by John Constable
revised edition £12.99 (+ £3 postage in UK) – to order please contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org
now available in London at Treadwell’s and Watkins
A magical artefact to open the pathways… A Book of Incantations, Spells and Meditations… An initiation…
‘This book could be titled The Glastonbury Mysteries, as counterpart to the author’s celebrated The Southwark Mysteries. It shows what happens when an accomplished poet, ritualist and dramatist gives his attention of England’s most visionary contemporary community. In one respect it is a deeply affectionate and perceptive look at esoteric Glastonbury at a particular moment in time. In another, it is a generous exemplar of that meeting of different spiritual traditions, in harmonious juxtaposition and conversation, which is the greatest current achievement of the place. It should be an enduring contribution to the literature of Avalon, the more so in that Constable always keeps his feet as dependably on the ground as his head is in the clouds. Like his muse the Goose Woman, he is a being equally of earth and fire.’
Professor Ronald Hutton
‘One of the best books on magic I’ve ever read.’
Jamie Dodds, F23 podcast
‘What makes John Constable’s Grail such a continuously fascinating and profound book is the way that he describes his placing himself and bringing his shamanic ‘John Crow’ entity onto and into this weave – at times so intense and lifted off from materialities that it seems to have a certain blankness, a “shining emptiness” – sometimes bonding and blending seamlessly and at other times making a disruptive, if colourful, tangle. Grail embraces the contradictions and tensions as “Blakean contraries”, and is not immune to the town’s milieus and gossip.
With his partner Katy Kaos, John Constable is followed by his guide The Goose Spirit from the church-licensed medieval brothels of Southwark to a house in Glastonbury, which, they discover, is sat at the corner of the former Grope Cunt Lane. Grail is full of such synchronicities; some of them orchestrated by a narrative subjection to the Grail myth, with various communities and individuals struggling to ask the right questions. But there are also anomalies and not all of them are benevolent; a mixture of those who ‘know’ and those who want to be told in Glastonbury conjuring “levels of the Avalonian Astral Plane crawling with disturbed, predatory thoughts-forms”.
John Constable has many words of uncommon sense to say to those who are tempted by these predations, such as: “to fixate on transcending…. our ego is itself an act of monstrous egotism”, “communal acts of worship are all-too-rare in an Age of individualistic belief-systems, and worth cherishing even when they look and sound a bit cheesy”, “that Apocalyptic moment is not hiding in some uncertain future. It’s happening all around us”, and “the trouble with literalism…. the key to the Mysteries becomes the lock, the block”. Admirably, Grail gives due attention to the many varieties of tradition in the town, not just Bligh Bond and Dion Fortune, but also the extraordinary musical dramas staged in the Assembly Rooms and composed by Rutland Boughton either side of the First World War.
Just as John Crow correctly intuited the trauma in and under Southwark, so this shamanic personality is drawn to a terrible violence inflicted on the Abbot, Richard Whiting, and two monks of Glastonbury Abbey in 1539 – hung on the Tor, their intestines drawn out, and then their corpses quartered and the parts distributed around the country – and to a working to undo it. This draws the author into a deep engagement with certain traditions and practices within (or expelled from) Anglican Christianity, from mystical pilgrimage to Gnosticism. This is a sometimes uncomfortable navigation, which makes for an even more engrossing read.
… the joy of codes – three drops of blood, three drops of scalding soup from the cauldron, three bars of the Awen – and numerous refrains (poems and spells) for speaking aloud.
(And one passage that alone is worth the price of the book: a lonely visit to the Glastonbury Festival site during Covid Lockdown.) ’
Phil Smith, Mytho Geography