Anyone who seeks an instructive and enjoyable day out on Saturday 26th September might like to think about a trip to Glastonbury where an all day seminar on Dion Fortune is taking place in the Town Hall from 9.30.am. I attended the first couple of these and was delighted to see that at least one or two folks had found it worthwhile to make the trip all the way from California (Hi there Filomena!) Sorry I can’t be there myself this time but the years weigh a bit too heavy on the old carcase. However, whoever comes might possibly catch a glimpse of me on the higher spiritual levels, or even the upper astral – although don’t push your luck!
Full details can be found on the Company of Avalon web site www.companyofavalon.co.uk and there is also a link, I am told, via http://www.companyofavalon.co.uk/The%20Dion%20Fortune%20%20Seminar.html. I hope I have got that right, but am currently lacking the presence of my grandchildren who are my essential guides when it comes to wrestling with all this new fangled technology.
Cost of the day is £14 which is a bargain in anyone’s money. If anyone however should have from £150,000 to £200,000 to invest in a bit of cultural real estate Dion Fortune’s old home and headquarters at Glastonbury is said to be up for auction on 22nd September. Details available from Cooper & Tanner, 41 High Street, Glastonbury, BA6 9DS (Telephone 01458 760029)
Anyhow, for any unable to attend either function I append a little travelogue of my own about Glastonbury, that I once wrote for Michael Howard’s excellent magazine The Cauldron a while ago.
The Different Faces of Glastonbury
The first time I saw
, as I have
recorded in my esoteric autobiography I
Called It Magic, was as a romantic
young RAF corporal astride my motorbike looking down at the Tor from the
Shepton Mallet road, in 1953, imagining myself to be some kind of knight
errant. A view, as I said “once seen, never forgotten”. Glastonbury
I came to know it better, as indeed I came to know myself better, over the years – but in both cases no easy answers are forthcoming. We are all of us, more complicated creatures than we easily realise, and so is a sacred site and west country town like
Indeed, at times I have been led to think, that if this is “the holiest earth in
I would hate to see the tackiest! Although I suppose it depends upon how deep
one wants to delve. England
On the surface show, the last time I was in
attending a spiritual event, as
we debouched from our high minded gathering I heard a local resident referring
to our like as “the scum” that besmirched his fair town. And I suppose he had a
point. I am old enough to recall the time when it had more the ambience of a
charming west country backwater without the pervading atmosphere of joss sticks
and spliffs. Although even in the 1960’s it was not uncommon to see signs up at
public house doors – “No Hippies!” The
hippies have I suppose now come and gone but have nonetheless left, I suppose,
a kind of cultural imprint of sorts. Glastonbury
Not of course that the place was not always considered a little bit “odd”. For the upside of that, one can do hardly do better than consult Peter Benham’s excellent book The Avalonians. And this goes back to the 1920’s and even further – although in those days they were perhaps a little more genteel about it.
As far as Avalonians go, I have to say my own particular esoteric mentor, Dion Fortune, was something of a late comer. She fell in love with the place, put down roots at the foot of the Tor, and wrote a virtual love letter about the place, somewhat inaccurate in parts as love letters tend to be, but nonetheless moving, published in 1934 as Avalon of the Heart. She certainly mixed a heady cocktail out of the place with evocations of Merlin, the Holy Grail, the Celtic saints, Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Thorn, the Abbey, the Tor, Chalice Well, King Arthur, Morgan le Fay, even the lost continent of Atlantis.
And she demonstrated an early exercise of her psychic faculties in company with Bligh Bond at the Autumnal Equinox of 1921 with a paper that became the core of inner work with her Fraternity for many years. That there was an unbroken line of descent of spiritual power connecting directly with the elemental powers of the soil, in which are the roots of the soul of the nation, that is to say, of those who inhabit the land. And that which was noble in the pagan was carried on into Christian times. Head in London, heart in Glastonbury was how she tended to express this in her practical work, with headquarters in Bayswater and hightailing it down the Great West Road, possibly in the side car of Thomas Loveday’s motorbike, to her chalet at the foot of the Tor, where she wrote amongst other things, her magnum opus The Mystical Qabalah and supporting novels.
In her capacious mind there was no great divide between the pagan and the Christian, which she felt confirmed at Whitsun in 1926 when a spiral power had them all spontaneously dancing on the Tor along with an unequivocal call from the Elemental kingdoms “Come from the depths of your Elemental Being and lighten our darkness – Come in the name of the White Christ and the Hosts of the Elements.” Just what was meant by the “White Christ” – who apparently entered the Underworld to preach to the Elemental Kingdoms during the first Easter – has recently been further explored by Wendy Berg in Red Tree, White Tree (Skylight Press 2011) along with the current revival of interest in the faery tradition. Married up to the symbolic objects allegedly brought to
by Joseph of Arimathea. Red and white cruets
that have some connection with the Grail tradition and other weapons of
Arthurian tradition which, like Excalibur, originally came from faery sources –
otherwise called the Glastonbury Lake. (Odd that was
pre-historically a lake village!) Powers that originally came from the faery
world being duly returned to it. Glastonbury
There are obviously deep matters here that tend to go rather deeper into magical and mystical territory than is commonly supposed. What we might regard as bubbling away at the bottom of the cauldron. Although the superficial view may only see the scum that floats on the surface.
This at times can have its amusing and disconcerting side. I recall a visit to
to show some Greek friends over the Tor, which happened to coincide with an
official religious ceremony of sorts. This was accompanied by holy music
blaring from loud speakers, along with the unusual sight of nuns scurrying up
and down the Tor, rather as if an ant hill had been disturbed. And one was
reminded that the orthodox religious like to make a claim on the place that is
every bit as important as the neo-pagan or the esoteric. Glastonbury
The whole situation was amusingly encapsulated for me by the sight of a somewhat prim and proper religious procession proceeding toward the Tor which was spontaneously joined by a young lady, bare foot and festooned with wild flowers, stoned out of her head by God knows what, attracted out of Chalice Well gardens to dance alongside and within and the more staid procession. That, in a sense, was a caricature, to my mind, of
all over! Glastonbury
However, there is of course more to it than that. And it seems to me that Dion Fortune had it about right in crediting the place with being a harmonious meeting point between many strands of the spiritual powers of the land. (Well perhaps not too harmonious!) There is a certain great mystical peace manifest among the abbey ruins just as there are about the town points of stimulus to the ancient powers of the land, and there need be no conflict between them. Although I suppose, a certain amount of effervescence might be expected in the confluence of the red and the white. Dragons fighting, but not in anger. Even if we humans do like to take sides like supporters at some cosmic football match.
Something of this effervescence comes out in unexpected ways. One such being the attack on the
thorn on Wearyall Hill. Who knows what is at the back of all that? And I do not
suppose that even those who perpetrate it know. Even if they think they do. Glastonbury
However, looking backward does have its points. The subject of my talk that day was on the Faery Tradition in Arthurian Legend, which somehow seemed to strike an octave with Dion Fortune’s introduction to faery in 1920 at the performance in this same hall of Rutland Boughton and Fiona Macleod’s The Immortal Hour. What goes around, comes around. And particularly in what Dion Fortune described as a “three ring circus” such as Glastonbury. From faery rings, to the ring of the
zodiac first noted by Dr John
Dee, to the continuing ring on the inner of the Abbey bells, there is something
for everyone there. Even Tesco’s supermarket. Glastonbury
As Sir Gawain, and other heroes like him found, when confronted with the prospect of embracing a loathly damsel, you only have to take her on her own terms for her transformation to take place. But it is all in your own mind!
[from The Cauldron magazine, May 2012 www.the-cauldron.org.uk]