The mists of avalon, p.1
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       The Mists of Avalon, p.1

         Part #1 of Avalon series by Marion Zimmer Bradley  
The Mists of Avalon


  The Mists of Avalon

  Marion Zimmer Bradley

  THE BALLANTINE PUBLISHING GROUP • NEW YORK

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  Title page

  Epigraph

  Prologue

  Book One: Mistress of Magic

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Book Two: The High Queen

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Book Three: The King Stag

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Book Four: The Prisoner in the Oak

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Epilogue

  Acknowledgments

  About the Author

  Panel page

  About Ballantine Books

  About This Title

  A Reader's Guide

  A Letter from Diana L. Paxson

  Reading Group Questions and Topics for Discussion

  Copyright page

  “. . . Morgan le Fay was not married, but put to school in a nunnery, where she became a great mistress of magic.”

  —Malory, Morte d’Arthur

  Acknowledgments

  Any book of this complexity drives its author to sources far too many to be listed in entirety. I should probably cite, first, my late grandfather, John Roscoe Conklin, who gave me a battered old copy of the Sidney Lanier edition of the Tales of King Arthur, which I read so often that I virtually memorized the whole thing before I was ten years old. My imagination was also stirred by varied sources such as the illustrated weekly Tales of Prince Valiant; and in my fifteenth year I played hooky from school far oftener than anyone realized to hide in the library of the Department of Education in Albany, New York, reading my way through a ten-volume edition of James Frazer’s The Golden Bough and a fifteen-volume set of books on comparative religions, including an enormous volume on the Druids and Celtic religions.

  In direct research for the present volume, I should give thanks to Geoffrey Ashe, whose works suggested several directions for further research, and to Jamie George of the Gothic Image bookstore in Glastonbury, who, in addition to showing me the geography of Somerset and the sites of Camelot and Guinevere’s kingdom (for the purposes of this book, I accept the current theory that Camelot was the Cadbury Castle site in Somerset), guided me through the Glastonbury pilgrimage. He also drew my attention to the persistent traditions surrounding Chalice Well in Glastonbury, and the long-standing belief that Joseph of Arimathea had planted the Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill; I also saw there many materials exploring the Celtic tradition that Jesus Christ had been educated in the wisdom religion at the temple that once stood on Glastonbury Tor.

  For material on pre-Augustinian Christianity, I have used, by permission, a privately circulated manuscript entitled “The Pre-Constantine Mass: A Conjecture,” by Father Randall Garrett; I have also drawn upon materials from the Syro-Chaldean liturgies, including the Holy Orbana of St. Serapion, as well as liturgical materials from local groups of St. Thomas Christians and Pre-Nicene Catholic groups. The excerpts from Scripture, especially the Pentecost story and the Magnificat, were translated for me from the Greek Testaments by Walter Breen; I should also cite Christine Hartley’s The Western Mystery Tradition and Dion Fortune’s Avalon of the Heart.

  Any attempt at recapturing the pre-Christian religion of the British Isles has been made conjectural by the determined efforts of their successors to extinguish all such traces; scholars differ so much that I make no apology for selecting, among varying sources, those that best fit the needs of fiction. I have read, though not slavishly followed, the works of Margaret Murray and several books on Gardnerian Wicca. For the feel of the ceremonies, I would like to express my grateful thanks to local neopagan groups; to Alison Harlow and the Covenant of the Goddess, to Otter and Morning-Glory Zell, to Isaac Bonewits and the New Reformed Druids, to Robin Goodfellow and Gaia Wildwoode, to Philip Wayne and Crystal Well, to Starhawk, whose book The Spiral Dance proved invaluable to me in helping deduce much about the training of a priestess; and, for much personal and emotional support (including comforting and backrubs) during the actual writing of this book, to Diana Paxson, Tracy Blackstone, Elisabeth Waters, and Anodea Judith, of the Darkmoon Circle.

  Finally I must express loving gratitude to my husband, Walter Breen, who said, at a crucial moment in my career, that it was time to stop playing it safe by writing potboilers, and provided financial support so that I could do so: also to Don Wollheim, who always believed in me, and his wife, Elsie. Above all, and always, to Lester and Judy-Lynn del Rey, who helped me to outgrow categories in writing, always a scary business, my grateful love and thanks. And last but not least to my elder son, David, for his careful preparation of the final manuscript.

  prologue

  Morgaine speaks . . .

  In my time I have been called many things: sister, lover, priestess, wise-woman, queen. Now in truth I have come to be wise-woman, and a time may come when these things may need to be known. But in sober truth, I think it is the Christians who will tell the last tale. For ever the world of Fairy drifts further from the world in which the Christ holds sway. I have no quarrel with the Christ, only with his priests, who call the Great Goddess a demon and deny that she ever held power in this world. At best, they say that her power was of Satan. Or else they clothe her in the blue robe of the Lady of Nazareth—who indeed had power in her way, too—and say that she was ever virgin. But what can a virgin know of the sorrows and travail of mankind?

  And now, when the world has changed, and Arthur—my brother, my lover, king who was and king who shall be—lies dead (the common folk say sleeping) in the Holy Isle of Avalon, the tale should be told as it was before the priests of the White Christ came to cover it all with their saints and legends.

  For, as I say, the world itself has changed. There was a time when a traveller, if he had the will and knew only a few of the secrets, could send his barge out into the Summer Sea and arrive not at Glastonbury of the monks, but at the Holy Isle of Avalon; for at that time the gates between the worlds drifted within the mists, and were open, one to another, as the traveller thought and willed. For this is the great secret, which was known to all educated men in our day: that by what men think, we create the world around us, daily new.

  And now the priests, thinking that this infringes upon the power of their God, who created the world once and for all to be unchanging, have closed those doors (which were never doors, except in the minds of men), and the pathway leads only to the priests’ Isle, which they have safeguarded with the sound of their church bells, driving away all thoughts of another world lying in the darkness. Indeed, they say that world, if it indeed exists, is the property of Satan, and the doorway to Hell, if not Hell itself.

  I do not know what their God may or may not have created. In spite of the tales that are told, I never knew much about their priests and never wore the black of one of their slave-nuns. If those at Arthur’s court at Camelot chose to think me so when I came there (since I always wore the dark robes of the Great Mother in her guise as wise-woman), I did not undeceive them. And indeed, toward the end of Arthur’s reign it would have been dangerous to do so, and I bowed my head to expediency as my great mistress would never have done: Viviane, Lady of the Lake, once Arthur’s greatest friend, save for myself, and then his darkest enemy—again, save for myself.

  But the strife is over; I could greet Arthur at last, when he lay dying, not as my enemy and the enemy of my Goddess, but only as my brother, and as a dying man in need of the Mother’s aid, where all men come at last. Even the priests know this, with their ever-virgin Mary in her blue robe; for she too becomes the World Mother in the hour of death.

  And so Arthur lay at last with his head in my lap, seeing in me neither sister nor lover nor foe, but only wise-woman, priestess, Lady of the Lake; and so rested upon the breast of the Great Mother from whom he came to birth and to whom at last, as all men, he must go. And perhaps, as I guided the barge which bore him away, not this time to the Isle of the Priests, but to the true Holy Isle in the dark world behind our own, that Island of Avalon where, now, few but I could go, he repented the enmity that had come between us.

  As i tell this tale I will speak at times of things which befell when I was too young to understand them, or of things which befell when I was not by; and my hearer will draw away, perhaps, and say: This is her magic. But I have always held the gift of the Sight, and of looking within the minds of men and women; and in all this time I have been close to all of them. And so, at times, all that they thought was known to me in one way or another. And so I will tell this tale.

  For one day the priests too will tell it, as it was known to them. Perhaps between the two, some glimmering of the truth may be seen.

  For this is the thing the priests do not know, with their One God and One Truth: that there is no such thing as a true tale. Truth has many faces and the truth is like to the old road to Avalon; it depends on your own will, and your own thoughts, whither the road will take you, and whether, at the end, you arrive in the Holy Isle of Eternity or among the priests with their bells and their death and their Satan and Hell and damnation . . . but perhaps I am unjust even to them. Even the Lady of the Lake, who hated a priest’s robe as she would have hated a poisonous viper, and with good cause too, chid me once for speaking evil of their God.

  “For all the Gods are one God,” she said to me then, as she had said many times before, and as I have said to my own novices many times, and as every priestess who comes after me will say again, “and all the Goddesses are one Goddess, and there is only one Initiator. And to every man his own truth, and the God within.”

  And so, perhaps, the truth winds somewhere between the road to Glastonbury, Isle of the Priests, and the road to Avalon, lost forever in the mists of the Summer Sea.

  But this is my truth; I who am Morgaine tell you these things, Morgaine who was in later days called Morgan le Fay.

  Book One

  Mistress of Magic

  1

  Even in high summer, Tintagel was a haunted place; Igraine, Lady of Duke Gorlois, looked out over the sea from the headland. As she stared into the fogs and mists, she wondered how she would ever know when the night and day were of equal length, so that she could keep the Feast of the New Year. This year the spring storms had been unusually violent; night and day the crash of the sea had resounded over the castle until no man or woman within could sleep, and even the hounds whimpered mournfully.

  Tintagel . . . there were still those who believed the castle had been raised, on the crags at the far end of the long causeway into the sea, by the magic of the ancient folk of Ys. Duke Gorlois laughed at this and said that if he had any of their magic, he would have used it to keep the sea from encroaching, year by year, upon the shoreline. In the four years since she had come here as Gorlois’s bride, Igraine had seen land, good land, crumble into the Cornish sea. Long arms of black rock, sharp and craggy, extended into the ocean from the coast. When the sun shone, it could be fair and brilliant, the sky and water as brilliant as the jewels Gorlois had heaped on her on the day when she told him she bore his first child. But Igraine had never liked wearing them. The jewel which hung now at her throat had been given her in Avalon: a moonstone which sometimes reflected the blue brilliance of sky and sea; but in the fog, today, even the jewel looked shadowed.

  In the fog, sounds carried a long way. It seemed to Igraine, as she stood looking from the causeway back toward the mainland, that she could hear footfalls of horses and mules, and the sound of voices—human voices, here in isolated Tintagel, where nothing lived but goats and sheep, and the herdsmen and their dogs, and the ladies of the castle with a few serving women and a few old men to guard them.

  Slowly, Igraine turned and went back toward the castle. As always, standing in its shadow, she felt dwarfed by the loom of these ancient stones at the end of the long causeway which stretched into the sea. The herdsmen believed that the castle had been built by the Ancient Ones from the lost lands of Lyonnesse and Ys; on a clear day, so the fishermen said, their old castles could be seen far out under the water. But to Igraine they looked like towers of rock, ancient mountains and hills drowned by the ever encroaching sea that nibbled away, even now, at the very crags below the castle. Here at the end of the world, where the sea ate endlessly at the land, it was easy to believe in drowned lands to the west; there were tales of a great fire mountain which had exploded, far to the south, and engulfed a great land there. Igraine never knew whether she believed those tales or not.

  Yes; surely she could hear voices in the fog. It could not be savage raiders from over the sea, or from the wild shores of Erin. The time was long past when she needed to startle at a strange sound or a shadow. It was not her husband, the Duke; he was far away to the North, fighting Saxons at the side of Ambrosius Aurelianus, High King of Britain; he would have sent word if he intended to return.

  And she need not fear. If the riders were hostile, the guards and soldiers in the fort at the landward end of the causeway, stationed there by Duke Gorlois to guard his wife and child, would have stopped them. It would take an army to cut through them. And who would send an army against Tintagel?

  There was a time—Igraine remembered without bitterness, moving slowly into the castle yard—when she would have known who rode toward her castle. The thought held little sadness, now. Since Morgaine’s birth she no longer even wept for her home. And Gorlois was kind to her. He had soothed her through her early fear and hatred, had given her jewels and beautiful things, trophies of war, had surrounded her with ladies to wait upon her, and treated her always as his equal, except in councils of war. She could have asked no more, unless she had married a man of the Tribes. And in this she had been given no choice. A daughter of the Holy Isle must do as was best for her people, whether it meant going to death in sacrifice, or laying down her maidenhood in the Sacred Marriage, or marrying where it was thought meet to cement alliances; this Igraine had done, marrying a Romanized Duke of Cornwall, a citizen who lived, even though Rome was gone from all of Britain, in Roman fashion.

  She shrugged the cloak from her shoulders; inside the court it was warmer, out of the biting wind. And there, as the fog swirled and cleared, for a moment a figure stood before her, materialized out of the fog and mist: her half-sister, Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, the Lady of the Holy Isle.

  “Sister!” The words wavered, and Igraine knew she had not cried them aloud, but only whispered, her hands flying to her breast. “Do I truly see you here?”

 
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