Guest writer MJ Wayland explores mysterious Glastonbury in Somerset…
Glastonbury or Avalon? Glastonbury was both an Isle of the Dead and an Isle of the Blessed. Two pagan deities are known to reside here and both are related to the underworld.
The fairy king Avalloch is said to have presided over the town, little is known about him although it’s believed he was the father of the Mother Goddess Modron. He used the Tor as a gateway where the souls of the dead can pass freely. Another deity also associated with the Tor, Gwynn ap Nudd of the Welsh tradition used the Tor for a doorway to the dead. Gwynn was the Lord of the Underworld and the Wild Hunt, it was believed on dark nights when the moon is full that you could hear his ghost hounds traversing the sky hunting for souls.
These traditions must have built up around Glastonbury for a reason, I believe that since the dawn of man, the Tor and Glastonbury has been a site of burial and ultimately rebirth. So let us take a journey with some of the town’s dead inhabitants.
Many legends are attached to the Abbey, many believe that the Holy Thorn tree that can be seen in the grounds originated from Joseph of Arimathea’s staff. Others are convinced that King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are buried in the Abbey grounds. Whatever one believes, the Abbey was one of the richest and most elaborate in the country and can celebrate over 2000 years of Christianity.
Some proclaim that King Arthur was laid to rest here after the battle of Badon Hill, while others believe this was a site near Cadbury Castle. Arthur was brought to Avalon and laid to rest in the centre of the abbey. Most legends state that Arthur lays in an eternal sleep until England needs such a hero again, at Glastonbury the legend is quite the reverse.
Local legends claim that after Arthur’s death a powerful negative spirit, a black armoured knight with glowing red eyes and a burning desire to eradicate all records of the ancient Arthurian legends began to appear in the Abbey grounds. In the past and even more recently a number of researchers have witnessed this figure in the Abbey grounds, nobody knows why he is trying to destroy the memory of Arthur but the legend is now over 400 years old.
During the 1970’s the Ghost Club investigated the Lady’s Chapel. One investigator walked into the Chapel and was aware of a white-robed figure ahead of him. Thinking he was witnessing a ceremony of some sort he walked quickly to the centre of the chapel and saw a column of figures all walking towards the exit. He couldn’t determine whether they were nuns or monks just that they where dressed in white habits. He started to make his way out of the Abbey when he began to feel strange, he believed he was caught up in a vortex, he began to lose sight of the figures and everything was back to normal.
Situated on Glastonbury’s High Street, the Tribunal is a spot of great significance, unknown to the tourist, little known to, and less realised by the inhabitants. This is the Tribunal Building, where the Chief Abbot formerly dispensed justice.
The Tribunal, is a beautiful building with lovely ceilings and a repose of its own, is now the tourist information centre and museum. However the ghosts here are seen not just above ground but also below.
During the 1960’s a gas worker had to explore the tunnels for the latest gas pipes to be laid. He entered the tunnel at the Tribunal and ventured below. He lit his lantern and began to walk down the tunnel examining the structure. Suddenly he realised that there was somebody ahead of him but carrying a lamp with a candle. He believed it was a colleague of his who must have entered the tunnel from the other side. He began to shout and walk towards him but there was no response from the colleague.
He stopped and began to wave his lamp side to side to cause a distraction, the lamp copied the movements. He once again shouted his colleague’s name but once again there was no reply. He stood watching the lamp as it started to dim and then fade away. He returned back upstairs where he found his colleague sat waiting for him. He realised his colleague wasn’t the person with the lamp, but not only that, but the tunnel was blocked off at the other side in the early 1900’s.
The George and Pilgrims
This article on Glastonbury’s hauntings wouldn’t be complete without The George and Pilgrims Hotel.
The George and Pilgrims was built in the 15th Century to accommodate pilgrims visiting the Abbey. There are many ghosts attached to the building and its one of the most haunted hotels in Somerset, if not the country.
In the oldest bedrooms most of the ghost stories are found. They fall into the night-time visitor category. One nightly ghost is that of a fat and cheerful monk, he is often seen walking through on wall to the next, laughing as he does so. One night one visitor actually felt the monk bump into the bed shaking her awake.
When researching the ghost story its believed the monk had quite a sad ending. For whatever reason the monk committed suicide in the room now known as the ‘haunted cell’. However, it seems that he is not bitter, in fact the opposite, for people feel happiness and delight when he is around.
Recently a travel journalist with the guardian visited the George and Pilgrims to write a report about Glastonbury. During the night his wife woke up and saw at the bottom of her bed a tall gentleman with long arms looking at her. She crossed herself and decided to reach out and touch him – her hands passed right through him. She screamed awakening her husband.
Another ghost is one that manifests itself in sounds and smells. Staff have often heard in the function arguments and the smell of cigar smoke coming from the room, when they have opened the door, all that is left is the remnants of smoke in the air.
There are countless other tales from this spiritual town that could fill many pages but I leave it to you to explore Glastonbury’s darker side.
MJ WAYLAND is an author, researcher and tutor specialising in paranormal and alternative subjects. He has an excellent blog called Walker of the Borderlands of Belief.