Interview with the Caretakers of the White Spring in Glastonbury

At PantheaCon 2017 I had the pleasure of attending a class on The White Spring in Glastonbury UK. It was a wonderful class with vision journeys and stories about the spring. Lisa and Max Goodwin were the ones that offered and taught this class. It was based on their experiences while they were the caretakers of the White Spring. The vision journeys took us through the sacred landscape and through the candle lit well house full of shrines and sacred water. I immediately knew I wanted to interview them for the blog and to get their work and the White Springs’s stories on the internet for folks to read. After the class I spoke with Lisa and we had a chat about her work and how it had made such an impact on my life and as a result others. Below is the interview with them and I hope you enjoy reading about this sacred space and their great work.

white well

Photo taken by Annwyn

For the readers who don’t know, what is the White Spring? And why is it a special place? The primary purpose of the temple is to honour The Spirit of the White Spring and is an expression of gratitude for the gift of pure water. It is a sanctuary, a place of reflection, inspiration and healing, a sacred site of great depth and beauty. It is a living temple. In dedication to the spiritual energies of this place, we have created sacred pools and built shrines within the well house. We are well on our way to the realization of a magnificent water temple. This honours the space as one of the most sacred sites in the Western World. The well house nestles beneath Glastonbury Tor on Well House Lane, across the road from Chalice Well. The White Spring Sanctuary is cared for by a great team of custodians and keepers, people dedicated in service. It is kept in true temple tradition, no one is paid, no one is charged, it is For the Love of It.

How does it connect with the Chalice Well? The White Spring and Chalice Well are separate in the sense that they are very different projects and managed in totally different ways. We have a harmonious relationship with the Chalice Well, and at Imbolc and Beltane, the gate that leads to the garden from the White Spring is open and entry to the garden at those times is free.

What years did you tend the White Spring? I tended the White Spring from 2006, under Gill Atkinson’s tutelage for the first 3 years and in 2009 I took on the custodian position until Samhain 2015.

And what brought you there? Unusual circumstances and a very long story. In summary, we were living a conventional life, and it was not helping us thrive, my eldest daughter pushed for a change that the whole family needed and we followed her impulse, it brought us to Glastonbury. When I visited the White Spring the place felt like home. Gill Atkinson would say we came in answer to her prayer for someone to take over from her. That is also true.

Photo taken by Annwyn

Photo taken by Annwyn

Can you tell us a little history of the White Spring and how you came to be the caretakers? The Wellhouse was built in 1872 over a beautiful coombe (a short valley or hollow on a hillside) to provide clean water to the town during a cholera outbreak. The calciferous content of the water soon blocked the pipes and the building fell into misuse and was forgotten until the 1980’s when it was bought by a local and doors were put in. It was leased to various businesses – a shop, a café, even a short time as a nightclub before it was put on the market and came into new ownership with the intent of establishing sacred space. As I said, Gill felt we came along to help in answer to her prayer.

What drove you to tend the well?  I enjoyed being there, the people, the stories and the energy of the place made my heart sing. It needed love and I loved it – what could be more simple?

What was it like to be a modern Well Tender? I settled into the role quite comfortably. I didn’t like the occasional conflict that happened, but I felt supported by the spirit of the place and just knew it was the right thing for me to be doing. People sometimes would put me on a pedestal, which I didn’t like at all. I fell off it a few times, most likely on purpose. I didn’t want to be the priestess or some kind of local celebrity, I just wanted to quietly take care of the water temple.

Can you tell us about your first interaction with Gwyn ap Nudd and the well house? It was my first day, Gill had recommended I spend some time at the end of the session in the darkness to get a feeling for the place. I opened up to offer some healing and an uncomfortable growly noise came from one of the chambers. I knew the place was empty. My first instinct was to run, but I knew if I did that would be the end of it, so I summoned all the faith I could and walked into the dark, praying that I wouldn’t see anything too scary. I offered an affirmation that I was there to help and got a strong message back that I should have introduced myself first. I found out that this challenger was Gwyn Ap Nudd. Several challenges followed that first encounter and after a time I found that I had a powerful inner guide and ally to work with.

Can you talk about some of the rituals you do there? We have gatherings to mark seasonal changes throughout the year as well as regular moon meditations. The bower that houses the Brigid shrine is created by the White Spring keepers, rebuilt anew each year and held as a prayer throughout the whole process, to remember that this is a temple of life, a sanctuary that supports and nourishes all beings. On February 1st, we gather in the morning to welcome Bridie in her aspect of young girl, a spark of inspiration to bring light to the darkness. We gather together inside the well house for a period of time in the dark and silence, then a young girl is asked to bring in the flame and, when she does, a call goes out to affirm the growing light. The flame is passed from person to person until the whole of the White Spring is brightly lit. This is a ritual that has real importance to me, as my daughter was asked to bring in the flame for three consecutive years. Now an adult, she knows the strength of such a deep connection with Brigid. Next year, my grand-daughter will bring in the flame.

What have people requested from the well over the years? We have had all kinds of requests, sending water overseas, private time, saying prayers, lighting candles, and individual healing. We do not sell or offer personal healing sessions at The White Spring, it is the place that offers the healing and transformation. We would often make prayers and light candles for those who asked, but to tend to everyone’s needs became more difficult as the place gained popularity, so it always returned to tending the place so that the place can tend to the people.

Can you tell us about some of the struggles you have had there? We were often challenged during the restoration, sometimes by difficult characters and sometimes by the White Spring itself. If we were ever out of alignment with what the sacred space was calling for or we tried to impose what we thought was right without spending the appropriate time to ponder and pray, we would find all kinds of blockages arise. We soon learned to listen carefully to the spirits of the place.

Occasionally we have had troublesome visitors, they have set themselves up in the garden, told dark tales about the keepers of the Spring to other visitors and behaved in an intimidating manner. In the early days I would ask the Fae folk to see them off, and often they would. Later, I was called to see them off myself. I now know this was part of my growth as a priestess. Sadly, we have been personally threatened with violence and had all kinds of rumours flying around, at first it was hurtful, then I got my head around it, actually I was there to serve the place and not to impress anyone or to prove my ‘goodness’ or whatever else. So I just got on with it, sweeping the floor, lighting the candles, and keeping the peace. Confrontation became easier to deal with, I honed my skills each time I was called to assert boundaries. It was like my warrior self was being trained by increasingly difficult characters. I became competent at dealing with conflict from a place of grace and integrity.

The addition of the gates is a magical tale that I talk about more in my blog here. It is a fantastic story that transformed disaster into beauty in a short space of time. We had some rather nice wooden doors built for us and one morning we got a call to say they had been totally destroyed. A blacksmith was outside collecting his water when we arrived to look at the damage and he overheard us discussing the option of having some gates. Within a month the gates were installed. They were designed by me, built by Phil Rayner of Millstream Forge and funded from our global community.

Can you tell us about some of the Holy Men/Women that have been drawn to and visited the well, and what type of work they have done there? So many people come to the White Spring to do spiritual work it would be difficult to single out the ‘holier’ among them. Some of the most profound and loving service is done by folk who would not necessarily mark themselves out as ‘Holy men and women’. So much ritual and ceremony, so many respected teachers and spiritual leaders from all faiths and traditions. Peruvian shamans, Christian priests, Arch-druids, Priestesses of Avalon, world voices in Spiritual transformation. To begin naming them or do justice to the work they do would require a whole book.

Can you tell us about how the Black Madonna came to reside at the Well?  A group of Black Madonna worshippers from Spain arrived with a statue of the Black Madonna with child, they had taken it to the church, thinking that it was where she was meant to be, but it did not feel right, they offered it to Gill at the White Spring. Soon after another group of women turned up from Switzerland with another Black Madonna, telling pretty much the same story. So she also took her place in the shrine. The consecration of the shrine remains with ‘Our Lady of Avalon’ and many people experience a deep connection with the Dark Mother there.

Can you tell us about the shrines and deities that are honored in the sacred space? The shrines are carefully set and cared for by the keepers of the spring. The White Spring is home to a shrine in honour of Brigid, Celtic Fire Goddess and guardian of sacred springs. A shrine in honour Our Lady of Avalon can be found beside the healing pools. The shrine in honour of the King of the World of Faerie is at the portal to the otherworld, as legend has it. The ley-line known as the Michael line runs right through the building and Michael, forever associated with Glastonbury Tor, is also honoured here. There is a shrine, visioned but as yet unbuilt, in honour of the Sun King.

white well shrine

Photo taken by Annwyn

How has the energy of the well changed throughout the years?  It was fun when it was a cafe, we had many good times there with our young children playing in the water. When we arrived in 2006, it was in such disrepair, it was not respected as it is now and had a lot of negative attention placed on it. As any place that is loved and made more beautiful, it has transformed.

Does the energy of the well change for different groups of people that visit? Not exactly – the energy of the well, the water, the well house, the temperature, constant flow remains the same. Some might perceive a difference, it is like a hall of mirrors and can reflect all manner of moods. The atmosphere can also be affected by other people, and of course, the spirits of the White Spring might influence the sensations you would pick up on there. The water does feel like it celebrates when people get in it.

How is the well being protected for future generations? A team of keepers is taking care of it and this will continue, we are encouraging younger people to get involved in taking care of the place. As it is with any place or project, to have long term success it needs to be run with an enthusiasm and love that spans generations, the real deal is to get the youth involved, they are the ones who take it into the future.

Do you know any future plans for the well? To build the moon pool in front of the large pool and one more shrine by the entrance to the garden. To protect it from commerce and keep it free and accessible ‘For the Love of It.’ Obviously, it needs ongoing maintenance, and we depend on funds from our benefactors to keep that going, we would like to clean the outside stones and it needs repainting, so a lot of work to be done yet.

Can you talk about how the White Spring has become a living temple for our modern times?  This is a big question – to summarize, the fact that the place is cared for with purity and dedication by all kinds of people in our community, that visitors come and find spiritual connections and healing there, that all who come with peace are welcome, folk from all faiths and traditions, or none. There is so much to say on this I am writing a book. It is called ‘A Reluctant Priestess.’ It will be ready for publication in July this year.

What do you think is the most special thing about the White Spring?  ‘For the Love of It’. Yes, people come and go, moods and colours shift, changes happen, but so long as we maintain this place for the love of it, The White Spring will sustain and nourish us all.

For more information about Lisa and Max Goodwin, you can find them at their blog here. There are beautiful poems on this blog as well as forthcoming information about Lisa’s book  ‘A Reluctant Priestess’ Lisa is an incredibly talented bard and you may want to check her novel about the Last Abbot of Glastonbury as well. Stay tuned on her blog for more information about their work and writings.

If you are looking for images of the White Spring or would like to make a donation to help keep the White Spring a sanctuary and living temple for this and future generations check out the website here.

I want to end by saying a big Thank you! To Lisa and Max Goodwin for their class at PantheaCon, this interview and the work they hav done to help keep this sacred space.

 

About Annwyn Avalon