Early Life and Education
Nicholas was born on the 4th September 1952 in Hove, West Sussex. Nicholas attended grammar school before dropping out in the late 1960s. As a mature student, he took a BA (Hons) degree in ancient history and social anthropology at University College London.
He spent the years before coming to Glastonbury travelling, farming and studying for his degree. The most exotic country he visited in that time was Afghanistan in 1971, but his most dramatic experience was being arrested in Turkey in 1972 for a small amount of cannabis. In prison for 20 months he studied the spiritual classics, yoga and meditation. He was a friend of Billy Hayes of ‘Midnight Express’ fame. After Turkey, his first job as a herdsman in Sussex led him to acquire many rural skills now rapidly being lost.
Move to Glastonbury
On completion of his degree, his sister ‘called’ him to Glastonbury as she needed help decorating her new house in 1983. His sister, Ella Portman, came to Glastonbury in the mid-1970s after her husband found work there. Nicholas also helped Alison Collyer, his previous employer in Sussex, move to Greenlands Farm in the late 70s. This eventually became Paddington Farm.
Nicholas spent two periods of time in Glastonbury. During the first period in the 80s, he was very involved in the alternative community. He helped, for example, edit a community magazine, the ‘Communicator’ and in the purchase of the Assembly Rooms, which at the time was the focus of activities such as the celebration of the cross-quarters days, solstices and equinoxes. He lived for a time at The Dove in Butleigh, where he became friends with the permaculturalist, Patrick Whitefield. One of his fondest memories is working naked in the summer rain as they peeled bark off poles for the tipis Patrick made.
Writing and Research
In this period Nicholas wrote ‘Glastonbury Tor,’ a bestseller still in print that introduced many to the Tor, and ‘The Cauldron & the Grail,’ a work that first put the White Spring on the spiritual map of Glastonbury. His books explored the Celtic and earlier antecedents to the great Christian monastery at Glastonbury. He worked for the Gothic Image, conducting tours around Avalon, Ireland and the British Isles (and was filmed as a Glastonbury guide in this period by the BBC). These tours led to American friends, one of whom became his first wife, the harpist Ani Williams. This took him to America for 13 years, although he returned to Glastonbury several times researching his opus, ‘The Isle of Avalon’, published in 1995.
During his second period in Glastonbury from 2000 to 2016, his research was assisted by his present wife Dr. Philippa Glasson, whose knowledge and many years as a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, brought a greater thoroughness to his writing. During this time Nicholas’ books about Glastonbury included ‘Energy Secrets of Glastonbury Tor,’ a revision of ‘The Isle of Avalon,’ ‘The Star Temple of Avalon’ and ‘Avalon’s Red & White Springs,’ the last two written with Philippa.
Alongside his studies of the White Spring - which explore the deep mythos of the Tor - Nicholas considers his work on the Mound, St Edmund’s Hill, with its view of the winter solstice sun rolling up the side of the Tor, as his most significant contribution to the Avalonian corpus. His archaeo-astronomical work also links the foundation of Glastonbury Abbey to the alignment of the sun over Chalice Hill and the Tor on the feast days of its primary patron saints.
Activities in Glastonbury
Nicholas worked at Chalice Well for almost 8 years, assisting in the planning of ceremony as well as helping to foreground the work of Wellesley Tudor-Pole. Before moving away from Glastonbury in 2016, he worked as a community care worker for 5 years, and found in this his most fulfilling and direct contribution to those in need of care and support in the town.
Nicholas immediately realised that both the outer Glastonbury and the inner Avalon would provide him with profound teaching. At first Glastonbury offered him community, employment and relationships – with all the challenges and rewards those things bring – but most of all Avalon offered him a spiritual opportunity and he found those lessons harder and longer to truly absorb. Sometimes he had to leave and relate to Avalon from a safe distance; ultimately he felt any role he had in the Avalonian mysteries had come to an end.
Nicholas also conducted the Gothic Image tours from 1984 to 1986. He was a founder member of the Library of Avalon in 1988. He is an original shareholder of the Assembly Rooms, 1992. He worked at the Chalice Well from 2001 until 2008. Nicholas and Philippa established the winter solstice ceremonies on the Mound, St Edmund’s Hill, leading these from 2005 to 2011.
Although his academic background led to his books on Glastonbury, Nicholas found that his early spiritual experiences in yoga and meditation found development and fruition in Glastonbury. Glastonbury offered the ground and framework to develop the skills and spiritual practices he had begun earlier in life, and finally opened the way to his spiritual teacher.
Nicholas stopped speaking and providing other services over concern that they contribute to visitors flying to the UK. He believes commercial overexposure has caused harm to Glastonbury and that flying is one of the main contributors to global harm. “If pilgrimage” he wrote in 2005, “causes harm to the planet, then that negates the benefits of pilgrimage.”
Nicholas has written the following books:
- Glastonbury Tor, Triskele 1986, Temple Publications 2011
- The Cauldron & the Grail, Triskele 1986 (OOP)
- The Keltic Power Symbols, Triskele 1987 (OOP)
- Sedona: Sacred Earth, Zivah 1989, Light Technology 2005
- The Silver Branch Cards, Druidways 2000 (OOP)
- Druid Magic with Maya Sutton, Llewellyn 2001
- The Isle of Avalon, Llewellyn 1995, Green Magic 2001
- Energy Secrets of Glastonbury Tor, Green Magic 2004
- The Sacred Geometry of Washington, D.C., Green Magic 2006, (Barnes & Noble, 2009 in USA)
- The Star Temple of Avalon with Philippa Glasson, Temple Publications 2007
- Avalon’s Red & White Springs with Philippa Glasson, Temple Publications 2010
- Avebury Cosmos, Moon Books 2011
Nicholas illustrates many of his books. On the left is Scathach from ‘The Silver Branch Cards.’
Nicholas Mann Author: Nicholas Mann 01/11/2016 Edited: DP 04/11/2016