In Water’s Arms

The White Spring Temple: Part II

Linda, the newly ensconced volunteer coordinator, turned out to be both fabulously loony and fabulously sincere about the White Spring Temple. She has been volunteering there for about a decade and has an infectious laugh and exuberant spirit that feeds an energetic being that is perfect for the task.  I spent a day with her going through her gauntlet to see if I was okay to be a volunteer. While I’m not able to climb to get to all the candle lighting, I did my share. Linda is so familiar with all of the walls, turns, corners, and protrusions that she can place and light candles in some very precarious places. I talked to people coming in and all of the other components of the job. So, I passed. From there on, I’m considered a space-keeper. I feel more confident to be in a pair, but there really should be a pair to keep watch over all. And I still am, each time I return.

The building stands on Wellhouse Lane at the foot of the grazing pastures that slope up to the Tor. The building itself is Victorian. Built in 1872 as a reservoir for the town, it provided the drinking/running water for about 30 years.  After decommissioning, the building was used and not used for about 80 years before becoming first shops and a café, the wiring from the 1980s-90s is still visible if no longer live, and then in 2004 it came into new ownership and the White Spring Trust was established for safer keeping. The Temple was consecrated in 2005. www.whitespring.org.uk

The White Spring’s history, however, runs forever alongside its sister, the red spring, aka Chalice Well, both of which emanate from the Tor. I will write about the Chalice Well and Gardens in the future.

 

The Tor is a teardrop shaped hill oriented similarly the temple building. Actually, it looks more like the infinity sign   ∞ and looms large in the landscape and can be seen – no, Demands to be seen – from almost anywhere in Glastonbury and for miles and miles around it. I’ve seen it from Street, Wells, Meare, Godney etc. When driving, there are certain vantage points that allow viewing all the way to Wookey. The valleys – called the Somerset Levels – were watery marshes from the Paleolithic. No doubt deep ruts from the retreat of glaciers 12K years ago.

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Glastonbury Tor from the NW side

I struggle to put into mere words what I have felt, what I have seen others experience, and what the White Spring Temple means to the people who volunteer there. My own sweet friend Ali does some volunteering, too. But she’s had so much death and despair in the last 3 years, she herself is worn out.

The best new friend who has come into my life because of the White Spring Temple is Jude. Soul sisters from the start, once again. Jude is aired. She lived in Glastonbury when we met last year, but she has recently moved out to Woolavington. She walks at Huntspill River Preserve in the Levels amongst the willows and wildlife. I have an open invitation to stay with her, which I will do on my next trip!

In 2015, she was living in a little row house across the street from a very old town cemetery where Dion Fortune is buried. I’ll not tell the tale of Dion. So much has been written and she wrote so much, it has to be left to the reader to delve into that. I will say that fortune’s legacy and impact on Glastonbury is still being felt some 60-odd years after her passing. http://www.servantsofthelight.org/about-sol/biographies/dion-fortune/  If you walk through the cemetery and on beyond Windmill Hill you come, once again to the Tor. In 2015, Jude reported through Facebook that she and her wonderful Zanaka Moon dog climbed it over 100 times. Very astounding to me.  Even after moving 12 miles away, they managed to climb the Tor 60+ times in 2016!

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Jude and Zanaka on their 100th climb up the Tor. by Amanda Mayborn [Facebook]
     Now, Zanaka aka Zsa is a most magnificent animal. She does get into dog scrapes often, though. In early Dec. 2015, just after lid met Jude, she got bitten pretty badly. Jude needed a dog-sitter, so I went and sat with the wounded Zsa. Good thing I did too. Her daughter and grandson came in just after Jude had gone on her errands and l ‘m afraid if I hadn’t been there that Zsa would have been accosted by the very lively child!

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Zanaka Moon dog. by Amanda Mayborn [Facebook]
     That first day I met Jude at the White Spring Temple, I was still trying to find out how to get into the volunteer corps and I went to just sit and feel, watch the place. There are almost always  nude bathers in the afternoon – no matter the outside temp and no matter that the water is about 45-50˚ in the pools. I dunk my head sometimes and get all my hair wet. It feels so wonderfully refreshing. In 2015, I did that even on Solstice. But I get ahead of myself.

One particular fellow comes every time the door is open. I don’t know his name, but we’ve seen each other on the High St. where we nod in recognition, without going into any detail, Jude told me that he is as veteran from the Iraq war. He plunges into the deep pool and then gets into the middle of the round pool and meditates with the candles sometimes 5 minutes, sometimes ½ hour or more. Jude suggests that the waters are what keeps PTSD at bay. I can certainly see that, May the white waters keep working for all who come to them!

Inside the White Spring Temple, Jude is the picture of quiet stewardship. She is never loud and allows each person or group space and time to do what they come in for. Many tourists, especially in the warm-months, happen upon the White Spring Temple as they are going to walk up or after they’ve come down the Tor. So many people have never heard of the White Spring Temple. Or the White Spring waters, for that matter.

Jude also has a glorious voice. She sings in a choir (Wells?) with some other folks associated with the White Spring Temple. Perhaps Linda. I think that’s the reason for our conversation in the first place. I was singing my prayer and she remarked on it; or, she was singing hers and I remarked on it. Either way we chatted and walked to all of the altars doing so. We ended up at the Mary / Black Madonna altar and I gave her my prayer, the Creah. That prayer has surely made it around the world by now.

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Jude and the gang outside the White Spring Temple. by Rachel Astara [Facebook]
      I met several lovely people at White Spring Temple during 2015. I went as many Monday afternoons as I could and some Fridays to co-volunteer either with Linda or Jude. It seems like every time I went one or two people seemed to hone in on me and me to them. One woman from Italy, never having heard of the white spring, came in because she heard singing from the road aside.

When I explained that no one was actually singing, she became very excited. She knew what she heard; I’ve heard voices singing when no humans were around too.

She ended up spending the rest of the afternoon in the White Spring Temple over in the deep pool area with tuning forks and a recorder. The sound of the rushing water, so ever-present, is relaxing, invigorating, liberating all at once. When she left, she said ”This is the best place in all of Glastonbury!” I had to agree.

As the weeks flew by, I felt more and more at home with all of the regulars at White Spring Temple and with the space itself. During my 2015 stay, the water insider got deeper and deeper until on the left third it came to nearly calf-height. Those wellies and Warm boot socks were a great investment!

The final time I was at the White Spring Temple in 2015 was on Winter Solstice. There were singers and extra candles burning so the place really lit up. The acoustics are magnificent and the songs like, ” The Holly & the Ivy”, produced an especially rare and magickal aura. You could really feel the sun coming back. Out in the courtyard, a brazier was burning briskly and several people gathered around, a number of Goddess-womyn showed up on that day and I got to say goodbye, well, TTFN – Tata For Now – to those lovelies. It was the best holiday time I’d had in years. There’s much more to my Winter Solstice 2015 story, but…TTFN!

The gift of quiet. The gift of time. The gift of writing.

The White Spring Temple. Part I: Samhain

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While I have said this before, the white spring and what has become the temple surrounding it, is the key to my magickal experience in Glastonbury.

From the first day I encountered it in 2011 with Margaret, Claire, and Ali, it has been the object of and central to meaning in Avalon.

In October 2015, during my fieldwork, I finally got in touch with the right people to Volunteer as a space-holder for the open times when the public is allowed free access. As much as- any church or temple or mosque, this place in free and open to all. The world being what it is, though, someone, preferably some-two are there to guide, direct, keep the Candles lit, keep mischief to a minimum when parents bring kids in and try to keep photography to a minimum. Photos do happen though, for which I am guiltily grateful. So I can gaze at someone’s photo from the web as I write.

On Samhain 2015, I saw an open Invitation in the local monthly “all things spiritual” journal, The Oracle, for a ritual at White Spring Temple. The holiday was celebrated, in this instance, on November 7, 2015. About 15 people ended up gathering. It ran on GT [Glastonbury Time] and the priestess who was running the ritual turned up about half an hour late. (Procuring the Key troubles). I was about to give up, but more folks arrived and so I waited. The experience was well worth the wait!

Once the priestess opened the main gate, she and two younger womyn who were obviously her assistants, began the long process of lighting candles and getting the space lit up and set up of ritual. I hung back and didn’t do anything but watch. I’d been at White Spring Temple when it was all ready for the public, but not from the get-go. It is amazing to watch the inside of the building go from pitch dark to enlightened. I would later learn that it takes about 50 candles of all different types to make that light every time the White Spring Temple is open.

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It was quite cold and rainy outside, but with the candles ablaze and 15 folks adding warmth, the temperature became quite comfortable in just a little while. We were asked to introduce ourselves around the circle. I think I was the only American and they were quite impressed that I’d found the ritual. I also don’t remember if the brazier was set up and tended on the outside court. Seems like it was.

2015 saw White Spring Temple with a substantial flooding problem. Every time I went, I got soaked past the ankles.  I finally went and bought my own wellies so I could stay dry.  For Samhain though, I got wet. Gloriously wet. The wonky knee doesn’t like it, but, we persevered.

There was a circle. And we each got a piece of wheat for the ritual and to take home. There was singing and chanting and drumming. The leader (priestess) then spun a meditation that took us into the world of Gwyn Ap Nudd – the faery king – deep within the Tor, where, it is said, there is an entrance to the world of faery. This meditation kept us entranced there while she beat a peculiar rhythm on the drum. I cannot recall the cadence as it was both mesmerizing and calming and otherworldly all at once.

In no time at all, I went to a deep chamber where the candlelight was only around the edges of my sight. The center was a tunnel of fog, mist if you will, that swirled and beckoned and begged- ‘stay!’ The ubiquitous rush of the water from the spring receded, quieted, became as subtle as honeybee wings. There was no voice, no discernible sound save the beating of the ancestress’s drum. Even that sounded far away and muffled. I felt transported to that otherworld.

I sat there in that state long after the others were back and chatting. I would not have been too shocked to find we’d lost hours of time.  But, it was 30-45 minutes that the priestess drummed and we were transported.  It seemed like moments. There are numerous tales about what lies beneath the Tor. The White Spring Temple is as close as I have come to it. Is there a Chamber? A maze of warrens too small for human folk? Science says’ no.’ Flat, just like that. Just piles of rock. Layers of rock. But, do those folks know everything? I think not. So current instrumentation tells them there is just rock. But, how can so many non-scientists be completely wrong?  Or are those warrens simply in the mind of the seeker? That’s a question for the future.

In that deep corner where the water wishes from the spring into the structure, beyond the bubbling spring on top (which I really want to touch) It makes its way through an underground maze… And has done since the last ice age! From whence all our stories come. I left that evening with an even more determined wish to Volunteer. By End of month, I would be.

[Note: Aside, there was a lot of upheaval in the Volunteer corps (care) at that point. People who had ‘run’ things for a decade, were stepping down and others (Linda) were stepping up. So it was a bit difficult at first to find the right people (person) to get the okay from.]

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