Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Glastonbury Zodiac

Much seems to be happening down Glastonbury way these days, including at least a couple of my former cohorts intent on stomping round what is generally, although slightly misleadingly, called the Glastonbury Zodiac.

In 1925 Katharine Emma Maltwood, working in Chilton Priory, her strange, towered abode, looked over the landscape of Somerset, getting the feel for a map she had been commissioned to produce for a new edition of The High History of the Holy Graal. As she pondered the curious appearance of a lion in the story, she had a flash of vision and saw the figure of a great lion shaped in the hills and hollows of the countryside before her. She later associated this effigy with the ancient constellation of Leo.

Wandering the landscape and referring to topographical maps she quickly outlined other effigy figures. Among them a phoenix, a great rider and horse, a giant fish, a bull's head, a mighty hound, a sheaf-bearing goddess, a divine child, and another bird in the centre. Thus did she first discern the great star temple in the holy Vale of Avalon.

She initially announced her findings anonymously in A Guide to Glastonbury's Temple of the Stars (1929) and would spend the rest of her life refining her research. In the esoteric community, support for her work came from an assortment of figures including A E Waite, Ronald Heaver, Rene Gueneon, Oliver Reiser and Lewis Spense.

The subject was controversial from the beginning, and remains so now. Nonetheless, KEM mentions in several of her letters how the RAF used the effigy figures as landmarks for training new pilots. Later, she commissioned her own aerial photographs of the complex and in 1937 published them as a supplement to her Guide. In 1938 she moved to Canada where she carried on her work until her death in 1961, in a series of articles that included a walking tour of some of the important localities within the Enclosure.

KEM recognised in the effigies a prehistoric initiatory pattern that had later infused the tales of Merlin's Round Table, Arthur, and the Graal, and there is no doubt that she saw it as vital, not only for understanding the past, but for a new spiritual vision of the future. As my esteemed colleague R J Stewart has long been teaching, the stars and earth are closely bound up with initiatic experience. Indeed, the fundamental mystery of the Hermetic and related traditions, such as the alchemical and Rosicrucian, is concerned with the celestial powers inside the earth. These are the key to the transformation and regeneration of mortal beings and of matter itself.

To learn more about this fascinating subject you can do no better than to refer to the website of The Magical Ways Open Mysteries Directive which has just been brought to my attention, where you will also find useful information on Working with Sacred Sites, Contacting Spiritual Beings and The Magical Tree. What is more, contents may be freely quoted in whole or in part for purposes of study and teaching, both private and public, as long as due acknowledgement is given to the author. (Something which, outside of a den of thieves, should go without saying!)

All this is courtesy of a former student of mine, Coleston Brown, who has trod the Glastonbury land and followed up in the tracks of Katharine Maltwood on Vancouver Island. You can find out more on