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Celtic Shamanism and the Glastonbury Temple of the Stars
By Annie Dieu Le Veut
© May 2015
When I first tried to read Katharine Maltwood’s A Guide to Glastonbury’s Temple of Stars, I ended up
with a terrible headache. Even though I’d studied mythology and archaeology for decades, her way
of expression had seemed so ‘other’ to me that her ideas had felt unbearably dense, like an
overpoweringly and sickeningly rich scented pot pourri from another time.
However, now - several years later - I’m picking up her books again and reading them with ease and
joy. It’s almost as if she’s talking to me personally at times - as if she’d written for an age when we
would have more knowledge about our ancestors and thus be more able to pick up her quiet nudges
and gentle allusions which are threaded through her writing like delicate and refined gold knotwork.
It seems to me now that at the time of writing, in the early 20th century, Katharine would have been
hampered by the Freemasonic agenda. Although being a senior Freemason herself would have been
helpful in some respects, it was a double-edged sword. Helpful yes, in terms of being able to get
access to more obscure material; but it would also have gagged her in the same way today that
academic researchers are unable to get their results published when they don’t fit the approved
Those Freemasons who complete the 33 degree path are given a back story which literalises the
ancient metaphorical myths to create a ‘history’ based on a science fiction fantasy worthy of L. Ron
Hubbard, who invented Scientology. The story is about a superior race of Aryans/Annunaki who
came from outer space to colonise us simpler Earthbound folk, and to teach us sacred geometry,
astronomy, and the building of megalithic sites and mounds.
The Royal Arch masons, of which Katharine was one, also had very close links with the British-Israel
movement who used pseudohistory to try to establish some sort of legitimate claim for a New
Jerusalem in the British Isles, and whose influence in Glastonbury at that time was strong.
In such an atmosphere, Katharine could only hint that she secretly thought that the builders of the
giant earthwork effigies of the Glastonbury Temple of the Stars on the Somerset Levels were not from
the far off Middle East or Mesopotamia, but from closer to home. Notwithstanding the River Parrett,
which I’ll come back to, she barely cites any local place names that come from the Akkadian or
Phoenician pantheon. But she finds plenty named after Lugh and Hu, who were Celtic fire gods. In
fact, there is nothing in the historical record to indicate that the Akkadians were ever here, in Britain,
and precious little of the Phoenicians, apart from some legends about foreign tin traders. I’m sure she
would have known that too.
So attributing the Glastonbury huge landscape zodiac, and the stories it tells, in any way to the Celts
would not only have been a very unfashionable and risky view in Katharine’s time; it’s only
marginally more acceptable now. It’s just since a number of fields of research have busted out of their
silos and syncretised that scholars can even begin to consider it, because we in these British Isles were
one of the earliest recipients of the Roman mind programming initiative c. 1600 years ago, and so we
fell for it the hardest.
In more prehistoric times, the wandering, nomadic storyteller would arrive under the village tree
and spread out his story mat, and the villagers would gather round for some entertainment. The 4th
century Roman Emperor Constantine did away with such quaint, old dial-up technology and
imposed the Abrahamic, high speed broadband like wall-to-wall carpeting right across the whole of
his huge European empire. His newly literalised Gospel stories were eventually followed up by
various other pseudohistory mash-ups such as the Irish Book of Invasions (Lebor Gabála Érenn), the
History of the Kings of Britain (Historia Regum Britanniae) and the High History of the Holy Grael. We
musn’t forget Nennius and Gildas...and I’m sure countless other Christian scribes who may not have
realised that they were plundering myths to create a fictional back story, but that is what we’ve ended
That’s why it’s often said that the only difference between history and mythology is that mythology is
true. (You do have to think about it, a bit).
The Mysteries of Britain
My shamanic work in the last few years have been all about getting us back to our own mythological
and spiritual roots – in other words, our Sovereignty, and I show in my book, The Sacred Sex Rites of
Ishtar, how Sovereignty comes from the land, or to be more precise, the spirits of the land. So for me,
it’s been a bit like taking a pick-axe to an Axminster carpet that is now set solid, like concrete, in our
cognitive landscapes, to break it all up so that some natural growth can come through and bloom.
In journeying, in the shamanic way, into the Glastonbury Temple of the Stars, I’m being shown an
archetypal story of which, it seems to me, the High History of the Holy Grael was just a Christianised
gloss. I’m beginning to see the Celtic stories of our ancestors being played out by these giant effigies,
and now when I pick up Katharine Maltwood, I can sense that she knew it too. She writes about the
High History thus:
“On that last page, we read: ‘The Latin from whence this History was drawn into Romance
was taken in the Isle of Avalon, in a holy house of religion that standeth at the head of of the
Moors Adventurous, there where King Arthur and Queen Guinevere lie,’ for the King is one
of those cosmic deities upon which every pilgrim who climbs Glastonbury Tor looks down
for, but can no longer distinguish.
“The author of another version, called La Queste del Saint Graal, though apparently not
familiar with the locality, is more explicit concerning the adaptation of the old stellar religion
to the new. For instance, he says, ‘When the sun, by which we mean Jesus Christ,’ and again,
in Sir Lancelot’s dream, he speaks of the ‘man surrounded by stars’ the man who came down
from heaven came to the younger knight and ‘transformed him into the figure of a lion and
gave him wings’.
“Here is strongly suggested the blending of the old and new, the Zodiacal Leo combined with
the winged lion of St Mark. Thus the pre-Christian stories of the stars were adapted by later
chroniclers and interwoven with the Christian Grail legend.”
Since working with the spirits on Sovereignty, I’ve come to understand that until we can own our
own stories, which our own land around us is telling us, we will always be at the mercy of those from
other parts of the world who literalise their myths to persuade us to their agendas for our future.
Here in Glastonbury, I’m privileged to know many excellent Earth Magic researchers and writers,
and there is an ongoing debate between us about whether the effigies on the land here do actually
pre-date Christianity, and also whether the Celtic stories, which I think they depict, are really rooted
in an older mythological oral tradition.
I can answer the former question with another... if the landscape effigies here were known about
durig Christian times, when the monkish scribes were recording everything with their quills, then
why did no-one report on them until the 20th century, unless it was that they came from a much older,
subterranean oral tradition, to which we know shamanic or Mystery teachings had to dive to survive.
To the latter, about the dating of the myths, I would reply that the stories contained in the Welsh
myths are on templates which are also found in much older cosmological myths, some dating to 3,000
For instance, take the Gundestrup Cauldron. This silver cauldron was found in a Danish peat bog in
the late 19th century, and it dates to around 200 BCE. On one of its panels, and it tells a tale which is
remarkably similar to one told in The Children of Llyr. The story makes up one of the branches of the
Mabinogion, and it features a cauldron of rebirth into which the dead Irish warriors were put, head
first, to be reborn as a sort of zombie army.
Figure 1, showing the Cauldron of Rebirth scene from The Children of Llyr
Another panel of the Gundestrup Cauldron shows the Horned One, the Lord of the Animals, seated
cross legged, torc in hand, with a boar on one side and a stag on the other – the boar and the stag
were classic Celtic totem animals. The serpent was universal.
Figure 2 , panel of Gundestrup Cauldron showing stag and boar, torc and serpent
There is an older Lord of the Animals....
Figure 3, Prajapati on the Indus seal
There is a stealite seal from the Indus valley which is 4,500 years old and it shows Prajapati as the
Lord of the Animals - a creator god who features in the Prasña-Upanishad. He is seen here after
performing penance or austerities in order to produce the sun (rayi) and the moon (prana), as mother
and father gods to the rest of the creation, which is what all the animals represent.
“Then Kabandhi Katyayana came to him and asked, ‘Sir, from where are all these creatures
born?’. The seer answered him, ‘The creator desired creatures. Gathering energy, with this
energy it produced a pair, matter and life…’”
This creation myth, by the way, is purely metaphorical – the Indian rishis of Vedic times didn’t
believe that all creation came from the sun and the moon. It’s more about the alchemical Marriage of
the Sun and the Moon, which you can learn more about in my book, The Sacred Sex Rites of Ishtar, and
how it relates to the idea of sovereignty. I describe how the kings of ancient times received the
Sovereignty, or right to rule, from the spirits of the land through taking part in shamanic sex rites
with a hierodule or high priestess who was in shamanic communion with those spirits. This is known
in alchemy as the Marriage of the Sun and the Moon and it is the process through which shamans cocreate new worlds.
So whether or not the Holy Grael myths derive from a pre-Christian source, they are certainly nonChristian because they are resoundingly shamanic, at a time when various successive Rome-inspired
initiatives had done their level best to make sure that all traces of what they called paganism and the
Druids had been wiped out or seriously compromised. Of course, shamanism is a Siberian word, and
I’m just using it as shorthand in this context to denote a person who is in touch with the timeless
Other Worlds, which are parallel to this one. As John Matthews writes in the introduction to his book
Taliesin, The Last Celtic Shaman...
“The use of the word ‘shaman’ and ‘shamanism’ requires some explanation .... and it is
important to establish at this point what is meant by it. The word is such a fashionable one,
and used so easily by so many different groups, that it has become open to misuse and
“On the one hand, there are those who believe that shamanism (which is a word of eastern
origin) is a foreign system ‘imported’ into this country in the last few years to describe
something which never happened here. This is manifestly nonsense. Shamanism is simply a
word for something which took place all over the ancient world. Shamans were the
interpreters of the gods, the doctors and inner guides of their people; they kept the records
(orally) of every family in their tribe – important when intermarriage could so easily occur in
small communities – and they were the recorders of the life of the tribe itself, both inner and
outer. They were in fact performing the same function as the Bards, Druids and Ovates of
Britain and Ireland.”
In the 12th century, Geraldus Cambrensis wrote about the Welsh shamans, called awenyddion, who
would fall into a deep trance to seek divinatory guidance from the spirits in the Other Worlds. The
Irish Finn MacCumhal, who had a Druid foster mother, was also such a seer, and his exciting
Otherworldly adventures which passed into Irish oral lore are far too many to list here.
The Celtic stories, songs and poems are full of shapeshifting and reincarnating heroes with the
archetypal ‘fire in the head’ and many of the stories read like classic shamanic initiations. There’s a
‘great tree’, (or World Tree), people who vanish for years into the Otherworlds, an Underworld,
talking animals, the inner sight, and a poem entitled The Siege of Drom Damhgaire even gives us a
magical battle between two shamans.
The shaman has no belief in ‘death’, because to him or her it is just a portal or gateway to another life.
Lucan, the Roman poet, wrote this of the Druids in the first century CE:
“You, ye Druids... you who dwell in the deep woods in sequestered groves: your teaching is
that the shades of the dead do not make their way to the silent abode of Erebus or to the
lightless realm of Dis below, but that the same soul animates the limbs in another sphere. If
you sing of certainties, death is the centre of continuous life. Truly the people on whom the
Pole Star shines are happy in their error, for they are not harassed by the greatest of terrors,
the fear of death. This gives the warrior his eagerness to rush upon the steel, a spirit ready to
face death, and an indifference to a life which will return.”
He may have been influenced by Julius Caesar, who about 150 years earlier had written about those
indigenous peoples he found here, and in Europe, in his Conquest of Gaul...
“A lesson which they (the Druids) take particular pains to inculcate is that the soul does not
perish, but after death passes from one body to another; they think that this is the best
incentive to bravery, because it teaches men to disregard the terrors of death. They also hold
long discussions about the heavenly bodies and their movements, the size of the universe and
of earth, the physical constitution of the world, and the power and properties of the gods; and
they instruct the young men in all these subjects."
Then there’s shapeshifting ...
A typical example of the shapeshifting of shamanic experience is found the Song of Amergin,
purportedly sang by the 3rd century BCE poet Amergin when first he stepped on Irish shores from
Spain with the conquering Milesians.
I am the wind that blows across the sea;
I am a wave of the deep;
I am the roar of the ocean;
I am the stag of seven battles;
I am a hawk on the cliff;
I am a ray of sunlight;
I am the greenest of plants;
I am the wild boar;
I am a salmon in the river;
I am a lake on the plain;
I am the word of knowledge;
I am the point of a spear;
I am the lure beyond the ends of the Earth;
I am the god who fashions fire in the head.
So that’s the mythological rationale. But what about the archaeological record?
Who were the Celts?
Well, in a world in which anything that fails to meet the exacting criteria of the officially approved
narrative doesn’t get through the peer review system, some brave scholars are pushing for a much
earlier date for the Celts than the La Tène culture around 450 BCE, even as far back as the Bell Beaker
people (c. 2800 – 1800 BCE) who we believe built Stonehenge. But we can get further back than even
that – although first, let’s take a little meander.
Both Katharine Maltwood and Mary Caine thought that the name of the River Parrett may have come
from the Sumerian/Babylonian river, the Euphrates. But in Sumer and even after that, during
Babylonian times, the river had kept the U-prefix as the Buranuna (UD.KIB.NUN or KIB.NUN.(NA)
or dKIB.NUN with the prefix d indicating that the river was considered to be a divinity, as many were
at that time). In fact, the only place that the Euphrates is called Pǝrāt is at its source, which is in the
Armenian Highlands. So to quote Katharine on the local Lake Village people (c. 250 BCE) from page
64 of A Guide to Glastonbury’s Temple of the Stars:
‘Of the skulls dug up here, Arthur Bulleid quotes Sir William Boyd Dawkins as saying that all
of them belong to the oval-headed Mesaticephalic section of the inhabitants of Britain and
“they are physically identical with the small dark inhabitants of the Basque Provinces of
France and Spain....The same race occurs in Italy, in Greece, the Greek Islands and in Asia
Asia Minor is now called Anatolia, which is bounded in the east by the Armenian Highlands – in
other words, the source of the river Pǝrāt. So am I trying to make the case that the
Armenians/Anatolians built the Glastonbury Temple of the Stars? No... partly because I find
diffusionist theories about one-way migrations to be largely colonialist and subject to circular, often
racist, rationale in their assumptions – and that Occam’s Razor can be a very blunt instrument indeed
in such hands.
In addition, recent linguistic research indicates that it could have just as easily been the other way
round. A linguistic group labelled Dene Caucasian has been identified as sitting out the whole of the
last Ice Age, up to 12,000 years ago, in the Basque Pyrenees... from where the Milesians later migrated
to Ireland along with the aforementioned shaman poet Amergin.
There are genetic clusters of Basque originating people up and down the Welsh coast (at Abergele in
Conwy, in particular). In fact, according to Stephen Oppenheimer in his The Origins of the British, twothirds of the current population of the British Isles owe some of their genes to that region of Spain.
To me, it’s becoming gradually clearer that the characters in these stories being told on the land
around here are like a message in a bottle from our ancestors about how we can get back to our roots
and claim our spiritual self-empowerment, our Sovereignty. It’s said that he who doesn’t learn from
history is doomed to repeat it. I think we will be forever doomed until we can find out what our
Celtic history really is and who our Indo-European ancestors really were, and delve deeper into the
real wisdom Mystery teachings connected to their images and stories.