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The Labyrinths Of Glastonbury Tor And Chartres Cathedral

By on February 3, 2017 in METAPHYSICAL, SUPERNATURAL
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The Labyrinths Of Glastonbury Tor And Chartres Cathedral

By Julian Websdale

Glastonbury Tor

Glastonbury Tor is a hill at Glastonbury in the English county of Somerset, topped by the roofless St. Michael’s Tower, a Grade I listed building. The whole site is managed by the National Trust, and has been designated a scheduled monument.

The conical hill of clay and blue lias rises from the Somerset Levels. It was formed when surrounding softer deposits were eroded, leaving the hard cap of sandstone exposed. The slopes of the hill are terraced, but the method by which they were formed remains unexplained. Artefacts from human visitation have been found, dating from the Iron Age to Roman eras.


Figure 1 – Glastonbury Tor with its labyrinth terraces. Centre image: The Cretan Maze.

Visitors to Glastonbury often ask whether the Tor is artificial. The answer is that it is a natural hill, but one that shows signs of having been artificially shaped. Along its sides are a number of terraces, one above another. From the upper part of Well House Lane, several of them can be seen running along the north face. They are worn and weathered, but traceable over long stretches.

According to a theory put forward by Geoffrey Russell, they are the principal remains of a maze: not in the sense of a puzzle, but in the sense of a long, twisting, devious approach to a centre – a labyrinth. Made in the remote past for ritual purposes, it spirals round the Tor seven times, and ends – or may be supposed to end – at the summit where the tower now stands.

It is argued further that the spiral is not a simple one, but a three-dimensional adaptation of a more complex pattern which is found in antiquity and in widely separated places. This may be called the Cretan spiral, because it appears on Cretan coins and has some connection with the Labyrinth legend.

But the same maze or its mirror-image also occurs on an Etruscan vase assigned to the seventh century B.C., on a pillar at Pompeii, and on rocks at Tintagel and in Co. Wicklow. It is known in Wales in the shape of rustic mazes called Caerdroia, ‘Troy Town’. It is even found among the Hopi of Arizona, as the ‘Mother Earth’ symbol. Philip Rahtz, who excavated the top of the Tor in 1964-6, said of Russell’s idea: ‘The argument is complex, but it is worth consideration’. And elsewhere: ‘If the maze theory were demonstrated to be true, it would clearly be of the greatest relevance to the origins of Glastonbury as a religious centre’.

The theory requires that there should once have been seven paths going completely round the Tor, all running along continuous terraces, with vertical connections between them. Weathering, trampling, and shiftings of soil and strata have made parts of this hypothetical scheme a matter of conjecture. Yet terraces can indeed be distinguished at seven different levels, and while they are not now continuous, they are more nearly so than a glance might suggest. Effects of light and shadow, variations at ground level, make it difficult to take in the whole system at any one time or from any one angle. Sometimes a path is hard to recognise when one is on it, yet easily visible from a distance. Sometimes a terrace is almost indiscernible from a distance, yet well defined when looked at from directly above or below.

Russell proposed to connect the Tor and its maze with early Welsh poetic allusions to Caer Sidi, the ‘turning’ or spiral castle. This was a place in pre-Christian mythology which housed a magic cauldron. Caer Sidi was a point of contact with Annwn, a Celtic Otherworld sometimes pictured as underground. Its wonder-working vessel may have been the same as a cauldron of inspiration that belonged to the goddess Ceridwen.

Certainly the legends of Glastonbury link up with these themes. The cauldron, in one guise or another, is a factor in the making of the Grail story, and a very early Welsh poem tells how Arthur and his men went in quest of it. A tale about a visiting saint, Collen, shows that the Tor was regarded as an entrance to Annwn. Russell suggests that the Quest of the Grail has pre-Christian roots in a Celtic ritual which involved threading the Tor maze to the summit and, presumably, attaining a real or symbolic sacred vessel of otherworldly character.

However, while British Celts of the pagan Iron Age doubtless had notions about the Tor, and might even have made some use of its maze, they are unlikely to have done the original work. According to Philip Rahtz a probable date would lie in the second or third millennium B.C. As a religious structure comparable to Silbury, the maze, if confirmed, could have a bearing on the debate as to how far Neolithic religion was centred on the cult of a Great Goddess or Earth Mother. It has been pointed out that the Glastonbury hill-profile, viewed from a certain angle, evokes a recumbent female figure with the Tor forming the left breast. Early images of goddesses do occasionally have lines circling and meandering on their bodies.

The special Cretan maze-pattern (see Figure 1) in its complexity and wide distribution is an unsolved problem, though a ritual origin is agreed to be likely. Another relevant theme is that of the holy mountain. Several early Asian mythologies refer to a mountain where the gods dwelt. Hindus called it Mem, placed it at the world’s centre, and sometimes – interestingly – made it septenary, with seven sides or levels. In Babylon the great Ziggurat or temple had seven tiers, and may have been intended as a model of the mount of the gods. The motif passed into Islamic legend, also into the poetry of Dante, who portrays Purgatory as a seven-tiered mountain. The ingredients for a combination of holy mountain and septenary maze certainly existed from ancient times. How or why such a grandiose work might have come to be undertaken in Britain is a further question.
Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral, also known as Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Chartres (French: Basilique Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres), is a medieval Roman Rite Catholic cathedral located in Chartres, France, about 80 kilometres (50 mi) southwest of Paris. It is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The current cathedral, mostly constructed between 1194 and 1250, is the last of at least five which have occupied the site since the town became a bishopric in the 4th century.

Today Chartres continues to attract large numbers of pilgrims, many of whom come to walk slowly around the labyrinth. The location of the labyrinth in the cathedral is not chosen arbitrarily and its dimensions are not accidental; there are many hidden numeral qualities.


Figure 2 – The labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral.

The 11-circuit labyrinth was not a new development of Chartres; it was already a well-known design. It was completed in 1200, and was planned intensively and in detail. The labyrinth had a prime at that time and was also built in other Gothic cathedrals. They were walkable and their symbolism was based on mathematical elements.

The labyrinth of Chartres is designed according to the geometry of the circle, both in the whole, as well as in many other details. The circle is the symbol of eternity, infinity, the omnipotence of God and of the Sun. The Sun is, in Christianity, the symbol for Christ. The 114 graduations at the outside of the perimeter (also called lunations) divided by 6 (the number of perfection) result in 19, the number of the sun. The Flower of Life has also 19 circles.

The Chartres labyrinth has a diameter of 12.858 m including the lunations, without them a diameter of 12.455 m. The Australian architect John James says that the diameter of the labyrinth is equal to a circle which contains an isosceles triangle, which again corresponds to the half diagonal of the crossing of the nave and the transept. The figures of the circle, the square (the holy), and the triangle (the spirit or the perfection) would be contained in the crossing and in the labyrinth.

The architects of the Middle Ages were fascinated by numbers. The circle played a large role, one generally used a value of 22:7 = 3.1428 for the unit Pi. In the school of Chartres a more exact value of 399:127 = 3.1417323 could have been calculated, which is not so far away from our current value of 3.1415927. The circumference was thus specified with the integral values of 399 ‘hands’ and the diameter with 127 ‘hands’.

The path of the labyrinth is made of bright, very hard stones from the quarries of Berchères and is on average 343.23 mm wide. The stones are very carefully formed with different inner and outer diameters and are made in relatively long pieces. There are 273 pieces (or 276 if points of fracture are taken into consideration). The last stone at the entrance to the centre has a length of 1.64 m, which can be interpreted as the average size of a medieval person. The length of the path is 261.5 m according to John James, or in other units 740 ‘long feet’ or 888 ‘Roman feet’. Both numbers have significant symbolism. The cross sum of 740 is 11 (=7+4+0), and 888 is the numeric value for the name of Christ in the Greek system. The 11 stands for the inner fight, the aberration, the trespassing of the Ten Commandments and the penalty.

The rose of six petals (at the centre of the labyrinth) is reminiscent of the ‘Mystic Rose’ associated with Mary, popular in the Middle Ages, and also the rose of the alchemists and Rosicrucians. Although the natural rose has only five petals, here the number six was probably chosen to demonstrate perfection.

The Labyrinth of our Inner Journey

Most of us are suffering from mistaken identity – taking ourselves to be someone we are not. The goal of psycho-spiritual development is to correct this mistaken identity; not to strengthen or improve our false identity. The self that we think we are does not exist; it is a figment of our imagination. The self that we think we are cannot awaken – we have to awaken from that false-self in order to realise our true-Self. When this occurs, we realise that we have always been our true-Self.

Our inner journey takes us through the labyrinth of our ego structures to discover our true-Self (at the core of our being). A labyrinth differs from a maze in that it only has one path which leads to the centre, so the path is already mapped out for us – all we have to do is walk it. If we stop resisting and controlling, the flow of life will naturally carry us to our destination. Some parts of the journey will be tough and others will be wonderful, but they will all be experiential opportunities for the reintegration, development and liberation of our consciousness.


Figure 3 – The Labyrinth: Symbolic Depictions of the Ego Super-Structure.
The most effective way of journeying through the labyrinth of our ego structures is to do so with conscious awareness and presence, because then we can process the psychological material (i.e. dissolve the ego structures and reintegrate our consciousness) as we encounter it. Then, when we finally reach the core of our being and realise our true-Self, we can be confident that we will not relapse back into ego-identification because the ego will have largely been dissolved.

Temporary self-realisation is the result of jumping to the core of our being (e.g. through intense will) without dissolving the ego structures. If this occurs, it is only a matter of time before the lure of the ego pulls us back out again, because too many ego structures remain for the Self-realisation to be permanent.

Our conditioning can cause us to remain misidentified with the ego-self longer than necessary. So here are a few simple things that we can do to loosen our identification with our ego-self:

• Don’t take things personally: Let go of any definitions or concepts of yourself as a personal “I” and see yourself as impersonal pure awareness.
• Forgive everyone and everything: You can’t change what has happened so why hold onto the personal feeling of victimhood?
• Be selfless: Put other people’s needs ahead of your own and dedicate part of your life to serving or helping others.
• Be authentic at all times: Don’t put on a different persona for different occasions.
• Have fewer preferences and opinions; especially about things that don’t really matter.

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Sources: [May 2014] [May 2014] [May 2014] [May 2014] [May 2014]

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