Friday, December 14, 2018

Glastonbury Abbey

Another tourist moment, this time the ruined Abbey of Glastonbury.  At one time this great Gothic Cathedral was the primary pilgrimage point of England, a powerful and magnificent church with a population of many monks and pilgrims.  Supposedly the bodies of King Arthur and his Queen Guinevere were buried here, within the church.  Henry the 8th (who, I have to say, looked a lot like Donald Trump)  put an end to that when he defied the Catholic Church, and the Abbott of Glastonbury unfortunately then defied him.  The Abbott's defiance resulted in his death by hanging in the Tor, and the Cathedral was gradually torn down, many of the stones, carvings, and beautiful stained glass windows dismantled and sold off.  

Even so, the great Abbey is still a magnificent and imposing sight, beautiful, peaceful, and just a bit full of the presence of those worshippers who travelled so far and so long ago.

Reconstruction of monk's kitchen

Reconstruction of monk's kitchen

Vegetable garden

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Salisbury Cathedral

This is pure tourist joy, this post.  No reflections, no commentary, just some photos from my trip to Salisbury and the magnificent Gothic  Salisbury Cathedral.  Unfortunately we were not able to take photos of the interior as a service was going on, but I was able to take photos of a Nave, the courtyard, and an area that must at one time have been the Cloister where the priests or monks lived.  And I had a chance to hear the choir sing inside - the acoustics are amazing.

I am as ever astounded by the rising ceilings of these Cathedrals. which seem to me to resemble, and be modelled upon, trees rising up.  I actually find a great deal that is "vegetative" about the shapes, the interior shapes at least, of the Cathedral, if not the ascending towers of the exterior.  The ancient Cathedral of Salisbury is certainly an awesome work of art and accomplishment, once the towering and beautiful center of the city.

This is a contemporary statue of a saint that stands outside the Cathedral.  I do not know who she is....once there was a plaque, but it seems to be gone, that described the statue.  But she has great presence there.  

One of the Personae of Salisbury, hidden away in a corner.  An angel?  But there are no wings.  She holds vessel with perhaps water........perhaps she represents St. Brigid, who was always associated with wells.

I love the floor too, being an artist who has made tiles.  

The installation of some contemporary sculptures look quite odd in the Cloister courtyard, in contrast to such history.   

This is from a room that has a running Biblical story above each arch, carved in marble.  This one is "Adam and Eve".  Under each arch is also a face, which I assume was meant to represent local people who were involved somehow with the construction of the Cathedral.  Some of them are quite funny, in contrast with the seriousness of the stories they underlie.  This one especially made me laugh.........he looks like he's rather cynical about the whole "Adam and Eve" thing.  Or maybe he's leering. 

 As awesome as these great Gothic Cathedrals are, they are not without their touches of humor too.

And there was a kind of bench with special embroidered cushions in one of the Naves, each dedicated to an Angel or to a Saint.  I found them beautiful, and wondered if they were kind of like "reserving a seat of honor" for these holy ones.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Sacred Springs of Glastonbury: The Chalice Well

the Chalice Well

Glastonbury is a place of very ancient pilgrimage indeed, long before the coming of Christianity and the great (now ruined thanks to Henry the 8th)  Cathedral of Glastonbury.  There is evidence it was a place of pilgrimage into prehistoric times, perhaps before the coming of the Romand to Great Britain.  It is Avalon,  the source of the Arthurian legends,  the tales of Merlin and the Lady of the Lake.  

Once the Tor was actually surrounded by a lake, and pilgrims visited the sacred springs associated with this highly empowered land, now called the "Red Spring" and the "White Spring" for healing.  The Chalice Well is still greatly revered by pilgrims (like myself) who come here from all over the world to visit the Wells and the Chalice Garden, to drink the water and take some home as a blessing.  The red color is iron oxide being deposited by the springs - the white spring deposits calcium, leaving a white tinge as it passes over.     

"There is an especially strong tradition of sacred wells in the Celtic nations; in Ireland alone, a survey carried out in the 1940's recorded as many as 3,000 of them.  These wells once were thought of as gateways to the Celtic Otherworld......................These springs and wells,  which originated in the Otherworld,  would once have been dedicated to the goddesses  of the land:  in Ireland, to the goddess Brigid, in the north of England, to Coventina."
........Sharon Blackie, "If Women Rose Rooted" (2016)

As when I visited 7 years ago, I made my prayers, and gave my gratitude, to the Lady of Avalon, to the Ancestors, and to the great Numina of this place.  The Garden is lovely, as poignant for me in the winter of 2018  as it was in the summer of 2011.  Here one is infused with the deep life-giving vitality of the land, the plants, and the Waters there, the life running beneath the stones, deeply rooted, the buds on the leafless trees full of dreaming vitality.  

I meditated for a while, then walked around a bit.  What popped into my mind was odd - the words "Covenant Garden".  What could "covenant garden" mean, and why had I thought of it?  Thought of the ancient name of the Goddess of the land, Coventina, from which the word itself may be derived (I should look that up).  I couldn't think of any other reference until much later, until I considered that the word Covenant, like "coven", "convening" etc.  refers to a gathering of people to reach an harmonious agreement, which can include an agreement that is holy or religious in some way.    Such as the famous "Ark of the Covenant", which was supposed to hold sacred writings and objects of veneration, as well as "God's sustanance for man" which was called Manna.   Manna was the food, variously described as different substances, that was provided to feed the people; it has also come to be used to mean a kind of numinous power.   According to Wikipedia:
The Ark of the Covenant (Hebrewאָרוֹן הַבְּרִיתModern: Arōn Ha'brētTiberian: ʾĀrôn Habbərîṯ), also known as the Ark of the Testimony, is a gold-covered wooden chest with lid cover described in the Book of Exodus as containing the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. According to various texts within the Hebrew Bible, it also contained Aaron's rod and a pot of manna.[1] Hebrews 9:4 describes: "The ark of the covenant [was] covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron's rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant."[2]
Asherah Tree Root Goddess II
"ASHARAH" Sculpture by David Hostetler
Interesting.  The Garden of the sacred wells is indeed full of holy things that represent "harmonious agreement" between all aspects of the Earth, including the two-legged beings that come there.  And "Manna" is the food provided by the Garden, by nature, and by Gaia.  A "rod that blooms".............could also be seen as the ancient Hebrew and Middle Eastern  Goddess Asherah, who was represented as a tree, and  often represented in the days of the old testament as a rod,  or "Asherah pole".  The practice of carrying "Asherah poles" was apparently fairly common in the early days of the Semite tribes, although the Patriarchs later eliminated this custom, and the Goddess, from the religion as the Semite deity became exclusively male.  

A Garden represents, truly, a "Covenant", a holy agreement, between all beings of the present, human, animal, plant, soil, air, rain, water.......

A happy and successful garden is a harmonious Ecosystem.  A garden survives and thrives through a network of interdependant and interconnected relationships.  In a healthy garden plants and trees interact with each other and communicate with each other through a vast underground weaving of roots and fungi which connect the members of the garden flora community, and contribute to the lives of the many fauna that participate in the community:  the bees and other pollinators, the worms and other insects that assist in the decay process.  And the birds that assist in distributing seed as well.  Not to mention the humans that may plant, sow, admire, and occasionally eat the stray apple or strawberry as well.

It could be said that a Garden is a "Covenant" achieved by many beings, a divine agreement.


Below is the Chalice, and the Heart, and what appears to be a Dragon flying as well, carved on a chair there.  

And here is my bit of Magic........... as I was getting ready to leave, I saw this tiny metallic green heart on the ground.  I was going to take it as a "Green Heart" Talisman, to remind me of my moment there in the "Covenant Garden" of the Chalice.  But then I thought, perhaps someone left it as a kind of offering, and it wasn't right for me to take it.  I put it back on the ground and took a picture.  I was amazed to see this light surrounding it in the photo!  So I took two more - they came out the same!  

I left feeling truly moved.  The Earth is Speaking to us, all the time.  

A Green Heart at the Chalice Well

Monday, December 3, 2018

Pilsbury: Circles, Syncronicities, Family

Here is a tale of Synchronicity, and Circles within in Circles  (as I also happened to be  incidentally hunting ley lines, Stone Circles, and Harvest Hills that represent the pregnant belly of the Great Earth Mother throughout Avebury and the  moors of the Peak District..........)


Where to begin?  Way back,  I think, to when I was just 18, and  I became pregnant.  The only option I felt was to give up my daughter for adoption, realizing that I was neither mature nor able enough to become a mother.   22 years later I was contacted, and we met, amazingly, some 30 miles away from where I was living for the summer as I worked at the New York Renaissance Faire.  She was graduating from College near there,  and it was my privilege to meet her as  well as her adoptive parents that year. 

Her mother  and I became friends over the years, although we both moved around and contact was not very often.  Our mutual daughter has been a difficult relationship  for both of us.  Although she seems to want to keep a loose connection with me,  contact is mostly very  limited, without emotional  intimacy allowed between us.   Over the years, especially since I am only the biological mother,  I have  withdrawn from attempting to keep up more than a very  superficial relationship,  and I have consoled my disappointment by knowing that she is successful in her career, has a good income, lots of friends,  and a bright. creative child she loves.  

Just before leaving  for this trip I received an email from her mother, who had seen that I was going to England on Facebook.   I learned that she had married an Englishman and moved to a small town in the middle of England, in what they call the Peak District.  She and her husband  invited me to visit her.   After  attending the Gatekeeper's  conference I found myself at the bus depot in Bath, where I had booked a hostel after seeing the Roman Bath there. 

In the bus depot I  watched a little tribe of pigeons peck away at my feet while I considered whether I shouldn't head north instead of staying in Bath as I had intended.  It would be good to see my friend, who I hadn't seen or much spoken to in almost 20 years.   I was also momentarily enchanted by the birds, because one of them  was pure white.  I thought "what is a white dove doing here?".........(well, I suppose it was a  pure white pigeon, but after all, pigeons are in the dove family! ) I wished I had something to offer it because it was so pretty, but alas, I had no crumbs on me.

The next morning I took a train toward Manchester, and met with them in their  village.  The Peak District, in central Great Britain, is  famous for it's beautiful landscapes and hiking trails, and in the summer  the English, who have a great passion for walking tours, head there.  We talked about many things, and I know that our re-connecting after all these years helped both of us to better understand our daughter, and to heal a great deal for both of us.  Circle.  Big Circle.  I parted with a friendship renewed, and gratitude. The timing could not have been more perfect.

Pilsbury Grange

So here come the synchronicities.................

While looking at a map of the area where my friend lived (which I had never visited) I noticed, quite close to their village, a "Pilsbury".  I thought that was interesting, since that is my family name (Pillsbury).  I knew absolutely nothing about my father's genealogy, but this piqued my interest, and before going to visit, I spent the evening on Google.  I learned that there were many Pillsburys besides the well-known bakers from Minnesota, and many of them had done great things - a famous inventor, a photographer, a philosopher and humanitarian, and many more.  The family was big and spanned the coasts - there was a Lake Pillsbury in New Hampshire, and a Lake Pillsbury in Northern California as well.  And they were all descendants (that includes me) of one man who emigrated quite early from England.

I stumbled on a document of births, deaths, and occasional obituaries collected by a Martha Pillsbury over 100 years ago, going back (as far as she could at the time) to one William Pillsbury, a young man who, under some kind of legal trouble or perhaps facing conscription during the reign of the tyrannical Charles the First,  left England for the New World in the 1600's, considerably before the American Revolution. He landed in Massachusetts, an indentured servant (as that was how one paid for passage then), and eventually settled in a very frontier like Newbury, Mass.  He and his children proliferated indeed, in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and continually west as well.  

That document, uploaded in it's entirety, was a lot to  plow through, but I couldn't stop reading it out of sheer interest.  William Pillsbury (people took names based upon their trade, where they lived, or the names of their fathers when it was decreed in an earlier period that residents have surnames.)  He was from the Peak District, and she mentions the River Dove.   It seems that the little hamlet of Pilsbury, not far from where my friend lives, is where every Pillsbury in the United States originated from.  The lovely valley that the Pilsbury hamlet is in is called Dovedale.

We drove to Pilsbury, of course.  There is a Pilsbury Castle, a historical site with plans to refurbish, although there isn't really much to see.   It was a Norman fortification, not really a "castle" so much as a mostly wooden fort with very simple dwellings surrounding it along the river.  It would have mostly been occupied by Norman soldiers  garrisoned in this outpost when the Normans were fighting the Saxons.  To get to Pilsbury one has to drive along some small, winding roads, which involve opening and closing 4 or 5 gates, which are erected to keep cattle and sheep from wandering into areas they should not go.   I also learned that there are ruins in the area that indicate their might have been a monastery, or simple monastic community, in Pilsbury in medieval times as well, hence, the term "grange", which meant a rural area associated with  or overseen by a church.

Finally we found ourselves at the last gate, and came  upon what was collectively called "Pilsbury Grange".  We  were just in time to meet the land agent for a family that lives in London and rents out Pilsbury Lodge to visitors who come for walking tours in the "Peaks", as well as  some excellent trout fishing  in the river. It is a lovely site, with a deeply peaceful feel to it.   One of three houses or manors that may have first been constructed in medieval times, and were renovated continuously to the present time, are occupied.  The land agent  kindly showed us around the large three story house that was unoccupied unless rented for holidays, or occupied by the family living in London.  I is a three storied impressive manor which features massive  ancient beams and a number of small, lovely  bedrooms.  I couldn't help but fantasize a group meeting there for a retreat, enjoying the river, the garden, the fireplaces and the apple orchard.
Interior of one of houses in Pilsbury

The following day we visited again, this time. coincidentally,  with a  friend of my friend (they do bell ringing together!) and her husband who lived in the other house next to the Lodge.  This ancient dwelling has been extensively renovated by this couple, who have lived there for some 20 years and truly love this peaceful, isolated rural site along the Dove.  When he heard me speak,  he told me that, hearing my American accent, he figured another Pillsbury had turned up!  Apparently he has had had a number of such visitors over the years, and he even provided a collection of articles and photos which other Pillsbury visitors provided him with in gratitude for his hospitality since 1989.  I was the latest to turn up!
Grate over well in Pilsbury Grange

I don't know what to say about all of's quite magical, blessed, Circular, and synchronistic, and I somehow feel that a deeper honoring and connection has happened that I will understand better in the future.  I do note, by the way, that many of my photos have strange white spots in them.............I am of a romantic nature, and like to think it is a "thumbprint" of the ancestors, saying "hello" as yet another of their fortunate, and grateful, descendants turns up.

ps:  I received an email from my friend in Darbyshire;  she has a friend living in her village, an American named Deborah from Newbury, Massachusetts and also Boston.  She was apparently so interested in my adventure that she looked up her own geneology tree, and learned that one of her ancestors had married a Mathias Pillsbury (her own name is not Pillsbury).  Pretty amazing!

Pilsbury Grange

View from house and apple tree towards valley and river in November

View from walled garden area

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Avebury: "How Do We Speak With the Earth"?

"Speak to the Earth and it shall teach thee"
.....Job 12:8

I didn't realize it before I set out, but I knew that I was going on a pilgrimage when I set foot in the airport for this trip, which  I booked without any real  planning, but a lot of intuitive and spontaneous desire, in summer.  The Metaphor here is the Circle, and the  Circle has no end.

I was googling around last summer when I learned of the Gatekeepers    Conference "Dreaming the Land" in Pewsey, U.K., in the cold month of November.  For  fun, I checked to see if there were any discount tickets to London during that off season time of the year, and indeed there were.  I'm not sure what possessed me, but the next thing I noticed was that I had my credit card out, and I was going to Great Britain again, after some 7 years. (The Isles of Bride, Bridget, Bree, the Roman Britannia...I wonder how many people know that Britan is linked to the name of the most ancient Celtic Goddess? ) 

I decided to  go to those special places I went to before,  and listen to the land, to any conversations that might occur, and any  synchronicities or insights as well as I entered into the  liminal zone of being a traveller .  I didn't realize until I found myself uncomfortably standing in a long customs line at Heathrow (you can do a lot of thinking, in a long customs line) that I was completing a few personal Circles as well as well as seeking them on ancient sites.  I was last here  for the Goddess Conference in 2011, and when I returned to the U.S.  I became caretaker and for my mother and my brother,  until they passed on in 2015.  Now I find that my life calls for a new direction, but I don't know what that really might be.  

But it came to me, as I waited at the gate for entry  to both the UK and my personal journey of  pilgrimage that I had arrived with a  Question I hoped would inform my future work:   "How do we speak with the Earth?  And how does the Earth speak to us?" What does such a question mean? How is it important for us as beings inhabiting Gaia?

"We are living IN the Earth.  Not ON the Earth, but IN the Earth.
  And what we do to the Earth we are doing to ourselves."

...... Rachel Rosenthal

From Customs at last I made my way  to Paddington Station in London, then to to Swindon by train, then to Avebury by bus, and wholly  exhausted I stepped from the bus to see,  perfectly aligned  across from the bus stop in the mist,  the great prehistoric structure of Silbury Hill.  Before  me rose the great  Belly of the Goddess, the Omphalos of an ancient world.  

And  ever since, I believe  answers began to come to my question, as well as loops within my many "Circles".

At my AIRBNB  my host, Liam, had a deep relationship with  Avebury, and he told me about the placement and  names of stones and sites,  as well as introducing me to his library, including a book called THE SILBURY TREASURE  by Michael  Dames.  Situated just south of Avebury, Silbury Hill is Europe's tallest prehistoric structure.  Dames argues that Silbury, like other "neolithic Harvest Hills" represents the pregnant belly of the Great Mother in one phase of Her universal life.  Dames' brilliant exploration of an ancient theology in which the land itself, all of it's rivers, waters, stones and invisible currents was the very  Deity a whole new meaning to the "Return of the Goddess" concept.  Gaia, the Great Mother, long before she became Demeter, or Mary, or..........more on this in another post.

When I walked out to the Avebury complex through the little village of Avebury  I found the high and sparkling energies I remembered so well, an intensification of a deep life force vitality I have come to recognize when i am in sacred places, places of numinosity and  telleric force.  There is no doubt in my mind (or body mind) that these prehistoric sites marked places of power, as well as serving to intensify or channel the  animating, life giving  Earth energies  present  through placement of the stones.  I believe that these prehistoric sacred landscapes also augmented the healing and consciousness changing properties through the  interaction  of the people themselves with the "spirit of the land".  John Steele called this "geomantic reciprocity" . 

I stood before a  megalith that is part of two stones called "the Cove", one wide, one tall and narrow.  I think these impressive stones mark  one of the "entrances" to the inner circle, marking one of the avenues or processional paths.  Originally there were three stones in alignment with each other at that point, but one of the three was pulled down and broken by villagers.  Many of the original stones of Avebury became building material for the village of Avebury.

"Many people believe that every sacred place has its spiritual as well as physical guardians, and a physical guardian can manifest in many ways, including people who don't even know that that is what they are."....Gary Biltcliffe

I met a man who was dowsing the area, and we struck up a conversation. So immediate and friendly was recognition between the two of us  that although we must have talked and walked around for over an hour, I never did get his name.  

He told me  he had many times dowsed at Avebury, and that there were  "male and female" polarities or lines connected to the site and even particular stones.  He spoke about the St. Micheal Line and the St. Mary line, ley lines that extend for many miles across the lands of Britain.  They intersect at certain points at  Avebury.  He also spoke about "dragon lines" that were different although often complimentary to the ley lines,  serpentine lines or currents  of (force?  energy?) that interact with different points within the empowered landscape.      I need to inquire more about this, but I think, again, about a life long (and cultural) fascination with the serpent, the dragon, and the continual weaving of this motif through mythology and art.  

And there I was, among the winding Dragons under my very feet, the great Stones before me.

A journey ahead, an adventure, and I was just at the beginning!