Water Fitness Exercises
CHALICE WELL GLASTONBURY
The English landscape is known for its rolling and soft beauty and for its unexpected and spectacular vistas. You may turn a corner or reach a peak and suddenly, unfolding far into the distance, is a long and intriguing view. One of the greatest of these vistas can be found when you travel south from Bristol and Bath in the west of England. As you pass over the top of the Mendip Hills, before you stretches the large plain of the Mid-Somerset Levels. This is a flat landscape some 15 miles across, which at several points in its history has been covered in water and may be again. At the center of this flatland is an island whose most prominent feature is a dramatic 500-foot hill with a tower upon its summit. This is Glastonbury.
Also known as the Isle of Avalon, it’s one of the most sacred landscapes in Europe. It’s the burial place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, and the Holy Grail is said to be hidden here. It was a major center of Druidic and pre-Christian spirituality. In the shape of the isle can be found the form of a great goddess, while a vast zodiac can be seen in the landscape surrounding it, carved into the contours of the land. It’s the site of the earliest of Christian churches founded, so the legend goes, by Jesus’ uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. This small church evolved to become the greatest abbey in all Christendom The Isle of Avalon, also called the Isle of Glass, was also said to be the capital city of the fairie realm, a great claim for a country known as Angel-Land or England.
The island of Glastonbury is made up of several hills. Three of them are well known: Wearyall Hill, Chalice Hill, and the Tor. Each of these has a very different shape and atmosphere. Wearyall is long and slim, like a fish, and is known as a place that’s good for peace and reflection. Chalice Hill is soft and round, shaped like a breast or pregnant womb, and holds an atmosphere of healing. The Tor is masculine and dramatic, accentuated by its tower; and its energy is powerful and dynamic. People often comment on how these three hills and their characters reflect the trinity found in many spiritual traditions.
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The small town of Glastonbury itself sprawls on the island overlit by these hills, its inhabitants divided into those who honor the spirituality of the landscape I’m one of them, and lucky enough to live on the side of Wearyall Hill and those who live there as if it were any other small country town.
One of Glastonbury’s most intriguing features is to be found in the valley between Chalice Hill and the Tor, down which runs a small road. Near the bottom of this road, on the right side toward Chalice Hill, there’s a lovingly tended public garden, the main feature of which is the Chalice Well, previously known as Blood Spring. On the other side of the road, in a nondescript building, is the White Spring.
The waters for each of these two springs have unique sources, and their chemical content is completely different. I’ve lived in Glastonbury for 30 years and am fascinated by the polarity and paradox of these two wells. Their contrast is so great that many people who visit Chalice Well Gardens for nurture, inspiration, and meditation may not even know that the White Spring exists at all.
The water of Chalice Well, Blood Spring, is good for the health. It has an iron content similar to that of human blood, and the flow runs strong and consistently even in periods of drought. As the water surfaces out of the earth, the way in which it’s contained and then channeled has been lovingly constructed by human intervention over many centuries. The actual source of the water, the well itself, is capped by a large lid, on which is the ancient symbol of two interlinking circles, the vesica piscis. The water then runs through a lion’s head, down through some shallow baths for healing, through a Steiner-inspired flow form and into a large pool, again in the shape of the vesica piscis. The surrounding gardens are tended by men and women sensitive to the elements of nature, the Green Man, Pan, and the Goddess, as well as to the fairies, nature spirits, and landscape energies.
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