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Friday, 28 September 2012

A Zodiac Mindwarp

Okay, I’ll come clean. It’s a fair cop guv, you’ve got me bang to rights and no mistake.
Etcetera, etcetera. But the truth is I’ve always had a soft spot for myth and legend, an innocent childhood fascination that has, over time, has metamorphosed into something more sinister. Now, when the reality police come knocking at my door, I slip out the back door into my own ‘wilful unreality’.
‘Wilful unreality’, what a fantastic concept. Not my own invention, I hasten to add, I’ve purloined it from this wonderful website whose philosophy I wholeheartedly embrace.
It all began with Tolkien and Cornwall, piskies, knights and grails and an adolescence far too disorientating to describe here, suffice to say that it was an apprenticeship of sorts; a grounding for the really serious stuff that was still too come.
But I digress. The point is that during that confused adolescence I fell under the hex of Glastonbury and all the jiggery-pokery that comes with it; heaven knows, I even slept out under the Tor one sultry summer night, in the hope of gaining access to Annwfn, the Celtic underworld and the palace of Gwynn ap Nudd.
Or so they say. I was twenty-one years old at the time. Shouldn’t I have known better? I don’t think so.
So yesterday, with the deepest storm since 1981 safely blown out and away, I set out to trace one of the figures of Somerset’s very own Nazca Lines, the Glastonbury Zodiac with a cynicism that was conspicuously absent thirty years ago.
The 'Glastonbury Zodiac' as depicted by Katherine Maltwood

The Glastonbury Zodiac. That old chestnut. If it tickles your fancy the explanation lies here:; if you think it’s girt humungous hokum you’re better here: Me? In 1984 I was inclined to go with fancy and as I trudged across the heavy Somerset clay part of me mourned for the loss of that innocence; it was a bit like losing your virginity. The phenomenon is known as pareidolia and for all my mocking disparagement of the Glastonbury new-agers I’m probably as guilty as them, albeit in a more metaphysical manner.
But back to the task in hand. Scorpio seemed the obvious choice, not through any astrological preference – that’s another strand of mythology I choose to give a wide berth – but because it offered the longest trek: a good thirty kilometres over fields of filthy Somerset clay.

Scorpio: lines in the landscape or topographical Rorshach test?
Scorpio figure created in Google Maps by Gail Cornwell 
It’s hard enough to trace these outlines on the map – and Scorpio at least bears some resemblance to the symbol it claims to represent – let alone follow them in the field. As far as I can tell, the sting in Scorpio’s tail lies about a kilometre north-west of West Lydford so, walking clockwise, as it were, the route then proceeds southwards in an arc towards the Fosse Way (A37) where it meets Eastfield Lane. From there it crosses the fields before curving northwards to Hornblotton church (worth a visit) and then back over the A37 continuing north-east south of Park Wood then up towards Ham Street.
And that’s where I gave up. It was too nice a day to be faffing around with sacred shapes so I put my foot down hard on the accelerator and continued in a broad circle: Lottisham – Parbrook – East Pennard – Ditcheat – Alhampton – Sutton then back to Hornblotton and West Lydford. 
And the moral of this earnest exercise? Well, apart from the obvious warning about trying to tune into the lost psyche of youthful naivety I’m struggling hard to find one. At the end of the day it was just a whim; an excuse to pore over the map and string together a route across the easternmost extent of the Levels and on that score, at least, it made for a good day’s ramblanero. Next the ‘girt dog of Langport’.
Am I barking mad or what?
Hornblotton: crazy name, crazy town ... or rather, church
Epilogue: Before posting I came across this more measured analysis of ‘sacred space’:'szodiac. It made me a feel a little hasty in my rather brusque dismissal of the Zodiac ‘myth’, there’s some pertinent points about pilgrimage and ritual topography. Something, I think, to be pursued at greater length and with a mind more open.

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