Living in a sacred landscape, walking between the worlds in the veil of Avalon Glastonbury. Where the old gods roam the hills, and the sidhe dance beneath the moon...wander into the mists with me and let us see what we may find...
The Blood Well
I followed the flight of the heron through the willows, the wide blue sky above. Skirting my way around the little town, I made my way between the hills, between the greening orchards and down the leafy Well House Lane, the glorious lush green belly of Glastonbury Tor above me bright in the sunshine. I have walked this road a million times, in rain and summer heat, in winter shadows and sleet, in the utter darkness of a Samhain waning moon...it knows me well, and every time my feet tread this path I feel blessed to live in such a sacred landscape. I greet the tree spirits I have worked with over the years, the hidden springs, one a deep secret, another a mere boggy patch in the meadow upon such a day as this...
Turning the corner I enter the gardens of Chalice Well, and the hush of the day becomes somehow more refined as I make my way past the manicured flower beds and beneath the rose archway, passed 'the chakra border', a rainbow of blossoms unfurling. The sense of wholeness I have gathered to me all the way builds now, my body finds comfort in the serenity of the garden, as I make my way along the worn stone pathway to take my seat beside the well. Aching feet find ease upon the cool damp stone. There is the sound of distant drums beating upon the Tor, but all is still here, all is quiet. I am blessed with solitude, but I am not alone. As my stillness gathers, I feel the presence of this place all around me. The spirit of the well, the ancient goddess envelops me. Without words or ceremony, Her presence both warm and bright rises from the waters, and I sit in quiet communion, my spirit drinking in all She may offer. Her daughter, Her pupil, Her priestess.
This is an ancient place, made anew by every generation, by every people who have come here. The Romans shored up the well with bricks nearly 2000 years ago, but these waters were held sacred long before then, by the tribes that lived on the lake villages amongst the reeds and waters, while the rich earth of the hills above them were rarely trodden, a place of the spirits, holy ground. Now known as The Chalice Well, as grail legends swirl about the place like flocks of starlings, its other, older name, was The Blood Well. The waters here are rich in iron, and stain the ground red as it pours over the hillside. Its companion, the White Spring sits just across the way, nestled beneath the Tor itself. The waters of the White Spring, rich in calcite from a aquifer deep within the Tor stain all it touches white, in contrast. Together, the red and white waters once snaked their way across this landscape, twining around each other as a living sign of the sacred red and white dragons, and the red and white roses of the ancient British magical tradition, the blood and semen of the old faery faith.
I sit, eyes closed, feeling the waters at my toes, the deep roots of the earth beneath me, pulsing with life, and in my inner eye I see perhaps how it once was, before the people came. A hidden dell surrounded by trees, on a green hill beneath the marshes, giving way gradually to the sea. Then the early tribes came to honour the waters and the spirits of place, perhaps marking this sacred spot with one of the many standing stones that once graced this area, all of them since taken down by the farmers and the Church. Later it was a Celtic Nemeton, a sacred grove, and the heads of honoured enemies and ancestors would have been washed in the waters, and hung from the trees. A powerful place, a sacred place, a place of the spirits, where the voices of the gods may be heard. Such sacred ground was known as sources of power, but also divine madness, grace but also frenzy...a healing place yes, but a kind place, a gentle place? Not always I think. Even now beneath the pretty benches and the roses it is a place of primal power, a place of initiation. The deep roots of the earth, the serpents of life and death rise up from the soil; a place between the worlds where we must greet what rises within us and within the earth, and face it bravely if we are going to make it through, to be transformed.
It was common in Celtic times all over Britain and Ireland for such holy springs to be presided over by local goddesses, but the goddess of the Blood Well is long forgotten, or transformed by time. Overlaid by Arthurian and Christian myths, She is now a grail maiden to some, or the Lady of Avalon, or a mere deva or elemental...there are pictures of her in long pretty dresses in the shops. Her original name and rites in her honour are lost in the river of time, lying deep beneath the rich soil, beneath the beautiful, immaculate garden, the old stone paths, the Roman bricks.
Here I sit, a regular guest at Her side, and I think of how we have done that to so many goddesses, so many faces of the feminine divine, as we have done that to ourselves; tidied, manicured, beautified but also sought to control or deny the scary bits, the wild parts, trying to wash the blood away...but like the Well, it rises up still, it continues; it is not a wound to be staunched, it is the moon blood, the birth waters, it's the waters used to wash the dead and carry them to their rest in the Otherworld. It must always find its way to the surface, and back once more to the depths in an endless flow. The Lady of the well has shown me many faces over the years, and it seems to me that every name we call Her is our own, yet still, here in the quiet times, I feel Her with me; the Bloodied Wild Woman, fair maiden in a medieval gown, long hair a-flowing, ancient one, veiled and black as night, the woman as bright as starlight rising up from the dark waters...She stares into my soul in silence. Over time, I think, I have learnt to no longer flinch and turn away, but breathless and braver still, stare back into the depths. And sometimes, in the quiet times, I feel Her fierce gladness fill me to the brim. Now perhaps She is serene, garlanded with ribbons and flowers, but beneath her pretty gowns, Her waters run as wild and red as ever.
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