From time immemorial, the Isle of Avalon,
in the Summerland (Somerset, England), has been home to the Goddess.
This ancient sacred place is the legendary Western
Isle of the Dead. Dedicated to an awesome and powerful Goddess, this Island
lay far to the west in a shining sea. People were called here to die,
to be transformed
and to be reborn.
By tradition, a group of nine, thirteen or nineteen Maidens or Faerie Queens
live, some say even today, upon this mysterious Western Isle. Skilled in
healing and the magical arts of creation and death, they are the Keepers
of the Mysteries
of the Goddess. Their names come to us as those of Goddesses Anu, Danu, Mab,
Morrigu, Madron, Mary, Arianrhod, Cerridwen, Rhiannon, Epona, Rigantona,
Bride, Brigit, Hecate, Magdalena, Morgana, Gwenhwyfar, Vivien, Nimue.
Isle of Avalon surrounded by winter flood waters is the mysterious Western Isle
of the Dead. It is the gateway to Annwn, the Underworld of the Goddess. Photo
by Simant Bostock.
The Isle of the Dead is the gateway to Annwn, the Underworld of the
Goddess, where the souls of the deceased await rebirth. The guardian
of its entrance
is Arawn or Gwyn ap Nudd Gwyn son of Nudd or Ludd, the annual year
king sacrifice now united with His Goddess. Gwyn is also Heme the Hunter,
King and Cernunnos
the Stag God. It is said that on Midsummer Night's Eve Gwyn rides out across
Glastonbury Tor with the red-eared white dogs of the Wild Hunt of Annwn,
sweeping in the souls of the dead to the Cauldron of the Dark Mother.
Today the sea and tidal lakes which once surrounded the Western Isle have
been drained away. The seashore now lies 18 miles away to the west across
Summerland meadows, which are criss-crossed with rivers and small drainage
canals, known as rhynes.
But when it rains heavily, the water in the rivers and rhynes rises quickly,
spilling over the low banks and flooding out into the pastureland. The sea
returns once more and again this Western Isle of the Dead rises out from
the water and
is visible for all to see.
IN THE LANDSCAPE
Glastonbury is one of those places where the very shape
of the landscape speaks to the people who visit or live upon Her slopes.
For it is here
that the Body
of the Goddess can be seen outlined in the contours of the small group
of hills which rise out of the flat Summerland meadows.
The Goddess appears in different forms to different people and as Her
Nature changes with the seasons, She presents Her many faces to those
For some people the whole Island is Her spread and Birth-giving body.
from the direction of Baltonsborough the island looks like a giant Goddess lying
down on Her back on and in the earth. The Tor is Her left breast and ribcage.
Wearyall Hill is Her left leg. Stonedown is Her head sinking into the earth at
Approaching Glastonbury from the southeast and the
direction of Baltonsborough and Butleigh, many people have noticed that
the side-view of the Isle of Avalon
presents the profile of a giant Goddess lying down lengthways before them
across the moors.
Stonedown is the head of the Goddess, sinking back into the landscape. The
Tor rises up as Her left breast and Her rib-cage. Chalice Hill is Her pregnant
Bere Lane marks Her hips and Wearyall Hill is Her left thigh and leg, Her
foot sinking into the ground towards the nearby town of Street.
30,000 year old Venus of Willendorf in Austria is one of the earliest examples
of the Birth-giving Goddess. The shape of Her body is that of the Goddess who
has just given birth, with Her belly still swollen and Her breasts full of milk
for Her new child.
The Great Mother is the primordial aspect of the Divine, celebrated and revered
throughout the ancient world. As all human life is born from a woman's body,
so the Goddess was known to be the Source of all life. The earliest known
sculptures are of the Birth-giving Goddess. The squat all-seeing Venus of
is 30,000 years old, is one example out of many.
or Gaea is the Universal Mother Goddess of the Greeks. She is Mother Earth, our
home. To the Kretan matriarchy She was Rhea. Her European names include Erda,
Eortha, Urtha, Urd, Artha and Hretha.
As the Earth Mother She is Gaia. For the Celts and those who came before
She is Anu-Danaa, the Good Mother, Goddess of Plenty. She is Madron,
Mother of All.
As a Moon Goddess, She is the Full Moon, shining radiantly to lighten
the darkness of the night-time landscape. She is experienced by women
and during the fertile phase of the menstruation cycle.
To the Welsh She is Arianrhod, High Fruitful Mother. Ariadne, our Kretan
inspiration, means High Fruitful Mother of the Barley, derived from the
same root as Demeter,
Barley Mother De meaning
Venus of Laussel in France, another early figure of the Goddess with protruding
pregnant belly, milky breasts and fleshy thighs. She holds a bison horn in one
hand and was once stained red with ochre.
Moving round to the West of the Island in the direction of Meare, the
spread body of the Goddess can be seen from the banks of the River Brue.
womb of Chalice Hill is in the centre, with the breast of the Tor rising
behind. Her right breast is flattened falling down to the side of Paradise
right leg is tucked beneath itself as St Edmund's or Windmill Hill. The
left leg of Wearyall stretches down to the right. From here the head
is not visible. From above Her whole body is visible.
Birth Goddess as seen from above in the contours of the Island.
In the landscape of Glastonbury, below Her womb lie the ruins of Glastonbury
Abbey, site of the first Christian Church in Britain, prominently situated
in the Vagina of the Birth-Giving Goddess. The remains of the Mary
Chapel in the
crypt of the Abbey, lie in this potent and creative part of the Goddess's
Within Christianity, the Virgin Mary, the pure and spotless Mother of
God, is the only nearly-acceptable face of the Goddess to be found. She
as the Virgin (One unto Herself) Mother Goddess. It would seem however
that the first Christian builders must have been aware of the significance
spot when they planned their sanctuary. The Virgin Mary was often honoured
in sites which are sacred to the Goddess.
the banks of the River Brue to the west of the island we can stand
between the spread legs of the Goddess. In the centre is Her womb,
behind and above is Her left breast. On the right is Her left leg.
Her right leg is tucked under as Windmill Hill.
The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey lie in the Vagina
of the Birth Goddess in the heart of the town of Glastonbury. Volumes
have been written on the Abbey and
its place in Christianity and there are many guide books available which
describe its history. For the lover of the Goddess there are a few
in this takeover of one of the main Goddess sites in Britain. For as with
all places where the patriarchal religion of the one male God sought
it built its phallic extravagances in the Vulva of the Goddess, thinking
to crush Her.
ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, which are open daily to visitors, lie in the Vaginal
area of the Birth Goddess.
Glastonbury Abbey was erected upon the site of the first Christian church
in Britain, built by Joseph of Arimathea in 63AD. According to William of
Antiquitate Glastoniensis, Joseph and his friends were told by a
vision of the Angel Gabriel to build a church in honour of the Holy Mother
of God the
Mother Goddess, and the Virgin Mary the Goddess Mary, in a place shown
them from heaven. This they did, building a small circular wattle church, which
they dedicated to the Mother of God. For the early inhabitants of the Summerland
the Virgin Mary was the Triple Goddess Brigit, who was the Goddess of Childbirth.
At a later time St. Bridget was said to have been the midwife to Mary and wet-nurse
Mary Chapel in the Abbey lies in the Vulva of the Birth-Giving Goddess of Glastonbury.
This is one of the most potent places on the Island.
One of the most potent places in Glastonbury is the ruined Mary Chapel
or St Joseph's Chapel as it is sometimes known, in the Abbey. The proportions
existing Mary Chapel are based on the gematria or
sacred proportions of the Vesica Piscis, in which two interlocking circles
overlap to form the Yoni or Vulva of the Goddess. It is from Her Vulva
that we are born
into the world and it is through union with Her, spiritually, emotionally
and sexually that we shall return to Her.
These proportions were re-discovered by Frederick Bligh Bond, the architect
and clairvoyant, when he excavated the ruins of the Abbey, beginning in
study of the sacred geometry of the Abbey has since been developed by John
Michell and Keith Critchlow.
Vesica Piscis. Two interlocking circles form the Yoni or Vulva of the Goddess.
The proportions of the Mary Chapel are based on the geometry of the Vesica Piscis.
Bligh Bond also found an Omphalos or
egg stone during his excavations. This beautiful Omphalos now lies behind
the Abbot's Kitchen in the Abbey grounds, its significance forgotten. The
is a universal representation of the Goddess as Egg of Life, Womb and Tomb.
Shaped like an egg it has a depression in one surface. Here the menstruating
of the Goddess would sit, Her holy blood collecting as she gave voice to
the Word of the Goddess. This was the blood of the Goddess Charis, Aphrodite,
Goddess of sexual love, from which the word Eucharist, meaning communion,
comes. This blood was used in healing.
There are many descriptions of famous Oracles dedicated to the Word of
the Goddess in the ancient world, and no important decision would be taken
to Her Voice. Many choices today could benefit from time spent sitting
upon Her Stone.
is another depression in the Glastonbury Omphalos where the monks tried
to christianise the egg stone by mounting it with a cross of sacrifice.
stone still gives
off powerful vibrations and is a wonderful spot for a menstruating woman
ancient Omphalos of Glastonbury now lies forgotten behind the Abbot's
Kitchen. The Omphalos is a universal representation of the Goddess
as the Egg of Life,
as Womb and Tomb. It should now be restored to its proper place in
the Mary Chapel.
The grounds of Glastonbury Abbey are now a green and peaceful parkland
with many unusual species of trees, including a small cider apple orchard.
is as if
the Mons Veneris of the Birth Goddess were once again being allowed
to sprout Her pubic hair.
OF THE MOTHER GODDESS
Lammas is one of the four ancient Fire Festivals of the year, which
come at the cross-quarter points between the Winter and Summer Solstices
the Spring and
Autumn Equinoxes. These festivals mark turning points in the relationship
between the Earth and Her fiery Mother, the Sun, revealing the different
aspects of the
Goddess. Lammas marks the midway point between the Summer Solstice and
Autumn Equinox and is celebrated on July 31st, Aug 1st and 2nd, between
and corn harvests.
or earlier Ge-Meter was the Earth Mother particularly connected with
the vegetation cycle of the Corn. She was celebrated as the threefold
Demeter, Hecate in the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Dolls are made in the image of the Grain Goddess.
Lammas is the time of celebration for the fertility of the Mother Goddess
and the fruits of Her body, the Earth. For the Celts, it was the feast
of Anu Danaa,
the Mother Goddess, of Madron and of Arianrhod, the Birth Goddess.
The first sheaves of ripened corn or other appropriate cereal are still
Corn Doll, or Barley Doll, in the image of the Mother Goddess, who
is also Ceres,
Demeter, Goddess of the Grain, the Barley Mother, Mistress of Earth
and Sea. The Corn Doll is blessed and kept beside the hearth through
Eleusis an ear of corn symbolising the inherent life lying dormant
in the fruit of all plants, played a central part in the Mysteries
At Lammas Her
special drink of barley, water and mint is drunk. This is the Kykeon,
sacramental cup of the Eleusinian Initiates.
ear of corn was revealed as the central Mystery in the rites of Demeter
Cornucopiae are goat's horns of plenty overflowing with flowers and
fruit, which are brought to the Goddess's shrine in thanksgiving. It
horns of the
Goat Goddess Amalthea, which suckled the young God Zeus, saving his
life, in the cave on Dicte on Krete. In Britain several sculptures
the Deae Matrones, the Celtic Triple Mother Goddess, depicted as three
robed figures, each carrying a cornucopia. Lammas is their festival,
of human fecundity and the fruits of the Earth.
Deae Matrones, the Celtic Triple Mother Goddess, carry cornucopiae, filled
with the fruits of Her body the Earth. Several sculptures of the Celtic
Triple Mother Goddess have been found in Britain, often near to
The name Lammas come from Lugh
nasadh 'Commemoration of Lugh' or Llew, who was annually
sacrificed as the Corn King to ensure the fertility of the crops. In mediaeval
was a Festival of mourning for Lugh and for all dead kinsfolk.
are known in the north of Britain as Wakes weeks, some of which are still celebrated
at Lammas, as summer holidays. It was a time to visit the home of your Ancestors
to give them due respect and honour. Glastonbury has long been a place of pilgrimage
for people of all faiths. Many people visit Avalon, the Isle of the Dead, in
Sumerian Ancestor figurine made of stone, with particular emphasis on the eyes.
She is the Mound, the squatting, all-seeing Eye Goddess.
Bird mask from Potporanji, Yugoslavia, 5000BC. One of many Goddess/Ancestor
images to be found in 'Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe' by Marija Gimbutas.
primordial Ancestor figure carved in stone from Southern France.
The dried ears of corn from the Corn Doll are planted in the earth at the
following Imbolc in February, returning the Daughter seed to Mother Earth.
The dried stems
are burned and the ashes spread on the earth, the fire releasing the life
of the previous year's harvest back into the Earth. So the cycle of the Goddess
The last sheaf of corn from the end of the harvest is hung above the fire through
the autumn, containing the life inherent in all fruit. This sheaf will be made
into a Bridie Doll at the following Imbolc.
Echoes of the Lammas festival come down to us in the Christian harvest festival
when the fruits of the harvest are brought into the church in thanksgiving.
Sumerian Ancestor from the 3rd millennium BC.
Her All-seeing generative eye is in Her Womb.
CHILD OF THE GODDESS
All Great Mothers must have a child and the Goddess in Glastonbury
is no exception. To the southwest of the Island at Beckery, in a
forgotten, derelict, industrialised
area of Glastonbury, covered in part by the town's sewage works,
lies Bride's Mound. This large mound can be seen as the emerging
head of Her Child being born
from between the spread legs of the Goddess. To stand or sit on Bride's
Mound is to feel embraced by the landscape of the Birth-Giving Goddess.
Bride's Mound with the Tor and
Chalice Hill beyond.
From archaeology, from The
High History of the Holy Graal, written in the 13th century,
and from legend, we know that a community of women lived on Bride's
Mound. Even today
Bride's Mound is a large mound which would easily have supported
a group of women with their own vegetable and herb gardens and
chickens, even a cow. This was
the women's sacred space with its own now lost Bride's Well.
Until quite recently the Mound was surrounded by the tidal waters
of the River Brue, which could be crossed at Pomparles Bridge or
Perilous in the Grail legends. Visitors to the sacred land
would cross this dangerous bridge to spend a twenty-four hour vigil
the women, before
being allowed to enter the island. During this time they would
have a vision or a dream of spiritual significance to take with
Mother Goddess in Glastonbury gives birth to Brigit the Maiden Goddess, whose
head appears out of the earth as Bride's Mound at Beckery or 'Little Ireland'.
Excavations on the Mound have revealed the remains of an early chapel
dedicated to Mary Magdalene, the unrecognised Dark aspect of
the Triple Mary Goddess. This
chapel was part of a Mary Magdalene hermitage. It was here that
St Bridget lived when she came to Glastonbury.
According to legend King Arthur came to the Magdalene Chapel at
dawn one Ash Wednesday, to find the door guarded by fiery swords,
enter. Within, an aged priest begins to say mass. The Virgin
Goddess Mary appears with the baby Jesus in Her arms. The child
as the sacrament and his
flesh is eaten, but afterwards he reappears whole and unharmed.
At the end of the ceremony, the Mother Goddess gave Arthur an
equal-armed cross of crystal,
which was reputedly kept in the Abbey for many centuries and
may still lie buried there. In memory of this vision Arthur changed
standard from that of a dragon
to a silver cross on a green field, with the Mother Goddess and
Her Son in one quarter and three crowns in the others. These
the arms of Glastonbury
Statue of Mary Magdalene from the church dedicated to La Madaleine
at Rennes-le-Chateau in southern France. She has with Her the
the Death Goddess the
skull at Her feet and the cup filled with oil to anoint the One
Chosen to die.
Coat of Arms of Glastonbury Abbey is divided into four quarters by a silver
cross on a green ground. There are the three crowns of Britain with the Virgin
Mary Goddess and Child in one quarter. According to legend this became King
Arthur's coat of arms after he received a vision at the Mary Magdalene Chapel
on Bride's Mound. It was later adopted by the Abbey.
Bride's Mound takes its name from Bride, Brigit, Brighde the
Triple Goddess of the Celts. A chapel dedicated to St. Bridget was
Beckery or Little
Ireland, in the fifth century. The nuns who lived here were said to celebrate
Easter at the Aries full moon, no matter what day of the week it was. They
lived in tune with the cycles of the Moon Goddess. St Bridget's emblem
as the nurturing
Goddess, of a woman milking a cow, is still visible on St Michael's Tower
on the Tor and around the doorway to St Mary's Chapel in the Abbey.
emblem of St Bridget as Milkmaid can be seen on side of St Michael's tower
on the Tor. St Bridget was the christianised version of Brigit the Celtic
Goddess of Poetry and Inspiration, of Healing and Smithcraft.
The Goddess Brigit is the Triple Goddess of Brigantia, the ancient Celtic nation
which included the British Isles, Brittany and parts of Spain. She is the Brigit
of Poetry and Inspiration; the Brigit of Healing through the reciting of poetry
at sacred Wells and Springs, and She is Brigit of the Flame, Hearth and Smithcraft.
She is Goddess of the New Moon, experienced by women as a wave of renewed creativity
and wellbeing after menstruation. Her symbol is a White Swan. Her flower is the
Romano-British image from SW Scotland of Brigit, Goddess of the ancient realm
of Brigantia. She carries the white rod of power that regenerates the forces
of nature at the end of winter.
White Swan is a symbol for the Triple Goddess Brigit.
The perpetual flame at Her shrine at Kildare in Ireland was said to have
been tended by nineteen Virgins (One unto Themselves), symbolising the
nineteen-year (metonic) cycle of relationship between the moon and the
sun. Brigit is also known as Bride of the Golden Hair and Bride of the
White Hills. For the
Irish She is popularly known as Mary of the Gael, equated with the Virgin
Goddess Mary as Muse and inspiration.
Snowdrop is Brigit's flower, appearing at Imboic, the Festival of
the Maiden Goddess.
OF THE MAIDEN GODDESS
The Festival of Imbolc takes place half way between the Winter Solstice
and the Spring Equinox and is celebrated on January 31st, Feb 1st and
February 2nd. It
lies opposite to Lammas, the festival of the Mother Goddess, and can be seen
as the Festival of the Daughters of the Goddess. Where Demeter is the Mother
Goddess, it is a festival of Kore, the Maiden.
In Glastonbury Imbolc is the Maiden Brigit's Festival in which the Light
of Illumination from Her perpetual flame is brought into a darkened room,
heralding the coming
of spring. Small honey and barley cakes are eaten and milk drunk in Her honour.
On the first day, the ears of corn from the Lammas Corn Doll are planted
in the ground and the dried stalks are burned, the flame releasing the life
the earth. The ashes are spread upon the ground.
The Bridie Dolls of Glastonbury
In the evening a Bridie Doll is made from the last sheaves of corn harvested
in the previous summer, which have hung by the hearth through the autumn.
The Doll is made in the image of Brigit. Like the Corn Doll of Lammas She
with love and good wishes for the coming year. Through the night the Bridle
Doll is laid in a manger next to the fecundating flame.
On the following day, the Maiden Bridie Doll is taken with Her Mother and
Grandmother Dolls from previous years to the Sacred Well to receive Brigit's
Healing aspect is celebrated through Poetry spoken beside the Sacred Spring.
Unlike the Lammas Corn Doll, who returns Her life force and seeds back into
the earth each year, the Bridie Dolls symbolise the nature of the Triple
as She moves from Maiden to Mother to Grandmother.
new Bridle Doll is made each Imbolc, who then becomes part of the larger
group of Mother and Grandmother Bridle Dolls. She brings knowledge of the
future to them and learns from them their ancient wisdom. She represents
the circle of the Ancestors who we will one day all join.
Isle of Avalon pregnant with life, possibility and change. Photo by Simant Bostock.
AS BIRTH GODDESS
Glastonbury is a small eccentric country town where
many people come to live an internalised womb-like life for a time.
It may be nine or eighteen months
or more, before they are reborn, sometimes spewed out from the body of
the Great Mother. As the Goddess in the landscape is ever-pregnant
Birth, this process is repeated in the many different areas of life for
those who live here. Visitors too are catalysed into new ways of living
touch of Her Life-Giving Body.
The Birth Goddess is ever-pregnant and like Her, Glastonbury is a place
of gestation, where new ideas, feelings and ways of being are glimpsed
and physical expression. It is here that dreams are nurtured and brought
to birth, sometimes with great ease and at others with great difficulty,
just like physical
WATERS OF GLASTONBURY
Springs, wells and flowing water have long been associated with the
Goddess as Water of Life. A woman's pregnant womb is filled with water
are considered to be the way into the underground Womb of the Goddess.
Water is often a metaphor for love held too tightly in the hand it
flows away. Water, like love, is essential for fertility and creativity,
which the psychic world as well as the physical world becomes a desert.
shrines are nearly always found near to wells, springs, lakes or the
sea. In Christian times churches, hermitages and anchorages, especially
to women saints, were to be found near to a sacred well or spring.
ancient Triple Goddess with baskets of fruit and rising snakes of inspiration,
found near a spring at Cirencester.
The Lady of the Lake was revered in Avalon in Arthurian times, but was
worshipped here as the Goddess in much earlier days when Glastonbury
by tidal lakes. A large lake village has been found near Glastonbury
dating from 300BCE,
with the earliest wooden trackway in the British Isles, dating from 3,500BCE.
impression of the Lake Village near Glastonbury where our Ancestors lived
during the summer months. Here the Lady of the Lake protected them.
In winter they moved
onto Avalon's isle and up into the caves and woods on the Mendip Hills.
Within Glastonbury Tor itself is a huge volume of water, rising at great
pressure from beneath the earth. On the northeastern side of the Tor
is a Water Board
manhole cover where the force of water can be heard roaring under the
earth. The breast of the Mother is full of the White Milk of Life.
In Glastonbury there are still many wells to be found, but sadly some
of them lie forgotten and in a state of disrepair. Chalice Well is the
is truly honoured on the island. Here the healing properties of water
and the peaceful atmosphere of the surrounding gardens are recognised.
The White Spring which flows from beneath the Tor is once more being
cared for and is dressed with flowers and candles at the eight fire festivals.
Spring flows from beneath the Tor and has a high limestone content. It
is probably from this Chalk Well that the name of Chilkwell Street comes.
water can be collected from inside the converted Wellhouse or from a
spout outside. Likewise the red Chalice Well water can be freely collected
on the opposite
side of Wellhouse Lane as well as from within the gardens, when open.
These are the red and white waters of Annwn. Cerridwen, the Keltic Crone
translated as White Water Goddess.
The Holy Well on the Old Wells Road has become a fishpond. Paradise Well,
which is near to Gog and Magog, two ancient Druid oaks remaining from
a grove which
once led up to the Tor, sits in the middle of a field covered in brambles
with crumbling brickwork. St Edmund's Well also crumbles in an orchard
growing up around its edges. The site of St Bride's Well is marked by
a beautifully carved stone beside the River Brue near to Bride's Mound.
is a lovely well at the rear of the Tribunal in the High Street. The
Tribunal is a fifteenth century building which was once the Glastonbury
It now houses the Tourist Information office and the Lake Village Museum,
where there is a photograph of two nuns who lived here in the earlier
part of this
century holy women living by a well.
St Joseph's Well in Glastonbury Abbey can be found beneath the Mary Chapel.
It was neglected for years and has recently been covered over, so the
now be touched or drunk. This Well is the earliest structure on the Abbey
site and is probably the reason why the First Church was built here.
Mary's holy waters
should be available to honour.
It is time for the honouring, opening up and caring for the sacred Wells
and Springs. It is important for our psyches and souls as well as our
bodies to honour the
Goddess of the Waters. It is important that we recognise and welcome
her fluid emotion and feeling once again as part of our life.