Glossary entry for
Jesus Walking Down By Avalon

The lines from "Summertime in England" - "Did you ever hear about Jesus walkin', Jesus walkin' down by Avalon?" - refer to an ancient legend that Jesus once visited England. References to this legend include a poem by William Blake and the inspirational song "Jerusalem." Blake's text (from Milton) is as follows:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of Fire!
I will not cease from mental fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

The words were set to music much later, in 1916, by the English composer Hubert Parry, and later orchestrated by Sir Edward Elgar in 1922. "Jerusalem" was first performed at a Votes for Women concert in 1916. A short snippet of the melody of "Jerusalem" may also be heard at the very end of "A Town Called Paradise" on No Guru No Method No Teacher.

According to Coptic Christian tradition Jesus spent his first three years in Memphis, Egypt and also visited many other places in Lower and Upper Egypt upon which many churches were built to commemorate these visits. The most famous of these sites is Babylon, the Roman fortress of Old Cairo. It embraces within its walls the ancient church of Abu Sarga (St. Serguis), built on a crypt, in which Jesus lived during his sojourn in the Jewish quarter of Babylon. A brochure published by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism entitled "The Holy Family in Egypt" lists all the sites.

There are at least four separate and independent British traditions that say that Jesus as a youth travelled to Britain with his uncle Joseph of Arimathea, spending many years in Glastonbury, which was a prominant center of Druidism. This is also confirmed by many independent sufi traditions which link sufism and Druidism. (See The Sufis, Indries Shah.)

In 1894, Nicolas Notovitch, a Russian journalist, published a book, La Vie Inconnue de Jesus-Christ translated in English as The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ which he claimed was based on an ancient Buddhist manuscript which reports Jesus' Buddhist studies in India.

At age fourteen under pressure to marry, Jesus had other goals. He secretly left home with a caravan of merchants to perfect himself in the "Divine Word" and study the laws of the great Buddhas and returned to Palestine at the age of 29 as a perfect expositer of the ancient and sacred writings.

Whether or not Jesus actually visited England, a stronger legend persists that one of his disciples, Joseph of Arimathaea, did. In the Bible, Joseph is the man whose garden provided the resting place for Christ's body after the crucifixion, and where the risen Christ was mistaken for the gardener. A Sommerset legend says:

Joseph of Arimathaea, a rich man and disciple of Jesus, fled the Holy Land to escape the persecution of the followers of Christ. Journeying to Britain in hopes of spreading the faith there, he arrived in Glastonbury weary and discouraged, for his teaching had had little effect. He prayed for a miracle to convince the unbelievers, and when he thrust his staff into the earth, it burst forth into leaf and sweetly-scented blossoms.

The Glastonbury Thorn, a hawthorn tree now growing on the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey, protected by a high fence, is said to have originated from a cutting taken from the original tree which grew, on Wirrall Hill, from Joseph of Arimathaea's staff.

Versions of the Holy Grail story, by Robert de Borron and others, say the Grail was a dish or chalice of the Last Supper conveyed to Britain and to the 'Vales of Avalon' by Joseph of Arimathea or companions of his, with drops of the Saviour's blood. The Grail is said to rest below the Chalice Spring on Glastonbury Tor, the steep hill which dominates the town.

The belief that Joseph had visited or even lived at Glastonbury was so strong that King Edward III (who had visited Glastonbury Abbey in 1331) authorized a seer to search the abbey precincts for the body of Joseph of Arimathea. (It was never found.)

Glastonbury is also the legendary burial site of King Arthur, England's first Christian monarch. In Arthur's time, Glastonbury was known as the sacred Isle of Avalon. It was where Arthur died after being wounded in battle with the evil Mordred. Glastonbury is not an island today, but in the sixth century it was. Over time the surrounding marsh was drained and it ceased to be an island. In Arthur's time, Glastonbury and Avalon were one and the same. Glastonbury today has attracted countless crystal-ball gazers and other practitioners of New Age wisdom who seek enlightenment, rapture and/or wisdom in haunts of ancient peace.

Although Jesus may or may not have actually walked down by Avalon, it is far more likely that Van Morrison walked down by Glastonbury. It has been suggested that the Common One album cover shows Van on Glastonbury Tor. Anyone planning a tour of important Van places should put Glastonbury high on their list. /


  • Jim Chiarelli (of the Van mailing list)
  • The Quest for Arthur's Britain, edited by Geoffrey Ashe, Granada, 1971
  • King Arthur's England, by Don Frost, Universal Press Syndicate
  • Helen Chesnut, Vancouver Sun gardening columnist
  • AA Illustrated Guide to Britain, Drive Publications, 1971
    compiled by Robert Scheer

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