodiac's ultimate mysteries at its centre point, marked on the map as a triangular enclosure next to the site of an ancient cross just outside of the medieval village of Butleigh.

Katherine Maltwood approached Watkins of London to publish a book on the subject, and this appeared anonymously in 1935 under the title Glastonbury's Temple of the Stars. By 1961, when she died, the book had gone through new editions, this time under her name, although there is very little evidence of it making any lasting impact. It was left to writer and artist Mary Caine to take the subject on to a new level with the publication of her book Glastonbury's Giants in 1978. With her enthusiasm and the interest given to the subject of terrestrial zodiacs by ley hunters and earth mysteries enthusiasts, Glastonbury's 'Temple of the Stars' continued to attract attention, even though it simply should not have existed.

In fact, when looked at more thoroughly, the whole theory can be ripped apart by anyone with even a basic knowledge of British topography, for the reasons given here:

1. The effigies are constructed in the most part from roads, field boundaries, canals, and other water channels that did not exist prior to 1875.
2. If a star map is placed over the Glastonbury zodiac, many crucial stars fall nowhere near their corresponding landscape effigies.
3. The stars of Aquarius have never been represented by a Phoenix, as they are in Mrs Maltwood's zodiac, just as Libra has never been a dove holding a holy wafer in its beak, and Cancer has never been a ship.
4. There is no evidence that Sumerians ever came to Britain, or that the Babylonian zodiac, from which the Glastonbury example is formulated, was known in this country prior to Roman times.
5. It is a simple exercise to find and draw landscape effigies on a large-scale map, and many of these would look a lot more convincing than those offered by Mrs Maltwood.

Other criticisms might easily be brought against the Glastonbury giants, but those cited are reason enough for any serious researcher or earth mysteries enthusiast to avoid the subject like the plague.

All this might be so, but the Glastonbury zodiac exists today, and this anyone will find difficult to deny.

In January 1981, I knew nothing about Mrs Maltwood's discoveries, and yet as my friend and colleague Graham Phillips and I approached Glastonbury in a car on a psychic quest he unexpectedly glimpsed in his mind's eye a phoenix rising from the ashes. We saw it as linked somehow with the Tor's genius loci, or 'spirit of the place', and so asked around as soon as we entered the town. Eventually, we were put in touch with Tony and Janet Roberts, earth mysteries writers who lived locally. They informed us that Mrs Maltwood believed Glastonbury Tor and the surrounding landscape to be sculpted into the form of a Phoenix, signifying Aquarius in her zodiac. Only interested in the Phoenix imagery, and not its sculpted presence all around us, we climbed the Tor and went about our business.

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Two years later in January 1983, new psychic imagery led me to explore 'Kingweston', a place-name that simply popped into my mind during a meditation one evening. I saw it connected with golden solar imagery, divine kingship and a lion of sovereignty. On learning that a place of this name existed a few miles outside of Glastonbury, I wondered whether it formed part of the Leo figure in Mrs Maltwood's zodiac. It did, and on exploring there I felt drawn to another location where a giant knight lay sleeping on the landscape and a hill would be found known locally as 'Golgotha', the Place of the Skull. This is the name given in the Gospels to the site where Christ was crucified. It was information that led me to Dundon Beacon, which along with nearby Lollover Hill constituted the giant child identified by Mrs Maltwood as Gemini and Lohot, the beheaded knight and son of Arthur. An occultist and modern-day Templar who lived in a house beneath the Beacon confirmed that it was indeed known as Golgotha. Furthermore, each Good Friday a Calvary Cross is carried to the summit of Lollover Hill, where it is left standing until Easter Sunday. An early aerial photograph of the place, seen covered for the most part in trees, bears a striking resemblance to traditional images of Christ's bearded face, a simulacra worthy of FORTEAN TIMES.

It was only then that I realised I was mimicking the manner in which Mrs Maltwood discovered her own landscape effigies - Leo first and then Gemini, almost as if these were to be seen as steps one and two on an ascending ladder that would one day lead to the achievement of the Grail.

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The following year, 1984, I employed the services of a psychic friend named Bernard to see if we could determine the exact route of Glastonbury's psychic assault course. After he led me from Leo to Gemini with no prior knowledge of my own experiences, we ended up covering exactly one half of the zodiac, and finding an artefact along the way. This came in the form of an ebony and silver 'happy death' crucifix, as worn by monks and nuns, retrieved from the edge of an Iron Age tumulus named Wimble Toot, located in the third figure - Virgo. We were directed to find it by a holy woman in medieval dress, whom we saw in terms of the sentient personification of this particular sign. The rest of the signs had similar guiding influences which you needed to communicate with on a subtle, sympathetic level if you wanted any chance at all of completing the course. They included a fierce black knight, who answered to the name Modred, and wore the arms of Satan as they appeared in apocalyptic art from around the year 1280-5. He guarded the domain of Scorpio in a churchyard at a place called Hornblotton.

I resumed the zodiac quest over the midsummer period 1985, navigating the final six signs on my own in just 36 hours (Bernard declined to take part, saying it was for me alone to complete). At the centre point, in the middle of a cold, wet field at dawn, I experienced a profound vision of the Holy Grail, which culminated with a fleeting glimpse of cosmic creation.

For me, the Glastonbury zodiac is no longer a figment of Mrs Maltwood's fertile imagination. It exists out there for all to experience and encounter, and there seems little point in assuming that the whole thing simply came into being following the publication of her first book on the subject in 1935. A much better explanation is needed to try and fully explain what is going on.

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