2000 Years Ago on Glastonbury Tor
Celtic Britain: The Coming of the Light #1
By: Donna Fletcher Crow
The dark shape of the Tor rose behind him, a brooding presence commanding all his attention and then drawing his eyes upward toward the vast adumbral sky, far and far above the wind-rustled boughs of the mysterious oak grove at the mountain's base. He saw pale moonlight shimmering on the inky surface of Meare Pool, silhouetting the circle of wattle huts inside the palisade standing on pilings in the lake. And on every side of him mists rose from the river and marshland that separated this small piece of land with its cluster of hills from the rest of the world. The inhabitants called it Ynis Witrin, the Glass Isle, but to this newcomer's eye, with only the silvery moon for a lamp, the shrouded waters resembled not crystal, but obsidian. A shift in the breeze bore a wisp of fog to him. He shivered.
Joseph looked down on the thatched roofs of the lake village where his eleven companions slept in guest quarters. The strangeness of the hill's green-darkness, of its windswept isolation, of its apartness from the rest of the world, chilled him. An almost deafening chorus of crickets and frogs assailed him, and a few drops of dew fell on his cheek as he surveyed this foreign landscape illumined by a cold moon.
What had he done in bringing his little band of believers, many of them women and youths, to this alien land? What awaited them tomorrow? Would the druid leader welcome missionaries of a new faith? Would he listen to the good news of the way of peace and love? Or would he institute one of the sacrifices Caesar had pictured after his visit to Britannia almost a hundred years ago-stuffing a giant wicker figure with human beings and setting it ablaze? Joseph shuddered.
And so begins the saga with the coming of the Holy Grail to Britannia, that far-off island at the edge of the mighty Roman Empire where the followers of The Way might escape persecution from a system that forced them to worship in secret in catacombs and dragged those who dared to disobey Caesar off to do battle in the coliseum.
At first all went far better than Joseph of Arimathea could have dared to hope for. He and his band of 12 are made welcome on The Glass Isle and given 12 hides of land to build homes and a church— the first to be built above ground— which Joseph dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. A Celtic princess of the nearby court chooses Christian baptism along with a Druid priest.
But not all the Druid leaders are so welcoming. Tarana of the fiery hair and temper vows revenge. And then the Romans invade. Caractacus, war leader of the Britons sends out the hosting call and Joseph joins him as chaplain. The Emperor Claudius’s invasion of Britannia with elephants is a matter of historic record and the Celtic rulers are paraded in Rome in chains. Again, all a matter of historic record.
And so the story unfolds through the centuries, through Celtic, Roman, Arthurian, Anglo-Saxon, Norman and Tudor times as Glastonbury sees it all. And the question remains, Where is the Holy Grail?
Glastonbury has been called “The holiest earth in England.” These are her legends, this is her history, this is the magnificent saga—
Glastonbury saw it all:
Joseph of Arimathea and his little band of pilgrims, seeking refuge from Roman persecution, flee to this tiny, sheltered island on the west coast of Britannia, bringing with them their most sacred possession- the Holy Grail;
The holy Isle of Avalon provides refuge for renewal of courage as King Arthur and his knights fight off the invading barbarian hoard, then it becomes his final resting place;
A devastating fire threatens to destroy the work and worship of centuries, but Arthur's bones provide the impetus for yet more magnificent building, a greater flowering of the faith;
Until the last abbot is drug to his death atop the Tor and the splendid arches are left to crumble.
But still the faithful seek the greatest prize of all- The Holy Grail.
Through all the ages history and legend intertwine around these broken arches, standing a beacon of hope and light for the future.
Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 40 books, mostly novels dealing with British history. Besides the award-winning Glastonbury, Donna is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave and A Darkly Hidden Truth, as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the romantic suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries.
Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 11 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener. To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to: www.DonnaFletcherCrow.com.
Donna’s blog http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/articles.php