Earlier this year, I visited Glastonbury for the first time since I was a teenager. I was eager to climb up to the Tor and also to visit the two sacred springs at its base. It was a gloriously sunny summer’s day, perfect for exploring the gardens of the Chalice Well, also known as the Red Spring. On such a hot day the cool water of the Healing Pool where you can dip your feet in was particularly welcome. Frustratingly, the White Spring wasn’t open so when I returned to Glastonbury this autumn, I was eager to experience this second spring and immerse myself in its healing waters.
As I had heard, the energies of the two springs are quite different. The Red Spring is set in a beautiful garden, bathed in sunlight and nature. There’s a small charge to get in.
In contrast, the White Spring is enclosed in a square unimposing brick building. It is dark and damp inside, mystical and magical. Once a Victorian Well House it is now a temple run by volunteers and only open three afternoons a week (subject to volunteer availability). As is the tradition of temples, it is free to enter.
While Chalice Well is known as the Red Spring thanks to the iron rust in the water, that comes from deep within the earth, the White Spring gets its name from the white calcite it contains. Its source is much shallower than that of the Chalice Well.
Like Yin Yang, light and dark, the two sacred springs complement each other.
This is the second article in a series about my favourite spiritual and sacred places in England and beyond.
My visit to the White Spring
I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when I visited the White Spring but I had heard that you can immerse yourself in the healing water there.
Despite no signpost marking its location, it is easy to find, just a short walk along Well House Road which runs down the side of Chalice Well.
At last, I’m at the entrance to The White Spring. A doorway leads down a few stairs into the dark interior. I can already hear the rushing water. I make my way carefully inside as my eyes get used to the dim lighting. A small group of ladies start chanting, enhancing the already magical atmosphere. I slip off my shoes and feel the cool water that trickles across the floor.
A few men and women are in the water. There are two pools, a smaller raised one that is four and a half feet deep and a larger central round pool that is two feet deep. Several alters are dotted around the temple where people have left offerings including flowers, crystals and other small items.
We both noticed that ALL the bathers seemed to be slender, young things and while one lady did have a rather skimpy bikini on, everyone else was buck naked. We are reassured, however, that wearing costumes is fine and we should wear whatever we felt comfortable in. We head back to the car to pick get our swimsuits.
As we walk back to the spring. I remark how immersing in the water should be for everyone, not just the body beautiful! “All the more reason why you should go in without a swimming costume.” replies my friend, Abbi. Is that a challenge? It certainly gets me thinking.
When we return there were fewer people there and, on the spur of the moment, I toss aside my cozzie, strip off and climb in as nature intended. The water is freezing so I allow my body to get used to it a little by immersing my wrists for a few minutes before slipping under the water. It’s a wonderful experience.
Getting in the pool naked felt as if I was claiming something back for us curvier ladies. I found it far less embarrassing than I would have imagined. However, I was glad of my changing robe when I got out, so I could dry myself off underneath it in a more modest fashion. Before we left I spent some time at one of the shrines feeling thankful for this beautiful visit to The White Spring.
As we walked back to the car for a second time, I felt elated, empowered yet somewhat incredulous at what I had just done! A slender young thing I am not. And I’m certainly not used to getting my kit off in public. I’ve only ever been skinny dipping once – last November in the sea under the full moon but that’s another story. So this was a big deal for me. The experience gave me a newfound pride in my 57-year-old, ample body, lumps, bumps and wobbly bits and all.
Quite rightly so, no phones or cameras are allowed to be turned on in The White Spring so I have no pictures to show you (your sighs of relief are almost audible). I ask you instead to imagine a damp, dark, brick interior with archways and a vaulted ceiling lit by many candles reflected in the healing waters of the pools and a calm, serene atmosphere. Better still visit for yourself and don’t forget your towel. Swimming costumes and changing robes are optional!
The Shrines of The White Spring
There are several shrines at the White Spring including one to the guardian of sacred springs, Brigid, the Celtic Fire Goddess. In the temple, the Brigid Flame continuously burns.
Above: A painting of St. Brigid of Kildare with a bowl of fire and a spindle, and a cow in St Patrick’s Chapel, Glastonbury
By Glaaaastonbury88, CC BY-SA 4.0
With the coming of Christianity, The Celtic Goddess became Saint Brigid. and, as was the goddess before her, she was known for healing. St Brigid Day is 1st February, and the Celtic Festival, Imbolc, which marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It is celebrated each year at The White Spring.
From 2023, St Brigid’s Day will be an annual public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, to mark both the saint’s feast day and the seasonal festival. Interestingly, this will be the first Irish public holiday named after a woman. It also means that four of the eight traditional Celtic seasonal festivals will now be public holidays in Ireland. Such a shame it isn’t so for the UK also.
Above St Michael’s Tower on the top of Glastonbury Tor
A fourth shrine is dedicated to St Michael. A ley line, known as the Michael Line, runs right through Glastonbury linking St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall with St Michael’s Tower atop Glastonbury Tor before heading on to the henge at Avebury as it continues northeast. Further sites associated with St Micheal and many more sacred sites are passed along the route.
Lastly, there is a seasonal alter which changes every six weeks to reflect the seasons of the year. Here you can leave offerings from nature.
The healing waters at The White Spring
The White Spring gets its name from the white calcite it contains – a very common mineral found in marble, chalk and limestone. The calcite originally comes from the shells of marine animals which as they die fall to the bottom of the ocean. Over the millennium the layer of calcite builds up and slowly forms rock, such as that found in the white chalk limestone of the South Downs National Park (near my home) including The White Cliffs of Dover. These rocks formed in ancient times, beneath the sea, long before humans walked on the earth.
A type of calcite was used by the ancient Egyptians for carvings made in honour of their goddess Bast (Bastet) giving rise to this type of calcite being known as alabaster. Bast has the head of a cat (originally a lion) and a body of a slender woman. She is the daughter of Ra, the Sun God and rides through the sky with him every day, protecting him. At night she turns into a cat to protect Ra from him his enemy the evil snake, Apep, but I digress.
As well as bathing in the healing waters of the White Spring, many people drink a little. There’s a tap outside which you can use to fill a water bottle when the Well House is closed. Drinking water that has calcite in it, from what I’ve read, is good for you. If you live in a hard water area you’ll be familiar with the limescale that forms in your kettle due to the calcite in the water. You can read more about calcite in drinking water here.
The healing properties of calcite crystals
Calcite, having over 300 forms, has more crystal structures than any other mineral. Calcite crystals are white or colourless when pure but can be many different colours when other minerals are present. Most stalactites and stalagmites in caves are largely calcites. They can also be found with other crystals such as in amethyst geodes.
Calcite crystals, imbued by the energies of the oceans, are believed to have many healing properties. I’ve yet to use calcite, and every website or book I’ve read says something a little different, many listing a huge range of ways calcite can be used. It is said to be a great leveller, balancing out extremes. It is calming, promotes happiness and relieves stress. Using calcite to balance the chakras is mentioned several times by different sources.
My friend Jane, who has been using crystals for many years, described calcite as having “a soft, healing, gentle, loving vibe and can come in colours corresponding with the chakras. It is similar to quartz but with a softly, softly approach. Calming, Cleansing. You can tell it’s calcite because it feels a little soapy.”
The water of the Chalice Well and The White Spring are wonderful places to cleanse your crystals that are hard enough such as rose quartz, amethyst and tiger’s eye. Softer crystals, including selenite and calcite, are water soluble so should not be cleansed by immersing in water.
Read about my visit to Chalice Well here.
I’ve seen a rather splendid white calcite pendant and I’m very tempted to buy it, not just for my own healing but to wear when giving Reiki. It sounds like a perfect fit. I’ll also be looking out for a set of calcite crystals corresponding with the chakras. I can’t wait to use them.
Getting to The White Spring, Chalice Well and Glastonbury Tor
The White Spring
Well House Lane
Sadly, the easiest way to get to Glastonbury is by car. There is no train station in the town, the nearest is Castle Cary. From there you can take a 25-minute taxi ride or make the hour and a half (or more) bus ride with one change required.
From the town centre, it is about a fifteen-minute walk to the springs and the start of the path up to the Tor.
There are a couple of parking spots for disabled visitors at the Chalice Well but most visitors come by car, park in the town and walk to the springs and the Tor.
You can also park at R J Draper’s in Cottle Close off the A361, just a few minutes walk from the springs and the base of the Tor. It’s not a very obvious parking spot but you simply need to park and then go into the shop (up a small flight of stairs) to pay for parking. There’s also a toilet there that they were happy for us to use.
On request, a side door at The White Spring can be opened to allow step-free access to the temple.
Below: The view from Glastonbury Tor