We have had such a vibrant and busy Beltane season so far that I have only just had a chance to write it all down – and we still have some way to go with our full moon Beltane celebration happening from dusk to dawn tomorrow, Saturday 5th May.
The last couple of weeks have flown by. We have felt such a shift of energy co-inciding with some pokey magical unfolding. I’ll start by telling you about the multi faith gathering organised by the Pilgrim Reception Centre. Glastonbury 2012.
On Saturday 21st April 2012 a momentous event occurred here in Glastonbury. I hadn’t realised the enormity of it until I was walking into the centre of a circle of representatives of over 50 different faiths, paths and ways. All of us gathering together in a spirit of unity.
It was a remarkable undertaking. Everyone had been invited to collect a candle and a small blue bottle from the pilgrim reception centre in town so that they may bring water from wherever they wished in the locality and take a light from the Glastonbury candle away with them.
A Glastonbury candle was lit in the morning and placed on a magnificent flowered bier. It was then carried from place to place, resting at many churches, sacred sites and places of spiritual significance to many townsfolk.
I had opened the White spring for the afternoon and awaited the arrival of the candle at 4pm at the last stopping point of the journey. I had collected the water that I would bring to the ceremony from the healing pool, at the shrine dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Glastonbury’.
At around 3.30 two of our keepers arrived for the ceremony, so Max and I went to prepare the candle. It was too big for most lanterns so Max had to whittle the bottom of it so it would fit into the one we had brought.
A friend came running up the hill to tell us that the candle would arrive soon. It had been carried over Glastonbury Tor by druids and bards of the town.
What a lovely sight it was, from the bottom of Wellhouse Lane as the Druids of Glastonbury appeared carrying the candle and a standard bearing the Awen symbol. They processed to the White spring and placed it inside the building.
Now, I am accustomed to sensing the energy and consciousness of a flame through my work with the fire. I teach firewalking and keep a perpetual flame that has been kept alight for 7 years, so I feel an affinity with fire energy. This flame had been lit that morning, using a Glastonbury candle that has been created and infused with herbs and essences including The Holy Thorn. It was lit with a dedication to unity and diversity; a flame to honour the multi-faceted aspects of Glastonbury. It had journeyed to so many places around the town, carried by representatives of many different faiths and I could feel the significance in this. I had thought it would have been great to have lit it with the Brigid flame, but now I could see that this was a different kind of energy that was building.
After a few minutes in the dark of the cave like structure under the Tor, it was time for us to carry the candle to the gardens of Chalice Well. Two of us were needed to hold the large bier that housed the lantern. We placed it on our shoulders and walked the long way round to the gardens led by Morgana, manager of The Pilgrim Reception centre. I was at the front and could not see the flame. Max was holding the other end, he told me later that his main objective was to stop the bier from swinging side to side and to keep the flame from going out!
As we turned onto Chilkwell Street, Morgana turned and asked me to sing so we sang, ‘there is a fire burning for peace.’
As we entered the garden and saw the people gathered there I really began to feel the power of what was happening here. I felt a rush of energy come up through me as we entered the circle and placed the candle in the centre.
I was a little overwhelmed as I collected my lantern from the keeper who had been holding it for me. I stepped back into the circle. Opening up to the moment, I looked around me and saw so many people with different ways of life gathered around this one flame. Neighbours, friends, people I see regularly, others I have yet to meet, all gathered together.
A few words were said about the flame, about the gardens and about why we were invited to this event. We were asked to step forward and pour the water we had collected into a beautiful crystal glass bowl made for the occasion. To say something of what we represent and then to light our candle with a blessing.
I had thought about what I represented; I am the current custodian of The White Spring and keeper of the perpetual flame held by Brigid, a flame of divine consciousness arising in humanity. I represent … (wow, big statement!) what do I represent? …. Me? The energies of the White spring? Pagan? Wizard? Priestess? Mother? Druid? the divine power expressed from this locality of being? No thing? I could and I do represent all of this and none of it … If that makes sense.
I ended up saying nothing about what I thought I represented, feeling unable to put it in a box or limit it by labelling it. Instead I simply stated where I had brought the water from and then lit my candle with a blessing.
‘A blessing for all the people of Glastonbury and all who pass through this place, living and non-living. May this gathering here today help us all to re-member … Re-member the common unity here in the heart. The heart of the land, the heart of the world. May the heart thrive!’
Everyone stepped forward and one by one poured their water and lit their candle with a unique blessing for Glastonbury. Water was brought from all over the landscape. From hills and springs, from gardens and graveside, from rivers and taps.
It was very moving to see each person come forward in such diverse expressions with a common purpose.
If we can stand in a circle of peace here in Glastonbury, extending our compassion and love to others in our community no matter their background, or their way of belief and faith, then why not across the whole world? Perhaps this is just the seed, maybe other towns and cities will be inspired to do the same, gathering together to celebrate similarities instead of fighting over differences.
As the candle was taken by each person and lit up the whole circle, I was reminded of an analogy that I came across that helped me to make sense of the many different paths to the same source.
There is a lamp so bright that it may overwhelm you, it burns so powerfully. This lamp has a lampshade lest it blind those who look upon it. It is so vastly beyond our comprehension. There are many different shapes to let some of the light through. Some familiar, others not so. We are drawn towards those shapes and impressions of the light that make sense to us. Those shapes give the light a form through which our human understanding can access the awesome light at the centre. There is just the one divine light – the shape, the story and the structure that we give to it is our own unique way of experiencing that divine expression.
One of my teachers told me once that it is fun to hang out where god hangs out … It may seem funny to think of it like that, yet this thinking has led me to special sites of power, and some churches, chapels, ashrams, darshans and to unexpected places and people where I have felt potent expressions of divinity. Here I was again, hanging out where god hangs out; feeling divinity arising, and this time with so many different tones, expressions and flavours.
After everyone had come forward, we were offered a bottle to take some of the mixed waters away with us and another gift. A sweet little box with pieces of the Holy Thorn inside it. This symbolic gift was potent. The Holy Thorn was damaged last year, a devastating event that sent ripples around the world. People of many faiths were united in their feelings of sadness. Paradoxically, this destructive dismemberment has inspired this gathering together of different faiths. An act of violence has manifested a powerful moment of peace and remembrance.
At the end of the ceremony, Natasha of Chalice Well, Morgana and I took the remaining water. Half of it was poured into the flow form pool in the gardens and half was poured into the pool at the White Spring.
I took up the lantern, my small bottle of water and gift from the Holy Thorn home to my altar. I imagined all the other participants doing the same; all going in their own directions; branching out into the community with this feeling of unity.
May we all feel inspired to look for what unites us and allow that to grow in the heart of our communities.