Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sacred England

From the publisher's website:

There are many good guidebooks to England and its various regions and aspects, and this one is not intended to rival or replace any of the others. Its aim is to provide a quietly informative companion to those travellers seeking the ancient spirit of the land.

Recognised as the world authority on ancient science and religion and the symbolism of ancient landscapes, John Michell takes us on an unforgettable journey to ruined abbeys and cathedrals, pagan sites and megalithic temples, shrines of saints and visionaries, holy wells, island sanctuaries, and to a host of other places where peace and sanctity are almost tangible. Some of them are famous, others quiet and secluded, but all are centres of spiritual energy and renewal.

A middle-small book, suitable for travelling, The Traveller's Guide to Sacred England, by John Michell, contains many wonders. Among them:

St. Bride, Fleet Street

This is the most fascinating of the London churches because its site has been sanctified since pagan times. By the northwest corner of the present church and within the walls of an earlier building was the holy well of St. Bride or Bridget, a fifth-century Irish saint, to which pilgrimages were made on her feast day. The Wren church with its elaborate "wedding cake" steeple was bombed in the war and rebuilt in the 1950s. Escavations of the early buildings can be seen in the crypt, which is now a museum. Being in Fleet Street, famous for its newspaper offices, St. Bride has been adopted as the journalists' church. The east wall, which is skillfully painted to appear curved, is actually flat. On the south wall is a terra-cotta head of Virginia Dare, the first child of English parents to be born in North America.
Open daily, 9 to 5, Sunday 9:30 to 6:30.

(Note the tantalizing link between the goddess Brigit's oversight of poetry and culture and St. Bride's being the journalists' church.)

Glastonbury and Her Saints
pg. 136

St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, by tradition responsible for converting the Irish to Christianity, ended his days as Abbot of Glastonbury. When he died at the age of 111, his holy relics became Glastonbury's greatest asset. They attracted many pilgrims from Ireland, including St. Bridget, who settled not far from the abbey at Beckery...

The St. Michael Pilgrimage Path
pg. 142

The establishment of a Christian church on the Tor is attributed in the annals of Glastonbury to the founders of the abbey and to St. Patrick. Its dedication is to St. Michael - more properly the Archangel Michael - who is depicted in a carving on the tower weighing the soulds of the dead. Beside it, representing the female principle, is a carving of St. Bridget milking her cow.

As the leader of the heavenly hosts, the bearer of light, the slayer of the dragon, the revealer of mysteries, and the guide to the other world, Michael is the Christian successor to pagan deities with similar functions, such as Hermes, messenger of the gods, and the Celtic light giver, Lugh...

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