Myths and Legends
Glastonbury has been held to be a sacred place for centuries and is steeped not only in history, but also in myth and legend. It is important to understand the differences between historical record and myths and legends; otherwise we might begin to confuse them. History ends up being presented as ‘myth’ or ‘legend’, and vice versa. Historical evidence presents details that have been recorded and can be verified. In the Glastonbury timeline, we see a clear historical pattern emerging with the Benedictine Abbey and there are traceable factual accounts from around 600 A.D. onwards.
Legends are loosely based upon historical figures or facts which have then been embellished with the oral telling over the years. Examples of these include the story of the visit of Joseph of Arimathea, bringing the young Jesus to Glastonbury and building the first small wattle church. The tales of King Arthur and Guinevere being buried here, and of St. Collen banishing Gwyn ap Nudd and the fairy realm from Glastonbury Tor, are other examples of what we regard as “legend”.
Myths are archetypal stories of the human journey through life. They serve as a fundamental character type in the worldview of a populace. They may have no basis in recorded historical fact but are reflecting real, human experiences. Glastonbury examples are the stories of the wounded Arthur being rowed to the Isle of Avalon, the nine Morgens, and the fairy kingdom of Gwyn Ap Nudd under the Tor.
It is important not to be too preoccupied with trying to pin down myths and legends to solid historical facts. Though they have little basis in established history, they can be powerful tools for spiritual experience and transformation. They are a living part of our oral history. The stories themselves are reflecting real human experiences in vivid terms and are helpful in the awakening of the individual to the numinous realities of the place.
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