Glastonbury is like one big gay bar.
It’s a version of a normal thing where you are finally in the majority.
You walk down the high street, buying a used Sitchin book for £2 in one store, a replacement joss stick holder (which I love) in the next and five new oracle card decks in the last one.
These stores and their patrons are the norm here. You don’t have to sheepishly duck into them like you’re buying pornography on your lunch break.
No one dares smirk at your patronage. Richard Dawkins would probably burst into flames if he crossed the town limits.
The people drinking Lady of the Lake ale at the next table across from you in a 400 year old, extremely haunted, pub are discussing broadswords instead of Home Counties property prices or Boris Johnson.
It’s… relaxing. Old clothes that fit. The smell of your own pillow after a trip abroad.
And whilst there are other wonderful, weirdo towns; Roswell, Rennes-le-Château, Byron Bay; this one is so soaked in so much Big Myth that it’s like trying to move through treacle. I’ve not been to Jerusalem but it would not surprise me to discover the feeling is similar. (Much, much, warmer but similar nonetheless.)
The sensation of being surrounded by that Big Myth is invigorating. It’s not the history of the place, it’s something else. In fact, comparatively little actual history happened here… comparable to London, anyway.
It’s the accumulation of Christian, pre-Christian, post-Christian-pagan, New Age and national mythologies all layered around one potent, mysterious, hill. There is a king sleeping half an inch from your face in a realm so close you can almost hear the priestesses chanting.
My relationship to what we know as the Arthurian mythology has been complicated. From as early as I could remember, I found the images extremely resonant… I could dream Camelot in primary school. (Gaaaaay!) Then there was a brief dalliance looking into the historical Arthur… a futile exercise. May as well look for the historical raindrop. Then there was a large gap.
After that, like most of you, I’m sure, there was the inevitable interweaving with early neopagan perspectives, borne largely from popular 1970s fiction that hasn’t exactly aged well. It was during those days that I landed on my default tarot deck, The Arthurian Tarot. These are the cards I use more than any other. Which means these are the symbols my unconscious and I have agreed to use as our shared language.
So walking up the Tor is Potent. I am walking around in my own head. In a very Faery sense, this is where the tarot trumps, an ancient goddess tradition, the stories of a holy island, the slumber of a divine king, the whispered prayers to an archangel and the very origin of a sense of Englishness all coalesce. The Tor really does seem to be the female counterpart to Iona’s male.
On a bitingly cold, allegedly-Spring morning, the place is remarkable. My intention was to use the time I had the place to myself for some kind of meditational alignment but the day before, the first day of my holiday (of course), I came down with a cold.
It was pretty bad, too. The morning we arrived in Glastonbury I had to nap in the hotel bed for about ninety minutes in the midafternoon and I radiated extreme, sickly heat like a demon monk in the snows of Tibet. There are sedatives and antibiotics in my toiletries bag because I always travel with them. If I hadn’t improved by the next day, I would neck great fistfulls of them. I was too sick to drive that morning.
I was definitely too sick to walk up a large, steep hill in subzero high winds in the very early morning. Once or twice I genuinely thought I was going to collapse and not make it to the top. So let’s just say the comms lines were well and truly down. There would be no Tor work for Gordon. I would just look around and try and piece together a deeper experience in retrospect.
And then I had my own little Glastonbury miracle.
Emerging onto the top of the tor, many liquids streaming from various face-based places, coughing and shaking, I figure I should probably have a sit down and spy the old stone seats inside the tower. As I step across the threshold a whirlwind of even-colder air assaults me. Picture the scene in Back to the Future II where Marty’s jacket dries itself. But with much more ice.
This isn’t the miracle. St Michael’s Tower has no roof. It’s a vertical wind tunnel, effectively. However, such an experience should probably have literally knocked me down. And yet, the sensation in my mind was quite the opposite. The message was this is your healing.
I offer up some silent praise and gratitude. I walk around for a bit. I watch the sun slowly coat the Somerset countryside as if this were Discworld.
And then I head back down. Walking down the hill, I know I have been restored. By the time I get to the car, I’m ready to take the wheel. By the time we get to Wales, I’m feeling pretty damn good. So good, in fact, that I’m confident enough to celebrate with a flag-waving selfie.
Check it out:
I really can’t stress enough how, mere hours before, I looked like somebody had raped Death to death. Now I’m
queen king of the castle!
So yeah. Go walking around inside your tarot cards. You never know what might happen.