Avalonian Magic: The Folklore, Deities, and Plants of Avalon
What Is the Isle of Avalon?
When I first heard the words Isle of Avalon, I had no clue what the person was talking about. But for some reason, the words were like music to my ears. Perhaps it was that way for you and maybe you came to this article searching for a few answers. You've come to the right place. I plan to keep things simple but poignant and describe what the Isle of Avalon was, how it came into existence, and how it left this world altogether.
The Isle of Avalon is now a place from legend—a magical place that was said to have existed in ancient times up to the early medieval period in England. Many people visit this place now, but it is known by another name—Glastonbury Tor. To put it simply, the Isle of Avalon was a place where a group of highly spiritual people lived and worshiped the gods of old. It is also the place where King Arthur was said to have died and been buried. But let us take a further look into this...
Avalon's Mysterious Origins
Avalon was described in the Arthurian legends as being a island where there were people of a "magical" nature, including nine magical sisters who might also be considered priestesses. One of those nine sisters was said to have been Morgan Le Fay (in some accounts she was a sister to King Arthur). There were apple trees that grew on the Isle of Avalon, in fact this is where Avalon acquired its name. The people who lived there lived off of whatever the land produced naturally—including apples, grapes, and wild herbs. They honored the sun and the moon, a god and goddess, and all things that were balanced. King Arthur was said to have been brought to Avalon by Morgan Le Fay when he was on his deathbed after a fierce battle. His body was buried on the Isle of Avalon. The legends say he will return from Avalon to rule England one day.
There are theories that Avalon was established by some of the priesthood who escaped Atlantis after its fall. One of those priesthood might have been Merlin in a past incarnation. Another might have been the famed Lady of the Lake, also called Vivienne (amongst other names). Avalon was a peaceful place, where its inhabitants focused on their connection with the gods and nature. They lived off the land and learned from one another. Their main goal was to unify England and keep the "old ways" alive as Christianity began its great rise in Europe.
Avalon is said to have been on the very spot where Glastonbury Tor is today. It can be found in the county of Somerset in Southwestern England. Today it is a large hill jutting out from the green landscape, topped by a roofless Medieval building that was once St. Michael's Tower. But how was Avalon an island if it was said to have been on this hill, surrounded by land? Scientists say the hill was once surrounded by marshlands, but has since changed with the changing landscape. So technically, it could have been looked at as an island...surrounded by mist. The misty look described in legend and in modern fiction about Avalon is said to originate from an optical illusion. Wikipedia says, "The low-lying damp ground can produce a visual effect known as a Fata Morgana when the Tor appears to rise out of the mist.This optical phenomenon occurs because rays of light are strongly bent when they pass through air layers of different temperatures in a steep thermal inversion where an atmospheric duct has formed." Or is the mist of a more mystical origin? (Pun intended.)
After Avalon disappeared (by unknown means), a church and hermitage were founded on the same spot during Early Medieval Times and came to be known as Glastonbury Tor. Some say these were actually the first buildings established, as they try to deny Avalon existed; however, archaeologists have found artifacts dating back to Neolithic Times at Glastonbury Tor. Interestingly, there is a spiral walkway up the hill called Terraces that historians claim have been there since Medieval times. Others believe they have been there since long before Medieval times, and the pathway was used as a part of a sacred walk up the hill to the top. This is similar to walking a labyrinth...the person walking the path can go into a trance or into a meditative state and may experience something profoundly spiritual. While some believe the terraces were a result of natural weathering, others believe the terraces were placed there by the Avalonians long before the Christians came to build churches on the Tor.
But where did Avalon go? What became of it? No matter how it originated or disappeared, we are still able to tap into its magick in modern times...because it still exists in our ancestral memory...to some of us it is within our very DNA. And to others, it can be reached on the astral plane any time we are ready.
Connecting with the Magickal People of Avalon
One of the simplest ways to tap into the magick of the Isle of Avalon is to spiritually reach out to some of the magickal people who once visited or lived there. Some of these legendary icons have actually become gods and goddesses since their time on Earth. Or were they gods and goddesses when they were here? Here are some of the Avalonians...
Morgan Le Fay
Morgan Le Fay is the mystical fairy-lady of the Isle of Avalon. In some accounts she was evil, and in others she was kind and caring. Some say she was actually the Lady of the Lake, while others say that she wasn't. Some of the Arthurian legends call her Arthur's sister and his savior in the end. She is often associated with fairies and with the element water. She is said to be a priestess that knew the old ways. To connect with her, connect with the fairy realm. Put up a picture of her on your altar or somewhere in your home where you will see it every day. Learn the way of healing with herbs, just as Morgan Le Fay did.
King Arthur was tied to Avalon through blood—through his sister Morgan Le Fay—and some say his Aunt was Vivienne (the Lady of the Lake). He was given Excalibur, a sword forged in the heart of Avalon. To connect with King Arthur, keep a sword or an image of a sword on your altar or in your home. You can also read the Arthurian legends to gain a better understanding of the legendary king himself.
Many women feel they have a connection with King Arthur's wife, Queen Guinevere. She was said to be a very dedicated and pious woman and queen. And in other legends, she was an adulterer...having an affair with King Arthur's friend/cousin Lancelot. If you'd like to connect with Queen Guinevere, you can hold a rosary in your hand when speaking to her. You can also keep the image of her or of Mary (Mother of Jesus) in your home. Guinevere was said to have been a devout Christian woman.
Lady of the Lake
The Lady of the Lake has been called quite a few names, more popularly Vivienne. She gifted the sword Excalibur to King Arthur to help him in his fight against the Saxons. She knew the secrets of the old ways and of Avalon, and was the high priestess. To connect with her, connect with the element of water...scry in a lake or in a mirror to see her image and potentially speak with her. Honor the moon.
Merlin was a great wizard and is featured in some of the Arthurian legends. Some sources claim he was an ancient being, not just a mortal. He was friends with the Lady of the Lake and stayed in Avalon quite often. He taught King Arthur as a child. To connect with Merlin, read any of the poetry or Welsh triads that include Merlin. You can take up the practice of wizardry, or ask him to visit you in a dream or vision. Connect with nature through the trees, as Merlin's favorite place was among the trees.
By studying any one of these legendary Arthurian/Avalonian figures, you can better understand their personalities and stories and therefore connect with each of them seamlessly.
Using Magickal Plants from Avalon
Another way to tap into the magick of Avalon is to connect with some of the plants that were thought to have thrived on the Isle of Avalon. You can do this by planting and caring for these plants in your own yard or garden, by visiting these plants in a nearby garden or orchard, or by weaving their magick into your cooking, teas, baking, or herbal healing recipes.
We know for sure that apples were prevalent just by the name of the magical island. Apples have long been thought to be a representation of the Goddess. Cut an apple in half horizontally and you will find the seeds form the shape of a pentagram—a symbol often connected to the Goddess herself. Apples also symbolize knowledge...think about the story of Adam and Eve. Eve was tempted to eat the "apple" from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. For her to take a bite was for her to gain knowledge.
Grapes have just as magical a history as apples and have long been associated with Avalon. Grapes make wine and therefore represent wildness, freedom and lust. They are also a part of the harvest-season and therefore symbolize abundance and prosperity. Dionysus was a Greek God of lust and wine and so his sacred plant was the grapevine. They also symbolize fertility.
Herbs in Avalon grew wild, and they were used by the priests and priestesses in daily life. They were used to heal and also as simple forms of food. You can learn the wild herbs in your area and learn how to ethically forage and use these wild herbs. By doing this, you are connecting to the very essence of Avalonian magick.
My Dream of Avalon
I just wanted to leave you all with a little bit of a background to this article/hub. I first dreamed of the Isle of Avalon when I was a child, not knowing that it was Avalon I was dreaming about. My first dream was of walking up a spiral pathway (paved with cobblestones) up the sides of a large green hill. There were trees and plants on either side of me and going up the side of the hill. There were even plants growing up from in between the stones on the spiral pathway. There were men and women traveling up and down the pathway. There was something extremely surreal and magical about this dream, and the memory of it has stuck with me for years.
A couple of years ago, I explained this dream to someone and this person said, "that sounds like Glastonbury Tor." I had no idea what she was talking about and reluctantly did some research and realized that indeed I was dreaming of the Isle of Avalon...specifically of Glastonbury Tor how it looked during the age of Avalon. From that moment forward I knew in my heart of hearts that I have been to Avalon...whether in a past life, in another dimension or on another plane, or just in a dream...I have been to Avalon. And I'll bet many of you have too!
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© 2015 Nicole Canfield