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The Mystic Shops of Glastonbury
(See photos of many shops in our Photo Gallery section)
There are so many legends, myths, tall tales, and bits of true fascinating history regarding Glastonbury that many books have been written managing to cover only some of them. Here I'm only going to talk about the present day Glastonbury and what visitors looking for a mystic experience will have to chose from. I will not talk about the annual events in this article, Pagan, Christian, and artistic, that fill the town to bursting many days each year; that too is a subject needing to be dealt with in it's own right.
For hundreds of years Glastonbury has had it's own unique culture related to all things spiritual and mystical. It is considered by many to be the oldest and most holy of all England's spiritual places and while styles and trends change, today's Glastonbury only reflects it's long attraction for those with a spiritual frame of mind. New age shops, candle shops, crystal shops, book shops, mystic tours, Pagan shops, and Christian shops crowd side by side from Market Cross with most of them running east along High Street and some south along Magdelene Street in what is called Medieval Glastonbury, the designated conservation area surrounding the Abbey grounds. Thirty years ago few of these shops were in evidence in the village, but as various fairs and annual events were created by the 'hippy generation' who flocked to Glastonbury in search of new meaning for their lives, shops began to pop up in support of the groups, clubs, and events being created. As more shops were opened, more spiritual seeking tourists arrived, which garnered more shops.
Today, for me, the main section of Glastonbury, with its narrow streets, brightly painted shop fronts, and endless streams of people, feels like a slightly self-embarrassed tourist attraction.
However, and there is a however, among all the official (mostly made in China) souvenirs of Glastonbury that you will find repeated in shop after shop you will also find such gems as the George and Pilgrims Inn, the Tribunal building (from the Middle Ages and today used as a tourist information center), the peaceful grounds and ruins of Glastonbury Abbey only feet off the main streets of the village, beautiful old stately churches and charming quiet chapels dedicated to any God or Goddess or religious leaning you might need to commune with, some nice pubs, like the Queen's Head, only a block or two from Market Cross, what may be my favorite bakery in the world (Burns the Bread- their broccoli and cheese pasties may be my favorite food ever!), the healing silence of the Chalice Well Garden, and enough interesting architecture and quaint courtyards to keep a fan gawking for many days. And don't forget the ever present Tor rising steeply only blocks from the center of town.
Once you leave the hustle and color of the two main streets, Glastonbury changes instantly into what it really is, a small English village nestled into the gentle green of Somerset county. You can stroll all afternoon in the quiet and peace of the place; at times you will feel you are the only person in whole village. A turn back towards the main area of town and you find yourself within moments once more hip deep in the legends and hopes of Avalon.
I found the shop keepers to be friendly without being pushy. Without exception all were ready to help the silly North American lady figure out something else about this fascinating area and I spent many hours in conversation here and there exchanging travel stories with shop keepers. There is no shortage of books and pamphlets about the history and lore of the area, the only problem will be deciding what era you are most interested in (my own suitcases could not deal with All the books I wanted to buy). Local artists add their talents to the souvenir trade and there are some truly great finds for those willing to poke around a bit.
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