In early September 2012, Stephanie announced that she would be doing another retreat to Glastonbury, England. This one would be called Awakening the Heart. A few images of lush gardens, some talk of mists, Avalon, King Arthur, and I decided to join. This, I figured would be the perfect treat after emerging from writing comprehensive exams, and likely another rough go of getting undergrads interested in writing.
I arrived a day early, and met Farzana on the train in coach A; we didn’t book together, nor had we even had a chance to chat since late November, but there we were tossing around our heavy bags gingerly and eager to get Castle Cary. Other new friends arrived early too, and we roamed the gardens, then headed to dinner at Hundred Monkeys, where they offered 5 kinds of local cider and gf soda bread made fresh (a total dream!) and I had my last bit of meat until the end of the retreat.
As more new friends arrived, I walked around downtown and check out the shops, then laid on the warm grass in the garden. Glastonbury is a vibrant, warm place. It seems that nearly everyone is a healer, among other things. There was even a small shop that had handmade and woven monochromatic cashmere and bamboo clothes that were dyed intensely. The idea is that you buy items according to the principles of colour therapy. The designer/ colour therapist/store owner is always on hand to help.
Back at the garden, I lay on the grass for a bit, enjoying the sun heat me over the four layers of clothing I was wearing. Not too far from me a mother had her shirt open, as her nude toddler ambled through the grass nude. The Glastonbury babies seem to be of hardier stock than I.
That night we had our first group meal, and enjoyed our first few servings of the allergen free food that was prepared by our very cautious and caring caterer from Rainbows End.
Much laughter, more time in the garden, and some quiet time. We took our first field trip up the Glastonbury Tor. The Tor offers an amazing view of the lands believed to be Avalon.
Near the chalice well is an underground spring that has only recently been reopened. The spring is cared for by a small group of volunteers. The White Spring flows with water rich in calcium from deep under the Tor ( the red spring is sourced in the same place, strangely). The white spring is considered to be a sacred place: it is believed to be the home of the fairy king, and it holds three sacred alters ( the fairy king, the lady of Avalon and … I can’t recall who else). Photography is strictly forbidden, though the candlelit underground room wouldn’t have made a good photo op. the spring is channeled into a tall triangular pool, and a large low circular pool. The water is cold, as you can imagine, but believed to have vital healing properties. The room too was cold, i could see our breath as we cheered each other on and sang mantras. Some of us chose to plunge full body into the water, and others dipped their toes in. I plunged right in, and watched as the cold water evaporated off my body. I was later told that I was beaming with joy. I just recall being so exhilarated, and happy to help other climb up onto the big rocks.
During a visit in town I bought myself a little treat. As you may know, I love sewing, or well… I love fabric! I love liberty of London, and I love William Morris inspired things. So, when I found a navy Barbour coat lined with a William Morris print, I couldn’t resist.
That afternoon, we went to the Goddess TempleGlastonbury Goddess Temple. A wise, radiant woman named Katie lead us through a ceremony and talked to us about the reclamation of women’s spirituality. Practices associated with witchcraft were outlawed until about 1960(!!!) in the UK. Katie explained how while typically we associate the woman as either virgin, mother or crone, they were doing work to restore the figure of the maiden or lover. The woman as lover allows for the expression of free sexuality and representation of woman as independent, young, and beautiful. She also explained the myths around the Lady of Avalon, Brigid Ann (Britannia), and Rhiannon.
A day of sites:the stone circle of Avebury, the Alton Barnes White Horse, and private access to Stonehenge! Each more amazing than the next! The bus drive home was so much fun. Linda asked Lisa to sing us a song, which got the whole bus singing.
As a final farewell to Glastonbury, Kia, Farzana and I got up early and climbed to the top of the Tor at 6am! We had hoped to see the mists– the mists that inspired the stories of Avalon, but alas, the mists had cleared. The view was still amazing, and we had a quiet moment of meditation.
That night, Farzana and I went in search of a skittle alley: a wooden set of pins and a ball, like bowling but wooden. The alley was closed, so we went back to the cottage and chatted with Stephanie and Virma.