The Last Abbot of Glastonbury

Lisa on the Tor

Living Mythology

When people believe something about a place they behave in ways that make it come alive with the story. They act on what they believe is true and have experiences to reinforce and strengthen that truth. That is why I am so curious about sacred landscapes, the history and mythology of locations of power. In particular, living mythology, and how local stories impact on the common mindset of the locality. 

Glastonbury, Somerset UK is a perfect example of living mythology. The famous Tor and St Michael’s Tower, Glastonbury Abbey, ‘The Holiest Earth in England’, once considered to rival Rome and referred to as Roma Seconda. The burial place of Saints, Kings and Queens, and presumably the last resting place of King Arthur and Guinevere. 

Here was built the original church, raised by the hand of God through the physical attendance of twelve apostles of Christ who arrived with Joseph of Aramathea. Many Saints are said to have visited here, Saint David, Saint Collen, Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid, and even more prominent visitors. A plethora of tales pepper the landscape, some true and some imagined, all of them weaving a rich mythology of place. Living mythology, local legends that have a powerful impact on the culture of our community. 

The Glastonbury landscape holds so many secrets. History and mythology are rich and deep here, while ceremonies, blessings and offerings lend power to those legends. Imagine what this does to the psyche of the people who live here and those who come specifically to engage with the spirituality of the place. 

Glastonbury fascinates me, it became my home in 2006 and since moving here, I’ve been involved in several community projects, the most notable being the Community Beltane Celebrations, The Assembly Rooms and The White Spring.

Working as a temple keeper, priestess, custodian and ceremonialist, I helped to transform the Victorian well house to establish a magnificent water temple within Glastonbury Tor. A living sanctuary that has come to be appreciated by people of all faiths and backgrounds. 

Initiated into the British Order of Druids in 1997, I’ve worked as a bard, teacher and healer for over 20 years. I’m an Elder Bard of Glastonbury, and 8th Chaired Bard of the Gorsedd Ynys Witrin. 

Soon to be published, ‘Glastonbury Unbound’ is a fairy tale that weaves through true events surrounding the dissolution of Glastonbury in 1539 whilst diving into a living mythology of the sacred Glastonbury landscape. The story follows Ambrose Gilpin as he discovers the magic of Glastonbury and the dastardly dark intentions of powerful men to destroy it. This is the essay that initiated Glastonbury Unbound.


Remember Richard Whiting

The work of Jon Cousins in ‘Remember Richard Whiting’, has unlocked a deep secret that has held Glastonbury in check for hundreds of years. I was drawn into this story by a series of co-incidences that resulted in Jon Cousins asking me to look into the events surrounding the execution of the last Abbot of Glastonbury, and to examine the possibility that it was a ritual murder. 

I never imagined that I would uncover such fascinating sub plots, diversions and distractions. Much less did I imagine the way in which crucial information would come to me. How my refusal to follow instructions of other-wordly monks to enter a labyrinth would lead to the finding of a nursery rhyme in a book randomly chosen in a library. A rhyme that would uncover all those who sat on the jury during the mock trial of Abbot Whiting in Wells. 

My particular interest in this point in history came through my connections at The White Spring, a water reservoir turned temple beneath Glastonbury Tor. I became aware of a disturbance in the land, a magic seeded to cause fragmentation, a pulling apart. It was not long before I discovered that the Tor, rising up over the White Spring, is where Abbot Whiting was hanged, drawn and quartered. 

A local belief is that the cleaning of tools and equipment took place at Wellhouse Lane at the site of The White Spring. Whilst working as temple keeper and custodian I experienced a series of dreams, visions and real life events that led me to find out more about this fascinating and gruesome story. 

Entering this tale is like walking into a maze. There are many twists and turns, countless layers of story and branches that lead nowhere, with some that lead to dangerous territory or even delusion. I am not the first to explore this maze. It is as if the tale draws people in to discover the secrets contained and yet there is more to uncover. 

In 1826 Richard Warner writes about the destruction in An History of the Abbey of Glaston and the Town of Glastonbury. ‘There is something in the nature of the subject which checks rather than stimulates enquiry,’ He goes on to say, ‘The very first step into the antiquities of Glaston is a plunge into contradiction and confusion,’ Almost two centuries have passed since these words were published and still the topic is as elusive as it ever was.

Historical information is scant or missing. A mock trial took place with no proof of the charge. Information was alluded to with crucial evidence lost, whilst contradictory dates and letters throw still more confusion into the mix. Yet, there it is, destruction masked as martyrdom, immersed in the horror of the Dissolution led by Thomas Cromwell, Malleus Monochorum, Destroyer of the Monks.


The destruction of Glastonbury Abbey, the killing of Richard Whiting, and his two companions, Roger James and John Thorne on Glastonbury Tor in 1539 is well documented, but it is shrouded in misinformation and bears all the marks of a cunning act designed to mislead. 

In November 1539, Richard Whiting was condemned to death. At 80 years old, he was forced to travel to the Tower of London for examination by Thomas Cromwell. Two months later, he was led to a mock trial in the city of Wells before being dragged up to the top of Glastonbury Tor by horses, hung from the scaffold, dropped just before death, gutted, pulled apart and boiled in pitch. His head and member were placed on the gateway to the Abbey and his four parts separated and displayed in surrounding towns. 

I set out to discover if this was a ritual murder with the purposeful intent of creating a resonance of trauma in the locality, which could be used for the purposes of dark magic. A magical working of this magnitude is bound to be shrouded in secrecy, dead ends and direct deception. Of course, any adept magician would protect magical workings of this scale from outside meddling. Deliberate confusion would thwart any undoing. 

Geoffrey Ashe describes in ‘King Arthur’s Avalon’. ‘To recollect these things on top of the tor is to shudder, not so much at the martyrdom itself, as at the mentality of the men that arranged it. One senses a hateful darkness, a memory of witchcraft or druidical rites. For the task which they undertook was so needlessly burdensome. If the object was to strike terror, the place to do it was in the town. The ascent of the tor was the act of madmen or mystics   … it would not have been possible to remain unaware (or suppose that the perpetrators remained unaware) of the monstrous irony which the Reformation had reared above Somerset; a gibbet on a hill.’ 

What was in the minds of those men? 

Madmen or Mystics

Richard Warner states ‘Alchemy and astrology were very favourite studies with the clergy, particularly the Benedictine Monks, for some centuries’  Later, talking of the Roman Church, he asserts, ‘All her ceremonies appeared plainly to have been copied from primitive paganism. The proofs of it are as manifold as they are notorious. The grafting of these pagan rites indeed on the christian system is a fact acknowledged by most esteemed authors of the Roman Church.’ 

Polydore Vergil, a well known anti-Arthurian advocate, was appointed archdeacon of Wells and remained as such until he resigned in 1550. Richard Warner refers to Vergil’s writings, De Invent Rerum  when he tells us, ‘After describing the votive gifts of the ancients to their temples and altars, (Vergil) not only acknowledged that his own church pursued the same practices; but with a somewhat dangerous incaution attributes it to the character of superstition.’ 

Henry VIII was a learned man and he came to the throne, a devout catholic. It is well known that he had in his employ physicians, astrologers, astronomers and philosophers. These subjects were regarded as science at the time. Henry was like any good king in waiting, surrounded from birth by a litany of tutors, one of whom was Giles d’Ewes, the French grammarian and alchemist. ‘At one point, despite his formidable mind, was reduced to fruitless searches to employ an alchemist to bring into his court. (one of the more prominent alchemists he tried to recruit  was the famous Cornelius Agrippa.)’ 

King Henry was well versed in esoteric arts, but would he mastermind such a ritual? He never killed a man by his own hand. Executions were arranged by his minister Thomas Cromwell and carried out by his commissioners.


Men of Power

Regarding the demise of the last Abbot of Glastonbury, the most prominent characters are, Lord Thomas Cromwell and his commissioners, Layton, Pollard and Moyle. Lord John Russell was the judge involved in the trial, along with the Council of the West. 

Thomas Cromwell was appointed Vicar General. He was a competent politician capable of swaying opinion to his own personal and political gain using fear and propaganda as a form of social control. In 1534 he succeeded Cardinal Wolsey as Grand Master of Masons and was awarded the Knight of the Garter in 1537. Cromwell’s commissioners were ambitious men, they would have known the final outcome desired by Lord Cromwell and it’s suggested that they adjusted their reports to suit his game plan. 

Doctor Richard Layton had taken holy orders. He was made Dean of York, chaplain of Saint Peter’s chapel in the Tower of London and Archdeacon of Buckingham. He was recommended to the Knights of the Garter in 1537. 

Thomas Moyle was the Chancellor of the Court of Augmentations, managing the property flowing into the treasury on the suppression of the abbeys. He was knighted in 1537. 

Richard Pollard received annuities from the abbeys, and while supervising the destruction of the shrines was described as so busy night and day ‘in prayer with offering unto St Thomas that he had no idle worthy time to spare until his spiritual devotion was completed.’ He too received a knighthood. 

Lewis Forstew is also known as Baron Lewis Fortesque. He was appointed the Reader of The Middle Temple in 1546. To this day the Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court which has the exclusive right to call men to the bar.

Lord John Russell was Lord President of The Council of the West in 1539. He visited Pope Clement in Rome in 1524. His appointment as Comptroller of the king’s household in 1537 was followed by that of Privy Councillor. Lord Russell was made a Knight of the Garter just one month after he was appointed Lord President. He was charged with bringing a jury who would condemn Abbot Whiting without question. 

The original list of jurors who sat at the trial in Wells is ‘lost’ although a letter from Richard Pollard reveals that; John Sydenham, Thomas Horner, Nicolas Fitzjames and ‘my brother Paulet for whom was destined the surveyorship of the monastic estates,’ were all on the bench. 

Hugh Paulet was a Sheriff of Somerset and held the office of Comptroller before Lord Russell. He was also a Knight of the Garter. 

John Sydenham is elusive, yet he is listed twice as High Sheriff of Somerset. 

Nicholas Fitzjames and Thomas Horner are both listed as High Sheriffs. Fitzjames testified against his friend Richard Whiting although he had written to Cromwell in support the Abbot just a few years previous. 

Thomas Horner and his associations to the rhyme ‘Little Jack Horner’ are well known. Abbot Whiting allegedly sent his steward Horner to the King with a pie containing deeds to twelve manor houses in the abbey estate and Horner took out the deeds for Mells Manor. The manor properties included lead mines in the Mendip Hills and it is suggested that the plum in the rhyme is a pun on the latin plumbum, for lead. The descendants of Thomas Horner deny any wrongdoing and say that the property was bought fairly. 

A great deal of property exchanged hands during the dissolution including the handing over of Mells to Horner, so maybe he was lawfully taking a slice of the pie rather than stealing it. He is listed as a purchaser of land in Cromwell’s letters on 29th September 1539, with Richard Whiting still imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Members of the Jury

I am a fan of stichomancy, which is choosing a book and opening it at a random page for guidance. In the local library, quite by chance, I discovered an old rhyme; Hopton, Horner, Smythe and Thynne, when the Abbot went out, they came in. This 16th century rhyme alludes to the transfer of the Glastonbury Abbey estate. Three other versions can be found in ‘Leans Collectanea.’ They collectively refer to Portman, Popham, Knocknaille and Windham

These eight families all acquired substantial plots of land directly after the ruin of Glastonbury Abbey, with at least three of them receiving knighthoods in subsequent years. I believe these men also sat on the jury alongside Sydenham, Paulet and Fitzjames at Richard Whiting’s trial in Wells.

When I consider Geoffrey Ashe’s question, ‘madmen or mystics?’ The answer seems clear: These men were knights, lawyers, freemasons and sheriffs, men of the cloth, all learned men, keen and intelligent, they were certainly no strangers to ceremony and ritual. 

Lord Russell was charged with arranging the trial at Wells. It was said that was a persuasive man who could turn brother against brother and there were certainly enough men prepared to speak out against Abbot Whiting. Lord Cromwell was a master of propaganda and King Henry’s rule was so severe that even ‘the jurors sat with a rope about their own necks.’

In his book, ‘The Last Abbot of Glastonbury and his Companions’, Francis Aiden Gasquet rightly remarks that ‘The minds of the men selected in this case to register the decrees of the kingly omnipotence escape our means of enquiry but Lord Russell has recorded that ‘they formed as worshipful a jury as was found here these many years’. 

These were dark and treacherous times, suspicion and paranoia were rife and the men on the jury would have done almost anything to avoid the accusation of heretic. Those responsible for arranging the deed would certainly hide any ritualistic or magical leanings from the general populace. Outwardly they were men of science and theology, yet this killing bears the marks of an alchemical battle. 

We can deduce by the records of many antiquarians over time that Glastonbury Abbey held certain secrets, yet here again, we find fragments, missing evidence and contradicting records. 


During the 1530’s, John Leland was sent on a mission to record all the items in the monastery libraries of England. John Leland, antiquary to King Henry VIII, referred to Abbot Richard Whiting as “a man truly upright and of spotless life, and my sincere friend.” On visiting Glastonbury, he discovered many ancient volumes outlining the history of the Abbey, including the writings of William of Malmsbury. 

William had published his ‘De Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae’ in 1135, alerting educated men to the divine secrets of Glastonbury.He describes the floor of the wattle and daub church. ‘The very floor, inlaid with polished stone, and the sides of the altar and even the altar itself above and beneath are laden with the multitude of relics. Moreover, in the pavement may be remarked on every side stones designedly interlaid in triangles and squares, and sealed with lead, under which, if I believe some sacred mystery to be contained, I do no injustice to religion.’ 

Here was the burial place of King Arthur, and in those days he was no myth; he was a real person whose heritage the Tudors had inherited. One cannot help but wonder why, if the ancient Warrior King was considered a worthy ancestor, King Henry VIII would allow his burial site to be destroyed. 

Had it really been Arthur and Guinevere’s grave that was discovered in Glastonbury Abbey? It was a contentious claim even back then. Certain men of the cloth including the Archdeacon of Wells, Polydore Vergil disputed the claim. Vergil publicly argued the validity of William of Malmsbury’s writings and he was known to be anti-Arthurian. If they were not the bones of King Arthur and his Queen, then whose bones were they?

The ancient stories of Glastonbury available to us today, and likely others that have since been destroyed, would have been known by the astrologers, alchemists, and knights, prophets, priests and politicians and personal and collective prayer and ritual would be a part of their daily life. 

The works of Geoffrey of Monmouth and William of Malmesbury, the writings of Gildas, Giraldus, John of Glastonbury and the various charters of Glastonbury were scrupulously documented by Leland. He made particular notes on the Prophecy of Melkin, from certain recorded documents that are no longer available to us, concerning the burial of Saint Joseph and the vials containing the blood and sweat of Jesus Christ. This would have been of great interest to the elite magical community.

Tales of Avalon, King Arthur, and the romantic stories of the Holy Grail have inspired knights and ladies alike. Legends of the island, Ynys Witrin, isle of glass, long associated with the otherworld. Characters and archetypes such as Avallach, Gwyn Ap Nudd, Saint Collen, Gwythyr and Saint Michael offer such a rich mythological landscape. 

These stories must have intrigued those concerned with magic and ritual back in the 16th Century much as they do us today, perhaps even more so. The stories of the saints of the Abbey, particularly Saint Joseph of Arimathea and the ‘Jesu Maria’ association would be high in the thoughts of the perpetrators as they sent Abbot Whiting to the Tower of London and desecrated the Abbey. There on the wall inscribed for all to see as the Abbey was taken apart around it, a stone carved with the words, JESU MARIA.

Modern reasoning dismisses many of the legends and relics of Glastonbury as being fraudulent, or at least cleverly devised to hide an alternative truth. Subsequent research has proved some of Malmesbury’s writings to be forged. It is true that miracles and relics were a potent attraction for wealthy pilgrims and it was easy to gain popularity and wealth from them at such a time. 

This is not to confirm or deny any of the stories, that is not my intention. It is enough to know that they were believed, enough to know that medieval magicians, knights of the realm and men of the cloth were aware of the history and legends of this unique place. Whether the stories are true or not, belief is a powerful tool that will stir the hearts of men to action. 

The most prominent seekers of mystery and magic from within the royal court in those dangerous times were the Knights of the Garter. Associated with Henry VIII’s round table and traditional seekers of the Holy Grail. No-one can truly know their private thoughts, yet we can assume that men of their learning, power and position must have understood the magnitude of what was happening at this site of great spiritual significance.

Alchemical Roots

To examine the alchemical roots of Glastonbury Abbey, we go way back to the 10th century Abbot of Glastonbury. Saint Dunstan was a goldsmith and forger of bells. As a skilled smith and worker of metal, it is safe to assume he was an alchemist. His books were in the Glastonbury Abbey library when Leland took his inventory. One manuscript, titled Philisophia Maturata, details the stages of alchemy involved in manifesting the philosopher’s stone. 

‘A Lay of St Dunstan’ makes clear reference to the alchemical leanings of the Abbot,

‘St Dunstan stood in his ivied tower, 

Alembic, crucible, all were there, 

When in came Nick, 

To play him a trick,

In guise of a damsel passing fair.

Everyone knows 

how the story goes,

He picked up his tongs

And took hold of his nose.’

This poem from 1840, reveals itself to be the first telling of ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.’ The sorcerer in the tale, most famously depicted by Disney, is based on this poem who puts the Abbot of Glastonbury as the sorcerer and Brother Peter, the apprentice.

Just 20 years after Abbot Whiting was executed John Dee makes reference in his diaries to Abbot Dunstan’s work. Edward Kelly, Dee’s associate in all things occult, was credited with founding his practice on ‘The Book of Saint Dunstan.’ Kelly and Dee visited Glastonbury Abbey seeking the Elixir Vitae, the Philosopher’s stone. Is it too much of a stretch of the imagination to consider that Dunstan’s tract, recovered by Leland the king’s antiquarian, came into the hands of John Dee through the royal house?

Pelican in Her Piety

The alembic and crucible are alchemical tools. One of the stages of alchemy; distillation, makes use of a container called a pelican. A metaphor for this stage is that of a pelican pecking at her own breast to feed her young on the blood. A depiction of this image, ‘The Pelican in her Piety’, along with another of St Joseph’s cruets can be found in medieval carved panels on the gateway to Glastonbury Abbey on Chilkwell Street. 

It is curious to note that this symbol was also adopted by Lord Thomas Cromwell as his own crest! ‘The pelican is very appropriately a symbol of freemasonry, whose object it is to teach by symbolism the doctrine of the resurrection, in a Degree of the Scottish Rite wherein, ‘the old temple being destroyed and the old word being lost, a new temple and a new word spring forth.’ 

Abbots of the Benedictine Order were scrupulous in the passing on of secrets and teachings and Abbot Richard Whiting was privy to the alchemical secrets of the Abbey. Leland passed on his findings as a matter of course, all of which would have been of particular interest to Lord Cromwell, the Grand Master of the Lodge. 

This is evocative of a story of alchemical battle, whereby the old temple is destroyed so that a new one might spring forth. I concur with what Jon Cousins has noted about the process of alchemy involved in the killing of the last Abbot of Glastonbury. In ‘Glastonbury Documents, Remember Richard Whiting’, he refers to the stages of alchemy and how the execution was a deliberate unfinished working which resulted in the dissolution, separation and dismemberment of the Abbot, destruction of the Abbey and therefore the destruction of the spiritual potential of Glastonbury. 


On 16th September 1539, Richard Layton suddenly withdrew his statement about Glastonbury Abbey in which he had three years previously praised the Abbot. He apologised for his error, requested a pardon and discredited Richard Whiting. 

Days later, Abbot Whiting was examined by Cromwell’s commissioners, Layton, Pollard and Moyle, who afterwards wrote to Thomas Cromwell ‘for that his answer was not to our purpose we advised him to call to his remembrance that which he had forgotten and so declare the truth.’ 

We can assume he did not declare what they wanted him to hear. And so, ‘with as fair words as they could, he being but a very weak man and sickly’, they sent him to the Tower of London so that Cromwell might examine him for himself. The precise charge on which he was arrested and subsequently executed remains uncertain. The case is commonly referred to as one of treason.

Abbot Whiting was in the Tower of London for two months, from Autumn Equinox through to the dark moon at Samhain. We cannot know what happened there, but we do know that Abbot Richard Whiting was condemned to death whilst still imprisoned. 

Cromwell in his ‘Remembrances,’ before All Hallows Eve, says – ‘Item. To see that the evidence be well sorted and the indictments drawn against the said abbots and their accomplices. Item. How the king’s learned counsel shall be with me all the day, for the full conclusion of the indictments. Lord Cromwell concludes, ‘Item. The Abbot of Glaston to be tried and also executed there with his accomplices.’

Despite the evidence not being made public and Whiting not being tried by his peers in Parliament as he ought to be, he was bound to suffer a treasonous death. The Abbot of Glastonbury was condemned on a false charge of treason and two of his monks were disgraced as thieves for allegedly concealing treasures from the abbey which were now considered the property of King Henry.

In Wells, preparations were made for a trial. Lord Russell had brought together various tenants whom he could rely on to say exactly what was needed. Richard Whiting may or may not have been aware of it, but in Somerset it was known that the Abbey was being destroyed and the Abbot of Glastonbury was already condemned.

Incorrect Date?

The alleged ‘martyrdom’ of Blessed Richard Whiting is maintained in the Catholic calendar as Saturday 15th November 1539, but there has always been a discrepancy over this date. Lord John Russell and Richard Pollard each wrote letters to Thomas Cromwell in the days following the execution. The two letters contradict each other.

  • Pollard’s letter sets the date of the execution as 15th (xv) November. Richard Pollard made a previous error when he wrote to Cromwell in September 1539 mistakenly putting Glastonbury for Reading at a date when he could not possibly have been in the town. I believe he is in error here also. 
  • Crake’s reproduction of Lord Russell’s letter states that Whiting was tried at Wells on Thursday 13th November (Julian calendar) and executed the following day, Friday the 14th November. In Wright’s collection of royal papers and letters the date of the trial is written by Russell as Thursday xiiij November. It has been assumed that he had meant to put Friday. 

The assumption doesn’t make sense. In the letter to Lord Cromwell from the high judge in the trial, written just two days after the execution, the mistake is more likely to be in the number than the day. 

I propose that Richard Whiting was tried on Thursday, as Lord Russell states, and put to death on Friday 14th November 1539j. It would be wise to obscure the correct date of the execution, since it was committed on a Friday and the irony of this ‘on a hill without a city wall’ can not be ignored. 

Abbot Richard Whiting spent the night of the Scorpio dark moon imprisoned in the Tower of London and was taken back to Somerset seemingly unaware of his fate. He arrived at Wells on Thursday 13th November where, in haste, he was tried and on the next day executed. 

The perpetrators would have been aware of the astrology of the moment from their own medieval worldview which would of course be quite different to ours today. Still, it is poignant to note that the crescent of a capricorn moon would have been present that night and Orion, the hunter, rising in the sky as the sun set in the west. A few hours later, the moon would set on the solemn and bloody tor in the heart of Glastonbury.

I conclude that the esteemed Abbot Richard Whiting was set up as a ‘saviour sacrifice’ and the magic was locked in place with a blood ritual on top of Glastonbury Tor. A parody of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, reminiscent of the dismemberment of Osiris. In an appalling act of black magic, the body of the Abbot hung on the scaffold facing west, looking towards his abbey and the setting sun and in direct opposition to the traditional position of prayer and burial. 

Much of the dirty work of cleaning the tools would have been done at the base of the tor in a beautiful coombe. The waters, stained red by the Abbot’s blood flowing to the Abbey, further impacting the desecration of this sacred site.

The spiritual centre of Glaston, the purity and spiritual leadership expressed in the life of Abbot Richard Whiting was offered as a blood sacrifice to the ‘Old Gods’ at the gateway of Anwyn at the time when the Wild Hunt rides. The perpetrators must have been sure of their success. 

The English Reformation involved the dissolution of the spiritual reality of the common people and demanded total and unshakeable obedience to ‘The Defender of the Faith’. A title given to King Henry VIII in 1521 by Pope Leo X and retained by the Sovereign to this day. 

Acts of ritual humiliation, attacks on altars, shrines and relics were prevalent. Common faith was torn apart and dismissed as heresy. Icons that had been worshipped publicly were destroyed publically and spiritual leaders were tortured and killed. Within this horror we may find the hidden motivation behind the execution of the Last Abbot of Glaston.

Rome was divorced, Henry excommunicated and Roma Seconda had to die. The destruction of the abbey coupled with the ritual sacrifice would destroy any notion of spiritual power in this land beyond that of the King. The resonance of a blood sacrifice and unresolved dismemberment would remain in the energetic field of Glastonbury for years to come affecting human psyche. 

Abbot Whiting was executed on a hill without a city wall. He was strung up on the scaffold with his two companions hung as thieves by his side. There would be no noble rescue of his body, no rich family to encase him in a tomb. Instead, his body would be rent apart, sealed with boiling pitch, and his head placed on the gates of the Abbey. His four limbs were sent in four different directions to be exposed at Bath, Wells, Ilchester and Bridgewater. Symbolically and ritually Glastonbury was pulled apart.

Re-member Glastonbury 

This story has taken me through a maze of mythology. Avalon, where the great warrior King Arthur was interred, where Joseph of Arimathea made his home, where those feet in ancient times walked upon this green and pleasant land. Saint Michael’s Tower, east of the abbey the home of Gwyn Ap Nudd, Glastonbury Tor that contains the sacred waters of red and white. The heart chakra of the world where the Michael and Mary leylines meet. 

A tale unfolds in which destructive power was deliberately planted by knights of the realm serving under the banner of Saint George. With the destroyer on the east tower, charged with killing the serpent, who would hold the sword?

In Glastonbury, while history and mythology collide, the reality of these stories is that the power of belief in them remains tangible. The truth endures, people behave in accordance with what they believe, and this was as potent in 1539 as it is today. 

As we experience the mythology of the landscape as our cultural heritage, we can remember the power of this place and take our stand in the mythology of today. We are, as a community, increasingly recognising Glastonbury as a symbol of divine unity, we are realising the alchemy and magic of this place, respecting the land and clearing the waters. There is a continually unfolding living mythology in this sacred landscape and many more stories to be a part of.

Blessed be, we remember

Lisa Goodwin


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