Friday, November 28, 2014

Glastonbury--Avalon--The Isle of Glass

Whatever name it's called, the area of Somerset that cradles the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey beneath the watchful Chapel of St. Michael high on the Tor is a mystical, magical, serene and uncanny place, and has been since the Dawn of Time. In addition to the spirits of nameless and pre-historic peoples, Druids and Irish hermits, two intertwined legends are synonomous with Glastonbury--and form the groundwork of the mystery that is investigated in The Spoils of Avalon.

Arthur and Guenevere 
Somerset is often a watery plain, with frequent floods and rains and marshy ground, and the high, strange Tor (Welsh for 'hill') can often appear as an island floating in a sea of glass. The village is some sixty miles west of famous Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, and not very far from the Welsh border where the sea-swept and rocky fortress of Tintagel still holds fast the secret of King Arthur's birth. It is said that Arthur met his fate in Glastonbury, when the Lady of the Lake took back his sword into her realm, and she and her ladies bore him off to the Isle of Glass, to return
again in a time of great need. However, in 1191, the monks who lived at the great Abbey claimed to have found the tomb of Arthur and Guenevere in their graveyard, buried sixteen feet down--the bones had been laid in the hollowed-out trunk of an enormous oak tree. Nearly 100 years later, with great pomp and ceremony, and with  King Edward I and Queen Eleanor attending, the bones were removed to a magnificent tomb inside the great church, embedded in the floor before the high altar, and marked with a slab of shining black marble.

St. Joseph and the Thorn Tree

On Wyrral Hill close by the village of Glastonbury, it is said that Joseph of Arimathea, the uncle of the Virgin Mary and great-uncle, therefore, to Jesus, plunged his walking stick into the ground to signify the founding of a church on this holy place, and that the stick became a thorn tree, which forever after bloomed in the midst of darkest winter, on Christmas Day. The original tree is gone, but shoots were taken from it through the centuries and grafted onto other trees, of which there are at least three still to be seen in Glastonbury and on the grounds of the Abbey ruins. 

Joseph is also widely believed to have brought the Holy Grail to Glastonbury, and buried it in an ever-gushing spring of water, known for centuries as The Chalice Well. The water, though clear and very drinkable, has stained the rocks around it a rusty, dark red, like blood, which lends credibility to the legend.


  1. Glastonbury is one of my very favorite places and I hope to go again some time. regardless of how much one believes in the Arthurian legend---and I do believe much of it---the place itself is entrancing and it's impossible not to feel the history there. It's also really beautiful.

    Lelia Taylor

  2. Thanks, Lelia! We had such an incredible time there! I was able to take a one-day class in Gregorian Chant, which was held in the Abbot's Kitchen on the grounds of the ruined Abbey -- it was magical and sacred.


I'd love to hear from you! Please leave a message.