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The World Drum on Glastonbury Tor, March 31st 2013

St Michael's tower on Glastonbury TorAfter having brought the World Drum to Avebury and Stonehenge, where should we go next? Well, the answer is obvious really, we must, of course, go to Glastonbury. Glastonbury has long had a reputation for myth and magic. It is said that Joseph of Arimathea came there during the lifetime of Jesus and again after his death. Some say he brought the child Jesus with him, others say he brought the Holy Grail and hid it there. Others say he planted a holy thorn tree when he pushed his staff into the ground and it took root. Some say that Merlin was imprisoned beneath the oddly shaped Tor that dominates the skyline for miles around. Some claim that King Arthur and his queen, Guinevere, were buried in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey. Local legend has it that a dragon sleeps coiled within the Tor. The Tor is believed to be hollow, with two caverns within it. Some say that Merlin still resides frozen in one of them, while Arthur and his knights are reputed to sleep in the other, awaiting Britain's time of greatest need to arise and aid us once more.Whether you believe any of these tales, they certainly indicate that Glastonbury exercises a powerful pull on the imagination of the people of Britain.
When we first began to talk about taking the World Drum to Glastonbury, there was never any doubt in my mind that we would have to play it on top of the Tor, next to the ruined tower that is all that remains of the church of Saint Michael that used to stand there. Others suggested that, given the very cold spring we were experiencing, an indoor venue would be wise. To me, it had to be the Tor and no other place.
Britannia from a Romano-British coinWe began to consider ritual. Long time BDO supporter and Elder, Morgan, has been holding regular ceremonies in Glastonbury for many years and so we felt we could rely on her to advise and assist, which she was eager to do. I had a notion that we should call upon the Romano-British goddess, Britannia. Now known mainly through the patriotic dirge "Rule Britannia," she is actually a far less warlike and jingoistic figure than one might imagine. From her earliest representations on Roman coins, she has been represented as enthroned, seated, not in a warlike posture but in repose. She holds a large shield at her side, showing that she is protective of her land and people. In her right hand she holds a trident, symbolising that she is a daughter of Neptune, god of the sea that surrounds our islands. She seemed to me a daughter also of our Mother Earth and, therefore, a good local deity to invoke when asking for our people to reconnect with Mother Earth in respect and reverence.
To balance the feminine nature of Britannia, I began to think about also invoking the spirit of the people of our islands through the male figure of Albion (though some say Albion is hermaphrodite). Albion was adopted by the counter-culture of the 1960s and early 70s of which I was a part, and I was pleased to learn that at the first Glastonbury Fayre, the pyramid stage was positioned in relation to the Tor so as to act as a kind of spiritual dynamo to awaken the sleeping giant, Albion. This sacred alignment was suggested by John Michell, author of 'The View Over Atlantis.' I attended that first Glastonbury Fayre. Years later, in 1993, John Michell was among those present at the first gathering of the Gorsedd of Bards of Caer Abiri that I inaugurated at Avebury. Synchronicity...
The weather forecast for the day of the rite was not promising. It was supposed to be cloudy, dull and freezing cold. Nevertheless, it looked quite bright as we set off in the car in the morning and, by the time we reached Glastonbury, the sun had emerged and the skies clear. We climbed the steep slopes of the Tor in brilliant sunshine and arrived at the summit to be treated to spectacular views across the surrounding countryside under beautiful blue skies. The World Drum had come through for us again.
The World Drum circles with the sunWe found Morgan on top of the Tor and the accustomed conversation took place. "So, what are we going to do then?" "I don't know, what do you think?" "Well, I guess we could ..." So we chose where we were to conduct the rite and began to exchange ideas. I mentioned Britannia and Albion, Morgan mentioned the sleeping dragon. As we talked, a woman in blue standing close to us suddenly exploded with a cry of "You cannot block Brigit!" She said it so loudly that those of us standing near jumped sideways. I said, "Pardon me?" and she repeated, equally loudly, "You cannot block Brigit!" I ventured to suggest that no one had proposed that we should block Brigit. She proceeded to lecture us on how Brigit is the goddess of these lands, the goddess of the Brigantes. Well, technically speaking the Brigantes were a tribe of Northern Britain, a very long way from Glastonbury, but I had no desire to argue on such a lovely day, so suggested that Brigit should be included in our rite.
Sunshine drummers on the TorWhen we formed our circle, we were still bathed in beautiful sunshine and over a hundred people joined us, many with their own drums. We spoke of the World Drum and its message, reading Morten Wolf Storeide's 'Speech for Mother Earth' once again. We invoked the goddess Britannia, spirit of the land, Albion, spirit of the people, all the people, whatever their creed or colour, our new friend spoke beautifully for Brigit and Morgan for the dragon of the Tor. then we began to Drum. As at Avebury, Lorraine carried the Drum around the circle so that everyone got the chance to play it. The many other drummers joined their drums to the heartbeat of Mother Earth. There were a lot of very good drummers on that holy hill and we raised some really good energy. Walking the circle with my own drum and looking around at the faces, you could see them lighting up with joy and the magic of the place and the rite. It was beautiful and inspiring. You could feel the spirits rising, and the drums continued...
The rite ended with an outbreak of spontaneous cheering. It was a truly joyous event.
With the World Drum on Glastonbury TorAfter the ceremonyAfter the rite, there were many conversations with folk wanting to know more about the World Drum Project, about who we were and what we were doing. Children played the Drum, people took photographs. People introduced themselves. Two women had come all the way from America to be with us. As things began to wind down, I heard drumming coming from inside St. Michael's tower. I was about to put the World Drum back in its case when it called to me and told me that it wanted to be played in the tower. I picked it up and walked into the tower. There was Ginny, leading the drums with her djembe, while my friend Steve was in one corner of the tower and a tall guy called, I think, Ben, was in the opposite corner. The Drum and I took up our place in the one corner that didn't yet have a drummer and joined our voices. Between us drummers were the dancers, including a group of Spanish women who went wild. It was beautiful!
Drumming and dancing in St Michael's towerI have to say, after the rite itself and then the amazing drumming inside the tower, I pretty much flew down off the Tor. My only concern: how are we going to top that?
In conversation with Morgan after the rite, I learned that the theme of the Goddess Conference in Glastonbury in 2012 had been the reclamation of Britannia as a Pagan goddess. Synchronicity...
I love this life, the life of the Druid is the life of the land as I once said in song ...
And so to the next venue ...

PS. Photos by Elaine Wildways. Sound and video to be added soon ... /|\

Published on Categories 'Shamanism', British Druid Order, Events, News, Ritual, The World Drum
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About Greywolf

I'm Greywolf (aka Philip Shallcrass). My main claim to fame (such as it is) is that I'm chief of the British Druid Order (BDO). I discovered Druidry in 1974, seeing it as a native British 'shamanic' spirituality. An Alexandrian Wiccan coven I joined in 1978 transformed into the Grove of the Badger as Druidry increasingly replaced Wicca in its rites. The end result was the BDO. Emma Restall Orr was joint chief of the Order with me from 1995 to 2002. I live in rural Wiltshire, not far from my spiritual heartland, the area in and around the Avebury henge. I'm a writer, musician, artist, drum-maker, roundhouse-builder and thatcher. I have three sons who share my obsession with music, books and film. Personal obsessions include the work of Britain's greatest bard, Robin Williamson, the comic books of Jack 'King' Kirby (1907-1994) and the speed-freak rock'n'roll of The Screaming Blue Messiahs.

1 thought on “The World Drum on Glastonbury Tor, March 31st 2013

  1. avatarLana

    This is breathtaking, Greywolf. Evocative and thrumming with energy... it brings to life the experience you all shared there, and the beauty you all experienced. Thank you.

    Reply

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