Marion Zimmer Bradley is a name that I’ve been somewhat aware of for a while simply because Diana L. Paxson, who wrote Taking Up the Runes, worked with Marion and later took up charge of the Avalon books after Marion’s death. The book Mists of Avalon is one that I had never seen in person and never really thought that I would get to read, however I discovered it some time back in the library at work and couldn’t help but blaze through the novel in a matter of days. Undoubtedly I enjoyed the book immensely, the way it was written, it’s atypical focus for an Arthurian story, the exquisite attention to detail and more. I could not help but fall in love with many of the characters because of the nature of the book’s story; you are with the characters as they grow and mature and live their lives. Its hard not get draw in and become totally immersed in the story. Most of all, perhaps almost unfortunately so, the book didn’t just give me food for thought – it gave me a smorgasbord.
One of the fundamental ideas being explored in the novel is the idea of what deity is and by the end of the book we have witnessed the metamorphosis of the Goddess into the God of Christianity and the quite literal loss of the Isle of Avalon. Though this is a forgone conclusion, as is the conclusion of the story, it still gave rise to several strong emotions in me. The final observation by Morgaine le Fey struck a particularly strong chord – her observation being that perhaps it is not so terrible that the Isle of Avalon is leaving this world and that the God of Christianity has won out over the Goddess because the people still have some remnants of Avalon. The Virgin is imbued with the same aspects of the Goddess and the Holy Chalice of Avalon becomes the legendary Holy Grail. To Morgaine’s mind these few legacies, albeit in a very different form, make less terrible all the events of Arthur’s story.
I truly cannot express how much I recoiled from this and how much I’m still recoiling from it. I do not mean to say that the epilogue made me hate it because that is not true, I loved the novel and will undoubtedly read it over and over. I mean to say that the idea of even vaguely justifying the actions of the Christianity of the past and or, providing any kind of platform for its current form to justify its actions now or in the future was and is entirely at odds with everything I am as a person and a Pagan and Heathen. It is a hard thing to express, partly because the mere fact that I feel that is also at odds with a lot of who I am as a person and who I am as a Pagan and Heathen. Even trying to write sentences other than ‘not’ statements is difficult for me in this article.
If I breathe and think objectively about what about the epilogue makes me recoil I can group my thoughts into a few different clusters. However it more productive to say why I recoil rather than what I am recoiling from. Most prominently I find the idea of all Gods and Goddesses being one too close to the much more problematic idea of one God or Goddess being the one and only true deity. Where perhaps I am at fault for my recoil is in my belief that all gods and goddesses and divinities exist simultaneously and separately of each other and any and every given moment. Beyond this, fortunately, many of my concerns stem as much from my personality as from my praxis, which allows me the luxury of not voicing them. To end with a sweeter note after that bitter one, one of things ideas or things that I find extremely laudable is the way Marion expresses the respect and acknowledgement shown to Morgaine by the nuns of Glastonbury. The idea that two spiritually practiced or potent persons can recognise each other, even though they be from different praxes, and demonstrate respect for one another is one that I hope to see more widely spread in my lifetime.