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From a Drop of Water

The following is an extract from my essay, Nimue: An Archetypal Priestess as featured in the anthology "From a Drop of Water" published by Avalonia Books...



“Whatever happened to my part?”
~ The Lady of the Lake, Diva’s Lament, Spamalot

Good question! Most of us are familiar with the image of the sacred sword Excalibur rising from the lake, but how much do we know about the figure beyond the shimmering samite-clad arm? On the other hand, we all know about the figure who leads Arthur to the lake, and for those who know less, there are reams of information that is easily available in books, the internet and within films and popular culture. Not many would argue with the fact that Merlin, in his various forms, is the archetypal magician. He transcends his existence as an historical and mythological figure, assimilating the various tales and conflicting descriptions of his character to become an amalgamated image with which most people, even those with no interest in magick, can readily identify. To take this a step further, the power behind the stories and various versions of his character can be readily felt on a magickal level, and he clearly exists as a spiritual being in his own right with whom we can work and communicate. We don’t tend to think of Merlin as an outright deity, and yet there are direct parallels and correspondences with various well-known deities from many cultures, most notably Hermes/Mercury, Odin and Thoth, so perhaps we can consider him to be an avatar of sorts. But however powerful and important the male polarity of magick as represented by Merlin as the archetypal magician is, where is the female polarity? Even in these Goddess-dominated times of magickal practice, Nimue, Lady of the Lake and the lover of Merlin, is still obscured and misunderstood.

“…Then, in one moment, she put forth the charm
Of woven paces and of waving hands,
And in the hollow oak he lay as dead,
And lost to life and use and name and fame.

Then crying "I have made his glory mine,"
And shrieking out "O fool!" the harlot leapt
Adown the forest, and the thicket closed
Behind her, and the forest echoed "fool."…”
(Lord Alfred Tennyson, Merlin and Vivien, Idylls of the King.)

Here we see what remains the most persistent view of Nimue, (also known as Vivien, Vivienne, Niniane and so many other variants that names almost become irrelevant), as the evil enchantress who seduces and betrays the great and powerful Merlin with her feminine wiles. However this characterization is a relatively late development, growing out of an ignorance of the deeper mysteries that lie hidden within the myths. The above passage was written by Tennyson in the mid-nineteenth century, and its status as an inarguably great work of literature has had a huge influence over modern perceptions of Merlin’s lover. However, if we look at another well-known source written four centuries earlier, the basic story is the same, but Nimue’s character is rather more sympathetic:

“And always Merlin lay about the lady to have her maidenhood, and she was ever passing weary of him, and fain would have been delivered of him, for she was afeard of him because he was a devil’s son…”
(Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte D’Arthur, pg 100)

Malory drew on many different sources for his work, and that shows very clearly in the fact that his portrayal of Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, is highly inconsistent, ranging from entirely mortal and timid girl, to powerful Faery woman. There are however some nice hints hidden away in Le Morte D’Arthur that give us some clues as to her true power and importance. Most obvious of these is the fact that Nimue successfully and seamlessly takes over from Merlin as the protector and advisor of Arthur, who accepts her in this role without question. This is interesting, as Merlin was fully aware of the fact that Nimue was about to trap him and has informed Arthur of the fact and made his farewells. It is clearly a pre-arranged exit, and much more than a woman finding cunning means to be rid of her magical stalker! Another nice hint to her true nature can be found as the knight Sir Bagdemagus comes upon the stone beneath which Merlin is buried, and hears his voice emanating from the rock. However, the knight cannot lift it, and the voice of Merlin informs him that “he might never be holpen but by her that put him there.” An obviously significant moment is the gifting of Excalibur to Arthur, where we can see that the power clearly lies with the Lady of the Lake, that Excalibur belongs to her, and will return to her in time. She is seen to walk on the water, and Merlin describes to Arthur how her land may be found under the surface of the Lake, clearly establishing her as being otherworldly in nature. Out of the whole text though, the most profound yet subtle insight can be found shortly after this event, when Merlin asks Arthur which he prefers, the sword or the scabbard. Arthur, (being a boy), makes the obvious choice and opts for the sword. “You are more unwise, said Merlin, for the scabbard is worth ten of the swords…”
For those of us who like our esoteric symbolism, does this not imply that the real power lies with the receptive female?



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To read more, order From A Drop Of Water from Avalonia Books today!

http://avaloniabooks.co.uk/221/?page_id=329
www.childofavalon.com

Sir Lanval

 







Over the spring, I was privileged to create a set of banners for Fairytale Films and their version of the medieval romance of Sir Lanval- read about the project here! http://www.fairytalefilms.co.uk/lanval.html
I am really excited that these banners will be on display as part of an exhibition of costumes and props from the film for the last two weeks of November at the Flavel in Dartmouth. Those of you attending the Dartmouth Faery Ball and Laughing Magpie's Faery art and craft event will be able to see them then! www.laughingmagpie.co.uk
For those of you interested, here is some information about the symbolism of the banners I created... (which can be seen here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=212789&id=587505361)
Two pairs of banners were created to add to the setting of King Arthur’s Court for the beautiful new short film Sir Lanval. The first pair were conceived as an expression of the ideals of the court and the spiritual symbolism of the Arthurian mythos, incorporating iconic imagery and symbols from the Faery Tradition.
This ‘light’ pair of banners can also be seen as a magical polarity, sun and moon, Grail and Sword.
The Solar Banner
The Sword is a symbol of the sacred masculine, as well as obviously hinting at the magical sword Excalibur that was famously wielded by King Arthur. This association is emphasised by the depiction of the sword rising from the water, just as Excalibur was gifted to Arthur via Merlin and the Lady of the Lake. This is an ancient lesson in how the true power of sovereignty can only be truly gifted to the King though the power of the sacred feminine, a representation of the Goddess of the land. The sword is a symbol of truth and justice, both themes that may be found in the story of Sir Lanval. Below the sword may be seen the White Hart, a sacred beast that is often seen within Arthurian and Celtic tales to lead men to the blessed Otherworld or the land of the Fae, another important part of our story. You may notice the heart on the forehead of this magical beast. Love is of course the central theme of Sir Lanval, as with many courtly tales, and this same heart may be seen on all the other banners, always over the third eye, signifying the importance of inner knowing in matters of the heart.
Above the sword, the golden rays of the Sun shine their revealing light on all. The Sun is also a symbol of the divine masculine, and represents innocence, virtue and clarity.
The Lunar Banner
The Grail is one of the key themes of medieval Arthurian romance and is a symbol of healing, purity, and the sacred feminine. The symbol upon the Grail is a ‘triskel’, which represents the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth. The Grail itself emerges from the emerald green Earth, and is twined around by a red serpent, a symbol of the primal power inherent in the Underworld. At the base of the image is the face of a Faery woman, (you will note the heart again on her forehead, representing wisdom in love), who represents the living spirit within the land and of course the Lady Tryamour, Sir Lanval’s faery lover. The red and white roses which emerge from her being are a symbolic polarity found within Faery Tradition, representing Male and Female, Blood and Tears, Fire and Ice, and the powers of Below and Above.
The top half of the banner is dominated by the Moon, of course a polarity for the Sun and a powerful symbol of the Divine Feminine, representing magic, mystery and the power of the Otherworld.
The Death Banners
This matching pair of dark banners were conceived as a compliment to the changed atmosphere of the film as Sir Lanval is sentenced to death. The inspiration behind the image is the ancient Celtic Goddess, the Morrigan, a Faery Queen who ruled over war and death and would often take the appearance of a raven or crow. Her influence can be seen in the central crow’s skull, and the stylised form of a shadowy raven. However, we still see the re-occuring symbol of the heart on the forehead of the skull, showing that love may outlive and conquer all obstacles, even death…
www.childofavalon.com

The Daily Draw

 Many Tarot practitioners are in the habit of drawing one card, either on a daily or otherwise reasonably regular basis, to give an idea of their day to come, or as to their current state of being. It is the latter context, one probably utilised by those of a more spritual or magickal mindset, that has been occupying my mind today.

Instead of the usual single card, I had the urge to draw two, and then realised why... The act of observing the state of being instantly changes that state of being. A Tarot card, holding up a mirror to ourselves, instantly changes the level of our awareness, and hence our state of being, as we observe it. For there to be any point in the exercise at all, our level of understanding is increased and therefore the card as a reflection of our current state is no longer valid.

However, to choose TWO cards, one to show the state at the beginning of the transformative process, and the other to show the end, or at least a tangible point on the neverending process, we can find ourselves at some indefinable point between these two cards. What card best captures 'indefinable' other than Zero, the Fool? Thus we are always the Fool as defined only by the points of awareness that we are between...the cliff from which we leap, and the world that awaits our landing.
www.childofavalon.com

Her Sacred Fires

  

Why don't I blog? Goodness knows I spend enough time procrastinating on this blessed machine, I should at least do something useful... or if not useful than at least informative or amusing.

So in an attempt to revitalise my inner blogger, I shall begin with this book to which I recently contributed- Hekate: Her Sacred Fires. With over 50 contributors from all over the globe, this is easily the most ambitious and certainly the most impressive collection of its kind. From the immensely informative and fascinating introduction by the inspired editor of the piece, Sorita D'Este,  this book takes us on a journey through knowledge, hard-won experience, darkest madness and despair to the heights of star-fuelled illumination.

The essays reflect the individuality of the contributors, and are at times almost painfully open and raw. I have great admiration for those who have truly shared a piece of their soul, for in so doing, they open pathways of understanding to the many facets of the great Goddess Hekate. The pages are also littered with artwork from a number of artists, including myself, which adds to the feeling of holding a work of great beauty- no dry, unengaging academia here! Contributions range wildly in length and subject, yet all hold gems of insight. Some of the shortest snippets are among the most potent, in fact, and I was brought to tears when I first picked up the book and started to read. Love emanates from this work. It is a creation of pure devotion, for which all involved are to be honoured and praised, most particularly my friend Sorita D'Este for pulling it all together and birthing it into the world.

The end of the book gives us a real treasure- The Rite of Her Sacred Fires. This rite was performed by thousands across the world as a devotion to the mysteries of Hekate on 27th May 2010. To see and learn more, and even watch videos of the rite being performed, visit http://www.sacredfires.co.uk











www.childofavalon.com

Transparent Oracle

The Transparent oracle, sister deck to the acclaimed Transparent Tarot, is coming soon! Here is a sneak peek of the cards on the Schiffer Books website...

And here's some funky videos of my three decks so far! 

Off to read Practical Qabalah Magick and drink Baileys...

Blessings,

Em xx


xxx
www.childofavalon.com

And relax...

Well...it's January again. Oops. So brightest blessings for 2010 everyone!

To be fair it has been a very busy 2009, mostly in wonderful ways, with some great sadness. Not dwelling on the sad losses and looking at the productive sort of busy, The Transparent Oracle and its accompanying book are with the publishers now and already available for pre-order. The new shiny baby is due out in March and I must say I have high hopes that you will find it at least as delightful as her sibling, the Transparent Tarot! The Transparent Oracle is, (duh), also transparent and desined to be read in layers, but its ALSO circular, so can be rotated. it is based on the seven directions and correspondences of the Western mystery tradition, and forms mandalas when images are layered.

Also in 2009 I did a couple essays for Avalonia Books and a cover, which I thoroughly enjoyed!

I am also delighted to report that I finished the book for Tarot of the Sidhe recently and that is also due out in its complete form from Schiffer Books later this year!

And now I'm wondering what to focus on next...the Neverland Tarot, my children's book, or something else? Hmmm...

The other thing of great wonder has been our moving to the new house in Cornwall, which will be our full-time residence come easter- it already feels like a true and magical home!

I will be in london for a couple of days, and plan to ponder matters in the British Museum and Covent Garden :)

Blessings,

Em xx

Tags:

www.childofavalon.com

Busy, busy, busy!

...Which is great!

It's amazing to me that people keep asking me to do things, which is keeping me very busy! I've now finished the illustrations for Marion Pearce's book on Norse Mythology and the days of the week, and she's compiling the book now. More news on a publishing date for this when I have it!



I've also just finished a commission for Sorita D'Este and David Rankine of their baby son Aeron. This was a joy to paint- such a cute subject!



So the NEXT thing is that the Transparent Tarot has been doing so well, that Schiffer have asked for another transparent deck. This will be the Transparent Oracle, and I'm devising it right now. Very exciting! Another BIG project!

Now if only someone would publish the complete version of the Tarot of the Sidhe...

Blessings to all,

Em xx

www.childofavalon.com

So now it's January...

...So obviously I'm going to be VERY bad at keeping up to date with this blog!!!

Ah, well.

I found out today that I'm going to have my driving license revoked and will have to sit my test again. I was pleased at how quickly I managed to recover from upset, gloom and general peed-offed-ness. It will come, it will pass, (and hopefully I will PASS my test again!), and all will be well. Getting Willow to school will be an arse again- living in a tiny village with no public transport has this one down-side- but hopefully I'll be able to find a way.

Willow is back at school tomorrow after a looong winter break. I have to sew name labels into things. Domesticity? Not my forte.

Ah, well :)

On the good news front, I've been asked to do another magazine cover, the illustrations for the Norse book are all done, my latest commision is going very well, the Transparent Tarot seems to be a hit and I have hopefully a couple more things to be getting on with later in the year. It feels great that I don't have to chase work now, and that it often comes to me. I feel honoured and grateful, and also pleased with myself to have conjured a new career from nowhere after having to quit theatre.

Despite making it clear that I am willing to return to acting, I have not yet been offered a part in Doctor Who.

Ah, well...
www.childofavalon.com

Fields of Gold

Today, as I was walking on the fields in the golden autumn sunlight, I thought to myself it was so beautiful that it must be what the otherworld will be like when we die. And then I realised, no...it was THIS world, this life and what an incredible and beautiful gift it is. None of us should ever take for granted the simple pleasure of a breeze, the feeling of the warm sun on our face, or the humour of getting our boots stuck in the mud!

Everyone of us is blessed with a scared life. let us be grateful and live in sacred gratitude. It's so easy to misspell sacred as 'scared' y'know. You wanna watch for that, too ;)

Em xxx
www.childofavalon.com