A short article on the front page of the local newspaper is announcing a house for sale that has a front door carved in the shape of female genitalia, while the inside of the house has been turned into a Tantric Sex Temple. It’s business as usual in Glastonbury, UK. The local Catholic Church has a youth march up the High St every year, but last year proved to be the final one, due to those nice young Christians confronting many of the crystal-selling wand-purveying shop staff in the High St, spitting at them and calling them Satanists etc. This event made the headlines of the local paper.
Glastonbury has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries, and in the Middle Ages it was home to Glastonbury Abbey, one of the 2 great places of Christian power in England, along with Canterbury. All that changed in the Reformation, and all we have now are the ruins. It’s a small town in Somerset with a huge number of healers, astrologers, shamans, charlatans, tarot readers, psychics, mediums and just about every religion you can think of. The High St, according to Vajramala, is like Diagon Alley in Harry Potter, and she complains that you can’t even buy a pair of knickers. Mind you, it gives me an enhanced appreciation for Woolworths and Morrisons, which someone once described to me as “Gateways to Ordinary Reality.”
Of course we get a lot of tourists, and just as a lot of Brits are prepared to believe the wild claims that Native Americans sometimes make, so too are many Americans prepared to believe the invented religions and spurious claims to authenticity that you get in Glastonbury. There is, for example, an artefact called ‘The Blue Bowl’ that was arranged to be ‘discovered’ 100 years ago, and it’s put about that it is the Holy Grail. One American I know felt very disillusioned when a group of us were looking at the chart for the ‘discovery’, and not taking remotely seriously this claim. She had thought for years that it was literally true, and had brought over parties of tourists from the USA where she introduced them to the ‘Holy Grail’. Mind you, there are plenty of Brits who are prepared to believe this sort of stuff, often members of what I call the English Head-mysticism tradition. They’ve often got degrees, they know about lots of ‘occult’ things, often spurious (in my opinion), such as the Glastonbury Zodiac, and they mistake their ‘knowledge’, which is endless, for wisdom. My considered response is a desire to strangle and pulverise and dismember these people, not out of hatred, but from a sincere wish that out of such annihilation something real may emerge.
I think, though, if you leave something spurious for long enough, what you get is an established religion that does act as a genuine vehicle for something more profound. Who says mythology has to be based on historical fact? Let’s just not confuse the two. But I’ll never be able to take seriously the idea that Christ or the Buddha, who were only in their early 30s, could possibly have had the level of wisdom they are credited with. At a certain age you have to start trusting your own experience, and I ask, has anyone reading this ever met anyone in their early 30s with a full quota of the sort of experience-based insight that you can very occasionally get in old people? And how could you tell, apart from knowing someone well? I also find hard to take seriously the idea that a military general, i.e. Mohammed, could have been God’s special messenger, unless it was the Old Testament God, which fits quite well.
In our astrology discussion group, which meets every couple of weeks and is generally quite anarchic but fruitful, the subject of a chart for Glastonbury keeps coming up. We base it on the date when Glastonbury was given its charter, which was on 23rd June 1705. The calendar has shunted forward by 11 days since then (it seems to have taken us a long time to establish exactly how many days!) giving 4th July 1705. But there’s no time of day given. But there is a traditional technique of putting on the ASC the planet that you reckon rules the chart or the event. This is how one of the Gemini Rising charts for the USA was generated: Uranus, the planet of revolution, was held to have ruled the Declaration of Independence, and it was in Gemini at the time. And why not? Astrology is based on the idea that there is a relationship between symbolic reality and experiential reality, and which end you want to start from seems to me a matter of choice. Which isn’t the same as fiddling the chart to fit the facts, i.e. the dark art of rectification, which I nevertheless practice, intellectually indefensible (to quote Nick Campion) as it is.
A friend reminded me a couple of months back that Glastonbury is traditionally the Isle of the Dead. I’d never really thought about it before (having been here 8 years) but I realised that yes, Glastonbury is a kind of Underworld, people are drawn to live here for reasons they don’t understand (or sometimes spat out very quickly), and almost invariably get immediately shoved into some deep transformational process, often painful, and at double the usual rate of intensity. That’s what happened to me when I moved here in Oct 1998, and things haven’t slowed down since. And now it’s feeling like time to go, I’m realising that I have been in an Underworld all this time without quite knowing it, and that I’m slowly emerging into a more ordinary, concrete, collectively-lived reality again. And because it’s an Underworld, it’s not a place for overt achievement, for 10th House stuff. I’ve found it’s been a good place to build up skills, and do some good work, but it’s always held back, I can keep things ticking over but not much more. If you want to achieve things while living in Glastonbury, I think you often need to have your work elsewhere. And that, I think, is why you get so many wonky projects going on in Glastonbury, all these courses and teachers, for example, where more often than not there’s something a bit odd about them. And plenty of people who can’t see that.
So yes, Glastonbury is an Underworld, and therefore you can argue it should have Pluto on the ASC at 18 Leo. As soon as we looked at this one, everyone started going Yes! This one feels right! There’s still some questions about the Moon, but not on my part: 4th House Sag, it welcomes pilgrims and visitors from afar by the bucket-load. And Moon conjunct Chiron: I notice it time and again when people visit, something gets moved on or healed for them. And Sun conjunct Jupiter in 11th House Cancer: there is a strong community dimension to Glastonbury. It’s square to 9th House Neptune: it’s a ‘spiritually’(Neptune) based community, a good bit of it daft and weird (Neptune). There’s plenty more I could say, but I’ll leave it there.