Bendithion a chroesawa! (Blessings and welcome!)
The Ways of Avalon have not been forgotten. They have slumbered in the psyche of all women, awaiting, perhaps, a time to reemerge. A time when, once again, Avalon may serve as a path of healing, of empowerment, of self discovery. A time when a woman, dedicated to her personal growth, can once again climb the Tor’s spiraled path and find the Goddess within.
The Sisterhood of Avalon (SOA) was founded in 1995 to serve as a receptacle of lore and wisdom for all aspects of the study of Avalon, as well as to act as a medium for community building for all who are beckoned to Her shores. Over time, the SOA has evolved to become a Sisterhood in truth, united in disciplined work and dedication, and committed to re-establishing women’s connections to a strong Celtic-based Western tradition. Through study, research, and personal workings we are once again recalling our heritage.
Today, the SOA is a fully incorporated, non-profit, Celtic Women’s Mysteries organization. Through wisdoms shared and insights gained, we seek to provide learning opportunities to women who wish to follow a path that balances intuitive wisdom with scholastic achievement. Our offerings include study via the online Avalonian Theological Seminary; training intensives; spiritual pilgrimages to Wales, Glastonbury, and other Celtic sacred sites; a member’s barter program, and a vast web of networking. The SOA publishes the member newsletter, The Barge, and the e-zine, The Tor Stone: A Quarterly Journal for Women’s Mysteries.
The Avalonian Tradition
It has been long since the chord of Avalon has sung out in the hearts of women. In the centuries since her end, we find scattered notes come down to us through the stream of time — in art, literature, music and legend. The past 150 years especially have heralded her re-emergence. The Pre-Raphaelites movement and the writings of Yeats and Tennyson beautifully illustrate the Victorian romance with the Arthurian mythos. The magickal traditions which emerged at the turn of the last century also began to tie into the energy of Avalon, most especially as seen in the work of Dion Fortune.
The power of Avalon, and indeed, the entire Arthurian legend, is not a fancy of days gone by. We need only look around us to find ample proof of its relevancy. Tales of Arthur, Morgan Le Fay and Merlin fill today’s bookshelves. Psychologists, fantasy writers, Celtic scholars and personal growth proponents have all gained insight from this mythic cycle. There are many Wiccan and Pagan groups which draw heavily from the realm of Arthur and find a path of spiritual growth symbolized in the Quest for the Grail and the Code of Chivalry.
Yet, from all of these, we gain but mere glimpses of the totality of Avalon. At the end of his life, Arthur was borne on the barge to her shores to await Britain’s need. So too has Avalon’s memory been kept alive through the tales of that once and future king. Hidden in shadow, the barest glimmer of all which once was Avalon whispers to us from the traditions of Arthurian legend. And, like Arthur, her re-emergence comes at a time of great need.
We live in an era when opportunities for women stand almost unrivaled in Western culture since the dawn of patriarchy. The societal support of a woman’s worth, however gradually and hard won, has encouraged many women to seek a spiritual path of female empowerment. No longer are these women contented with religious forms which do not allow them to participate in the ecclesiastic realms, or which teach them that they are fl awed beings by virtue of their misfortune of being born female. The renewed concept of Woman as Sacred has truly transformed mindsets and dissolved outdated paradigms of a woman’s place, human purpose, and the nature of the Divine.
Women seeking the Goddess turn to the ways of their ancestors, the ways of Earth-honoring living peoples, and to the Cosmic Mother whose path of Creation is constantly being revealed. The path is one which leads within, but is not without its manifestation in the material world as well. For it is too, a time of great need for the Earth herself. Many women turning to environmentalism and embracing the concept that the Earth is a living being, see the plight of Gaia as a mirror of the station and freedom of women. They see the healing of the Earth and of Self as one and the same.
For many women seeking a spiritual home, the legend of Avalon has called to them across the ages. An island of Women’s Mysteries … A sanctuary of service to the Goddess … An honored haven of learning and healing … A place of solitude … A center for women to come into their personal power through their inner wisdom … The images these invoke have resonated with innumerable women, and the resulting quest for her shores has served to pull Avalon even further out of the mists.
Many seek to answer the question: What is Avalon? Is she an allegory for women’s empowerment — a goal for which to strive? Is she a myth whose legend serves to inspire us so that we may draw wisdom from her symbolism? Is Avalon another guise of the Celtic Otherworld? There are many traditions which connect her with the Fortunate Isles, the Gateway to Annwn, the Apple Island Paradise. Is she, as some have posited, a feminist’s pipe dream — a romanticization of a matriarchal ideal spun out of a need to believe that such places did indeed once exist? Was Avalon, in fact, a physical place, where priestesses trained to keep the Mysteries and manifested a place of growth and healing?
In truth, it may not matter.
The varying perspectives and the scholarly quest to prove or disprove her existence pale in comparison to the greater purpose of Avalon. Whatever she may once have been, she serves today as a resource for women seeking to come into their power. She holds the keys of women’s wisdom, once honored and sought after, now returning to the consciousness of those with the courage to seek it. She is a focus for all the Mother’s daughters — a goal, a template, an endless source of inspiration. Avalon is a beacon, shining out from the maternal waters, promising connections between the women of today, continuity of the forgotten knowledge of the women of yesterday, and serving as a promise of constancy for the women of tomorrow. The mists are thinning, sisters. Who knows the way back home to Avalon?