Avalon Part 1: Myth and Legend

Photo courtesy of Peter Pracownik

Happy New Year, everyone! This time of year always makes me think of Avalon. Maybe that’s because I was first introduced to it (via the Mists of Avalon) during January. Whatever the case, it took root in my imagination and has been growing there ever since.

Avalon has been part of Celtic mythology and Arthurian legend for almost as long as the legends themselves. Also known as the Isle of Apples or Isle of Glass, it’s most popularly seen as a sort of Otherworldly paradise like the Welsh Annwn or the Irish Tír na nÓg. It was said to produce abundant crops that didn’t need tending and to be a place of never ending summer (much like Camelot in the musical version). Tradition says it was inhabited by nine queens or priestesses known for their mystical and healing abilities. King Arthur is said to have been taken there (in some versions by Morgan) after receiving his mortal wound from Mordred at the battle of Camlann. Some say he never died, but sleeps there still.

But one thing no one can seem to agree on is where Avalon is located. Locations in France, Spain, Italy, the Mediterranean, the Orient, and even somewhere near the Garden of Eden have been put forth over the years. In more recent times, many writers (and a few scholars) have attempted to connect Avalon with the island of Atlantis, or at least the survivors of its great tidal wave and destruction. (I happen to like this theory, but its only just that.)

Today, popular opinion names Avalon’s real word location as Glastonbury in Somerset, England, thanks to a “grave” discovered in 1190 by a group of monks. According the legend, the grave contained the bones of two bodies, a very tall man, and a woman, whose blonde hair was in tact when the monks opened the casket. The grave marker is said to have borne the inscription, “Here lies renowned King Arthur in the island of Avalon” or “Here lies buried the famous King Arthur with Guinevere his second wife in the isle of Avalon.” This discovery has long since been discredited as a hoax arranged by the monks of an abbey on the site to bring in pilgrims (and thus, revenue), but the connection remains in popular consciousness.

This is the first in a three-part series exploring the holy isle. Next week we’ll take a closer look at Glastonbury and the remarkable geographic features that have fed the continuation of its association with Avalon.

What legends associated with Avalon have you heard? Do you believe it exists? Why or why not? This is by far my favorite part of Arthurian legend, so I’m anxious to get a conversation going.

6 thoughts on “Avalon Part 1: Myth and Legend

  1. Pingback: Avalon Part 1: Myth and Legend « Through the Mists of Time | Pracownik

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  3. Hi, I love the legends that suround Avalon and have been looking for possible clues and hints to try and draw my own conclusion. Not sure if your interested but there were a couple of left field metaphysical explanations which I felt rang true. Basically Avalon moved into another dymention and like Auther will one day return. There was also mention of gateways that some will be able to move through to get back to Avalon we just have to be like the gateway or energy to get there. If science is starting to discuss the possibility of other dymentions and the legends and science are combined I think we maybe closer to this beautiful possibility then we realize. So don’t stop dreaming cause dreams do come true.

  4. Hi Ester,

    It’s always great to meet a fellow seeker. I love the ideas you mentioned! Do you have any sources (websites, books, etc.) where I might learn more about them? Both ideas would fit well into a future book I’m planning (unrelated to my Guinevere books).

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the gateway idea was true. I’ve heard testimony from people who have claimed to visit Avalon in a meditative state. It’s up to you to form your own opinion on the vailidty of such claims, but they seem to back up that idea.

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  6. Hello Nicole love what I have read so far and looking forward to reading the rest I have been starting to do some research into possible locations, (I have mainly been looking in the UK) and have found quite a few possibilities and I agree with Esther’s mention of a gateway making me also look into pocket dimensions which if it was created by magic there should be some traces still which any powerful clairsentience should be able to just about pick up on. I have plans of traveling to these locations some when to see if I notice any difference in the energies if u would like me to give u a list of the locations a have and the theories then feel free to contact me though Facebook (I am the only Matthew Totham on there and would rather give that out instead of my email)

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