Solstice at the Avebury Stones

To mark the longest (or shortest, if you are “down south”!) day of the year, here are two of the tallest standing stones at Avebury, the remarkable site that draws many people to it every Solstice.

This picture gives you an idea just how immense these stones are…

I’ve been to Avebury many times, but you won’t find me there today. I prefer to be there when the place is quiet, if possible (preferably at sun-up or sundown). On my last visit, I stood beneath the slopes of Silbury Hill as twilight deepened, watching a barn owl quartering over the fields, like a white moth under the Moon.

I shall be returning to Avebury again this Saturday. Thanks to Esther and John, the managers of the Henge Shop in the village, Watchers is now on sale there. I’ll be doing an informal book-signing event over lunchtime/the early afternoon. So, if you are planning a solstice-weekend visit to one of the most extraordinary sites in Britain, do pop in to say hello!

If you can’t come this weekend but are going to visit the stone circles another time, I recommend a visit to the Henge shop before you leave. It has a wonderful assortment of books covering a wide area of interests (plenty of titles on crop circles, history, healing, lore, legend etc). It also stocks some carefully-chosen crystals, ceramics and a selection of unique souvenirs. I’ve never left without a new treasure of some kind.

Outside the Henge Shop, Avebury, last week

The Avebury complex itself is a wonderful place, for so many reasons. We do not know who set the great avenues and circles of stones in place, but it was a long, long time ago (Avebury is older than Stonehenge).

Was it the hands of giants that rolled the great sarsens so carefully into place? Were the Annunaki or the Nephilim involved? Or did our ancestors have some now-forgotten technology that enabled them to manoeuvre these huge, unwieldy objects with such precision – something we cannot do as well as they did? No one knows for sure. (I’d love to be able to duck back in time in order to find out!)

Evening sun on some of the Avebury stones

Sadly, many of the stones were knocked down and broken into pieces or we would know much more about them. Such is the way of things. Yet what remains is, I believe, still as powerful as it always was. For there is deep magic to be found at Avebury: the dancing dragon-magic of old that weaves its way beneath the surface of the land, no matter what we humans do above it.

It is for this reason that Avebury is crucial to the plot of the whole Tilly Greenway series. In Book One we do not visit the stone circle itself, but we do go to the West Kennet Long Barrow (that ghostly dolmen that lies just south of Avebury itself), before passing between the sarsens of The Avenue and heading on to Silbury Hill.

Yggdrasil-bury Hill, oldest of man-made earthworks of Europe. Inside there is a step-pyramid as old as those at Saqqara in Egypt…

It’s at Silbury that we meet (most of) the dragons who feature in the tale. Yggdrasil is one of them. She is the Ash Tree Dragon, the gentle spear whose actions usher in a new dawn for human consciousness.

It’s a piece of fun to have Silbury as her home. As one of the characters notes, the hill is named after her: Yggdrasil-bury Hill being the place where she was laid to rest until such a time as the world was in dire need of dragon-deeds once more. The hill was once known as the Dragontop, however, because it was said to be scorched black on top by the fiery breath of the dragons who guard its secrets…

I’ll be writing more about what makes particular sites that little bit extra-special very soon, but for now my best wishes for a Solstice full of wonder. Wherever you are in the North or the South, today marks a turning point in the year as the great wheel of the seasons rolls onward. It is a time of endings and beginnings, of hope and renewal: accompanied, as ever, by the thinnest sliver of the waxing Moon. Enjoy!

Watchers is now available in most Waterstones stores. Signed copies are also in the Henge Shop at Avebury and The Goddess and Green Man and in Dicketts in Glastonbury. Or you can purchase your copy via amazon.

Paperback amazon.co.uk      Paperback amazon.com

Kindle: amazon.com         Kindle: amazon.co.uk

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A Trip to The Chalice Well Garden

White Tulip at The Chalice Well Garden

The Tilly Greenway books are unusual in that whilst they weave in and out of fantasy, the action takes place in the “real world”. Tilly and Zack, the main protagonists of our tale, visit lots of interesting sites in Wales and England in Book One, including Skenfrith Castle, King Arthur’s Stone, Avebury, Silbury Hill and Glastonbury.

One of these sites is the Chalice Well Garden. Tucked into the lee of the famous Tor at Glastonbury, the garden is a place of tranquility, even in today’s busy world. With the Red Well springing up inside the garden and the White Well just outside its walls, pilgrims have journeyed to this spot for many hundreds – probably thousands – of years. (Red and White having long been colours of sacredness).

Here is a picture of the Red Spring. You can see how the water has stained the stones red.

The Red Spring at the Chalice Well Garden

Here it is in close-up. It looks uncannily like dragon-skin to me, which is appropriate when you know that Tilly and Zack arrive at the gardens riding on a pair of dragons!

Water in the Red Spring at the Chalice Well Garden

Recently I was contacted by a twelve year old girl called Zoe who emailed me from Australia to let me know that she had just finished reading Watchers and it is now her “favourite book”. You can imagine how wonderful it was to hear that! Zoe also told me that she and her parents were about to visit England for a week and asked if we could meet. I picked Glastonbury as the perfect spot.

The George and Pilgrim, Glastonbury

After lunch in the George and Pilgrim (the oldest inn in the country, which also features in Watchers) we sauntered around some of the crystal shops before walking to the Chalice Well Garden, a scene of great importance in Tilly and Zack’s first adventure.

From the Chalice Well Garden you can look up at the Tor. Here is Zoe in the garden, with the Tor in the background.

Zoe in the Chalice Well Garden with the Tor behind her

Some of you will not have read the book yet so I shan’t spoil the story for you by telling you what happens there, but it was a lot of fun to visit the place with Zoe and to share some of the real locations that she had, until then, only read about in the story.

Here we are, standing under one of the garden’s ancient yew trees.

One significant change had taken place since I had last visited the Garden: the Holy Thorn (said to be grown from a sprig of hawthorn brought to Glastonbury by Joseph of Arimathea) which magically blossomed at Christmas as well as during the summer, had blown down during the storms.

There are other Holy Thorns in the area, but it was still a shock to see the empty ground where the old tree had once grown. Tilly’s tale will be one of the many things that pays tribute to the now-lost tree.

At this time of year there was just a smattering of colour in the garden, but it still holds a peculiar magic. We’ll revisit it again sometime, but for now I’ll leave you with some of the images from that day, which was a special one for me.

Crab Apple at the Chalice Well Garden

More Crab Apple Blossom

With Zoe and her Mum, Nicky

Chalice Well Angel

Chalice Cowslips

Close-up of the Red Spring

My thanks and gratitude go to my friend Helen, who made the meeting with Zoe and her Mum possible and was such a star, driving into London and then all the way down to Glastonbury to bring them to the West Country. Thanks Helen! It was lovely to see both you and Ella again. 🙂

Sacred Sites in the Tilly Greenway Saga

Glastonbury Tor by Meraylah Allwood

The world of Tilly Greenway and the Secrets of the Ancient Keys is not like any other. Yes, it is a tale of fantasy and magic, but whilst there are mythical creatures and others that you might think are “made up”, the action takes place in the real world and is very much of our time. I wanted to contrast the two worlds – real and imagined – but also to link them through actual places that you can visit.

Myths and legends often grow up around a particular place because that place holds some unique resonance for people. Often this resonance is to do with magnetic lines under the earth or water courses of some sort, which is why so many sacred sites are either where two leylines cross, or on the bend or a river or stream. The names of these places still refer back to stories that are now only part of folklore, but which used to be regarded as true.

For instance, there is a place in Wales called Dol-y-Carrog, which means “Hill of the Monster” in Welsh, so I used this as one of the locations where the last 12 dragons are lying in wait for the time when the world is facing imminent tragedy, when they will be woken so that they can fly to the rescue!

Another resting place for one of the dragons is Silbury Hill, which (in the story) is named after a dragon called Yggdrasil, the Ash Tree Dragon. Yggdrasil is sleeping soundly beneath the ancient dome of Silbury Hill, which used to be called “Yggdrasil-Bury-Hill” as a result, but which in time has been abbreviated to “Silbury Hill”. Of course, this is pure fiction on my part – but the fact is that Silbury Hill and the Stones of Avebury DO align with the constellation Draconis, or Dragon, in the night sky. On top of that, the hill itself hides a step pyramid as old as those in Sakkara in Egypt…which is important to the plot of the books.

I love this blending of an entirely imagined/fictitious world with that which is right under our noses. For me, it’s one of the things that keeps real magic very much alive and kicking.

In Book One, Watchers, Tilly and her stepbrother Zack visit a number of Sacred Sites in the UK. These include Glastonbury, The Chalice Well Gardens, Silbury Hill, the West Kennet Long Barrow, Old Winchester Hill and the Avebury Stones. Part of the fun of reading the story is that you can visit these places, find out more about them, connect with sites that our ancestors regarded as special (and which many of us still do).

In the rest of the books (starting with The Hidden Hand) you’ll find out about a lot more sacred sites in different countries as the search for the mysterious ME Keys takes Tilly and Zack further afield.

I hope you enjoy visiting them as much as I do!

With best wishes,

Essi.

Find out more at:

Kindle: amazon.com

Kindle: amazon.co.uk