JOHN MICHELL – THE DR.WHO OF GLASTONBURY

First published in Glastonbury’s Oracle magazine

John Michell (1933 – 2009) put Glastonbury firmly on the map as capital of the New fog_TorAge world. He wrote 40 books, the most influential being his 1969 book The View Over Atlantis. Professor Ronald Hutton said this was “almost the founding document of the modern earth mysteries movement.”

In this book, the author said that the seven hills of Avalon – which included the Tor – were built by ancient people to mirror the constellation of the Great Bear. This tied in to traditional mythology representing King Arthur as a bear. It also linked ancient structures to the stars, implying mysterious cosmic connections with the universe. 

Ley lineHe also showed how pre-Christian sacred sites sit on key nodes of earth power. For example, the Michael ley line runs from St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall through Glastonbury Tor and Avebury. All along this line are churches dedicated to St Michael. This is because long ago people had marked this line with their special places of magic. As was the custom, Christian churches were later built on those power spots.

By the twentieth century, people were beginning to think there was more to the world than school had ever taught them. Michell’s writings gave voice to a growing awareness of the latent powers and mysteries of the earth.

As his biographer Paul Screeton said, Michell “re-enchanted the British landscape and empowered a generation to seek out and appreciate the spiritual dimension of the countryside – not least attracting them to reawaken the sleepy town of Glastonbury”.

THE CAMBRIDGE REBEL

John Michell didn’t start life as a counter cultural icon. He was born into a wealthy family who sent him to Eton and then Cambridge, to study Russian and German. However, he soon began to chafe against the conventional mind-set of the university.

“The whole atmosphere there was extremely rationalistic and materialistic,” he said. “I was never sympathetic to that, but saw no way of questioning them. The first chance of a breakthrough was in the 1950s when the first UFO books came out. It was quite obvious that people were having experiences that weren’t allowed for them within the context of our education.”

THE SCHOOL OF UFOs AND LEY LINES

He lost interest in university, left without a degree, and went to work in his father’s property business. In 1966 he converted his Notting Hill flat’s basement into the London Free School, where he gave courses in UFOs and ley lines.

pic from the GuardianAndrew Kerr took part in this school. When he later set up the Glastonbury Festival, John helped him design the Pyramid Stage to be an exact replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza, as a great example of spiritual engineering.

Karl Miller, editor of the Listener, described Michell as “Less a hippy, perhaps, than a hippy’s counsellor – one of their junior Merlins, promoting the idea of England as a site of spiritual redemption, and bringing together popular ideas about sacred geometry, Druids, sacred landscapes, earth energies, Atlantis and UFOs.”

EFFECTS ON GLASTONBURY

Author John Michell had a huge effect on Glastonbury, reviving this town as a centre of spiritual awareness and mystical experience. He also created and inspired organisations that are still part of Glastonbury’s special infrastructure.

In 1969, he established RILKO – the Research Into Lost Knowledge Organisation, which is still going strong. They describe themselves as “An organisation providing a platform for the dissemination of hidden knowledge incorporated in myth and legend, number and geometry, art and music, architectural proportion, megalithic structures and the geomantic layout of cities and landscape.”

Another Michell legacy is the annual Megalithomania Conference. This name came from a 1982 book he’d written about lost civilisations, ley lines, geomancy and archeo-astronomy.

In 1990, he co-founded and edited The Cerealogist, a magazine about crop circles. cosmic spiralHe said that strange lights in the sky, crop circles and other phenomena were all signs of huge changes in human consciousness that would ultimately usher in the more enlightened Age of Aquarius. He taught that benign ETs were the gods of ancient legends, and had helped early humans to create a civilised world. He believed these lost spiritual teachings are now returning to create a new golden age.

Glastonbury’s Gothic Image published his books, and he worked closely with Jamie George’s Mystical Tours. Michael Law, who then worked there, shared the following anecdote, saying, “This is my favourite story, not on the cosmic level, but on the human.”

One morning John parked his Morris Minor across the road and ‘floated into’ Gothic Image,   worried because his car was playing up. Someone who knew about motors popped over to investigate – and discovered that it had absolutely no oil or water in it. John was amazed. He thought it was enough just to put petrol in! A few days later, he returned with a big smile to say his car was going well again.

RUMOURS AT THE END

3b Chalice-WellHis younger brother Charles described John’s life as “turbulent in a peaceful sort of way”. Following his star, he somehow wafted above everyday matters. Maybe because of this, the facts of his final years are misted over with rumours. One story is that he and Prince Charles visited Chalice Well to bathe their eyes in its special waters. 

His Glastonbury marriage also soon entered the realms of speculation. In April 2007, in St Benedict’s Church, he married Denise Price. This was followed by a beautiful outdoor handfasting ceremony.

Denise told me they’d known each other for a long time before this, and over the years he’d proposed to her three times. However, the marriage ended within the year. This naturally created much chitchat around town. In 2015, Denise Michell became the first Druid Mayor of Glastonbury. 

Another rumour about John Michell was that he was the original inspiration for the character of Dr.Who. Like a time-lord, he strode across the vistas of history, explaining its mysteries to whoever cared to listen. Was his dowsing rod the original sonic screwdriver? Like much else about this influential writer, we may never know for certain.

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The New Avalonians are people now passed on who contributed in some way to Glastonbury in the last fifty years or so. If you’d like to share anything about this, you’re welcome to message me through the contacts page on my website: www.pastlivesglastonbury.co.uk

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THE NEW AVALONIANS

“I am the last of the Avalonians,” said Dion Fortune, before she died soon after World avaloniansWar Two. In Patrick Benham’s book The Avalonians, she is indeed the last on his list. After that, and for the next twenty years, the Avalonian side of Glastonbury went quiet.

 Then peace, love and flower power burst upon the world. Hippies embraced Glastonbury as a place that heaven had made just for them. They loved its Tor, Arthurian tales, red and white springs, ley-lines, mystical Christianity, faery legends, and the idea that the veil between the worlds was thinner here.

hippies-and-long-hairHow the local townsfolk hated them! They stuck signs on their shop and café doors saying ‘No Hippies’ or ‘Hippies Use Side Door’. Maybe because they felt so unwelcome, after a while many of the hippies decided to become ‘travellers’.     

Trying to go beyond conventional society, they took to living in beat-up old vans, often painted with things like flowers, rainbows and magic mushrooms. The problem was when their convoys found a place to park, they tended to take root – to the huge annoyance of the people living nearby.

As a result, a state of war erupted between travellers and local authorities, growing hippievanincreasingly confrontational on both sides. The climax was in 1985 with the infamous Battle of the Beanfield, when police brutality towards the travellers shocked everyone.

(Ref ‘Free State’ by Bruce Garrard).

 Around that time, New Age thinking was catching on. Like the hippies, New Agers wanted to create a kinder and more spiritually centred world. However, they mostly didn’t try to either escape from or attack the establishment.They believed in inner change as the best way to create outer change.

reiki-healing-the-world“By the mid-1980s Glastonbury was home to about 500 New Agers,” said Barry Taylor, who came here in 1985. About half of them were travellers tired of travelling, and the other half were followers of various esoteric and channelled teachings.

It was a close-knit group. They all knew each other, and shared ideals about turning Glastonbury into a key spiritual centre again. Some of them felt guided by a mysterious Company of Avalon that it’s said has long kept an eye on Glastonbury from the inner planes.

So in the last third of the 20th century, Glastonbury was a place of ideals and high hopes. It was during this time that the New Avalonians I’ll be writing about made their mark. 

My definition of this group is that they:

  1. Came after the time covered in Patrick Benham’s book ‘The Avalonians’.
  2. Contributed to Glastonbury and / or the Avalonian ethos.
  3. Lived or worked in Glastonbury, or this general area.
  4. Have now passed on to the other side

They don’t need to have been saints, and none of them were. Running after the higher rainbow-torvision, they sometimes fell into deep potholes on the spiritual path. However, even their mistakes can serve us by showing what to avoid.

As George Santayana said, “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”

In asking around and scouring my memories, I’m gathering a good list of New Avalonians. If you can think of anyone you’d like to suggest, or have any personal memories or anecdotes to share, please drop me a line.

You can add your comments here or message me via the contacts page on my website. It feels like now is the time to celebrate these people’s lives before our memories of them are lost forever.

This article was first published in Glastonbury’s Oracle Magazine. Other articles on this theme will first be published in my monthly column in the Oracle, then later on posted this site.

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THE PANTHER ON GLASTONBURY TOR

At least three people have recently seen a panther on Glastonbury Tor.Glastonbury_Tor_at_dawn_Somerset by Robert Harvey.jpg

‘Again!’ comes the usual sighing response. The issue is, while panthers have been popping up here for years, these sightings still lack the official stamp of reality. Some think it might be a shape-shifting creature from the spirit world. Perhaps it sparks ancestral memories of Grendel-type monsters lurking in the dark.

Personally, I think it’s both physical and otherworldly. First, the arguments for it being real:

  • ‘Credible’ people like farmers have reported seeing it. A few years ago, a farmer said something that left large feline footprints in the mud had taken one of his lambs.
  • Elusive doesn’t mean unreal. Wild animals habitually avoid us, so it’s a special treat ever to see any of them. Panthers are especially hard to spot because they are black.  
  • Cats are one of the most adaptable animals on earth. This is why there are more wild varieties of them than any other animal – they adjust to where they find themselves. It would make sense for a large cat to lurk around human settlements because of the greater chance of grub.
  • Unexpected anihippofotocloseupmals are now popping up in odd places all over the world. These are often ex-exotic pets, escapees from zoos and even stowaways from ships.
  • African hippos now live in Columbia. A drug baron once imported them to show off in his pool. When he was murdered, his estate fell into disrepair, and the hippos wandered off. They are now thriving, as Columbia’s lush greenery suits them better than the harsh African climate.
  • A South African man has recently decided to move a group of rhinos to Australia to save them from extinction by poachers for their horns.Raccoon1
  • American racoons escaped from a German zoo when it was bombed in World War Two. Prolific breeders, they have since spread through Europe. Sweden has decided to cull them because they threaten local wildlife. Interloping species that turn out to be destructive like this are now called Judas animals.
  • After all the rumours about pumas living near Los Angeles, they were eventually tracked down. Since 2012, they have been filmed and satellite tagged.  steve-winter-cougar-hollywood

The Glastonbury panther may one day go the same way – tagged, filmed and somehow reduced. I can understand why Australian Aborigines say that photographs steal the soul. While it’s still a mystery, our panther has a numinous quality, which would be a pity to lose.

Many years ago, at the start of my spiritual path, I had a dramatic dream. A panther was trying to come into the house. I was terrified. I tried to barricade the doors – but then it got in by the bathroom window. I gave up, and said ‘OK, let’s talk’. We went outside, where it turned into a jungle boy, and we shared a bag of crisps.

In this dream, the panther represented the power of the spirit world. I think this is likely to be a universal symbol, meaning much the same to most people.  panther spirit animal

When somebody finally tracks down the Glastonbury panther, it will feel like the conquest of a mystery – and a little candle of magic will go out. However, it doesn’t have to be like that. So much of life is both physical and symbolic at the same time. I hope that for many of us the panther on the Tor can be both real and magical – like a shamanic guide animal, and a true bridge between the worlds.

If you’ve ever seen an animal in an unexpected place, drop me a line – I’d love to hear from you!

First published in Glastonbury’s Oracle Magazine

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THE GHOSTS OF GLASTONBURY

Crow MoonHuge numbers of people have encountered ghosts. Individual researchers and organisations like the Society for Psychical Research have collected tottering piles of their accounts. Even so, these are probably just the tip of the iceberg compared to all the experiences that people don’t bother to report.

But what are ghosts? And where do they come from?

One theory says that traumatic past events leave an imprint on the astral atmosphere. The ghosts we see are therefore a kind of fading echo.

However, many places seem more actively haunted than that. Perhaps these spirits find it hard to let go of experiences they had in that place.

With its rich and ancient history, Glastonbury is a prime location for that kind of ghost.

GLASTONBURY ABBEY
A good place to set off on this virtual ghost tour is Glastonbury Abbey. In the middle ages, it dominated this area for the best part of a thousand years. Moreover, it wasn’t just any Abbey. It was the oldest, most powerful and most prestigious in the land.

So it’s hardly surprising to find the Abbey’s monks still hanging around. People have seen them in all kinds of unlikely places – walking through houses, passing by windows – two were even seen fishing in the River Brue.Abbey

Visitors to the Abbey can sometimes hear the faint sound of their chanting. Cold shivers and goosebumps come up when they find out that no earthly choirs were practicing that day.

Different people at unconnected times have also managed to photograph white spectral forms in the Abbey grounds.

Although most of the monks who haunt Glastonbury seem to be here in a spirit of devotion, psychics have also perceived some from the darker side of Abbey life.

• There is a suicidal monk, of quite high office – blackmailed about his illegitimate child with a local woman.

• A harmless mad monk wanders the orchard, mumbling to himself. His madness came of innocently drinking the dregs of a lethal poison meant for someone else.

• The restless ghost of a monk who was secretly one of Henry VIII’s spies still prowls around the grounds.

GHOSTS OF FAMOUS ABBOTS

• In the 10th century, St Dunstan was both Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey and Archbishop of Canterbury. Many think that he now haunts St Dunstan’s church in his birthplace of Baltonsborough.

• Abbot Whiting is said to haunt Dod Lane – originally called ‘Dead Lane’ because funeral processions once went along this road. Whiting was hung, drawn and quartered on the Tor for resisting the king’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. So it’s not surprising to hear that his ghost may be haunting this ancient funerary pathway.

BLIGH BOND’S GHOST MESSAGES
A good source of information about Glastonbury’s ghostly monks was the architect and church restorer, Frederick Bligh Bond.

From 1907 to 1922, he used automatic writing to see if he could find out about the original structures of the Abbey. At that time, very little was known about that. Archaeological digging later showed that everything the ghost monks told Bligh Bond about the old Abbey was correct.G'bury monks

These monks were also quite chatty about themselves. (N.B. I have modernised the medieval spelling for easier reading)

“Why cling I to that which is not?” one of them remarked. “Part of me dwells in the past and is bound to that which my carnal soul loved and called ‘home’ these many years. Yet I, Johannes, am of many parts, and the better part does other things. Laus, Laus, Deo! Only that part which remembers clings like memory to what it sees yet.”

Johannes said he mostly remembers just the little things about his Abbey life. However, these human touches truly bring these memories to life for us.

“I remember using the stairs often for my fatness,” he said. “But it availed me not, though my father prior recommended it often. Alas! I waxed more fat.”

And: “I loved the rain on our hundred roofs and myriad voice that came from the waterspouts, when the gargoyles shouted each to each. The cloisters whispered comfort and refreshment as we lay under the dormer roof in parched and sultry nights. I did sleep on the south side, next to the great gable, and so I heard the sound whilst the others slept. Vai Mubi, that it is departed and the voices are heard no more.”

THE GEORGE AND PILGRIM HOTEL
George_and_Pilgrims_Hotel,_GlastonburyGlastonbury’s most famously haunted place is the George and Pilgrim Hotel. It was built in about 1475, to accommodate wealthy pilgrims and other Abbey visitors.

In the years of intrigue leading up to the 1540 Dissolution, all kinds of secret matters went on via the underground passage that used to run from the hotel’s cellar to the Abbey Gatehouse.

One of the hotel managers told me that both guests and staff regularly report paranormal encounters. He described his own experience:

“It was late night, after closing time. The place was locked up, the guests all in their rooms. A few of us were sitting quietly chatting. Suddenly the back door slammed. Footsteps came down the passage. We went to see who it was, but no-one was there – and all the doors were still locked.”

Other incidents people often report are:

• A man in historical dress walks through the bar then disappears.
• Ghostly footsteps creak in the passages.
• An inexplicable smell of cigar smoke drifts into certain bedrooms in the small hours of the night.
• Moving lights and sudden bangs happen at odd moments.
• A violent argument rages in the small lounge when no one is there.
• Spectral monks sometimes waft through the passages.
• Frightening presences lurk in certain bedrooms at night.

MAGDALENE STREET CHAPEL
The top of Magdelene Street is one of the oldest parts of town, and has some strange tales of its own to tell.

The small chapel and garden there is on the site of an old hospice once run by the Abbey. People have 41b st margarets chapel and almshousesglimpsed ethereal monks here too, as well as a tall figure of white light in the entrance to the chapel.

A heavy feeling of sadness once permeated the place – especially in one of the upper rooms. A few years ago, the sad feeling was taken seriously enough to receive a full church exorcism.

I decided to see what more I could find out about that. Without giving them any information, I asked three different psychics to tune in and see what they could sense about that place. They came up with remarkably similar perceptions.

The sad tale that emerged was about a woman who gave birth in that upper room. She was in great fear, because she knew certain persons wanted her or the baby dead.

Desperately, she tried to hide the baby and keep the birth a secret. But one day, men burst into her room and snatched her child from her arms. She never saw it again, and grieved forever after.

THE BATTLE OF SEDGEMORE
In the 17th century, the Duke of Monmouth tried to raise a rebellion against the Crown. The king’s army brutally crushed the small rebel force at the Battle of Sedgemore, fairly near to Glastonbury.

Six of the Glastonbury men who had joined Monmouth’s forces were publicly hanged near to where the 8 ass rms 1Assembly Rooms is today. The spectre of those hanging figures is still sometimes sensed there today.

The Sedgemore battlefield itself is famously haunted. The ghostly sound of marching troops – maybe the King’s men – sometimes echoes down Glastonbury High Street, and makes the ground shake for no visible reason.

THE SPIRIT OF THE PILGRIMS
The procession of devoted pilgrims coming to Glastonbury over the centuries has also left a strong imprint. Sensitives say that along Chilkwell Street in the still hours of the night, it’s still possible to feel the pilgrims’ tearful joy as they reached this important destination.

spooky TorGLASTONBURY TOR
The Tor has a rich mystical history, and many strange things happen there. Because there’s just too much to fit in here, the Tor has its own articles, which you can read at these links:

Mysteries of Glastonbury Tor

The Mists of Avalon

HOUSEHOLD GHOSTS
pet ghostGlastonbury also has its share of private household ghosts – even pet cats and dogs sometimes haunt their old homes.

Someone who was visiting a house in Roman Way said, “I went to get something from the kitchen. There I saw someone who I hadn’t been introduced to. On my return to the sitting room, I asked who it was.

My hosts were surprised and said no one else was in the house. When I described her, they said it sounded like the woman they’d bought the house from.

She’d left the place against her wishes when she and her husband sold it, and died shortly afterwards. The rumour was that she’d committed suicide.”

Another Glastonian told me that when she’s out driving she sometimes glimpses the ghost of her late father in the back seat of her car. When he was alive, he was always telling her to drive more cautiously – so she thinks these appearances are partly to say hello, and partly to remind her to be careful.

A young Glastonbury woman told me that she knows when her Grandad’s ghost has come to call because all the lights go fully bright.

“When I say ‘come on Grandad, you know I don’t like the lights so bright’ he dims them again,” she said.

Another household hauntee decided to challenge her ghost. She demanded, “If you’re real, why don’t you prove it and switch the kettle on?”

She said she had the fright of her life when the kettle suddenly started to boil all by itself.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU MEET A GHOST
The first thing to do is keep calm. Many ghosts come to us for positive reasons. These are often family or friends who have passed on. They want us to know that they’re not really dead – they are just living in another realm. When this kind of ghost appears, be open to any messages they may wish to give you.

Other ghosts haunt certain places because strong memories are keeping them there. Often filled with fear, sorrow or anger, these hauntings can feel the most disturbing.

However, if you have an encounter like this, the ghost may be hardly aware of you. Breathe slowly and deeply to keep yourself calm. Say ‘I wish you peace’. Then ask higher powers to guide this spirit to the light.

With this preparation in mind, who knows – one day you may give a sad spirit exactly the help they might have needed for centuries.

Have you ever encountered a ghost? If so I’ve love to hear about it. You can add your comments to this article, or CONTACT ME through my website.
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