Sitting with Your Own Tree: Pilgrims and Pilgrimages in Glastonbury

Ms Vanessa Elizabeth Sage
To add a paper, Login.

People travel to Glastonbury for many reasons. Some are tourists visiting the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey or the Chalice Well; nearly everyone seems to make the climb up the picturesque Tor. Thousands more attend the annual music festival nearby. Still others are pilgrims.

Consider, for example, Eva, I woman I spoke with during my fieldwork in the summer of 2004. Eva is woman in transition between motherhood and life beyond that, and she described to me an important moment of self-definition: 'We went into the Abbey grounds, into the orchard and sat with a tree. Each one of us — thirty-three of us — we each sat with our own tree and did this little meditation…And so in one of the places you asked, "who am I?" You asked the east, "who am I?" The seat of emotion, your childlike character. And when I did it came to me, "I'm a pilgrim".'

Sitting in the grounds of a Christian Abbey, a destination for thousands of pilgrims, Eva hardly seems remarkable. But Eva is not a Christian. Her realization came during a ritual within Glastonbury's annual Goddess Conference.

This paper will explore the cultural dynamics of spiritual journeys to contemporary Glastonbury, with particular emphasis on the performative, ritual and symbolic aspects of pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is something that you can do in Glastonbury. Through an analysis of the 2004 Goddess Conference I investigate the relationship between self-identity and religious sites. How do modern pilgrims construct their journeys as means of personal and social transformation?

Keywords: Glastonbury, Religion, Gender, Identity, Pilgrimage
Stream: Religion, Spirituality
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Sitting with Your Own Tree

Ms Vanessa Elizabeth Sage

Department of Anthropology and Sociology, University College of Cape Breton

Ref: H05P0372