By Laura Nutley (Cariad)
As many of us know, Samhain, or Calan Gaeaf (the Welsh name for the sabbat) is a time of introspection and self examination. At this time of year the path to Avalon takes on a particular resonance through the shared themes of transformation, regeneration and inspiration.
I have been drawn to the Avalonian tradition for some time and am fortunate enough to live near Glastonbury, which has been a place of pilgrimage for me for many years. Glastonbury is widely believed to be the physical world’s representation of Avalon. A portal to a place of many names: the Isle of Women and the Isle of the Dead. It is also a gateway to Annwn, the Otherworld of Welsh mythology: a place where two realities co-exist side by side and where the energies of Avalon permeate the landscape and touch those who visit there. Glastonbury, and all that is associated with it, is therefore especially relevant to this time of year and the festival of Samhain. The themes of thresholds to be faced and traversed and of regenerating yourself for the year to come through inner transformation are inextricably woven into both.
Glastonbury is a place where the veil between worlds is thinner, where the doorway to the Otherworld is left ajar. In much the same way Samhain tells us we must face our inner nature and reconcile both visible and invisible realities.
Ynys Avallon, or the Isle of Apples as it is known to the Welsh, can be journeyed to as part of your Calan Gaeaf celebrations both as an outer pilgrimage to Glastonbury or as a journey to your inner self in a quest for inspiration and guidance. Cerridwen, in particular, is a Goddess who may be called on to light the way to Avalon as the keeper of the Cauldron governing rebirth, transformation and the knowledge and inspiration of Awen, or divine inspiration.
Avalon as a concept exists both as a place within ourselves and in the hidden realms or Otherworld. It is very real, in that what it embodies is real. It represents real goals on a personal spiritual level and also lessons and ideals that need to be applied to our communities in a wider sense. I think that Avalon can teach us greater self knowledge, a truer connection with the world and those around us and an insight into that which is hidden within us. Our intuition, our connection to the divine and an understanding of this life and the next are all subjects that can be explored through walking the path to Avalon.
Avalon is a concept that enables and encourages us to become empowered in the truest sense of the word. Another theme, I believe that should be reflected upon at the time of Samhain. Simply put, to me, ‘empowerment’ means being your own person. It means believing, owning and accepting your own power and being true to yourself. In this we need to travel within ourselves and ask Cerridwen to help us to achieve a state of knowing. In this knowing we can discover and thus better remain in step with our true natures.
Being empowered means owning your power rather than putting it in the hands of someone else. Instead of conforming to what society or another individual sees as being your role, or your limitations, it means understanding and accepting who you are as an individual and being true to what that entails. This can mean having the inclination and courage to try and learn something new, even if others say you can’t do it or that it’s just not ‘you’. It means following what your heart and soul tells you and being at home and happy in following your own personal path.
Being empowered also means being strong. It means being strong enough to stand up for yourself. It means knowing yourself and being truly self-aware and being able to accept and see all your qualities, good and not so good. This empowerment means having more meaningful and honest relationships with those around you. Empowerment also means having confidence in yourself, your intuition and your thoughts and feelings about situations and the surrounding world. Therefore being empowered ultimately means having the power to truly follow your heart and mind and your path through life.
The Sisterhood of Avalon has a motto; Remembering, Reclaiming, Renewing which I think is pertinent to every single one of us, and each part of it can indeed be related to our selves. It is a key to achieving empowerment as individuals and as part of the wider community. To me, ‘remembering, reclaiming, renewing’ are stages in the quest to transform ourselves and as such are steps on the road to Avalon.
Remembering means to remember our true selves. The motto asks us to remember our true nature and where we have come from. Also to remember our spiritual history and the lessons our ancestors and those who have walked the path to Avalon before us would give us. If, as I believe, we all are connected and part of the history of the universe it can also mean to remember that connection to everything we have within ourselves and thus the wealth of knowledge available to us.
Reclaiming means to take this knowledge that was perhaps hidden or forgotten and reclaim it as being part of ourselves. To take what we discovered in the remembering part of the motto and integrate it and apply it to our daily lives and perceptions of the world around us. It means reclaiming the path to Avalon and the path of the Goddess as being vitally relevant in our lives and societies today.
This then brings us to Renewing. Through remembering and reclaiming we then renew ourselves in our own eyes and in the eyes of the Goddess. This acceptance of our true selves leads to our own personal transformation and allows us to grow further whilst following our chosen path.
On a larger scale, renewing ourselves will in turn renew society as a whole and, hopefully, allow there to be a greater balance between the feminine and the masculine and therefore a greater harmony in the world.
This, in essence, can be seen as the message of Samhain and the purpose and ultimate aim of walking the path to Avalon.
©Cariad (Laura Nutley)