What is Avalon?
"In all of the myths, the legends, the poetry, Avalon stands at the gateway between worlds, a sacred threshold accessed through works of bravery, of faith, of spirit."
It is a question I am often asked, and one upon which I often meditate. I am always awed by the many ways Avalon makes herself known to us – so varied and yet, like the facets of a beautiful crystal, still part of a unified whole. Some who are drawn to Avalon seek to know as many of these facets as they can; others are content to truly know perhaps one or two as fully and completely as possible. Indeed, for some, the vision of Avalon is but one aspect of a more universal seeking of the energies of the Divine, and it co-exists comfortably with other paths and traditions.
Yet how can this be? How can Avalon be so many different things to so many different people?
I believe the answer to what, on the surface, appears to be a paradox, lies in the very nature of Avalon herself.
In all of the myths, the legends, the poetry, Avalon stands at the gateway between worlds, a sacred threshold accessed through works of bravery, of faith, of spirit. It is a place of transition – from life into death into life again, from this world to the Otherworld, from old faiths to new ones. In the Celtic way of thinking, this type of liminal space exists in all Three Realms – Land, Sea and Sky – and as such, has manifestations in each of these Realms – thus informing the many ways Avalon is revealed, the many ways her Mysteries are kept.
The Realm of Land – Here, Avalon dwells in the Earthly Plane, the Middle World where we experience physical existence. Whether an ancient island temple of learning and worship, or a gathering of like-minded souls under the light of today’s moon, this Avalon is anchored in community and outward service. Her works are tangible, her shores attainable – albeit through the tests that must be met to open the gates to the Revolving Four Fold Fortress.
The Realm of Sea – This reflection of Avalon exists in the mirror-pool of the Soul, seen with the mystic’s eye in the waters of the Lower World. Here, the Holy Isle is found through the inner quest, with ancestors and totem spirits as our guides. This is Avalon as the Isle of Glass, the Otherword beckoning to us from across the maternal waters, revealing the truth of our soul. This is the Cauldron of Ceridwen, the place of dreams and symbols – of deep healing and integration.
The Realm of Sky – The revelation of Avalon as the highest ideal of perfection. This Sacred Island suspended in the light of the Upper World is the Dwelling place of the Modron – the Goddess in all of Her Guises. Here, Avalon is the Spiraled Tower, impelling us ever-higher in our quest for true Understanding and complete Connection with Source. Here we find Avalon as archetype, as paragon, as divine template for wholeness.
While there are myriad variations, I believe that we each hold Avalon differently because there are so many ways to seek her – so many aspects to reclaim.
Do we seek her as myth, or symbol, or allegory? Is she a powerful, chthonic Otherworldly Island – awaiting our souls until we are ready to return to the Realm of Land once more? Is she the energy that is built between co-celebrants, sharing a specific path that opens the way to her shores? Is she that place in the core of the soul that can only be known in the solitude of silence, heard only between the notes of the inner song?
Avalon calls for us to serve in many ways, and only we can know the form of our calling. Who can say what is real and true, for who can validate the experience of another? Who but we ourselves can know the heart of the essence of Avalon – the way she works through us and makes herself known in our lives? Is the legend more powerful than the symbol of what she has come to mean today? Are historical proofs more valid than the visions of the seer? Are you more Avalonian because you visit her in daily practice rather than hold her fondly in your heart as you conduct the business of your life?
For myself, I have specific beliefs about Avalon and walk a particular path – one that has informed my words here, and one that is constantly evolving and growing with each turn around the bend, each hill attained, each valley passed through. However, I also believe that the ability of Avalon to inspire, to transform, and to empower transcends my path and any path – and that we are the stronger for recognizing that our collective love for Avalon raises us ALL up. We may walk through different parts of the orchard – indeed, we may be content to stand as sentinels outside the gate without ever having entered – but it is in the essence of what Avalon is here and now and today that we nod to each other as we pass, that we welcome each other as siblings in the Holy Isle, embracing at times, walking together for a spell, and ultimately releasing as we are called to continue on our own way.
What is Avalon?
All that we need her to be.
And in return, let us be all that she needs us to be – in her service, and with her blessings.
© 2008 Jhenah Telyndru. Originally published on YnysAfallon.com