In the Nature of Avalon
Goddess Pilgrimages in Glastonbury’s Sacred Landscape
by Kathy Jones
These wonderful Goddess pilgrimages invite you to enter deeply into the mysteries of the Isle of Avalon, that Otherworldly Paradise which can be found within the sacred landscape of the small country town of Glastonbury, England. Based on Kathy’s many years’ experience of living in Glastonbury, where she has daily walked the earthly body of the Goddess in Her landscape forms of Maiden, Lover, Mother and Crone. Over the years Kathy has led thousands of pilgrims to the meet the Goddess in this special and holy place that has been known since time immemorial as the Isle of Avalon.
215 pages, illustrated, ISBN 978-1-872983387
£12.95 plus P&P
Avalon: An Otherworldly Paradise
The Isle of Avalon is an Otherworldly Paradise, a golden Isle of Blessed Souls where the Goddess reigns forever. It is a magical land lying far to the west across the waters, veiled in mystery. Avalon means the place of apples and in the many apple orchards of this beautiful land the red and gold fruits of the goddess’s immortality grow in abundance. In some tales Avalon is one of the Fortunate Isles, a fabled Island of Women, where women and our mysteries reign and people live a hundred years and more. Birds of omen, large and small, flock to the sacred land, singing with great sweetness of her beautyways. Here too there are animals, black or white with red ears, all beloved of her. In particular Avalon is a land of transformation, sometimes known as the Western Isle of the Dead, a place of dying, healing and rebirth.
Avalon is a sacred place veiled from everyday human eyes, but visible to the eyes of the soul. It is a vibrant and beautiful land where the turning wheel of the seasons reveals the beauty of the goddess’s nature with all her glory. Here the Maiden makes her appearance with the first ewe’s milk and the tender white and green flowers of the snowdrop at Imbolc around February 1st. The radiant sexual Virgin Lover displays her beauty in the bright flowers and fresh vibrant greenery of Beltane and Mayday. The Great Mother with her pregnant belly becomes visible with the swelling Lammas fruits and grains and the generosity of her abundant nature as August arrives. While the Dark Goddess, Samhain’s Underworld Redeemer appears at Hallowe’en as the days shorten and red, orange and gold leaves fall from the trees. With the increasing darkness she becomes the Crone whose bare rocky bones can be seen sticking out from the cold dormant winter earth.
Mortal women journey to Avalon to serve in the goddess’s sacred groves and temples, to marvel at the mystery of her ways, to learn of her wisdom and to embody her energy. Mortal men are enticed by her beauty into surrendering to her those parts which no longer serve the greater good, becoming the champions and guardians of her nature and world. Venturing into the orchards of Avalon the goddess speaks to us in a language that our souls understand. Here we sense the wondrous patterns woven in the shining threads of the web of wyrd. Here we experience the awesome beauty of life on this planet and our longing for communion with the divine is satisfied. Here we can dream the future and receive inspirations which can then be expressed in the outer world. Here transformation, release from the constrictions of old ideas and forms and the birth of a new life is catalysed.
The Goddess in Avalon
Avalon is ruled by the Lady of Avalon, a goddess of awesome love, beauty, power and wisdom, a Lady of Light and Darkness who appears in several forms and under several names. Among the most ancient are those of the Ninefold Sisterhood of the Morgens, whose names were recorded by the Welsh poet Taliesin in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th Century Vita Merlini. They are Moronoe, Mazoe, Glitonea, Gliten, Cliton, Tyronoe, Thitis, Thetis and Morgen la Fey unknown names except for the latter, who was much maligned in Arthurian legend and only recently somewhat redeemed in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s inspired retelling of the tale in The Mists of Avalon.
These Nine Morgen sisters encompass all the qualities of the Goddess on the continua between light and darkness, sweetness and sour, positive and negative, creative and destructive. The Morgens are famous for their learning and knowledge of the seven liberal arts, particularly of astronomy, astrology, mathematics and physic. They are renowned for their healing arts and skill in herbal lore, for their beautiful music and sensuality, for prophecy and the ability to shapeshift, to appear in different places in a moment in time.
In legend they are nine women, three triple goddesses ranging in age from maiden to mother to crone. They are nine dark cloaked figures who sit in circle with the cauldron of inspiration, immortality and rebirth, in a cave deep beneath Glastonbury Tor in the Underworld of Annwn. Or they are nine huge shimmering beings visible in the ethers surrounding the top of the Tor.
Sometimes they are seen in the forms of the willow trees that guard the magical isle and as shadowy figures hiding behind the trees in the apple orchards of Avalon. Occasionally they may be glimpsed by mortals as they disappear away into the mists that often surround the sacred Isle. In Glastonbury’s natural landscape they appear in the forms of black crows, white doves, green woodpeckers and hawks.
When the legendary King Arthur was dying of his fatal wounds from the battle of Camlan, he was taken to the shores of the waters surrounding the Isle of Avalon. He was placed in the black barge of Avalon and ferried through the mists by the boatman Barinthus – he who knows the patterns of the waters and of the stars of the heavens. On their passage they were accompanied by three Faery Queens: the Queen of Northgalis, the Queen of the Waste Lands and Morgen la Fey, Arthur’s half sister, who is Morgen the Faery or Morgen the Fate, the third of the three Fates. In her role as Midwife of Souls Morgen Ia Fey helps those who are dying to cross over to the Other Side of life. Also present was Nimue, chief Lady of the Lake.
Morgen’s name probably derives from the same root as the Irish Morrigan or Mor Rigan – Great Queen, just as the Welsh Rhiannon is derived from Rigan Tona, another Great Queen. Morgen also means sea-borne. In Welsh Morgen and Modron or Madron both mean Mother. Morgen la Fey is also known as Morgaine and Morgana, meaning that she is also Morg Ana – Great Ana, one of the earliest named goddesses in the British Isles (Spinning the Wheel of Ana by Kathy Jones, Ariadne Publications). In writing her name I prefer to use the feminine Welsh form of Morgen, where Morgan is the masculine.
Avalon and Glastonbury
According to tradition the ancient Isle of Avalon lies within the unique natural landscape of the small country town of Glastonbury in Somerset, England. Visitors coming to the town today are greeted by the sign which announces this ancient association.In 1191 monks at Glastonbury’s great Benedictine Abbey claimed to have found the bodies of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere lying buried beneath two pyramid-shaped tombstones to the south of the Mary Chapel. They placed the bodies in a black marble tomb which for several centuries lay in the nave of the great Abbey church, until Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Roman Catholic monasteries in 1539, when bodies and tomb disappeared. To this day it is said that Arthur still sleeps in Avalon with his Queen Guinevere, whose name is originally Gwenhyfar or White Phantom. In Welsh legends there were three Gwenhyfars, three aspects of the ancient Sovereign goddess of the British Isles. Arthur himself is the son of Artha, the Great She-Bear visible in the heavens. He was the sacred consort who in order to truly become king must marry the Sovereign goddess of the land. Together Gwenhyfar and Arthur await the call to return to life.
In earlier days Glastonbury was known as Ynys Witrin or the Glass Isle and some say that its present name derives from Glass Ynys borough or Glass Isle borough, an odd mixture of Keltic and Saxon. Perhaps in those days when surrounded by an inland sea, the green and fertile island reflected in the smooth waters, was like an image in a looking glass, a veritable glass isle. In legend towards the end of his long life Merlin the magician and seer, was imprisoned or surrendered (depending on how you read patriarchal myth) to Nimue, Lady of the Lake, going to live with her on the Glass Isle. The inspiring Merlin energy can be strongly felt on this sacred isle.
Today Glastonbury is unique among small towns in the British Isles because of its rich mythic heritage and present day diverse and expanding spiritual community, whose residents encompass goddess, pagan, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Sufi and new age beliefs. The people who live here are an eclectic mix of individuals each following their own distinctively personal spiritual paths.
Glastonbury is famous world wide as a spiritual centre. It is known for its mystical vibrations, for the energies which people feel when they come here, for the synchronicities which begin to accumulate as we walk her streets and fields. It is no ordinary place to visit or live within. It is a place of pilgrimage for thousands of people who travel here from all over the world drawn by the mystery that is Avalon.
The Relationship between Glastonbury and Avalon
In my experience of living in this magical place for nearly a quarter of a century the relationship between Glastonbury and Avalon is that of two worlds separated by a shimmering veil. Where the town is the outer world where we all live and work and express our humanity, Avalon is the inner world where the goddess lives and our souls find their freedom. The two worlds of Glastonbury and Avalon are separated only by a veil of perspective, how we look at things.
The Veil of Avalon is like mist, like the fog which in autumn and spring often hangs low over the Vale of Avalon, shrouding the sacred land in mystery, hiding familiar landmarks, emphasising sounds and making us look more closely at the paths we are taking. For the Somerset folk this mist is known as the White Lady, who rises mysteriously up out of the watery Somerset levels at dawn and at dusk, drawing her veil across the landscape hiding her beauty.
Sometimes like fog the etheric Veil of Avalon is dense and impenetrable and at other times it thins and we can catch glimpses of another reality, which is the beautiful Avalon. This thinning of the veil seems to occur in a rhythmical pattern at particular seasons of the year, around the eight cross quarter and quarter days, and at the new and full moons. Then it is easier to pass into Avalon and to return safely.
The thinning of the veil is also personal. It concerns our individual spiritual unfoldment. It occurs naturally as we begin to open our consciousness to the existence and reality of the invisible worlds. We begin to see and feel what was formerly hidden from our eyes. We glimpse the shimmering etheric threads which connect everything and hold all life in form. As we walk upon Glastonbury’s soft hillsides we catch glimpses of beings and objects which are not physically present.
We may see structures from another age, standing stones, mounds, goddess temples, groves, the ancient abbey in all its glory, the monastery on the Tor, as well as visions of buildings of the future. The beings we see may emerge with indistinct forms, or as heightened colours or heavenly scents, or in more familiar shapes. We can see fairies, dwarfs, elementals, devas, Otherworldly creatures, humans, goddesses and gods. If we are lucky these beings may accompany us on our pilgrimages, whispering words of wisdom into our ears, answering our questions, guiding us into a new reality.
The veil that separates is both an outer and an inner reality. It is the misty Veil of Avalon which we cannot see or walk through without permission and an open heart. It is also the inner etheric veil that separates our material reality from the invisible worlds of intuition, soul and spirit. As awareness develops and consciousness expands these inner veils also thin allowing the subtle energies of the heart and mind to penetrate our everyday awareness.
Dion Fortune described the Veil of Avalon as fiery. In her experience of living for several years at Chalice Orchard at the foot of Glastonbury Tor in the 1930’s, she saw a veil of fire surrounding the Tor, separating Avalon from earthly Glastonbury. This fire could only be penetrated by initiates, the unevolved would perish in the flames. Perhaps there are many more initiates in incarnation today who are able to journey safely between the visible and invisible realms. Over the years I have met thousands of pilgrims who come to Glastonbury in order to pass through this Veil to experience the energies of Avalon and they succeed to some extent or another.
For some the pilgrimage to Avalon is unconscious. People are attracted to Glastonbury by the image of the Tor, by what they read in books and newspapers or see on TV or view on the internet. They come in large numbers to the many annual festivals held in and around the town in the summer months, including the huge Glastonbury Festival (a music and arts festival held five miles away at Pilton), the Children’s Festival, the International Dance Festival, or with spiritual intent they come to the fabulous Goddess Conference held here each Lammas to honour the goddess in the sacred landscape of Avalon. Every day more people arrive here for this purpose.
Which is not to say that the experience for anyone is necessarily all wonderful, because to pass into Avalon is to enter the place of transformation, to open oneself to change and that is not usually an easy thing for any of us to do. We may ask for transformation but we do not always know what that means, what we are asking for. Sometimes journeying through the Veil of Avalon can seem more like a passage through a veil of tears. We find ourselves weeping as deep emotions are brought to the surface of consciousness, as we face those parts of ourselves that have long been repressed and hidden away. They burst forth into everyday reality in powerful and overwhelming ways. We cry often at the sorrow and the sweetness of our earthly human lives and find suppressed anger spilling over at inappropriate moments out of our shadow selves.
Also there are those whose auras and psychic spaces have already been damaged in one way or another by life’s experiences, whose inner veils are erratically thin in places. As they come to Avalon to receive the Morgens’ healing touch which they need, individuals can be burnt by the experience of passing too quickly through the fiery veil. Some care and preparation is necessary.
People who have lived in Glastonbury for some time, who chose to come here to experience the powerful energies of the place, find that after an initial transformative experience which can last for several years, we are able to live to some extent in both worlds at once. We have one foot in the everyday reality of living in Glastonbury and one foot in Avalon. Our feet are on the ground and our hearts are in eternity and the process of transformation continues at ever deeper levels of consciousness.