Avalon

by Wendy Andrew

The attraction of Avalon

Who thinks of Avalon, thinks of magic and mysticism, the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, of the mists of Avalon or of the Goddess honoured there. It is also possible that Avalon does not mean a thing to you; however, it does give you a certain feeling. Avalon is a name that has enormous appeal to numerous people, all over the world. Why? What is that link with Avalon many feel? What is Avalon? Does Avalon exist, or is it a figment of our imagination? What is that magic, many feel permeating from Avalon?

The magic of Avalon

How does the magic of Avalon work in practice? What can you do with it? What is it all about actually? It is quite possible that the magic of Avalon brings up completely different emotions in other people. I myself believe that this is the core of what the magic of Avalon stands for; an unconditional magical experience of the self. Be who you are and feel what you feel: experiencing and expressing your own magic in all respects, without the fear of being judged for this. Nature serves as your guide in this: by connecting with her magic, the magic of creation, you can tap your own source of creation. Creation is an important component of the female principle: Avalon recognises this and inspires people to integrate this important part within themselves, which for centuries was not allowed to be. You are Avalon.

Avalon within us

For me, Avalon stands as a symbol of our inner being – going within – she is a mirror and she confronts us with who we really are. She is a transformational power that can turn old and useless patterns of behaviour into new and useful ones. She is death and she is rebirth, she is the cycle of life that we need for renewal and to truly live. She manifests herself best in nature and in our own nature, if we allow it. Avalon teaches us to live a natural life and to be honest to our true nature. You can only discover your own true self if you dare to go inside and dare to be silent. Only then will you hear her voice and your own true voice and only then will you realise how many illusions you have created for yourself and how you need to let them go before you can find your own true self.

How the magic of Avalon manifests itself and how Glastonbury is a physical example of this is different for everyone, because we all have our unique paths and each individual has to walk his or her own path in their own way. What is important is that you are aware that we live in a world that in many ways leads us away from our true being, our core. Western society is based on rational thought and pays less attention to feelings and intuition. We aren’t taught how to deal with this and for that reason we often lose our true identity. We don’t learn to listen to our inner voice and we focus more on the outside than the inside where in fact the answers are. Our inner voice is the voice of our soul and if we don’t listen to it then our lives become soulless and without direction and we try to fulfil ourselves with useless things that provide short-lived gains.

It can be that you do not know how to turn your life around, that you think you don’t have the power to change things, that you are convinced that life is something that happens to you and that you cannot influence this. This is very possible because this is how we are raised; not to think for ourselves but rather to focus on what others say and to do what others do. If you are used to this then it can seem very difficult to suddenly sit behind the wheel of your own life and to change your reality. However, you can do this and Avalon teaches us to dare and do this because she shows that it’s you who has the strength and power to change things. She shows what kind of world is possible, a world of peace and love. That’s her magic. If you learn to apply this magic, you can live in that world.

 The meaning of the name Avalon

The name Avalon is from the Celtic Avalloc or Avallach, a Celtic demigod who ruled the underworld. The word Avalon means: “The Isle of Apples”. Indeed, many apple trees grow in Glastonbury, but that does not have to mean anything. The apple was seen as the fruit of wisdom for Goddesses, a magical fruit. A dragon or a serpent guarded the holy orchard. Later, the apple became a forbidden fruit in the bible, and Eve, urged by the serpent, was accused of seducing Adam to take a bite of this forbidden fruit. The tone was set and women, from now on, were portrayed as seducers and traitors by the church. With this, the church leaders succeeded in their mission to ban the (female) nature religion and to entice people to convert to Christianity. And yet, the mystical meaning of Avalon stayed alive, especially in legends; she slumbered in the background, waiting until the fruit of wisdom could be eaten again and we can use our inner wisdom once more.

Avalon and the Goddess

According to a legend, Avalon was long ago an existing physical place, where priestesses were honouring their Goddesses by performing rituals. It was a sacred place, a kind of temple, where not everyone had access. The Celtic people respected this. One says that through the arrival of Christianity, Avalon is shrouded behind the veils. Only those possessing the ability to look through them can gain access to Avalon.

For centuries the priestesses honour the Goddess with ceremonies and rituals in Avalon. Avalon is connected with the Goddess and in that sense is a symbol for female spirituality. The Goddess is Mother, the giver of life, the creator. Life originated from her womb, she looks after it, nourishes it and feeds it. The cycle of her body is the cycle of the earth: a circular, reoccurring change. The Goddess is the symbol for our femininity connecting us with creation, beauty and respect for the life Mother Earth gives us.

Avalon and King Arthur

There is also a male side to Avalon, just like we all have a male side ourselves, and it is symbolised in the stories of King Arthur. There are several legends which tell about Arthur and the holy grail in which there is a connection between Avalon and Glastonbury. To us this connection is a symbol for the coming together of two traditions: the old nature religion or the religion of the Goddess and the Christian religion, the religion of God. Masculine and feminine spirituality can not be seen as separate of each other. But in reality that was exactly what the Christian religion try to do, by considering men more important than women. Arthur can be seen as a symbol for the male values: strength, protection, boundaries, analytical thinking and courage. These values are also of great importance for the transforming power of Avalon. The name Arthur can be derived from the Welsh name Arth Fawr, which means great Bear. This name is connected to the most bright star of the Northern hemisphere: Arcturus, indicated by the last two stars from the tail of the Great Bear. Bears existed in England up to the eight century and they had an important spiritual significance for the Celts. It was an honourable name and it gave immense force to bearers of that name.

Some places which are to be found in and around Glastonbury, have been mentioned in certain legends of King Arthur. A lake near the place of Meare, is supposed to be the lake where Arthur received the Excalibur sword from the Lady of the Lake. A bridge between Glastonbury and the place Street, called Pomparles bridge, is the spot where the Lady of the lake recovered the sword. Beckery Island, is the spot where Arthur had a religious experience in the vault of Chapel Perilous. On the Tor, Arthur had a fort and his biggest opponent had a fort near Brent Knoll. His castle Camelot stood in South Cadbury, not far from Glastonbury and Arthur’s grave was in the Abbey in Glastonbury.

Arthur legends

The legends are not very old, but they indicate that Glastonbury and surroundings were important for the myth of Arthur. There are of course other spots in the United Kingdom of which is claimed that Camelot stood there, but nothing has ever been proven. Therefore belief what you yourself want to believe. A number of legends I would like to mention, in order to give an impression of the tales which are there:

One of the oldest tales which exist,  links King Arthur with Glastonbury and this tale has been told by a monk of Llancarfan,  called Caradoc which in his book ‘Life of Gildas’. In this tale he wrote that Guinevere was kidnapped by king Melwas, the king of the summer country (Somerset). He held her in Glastonbury and Arthur came with his soldiers from Devon and Cornwall to save her. However because of the water that surrounded Glastonbury, Arthur could not do much. Eventually the dispute was settled by closing a compromise in the Saint Mary Church and Arthur recovered Guinevere.

In a poem from the ‘Book of Taliesin’, Arthur and his entourage enters the kingdom of the Fairies, ruled by the fairy king Gwyn Ap Nudd, to collect the cauldron of wisdom and inspiration. This kingdom, Annwn, is located under the Tor, which was considered to be the castle of the Grail. The Tor is a well known hill, located in Glastonbury. The cauldron and the grail are seen by the author, to be the same thing and this can be related to the ancient rituals of fertility which were held on the Tor. The cauldron stands for fertility and abundance. It is said that if you see a rainbow over the Tor, that somebody has found the holy grail.

In one legend, a dying Arthur was taken in a boat to the Isle of Avalon. He was accompanied by the three queens of the fairies: Queen Northgalis, Queen of the lost lands and Morgan La Fey, Arthur’s half sister. She is also called Morgan the Faery or Morgan the Fate, keeper of our destiny. It is her responsibility to guide all the passed souls to the other world. The name Morgan or Morgen, derives morst probably, from the Irish name Morrigan or Mor rigan, which means Great Queen. Morgen in welsh means: Mother. In Italy she is called Fata Morgana and there she lives under water of a lake.

The story that appeals most to me, is written in the book of Marion Bradley-Zimmer: The mists of Avalon, also made into a movie. This book has resonated with me and also many others, in a magical way. The story is about magical power of women. Many women I have met, have been touched by the magic of Avalon, just by reading the book. I meet them regularly in Glastonbury or at Goddess ceremonies.

Avalon is connected to the physical place Glastonbury – for more information about this beautiful place, please check out the Glastonbury page.