The Sacred Landscape

The Body of the Great Mother

          The Isle of Avalon has existed not in one place, but in many places over time.  Tradition tells us that the first Avalonian Order existed in a Sacred Landscape defined by nine archetypal sites, each of which contained variations on the same archetypal features:  a Tor (a 'hollow hill' functioning as a World Mountain, Tree, or axis mundi); Cave (or interior of a barrow mound); three sacred Springs (red, white, and black/grey); Ringstones, Menhirs, or Holey-Stones; Processional Ways; Paps or Birthing mound; underground Passageways connecting different parts of the site and leading to a central temple at the root of the axis mundi; an Eternal Flame; Mounds or Dwellings housing the Isle's Sister and Brotherhoods; a Lake or Summer Sea surrounded by Marsh or Level Plain, and a Star Temple or Landscape Zodiac.  These features, which radiate Avalon's signature energy, may be on a modest scale compressed into a small area, or they may be on a grand scale sprawling dozens of miles across the landscape,  but they are always present, so it is important to learn to recognise them.

"Midsummer Sunset" by Alan McKenzie ​​

Features of Avalon's Sacred Landscape

"Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake)" (2004) by Chris Downer

The Tor: The Spine (Hollow Hill or Axis Mundi)

          The Tor represents the Axis Mundi, often represented as the World Tree or Mountain.  As such, it is always located at or near the centre of the megalithic complex or regional site.  The axis of the hill is a portal between worlds.
"Knowth" (2005) by Przemysław Sakrajda (cropped, textured) {{ GNU}}  
"Peche Merle Grotte, Lot, France  [Reproduction] {{ PD-1923 }]}

The Sacred Stones:  The Crown  (The Summit/The Upperworlds)

          Stone, especially stone with a high crystalline or metallic content, amplifies, transmits, and stores energy.  Just as acupuncture is used to redirect energy within the human body, menhirs (standing stones) were often used to redirect currents of energy in the landscape.  Crystalline stones can also be programmed to remember.  The summits of hills are typically defined by two types of energy: an active outer perimeter (or 'ring'), surrounding a passive centre.  Sacred mountains and hills usually have a third element: a vortex, or double vortex encompassing all or most of the summit.  Putting a ring of stones around the summit of these sites allows ritualists to use the vortex's central portal to facilitate, amplify, and more easily direct and control certain ritual functions.

          Oral tradition and folklore attest that the ringstones which once crowned the Tor were torn down and incorporated into the foundation of the ruined St. Michael's tower --all but two, that is; the Living Stones, which still mark the entrance to the Tor labyrinth.  The remains of a cairn and two burials are evident on the summit.  Though the recent, severe erosion has left its position off-centre, local legend claims that this cairn is the burial place of the last Lady of Avalon, whose body was removed when Christians took over the site. It is possible that each Lady of Avalon was interred here for a time, before being relocated to a nearby barrow mound; a practice which was common from the Mesolithic through the early Bronze Age.


The Cave:  The Root  (The Cave of Initiation/The Underworlds)

          The archetypal Cave or chamber is generally at the roots or base of the World Tree, Mountain, or axis mundi, corresponding to the Root/Cauldron of Warming described in Celtic literature and myth.  This is the Womb-Tomb of the Mother Goddess, the place of Death, Gestation (or Healing and Respite), and Rebirth.

          The Tor cave and its egg stone present a more complicated picture.  A cave is an underground/Underworld environment.  The Tor Cave is closely associated with the Wise Woman/Crone Goddess, Ceridwen, two of whose creatures (the hen and the serpent) lay eggs which incubate after being laid (Root/Cauldron of Warming).  Its location halfway up the Tor puts the Cave at the centre of the Tree/Mountain/axis (Navel/Cauldron of Motion).  Eggs, like seeds, are the bearers of new life and as such are loaded with high vibrational energy (Crown/Cauldron of Wisdom).  Thus, the Cave and its Egg Stone correspond with all three Cauldrons.  However, the Root/Cauldron of Warming seems to be the primary correspondence, given:  (1) Ceridwen's association with the Cave in local legend and folklore; (2) the underground/Underworld environment of all caves; and (3) the fact that the vaulted chamber at the root of the Tor, which originally held this role, is no longer accessible except through Ceridwen's Cave.


The Sacred Springs:  The Orifices (Red, White & Black/Grey)

          Although Sacred Springs are sometimes developed as wells, they are always natural features.  They are the secret orifices in the body of the Sacred Landscape (i.e. eyes, mouths, ears, and reproductive gateways).  The quality of the water, and the vessel which contains it, determine the orifice, and the type of healing it offers.  In ancient times, Sacred Springs and Wells were served by sects of Maidens who were charged with caring for them, ministering through them, and ensuring they were not misused.  This care included ritually opening and closing the spring or well each dawn and dusk.  Celtic myths emphasize that failure to observe these obligations invariably results in cataclysmic inundations; killing many people (often including the Well Maidens), while forming new water features (i.e. rivers, lakes, etc.) in the Sacred Landscape.  The most important Sacred Springs are located at the centre of a Sacred Landscape; features of the megalithic complex's Naval, near the Heart Centre and the mound, hill, or tree marking the World Tree/Mountain/axis mundi.


          Ynys Witrin/Glastonbury, Somerset ("the Summer Country" or "Land of the Summer Stars") has a total of nine springs in fairly close proximity, three of which are known to have been considered sacred:  the Red Spring (or "Chalice Well"); the White Spring; and the Ashwell Spring.  Two of these are still regarded as sacred; the third now lies at the centre of a traveller's encampment. The Red Spring is named for the rust deposits left by its high iron content; the White for its calcium content; and the Black (Ash) Well for a sacred ash tree which once flourished beside it (though it is actually ash coloured where it briefly runs across Ashwell Lane).  These colours, which typically symbolize the Great Goddess, are central to the alchemical symbolism of Avalon.

The Processional Ways:  Songlines & Spirit Ways (East and West)

          Every megalithic complex needs ritual processional paths for its ritualists, and in some cases, for the public.  They were also commonly employed to connect different features of a ritual complex, and different sites within regional ritual centres.  The paths themselves usually follow 'Spirit Ways' or 'Songlines'; powerful currents of energy within the land along which souls and spirits are said to travel, and which often become the wooden or stone trackways which precede paved roads.  The passive energy of these underlying currents lend themselves especially well to the contemplative focus of ritual processional.


          There are two Processional Ways in Somerset:  the masculine avenue, which now runs east from Chalice Well up the west side of the Tor, but likely originally began at Bride's Mound or Beckery; and the feminine avenue, which runs west from the two giant oaks, Gog [incinerated in April 2017 by a carelessly placed tea light] and Magog, up the east side of the hill.  Both are extensions of the Michael and Mary Ley Lines, which coil around the Tor's flanks and summit.  Masculine-aligned oaks once lined the women's avenue, while feminine-aligned yews lined the men's avenue.  This pairing of exalted opposites affirms the use of the site for the highest forms of ritual ceremony, since only the most accomplished adepts work with the polarity or gender opposite to their own.  [See also, 'Trackways', below.]

The Mount(s):  The Paps or Navel

          Mounts functioning as the 'navel/belly' (spiritual evolution) or 'paps' (giving/receiving spiritual nourishment).  The pregnant belly of Glastonbury's Chalice Hill and the Paps of Byanu (e.g. Mynydd Bodavon, Wales/Left; cognate to the Paps of Anu, Cill Airne, Ireland) evoke the fruitful Mother Goddess who dominates all Avalonian landscapes.
"Mynydd Bodavon" by Keith Williamson

The Passageways:  The (Re)Birth Canal

          Tunnels or passageways connect the subterranean ritual cells or chambers underlying each feature of an Avalonian megalithic centre; converging at a vaulted chamber beneath the site's World Tree/Mount/axis mundi. Toning and chanting in these chambers and tunnels was a powerful way to activate the site's (and the region's) spiritual power.  Secondary trackways mapped the tunnels above ground, and provided convenient ceremonial paths across an otherwise difficult landscape.
Somerset Tunnel (Painting of original photo by unknown artist.)

The Lake or Inland Sea, Marshlands or 'Levels':  The Belly (The Lake Village)

          The ancestors never built regular dwellings on their ceremonial sites; their settlements skirted the edges of the sacred precincts; clusters of mound or pole-houses, dotting the marshy meadows between ritual areas and the surrounding fens and woodlands, connected by wooden trackways which ended abruptly at the shores of the Lake or Summer Sea.  Though the Sea receded in winter, it left behind a treacherous, impenetrable bog.  The ancestors living in these lake villages supplied the boatmen who poled the Druid Barge across the waters to the ceremonial complex, and their communities supported the Holy Isle by supplying it with labour and goods in exchange for the Druids' services.  The still waters were a liminal area equivalent to 'the aethers'; the dangerous no-man's land through which one passes when crossing from this plane of existence to the Otherworld after death or during Dreaming (spirit journey).  These seasonal bodies were a common feature in throughout Western Europe and North America in the time before seawalls and drainage projects.

          In Somerset, the Summer Sea covered the Levels, reducing the Tor and six other mounts to islands; during the winter months, the mounts rose out of an illusory Sea, created by dense banks of mist.  A lake feature serves this same function at Mynydd Bodafon ("Mount of the River Dwelling"), the Welsh site corresponding to Glastonbury Tor.  Its main mount, Yr Arwydd ("the Sign or Signal") is the highest point on Mona, the Isle of Angelsey.  [Its true summit lies further south near two smaller, spring-fed lakes (Cors Fawr, "the Big Marsh", and another lake which has become a reservoir), which have their sources beneath Caer Idris (Mount Snowdon).  The summit is said to be "bottomless".]

The Eternal Flame:  ​The Heart (The Fires of Brígantia)

The Triple Flame:  Wisdom, Inspiration, Justice
          Bríga's Flame is located at her Fire Temple in Cill Dara, at Bride's Mound and in the Upper Room of Little St. Michael's at Chalice Well, Somerset.  The Eternal Flame is usually located at or near the Wellspring, as together they represent the Heart and Navel; the Sacred Centre of Avalon's Sacred Landscape.  A Priestesshood of nine (later nineteen) Avalonian Priestesses tend the Flame, with Bríga herself taking the last watch.
          The Eternal Flame is said to be tripartite with different meanings attributed to each flame or aspect by different regions.  In Ireland, the Flames represent the 'cloister' (the centre of the Order), the hearth (the centre of the home), and the community or festival (the centre of ceremony).  In Wales, they represent the forge (justice), the hearth (wisdom), and the head (Awen or inspiration).

The Star Temple or Landscape Zodiac  (The Wheel of Ages & Seasons)

The Trackways:  Spirit Ways

          It is not uncommon for trackways (and later roads) to form part of these effigies.  They are created by digging to enhance the outlines of the effigies, and become convenient ways to continue accessing them without having to tread over them.  ​[See also, Processional Ways, above.]
          The purpose of a Star Temple is to create a pilgrimage path through the stars which can be walked on the Earth; reducing a transformational journey of many lifetimes to a size which can be easily incorporated into regular contemplative and ceremonial practice.  Glastonbury, Kingston-upon-Thames, 'The Lizard' (Cornwall), Bodmin Moor, Pumpsaint, Nuthampstead, and Sheffield all boast Star Temples (terrestrial Zodiacs) of varying sizes and configurations. All are places where existing landscape effigies mirroring the constellations of the Zodiac have been recognized and enhanced by generations of locals.

          Even without our lore, there is ample evidence of local knowledge of a Star Temple in the Somerset landscape dating from the earliest times. Ancient place names corresponding to its celestial features, and the testimony of occultists such as Dr. John Dee (astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I), who visited and charted the site several times around 1580, all attest to an antiquity long predating the arrival on scene of Katherine Maltwood or Mary Caine.
"Temple of the Stars" (1934) by K. E. Maltwood  {{PD-US-not renewed}}

Summary

          We learn the Sacred Landscape first through our healing studies and work, since these focus on a landscape with which we are already intimately familiar:  that of our own bodies.   Just as different body systems serve different body functions, so different Regional Centres and Sacred Sites serve different ritual functions.   The assignment of these functions is determined by the inherent energies of the location and its interplay with the stars above.  This is as true of the place where you live, as it is of Avalon's Motherland; the only difference is that sacred places amplify these qualities and compress them into a time and space where we can more easily see and understand their influence upon our lives and destinies.  This process of being shaped by the land is called the Landscape Initiation.

          Since every Avalonian site includes all of these archetypal features in some form and configuration, we study them in the simplest form possible.  The landscapes of Somerset and Wiltshire offer us the most compact systems for study. Once we know these systems, we may examine those designed on grander scales; ultimately, engaging in comparative studies of all three ancient Avalonian Orders in the Isles, Western Europe, and North America. Our object in undertaking this work is to apply ancestral wisdom and methodologies authentically and appropriately to the places we now live in order to discover the land's inherent qualities and its hidden potentials, so we may work with them more effectively in the course of our spiritual practices.  Ynys Afallon's three regional centres (Ynys Witrin/SW UK; Ynys Môn/Central UK, including Mona, Wales, and the Gododdin or Lothians, Scotland; and Inis Druideach/N Scotland from Calanais to the Orkneys) have already been re-activated and renewed by Avalonians who are resident to those areas.  Others are working to restore Ynys Afallach (the Order in Western Europe), and we are working to re-activate and renew the Order where we reside, Ynys Afallenia (or 'Avalonia' in North America).  Re-activating the Orders is a way of resanctifying the land, and reaffirming our bond with Sovereignty, while deepening and accelerating our spiritual evolution.



[ NOTE:  Visit the " Avalon in America " page of this website and the Aspirant board of our Member Forum  for evidence which supports oral tradition lore about Ynys Afallenia and information about the Tribes which members have received during Shared Dreaming. While this is by no means all the evidence, these pages offer clues on where to to find it. Academics and scientists seldom reach consensus quickly when new data and information emerges, especially when it contradicts long-held assumptions and beliefs, and papers upon which professional reputations have been established. Therefore, look beyond the opinions to the actual evidence across a variety of authoritative sources on both sides of the argument, and let the entire body of evidence inform your own judgements.