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 inside 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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Apocaplypse Nowish

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Painting by American artist Sharlene Lindskog-Osorio

Read this article from Indian Country Today, the preeminent newspaper of the combined indigenous nations of America.

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/12/20/apocalypse-prophecies-native-end-world-teachings-146476

While this was written in 2012 in the middle of the Mayan end of days hyper-ecstatic craze that swept the New Age spiritual world, it is still a potent reminder of the pain and agony, and of the hopefulness of a world of tribal societies that Europeans cum Americans attempted to annihilate in the name of “Manifest Destiny” and some ethnocentric “right of being” brought to the so-called New World by Christianity gone aggressive armies. Apocalyptic visions are hardly the sole property of “people of the book,” namely the Abrahamic big 3 that seems to get all of the attention, still.

But, when peoples speak of the “end of the world” what are they talking about?  I think it’s safe to say, three years on, that the Mayan apocalypse was indeed the end of a calendar.  It’s not like on December 31 everyone thinks the world is going to end.  But for some people, of course that happens.  People die.  War. Earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, tornadoes,  typhoons, drought, wild-fires strike with increasing ferocity every single day. When it does, it is truly the “end of the world.”

As we turn toward another Gregorian calendar turn, may we all remember that, as far as Gaia, the beautiful, calm, serene, angry, ugly, and spinning earth, is concerned, time is irrelative. Four+ billion years ago is the same as tomorrow.  Beings upon our blessed earth come and go and SHE will keep spinning.  In that light, the very best we can do is to be good to one another.  We are 99.9% exactly the same at the DNA level.  I am your daughter, sister, mother, lover, aunt, niece.  We are all cousins, at some infinitesimal level.  Gaia knows.  She holds our space on this earth as surely as we hold space for each other in love and ritual.

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by Brand A

The Glastonbury Thorn Ceremony.

December 16, 2015: My intention was to cover the ceremony of the Cutting of the Holy Thorn that travels to the Queen’s Christmas Day table every year since the reign of James 1, ca. 1603. Here is an article from the BBC about the Holy Thorn ceremony and a short history.

As it often happens, in Glastonbury, even though I was invited by the Mayor, Denise Michel, and was out and about well before the 10:30 start, and even saw the Mayor’s contingent walk up the High Street. I could have followed, but Denise had told me the previous evening that there would be a procession with the children to the Holy Thorn. So, I decided to wait for the procession and then take photos and some video at the tree in the Abbey, which, I assumed, would be the spot where the ceremony would take place. I assumed that because every single time I have been on a tour of the Abbey, the guide would always make a point of stopping at the Holy Thorn and tell of the story of the cutting for the regent’s table.

Once there, I found another person, Thèrèse, an Elder Bard here, waiting with her son. We had a very deep discussion and I ended up telling her about some instances in my life that profoundly changed my perspectives on people and how that influenced me to this day. As the time passed, the procession did not come. And did not come. And never came.

Thèrèse finally called someone on the phone and discovered that the ceremony in fact was at the Holy Thorn in St. John’s Church courtyard. Not in the Abbey. Oh, my.

By the time we got up the High Street, the whole lot of children and dignitaries were on their way back down. We missed the official ceremony.
Now, at the surface that sounds like a terrible comedy of errors and very unfortunate. However, I don’t think that is the case.

Avalon clearly had different ideas about what should happen and who would be where. We discovered, upon meeting the dozen+ other Bards coming back down the street, that we weren’t the only ones to miss the St. John’s cue. Yet another Elder Bard had made the considerable hike up to the original Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill thinking that would be the spot for the ceremony. That thorn is the mythic site of Joseph of Arimathea’s planting of the thorn some 2000 years ago. So, Avalon managed to have a solemn Druidic presence at all three of the thorns.

That’s Glastonbury magick.

“Suffragette”: An Ethnographic Review

Mind you, I am all too familiar with the content of the film, “Suffragette.” Having studied, then taught, women’s studies and feminism at the university level since 1990, I know the basic story of the Pankhursts. The story of votes for women.

Both the US and the UK had simultaneous battles ongoing in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Yes, battles. We are shocked and appalled by the images of police-men throwing down young girls in classrooms, on street corners. We can’t understand how any police-man can shoot a fleeing suspect in the back, in cold blood. Part of the answer is that the police have always been a violent gang of legalized thugs that do the bidding of government – be that local, regional, or national.1

Yet, knowing the tragedies of women’s lives, especially working women’s lives, does not diminish the agony of watching it unfold before you in the well-acted, well-constructed film that is “Suffragette.” The lead, Maude Hobbs Watts, skillfully played by Carey Mulligan, is the English personification of a too hard-worked, married mother of one who was in a certain place at a certain time. Karma? Fate?

A laundry-woman (not considered a skilled trade despite being one), Maude is confronted by the 1913 anarchist movement founded by Emmeline Pankhurst. The call to incitement to act in “deeds, not words,”2 came after some half-century of peaceful protests, speeches, and pamphlet-writing by multitudes of woman orators and authors who all made reasonable arguments in favor of women’s equal status with men.

Maude’s awakening/consciousness raising came at first from seeing and getting caught inside a radical Women’s Social and Political Union WSPU window-breaking attack on West End shops. Injured and confused, she made her way home and talked – or tried to talk – to her husband, Sonny, about what she’d witnessed. The more she learned, and the more women she met who themselves were involved in the Votes for Women movement, stirred something deep inside. A yearning for a different life, for herself and her husband, but most especially for her son, Charlie.

The dramatic break-up of this tiny family is a microcosm of the whole raison d’etre of the women’s movement. Her husband failed her. Her child was swept away from her. The “boss” at the laundry, where she worked herself to exhaustion for a pittance, had been sexually abusing her since becoming an orphan of the laundry (her mum was scalded to death) at age 4. She watched as another young 12-year-old girl was being targeted by the same “boss.” Maude had had enough.

While I don’t think breaking windows and blowing up mailboxes are particularly good or effective ways of getting ones’ point across – then or now – I quite understand the frustration that must have welled up in this movement. Reason and well-thought argument, it was clear, did nothing, nothing to change men’s minds. Pankhurst also said that men only understand war.

In the end, a woman’s life was sacrificed in order to bring the British government around to even paying attention. Even then, it had to happen in such a public place with the entire world’s press watching and reporting to have an effect. Whose life and what mode of sacrifice? For that bit, go watch this film. Weep for those women, weep for women right now, and weep for all of us.

I’ve called this an ethnographic review because part of the experience was going to the Strode Theatre in Street, Somerset (close to Glastonbury) for a cinema night. The house was nearly full. Throughout the film there were ripples of disgust, shock, and horror. At the close, the film makers gave some pertinent facts about the fight for women’s rights. As each new line or information or date of suffrage for women around the world was revealed, there was an audience-wide intake of breath. Later, in the café while ordering coffee to try to settle my thoughts and drive home, women at the bar were saying that every little girl needs to see the film. I think every child should. A few elder women whispered at their table that their own mums or grans were involved. Many, though, had no idea that all this had happened.

That is the base, the core of the problem that we as women still have to face every day with our current fight for women’s rights. Education and keeping the herstory alive and in schools, writing, films, music, art – IN PUBLIC – is vital for today’s battles to be won.

___________

1 BTW, I am not anti-policing as there are legitimate criminals. I am anti-thuggery, however, which is what I am discussing here.
2 Pankhurst, Emmeline. 1914 My Own Story. p. 38.

A November Photo Essay

Thursday dawned as a very wet, very blustery, very bleh day.  Great day. No really.  I went to the Abbey as usual, but as there were few people about, I decided to go up to the meeting room where all of the reference library is kept and delve into a PhD thesis about the Abbey’s archaeology. There is also a brandy-new book available that outlines the archaeological digs at the Abbey as long as such has been going on.

After I exhausted my eyes, I went down to the Abbey Tea Rooms for a cuppa and a look through the local paper.  I “met” a very loud young man who told me he was a channel and a healer.  “Me too,” says I.  I have found that channels and healers are a dime a dozen in Glastonbury.  This one was heading back to London after 18 months here.  He sounded bereft, as if he were going home to Siberia and not just 3 hours down the M4. Leaving Glastonbury has a tendency to that to people, though.  I understand and sympathized.

Once I finished my tea, I decided to take a drive up streets and lanes that I had never been on before.  What was laid before me is a quiet lane and a “back door” route to the Tor.

Here are some vistas of the countryside from that lane.

The late afternoon/evening had turned beautiful seeing the rain of the morning move to some other vale and now the clouds lay gorgeous on Avalon.

Just a bit further along the lane, solitary among boulders of granite or limestone to keep people from parking and leaving their cars there, is this solid quartz boulder.  Of course, my pictures don’t do it justice.  It is 30″ high at its maximum and about that broad on the ground.  My pictures attempt to show the numerous points and crannies that make up the boulder.  For you Arthur fans, could this be the stone from which he pulled the sword??? Hmmmm. Seriously, though, it is an amazing piece of mother earth to be found here on the side of the road in Somerset.  A treat.

So, it began raining again and I ended my short sojourn.  But, the next day, Friday turned off beautiful.

Again to that lane, past the views and the quartz boulder.  To some magnificent views of the Tor that I have ever taken.  See for yourself.

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You can really see the layered terraces that are one of the hallmarks of the Tor. [Remember that the Tor is the hill, not the medieval tower on the top.] Many use the terraces as a labyrinthine walkway to ascend the Tor.  Whether or not that labyrinth is a human-made pilgrimage-way is up for constant debate.  It has been used enough, at this point in time, that it has become that for many pilgrims.

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I went down another even smaller lane, which went to a beautiful home and into a very muddy farm road that I didn’t try.  But as I was turning around to go back out, this was the view.  Can you imagine living with that view outside your windows?  This is one of my favorite pictures that I have ever taken.  We are looking from slightly northeast view, here.

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From Janet Haddock’s Pinterest page

On this map, I am taking the picture approximately from the little red dots on the road in the upper right corner.  I wish I could put in an arrow. Alas.

From here and in due awe, I went back down Wellhouse Lane [which ends on Chilkwell St. and runs between the Chalice Well Gardens and the White Spring] to take some exterior pictures of the White Spring.  Although there are many photographs on-line, the association of companions of the White Spring ask that no electronics or photographs of any kind be taken of the interior.  I respect that.  The nature of the energy in the White Spring is wilding. It is the raw force of Gaia rushing from beneath the Tor itself.  There are geological papers about the origins of the springs, but, even these scientists seem somewhat at a loss. I invite you to read J.D. Mather’s “‘WONDER-WORKING WATER’: THE HISTORY AND HYDROGEOLOGY OF THE CHALICE WELL AND OTHER GLASTONBURY SPRINGS” for a scientific explanation.  All of the springs associated with the Tor “arise from the Pennard Sand.  And, while there is fluctuation of water levels due to rain or lack there of, at least the Red Spring and the White Spring always flow.

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From Wellhouse Lane Up

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Spiral in the Courtyard

This is the place in the whole of Glastonbury where I personally find my connection to land, to the Lady and to the land of Faery.

Step with me into the Temple. The rushing water

from the heart of the Tor

Full of Goodness

Full of Magick

Full of Life.

The realm of Gwyn Ap Nudd

Faery King

The Realm of SHE WHO IS

Queen of the World

The realm of a thousand years in a single day and night.

When we emerge from the Faery

what will we find outside?

A world healed? A world gone madder?

WE must decide.                                                 cbm 11/19/2015

This is a place I love.  Today, Sunday, I’m going to go and volunteer there so others may come and visit.  Blessed Be.

And now on into Somerset to Compton Dundon.  The day was so fine and the yews growing over the edge of the Chalice Well wall whispered to go and visit the old one.  The ancient yew in the church yard of the St. Andrews Church at the top of a hill in the lovely village of Compton Dundon.  It is a spectacular site/sight and I will let the photos speak for themselves.

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One side of She the Yew
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St. Andrews Sign of warning.
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From about 250′ at the edge of the church yard.

This tree is breathtaking.  She is surrounded by an octagon stone wall with over 6′ sides.  She is hollow inside and appears not to care in the least.  The church information claims she is some 2000 years old.  That means the first builders of the first church must have recognized her age and let her stand.  The church itself is at least 1000 years in origin as there is a floor tomb within marked 1036. Here are some interior and exterior pictures.  From an old architect’s view, it is amazing.

While I sat on the great octagon under the Yew, from inside the church (which was quite empty) I heard doors banging shut.  Four times.  Even the pigeons in the bell tower were flustered and flew.  I said a prayer for any stuck souls to go to their intended places and the banging stopped. The pigeons came back and the crows wheeled overhead.

It is difficult to leave the Yew’s presence, and only the rain forced me back to the car and down the steep lane to the village below.

Being a wanderer – I love to get lost and find my way out again! – I took a road that I had never been on.  Whilst on it, I took a turn that was a farm road leading to one that appears to be for sale and quite deserted.  As I came back to the more main road, I saw this. . .

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Rainbow 1 of 3

Surely, that is a sign.

On Culture Shock, Being Here, and Being Away.

I began writing this entry on November 9, 2015. It is also the first day that I am clearheaded enough to write for the Blog here. Not that I haven’t been writing, oh, no. I have nearly a ream of handwritten notes. Getting those from one form of calligraphy to another, that’s another matter. As the heading says, I feel I must talk about culture shock. But, just what are we talking about? The bane of the anthropologist’s existence. To read more, click on the link above to read Rachel Irwin’s excellent explanation in her article, “Culture Shock, Negotiating Feelings in the Field.” I have taught this concept in my classroom for some 16 years, now, and have also related what I personally experienced when I was in the field between 1996 and 1998 in Cherokee, NC. Let me tell you, knowing mentally what is going on here, even remembering my other experience of culture shock nearly twenty years ago, does not, did not, has not fully prepared me for the moment(s) that it hit me here in Glastonbury.

It’s not that I’m uncomfortable. I have this nice little nest here at InnGlastonbury that is perfect for me. My abilities [walking and climbing hills] have increased many-fold. [Although I do wish I had a bicycle so it would be a tad easier to get to places further away.] I have the resources to have a car at my disposal (although I don’t use it as much as at home in NY), I have enough ££ to purchase food and drink and the little necessities that always come up. I have friends. Now. There are so many visitors to Glastonbury that I am just another face in the vastly moving crowd in certain times and places. Even as the darkness creeps ever nearer in the evening and mist/fog and clouds lay close along the land, tourists and pilgrims still come to Avalon. There is most certainly enough work to keep me engaged, more even, than I had anticipated when I was contemplating this project and sabbatical over a year ago. And therein lies a major part of the culture shock. I’m putting two different charts in here. One is my personal interpretation, the other is from a website called www.CrossCulturalSolutions.org .

Culture Shock chartThis one is mine and specific to my time here in England. The chart below is a longer range look at culture shock experience. So, let’s walk through the experience. It is my hope that this discussion will add to the much-needed personal experience narratives and dialogue about the subject for anthropologists, specifically, but, also for others who are sojourning in other countries, cultures, and climes (Irwin 2007).

Coming off of a rough August at home due to factors that are personal and shall remain so, I found it difficult to get excited about coming on this trip away for just over three months. I had a melt-down then and pulled myself out of that just as I was leaving in mid-September. Once I arrived here in Glastonbury, which I have written about and invite you to go back revisit that narrative, my mood lightened considerably as it was so nice to be back here in the beloved country. After that, I also had a whirlwind 10+ days coming up that included spending 5 days in Canterbury and along the southern coast. So, by the time I got back here and ready to dig my heels in, I was well and fully into the Honeymoon phase of my experience. Everyone was glad to see me after more than a year away and I had lots to do with friends. But, those who live here full time have busy lives and plans and families to keep them occupied.

It was at that point that I came face-to-face with the fact that I am in this alone. Now, just to be clear, I am not looking for sympathy or atta-girls or anything like that. What I am doing here is putting into words the processes and outcomes of my path through this project, or as it turns out, projects. In the chart below, you’ll see “the plunge” just after the Honeymoon phase. That is followed by “Initial adjustment.” For myself, I’ve been through the initial adjustment period on several occasions here in the UK. Since I have been coming to Glastonbury every year since 2011, I well understand the food and drink culture, driving on the opposite side

www.crossculturalsolutions.org

http://www.crossculturalsolutions.org

of the road in the opposite side of the car, as well as how and where to shop for everything I need, road rules, and things like tipping in restaurants. For me, then, “the plunge” is combined with “confronting deeper issues.” In my chart, that is stated as “Realization of the enormity of the project(s) and the work involved – being really alone [read: on my own] in this community.” So what does that mean?

Somewhere in my mind, I reckon that I got caught up in thinking that being here for an extended period of time would be like an extended 2-3 week experience which I’ve had each year for the last four. That is except for 2013, when I brought a Study Abroad group from Suffolk County Community College (where I am a Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies), for a 6+ week sojourn. Even then, I was so busy and involved with the students, driving them everywhere we went from Bath to Penzance and back again, and grading their work, answering questions, doing lectures and workshopping information, along with Margaret Meggs (without whom I couldn’t have done), that I didn’t even feel the Honeymoon phase! And, I was never alone. Margaret and I stayed for about 10 days after we put the students on their planes home, but even then, there was no sense of confronting deeper issues as we had friends around almost every day and we had each other. Now, I am not trying to speak for Margaret, but I realize now that in order to dip into those issues and work at making sense of them I need solitude. In point of fact, until this trip, I didn’t even realize that those deeper issues where there. But, of course, they are.

Having realized what I had set myself up for in terms of the work, my brain thereby made “the plunge.” On my chart that is expressed by “Feelings of Isolation and Depression.” One of the women that I have come to depend upon was away for two weeks, another person cancelled our meeting time, and as stated above, everyone else was busy with life in their own ways. I spent many hours in my nest in thought and meditation, depression and anxiety. Now, does that mean I wasn’t working? Mercy no. As Barbara Ehrenreich once said: Just because I’m riding around on a bicycle [appearing pleasant and relaxed I presume] doesn’t mean that I’m not working. She was very busy in her head. Me too. I have nearly filled a notebook with notes, some of which are already here, but some of which have not made it from hand-written form to type-written form. I’m working on that.

I am on the way out of that period, now. I feel more at home and at peace. I have made other friends and acquaintances so that I have more interaction with people. I take advantage of the splendid array of talks and lectures, music, and ritual that is the reason I am in Glastonbury in the first place. Because I have continued to step out, even when feeling depressed and anxious, to pre-set destinations for gathering data, the Abbey and the Tor, I have learned a great many things about what the people here think and feel about their town, what is going on in it, and about the people who come here on a day to day basis. Most will be forthcoming.

At the end of my chart, I have listed “Realization of time coming to an end.” I am certainly not experiencing this yet. I have thought ahead to this piece as I’ve come and gone before, as stated above. I always have a certain trepidation about leaving. But, today, I have 45 days to go. There are so many events coming up . . . gulp . . . there’s that feeling of being overwhelmed . . . that I am literally running from one to the next. Today finds me going to Cardiff, Wales to visit with and interview the lovely and phenomenally talented Gwen Davies who I met as a result of two Glastonbury Goddess Conferences. I decided to go to her in Cardiff as she has a full schedule as well. Pictures from that two-day jaunt will be forthcoming.

So, will my downward sloping feelings reappear? Probably. Is that normal for ethnographic fieldwork? Absolutely. It is where I have found myself and my place here in Glastonbury.

Faery Ball W/ Allen Lee, Art Design Master for the Lord of the Rings films
Faery Ball W/ Allen Lee, Art Design Master for the Lord of the Rings films
Faery Ball w/ Gandalf the Grey!
Faery Ball w/ Gandalf the Grey!

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