Ynys Afallon. Island of Apples. The Blessed Isle.
Her very name evokes the sense of serenity and wholeness one would expect for a place revered as an Island of Healing and a resting place for the beloved dead. Known to us from the pages of legends and through the transmission of folklore, Avalon today holds a special place in the heart of Neo-Pagans, especially those who draw spiritual inspiration from Brythonic Celtic lore, Arthurian tradition, and Welsh mythology. For some, she is the Summerland, where the souls of the dead abide in joy as they await rebirth and where a healed King Arthur sleeps, anticipating Britain’s need. For others she is the British iteration of the cloistered women’s communities which can be found dotting the historic and folkloric landscape across the Celtic world; the women of these Ninefold Sisterhoods were renowned as healers, shape-shifters, augers, and priestesses. For still others, the Holy Isle of Avalon is a symbol – an archetype for the whole and empowered person, who is complete unto themselves, having feasted upon the fruits of their own inner wisdom and found the Goddess dwelling there within.
Self actualization, reclaiming one’s sovereignty, and acknowledging one’s connection to Source are the three chains which uphold the Cauldron of Transformation sought by those who seek the Holy Isle. Inspired by the vision of Avalon as a template for spiritual wholeness, the journey to Avalon – in the tradition of Celtic Wonder Voyage tales which require journeys over water to reach the islands of the Otherworld – has much to teach us. The path one must travel to reach the Holy Isle is itself a metaphor for the process of self-actualization, and in undertaking this quest, we learn to hear and trust our inherent wisdoms as we work to become conscious in our connection to the Divine.
To begin, we must first call the barge – to verbalize that which we need as we announce to the Universe our intention to seek transformation. Then, we must undertake our journey across the lake, whose waters represent the depths of the unconscious. Through this process, we see that the path to wholeness requires that we look within, and part of what we will see reflected in those inner waters are the Shadow aspects of the self – the illusions we have come to believe about who we are, the wounds that keep us from being whole, and the emotional baggage which weighs us down and prevents us from moving forward to birth forth our full potential.
These challenges manifest as the veil of mists which keep us from seeing ourselves and the world around us with clarity, and which keep us disconnected from the Source of wisdom which lies within us. Parting these mists reveals the mirrored surface of the lake, upon whose surface the truth of who we are is reflected; it is from these maternal waters of rebirth that we, like King Arthur, receive the sacred sword of Avalon from the hand of the Lady of the Lake. This is the weapon which allows us to see with clarity and act with truth, for by confronting our Shadow, we have earned the sword of Sovereignty – empowering us to act in the world with conscious self-determination.
With the way made clear, we reach the Holy Isle of Avalon at last, and find ourselves standing on the shores of the place which Geoffrey of Monmouth describes thus, in the Vita Merlini:
The island of apples which men call ‘The Fortunate Isle’ gets its name from the fact that it produces all things of itself; the fields there have no need of the ploughs of the farmers and all cultivation is lacking except what nature provides. Of its own accord it produces grain and grapes, and apple trees grow in its wood from the close-clipped grass. The ground of its own accord produces everything instead of merely grass, and people live there a hundred years or more.
Here, we are presented with a vision of a self-sufficient community, which – after outlining its purpose, thoroughly examining its weaknesses, and embracing its strengths – is able to meet its own needs and provide a safe and sacred home base for those who have come to dwell there. This sense of being complete in and of one’s self is one of the goals of those who walk the path of the Avalonian Tradition, and while much work is focused on that which is within us in order to seek a way to meet one’s own needs on a personal level, we also work to apply this ideal to the ways in which we choose to be in community with others.
It is a powerful exercise to meditate on the ways that the women of Avalon and the other examples of the Celtic Ninefold Sisterhoods – be they the Breton Korrigan, dancing by moonlight around holy wells, or the Gallisenae dwelling on their sacred island off the coast of France, or the cloistered women of Cill Dara tending the flame of Brigid in Her fire temple – may have built thriving and enduring communities which were perhaps founded on principles of communal self-sufficiency, collective interdependency, and interpersonal balance.
The joy of all that is Avalon is a powerful song in the heart of all who are called to seek her shores. Beyond the mists of distant memory, the Island of Apples awaits… The renewed quest for the Otherworldly Vessel of Transformation brings with it the blessings of Awen — the Divine Spark of Inspiration.
Here then is a sharing of some of the fruits of my personal journey into the Mysteries of Avalon and the power of the Cauldron of Changes. This site contains some of my writings and publications, music and art, workshops and trainings, resources and recommendations — all inspired by almost three decades of formal study, inner questing, dedication to the Holy Isle, and in service to my Sisters and the Goddesses of our tradition. It is my hope that there may be some small seed of something on these pages that will inspire you in your own quest for Ynys Afallon, and that however you choose to journey, you will come to drink deeply of the Vessel of Sovereignty that lies nowhere but within.
“In a world in which many women are struggling to find a spiritual connection that makes sense to them and a connection to their own self-esteem and empowerment. Jhenah has offered a path that pulses with ancient wisdom and modern relevance… In terms of ancient wisdom, Jhenah’s scholarship is impeccable. In terms of modern relevance, her insight is inspirational.”
— Tiffany Lazic, Kitchener, ON Canada