Glastonbury Tor in the Isle of Avalon (Glastonbury), England
The mythology of the Tor reaches so far back into ancient times that it is impossible to give it a beginning. But if we try to look beyond Christianity and beyond the Celtic Druids, we may discover some of the truth concerning its origins and purpose. New information and interpretations have been coming to light about what was previously dismissed as paganism. As each new cult or religion supersedes another, so it tries to blot out what came before – such is the nature of conversion. This is what must have happened in the case of Goddess worship, a way of life which existed all over the world until at least the fifth millennium BC.
The Goddess took many forms and was represented in a variety of different aspects, but believers would see her essential nature in the harmony and balance of the natural order, the ebb and flow growth and decay of life itself She was evoked and celebrated on hills and mountains, these being her seats or thrones on earth. It is interesting to note that many early images of the Goddess have spirals on their breasts, resembling the spiral on the Tor. Spirals also symbolised the coiled serpent or dragon, both regarded as sacred in the old religion. The dragon or serpent represented the natural energies of the earth and the sky – energies which were cooperated with and revered. In the Shakti cults of southeast Asia and China, dragons and serpents were associated with clouds and rain, and the Sumerian goddess Tiamat was a sea-serpent and Great Waters goddess. The Greek Mother of all things was the serpent Eurynome, who laid the world-egg. The dragon was also regarded as a manifestation of the psyche in which the real and the imaginary are blurred and are, as in nature, only different aspects of life.
The maze pattern on Glastonbury Tor, similar to Cretan labyrinths, was created for ritual purposes long before the Druids are said to have used it in their rites and initiation ceremonies. Spiral mazes are deeply symbolic, their most usual interpretation being that of the soul’s journey through life, death and rebirth. The seven-circuit Tor maze would probably have been made and threaded during the time of the Goddess religion. Although Philip Rahtz, who excavated the summit of the Tor from 1964 to 1966, has not committed himself to the existence of a human-made maze, he has said that if it is there, its probable date would have been around the second or third millennium BC. Archaeologists are interested but cautious, and presumably they will remain so until the maze is excavated. However, in the summer of 1979 Geoffrey Ashe made a long study of the Tor and concluded that the maze did indeed exist. His booklet The Glastonbury Tor Maze gives the evidence he found and shows the maze to be one of the great ritual works of early Britain.
Therefore, if we visualise the Tor as a dragon, symbol of the Primal Mother and the place where the ceremonies of rebirth and initiation took place, we can imagine a ritual where the participants would come face to face with the Mother, enter into her subterranean darkness, chaos and death, and be reborn and nourished again by her life-giving properties.