In the beginning, when the legends of mystical Avalon began, Glastonbury, a small town in Somerset, cradled in a cluster of hills in the south of England, was thought to have been a site for pre-Christian worship.
A powerful natural phenomenon, visible from many miles away yet imperceptible from nearby, the highest of these hills, the 500-foot Glastonbury Tor, rising sheer from the Somerset levels has inspired spiritual speculation.
Was the Tor a centre for fertility rites based on legends of the great Mother Earth Goddess? Was Avalon a centre for ley-lines - routes of spiritual energy? Around the sides of the Tor is a strange system of terracing. Much weathered and eroded, but still well-defined, it has been interpreted as a maze following an ancient magical pattern. If the maze on the Tor is real, human labour formed it four or five thousand years ago, during the period of the vast ritual works that created Stonehenge.
Two thousand years ago, the sea washed right to the foot of the Tor, nearly encircling the cluster of hills. The sea was gradually succeeded by a vast lake. An old name for it is Ynys-witrin, the Island of Glass; "island" because, from most angles of approach, it would have looked like one, but it is from Celtic legend that the name Avalon has its true origin - named after the demi-god Avalloc or Avallach, who ruled the underworld. In Celtic lore Avalon was an isle of enchantment.
It is not insignificant that the Church on the top of the Tor is named after the arch-angel Michael, the warrior Saint who is remembered for defeating the powers of darkness.
Ancient myth has it that Avalon, where the sea met the land, was the meeting place of the dead; the point where they passed to another level of existence, and the Tor was the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, the Lord of the Underworld, and a place where the fairy folk lived.
Then 2000 years ago Joseph of Arimathea (Christs uncle) is supposed to have brought the young Jesus here. On Joseph's second visit, after Christs death, he built the first Christian church, at Glastonbury Abbey, appointing twelve Christian hermits to look after it. St Patrick and St David are said to have come here too and later still King Arthur; who is reputedly buried here.