A Temple in Canterbury?

by Rachel Mayatt

As I was walking in the local country parkland next to my council estate on the edge of Canterbury last November, I was thinking – as I often did - how much I wished I could move to Glastonbury, a place I love. Such spiritual support, the Goddess Festival and especially the Temple. I have been a Priestess for many years now – ordained with the FOI and a 3rd degree initiated Witch, teaching circles and workshops; but my heart still yearned for the community I experience in Glastonbury.

Every time I began a move or council exchange, something always seemed to stop me from going any further and I was mulling over the reasons. Why does the Goddess want me to stay here? I thought about the wonderful countryside down that way and as I looked at the countryside around me suddenly Her thunderbolt struck!!

Oh my Goddess!

She is as much here as there! Well of course – how stupid of me. But why hadn’t I seen the beauty of this before? Then I had another realisation. Canterbury is an ancient City, and although the centre of Christianity for many years, it has a potent, fertile female energy running underneath. The City needs a Goddess Temple.

Canterbury has long been seen as a central and most important part of the Christian faith. The Cathedral attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors - some just because of the spot that marks the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. And of course, the Archbishop of Canterbury is, under the sovereign, the head of the Protestant Church. I am still researching the pre-Christian Goddess worship in this area, but within the Cathedral - in the very depths of the Crypt where the Lady Chapel is located - I notice the energy completely changes. Most of the ancient churches and cathedrals are well known to have been built over previous pagan sacred sites, and I’m sure Canterbury is no different.

There is a strong feminine feeling - and yes, this could be inspired by the womb-like darkness and comforting feeling of the crypt. Other women (and men) have also mentioned this. I have often found myself sitting in the Lady Chapel meditating - feeling the security of the Mother like a warm blanket, that reassures and comforts, yet also seems to give me strength. Canterbury itself is an ancient place with veins of the river Stour flowing all over the area. It seems to carry this potent female energy all around, balancing the very patriarchal overtones of the city. Perhaps now is the time to acknowledge this potency which exists on an unconscious level - to bring it out in the open once more.

Well at first I am breathless. How on earth am I going to do this? It’s a fairly conservative area; the Cathedral and the church dominate much of it. It’s the home of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket! Then I realise – there is a spiritualist centre and a Buddhist temple here. Why shouldn’t we have a Goddess Temple? Sure it means work and getting sponsors and volunteers and….. small steps, Rachel.

We start with support from the Goddess Circle held monthly in my home. We get some leaflets out and make people aware of our project. Then there’s the first-ever Goddess festival to be held in Canterbury on 16/17 August 2008. A stall, information. Let’s get interested people together.

Every time I walk around Canterbury I’m looking at empty buildings, lovely olde-world Tudor buildings – “that would be a great temple. Or how about that one – right in the middle of the city!”

I contacted Kathy Jones to ask how they got started in Glastonbury. She suggested regular open festivals – hire a hall or place to have a portable temple set up for a few days to enable people to come in and ask about it. To get ourselves seen. Excellent idea that we hope to eventually do.

The actual finding a premises and the money for a permanent temple may take a while.

But I think we’ll get there.

©Rachel Mayatt

Rachel Mayatt

Rachel writes: I'm a 50 year old mother, artist, witch and author. I trained in a coven in Essex during the late 1980s after studying as a solitary since 1973, afterwards running workshops and magical groups in East Anglia. I also trained in Reiki and became a Master in 1998. In 1999 I relocated back to Kent where I now work at the University of Kent at Canterbury.My path has included working in ceremonial magic and Celtic shamanism and is fairly eclectic in its nature. My first book Nature's Children - celebrating the seasons in a pagan family (Capall Bann UK) was published in 2007 and my latest - The Silver Hearth Witches Workbook was published by lulu.com in 2008. Currently working on 2 further writing projects and a series of Goddess artworks, I am hoping to begin a new circle in the Canterbury area in the near future. I can be contacted via my website: www.raewytch.blogspot.co.uk.