Smorgasbord Writer in Residence – The Glastonbury Zodiac by Paul Andruss

Time for one of Paul’s original posts for Smorgasbord and today he explores the legend of King Arthur further and reveals some of the links that have been made to Arthur and the giant figures formed from features in the landscape around the mythical Glastonbury Tor. This includes writings from nearly 500 hundred years ago that seems to support more modern theories.

The Glastonbury Zodiac by Paul Andruss

Image from

In 1929, local artist and mystic, Katherine Maltwood was commissioned to illustrate ‘The High History of the Holy Grail’, a French medieval Arthurian romance recently translated into English. While involved in this work she discovered the Glastonbury Zodiac, which she called the Temple of the Stars. It consisted of twelve giant figures, plus the Zodiac’s guardian the Girt Dog of Langport, formed from features in the landscape across an area 11 miles in diameter around Glastonbury Tor.

The High History claimed it was written in Glastonbury Abbey and conflicted with accepted Arthurian tradition. In it, Arthur’s foster brother Kai murders Arthur and Guinevere’s son Loholt and the queen dies from grief. So, there is no affair between Launcelot and Guinevere and no fateful Battle of Camlann, caused by Arthur’s nephew (or illegitimate son of incest) seizing the queen and the throne while Arthur is fighting Launcelot.

The High History may represent an occult treatise preserving garbled pre-Christian Celtic and Gnostic Christian beliefs. There is some archaeological evidence from Christian Late Roman Villas, uncovered in Southern England, hinting the Holy Grail legend may be linked with the gnostic influenced early Celtic Church, which did not submit to the Pope until the Synod of Whitby in 664AD: over a century and a half after Arthur was supposed to have lived.

In an article from a 1969 magazine Gandalf’s Garden, Katherine Maltwood’s successor, Mary Caine, explains how Maltwood discovered Glastonbury’s Temple of the Stars by mapping the journey of the grail knights from Cadbury Castle, an iron-age hillfort across the valley from Glastonbury.

In 1542 the antiquarian, John Leland reported the locals referred to Cadbury Castle as Camelot. When he came to excavate the summit of the hill, an old man asked if he came to take away the King. According to tradition Arthur and his Knights sleep inside the hillfort, waiting for the call to defend Britain.

It is said each Midsummer Eve they emerge, pausing only to let their horses drink from the spring at the southwest gate. An old lane at the hillfort’s base is called King Arthur’s Lane. Locals claim on wild winter nights the king and his hounds are heard rushing along it.
Caine tells how Maltwood, with the help of ordinance survey maps and, later, aerial photographs, soon identified each figure, sometimes miles across, by tracing tell-tale features in the landscape; ancient boundaries, hills, earthworks, paths, field borders and waterways. She claimed if you overlaid a star chart on a map of Glastonbury the figures matched the size and shape of the zodiac constellations in the heavens with the corresponding stars falling within each figure’s outline.

Inside each figure, ancient place names give clues to the house of the zodiac, e.g. Fisher’s Hill is within Pisces. According to Maltwood, Arthur is the horseman archer Sagittarius. The horse mounted archer of Sagittarius, representing King Arthur, has the horse’s tail resting on Arthur’s Bridge, and includes Canter’s Green. Virgo as Guinevere (located by Queen Camel) faces Leo who is Arthur’s foster brother Sir Kai.

Some early traditions, before Launcelot was introduced into the developing legend, claim Guinevere and Kai were the original adulterous couple. Arthur and Kai represent the summer and winter kings vying for the ancient White Goddess. Sagittarius is threatened by the claws of Scorpio, representing the treacherous Mordred.

The earliest traditions of Arthur suggest he was a Celtic divinity rather than a Dark Age warrior. Arthur battles supernatural monsters and raids the underworld to steal Gwyn Ap Nudd’s Cauldron of Inspiration from his glass castle. In old stories Glastonbury Tor is called the Isle of Glass and associated with the underworld and Avalon.

Similarly Arthur’s foster brother and rival Kai appears to be a Celtic sun-god as he can grow to the size of the tallest tree, radiate sun-like heat and has a round mirrored shield.
Guinevere means ‘White Phantom’. She is the triple faced moon goddess: full moon, old and new. ‘The Triads of the Isle of Britain’ say Arthur had three wives all called Guinevere, and all faithless.

The Easter sacrificial lamb of Aries is the young impetuous Gawain, found in a later version of the battle between spring and winter. ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ says Gawain preferred to fight before noon. After mid-day his strength waned with the weakening sun. Gwain represents returning summer while the Green Knight, armed with an evergreen holly bush, is winter.

Maybe through changes in the topography of the landscape, Cancer the crab is now a ship. Its earlier shape is perhaps still discernible in the curved hull and raised prow and stern signifying the crab’s shell and claws. The same has happened to Libra, now a dove rather than scales, and Aquarius, now an eagle or phoenix.

Cancer is Arthur’s ship Prydwen, which sailed his knights to Annwn to steal the Cauldron of Inspiration. Its name means ‘white face’. It is the moon ship that sails the sun-god through the night from dusk to dawn. Its presence led to claims of a much older origin for the Glastonbury Zodiac.

The Libran dove symbolises the spiritual quest for the Holy Grail. Holy Spirit takes a dove’s form. Known in the Genesis creation story as the ‘spirit that moves across the face of the waters’, the Holy Spirit was originally female. She is Sophia (Wisdom), whom ancient Jewish mystics considered to be God’s wife.

Aquarius is either an eagle or phoenix. An eagle represents the hero’s soul ascending to heaven. Roman historians mention seeing an eagle soaring over the Emperor Augustus’ funeral pyre as he ascended to take his place among the gods. Lleu Llaw Gyffes, the Welsh hero from the Mabinogion, was also changed into an eagle after his rival Gronw murdered him.

The phoenix, a legend from ancient Egypt, is reborn from the flames of its own funeral pyre. The sun bird is from Heliopolis; one of the oldest cities in ancient Egypt, dating back to the pre-dynastic period, possibly 10,000 years. It represents the reincarnated Summer King as Sol Invictus – the triumphant sun returning in the spring. In its beak it holds the Holy Grail or at least the Chalice Well where the grail was reputedly hidden by Joseph of Arimathea.

The thirteenth figure of the zodiac’s guardian is the Girt Dog Langport, which we will look at another time.

Critics deny there is a Glastonbury Zodiac. They say there is simply no evidence to support its existence and dismiss the Glastonbury Zodiac as coincidence, fantasy, or fraud. Bearing this in mind, how do they account for the following?

In 1580 the English magician Dr Dee, scientist and astronomer to Queen Elizabeth I, wrote, somewhat mysteriously, about constellations lying mapped on the ground.

‘the stars agree with their reproduction on the ground… all the greater stars of Sagittarius fall in the hindquarters of horse while the others fall on its chest… exactly married and measured in a scientific reconstruction of the heavens.

No one is sure what Dee meant. Much of his magical work remains obscure. If the Glastonbury Zodiac was something Katherine Maltwood invented in 1929, then how do you explain Dr Dee’s words from 350 years earlier?

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©PaulAndruss 2017

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is a modest but very talented author and he has two books currently available. Thomas the Rhymer – a magical fantasy for ages 11 to adult about a boy attempting to save fairy Thomas the Rhymer, while trying to rescue his brother from a selfish fairy queen.

I have read and reviewed Thomas the Rhymer earlier in the year, and here is the link to download the epub version of the books for FREE.

Thomas the Rhymer Paul Andruss

Paul also has a pdf file available and you can read for FREE by obtaining a copy from Barnes & Noble for Nook readers and also from Kobo.

You can find out how to download from Paul’s site and also links to the other options at this link.

It would be amazing if you do download and enjoy the book as much as I did. If so then it would be great if you could put a review on Amazon by adding in a sentence at the beginning – Disclaimer: I was gifted with a copy of this book from the author..  Or you can leave a review on Facebook and tag Paul in the post by using his full name Paul George Boylan.

Finn Mac Cool

Paul’s second books is Finn Mac Cool – rude, crude and funny, explicitly sexual and disturbingly violent, Finn Mac Cool is strictly for adults only.

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Thank you for dropping by today and please feel free to share the post on your own blog and networks. Thanks Sally


41 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Writer in Residence – The Glastonbury Zodiac by Paul Andruss

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Writer in Residence – The Glastonbury Zodiac by Paul Andruss – The Militant Negro™

  2. Wowwwwwww this is fascinating. Kind of like mythology, so much of it relates to way of the world, so who knows if this is all myth or truth. I’m fascinated with astrology too, and speaking of, where’s the gemini part of he story? LOL. 🙂 xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Debby, so happy you found it fascinating.
      I read Mary Craine’s book some years ago and she takes quite a high level view of things (i.e if she gets in a bit of mess she fudges things over). So here’s my view.
      First in the top illustration on the left there is the lion, above it, side on, is the ship Cancer, and towards the centre of the ship are the twins- one with his arm over his head. As you know from other posts, such as the Holly and Oak King twins have special mystical meaning representing duality.. the two sides of Gemini still in astrology.
      Heracles was a twin and as the solar hero sailed the sky boat through the year – as he grew weak his twin grew strong. The idea of the twin (especially if the idea is broadened to brother) is very ancient. They are the winter and summer kings in eternal combat for the moon goddess – and echoes are found all over Celtic mythology.
      In British mythology the twins were Belinus (meaning Shining one) and Brennus (king). They were also Gog an Magog- taken from the Bible and made into the two original inhabitants of Britain. There are others mentioned in posts.
      Twins represent the two natures of man, the divine and the animal, and as such even have a place in Freudian pycholanalysis as the two driving forces of the id (basic impulses) and the superego (our learned civilised veneer or conscience) leaving the poor old ego (latin for ‘I’) as the battleground between taking what we want and acting decently.
      They also inform Friedrich Nietzsche’s ideas about types of civilisation Apollonian (after the god of art and music Appollo) where primal instincts are subliminated into High Art and Dionysian (Dionysus the god of Wine) where you just let go. In Thus Spake Zarathusa he went on to develop the idea of the Superman (Ubermensch or Above man) who is morally independent of all of social expectations and by only acting in his own interest without regard for others opinions will always triumph. The philosophy was taken up by the Nazis. Some say they misinterpreted Neitzsche. But he based his view on Darwin’s natural law of Survival of the Fittest.. and that message is pretty clear.

      Hope this has confused you further and I’m bet your are sorry you asked now!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Another wonderful post from Paul. I have to add that these words above describe Paul perfectly (though do not capture the addictive enchantment to be found in his books) — “a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way.”

    Sad that “hoax” is often slung the way of folks with opinions that do not toady to the party line. Let’s hear it for the benefits of reading the blogs!! Thanks to both Paul and Sally for sharing.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 2 people

    • You know Tina, more than historical truth, I think there is another fundamentally more important truth that is hardwired into our very architecture of our brains: MYTHOLOGICAL TRUTH. I say this because as fiction writers our job is the propagation and reinterpretation of eternal myths through the books we write.
      I adore history, all its nooks and crannies, twists and turns, but history is like the sea. It is moving back and forth constantly erasing and re-sculpting the past. Trace any story back to its source and everything you believe you knew slips through your fingers.
      The history of Dark Age Britain does not begin with Arthur and end with his death at Camlann. There were probably a dozen Arthurs each contributing to the myth that grew up piecemeal over hundreds of years as history ebbed and flowed slowly changing the past until it was unrecognisable. How much easier it is to remember ONE STORY of a great hero who changed the world for the better, making it into what it could be. Only to be brought down by evil. Which explains why it is no longer that good. The moral is: if we could be a bit more heroic then we might make a difference too. And that is the important bit.
      To me it is not really important if the Glastonbury Zodiac exists or not (Historically) what is important is to believe it does exist. For if we believe then we buy into all the Myths now clustered around it. Myths stretching back possibly in one way or another to the dawn of humanity. And as writer’s myths we will re-use to pass on to future generations.
      And finally I if could say only say one more thing it would be this….
      Jeasus Christ! I just gotta stop swigging this cough medicine like there’s not tomorrow!!!
      Oh bugger it, just one more sip!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mythological Truth … Some might call that an oxymoron, Paul; but those would be the ones devoid of imagination and, quite possibly, DNA memory! I love the term, as well as your ‘sea’ metaphor. Cough medicine seems to spark your little grey cells 🙂 ❤

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: Smorgasbord Writer in Residence – The Glastonbury Zodiac by Paul Andruss | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  5. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – New Magazine, Dionne Warwick, Glastonbury and Watermelon | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  6. Pingback: Writing Links 10/23/17 – Where Genres Collide

  7. Pingback: Girt Dog of Langport ← Odds n Sods: A cabinet of curiosities

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