Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Goddess in the Well

One of my pendants which I like to wear depicts the design which is on the cover of the Chalice Well. This well is in the gardens below Glastonbury Abbey at the foot of Glastonbury Tor in the county of Somerset, England. The well itself was originally believed to have been built by the Druids, although the well cover was designed in 1919 by Frederick Bligh Bond. His design depicts the overlapping twin circles of the Vesica piscis symbol combined with a spear with a sprig of oak leaves and tendrils of intertwining holy thorn. In local folklore the waters of the well are believed to possess powers of healing and even of immortality – a sort of fountain of youth. In 2001 the site became a World Peace Garden. 

Two springs are found at the Well: the White spring, which is associated with masculine energy, and the Red spring, which is seen as containing feminine energy. It is the interweaving of these two energies that is believed to provide the Well waters with their healing properties. These energies are reinforced by the rising masculine tower of the Tor above the gardens, and by the receptive feminine form of the well itself. For these reasons, the Well has been a popular destination for pilgrims and contempory pagans who seek a contact with the divine feminine.

In the design of the Well cover we can perceive symbols of Christianity: the spear which pierced the side of Jesus on the cross, and the holy crown of interwoven thorns. Where the design is so powerfully effective is in its layering of deeper, more ancient worlds lying beneath this Christian symbology: worlds which invite us into the realm of the goddess. The sprig of oak leaves reminds us that the oak was a sacred tree. And its presence reminds us that, wherever we are, wherever we happen to be, we may connect with the goddess in the sacred grove which lies always within each one of us.

Vesica Piscis
The two circles are seen as the meeting of the worlds of spirit and matter. And the overlapping area of the two circles appropriately forms a shape known in Sanskrit as the yoni: the vulva of the goddess (the male organ is known as the lingam). In the imagery of our contempory world we have become used to thinking of the yoni as a passage of penetration by the male. But it is the very form of the Well that invites us to go deeper into these meanings, to see beyond this masculine perception of the female vulva, and to reverse the image from one of penetration to being one of a passage for new life, not just in the physical sense of the vagina being the birth canal, but in the deeper sense that it is also the passage of the soul from the realms of the spirit into the earthly world of its material incarnation. 

It is this deeper awareness of these forms which brings us into the presence of powerful creative forces, for from the yoni flows all life. It is the source of life itself, and a reminder of the journey that every one of us has made to come into the world: that journey from the realms of spirit into our own earthly existence. And it is also this deeper awareness which brings redemption: a releasing of the yoni from its crippling associations with the guilt and shame of Biblical sin, and from the aggression perpetrated against women as victims of rape, both in society and in war zones, for these violations are not about sex, but about masculine denigration, humiliation and conquest.

“I am a child of earth and starry heaven”, the beautiful hymn of the Orphic mystery schools reminds us. When on a clear night we gaze into the depths of the Well, it is not the darkness which is reflected back to us in its waters, but the compassionate goddess who reaches down to us from the stars overhead.


  1. The Vesica Piscis is an intriguing design that touches upon creation itself. Emma offers much thought provoking information in her blog. The two circles intersecting the way they do represent the union of spirit and matter, hence creation and life itself. The intertwining of the DNA as the double-helix when viewed from the top would also appear as two circles intersecting. The inner design that represents the Yoni, the divine feminine, is most intriguing. Here the Yoni represents the passageway of spirit into matter, from the un-manifested to manifested form. The Yoni also reveals the power of infinite space or emptiness. From emptiness form arises, and in emptiness allows light to shine through. It is within the space of the divine feminine that creation itself occurs.

  2. Joseph, my apologies for my belated reaction. Thank you for making the extra point about the double helix also forming the Vesica piscis. It seems to point to the idea that these forms are indeed connected to creation in a very basic way. I believe that we respond to such forms exactly because they tug at these powerful undercurrents which our spirit recognises.

  3. I hope you will forgive me for making a request rather than "a comment". I happened upon your blog while looking for a Chalice Well pendant...and yours is exquisite. Would you be willing to let me know where I can find one like yours? There are of course hundreds available, but yours has an intricacy of design that truly caught my eye and spirit.
    Thank you -- And by the way, I love your blog.

    1. Annie, my pendant is indeed one of a kind, which I found years ago in a local shop here in the Netherlands, although it is not of local manufacture but was imported.I'm afraid I can't tell you more than that as there are no maker's marks on it. I hope you will find one somewhere. Thank you, Annie, for visiting my blog.

  4. Thank you for replying. Eventually, I will find what I need.
    Again, your blog is exquisite.