May so far has been a rollercoaster of a month. I’ve had fantastic times with friends and family, and lost a few loved ones or been through the mill for one thing and another. On the plus side, I had a holiday. On the negative side, I lost a beloved pet (Harley the guinea pig, finally, passed away on my birthday of all days. It’s that sort of a month) It’s been a case of life in absolute microcosm.
And through it all, I’ve been conscious of an undercurrent in my heart and soul. A little whispering.
My word this year has been Sanctuary. I’m looking to create sacred spaces and places in my life, to feel the Spirit of Life flowing through my being. I truly believe we’re all connected, all responsible for each other, all part of the great planet Earth. And we need to be connected to each other. It’s like that bit in Doctor Who, the Ninth Doctor when Rose asks who he is and he says: “Do you know like we were saying about the Earth revolving? It’s like when you’re a kid, the first time they tell you that the world’s turning and you just can’t quite believe it because everything looks like its standing still. I can feel it. The turn of the Earth, the ground beneath our feet is spinning at 1,000 miles per hour and the entire planet is hurtling around the sun at 67,000 miles an hour and I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world and if we let go…“
We need to hold on to each other, rather than be lost in the vast cosmic space. We need to be part of our own circles, our own groups. Not to be tribal, not to claim perfection or status or even to set up as enlightened beings above others… but to be together. Equals, together in unity.
My holiday, a week away with my eldest son, was a research trip for him. He’s writing a series of novels about King Arthur. The world always has space for another set of novels about Arthur, doesn’t it? And he is a gifted writer, always has been. No pressure on him, it will probably take him years, but it will be worth the wait. We visited Tintagel, and a couple of other spaces connected to Arthur, and then went to Avalon. Glastonbury. The Summer Isles, Land of Apples.
I’ve been before, but never quite as free to roam as this time. My husband, bless him, is a prosaic person, and not very given to mysticism. When I last visited, about 26 years ago, we went only for the day, reached the top of the Tor and walked along a high street that left him worrying about who, exactly, shops in Glastonbury. Me, Peter. I can find lots of shops to browse and places to visit.
Although, of course, the power of Glastonbury is actually not in the shops. It’s in the spaces. The Abbey was lovely in its ruined majesty… and must have been a fantastic place when it was built…. but I have ceased to find the still small voice in carved stone and boxed-in spaces. So it was in two rather more open and complementary spaces that I found my favourite spots.
We’d booked a Walking With Wizards tour of Avalon: it promised to take us from the Glastonbury Thorn of Joseph of Arimathea to the Tor and down to the Chalice Well, via the Jesus field and stories along with a shaman called Jeremy. Yes. I know. Jeremy is not a very shamannic name, but he was actually a really good guide, a great storyteller and passionate about Glastonbury. And adaptable. By the time we reached the Tor, he’d figured out I didn’t want to/wasn’t going to make it to the top, so he adapted the tour to what I needed.
There’s an orchard full of apple trees on the lower slopes of the Tor. I left my son, David, climbing to the Tor top (and the entrance to Avalon’s underworld, by legend) and stayed amidst the trees with Jeremy by myself. In early May it’s a spot free from modern interruptions. It’s tucked under the steep path to the Tor, blanketed by trees and a hedgerow and bordered by sheep-filled fields. Perfect spot to listen to the inner stirrings of my heart and to seek out wisdom. Jeremy took me on a vision meditation, deep within, to seek out what I needed to know. There was gentle drumming, a grounding exercise (and grounding… wow! I am doing that more often when I get the chance) and the opportunity to use my inner sight, inspiration from the land and the Nine Maidens of Avalon, the energy of the Earth to see what my future holds.
My vision is private, mostly, but I’m happy to tell you the interpretation I found within.
For a few months now I’ve been dreaming of circles and groups of women. Women meeting in real life, sharing food and wine, doing things together. Creating art, experiencing meditation, moving rhythmically. Women talking as equals, experiencing the stages of womanhood together in mixed age, mixed spirituality groups. In my vision, the Maid of Avalon who spoke to me brought me a bowl, a large, blue-glazed earthenware dish, a good sized bowl for sharing bread or fruit or food together in. A good bowl for journal prompts, for inspirational quotes, for nature’s bounty of stones and shells and seeds to be put in and pulled out from. The feminine symbol of the cauldron in modern form.
I think women, especially, have let themselves be placed aside for the good of others. We put children, parents, husbands, life first every time. We feed the rest of the world and take the heel of the bread that is left. It’s partly human nature, I think. A mother feeds her children, or they die, and we don’t stop feeding their minds or spirits throughout our life and theirs until we reach a certain point and the tables turn and we need to accept the child as mother. Either way, we run our inner wells down in the act. Expand that to the many social demands we face in work, in society, in life in general and it’s easy to see how women (yes, sexistly I think this is a woman thing, because the men of my acquaintance seem far better at walking away to find their space, their equilibrium and a return to balance than the women) women in a 24/7/365 world have no inner space, no inner peace and no spirit to feed themselves and, through that, the world. We spend money on things to take care of a planet that needs love, not more stuff.
On that cool hillside as the sheep bleated and the birds sang, I began to dream of women’s circles again, thousands and hundreds of them all over the world, gathering and sharing and being with each other free from pressure to conform or to perform or to inform. Free to be. Free to be fed, to be loved, to be filled with peaceful spirit.
And I wept.
David and I arranged to meet back in Glastonbury for lunch, so I walked down the side lanes, feeling very hobbit-like. The Road goes ever on and on, down from the place where it began. And roads, followed with no more than a gut feeling that this is the way I needed, lead to other places. In my case, the White Spring and the Chalice Well gardens. The White Spring was, sadly, closed (too early in the day for them) but I drank of the smooth, soft, calciferous water and it was good. Tasty. I can see why locals go there for their drinking water. I’d take my bottle and drink my fill of it every day if I could.
The Chalice Well gardens were open, though, and I gladly entered. The spring that fills the water courses in this garden flows over iron ore deposits and contains metallic elements that turn the rocks red. It tastes metallic, too. Possibly good for you, but not one that you’d take home by the barrel.
But the gardens are so beautiful. It undulates, sinuous lines of water and flowers, grass, terraces and steps up and down. Again, it’s a place of quietness and reflection, with seating places throughout. It just feels so tranquil, just the place for a tired and weary pilgrim to sit and meditate. And a place of great feminine energy. I think we live in a very straight-line, masculine world. We have trajectories that take us from here (first job, home town, first qualification) to here (retirement position, ultimate location, final degrees) in straight lines and no accommodation given for those who don’t want to or can’t be so single-minded.
The Chalice Well, indeed all of Glastonbury is free from straight lines. The paths up the Tor curve round like snakes, the rivers or streams are inescapably bent.The hills and the landscape rises and falls like a woman’s body beneath our feet. I’m not surprised that groups such as The Goddess Temple feel content there. It is a spiralling, curling, curving, meandering place. A place of returning back to the start and being in a slightly different… hopefully better… position.
Well. I sat, I thought, and I wondered how my vision… women in circles together… fits in with my life now. And, of course, it does. What have we created in The Hygge Nook on Facebook but a massive circle where people (anyone is welcome) meet to talk peace, calm and contentment? What are my gatherings of friends but proto-women’s circles, sharing spaces where we talk and lift each other up (without ritual drumming and incense, granted, but with shared food and great love)? And even my home is a circle complete with incense this time, a place where the daily breaking of bread around the table is the total symbol of communion, of sharing tales, of dream building and recovering senses from a world of more?
I want to do more. To do better. I’d like more women across the world joining together in circles to share pain, happiness and elation. I’d like more in real life meetings, around the coffee table or in the yoga room, when we hold each other up in love and seek the Goddess/God in each of us.
I’d like us to know that we are not alone, not always destined to be the one who feeds, who nourishes or who leads. That we, ourselves, need feeding with a peaceful heart, need nourishing in the knowledge that this, too, will pass. And we need to follow the still, small voice within that guides us to co-creating a better world. We are not called to sacrifice everything for everyone else. We’re called to make a space of love, support and sanctuary. And that space is for us as well.
And now for a word from our sponsors….
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better. Lent is a season of rituals and resets. The book has small and easy ways to make your life flow with grace and happiness, which lead to more hygge.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human. And it’s always the little things.
Planning ahead, early, is How to Hygge Your Summer. It has ideas for taking your hygge with you out of winter and to any place you go in the summer… the beach, the park, your holidays. Hygge is an all-year feeling, so start preparing and let’s hygge the heck out of summer this year!
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading, thinking about and living hygge as well.
The regular photo I’m currently using between text and my book promotions is a photo by Pascal Debrunner on Unsplash. It’s sunflowers, in honour of Ukraine, since war is crazy and horrible and about as uhygge as you can get. If you’d like to donate to help the refugees fleeing, please give to the emergency appeal in your country. In the UK I’m giving to the DEC Ukrainian appeal. And my header is a photograph of the Tor, possibly the most iconic view of Glastonbury available. I took it on my walk down, with a head full of women’s circles and questions as to where and how and who…