Ynis Afallach Tuath


Avaloniana Path


The Wheel


Ynis Afallach Tuath


Reflections on its meaning today

(© Caillean)

Nine sisters on the holy isle of Avalon dance by the foggy banks, their long hair loose in the soft breeze that gently shakes the blossomed apple branches. Nine women on  silvery moonlit nights blow the Awen magic essence on the fire of the cauldron of Avallach, or perhaps of Ceredwen, distilling precious essences, weaving warps and wefts in mankind’s fate.


Nine ladies capable of turning into ravens and swans, experienced in the healing craft and in spellcraft, lead dead souls to the shores of the Island of the Dead in order to carry them along the spirals of existences. Nine Goddesses watch over the Great King’s mortal remains and with ancient knowledge wait for his return, the day when Avalon will resurface form the mists.


These are the pictures that immediately spring to mind, brush against the thresholds of awareness resurfacing from the deep junghian lake of collective unconscious, when in our modern times we hear about the Sisterhood of Avalon. Something so magical and mysterious which also attracts those who know nothing about the sacred island. Nowadays, in the pagan world and more specifically in avalonian tradition-oriented groups, there is much talk of sisterhood and many words  are wasted on who and what is a Sister. Very likely, if you asked ten different women for a definition of this concept, you would get ten different answers, perhaps in some cases standing at opposite ends, none of them either right or wrong. This short article is born from a reflection triggered by conversations shared with my group and with other people who crossed my path and by what I could learn from them.

First of all, it is perhaps necessary to explain that the concept of sisterhood is somewhat peculiar to the Avalonian Tradition and it is based on ancient myths, legends and historical texts which tell the tale of nine women, more likely nine goddesses, who lived on the Isle of Avalon and were experienced in healing craft and spellcraft. Moreover they were capable of shape shifting , turning into animals and traveling in spirit to faraway places. Some texts quote their names and many groups refer to them as the nine Morgens, the nine daughters of the God Afallach, whose the most famous is surely Morgan-le-Fey. The few historical sources we have nevertheless differ on various aspects and the nine sisters are shrouded in layers of mist and mystery just like the holy Isle of Avalon. Yet the purpose of this article is not to examine in detail the reference texts and the mythological origins of these characters, but to propose some thoughts on the impact they have on our daily practice.

Neo-pagan groups, in particular those who follow a mainly divine feminine-oriented path, are largely based on a concept of sisterhood among the female members.

I have personally heard many women call each other sisters or longing to find other women with whom to be able to feel really sisters . Sisters. That is, women with whom to share that same loving of the world we feel when at last we come back to the primordial Great Mother, when we feel her embrace once more welcoming us home after years of spirit peregrinations in the desert of patriarchal society. Women who, like us, skip a beat when they hear the name Avalon. Women who can dream and believe, plan and build up together a new reality where the Goddess has once again a role in the world. Women who pine away in a melancholy known only to us, for a mysterious world that we cannot bear to consider lost, a world made of priestesses and sisters who dance in the moonlight, around forbidden fires. An island shrouded in thick fogs and enchanted lakes waiting to come back to the human world.

Yet, in real life feminine spiritual groups very often split up owing to downright wars among some of the members caused by disagreement, sad struggles for power, deceit and betrayal, or presumed so, of a sister against another. In this way, many women find themselves alone to walk an eclectic  path or refrain from attending other groups for fear of disillusions. Doesn’t the sisterhood exist, then? How can it exist if the woman we considered a sister stabs us in the back, and this just to impress the others?


I think the problem basically lies in the same concept we hold of sisterhood. It is highly unlikely that a group of women of very different age, culture, experiences, social background among themselves, who may know each other a little better than slightly, can go hand-in-hand for lengthy periods over delicate questions  open to very personal interpretations such as spiritual matters. Along the way we may find kin-souls who will be friends and sisters for more than one turn of the Wheel. But we will also find women with whom we will openly clash, women who will betray our trust and will turn down our expectations. Women with whom to confront ourselves, debate, sometimes harshly collide. Bit I deem these experiences as fundamental in personal growth and evolution. Perhaps we should start thinking that a sister is not only she who loves us and backs us up, she who does not  judge us and takes us for what we are. Sister is also she who provokes us and leads us to overcome our limits, she who drives us mad and reconsider our beliefs, she who betrays us and teaches us not to place our trust in everybody. Sister is also she who does not understand us and prompts us to make thins clear especially with ourselves, who puts us before our faults, our shortcomings.

Sisters for me are those special people the Mother put on my path to support me and be as spring water on my wounds. Sisters are those who have driven me to improvement, to searching, to question myself all along. They are also those who made me suffer and doubt of everything, drove me mad and made me behave badly to make me aware of my best qualities and of the darkest side of my soul.

Sisters are all the girls in my group who inspire me everyday, cause me to think and confront myself: women who are not afraid of simply being true to themselves.

Sisters are those who deceived me and attacked me, allowing me to understand what I really believe in and how much courage it takes to be myself to the end.

Sisters are women like myself who pray the Mother, are moved by the moon, hug a tree and heal a pup. Sisters are all those I do not personally know but who live, love, suffer and rejoice everyday under the same sky as myself and partake of the same wonderful nature the Mother has given us. For I really believe that all of us women are somehow sisters in the Goddess. Imperfect and wonderful. And if Avalon is not for all of us, it always belongs to all of us, a syntesis of every contrast and accessible from multiple paths.

Traduzione a cura di Abigail_derwen


© Ynis Afallach Tuath, 2008/2009
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