Saturday, August 27, 2016

England, 2016, Part 10: Breakfast Rambles around Glastonbury

After the madcap CIRCUS OF TRANSPORTATION of driving here yesterday, it was time to be transported yet again, but on a much more subtle level.

Or maybe, not so subtle.

If I had learned anything in my previous trip here 20 years ago, it is that Glastonbury is always surprising.

Even with all of the manic action of yesterday I was up early, silently giggling at the intensely overwrought room we were in. The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the dark, laughing form of Herne staring down at me from the top of the headboard. Subtle.

I dressed in our private bathroom which was across the hallway from our room. No, that previous sentence did not make sense. Welcome to town.

It was 7am and I had two hours to kill until the second B of our B+B was served.
People were shorter a long time ago.
Also, really hard to clean this mirror!
Time to do a wonderful errand. I dressed and slipped out of the Covenstead, passing the nighttime ghosts on their way out and the daytime spookies on their way in.


The center of town is a 4 block square. Our place was in the middle Magdelene street, which comprises the left side of the square. I turned left and in one block turned right onto High Street, the top of the square. At this time of the morning my companions were garbage collectors (Dustmen), bakery truck (Lorry) drivers, and vacuously eyed revelers, now completing their walk of shame (Mosey of Shame).

Chalice Hill, from the town side. Chilkwell Street at the end.
At the end of High Street I turned right onto Chilkwell street, the right side of the square. I followed this down, my hand trailing on the high, imposing wall of the Abbey Grounds, which takes up the whole center of the town square. Message from the Church: KEEP OUT (In Jesus’ name.) 
The public face of the Abbey opens onto Magdalene Street. The church turns its back, literally and figuratively on the geologic anomalies that provide this wacky town with its wack. At the bottom right of the square is Chalice Hill, source of the White Spring, and across Wellhouse Lane, is the ascension point of Glastonbury Tor, source of the Red Spring.

Typical English roadsign, simultaneously
Haphazard AND over done.
I went there, like I’ve been needing to do for 20 years, since I experienced this phenomenon the first time. Standing alone in the middle of the barely one land road, surrounded by the vaporesence of countless pilgrims over the course of countless years, at the confluence that makes irrelevant such terms as ‘course’, ‘countless’ and ‘years’. 

Standing on the common ground between the White Spring and the Red Spring. As the Athame (Tor) is to the male, so is the Chalice (Well) to the female. Ah, but we are learning, boys and girls, that there is a whole spectrum between the boys and the girls, and really there is nothing between the one of us and the other of us at all. 

We’re all Spirit, inhabiting the sacred space somewhere between Her and Him. And thats right where I was, listening to the twin rushes of holy water, as the White and the Red happily played together on their way down to the river Brue.

On my left was the unmarked spigot from the Chalice Well grounds, a subtle nod to the sanctity of this fluid. You can buy bottles of this stuff inside (3 pounds Sterling per ounce, comes in a tiny steel flask), or you can just wheel a pony keg around to the side and fill ‘er up for free.

But I had to fly home, so I just had 6 plastic bottles with me, each one allowable in my luggage (just not all in one place, as I was to find out later). I filled the bottles as the well water filled my heart. 
Wellhouse lane. Pic from Google Maps.

Done, I drank my fill, and washed my face and hands in Her mighty redness. YESsssss.

Sated, I turned to the other side of the alley to see what the White Spring had to show me. And there, draped casually on the outside of this former-Municipal-Reservoir-and-now-Pilgrimmage-Place, next to the prayer flags, rosaries and other fervent offerings, was a pair of wrinkled blue underwear. 

Unretouched, or even touched. Ewww.


8am, Time to head back and see if Admiral Karen was up yet. As I walked along the bottom of the square, on a road named Coursing Batch (Really. Check Google maps!), I texted her to let her know that I was on my way. She texted back that she was just leaving to take a walk herself.

Well, that was extraordinary. (Welcome to town!)

I told her where I was and headed back towards the Covenstead. But apparently she took the High Street way like I had earlier, so we were both rotating deosil on opposite sides of the town. The Wheel Turns….

Suitable for Henry VII, or William Randolph Hearst
Back in Herne’s Hideaway I carefully stowed my precious well water, tidied up the room and waited for my bride to return. 

At 8:40 she texted that she seemed to be climbing the Tor. Oh, really? I pointed out that breakfast was starting in 20 minutes. She dreamily replied that she thought she was about halfway up now. Oooookay…….!

I entered the magnificent dining room of the Covenstead a few minutes earlier, met my fellow witches, saved a seat for Karen, and watched my phone.

8:54am: I’m at the top but my phone won’t take a picture!

Also unretouched. The road next to the joining of
the Sacred Female and Male springs is called
COURSING BATCH. Now with a slight hint of
cinnamon! (The dotted line is the main way up to
the Tor. Pic from Google Maps.)
My breakfast companions were two Musicians, who had just been handfasted by our hostess the day before - on the Tor. Also, the Re-enactors, who joust at Ren Faires, and a small, quiet woman from Switzerland who was here for the Goddess Festival in town. 

I hadn’t noticed that, because pretty much every friggin’ day here is a Goddess Festival, as it has been for about 10,000 years now. 

The Musician couple, the jousting couple and I got on wonderfully and for some reason they thought it was hilarious that I worked in a place that sold Spas. “Wot? ‘Ang on, Mate: You’re from California and you sell Hot Tubs?! Bwa—ha-ha-ha! Bloody brilliant!”

9:20am: I’m at the Chalice Well, but it open at ten.

Luckily Adele was very casual about breakfast and we were still sipping tea and orange juice. 

9:28am: Don’t wait for me. I think I’m lost.
9:39am. I don’t know where I am. Be there soon!
Which may be the most Glastonbury text of all time.

She arrived at 9:40am, precisely when the platters of yumminess were being brought out by our hostess. Well done, Admiral! You seem to have caught the wave of this zany town quite nicely. 

Onward! To THE ABBEY!

Angus McMahan


  1. I need to get back to Glastonbury - last time I think was 2008. I climbed the Tor as well, and my camera didn't work either - and oddly I didn't show up in any of the pictures the folks I was with (even though we took some together).

  2. we are hoping to get to europe and in planning i keep coming back to these pieces

    1. I can honestly say that there is no exaggeration in this part of the story. Glastonbury needs no additions from me.