There’s something magical about walking through a mist. Everyday things take on strange, unfamiliar forms. A clump of road signs might briefly look like some skeletal apparition, gesturing dramatically.
We sense that the edge of the unknown may be just a few feet away.
Mist symbolises the boundary between realities. It also stands for inner change – when we’ve left behind what was once familiar but are not yet in the new territory. Like walking through a thick fog, the way is unclear and the destination not assured. When we move into new areas of the psyche, we go through this initiation of the mists – usually metaphorically, but sometimes literally as well. Far from being only the stuff of legends and folk-lore, real people of our time have experienced the magical mists of Avalon on the Tor. (Art by Amanda Clark)
The first man’s experience has all the marks of an truly Avalonian experience.
One May morning before dawn he set out with his harp to climb the Tor. At the top, he found three people doing a healing ritual. They asked if he’d play his harp to accompany their ritual. To honour them and the spring sunrise, he played and sang some medieval songs.
“After a while, I decided it was time to return to my lodging,” he said. “I started down the Tor. As I did, I saw a very opaque wall of fog coming toward me. The idea of climbing down in this seemed unwise and unnerving, so I scrambled back up. The fog soon enveloped both me and the Tor. It was so thick that I could could scarcely see the tower. It seemed unwise to descend the steep trail just then, so I sat back down with the harp.
The mist soon chilled my hands too much to play for very long. I put the harp away in her bag and leaned against the tower, singing in the mist. Eventually it thinned, and I was able to make my way down the Tor. The odd bit about this is that I usually have a fairly good sense of time passing. But I realized that somewhere up there, I had misplaced about an hour, of which I have no conscious memory.
I think that some strange dreams I’ve had since then come from that lost hour. They’re about a magical reality that’s part of the Tor in another dimension. On looking back, it felt as if the mists had come up in a purposeful way. Strange as it may sound, I think they somehow took me to that other world.”
Instead of mists this next account features strong wind – which came up to act as a warning. Unusually, the only other person on the Tor was a man whom the American woman identified as a “groundskeeper or caretaker” because of his demeanour and the badge he wore. There is, however, no such staff on the Tor.
Here’s how she described her experience: “As I neared the top, I was aware that he was up there, too. By then the winds were blowing at about 40 miles per hour. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be up there with a strange male. I began to experience vertigo about 25 feet from the top – and then real fear. I am normally not afraid of heights.
Something told me to stop. It was a feeling of fear and dread. I crept back down the trail practically on all fours. I walked back to Glastonbury pondering this experience.
At that time I had not done any reading about the Tor. I knew nothing about people’s supernatural experiences there. But I have a very strong feeling – an inner knowing – that the wind on the Tor came up to blow me away from danger. ”
And finally, this Glastonbury woman relates a modern day account of the kind of ancient tales that have made the Tor mythos what it is today: “I used to go for evening walks quite a lot. One night, as I walked up Wellhouse Lane I suddenly came to this wall of mist. I thought ooh it’s the mists of Avalon, jolly good, I’m going to go through them. So I walked into this fog bank. And when I came out the other side, suddenly there were no vehicles anywhere. Before I’d gone through the fog, there’d been a few cars and vans parked nearby. But now there was nothing. Apart from the Tor. I then thought I’d go up the Tor.
As I was walking up there, I got that vague prickling feeling that always tells me something’s not right. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. There was no sound at all. It was quite foggy around the bottom of the Tor, so it was like an island and I couldn’t see past the fog that was all around it.
I got to the top. There wasn’t a soul up there. It’s the first time I’ve ever been up there alone. I was looking up at the sky – it was quite clear above the fog. And as I looked at the stars I thought – there’s something wrong. It was like everything had suddenly taken a slight shift to one side. I was shaking my head and rubbing my eyes, and thinking oh – this is a bit weird – what’s going on?
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew something wasn’t right. I was up there for a while. Then I heard voices. Somebody else was coming up the Tor. I started to feel really disorientated.Suddenly I felt I’ve got to get back into town. I’ve got to get off here, I don’t want to be here.
So I started to walk down the long path. And you know the ridges round the Tor? They were glowing. It was like silver light. I was thinking, ooh, I’ve heard about this maze and how it can sometimes glow, and I thought oh this is wonderful! But I kept stumbling on the path, shaking my head, feeling I’ve got to clear my head.
I was really disorientated. Another thing was, normally you see all the lights of the town – but there wasn’t anything. No lights, and no sign of the town. Near the bottom I went through the bank of fog again.
And then after I’d walked back through it I could suddenly see the lights of the town again. And when I saw the lights again in Wellhouse Lane I thought for an absolute split second – hang on! They shouldn’t be here! This is all wrong, there shouldn’t be any lights. Then – hang on – yes there should be. There SHOULD be some lights!
Once I got out onto Wellhouse Lane I felt totally normal again. But something very odd had happened. I feel like I’d walked into something and it was a slight shift of reality. Everything I was looking at wasn’t in its right place. It was all slightly off. That’s the only way I can explain it.”
From the safety of our armchairs, it’s easy to theorise about people’s strange tales. But like the old will o’ the wisp, these experiences laugh at our certainties, and our attempts to define reality. It does seem, however, that whether they are inner, outer or both, the mists offer to lead us as far into the unknown as we are ready to go.
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