Saturday, December 30, 2017

Cornish Adventure, Part One: Getting There is Half the Fun

Today I set off from my brother's home in Swindon, headed for Tintagal (the boyhood home of King Arthur) in Cornwall.  (you can see a map of my journey at the bottom of this post)  As I do most mornings, and every morning when I'm travelling, I pulled a tarot card asking "What should watch out for today?"  I find this an excellent practice.  It sometimes is a warning, but usually it's something amazing I would have missed had I not been watching for it.  It almost never makes sense in the morning, but by bedtime, it always does.

Now, Swindon, where my brother lives isn't terribly exciting.  It's an industrial/railroad town.  Reminds me a lot of Allentown.  Once you get out of town, it's rolling hills and green fields and sheep (so many sheep!  seriously, as near as I can tell there are more sheep than people in England) But, when you grew up in the most beautiful place in the world, it's pretty, but nothing special.  Getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road is actually pretty easy.  What's a little harder is getting used to the fact that the English just park wherever the hell they want, including n lanes of traffic.  Except for large highways, basically every road is one lane (even when it's two way) because people park on the side of the road, and block 3/4 of a lane.

Along the way, my spidey-sense started tingling, and I kept seeing these signs for Cheddar Gorge and Caves.  "That sounds cool," I thought.  "I love me some caves!  I wonder if there will be anything cool I can see without having to hike?  I'm going to turn off and drive, and hopefully it will be pretty.  I'm in now hurry to get anywhere."  So, I turned off, and followed the signs.  My GPS was not best pleased, but I shooshed her , and just followed my gut, and the entirely insufficient road signs.  I drove thru several little towns, including one that looked positively medieval, just like it was out of a King Arthur movie.  Eventually I got to Cheddar, and followed signs to the Gorge.

OMG, guys!  This is the most beautiful drive ever!  I duct taped my phone to the visor and shot you a video of it.  Watch below.  (now that I have invented this method, I'll try to get a chance to shoot you a video of the drive up Uffington White Horse Hill, also)

Sadly, it seems like the second video I tried to take failed when my phone ran out of memory.  :( Sorry!  To make up for it, here is a video someone else shot with a drone.  Warning: the music is super annoying.

So, after Cheddar Gorge, I got back on the highway, headed south to Cornwall.  I drove for a while, and then I started seeing signs for Glastonbury.  Now, I had planned to go to Glastonbury earlier in the week, but I got sick, and had to cancel that day trip.  I'm planning to go later in the week, but after my extremely successful outing at Cheddar Gorge, I figured I'd at least drive thru town, and shoot some photos of the Tor from afar.  (Having spoken with a friend who lives nearby, I was told that under no circumstances would my knees permit me to climb it in the winter.  England, I have discovered, is about 20% sheep and and 70% very slippery mud.  I don't know what their dirt is made of.  I suspect teflon.  In any case, for whatever reason, as I approached Glastonbury, I actually started to be really scared.  I almost turned around.  Then I saw a sign for an Aldi's, so I stopped, got some snacks for the rest of the trip, including a dozen bottles of water, and collected myself.  "Don't be silly, Sara.  Just drive thru.  You don't even have to get out of the car if you don't want to."  Honestly, I was genuinely scared.  Which is a thing that happens to me before big initiatory experiences.  I think my ego is like "No!  We're going to be different after this!!"

In any case, I followed signs for the Tor, and found myself at the Chalice Well Park, which is where the Red Spring of Glastonbury is.  That sounded great, but there was no parking, so I turned up a tiny side street looking for a place to park.  My spidey sense went crazy!  Then I saw a bunch of hippies by the side of the road.  I pulled over, and just parked alongside the road, blocking half of it.  You know, English style!  I was headed to a sacred well, so I dumped two of the water bottles, so I could fill them with spring water.  (yay, Aldi's panic stop!) . the hippies were at a place called the White Spring Sanctuary.

It was so beautiful.  It had the neo-pagan hippy magic vibe, very much like the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors.  But, it also had an older, deeper power.  As you know, I adore She of the Waters Below, whom I call by her Greek name, Tethys.  I had a profound experience the other day at Bath, and this was, in many ways, the twin of that.  Now...I'm not saying the National Trust, which is the non-profit that administers most of the British Sacred Sites I've been to....I'm not saying they actively attempt to de-sacrilize everything they touch and turn the Holy Places into tourist attractions, but, well...honestly, I didn't really feel anything at Avebury.  Wayland's Smithy was powerful, but it wasn't all dolled up.  The Roman Baths were cool, but they weren't wild and sacred.  They were fancified, citified, churchy kind of sacred (which can also be called Roman/Minerva kind of sacred, so that was all right).  But this spring was the way I like my sacred sites.  Dirty.  Dangerous.  Powerful.  No cameras are allowed inside, but below I've put a video I found, which ends abruptly, when he's told it's not allowed.

I took my shoes off and rolled my pants up, and stood in the overflow of the spring, communing silently with Tethys.  But then, I saw him.  The Knight of Wands.  The Horned One.  Or, I guess more likely, some hobo looking hippy with curly hair and shiny eyes.  Wearing kelly green.  He stripped off his clothes, and went into the spring.  "Wait!  Is this allowed?!?" I thought.   It seems that it was, because nobody made any fuss at all.  Honestly, it seemed like nobody but me really even noticed.  Hard to say. Brits aren't the most emotionally expressive of peoples.   Now, here's the thing; maybe Brits are casual about public nudity.  I don't know.  But it's fucking December.  And, I mean, it's warm here compared to home (it was about 40 degree F here today), but this spring house isn't heated or anything.  It was cold as fuck just having bare feet on the wet stones.

I waited for him to get out, and I think he caught me staring, wide eyed.  He told me I should go in.  I stripped, put my clothes on a bench, and he helped me up the slippery stairs.  (Note to self:  take your cane next time, and maybe some aqua-sox).  I assume he got dressed and left after that, because I didn't see him again.  (or else it really was the Horned One, and he went back to being invisible like usual) It was extremely cold.  Seriously, like searingly cold, and then numb. But my blubber kept me ok; it takes a long time for cold to penetrate blubber, so all my vitals were still warm.  This is not an adventure I think would be safe for skinny folk!!

I was in the main circular pool for a little while.  I got a lot of mildy nasty stares (which is just a thing about being fat in public, I think, because nobody gave the guy trouble) . There, the water was up to about my knees.  But then, I moved to the back left, where there is a small altar of the Black Madonna, Our Lady Below.  I climbed up.  In the large pool at the back, behind the Black Madonna altar, there were stairs leading in (which I took as a sign that this was permitted).  There, the water reached up to my breasts.  COOOOOLD!!!!!!  I ducked under the waterfall, and drank some.  I was weeping, I think.  An old lady was singing in what sounded like maybe Russian.

The old lady gave me a hand getting out.  I do not think she spoke English.  I dried off as best I was able, and put my clothes back on.  It was very, very, very cold being in the wind.  I quickly walked back to the car, cold and wet, and jacked the heat up as high as it would go.  I sat for a while, collecting myself.  It was a very powerful experience.  Second to Eleusis, this is perhaps the holiest place I have ever felt.  I wish it had been warmer, so I could have stayed longer.

I'm tired of writing, so I will tell you more later tonight or maybe tomorrow.  Museum of Witchcraft and Magic is slated for tomorrow, and Merlin-themed site-seeing.  :) . Excited.  Good night!

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