This article by John Wadsworth appears in this month’s Glastonbury Oracle, where John has a monthly column, entitled: “Walking the Glastonbury Zodiac”.
The Glastonbury Zodiac was discovered by inspired visionary and artist, Katharine Maltwood in the 1920s, and this “Temple of the Stars”, as she called it, continues to enchant and enthrall all those who imaginatively engage with it. During the 12-month cycle of The Alchemical Journey, we take a ritual walk, led by Anthony Thorley, into the thirteen giant landscape zodiac figures that Maltwood identified, each one in turn. Over the coming months, I will share my reflections on that journey.
The first astrological sign that we encounter on our Zodiac trail is Aries, around the time of Spring Equinox, but before we enter this figure in the landscape, we first approach the guardian dog for his/her permission, and companionship on the journey. This so-called Girt Dog of Langport (who enjoys a notable mention in a Somerset wassailing carol) is the thirteenth figure in the Glastonbury Zodiac and we always like to invite the dog along as our trusty companion on our pilgrimage around the year. So the first stage of our adventure is to walk up Burrowbridge Mump, the enigmatic hill that rises mysteriously out of the Somerset levels. Like Glastonbury Tor, it has a ruined church dedicated to St Michael and lies on the famed St Michael leyline. It also marks the tip of the dog’s nose, and as we stand on its summit surveying the glorious view over the moors, we always sniff the air, as the prospective zodiac hounds that we are. For we are preparing ourselves to pick up the scent of enchantment and synchronicity that we will be exposed to as we journey together around this magical wheel.
We then make our customary trip to the hamlet of Wagg, near Langport, on the dog’s tail, where we formalize our invitation to our canine friend through a beautiful ritual. Now our journey into the Zodiac proper can begin. A 20-minute drive and we find ourselves on Walton Hill on the foot of the Aries figure – not a ram, but a more traditional paschal lamb with its head reverted, a symbol long associated with Aries and Spring Equinox rites. From Walton Hill, we enjoy a lovely view of the twin hills of Gemini and the watery rhines of Cancer. We then walk across the animal’s rump to Walton, passing sheep fields that have helped to make this part of Somerset aptly famous for its lambswool. At Walton church we find two clear Arien references in the particularly bright and beautiful stained glass at its western end. First there is the story of Abraham and Isaac with the ram in the thicket – the ram who is sacrificed in Isaac’s place, and then there is Christ shown as the good shepherd holding a lamb. The paschal lamb of the Jewish Passover is also carved onto the font and I was particularly excited to find a dove, symbol of Libra (Aries’ opposite number) carved on its opposite side.
Next, we walk along the main road to Street, and then along its High St. Our Zodiac is predominatly a green and rustic paradise, but with this bustling retail centre comprising a large part of the Aries figure, we find ourselves on this occasion having to investigate shops and businesses to find our synchronicities. And as we look at our zodiac map, we notice how the high street actually demarcates the boundary between the Aries figure and one of the Piscean fish, and that on the Aries side of the street, we find all the lambswool shops, while on the Pisces side, we find all the Clarks shoe shops! Bearing in mind that Pisces rules the feet, of course. On the map, the fish seems to be leaping, like the fabled salmon of inspiration, out of the lamb’s head. It makes me think of the inspired idea that James Clark had one day in 1825, whilst working at the tannery among the sheepskin rugs. “Slippers!” exclaimed the budding entrepreneur in true Aries style, and so it was that the Clarks’ sheepskin slipper was born! And to cap it all for mysteriousness, from our 2009 Aries pilgrimage, we beheld a recently erected scaffold, with a bright red sign proudly displaying, just for us, “RAM Construction”! It’s a kind of magic…best left to the imagination.
Recently twelve people, including myself, sat in a zodiac round table discussion group, with a thirteenth person representing the dog. We each spoke for fifteen minutes about our perspective on The Glastonbury Zodiac. The “Maltwood Moot”, called by Yuri Leitch, will now meet twice yearly as a place to share knowledge and experiences of the Zodiac. On the back of this, Yuri has set up a discussion forum at: http://maltwoodmoot.freeforums.org/ which is open to all.
You can also follow The Glastonbury Zodiac journey on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/glastonburyzodiac