The Return from Glastonburysam
by Michael Berman
I am often asked why, even though I have a driving licence and would benefit from having a car due to the difficulty I now have in walking or using public transport, I do not have one. Though not strictly true, I usually answer to reduce my carbon footprint, but, the real reason for my decision not to drive is somewhat different.
Glastonbury is a small town in Somerset, England, situated at a dry point on the low lying Somerset Levels, 37 km south of Bristol.
Evidence from timber trackways such as the Sweet Track show that the town has been inhabited since Neolithic times. Glastonbury Lake Village was an Iron Age village west of Glastonbury, and dates back to the Bronze Age. Centwine was the first Saxon patron of Glastonbury Abbey. Formerly one of the most important abbeys in England, it was the site of Edmund Ironside’s coronation as King of England in 1016.
These days Glastonbury is known as a New Age centre, and is notable for myths and legends often related to Glastonbury Tor, concerning Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Grail and King Arthur. In some Arthurian literature Glastonbury is identified with the legendary island of Avalon. Joseph is said to have arrived in Glastonbury and stuck his staff into the ground, when it flowered miraculously into the Glastonbury Thorn. The Glastonbury Festival, held in the nearby village of Pilton, takes its name from the town.
It was therefore the ideal location for a weekend workshop on using a Native American version of the tarot which had been designed by the facilitator of the course, and which I chose to register for at a time in my life when I was particularly interested in such matters.
At the end of the first day, when the workshop leader had gone through the significance of each of the cards in turn, she invited us to see her on an individual basis to give us our sacred names.
Mine consisted of a weather condition and the name of a rarely seen bird of prey. I was about to leave so the next participant in line could take my place but for some reason she held me back. “You will decide to leave the course early” she then told me, “and on your way home you will experience something you will never forget.” In fact, I had already decided to leave early. I did not appreciate the communal living accommodation provided for the workshop, felt somewhat out of place, and there were pressing concerns back in London that I wanted to deal with instead.
I gave her warning little attention until I set off on the motorway back to London. All of a sudden the car ground to a halt, the weather condition changed into the first part of my name described and there, lying in front of the car, was the rarely seen bird of prey that formed the second part. Then, when I opened the car to check what was wrong with the engine, the weather changed back to what it had been like before and the creature had vanished without a trace. It was as if the whole incident had never happened, but on the other hand it was all so powerful I was in no doubt that it had. The experience affected me so deeply that from that day on I never drove again and never will.
About the author
Michael Berman’s published work includes The Power of Metaphor for Crown House, The Nature of Shamanism and the Shamanic Story for Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Shamanic Journeys through the Caucasus and Shamanic Journeys, Shamanic Stories for O-Books, Journeys outside Time for Pendraig Publishing, and Tales of Power for Lear Books. A Bridge to the Other Side: Death in the Folk Tradition and Georgia through Earth, Fire, Air and Water are both due to be published by Moon Books in 2012. ELT publications include A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom, In a Faraway Land (a resource book for teachers on storytelling), On Business and for Pleasure (a self-study workbook), and English Language Teaching Matters, written with Mojca Belak and Wayne Rimmer. For more information please visit www.Thestoryteller.org.uk, E-mail: [email protected]