The Ancient Earth of Somerset
THE GRAND DESIGN
Just as man's life is governed by the cycles of day and night, youth and old age, spring time and harvest, so the life of the universe is also regulated by great cycles of its own. Energy takes ever new forms: matter is constantly in process of being created and destroyed.
All cycles can be seen to have four main phases: whether you speak of birth, youth, maturity and death, or spring, summer, fall and winter, the story is always the same. These phases are easily recognized in the lives of plants and animals, but they are equally present in such processes as the aging of galaxies, planets, and civilizations.
In order to come to terms with his own life on earth, man has always turned to the study of orienting himself in the vastness of space and time. All cycles trace the same round of birth. and death. Everywhere, as one generation passes away, a new generation arises.
The shortest of the cycles with which we are familiar in our own environment is the cycle of the sun's course from dawn to dusk and back to dawn. Then comes the moon's cycle from one new moon to the next. The four weeks of the month correspond to the four phases of the moon. The cycle which we calla year is the time taken for the earth to revolve once around the sun.
When man looks up at the sky, he sees the stars seemingly fixed in their places, with the sun passing in the course of the year once through each of the twelve constellations which make up the zodiac. The tilt of the earth's axis gives rise to the seasonal variations which we experience, and thus the year is divided up into the four seasons and the twelve months, each month roughly corresponding to the pas sing of the sun through one house of the zodiac.
And then there are the larger cycles. The earth wobbles on its axis like a spinning top that is slowing down, making a complete turn once every 26,000 years in what is called one Great Year. The Great Year is measured in terms of the equinoxes, the two days each spring and fall when the sun rises and sets exactly east-west, and the day and night are of equal length.
The backdrop of zodiacal constellations through which the sun appears to rotate during the solar year, seems to rotate itself in relation to the equinoxes. Every 2,000 years the sign of the zodiac in which the equinoxes take place shifts from one house to the next. These 2,000 year periods are known as the Platonic Months.
As we go about our daily lives, we are more aware of the cycle of day and night, and the monthly cycle of the moon, than we are of the longer cycles of the Great Year. Yet Jung and others have suggested that a pattern may be discovered in man's civilizations, a pattern that is based upon the cycles. The very vastness of the Great Year tends to disguise its influence from us, but on close examination it will be seen that cults of the Bull coincide with the equinoxes in Taurus, the cults of the Ram with the equinoxes in Aries, while Christianity, the symbol of which is a fish, is the religion of the age of Pisces.
Every civilization that we know of has left signs that it was well versed in the stars, both astrologically and astronomically. Ageless and ancient temple observatories have been found all across the face of the earth, in the Andes, Mexico, Egypt, Africa, the Himalayas, China, and even England.
At Stonehenge in England a series of stone circles have been erected in such a way that accurate forecasts of the motions of the planetary bodies can be made from them. A computer was recently programmed to find out the amount of astronomical fact that could be gleaned from Stonehenge. It established that the great stones were themselves an astronomical computer able to rival the best of modern scientific instruments. It has also proved able to withstand the effects of five millenia of English weather.
Our own civilization is by no means lacking in scientific prowess, yet we are increasingly uninspired by even the most vivid feats of our technological age. For many, the moon-lift was a let-down. We are growing out of our infatuations with our own achievements, and beginning to realize that others before us have done many things better than we have. We are beginning to ask why our civilization must be so destructive of its citizens, of its planet; why Watergate; why loneliness; why so much violence; and finally why is it that we are alive? Why are we here?
All civilizations rise, flourish for a while and then fade out. They follow their own seasons, as surely as we follow our own.
We have now reached a certain point in the growth of our culture, we have noticed that material prosperity has not brought peace and happiness to ourselves and our friends, and we are asking the question, what is lacking? What else do we need?
This question, this search for the missing part that will make life whole, the search for that which may be called the soul, has played a part in every civilization that the planet has seen. The story is always the same.
(prior page) St. Michael's Tor, the symbolic site of Grail Castle near the town of Glastonbury.
One unacceptable thing about a myth in the eyes of a historian is that its story is too fantastic, too much a fantasy, too like a fairy tale to be of any factual worth. Mythologies relate divine stories. J.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings, one of the greatest fairy tales of our time, talked about this: "The Gospels contain a fairy story … They contain many marvels - peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: 'mythical' in their perfect, self-contained significance … This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre eminently the 'inner consistency of reality.' There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits."
Men have wanted to record that story, for it affects us at every level, from the seasonal changes in crops, to the emotional changes of an individual growing old, to the various phases in the evolution of our civilization into a truly civilized and humanistic culture.
Successive civilizations have told and retold that story in their mythologies, but the most comprehensive telling has been in the stars. For the symbolic meanings which men have attached to the constellations of the zodiac add up to a telling of the tale of life. The twelve signs of the zodiac are the twelve phases of all existence: and the twelve constellations to which they correspond are a constant reminder in the night sky, night after night throughout the ages, of that story.
There is perhaps a way to find out what made a civilization great, and what made it die again, bound as it was within its own natural cycle. There is perhaps a way to find out what it is that binds us to the wheel of natural events, so that time and again we lose what before was found and again find what was lost. We have only to look at the Stone Age tribe recently discovered in the Phillipines (and now introduced to the wonders of modern tobacco consumption), to see that a primitive society can be gentle rather than savage. The fact is that goodness is not a product of sophistication.
Glastonbury, in Somerset, England, is rich in associations with early Christianity and Arthurian legend. It has long been a center for those who follow the great cycles with interest, and it was there that many of them gathered for the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre, to observe the Summer Solstice, to celebrate a rare alignment of the sun with the center ofour galaxy, and to welcome the Great Month of Aquarius.
This great deliverer shall Europa save,
Which haughty Monarchs labour to enslave.
Then shall religion rear her starry head,
And Light Divine through all the nation spread.
from "King Arthur,"
by Sir Richard Blakemore, 1695
THE SOMERSET TEMPLE OF THE STARS
Seen from the air, the Somerset countryside is like one great patchwork quilt. As we are flying in toward Glastonbury, the random pattern of cornfield and grass, river and road, is suddenly disturbed. Something leaps to the eye, a figure, and then a series of figures; we become aware that the hedges, roads and woods for miles around have been laid out according to some great design.
We are flying across the Glastonbury Zodiac, a huge earth-work some ten miles across. It consists of the zodiacal signs outlined by hedge and pathway, each symbol perhaps three miles from tip to toe. This some ring of twelve mythical figures has danced around the wheel of stars in the night sky since eternity. They have danced this dance of the zodiac ever since the designs were first laid out for the tapestry of human life.
In Somerset the plough engraves the ground as ever, and the airplane etches the sky. But man can see a pattern in all these things, even as he crouches like a mouse in a hedgerow beneath the lion's paw near Somerton, or as he surveys a little more from Glastonbury Tor, atop the Eagle's head.
Man in this century is rediscovering many hidden facts about himself and the universe, facts which have been repeatedly learned and forgotten through countless civilizations already. The Somerset Temple of the Stars has only recently reemerged into our awareness. Indeed, its scale was far too vast for us to comprehend, until we obtained a bird's-eye view by learning the art of flying. Even more fantastic, seven such designs are now known to exist, engraved across the landscapes of the British Isles.
The Somerset Zodiac was probably built by the Sumerians, an enlightened race which was the first to move north out of the middle east, at the time of the early dynasties of Egypt. They gave to Britain the name "Brith Thane," meaning "Land of Light." The Zodiac may be dated as almost exactly five thousand years old, for in the Age of Taurus, the arrow fired by the Archer Horserider of Saggitarius would fly due east-west along the line of the equinoxes to the Bull's eye. In the heavens, this line joins the two stars Antares and Aldebaran, which lay east-west in 2600 B.C., when all the temples of the Sumerians were so aligned. The name Somerset itself derives from these men of Sumer. They must have settled at Glastonbury while the sea still lapped the perimeter of the zodiac. Now it is stranded thirty miles inland.
The Sumerians traced a path through Europe paved with tin deposits, ending eventually in Ireland. They also brought what they called the "Ancient Mysteries of the Knowledge of God," and their various systems of learning. Mathematics were used by their astronomers to symbolize that learning in such timeless structures as Stonehenge. This described in the physical dimensions of stone that harmony which they were able to perceive. (The massive magnetic bluestones forming the inner and older circle of the Stonehenge Temple-Observatory were taken from the centre of another zodiac at Carnmeini in the Prescelly Mountains of Wales, one hundred and fifty miles away.)
In the centre of the heavenly wheel is found a point of stillness, the Pole Star. In the centre of the Somerset Zodiac can be found Park Wood. Park Wood remains to this day an untouched virgin wood, like a sanctuary to the soul. Here was a place of stillness, around which the swirl of activities, agriculture and the like, could turn. And as the sun passed through the twelve signs of the zodiac in the course of the year, the spiritual events of the moment could be held in the appropriate figure of the Temple Zodiac.
On ground level, except for a few mounds and what can only be described as an atmosphere of mystery enshrouding the entire area, nothing betrays the
A faint pattern, like a spiral pathway, can be traced upon St. Michael's Tor when it is seen from above. In the center of this 'maze' stands the Tor itself. The interior of the Great Pyramid and the legendary Minoan Labyrinth are of the same basic design.
existence of the Temple Zodiac. From up in the air, the roads, rustic tracks, hedgerows and streams that outline the figures are not noticeably different from any other tracks or streams. But the names of villages and other landmarks label the figures and parts of their anatomy indelibly. We can now understand the ancient Celtic riddle:
Heaven above, heaven below,
Stars above, stars below,
All that is over, under shall show,
Happy thou who the riddle readest.
THE UNIVERSAL MYTHOLOGY
Since this Temple Zodiac was built in the Age of Taurus, it has served as a stage for many men and their civilizations, their vices and virtues, their religions and myths. Following the Sumerians came the Celtic cultures from Ireland, with their own spiritual deities and myths; and Christianity came after the Celtic myths.
We should note that all these religions have something in common: three Divine Personalities around whom the action turns. In different times the Three Persons may relate to each other in different ways, but essentially there is a Father figure, a Holy Mother and a Son. Only these three Human figures are to be seen in the Somerset Zodiac, the same three as have appeared again and again in the myths and religions of the world.
On a simple level, the Father, Mother and Son may be seen to depict the sun in its course through the year; the sun in the Northern constellation of Sagittarius is aged, and 'dies' at the point where the day is at its shortest. This is called the Winter Solstice. At this time, the sun leaves Sagittarius. The Sumerians saw this figure as a skilled horseman and archer called Asser or Ausar, and He is seen here in Somerset actually being thrown over the head of His horse into the jaws of a whale to symbolise His death as the old sun. From His head flies the Dove of Libra, His soul, to the womb of the Virgin who holds the overwintering seed of the new sun.
She is the Holy Mother, depicted by the constellation Virgo, the time of the Autumn Equinox and of fruition in the solar year. Appropriately, the Virgin is the goddess of fertility and Nature, and She is usually shown holding a wheatsheaf, or Her Child. Her Son, the new sun, is born at the Spring Equinox in March, and comes of age at the Mid-Summer Solstice in June when the sun is at its highest.
The first definite connection between the Divine Players and the stage at Glastonbury comes at the time of Christ. It is said that Joseph of Arimathea brought the Holy Grail, the cup that was used at the Last Supper, to Glastonbury, after the death of Christ. The Oracle of Melkin said that one day the relics of the crucifixion would be discovered at Glastonbury, and that afterwards, "nor water nor the dew of heaven should fail" those who live in that enchanted place.
The second connection between the stage at Glastonbury and the Divine Play is revealed in the time of Arthur: for the great circle of the Somerset Zodiac is none other than King Arthur's Round Table and the Quest of the Grail, another telling
KING ARTHUR, THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING
It was a widespread belief in the Middle Ages that King Arthur had not died, but would return to reign in England at a later date. The historian, Giraldus Camvrensis (1216) compared the way that Britons awaited Arthur with the way the Jews awaited the Messiah. Mallory, in his Morte D' Arthur, says "Some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead … and men say that he is coming again, and he shall wear the Holy Cross."
of the Divine Story of death and rebirth of life.
We shall observe the Arthurian Play upon the signs of the Somerset Zodiac from three vantages: from the Sign of Virgo to the east, from Gemini to the west, and from Sagittarius to the north.
THE AQUARIAN DRESS REHEARSAL
We are standing near Woodside Farm, by the River Cam, where Arthur is said to have fought to the last with his evil nephew, Mordred. We are in the sign of Virgo, for the Mother is the first of the Divine Personalities for us to consider, as we wander through the small light green wheatfields and hawthorn hedgerows. Before us is the Pariah of Queen Camel on the skirt of Virgo. Beyond is Babcary village on Her pregnant belly, for Mother Cary (Ceres the Goddess of Wheat) carries her baby where the village nestles. She is outlined by the River Cary, and the earth mound called Whimble Toot forms Her breast. Behind us is Cadbury Castle, said to have been Arthur's Camelot where He lived with Queen Guinevere.
To the south lies Leo, the sign of Launcelot, King Arthur's most valiant knight. He was not himself pure enough to look upon the Holy Grail without dismay, but it was prophesied that the greatest knight in the world would beget a child who should achieve the Grail, and save the land from all its troubles. Under magical enchantment, Sir Launcelot sired the child Galahad, who was introduced to Arthur's court at Pentecost by Merlin the Mage. The great wizard led him to the Siege Perilous, a seat at the Round Table where "no man may sit but One, and if there be any fool hardy enough to do it, he shall be destroyed; for He that shall sit there shall have no equal." In order to claim his seat, Galahad drew the sword of Truth from out the stone of Ignorance, as Arthur had done before him.
Our second vantage point is Dundon Hill, in Gemini. Dun Don means the Fort of Wisdom, and the hill marks the eye of Galahad, the Divine Player who corresponds with that sign. He is also known as the Haut Prince, and thus symbolizes the high sun of the summer Solstice. It is June, and as we look out across the Zodiac from Dundon Hill, the whole circle is shaped like a bowl, with the stillness of Park Wood at the center. The ancient name for Park Wood translates as,"The Place of the Most Holy Grave:' On still summer evenings, it is wonderful to watch the mist coming up in the low lying parts as the sun disappears in a crimson cloak, leaving the miniature mountains of that place standing like dark stranded islands in a royal sea. But let us proceed with the Play.
Sir Galahad, symbol of purity, unseats Launcelot, symbol of the intellect, in a joust: and shortly thereafter, Launcelot loses his way, and has a vision of the Holy Grail while passing the night on a lonely moor. He feels an overpowering sense of his own guilt, and so is unable to reach up for the Grail. Launcelot has been warned by a hermit not to return to court, but he does so, and Mordred poisons the King's ears against him, insinuating infidelity with Guinevere. Mordred succeeds in creating a rift between Arthur and Launcelot, and the King banishes Launcelot. The impetuous Sir Gawain rides after the latter to joust with him, and Launcelot slays him, intellect symbolically curtailing emotional rashness. The characters are lining up for the final act.
Mordred, taking the part of Judas in this Play, is found in the sign of Scorpio. Arthur had been warned long before by Merlin that King Lot would have a son who would destroy Arthur and his court, and that the son would be born on May Day. Consequently, Arthur had shipped all the boys born on May Day to foreign climes … but the ship had been wrecked, and Mordred (for so the son of King Lot was named) alone escaped. Thus from his very childhood, Mordred was fated to play the opposing part to Arthur.
It is this same Mordred now, whose gossip separates Arthur from Launcelot, Launcelot from Guinevere, and Gawain from his life. While the other knights are fighting among themselves and the Round Table is in disarray, Mordred strengthens his position. The day comes when Arthur and Mordred feast together at Camelot, trying to gloss over their ancient differences. Arthur has been warned the previous night to avoid fighting at all costs the next day, but during the banquet one knight draws his sword to kill a snake, his action is misconstrued, and the Battle of Cam Llan takes place, in which Arthur is mortally wounded.
It is said that Arthur journeyed to a glorious castle deep within the woods. Inside the castle was a fountain of water, crystal clear. It is said he questioned a knight who was there, and received no reply; but that it was promised that he would be answered when he should return again to that place. For Arthur is the Once and Future King.
Thus we see that Arthur journeyed to the source, but could not attain it, and that it is promised that he shall do so on his return. Of the knights of the Round Table, only Sir Galahad and Sir Percival were able to enter Grail Castle and come to the Grail.
Arthur, portrayed as the old Sun King in the December sign of Sagittarius, is a fitting symbol for the ending of the dark age. From his head, we see a dove flying. The village at the dove's head is called St. David, and the Celtic Dovydd means the Divine Messenger, the Spirit, the Swan. Thus the white bird brings life to the hidden seed in nature, and the whole cycle prepares to begin again.
THE DRAGON IN THE FIELD
To this third vantage we have come, to witness the first scene of the Play that opens the Aquarian Age. We are at
Bill, one of the organizers of the Glastonbury Fayre, built the stage in the form of a pyramid after receiving this dream: "I was standing at the back of the stage crowds of people stretching up the sides of the hill - campfires - and there was a man with his back to me addressing the assembled audience. I didn't hear his words as my attention was on the crowd. There was atremendous feedback, surgings and rushings in the crowd, and I saw that there were two beams of light rising up on either side to form an apex over the man on the stage; then I caught the last two words that he spoke, which were "through me," and then he dematerialized! I woke up, and the dream was so vivid that I drew a picture of it; it formed the obvious image of a pyramid, and so the idea of building the stage in the form of a pyramid arose."
Worthy Farm by the Horse of Sagittarius. It is just before dawn on the Mid-Summer Solstice, June 1971. It is an astronomically unique time: the Sun, Moon, Mercury and the Central Galactic Sun are in perfect alignment or conjunction. And we are in the same alignment with the centre of the Somerset Zodiac. It is mid that this moment is the dawn of both a ne Age and a new Great Year in the Galactic cycle. It had been windy and rainy for days; it is now so calm. "After the Lion follows the Lamb," they my.
We are at the Glastonbury Festival, a combined pop festival, magicians' reunion and prophetic event. There are old ladies still alive in Glastonbury who expect to see the Lord come to Glaston before they die. Rumour has it that a double rainbow will appear in the sky when He comes. It is quiet in this field, where 10,000 people are gathered together. Some are still asleep, dissolved in the dim grey-pink light. There are many tents, and a few camp fires are still alight. In the east, the sky is a wash of Prussian blue.
A young girl takes up the tale: "When I came to Glastonbury, I had hardly any idea what it was about. About four months before we threw the oracle called /I Ching and it told us, 'Look for the great man, look for the Dragon in the Field.' Filled with hope, we had continued to consult the oracle which, it soon became evident, was always correct. But after one week before Glastonbury Festival, our desires had so clouded up our vision, that all our love disappeared. Having heard rumours that something special was supposed to happen at this Festival, I decided to go there. When I arrived, the Festival had been going on for a few days. There were several thousand people there; at least half of them must have been into magic of one kind or another. Someone was singing some very wild songs on the stage, and there was a lot of dope about. The whole atmosphere was very confused.
"After a bit the music became much more together. And then this band stopped playing, all the microphones went dead, and somebody turned on some arc lights. I had to look down to avoid the glare. A little voice began to speak, but I couldn't hear what it was saying. I looked up, but all I saw was a small figure in white, and I just turned my eyes to the ground again. Everyone around me started shouting; they looked like animals and I wondered what could be causing such a violent reaction; I looked up again. And then I saw very soft beautiful rays of light coming out of the figure toward me, and the voice was saying, 'If you want to know yourself, just come to me and I'll show you.' I managed to stand up and walk to the back of the stage where he was coming down the steps. I couldn't tell how old he was; his whole face and hands were pure golden light. He looked completely serene, as if lit by an inner golden flame.
"Somebody told me that day that this was the Dragon Field, and then I remembered the oracle. 1 had come to the field of the Dragon, and had seen the Great Man."
Later that day, two rainbows appeared in a cloudless sky.