Avalon, the Mirror Isle

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Long, long ago, before the legends were made, before the stories of heroes and magic were passed like flagons around a peat fire, Avalon was a green jewel of an island floating in an inland sea. The way to this island was always by boat, each vessel woven by hand, and guided skillfully through thickets of willow and sedge, following the winding, ever-changing paths formed by water and land.

The people of this land learned to find the high spots in the water to build their villages, and stayed away for all but the summer months, when the flood waters receded. This land was called Somerset, “land of the summer people.” It is among these first people that all our stories of the Sacred Isle begin. Avalon was sacred first simply because she was there: a refuge from the rising tides, a source of food, of fiber, an anchor and place of safety in a land ruled by the fickle gods of the waters and the weather.

Avalon is an island of mirrors, then as well as now. In the beginning, it was surrounded by mirrors: the smooth surface of the lake reflecting the deep blue sky above, or cloaked in mist so thick that it veiled the land and obscured all beyond range of our fingertips. And today, our Avalon, the Avalon of our myriad stories, is a mirror for all our longings, our yearnings for the past and our deepest dreams for the future.

For the stories that have been handed down to us have taken twists and turns of their own on their way through the marshes of time and memory. They sometimes reveal vistas, reward us with nourishment for the soul, only to vanish again or be lost as a new story appears to take another’s place. There is no true path anymore among these stories; no way to follow the sure path through the wetlands and step foot finally onto dry land. The levels have long been drained, and people dwell today where none were in the time of legends.

All we have now are our mirrors, and some beautiful ones there are. We dream of a lineage of priestesses, a place of wisdom, a school of mysteries, all the things our hearts yearn for. We can see it, feel it, enter there and journey in, around, and through that landscape clear as day. And then our mirror fogs with mist, and we see instead a steep, sheep-grazed hill crowned with the ruins of an ancient church.

Where do we go when we visit Avalon? Why do we seek it? What do we hope to find? When we come together to invoke Avalon, we create a brilliant mosaic of mirrors, our stories of what might have been. Together we rebuild the waters, re-grow the willow and sedge, weave our own boats and journey to the beat of our own drums, through the mists of time and down the winding path formed by water and land.

We seek the Shining Isle; how could we not? And yet, that is not where this journey leads. In the center of the mirrors is always our own heart, our own Story. And who but ourselves will tell us when we have found dry ground at last?

5 thoughts on “Avalon, the Mirror Isle

  1. Marya Post author

    An inspiring post, thank you for this — when I was a small child I read about a white horse coming out of the sea as a messenger from the Isles of the Blessed and I read up everything I could find on Tir na nOg.

    As a young and troubled Catholic convent I loved imagery to do with ‘the new Jerusalem’, that shining city free from tears or the fear of death. As I returned to explore older pagan understandings I would dream of the Elysian Fields.

    And here in Africa there are holy mountains like Nyangani or Kilimanjaro that can be climbed but never fully explored — real places that are also metaphors for the inner journey.

  2. Cari Ferraro Post author

    Anne, this a beautiful post. Having visited Glastonbury in 1997 and felt drawn there by invisible gossamer threads I can resonate with these musings. It is a magical place. Thanks for stirring up this cauldron of memories.

  3. Hecate Post author

    Oh, my. Wonderful. Reminds me of the Charge of the Goddess: “And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.

    For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.”

  4. Deborah Oak Post author

    Beautiful, Anne!! I will be traveling there this summer, in every way. I’ll be teaching at Avalonspring, right outside of Glastonbury. This post helps me prepare for that journey.

  5. Thalia Post author

    I have been there when the apple trees were in bloom, and looked down from that steep steep hill at the water shining in the drainage ditches. I live in what was ancient Avalonia even now, and though I am here in New England, not Old, there is a Somerset named for that old summer settlement a town or two over.

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