A town in Somerset, England, that has become the focus of
romantic legends of both Paganism and Christianity. It is situated
among orchards and water meadows in the fen country
surrounding Glastonbury Tor, a hill on what was once an island.
Although there is an old Christian chapel on the Tor,
Celtic legends state that this was the entrance to a pagan underworld,
home of the fairy folk. The ruined abbey at Glastonbury
is associated with the legend of Joseph of Arimathea, who is
said to have brought the Holy Grail to the Vale of Avalon and
planted a staff in the ground, which grew as a thorn, flowering
on Christmas Eve.
The Glastonbury thorn actually existed until Reformation
times, when it was destroyed, but varieties exist in other parts
of Britain. Glastonbury is also believed to be the resting place
of King Arthur.
During the early decades of this century, Frederick Bligh
Bond received a number of messages—published as the Glastonbury
Scripts—that directed his excavations of the abbey. In
the 1920s, Katherine Maltwood began to examine reports that
the land around Glastonbury was laid out as a giant horoscope,
which became known as the Glastonbury zodiac. More recently
Glastonbury became the home of magician Dion Fortune.
This ‘‘power complex’’ of traditions and legends has attracted
many young people to Glastonbury as a pilgrimage center
in the contemporary occult and mystical revival. New mythologies
crossed with the old as thousands of young pilgrims spend
magical weekends at Glastonbury, combining flying saucer
cults, Hare Krishna incantations, and rock music with legends
of King Arthur and Joseph of Arimathea.
Glastonbury is now regarded as a power center of the New
Age of Aquarius, and a community magazine, Torc, has been
founded to further knowledge of Glastonbury and its associations.
(Address for subscription information 3 Jacobs Close,
Windmill Hill, Glastonbury, Somerset, U.K.) In 1989 the ‘‘alternative’’
community of Glastonbury, through an organization
called Unique Publications, launched a journal, The Glastonbury
For a skeptical account of the Glastonbury legends, see
Christianity in Somerset (1976), by Robert Dunning. Dunning
claims that all the stories of King Arthur and St. Joseph were
twelfth-century fabrications used to attract funds for the rebuilding
of the abbey.
Ashe, Geoffrey. The Quest for Arthur’s Britain. London, 1968.
Greed, John A. Glastonbury Tales. Bristol, England St. Trillo
Publications, 1975.
Howard-Gordon, Francis. Glastonbury Maker of Myths. Glastonbury,
England Gothic Image, 1982.
Lewis, Lionel. St. Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury. London
James Clarke, 1955.
Michell, John. New Light on the Ancient Mystery of Glastonbury.
Glastonbury, England Gothic Images Publications, 1990.
Reiser, Oliver L. This Holyest Erthe The Glastonbury Zodiac
and King Arthur’s Camelot. Bedford, England Perennial Books,
Treharne, R. F. The Glastonbury Legends. London, 1967.
Williams, Mary. Glastonbury A Study in Patterns. Hammersmith,
England Research into Lost Knowledge Organization,

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