Grandmum sent me the following clipping from the Daily Mail to help entice me (as if I needed enticing) to come back to Glastonbury, England for a visit. It’s a photo by John Davies:
My own personal heroine and magical forbear (she’s two generations back in my lineage), Dion Fortune, wrote in her book, “Glastonbury: Avalon of the Heart,” about this peculiar and breathtaking phenomenon. I’ll have to give you a quote from Gareth Knight that paraphrases Fortune because I left my copy of her book in my room at Grandmum’s. These words were delivered at a lecture he gave last year in September and come very close to her own:
But there is one time above all others when it is well to ascend the Tor at nightfall, and that is at the full moon of the autumnal equinox, round about the Mass of St Michael . . . The nights are coming cold then, but the days are still warm with the afterglow of summer, and the cold of the darkness, chilling the warm breath of the meadows, causes a thick but shallow mist to form over the levels.
Through this the cattle wade knee-deep as in water, and trees cast shadows in the moonlight, black upon silver. As the night closes in, the mist deepens. Like a rising tide in an estuary it fills the hollows. Trees and barns slowly drown. Only the few scattered knolls like St Bride’s Beckary remain as islands in the white gloom. Gradually they too fade as the mist thickens, and Avalon is an island again.
Local folk call this shallow mist that lies upon the levels the Lake of Wonder. And then perhaps to the eyes of vision may be seen coming slowly, a black barge, rowed by a dumb man, bearing the three weeping queens who bring Arthur, wounded unto death at Lyonesse, that he may heal him of his grievous wound in the green coombs among the apple trees.
When I took Lugh there the May before last, I “initiated” him to the Isle of Avalon, the single place on this planet most dear to my heart, by running him up the Tor after dark on a moonless night. It was our first night there, and after dinner at the Mitre I suggested we ascend the ancient and foreboding hill. A combination of the dark – there are no lights on the Tor or surrounding countryside – jetlag, and fear of the unknown drove my husband up the steps, me leading, assuring him that no-one would jump out of the hedgerows or giant nettle stands. Of course, the shape of the hill is so steep someone could come up the side and you’d never see them coming, foliage or no (this happened to me once a few years ago, while I was sitting in a little tree, and the pilgrim asked me, in all seriousness, if I was a fairy).
We reached the summit and all of a sudden, there was the stark tower of St. Michael, the wind howling through it, dark, empty (thankfully) and cold. We looked upon the dark Mendip hills and the twinkling night lights of several counties. I’d enjoyed the Tor alone before, but never this late at night (and technically I wasn’t alone!). It was exhilarating, and, as this is the last defiant spot claimed by the old, dark gods – a bit scary in the dark.
We walked down the more gently sloping spine of the hill toward Chilkwell Street, through the High Street, then up Bove Town to our warm home. Grandad was leaving the next morning for Malta. He was already in bed by the time we snuck upstairs, but I wanted to be up bright and early to spend as much time with him as possible. Now he is 90, and there is no such thing as too much time. Sometimes he appears in my dreams; this worries him.
I could reminisce for many pages about my trips to Glastonbury. But new memories are soon to be created; we confirmed yesterday with Grandmum that we’ll be back this year in late November, to experience a very different personality of the landscape and all its myth-laden monuments while they darkly charge during the slumbering half of the year. It’s a bit late for the St. Michaelmas renewal of the Lake of Wonder, and too early for the blooming of the holy thorns at Yule, but . . . I’m counting the days till I’m there!