Frequently Asked Questions
Q - How long has the Sisterhood of Avalon
been in existence?
A: The Sisterhood of Avalon was formed in 1995. Its founder has been working in what has evolved into the Avalonian Tradition since 1988.
Q: With which Goddesses does the SOA work?
A: The SOA works with Goddesses of the Welsh pantheon, and more specific information about this can be found here. Although we respect and honor the Masculine manifestation of Divinity, as a Sisterhood we have chosen to work solely with the Divine Feminine. We believe that as women we are better able to relate with Feminine Energies, and that this enhanced relationship enables us to more closely align ourselves, as women, with the Goddesses of Avalon.
Q: What Gods are honored in the SOA?
A: Though the Gods of the Welsh tradition are respected and honored, they are not the focus of the work or rituals done in the SOA.
Q: Why does the Sisterhood of Avalon work with the Welsh Goddesses since Glastonbury, the site of Ancient Avalon, is in England and not Wales?
A: The SOA works very specifically with Welsh Celtic/Cymric energies because the legends of Ynys Afallon, the Island of Avalon, comes to us from Welsh Tradition. The culture of the Celtic Britons was best preserved in the lands we now recognize as Wales, while the rest of Celtic Britain was changed from the various invasions of the Romans, Saxons and Normans; therefore, we look to the Welsh literature and traditions for the seeds of Awen that are the foundation of the Avalonian Tradition.
Q: Why are you limited to the Welsh Pantheon? What about other Celtic Goddesses like Bridget?
A: We believe that the major God and Goddess forms which come down to us from Cymric/Welsh culture most closely mirror those which thrived in the same regional, cultural and temporal context as Ancient Avalon. While there are some linguistic, philosophical and traditional commonalties between the Six Celtic Nations, it is an error to believe that there was one Universal Celtic culture. We choose, therefore, to maintain our focus on the Welsh Celtic materials, to come to better understand the culture from which Avalon arose. While Bridget, an Irish Goddess, has come to have associations with Glastonbury, they occurred during the Christian period in the guise of St. Bridget.
Q: From which mythic cycle does the SOA draw inspiration?
A: The SOA draws the majority of its work from Y Mabinogi (The Mabinogion) and Welsh Bardic materials written down in the Medieval period.
Q: Is the Sisterhood of Avalon based upon the series of books by Marion Zimmer Bradley?
A: While The Mists of Avalon and its sister books have been a portal into the realms of the Goddess and Avalon for many women, the SOA does not draw any of its traditions from these books; we look to much older sources. Any similarities which may exist are reflections of having taken inspiration from common source materials. Marion Zimmer Bradley herself considered the Goddess religion presented in her books to have been “made up,” and she draws heavily from Wiccan materials for the rituals depicted in her books.
Q : How can you be an Avalonian group that is not based in Glastonbury or in the UK?
A: While the SOA has members from all over the world, it is true that the majority of our Sisters do not live in the United Kingdom; in fact, we are an incorporated non-profit organization in the United States. The SOA as an organization has pledged support to Chalice Well Trust, the Glastonbury Goddess Temple, Friends of Bride’s Mound and hosts Pilgrimages to Sacred Sites in Glastonbury and Wales - our tradition’s Motherland.
Our individual sisters study the history, culture and landscape of Wales and Celtic Britain, and have made personal Pilgrimages, participate in the Glastonbury Goddess Conference, and support the site of Ancient Avalon in their own ways. We connect with the energies of Avalon from an archetypal perspective that does not necessitate our being physically present on the land that was once the site of Ancient Avalon. Geography, therefore, is no barrier.
We do stress the importance of immersion in some aspect of Celtic British culture -- language, art, music, folk-tradition, craft, literature, and poetry -- as an integral part of working in the Avalonian Tradition. We stress fact over fantasy and discernment skills over imagination. We seek a balance between scholastic achievement and intuitive wisdom.
Q: If I join the SOA, do I have to give up my previous “Pagan ways”?
A: Many members explore other pathways or religions. It is expected however, that when doing SOA work, only Avalonian teachings be used. We embrace a path of specificity rather than one of eclecticism.
Q: I’ve noticed that there are other groups calling themselves Avalonian and claiming to hold titles from the SOA. Is the SOA a member of any umbrella group? Are there any independent groups operating under SOA auspices? What titles and/or degrees does the SOA grant?
A: The SOA is a fully independent, self-regulating entity. We are a daughter group to no other organization and we have no subgroups operating under our auspices, save for our Hearths, Novice Hearths and Learning Circles, which are fully a part of SOA study and the Avalonian Tradition.
It is necessary to make an important distinction; teachings and guidance are presented from a distance, but the WORK is done by each sister at her own altar and in her own heart. There can be no armchair Sisters of Avalon -- only through the DOING can wisdom be obtained. The mysteries will only reveal themselves to the dedicated seeker; they will not be found in a lesson or an e-list or a chat room.
While a woman in the SOA may serve as a member of the Board of Trustees, the Council of Nine or as a chairperson of one of our committees, these titles indicate a place of service within the organization, and only last for the duration of tenure in these positions. They do not in any way represent spiritual achievement or authority, nor do they confer any ongoing endorsement by the Sisterhood. Any attempt to equate these positions with spiritual authority within the Avalonian Tradition is misleading and unsupported by the SOA.
The Sisterhood does have Levels of Attainment, which reflect the amount of study a sister has successfully completed. These Levels are: Aspirant, Novice, Apprentice, Sister and Wise Woman. The term ‘Elder’ is not used within the SOA vernacular; there has been no conference of the title ‘Elder’ within the Avalonian Tradition.
Q: What is the Morgen?
A: The Morgen is the title held by the woman who is, according to our bylaws, the primary authoritative spokesperson for the theological direction of the Sisterhood of Avalon. She is roughly the equivalent of the Archdruid in other orders and traditions. Every woman in the SOA is equally a Sister; simply, the Morgen’s service is to hold the Sacred Center of our tradition. The SOA is comprised of women in various stages of learning, wisdom, and experience; Sisters learn from each other and from inner work at our personal altars. There are bylaws governing leadership roles.
Q: How does a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon become a Priestess of Avalon?
A: The SOA does not initiate Priestesses; we feel that a Priestess of Avalon cannot be “made” by any earthly authority. We treat this title with great respect and honor and do not use it lightly. In the days of old Avalon, it took a woman at least nine years of daily work and full immersion in service to the Temple of the Goddess to become a first level Priestess -- and not all women who served on Avalon ever gained this title. It took many years for a woman of Avalon to become a Priestess, and then she did so with the advantage of living in a closed community dedicated solely to the work of the Goddess in an established continuum.
Today, alas, we do not have the advantage of being cloistered on an Island, and while we are actively remembering, reclaiming and renewing the traditions of old, becoming a priestess is not something that can (or should) be accomplished easily or through the reading of a book or completion of a course. How can we, who work in the mundane world of endless distraction, in a different cultural context and without constant support for our work, think we can attain this goal in the same amount of time, much less in LESS time than our foremothers?
Attending a few Avalonian workshops and being active in the Sisterhood for a few years does not a Priestess make. Becoming a Priestess is a life-transforming experience and one that comes from the fruit of commitment to self-transformation and inner growth. A woman is recognized a Priestess by her actions and her very presence of being. It need not be spoken, nor imprinted on a business card. No woman can pass through the doors of Initiation as Priestess without some profound and lasting inner change occurring in her life.
Q: What learning opportunities are available and when are they offered?
A: After a month Orientation period, new members are invited to join in various discussions that take place on the main SOA mail list. After having been a member for three months, women are invited to begin Questing and also have the option of joining the Avalonian Theological Seminary. Questing is included with the yearly membership dues; there is additional tuition to join Seminary. The SOA also offers in-person, hands-on training through its four day learning Intensives. There are Three Intensive Levels presented by the SOA; Level One is open to non-members, while Levels Two and Three are not. Please check the SOA website for more information about Seminary and for upcoming Intensive dates. The Sisterhood sponsors various Sister-facilitated study groups dedicated to specific areas of inquiry. Presently, these include: Welsh Language, Fiber Arts, Healing Arts, Poetry, and Divination.
Q: I am very excited by the Avalonian Thealogical Seminary! How can I become a student?
A: In order to be eligible to study with the Avalonian Thealogical Seminary, a woman must be a member in good standing of the SOA.
Q: Are teachings done in-person or through correspondence over the internet?
A : For those who do not have Hearths or Learning Circles in their areas, or who are unable to travel to residential Intensives, teaching is primarily done through correspondence over the internet. We encourage women who do not have a Learning Circle in their area to apply to begin one and to attend a Level One Intensive to acquire the skills and tools to begin a Novice Hearth. This will help foster a deeper connection to your studies, although we firmly believe that with determination and drive, women can still accomplish all of their goals through our self-paced, home studies. It is important to know that the Sisterhood does not provide a manual for reference or memorization. Rather, our teachings are designed to guide the seeker to her own wisdoms within the context of the Avalonian Tradition.
Q: Can I be a solitary SOA member or must I join a Hearth?
A: The majority of Sisters in the SOA walk a solitary path. Indeed, even those who work within the context of a Hearth or a Learning Circle do so as individuals walking solitary, yet parallel paths. The advantages of working in community with other Sisters are many, but a solitary sister is not at any great disadvantage especially if they dedicate themselves fully to the work and are active in our vital on-line community. We believe strongly in the ethic that we get out of this work only what we put into it.
Q: I am a man who has always been called to the service of Avalon; why can’t I join your organization?
A: We appreciate the fact that many are drawn to the Shores of Avalon. The Sisterhood of Avalon is an all-female Order dedicated to the Service of the Goddesses of Avalon. While we are obligated to retain our focus, there are many Pagan, Wiccan and Druidic groups which work with the energies of Avalon that will surely meet your needs better than we could. We wish you blessings on your journey.
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