Glastonbury, Hippies and the Subject of Freedom; my Hippie Kushi trip to spiritual Somerset.
October 1, 2020
THE GODDESS 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 with eyes to see.
For some people the whole Island is Her spread and Birth-giving body.
Somerset; the Land of the Summer People.
After a difficult year for every single one of us, I decided I needed a ‘bridge’ break; a break of rebirth before a new period of my life begins. I felt I wanted to connect with the Earth and so a camping trip made the most sense, even though it was late in the year and the weather might not behave.
I went for it anyway and decided after putting some feelers out on Facebook, that Glastonbury was the place to go; so of I went on a National Express coach from London Heathrow. The trip only took 3 and a half hours and before I knew it I was there.
I was first aware of the Goddess before my trip to Glastonbury. She had come up as a topic several times at the Whirly Fayre last year (the fayre is also held in Somerset).
When you reach this wonderful spiritual hippie town, you see shops, museums and temples everywhere celebrating and worshipping this deity. So, before I tell you about my own experience and the adventures I had in this beautiful part of Somerset, here’s a little bit more of an overview of who and what the Goddess of the Tor is.
Interview by: Elliot Frisby
Kathy, being the expert that you are, can you explain who or what the Goddess is?
She is the feminine face of the divine. She is the source of all that is, She is the land, She is the earth, She is the sky, She is the heavens.
How long has the idea of the Goddess been around?
Goddess expert, Kathy Jones
About 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, the Goddess was honoured throughout the British Isles, and Europe, and most places in the world.
Wherever you find Neolithic remains (standing stones, stone circles, sacred lands), these were all principally dedicated to an ancient Goddess. So, the Goddess was known worldwide a long time ago.
It was only as patriarchal cultures came into the world, and removed the reverence for the earth and the Goddess, that we lost touch with who She is.
How does the Goddess relate to Glastonbury in particular?
The way we find the Goddess in Glastonbury is through the landscape itself, through the shapes of the hills and valleys.
Glastonbury is a town situated on a small group of hills, composed of Glastonbury Tor, the Chalice Hill, Wearyall Hill, Windmill Hill, and Stone Down.
These hills rise out of the flat lands surrounding Glastonbury, and when you look at the shape of them, you can see different outlines from the contours of the hills.
One of the forms that we see is the shape of a giant woman lying on her back on the land. She is the mother Goddess in the landscape.
Is She only found in Glastonbury, or is She elsewhere?
The Goddess is everywhere. You can see beautiful landscapes anywhere, but some places are more beautiful than others. Glastonbury is one of the places She can be more obviously seen, as She’s there in the landscape.
Glastonbury itself has always been a centre of pilgrimage, and people of all faiths come here. So, although the Goddess is here in the land, people come because this is a spiritual centre.
There’s something very powerful here in the energy of the place itself that draws people.
Would you put the feeling you get when you’re in Glastonbury down to the Goddess’ presence?
A view of the landscape from Glastonbury Tor
I think so, because She’s a very powerful presence. Other people would say they come for other reasons.
When I first came here nearly 30 years ago, there was no mention of the Goddess at all.
All the stories about Glastonbury were about male characters. It was a very male tradition here. The awareness of the Goddess has only arisen in the last 20 years or so.
More about the Goddess;
In Rome, the earth goddess was Terra Mater or Mother Earth. Tellus was either another name for Terra Mater or a goddess so assimilated with her that they are for all purposes the same. Tellus was one of the twelve Roman agricultural deities, and her abundance is represented by the cornucopia.
The Romans also worshipped Cybele, a goddess of earth and fertility, who they equated with Magna Mater, the Great Mother.
For the Greeks, Gaia was the personification of the Earth. She was not an Olympic deity but one of the primordial deities. She was the consort of Uranus, the sky. Among her children was Chronus, time, who overthrew his father with Gaia’s help. Others of her children, these by her son, were sea deities.
Maria Lionza is a Venezuelan goddess of nature, love, and peace. Her origins are in Christian, African, and indigenous culture.
The Tor Goddess
by Kathy Jones
Extracted from the online book
From a distance the most noticeable feature on the Isle of Avalon is the Tor as She rises out of the flat Summerlands. She sits like a Great Goddess, a huge bounteous female figure in the middle of a landscape bowl or Cauldron. To see Her is to love Her. To the north the Mendip Hills form the rim of the Cauldron while smaller hills lie to the south and east. Stretching out towards the west the land is below sea level.
Her Body is bounteous, fleshy, full of dips and folds. Her large belly, hips and thighs emphasise Her full sexual nature. She is the fecund Goddess of Love, Rhiannon, Aphrodite, Venus, the Morning and the Evening Star. She is Kundalini, rising Serpent Goddess of sexual energy and wisdom. She calls all to union, at-onement with Her. She is Goddess of the waxing Moon. Experienced by women during ovulation, She is full of desire, wisdom and creative potential.
There are many legends surrounding the Tor. It is one of the Hollow Hills where the Faerie Folk now live with their Queen, forced into exile when human beings forgot to acknowledge them. It was around such a Hollow hill at Beltane, that Pwyll, King of the Summerland adoringly followed the Goddess Rhiannon, as She rode on Her white horse. No matter how fast Pwyll rode, Rhiannon always remained the same distance away from him, until he said the right words – “Rhiannon, stop for me”. Rhiannon was then happy to stop for him. Their love for each other became legendary.
Rhiannon of the Birds is the Virgin (meaning complete within Herself) Goddess of sexual love, tied to no man, free to love whom She chooses.
Veiled in white She rides a white horse. She is the original powerful sexual image for all brides, now degraded in the patriarchy to symbolising a non-sexual virgin bride who loses her right to sexual freedom when she marries. She belongs to her husband. Rhiannon is also the archetype for Lady Godiva, the shameless woman who rides naked beneath a veil upon a white horse.
Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
Somewhere upon the slopes of the Tor lies the entrance to the Underworld of Annwn and the Cauldron of the Dark Goddess. It may be near Her heart or through Her Yoni. There are tales of subterranean tunnels and caves where strange apparitions lurk, of people who went into the Tor through the hidden entrances, only to return years later old and white-haired or mad. On the north side of the Tor is a manhole cover, where the sound of continuously roaring water can be heard. Beneath this cover is a room belonging to the Water Authority, full of dials and wheels which control the water flow in the reservoir beneath the Tor. Seeing this room makes the idea of underground tunnels seem real.
It is not only the underground world of the Tor which holds a mystery. Upon the surface of the Tor there are seven levels of terracing, some easy to see and some lost in part by erosion. These are the present remains of a great three-dimensional maze based upon the same pattern as the ancient Kretan Labrynth of the Goddess. This pattern appears on coins from Krete, one of the major civilisations of the Goddess in the ancient world, on rocks at Tintagel and is found among the Hopi Indians as a symbol for Mother Earth.
So, with the Goddess watching over me, I pitched my tent at the Vale of Avalon Camping site just outside the centre of Glastonbury town. The weather was hot and sunny and I was ready for some new experiences.
After securing my stuff I set off for my first exploration of the town.
Glastonbury town centre is a lot smaller than I thought but full of spirituality and that lovely hippie vibe. The surrounding countryside all around envelops this pretty ancient place (more of a village than a town).
There are a few cafes and vegan restaurants and some lovely historic pubs; plenty of places for me to meet the locals.
Dotted around the town there are lots of little archways and hidden alleyways that lead to secret squares of shops and cafes and even some tiny museums.
The shops sell all things spiritual, such as crystals and stones, all things Goddess or hippie clothing and accessories. I decided the next day I would properly look around all these places but today I just wanted to see what was here.
I noticed that all along the streets hippie types were sitting on the ground playing music; I loved that. But there seemed to be a dark underbelly to this, some of the hippies looked like they were on hardcore drugs; I could see needles beside them and I was often harassed for money.
It feels sad that some people choose to move here, living in traveller camps or on the street and it starts to fall apart and stops being the hippie paradise they were seeking. The locals call these kind of hippies ‘bush sleepers’. I am not one to judge, people are free to live their lives as they please but I don’t think anyone would choose to be addicted to heroin.
I felt hungry after my journey and decided to go for dinner in a local pub called the Pilgrim. It is beautiful inside, medieval looking with columns and old paintings as well as some wonderful old signs about witches.
The staff in here were really friendly despite having to adhere to social distancing rules. I loved this pub very much and returned several times, always meeting new people to talk to. On this first visit I got talking to some older hippies, a couple of ladies and we spoke about Glastonbury and my experience so far. They also expressed concern about the amount of hippie junkies living on the streets.
They told me I should visit the King Arthur pub for a more positive hippie experience. I had already heard about this place because my friend Mary Sutcliffe (of Whirl-y-Gig fame) had also suggested it as a cool hippie pub with live music; so off I went.
I loved the King Arthur pub; although due to Covid restrictions there was no official live music. But that did not matter because in the huge garden space at the back were hundreds of hippies sitting round a fire pit playing guitars, bongos and didgeridoos. What an atmosphere; beautiful.
Feeling exhausted by my first day in this interesting town, I made my way back by torchlight to my camping site and my tent. Unfortunately, I did not plan well, I only had a camping mat between me and the cold earth and that night was bitter cold. I did not have any warm covers for my sleeping bag either (lesson learnt).
I still felt full of vigor the next morning and after a breakfast of baked beans, cooked on my stove; I headed off for a country walk up that famous Tor. The weather was beautiful and I was ready to work on walking off my lockdown belly.
Glastonbury Tor is a hill near Glastonbury in the English county of Somerset, topped by the roofless St Michael’s Tower, a Grade I listed building. The entire site is managed by the National Trust and has been designated a scheduled monument. The Tor is mentioned in Celtic mythology, particularly in myths linked to King Arthur, and has several other enduring mythological and spiritual associations.
The conical hill of clay and Blue Lias rises from the Somerset Levels. It was formed when surrounding softer deposits were eroded, leaving the hard cap of sandstone exposed. The slopes of the hill are terraced, but the method by which they were formed remains unexplained.
Archaeological excavations during the 20th century sought to clarify the background of the monument and church, but some aspects of their history remain unexplained. Artefacts from human visitation have been found, dating from the Iron Age to Roman eras. Several buildings were constructed on the summit during the Saxon and early medieval periods; they have been interpreted as an early church and monks’ hermitage. The head of a wheel cross dating from the 10th or 11th century has been recovered. The original wooden church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1275, and the stone Church of St Michael built on the site in the 14th century. Its tower remains, although it has been restored and partially rebuilt several times.
Facts sourced from Wikipedia.
I am not going to lie, it nearly killed me walking up there and its a lot further than I thought. On the way up I met some crazy hippie types. Two women in a Land-rover wanted to take me home to get to know me; I have not had an invitation like that for years.
Briefly I had a glimpse of the amazing views on top of the mound but before I knew it the weather started getting misty and grey. There really is something mystical about this place and I am glad I made it to the top of the Tor.
On the way down I noticed some strange markings on the walls, the trees and some benches; just like this one above. I know they are some kind of Celtic mystical symbol but do not know what they represent.
I also came across a beautiful tree spirit on the way down. The tree had a face of leaves and his long arms spread forward to hold me in his embrace.
Or maybe you don’t believe in all that woodland folk stuff; I do, so pooh to the non believers. The wood spirits are always with us.
After lunch back at the Pilgrim Inn, I decided to look around the shops in more detail.
There are so many wonderful shops selling all kinds of spiritual items such as crystals and stones, hippie clothing and bags, jewellery, books, statues and incense sticks.
You can also do yoga, meditation, all kinds of classes and healing treatments.
Sadly that’s when the rain and cold started, so I took refuge back at the Pilgrim.
The government had just announced the new lockdown rules and so the subject of conversation with the older hippies in the pub was all about our personal freedoms (or at least the taking away of such freedoms); especially for us free spirits who love to travel, to hug our friends and get out and socialise. This subject came up a lot in the next few days as the restrictions took effect, so I will discuss this issue at the end of this post.
Then I received an unexpected phone call from an old uni friend, Neil who had not long ago moved to a town in Somerset not far from Glastonbury. We met up at the pub and enjoyed a few beers; putting the world to rights. This lovely evening in the rain ended at a fish and chips restaurant, where we enjoyed an excellent meal.
The night that followed was hell. The rain poured down all night, it was freezing cold and windy. Everything I owned was soaked. So, I made the decision to move to a hotel in Wookey Hole, as I had planned to explore the caves there anyway. I managed to get a great off-season deal and so packed up my tent and left the swamp that used to be my campsite.
A short bus ride from Glastonbury is the tiny city of Wells. Wookey Hole, my destination was not far from there.
This is when the first Covid rule effected my trip. I was not allowed to check in to the hotel until 5pm because the room had to be sanitised. So I asked if I could leave my luggage at the hotel while I explored Wells in the rain. They said no because of the Covid situation. I had to walk around the city for 5 hours with my bags.
That said, Wells turned out to be a lovely historic place.
I was finally allowed to check into my cosy hotel room and booked my cave trip for the next day from the comfort of my warm bed.
Later the rain finally stopped and I explored Wookey village. Its very pretty and I enjoyed a pub meal to end the day.
Wookey Hole and its Beautiful Gardens
Due to the new lockdown restrictions, things got very strange in the hotel. We had to wear masks all the time in the hotel and there was security personnel, like prison guards, in the corridors making sure we complied.
When it came to breakfast, we were rounded up, made to stay in a line and led through to a one way feeding system; it was like being led off to the labour camps; utterly ridiculous and so depressing. They also closed the vending machine that had drinking water and there are no shops in Wookey, so we had no where to get drinking water unless we paid for a taxi into Wells; utter madness.
The Wookey Hole Hotel’s breakfast room was very hippie Kushi though (pictured above).
I enjoyed the caves, they have great natural beauty but half of it was closed due to Covid as well. But the gardens are also very beautiful and peaceful.
Back to Glastonbury
I decided to head back to Glastonbury for my last day and enjoyed a last look around the shops.
After a couple of hours I heard a shout out. I had met some older hippies at the campsite earlier in the week and they called over from the door of the Pilgrim pub for me to join them for a last pint: it was lovely talking to them and getting to know them better.
Then Neil called again and I ended up having a couple more pints with him followed by a meal at an Indian restaurant.
Later, before catching my bus back to Wookey, I decided to have a coffee in the nice cafe I had discovered previously in the week.
Covid Vs Freedom
While I was sitting enjoying a cappuccino, an older hippie chap with a white beard came and asked if he could join me. I said ‘of course’ and we briefly chatted about my experience of Glastonbury before moving on once again to the subject of Covid restrictions and personal freedom.
This gentleman was quite outspoken and went into a bit of a rant but I took stock of what he said.
He believed that people need to be free and putting restrictions on normal life was more damaging to our mental state than catching the virus. Most new cases are milder than the last peak and he felt it was an excuse for the government to control us more.
Now I do not go along completely with the last part but what he said next was interesting.
He said that the virus was a natural thing and it should be able to run its course. Some people will die, some will be very unwell but most of us will recover, get immunity and the virus will diminish. He believed that most of the people who were going to get the worst of Covid already have and now things are easing off. We should let it run its course (herd immunity) like they have in Sweden and stop locking us up and taking away our freedoms.
I have taken a lot from his argument as well as that of others I have spoken to here; I am leaving Glastonbury with a lot of food for thought.
I hope we get a vaccine that works but sooner or later people are going to take back their freedom.
My Thoughts on Glastonbury
My first experience of Glastonbury was very positive. The people there share my mindset and seem very free and creative. Glastonbury has this dark underbelly of hippies on hardcore drugs but it also has a beautiful, magical spiritual side. Somerset’s countryside is stunning to explore but camping in late September is not for the faint hearted; at my age I preferred my cosy hotel bed; I just hate the cold.
The Goddess was with me and I really felt I had had the ‘bridge’ break I wanted and so now a new chapter in my life begins. I cannot recommend Glastonbury enough. Its a beautiful spiritual place.
Poem by David Cadywold
Goddess observes from Glastonbury Tor,
People wander around Avalonian Lore,
The veil that hides betwixt the worlds,
Like an invisible mist that constantly swirls.
Those that have a mind to look,
Can see without the aid of a book,
Living life without being wound,
Spiritually free, not physically bound.
Tentatively sensing the ether around,
Seeing and hearing spirits abound,
Ancient ghosts that walk the streets,
Striking up conversations with people they meet.
Please do not joke or pull apart,
The spiritual power at Britain’s heart,
This is our faith, our hope, our power,
Let it stand tall and proud like a tower.
So far I think, we’ve all observed,
The spiritual meaning of the Glastonbury world,
Dismissing the legend just out of hand,
Is denying the magic of our fair land.