French troubadours in the 12th century sang about how a chalice containing the blood of Christ was brought to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea. Soon many versions of the Holy Grail story spread across Europe. According to one version a red-flowing spring gushed out of the spot where Joseph buried the chalice on Glastonbury Tor. The troubadours sang other songs about a king named Arthur who reigned about 500 years after Joseph’s visit. Arthur sent his knights all over England (and perhaps Wales) in search of this Holy Grail.
Wellesley Tudor Pole (1884 – 1968) was a spiritualist and mystic who had a great interest in the Arthurian legends. In 1958 he acquired the land with the red-flowing spring at the base of Glastonbury Tor and in 1959 he set up a trust and gave the property to the people of the U.K. It’s called Chalice Well and people come from all over to meditate in the well-kept gardens and drink the water that has a high concentration of iron oxide.
Chalice Well is open to people of all religions including Christians who may be interested in the Holy Grail stories. But I got the impression that most of the visitors are more interested in pre-Christian religions. David, our tour guide, had told us about the Druids who descend on Stonehenge during the summer solstice every year and explained that paganism is an official religion in the U.K. I noticed that most of the people meditating in the gardens were women and some of them probably belonged to various goddess-worshiping cults. But maybe it’s just that more women than men go on tours like ours. Of the 14 passengers on our bus, four were men and ten were women.
There’s a gift shop on the premises plus a retreat house for supporters of the trust and poetry and music programs are held on evenings during the summer. Right outside the boundaries of Chalice Well there is a White Spring with a high concentration of calcium. Some of the pagan rituals combine the red water from Chalice Well with the white water from the White Spring.
It only took five minutes to drive from our Glastonbury Tor viewpoint to Chalice Well. We visited for about a half hour and then drove another five minutes to the town of Glastonbury where we explored the ruins of the famous abbey. And that will be the topic of my next posting.