We parked by the church, halfway up the hill with absolutely no intention of climbing it. The day was hot and muggy, we’d done a lot of driving the last two days on not a lot of sleep… and played our part in giving the talk in Glastonbury. No climbing. But we could visit the church, check out the hill and see if it really was going to be worth coming back when we had more time, energy and daylight left.
All around there were jackdaws… always a good sign. And more big dragonflies than I have ever seen in my life before. The church looked a good one and I already knew there were some odd woodcarvings in there. Quite how odd I was yet to find out. I knew about the allegorical carvings that told the story of an avaricious Bishop if Glastonbury, according to the legends, depicted as a fox and being hung by monkeys. I hadn’t bargained for the rest of the bench ends which were simply incredible, with almost every one showing a Green Man or some other fantastic creature, bird or flower. My favourite was perhaps the little owl… and these were just the tiny details in the finials… the main panels of these bench ends that date back to the 14th century have detailed carvings of the four Holy Creatures as well as other Christian symbols such as the Pelican. It would have been worth the trip just for these alone.
At the back of the church one bench is carved with less skill, perhaps, but more heart… it is a simple carving of a deer beneath a tree and I fell in love with it straight away. It seemed more homely than the others, a little different, as if the artist had carved it from the heart rather than to commission. Beside it on the floor lay a single, weathered stone head.
St Michael’s church still has a Norman doorway with its distinctive zig-zag patterns carved into stone, though it is thought there has been a church on the site since the 7th century… once again the period we are now looking at with Doomsday. Indeed, everywhere we looked we were seeing details and geometries that tie in with what was written in our recent book, but most of all there seemed to be a real connection to the early symbols we had been discovering since we first began to write The Initiate. Almost like a reiteration, or a period of revision, yet this time the symbols were being understood at a deeper level because of what we have learned and can now bring to them. Learning this way is a spiral dance, never ending, as the more you learn, the more you are able to bring and the more you are taught by what you then find. It isn’t like learning how to do something… it is not a finite thing. And that is an awesome thought in the truest sense of the word. I can think of few things more joyous than to go on learning indefinitely.
The rest of St Michaels’ was just as good too. Although at first glance a fairly simple place, a closer look reveals that the ceiling is supported by carved angels with outstretched wings. On the south wall is a brashly coloured memorial to a Royalist and his family. Details span the centuries and the windows are superb, from the oldest to the modern. Looking through the mounds of photographs I can see that I have missed many of the shots I usually take, so caught up was I with the details of the place. I have a feeling we may have to go back there… but then, we know that. We didn’t didn’t see half of what is on that hill!