There is another very good reason to visit Glastonbury besides the food… (but if I could just take a moment, Holy Crap the food is good in Glastonbury)!
Glastonbury is also home to some very important spiritual monuments including (but not limited to) the Glastonbury Abbey, the Glastonbury Tor, the Holy Thorn, The Pilgrim’s Inn, The White Spring, and the Chalice Well, and during our stay we visited The Tor, The Spring, and The Well several times.
The morning of May 1st, the last day of our stay, is a great significance to many faiths. The festival of Beltain, the Gaelic first day of summer.
There were many celebrations throughout Glastonbury this Beltain, as there was the night before. Everywhere there were advertisements for gatherings, and parties, and dances around a maypole.
So, this morning I let the alarm wake me up at the crack of five, and out I went into the foggy English morning. Due to a late change in plans when we were planning this trip, our final night isn’t at Parsnips, but at an equally great B&B called No.51, so we’re slightly farther away from stuff than we used to be, but no matter.
L wanted to get an even earlier start and Z wanted to sleep in, so I went off by myself into the pea-soup morning and towards the Tor.
The streets were pretty quiet, and I think the fog was eating some of the morning rumble of the surrounding area, so all I could hear were the song birds and the occasional sheep as I walked through the town and on to the footpath and stairs up the side of the Tor.
I wanted to make the summit for sunrise, so I raced up the steep steps that ascend the 518 foot slope. I find myself thankful for sixteen years of punishing concrete stairs everyday at work, turns out it has conditioned me somewhat for this ascent.
The climb is peaceful, even though I’m rushing it, and as I approach, I hear voices, and bells, and drums, and laughter. I reach the top and find a group of giant, lively morris dancers entertaining the crowd. It was great fun, in front of St. Michaels’s tower, clapping in rhythm, and cheering them on.
Almost everybody was having a good time.
Looking around the hill, all you could see was fog, and it felt like the Tor was an island in the clouds.
Then the morning temperature inversion occurred, signifying that the Sun had risen, and the fog started to melt away. Like a curtain, it opened, and swept across the landscape, like the beginning of a play.
I descended the hill and passed by The White Spring for a drink and to fill my bottles with the sacred waters, and then proceeded into The Chalice Well gardens for their Beltain celebration, which I wanted to see, but didn’t feel right about participating in. Feeling like I was intruding, I sat up on a small embankment that looked into the field where everything was happening.
As the gathering went on, the crowd was asked to participate, and join hands with a neighbour and do a dance of three turns. An elderly woman gestured towards me, and soon I was spinning with her, as a tall man with an Irish accent took our picture.
I was drawn into the crowd, and felt welcome and included, as they brought out the maypole and a wreath for a fertility ritual, and then lit the Beltain fires as we all lined up to jump over the jumping fire.
Feeling content, I left the maypole dance for the young, and headed back to the B&B for breakfast. Another stop into to town for some glorious pasties at the Burn the Bread bakery, and a few stops for supplies, and we were off to the Castle Cary train station to catch the train to our next destination…. Cardiff.