Chronologics: Ancient beginnings
Note the banks on the Tor
- this is from Beckery
The basic alignments around Glastonbury, as shown on the map, and elsewhere in Britain, were laid down during or even before the Megalithic period (3500 to 1500 BCE). Since these alignments embrace natural landscape features, many of them presumably mark or enhance natural earth energy patterns, though in some cases they surely create them too. There's a wonderful intuitive elegance to the placing and design of ancient sites – sometimes apparent only when you get there or see the landscape in a calm, sensitised state.
I and many others believe the banks around Glastonbury Tor were dug out during the Megalithic period, contemporaneously with the building of Avebury and Stonehenge. Personally I don't believe the Tor banks (seven of them) form a three-dimensional Cretan-style labyrinth [The Glastonbury Tor Maze, Geoffrey Ashe, Gothic Image 1996], even though this is a brilliant idea and I respect those who propose it. The banks are certainly not the agricultural terraces (strip lynchets) some archaeologists continue to favour, and irrationally too. My own feeling is that the banks constitute a succession of levels, though there is clearly an intended pattern to the way certain banks join one another. Higher up, many people have 'seen' standing stones atop the Tor. Wishful thinking, bullshit, memory or a good intuition? Your conclusion has something to do with your ideological predisposition.
The Somerset Levels
Some take Glastonbury's origins further back to an Atlantean or pre-deluvian period. Evidence of a global catastrophe around 9-10,000 BCE is now quite well established [When the Earth Nearly Died, Derek Allen & J B Delair, Gateway Books, 1994. Some reckon Atlantis was in what's now Antarctica – see When the Sky Fell, Rand & Rose Flem-Ath, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1995], though resisted by Darwinians – not only a melting of ice-caps and a rise in sea levels but also significant tectonic and climatic events. Atlantis was unlikely to be just an island in the Atlantic or Mediterranean, as is frequently inferred from Plato's descriptions – it was more probably an advanced transatlantic culture embracing both Egypt and Mexico, with Britain on its periphery. Reduce sea-levels by some 500ft and various landmasses appear around the Azores and off Florida, and Britain is connected with Ireland and the European continent.
The principles embedded in megalithic landscape alignments and ancient works of stone and earth are seen to represent remnants of a more ancient knowledge, which many people call Atlantean. There is growing and quite convincing evidence of an advanced knowledge-bearing civilisation with global characteristics, demanding a re-dating of some ancient Egyptian, Mexican and Peruvian monuments back to 12,000 BCE or before [Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock, Heinemann, 1995]. Currently tantalising evidence of a planetary catastrophe ending all this is a matter the 21st Century might well throw greater light on.
The Chalice Well, Glastonbury
The key article of faith here is that knowledge possessed by the megalithic Britons, ancient Egyptians and other contemporaries was a remembering or transmission of something derived from far earlier, or perhaps something archetypal or universal. Geomantic evidence such as that of ley-alignments suggests that a continuous transmission of these ideas was passed down over several millennia from Megalithic to Medieval times and that Glastonbury, amongst other places worldwide, played a part in this preservation – that is, up to the Abbey fire of 1184, which destroyed a wealth of recorded knowledge and relics in its great library.
Glastonbury saw at least several phases of cultural prehistory – we're dealing with a period of several millennia before the Romans came. When we talk about 'the Megalithic period', the Bronze and Iron Ages, we often forget that many generations are alive over a period of, say, 300 years. The roughly 1,500 year extent of the Megalithic period thus saw many cultural variations and turns of fortune within it.
Then came the Celtic period lasting 700-1,000 years, the Romano-British period lasting 350 years, the so-called Dark Ages of 500 years and the high Middle Ages of 500 years – followed by the modern period we now live in, lasting thus far 600 years. In terms of scale, the Christian ecclesiastical era was a high-point in Glastonbury's long history, lasting more than 800 years (704-1539). Even the 20th C new age heritage, spearheaded by several generations of eccentrics, creatives and mystics, has lasted over 100 years.
The two most recognisable pre-Christian phases are the Megalithic period some 4,000-5,500 years ago (Bronze Age) and the Britonic/Druidic phase some 1,700-3,000 years ago (Iron Age). In its last 300 or so years it existed as a parallel and somewhat marginalised culture during the Roman period between 65 and 410 CE. Within these time-periods there will have been many phases and generations – just one century is a long time.
In all cases, from ancient to modern times, Glastonbury has been a meeting-place for holy people, adepts, students and pilgrims, a kind of perennial college and place of initiation and learning. Even if this involved only a small gaggle of a hundred people, in those times of much lower population, this will have been significant, especially because of the specialist knowledge and influence of such people. Similarly, today, while the number of 'alternative' people in and around Glastonbury numbers perhaps only 2,000 people, the quiet influence they assert on national and international affairs is, for a small town, quite impressive.