Creating Physical Sisterhood
By Sharon, the Community Matron
There are many things about the Sisterhood of Avalon that set us apart from other spiritual organizations. One of the most important distinctions is our structure and our approach to community.
We address hierarchy and priestess craft in a different way than most other contemporary spiritual organizations. We look at our service to community and to the Ladies of Avalon via the energetics and lens of the feminine. Our tradition is focused on personal transformation and internal processes and not external magics or ‘spell craft’. We do not ask to be given, but ask for the tools to see with clarity and live authentically. Ours is an internal path which, like the labyrinth spirals inward and projects us upward, forward and downward simultaneously. We are a mysteries tradition that provides tools, but not rote learning of facts. We charge that only the by the hand of the Lady is a priestess made, we do not bestow that title. We have no book of shadows to memorize, but a process of continuous unfolding. Ours is the spiraled path.
As dedicants to the Avalonian path we find ourselves walking the path of Avalon yet we are not secluded on a magic isle, hidden and protected from the patriarchal world. We are always seeking access to Her shores. In creating our authenticity and connection with Avalon, we breath Her into being more and more. Many of us come to the sisterhood from a cultural perspective that is contradictory to the energies of Avalon. We come from and live in a world that holds classes of differentiating that is based in the masculine principle, the active principle of the All. We, however, work solely with the feminine archetype, the ‘passive’ or receptive principle of the All. From Hermetic teachings we learn that the universal energies which create the world as we experience it, is birthed by force and form. Force is the masculine or active principle and form is the passive or feminine principle. We connect with the latter in our approach to the spiritual work that we do in our tradition and attempt to honor that energy throughout our manifestation of our community.
Many sisters come from previous pagan and other spiritual communities where the structure is hierarchical and based in levels of attainment and connection to the Divine. Unlike many other faiths, we are not beholden on the priest-class to connect with the divine, nor do we seek levels of attainment whereby a woman obtains spiritual status through another person. The tradition and the walking of the Avalonian path, as we honor it within the Sisterhood, is one that gives tools to unlock the mysteries. Answers are not given, but methods of transformation and connection are. All sisters have access to Avalon and Her Goddesses through these processes. A seeker alone has the answers she needs, we merely light the path.
While there are sisters in our community who tend to the spiritual aspects of our sisterhood, such as those who serve on the Council of Nine, they are not above or separate from the community. We are ALL sisters who stand in circle, side by side. The work of the Council is to tend to the Ninefold energies of our community; to hold space and work to manifest those energies in support of the continuation of the tradition. While many of the council women have years of practice in our tradition, none of us were granted a title of priestess. Those interested in serving their communities as clergy can take on the work of seminary (when it returns), but neither are they given a title or considered a conduit to Goddess or Avalon.
Unlocking the innate wisdom of Avalon through the path-work of the cycle of healing is a spiraling cycle; it is a constant return to shadow and light that gives us greater wisdom and connection to our personal sovereignty. The cycle of healing — the work and tools of that pathway — IS the way in which we grow to understand ourselves, our world, Avalon and Her Goddesses.
The only ‘official’ trainings or teachings of the tradition is through Quests (which are freely available with membership to all sisters), Intensives, and Seminary (when it returns from hiatus). These are opportunities to connect with sisters and to learn about the Cycle of Healing, the Goddesses of Avalon, and the tradition. These avenues provide tools to do the work of the cycle with the only goal being that of personal empowerment and Sovereignty.
Our in-person sister communities, known as Hearths, create a space for women to walk their personal paths beside and in support of their sisters. These sisters come together to honor the Ladies of Avalon and to commune with Her in ritual. Hearths study together from a provided syllabus that gives support and foundation work, but are structured to be a joint and co-created group study experience. The purpose of hearths is to have space for sisters to connect with other women who share the same path to spirit and to celebrate the sisterhood and its journey of empowerment, healing and transformation.
The types of hearths are: Learning Circle, Novice Hearth, and Hearth. Learning circles are women who come together to study Avalon Within, The Mabinogion and other recommended readings together. Group ritual is not chartered for learning circles, instead women are encouraged to practice solitary ritual as outlined in Avalon Within.
Novice Hearths and Hearths have a hearth mother, secretary, and treasurer. All Hearths are supported by receiving a Hearth Handbook (syllabus) and group ritual instruction. Also, the hearth mother participates in the Hearth Mothers Circle, a place for them to receive additional support and advice from their counterparts.
Unlike many other spiritual communities, there is no high priestess or clergy. The hearth mother has a great responsibility in her work to tend the sacred center of her hearth. She takes on the responsibility of ensuring that the hearth operates in alignment with the values, bylaws and with direction from the Board of Trustees and the Council of Nine. Often, this is the same sister who may have received group ritual training through the intensive program, but this does not need to be the case. A hearth mother is a sister equal in circle. She is not an official spiritual mentor or teacher. She is a woman offering service to her community, and is responsible for ensuring that the group honors the values, mission, and bylaws of the sisterhood. She ensures that the work in ritual follows the tradition’s methods, thereby continuing the work of solidifying and manifesting the pathway for others.
Now this is not to say that over time sisters won’t discover mentors in other sisters they walk this path with. I know that I have learned so much from so many of my fellow hearth sisters over the years. There are women here that have been my spiritual mentors and teachers, but they are not classified as priestess nor instructors within the context of the Avalonian tradition.
Learning this difference can be a challenge at first, for both the woman seeking to foster community in her area as Hearth mother, as well as for those seeking local community and wisdom. We are deeply enmeshed in a patriarchal society. We come together, already with imprinted understandings and expectations inside of us. Most of us coming to the path find ourselves excited and filled with promise (and sometimes, a little impatience even! We want to learn!). It is natural to seek connection and learning opportunities, and it would seem a perfect experience to find official learning and in person connection and sisterhood. However, unlike many covens or churches, our hearths are not facilitated by a clergy class. Because of the circular nature with which we organize ourselves in ritual and in community, it is up to the combined energy, facilitation, and communal co-creation of the hearth that engenders a space for true emergence and personal empowerment. For when we do not seek answers from others, but work together to master the tools to unlock the mysteries ourselves, that is when true empowerment and sovereignty can be found.
When sisters come together to co-create their communities, the difference can be immense. In circle, each woman must lend her energy, her talents and her authentic self to the group. Just as with the cycle of healing, our results are a direct reflection of the work we do (effort begets results). The healthy functioning of a hearth comes from all members endeavoring to create the community they desire. Sharing the responsibilities and work of tending the sacred center of the hearth and community is an important duty, for it is a birthing of Avalon in our modern day worlds. The light of the Goddess shines within us all and each sister brings her unique perspective and power. We are mirrors and reflections of each other.
As the Community Matron I oversee the Sisterhood of Avalon’s Hearth Program. I have also facilitated a hearth in Maryland for over 14 years and found so much joy, sisterhood, deep friendships, and wisdom from each sister who stood in circle with me. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information about our Hearth Program or community.