I am back at my desk after my journey, and wanted to share with you my experience at the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, England. It was a profound experience for me; possibly the most profound I have ever undergone. I failed in a letter to my dear sister Willowsong, to express the emotions which had swept me away on that night, and are indeed still with me. After reading and rereading my notes, the writer in me has decided to simply describe the physical events, and leave it to you, the reader, to find the emotion. My words are a pitiful attempt to recreate something which I have found to be indescribable, but they are all I have. Those empaths among you may be able to "feel between the lines", and some of you may have shared in some small measure with me, as I whispered your names during the Circle, trying to gather your spirits to me.
It began on the train from London to Exeter Saturday morning 21 March. I was planning on returning to Devon after having spent the previous day and night in the City on the Thames. I was feeling very well, very "up" and energized and wound up on an earlier train than I had planned. When the train pulled into the station at Bath, I decided to break my journey for a bit of shopping. As I crossed the street, taking a shortcut to the market square through the bus station, the Glastonbury Coach pulled up and stopped just in front of me. The sun was brilliant, and it was a warm and beautiful day. Bugger the shopping I thought, save it for a misty day…and I boarded the bus feeling very free and unencumbered by the strictures of time. I was on holiday and my time was my own to do with as I pleased. Such spontaneity is, for those of you who don't know me so well, very out of character.
I alighted from the coach in the town centre, just across the street from the Abbey Ruins. The day was so lovely I decided to walk the mile up the hill to the base of the famous Tor, and stop at the Chalice Well Gardens to have a walk and to get some water from the sacred spring. The Gardens are now in the trust of the Guardians of the Well, a group dedicated to maintaining the gardens and the well and pools therein. As I stopped at the entrance booth to pay my 2 pounds fifty p donation, the lady at the counter motioned me to the side and asked me if I would be coming back in the evening for the Circle. I hadn't known about it and had made no plans to stay on in Glastonbury, or even to have been there at all. I told her that if I could find an accommodation in the town I would be back. She directed me to the Tourist Information Board, and said she hoped she'd see me later.
As I wandered around the gardens, stopping at the different pools, wending my way towards the well head, a sense of peace crept in and settled deep within me. I filled my bottles at the Lion Head Fountain, and sat quietly on a stone bench, listening to the water as it travelled on its route to the Vesica Pisces Pool. The maxim of the Gardens is "May you find peace here". I cannot see how it would be possible to do otherwise. It was with reluctance that I left even briefly. I kept a good pace as I walked back into the town to find accommodation for the night. There was no chance that I would miss this opportunity.
I found the Tourist Board on the High Street with no trouble, and was greeted by a typical English matron volunteer-type with short gray hair, tweed jacket and very sensible shoes. She rang a Pub called "The Who'da Thought It" and I had a place to stay. It was a modest room, but affordable, clean and en suite (a particular requirement of mine) just off the City Centre. I settled in, had tea and arranged for a taxi to pick me up at half past 6:00. The Garden gates were to open at 7:00 and the Circle to begin at 7:30. With a few hours to spare, I went for a reccy and purchased a clean pair of knickers, and fresh socks. I also found an Internet Café where I popped in, answered some e-mail, and posted to you here.
Back in my room, I had a quick wash and went down to the pub for a bite to eat. One shepherd's pie and a diet Pepsi later, I was ready and my taxi arrived to take me back to the Chalice Well.
The taxi dropped me at the car park at about 6:45. There where several people milling around making small talk. I stopped to chat with a couple from New Mexico. They also had not planned on being in Glastonbury that day, but had somehow been drawn there. A local Craft artist joined us. He had a shop in Glastonbury, and although he was in the town daily to work, he hadn't ever stopped at the Chalice Well before. Something, he said, had nudged him to take the walk that day, and he, like me, had been asked back.
One of the Guardians came and opened the gate. He told us that we should queue up near the booth at the entrance where we would be given our candles for the circle. The four of us moved through the gates and stood quietly, reflectively. The Guardianship of the Well is now in Pagan hands, but the Well itself has spiritual symbolism in many traditions. It is sacred to Christians as well as followers of the Old Ways. It transcends individual belief and speaks directly to the soul. Christian, Pagan, Jew, Muslim, it mattered not, for here all people of Spirit are one, Seekers.
As we moved forward slowly, each being given a candle and shown through to the gardens, a woman three people in front of me turned and smiled. She said she was glad I could make it. It was the woman from the Tourist Board. I smiled back, a bit at a loss (yes, it still happens, even to me). I remarked something to the effect that she must've known why I needed the room then. She returned my smile and told me I'd been expected. I understood that I was one of many who'd been "expected". I marvelled that I had been guided to this place and this time to be healed of a condition that I had yet barely acknowledged to myself, much less shared with others.
Inside the Gardens proper, tall garden candles had been lit all along the pathways. The night was very still and the glow was gentle, ethereal, flickering like faery lights throughout. By day, the Gardens had been beautiful and tranquil, but by night they were transcendent. We moved in singles and twos and threes, pausing to meditate, drawing in the energies which floated on the softly scented night. From everywhere came the sounds of splashing, coursing water, of night birds, of soft chanting and whispered communion as we dispersed into every part of this sacred place. I paused at the Lion Head Fountain, and kneeled, letting the cool water of the Blood Spring wash over my hands. I pressed the cup which stands always filled to my lips, and drank deeply of the healing. For a moment I called to the spirits of my friends, those who need healing and those who are healers, offering them the cup and drinking for them. Then, I replaced the red stained vessel and stood slowly, grateful for the aid of another pilgrim who lifted me under the elbow and helped me gain my feet. It was the Craft artist I'd been speaking to in the car park.
He stayed near me as I meditated, calling out to you, my "other" family, gathering many of you to me. Softly I chanted your names just out of human hearing. From a distance I heard the deep tolling of a bell, the signal to move to the Vesica Pisces Pool for the Circle.
As I stood and made my way toward the main path, I could see the flickering of a host of candles, moving from every direction, converging on the pathway in procession. The sounds of Earth flowed all around us, each wrapped in thought, each holding the halo of energy tightly around us; solitary, and yet somehow part of something greater than us all. Faces were indistinct in the soft luminescence. We were shades, shadows, spirits, some robed and hooded, many more like me, wearing whatever we'd had on when we were called. My impromptu companion kept his hand firmly beneath my elbow to steady me as we moved in time with the others. Softly he whispered, "Do you feel Him? The Horned One is here". I nodded mutely, for I had felt it. Here so very near the Eternal Womb, Cerridwyn's Cauldron, the Holy Grail, Cernunnos Himself was leading us to the place of ritual. Though the night was cool, I felt a rush of warmth as the ground beneath my feet seemed to radiate with a tangible primal force. We were truly and physically in a place between the worlds, in a time where there is no time.
We reached the Vesica Pisces Pool, and stood at the top as others fanned out below perhaps a hundred and fifty people forming a circle within a circle. When all had found their place, the Guardian leading the Rite called for those to be healed to step forward and sit on the ground, and healers to step back one pace and stand. "We know who you are, healers, we saw you come in," she called into the candlelit night. I began to move forward on impulse, ready to take my place among those who sought healing. Then, suddenly, a voice which was not a voice urged me back a pace with an almost physical nudge. In that one stunning instant I realized that only by extending healing to others could I find healing for myself.
As I stepped back and took a place among the healers, I felt tears start down my face. I called silently for two of my sisters, experienced healers both, and felt them one at my right shoulder and one at my left. My companion smiled encouragement at me, as the ritual began. The energy moved through me like an electrical current, tingling as it moved along my arms. The palms of my hands grew warm, and then hot as I directed the flow outward from myself to those gathered in front and below. All throughout, I kept up my soundless chant, calling upon my family for assistance and guidance, and feeling it come upon me in waves. My thanks to those of you who answered my silent calling. I envisioned the force spreading out from the small stream which tumbled over the rocks at my feet from the sacred source, flowing into all the waters of the Earth, bringing peace and blessings and healing of mind, body and spirit wherever it touched. I chanted the names over again for the last time, willing the peace to permeate your spirits had it had mine.
Gradually, the heat subsided, and the circle drew to a close. Ever so slowly I permitted myself to sink to the ground, to set down my candle and place both my palms hard against the soft earth. In a few seconds or moments or hours (time was truly irrelevant) I found my centre and grounded enough to disperse the energy which remained back from whence it had come.
My companion helped me up again, and handed me my candle. He followed me as I made my way to Kind Arthur's Court pool and splashed the water into my face. Then, I followed him as we went back to the source, the Well Head. Others joined us for a time in silent meditation, or prayer. Slowly, in ones and twos and threes, we found our way back to the Vesica Pisces Pool, where we placed our candles around the edge. As I moved toward the gate to leave, I looked back. From around the pool winked more than a hundred tiny points of light, points of hope. I knew then as I understand now, without question, that those points of light will grow and spread until there is not a corner of the world which does not have it's own tiny point of light, hope.