You guys, you’re just men—just the men who did this… to her. Whoever that girl was before she was the first Slayer. You violated that girl… made her kill for you because you’re weak… you’re pathetic and you obviously have nothing to show me!
-Buffy Summers in “Get It Done”-
A woman made of flowers and fluff forsakes her marriage vows, manipulates another man into committing premeditated murder and then runs from the scene of her crimes and her sentence. Admittedly, my initial exposure to Blodeuwedd left me more than a little befuddled. While I was confident there had to be something more empowering for me to take away from Her mythology, I realized it was going to take far more work to get at it, to help what I needed emerge from the story.
Blodeuwedd presides over the Spring quarter of the Avalonian Cycle of Healing. She and I needed to establish a relationship. A dialogue of some kind. I could see that clearly enough. She was going to be beyond necessary for my Cycle work to continue during my first experience with the Avalonian Cycle of Healing. But still, I was frustrated. During a camping trip I made just before Gwyl Mair, the Avalonian equivalent to Imbolc, I found myself on the banks of Lake Raven scrying owls in the embers of our fire. Lady Blodeuwedd seemed impatient to reach me and Her avian messengers appeared with increasing frequency over the next few weeks. I found owls at the craft store, saw them watching me in swirls of paint on the ceiling of a dance studio and found one made of flowers, trees and crescent moons on a clearance priced t-shirt. For my part, I began collecting bits and pieces here and there, looking for a connection; an accessible avenue of approach for us to meet. I collected a handful of oak catkins on a hike with my children, sniffed the wild evening primroses beginning to emerge in clumps all over Texas, and ordered some dried meadowsweet.
I read and re-read various translations, re-tellings, and poems of Her. Listened to songs. Sat with the idea of Her in quiet hours. Looked for scholastic commentary; old and new. I could see different perspectives on Her story and sense Her on the periphery. But still I lacked the channel that would open me to Her in the way I was longing for; in the way my work this Cycle called for.
As I began to be quite concerned that Blodeuwedd and I might not establish a solid relationship this Cycle, I came across the words that became the beginning of the key. In an online essay on Blodeuwedd by Anna Franklin, she suggests that one way some people might interpret Her story is as the story of “a woman rebelling against a role decided for her by the men who created her.” While she goes on to discuss more thoroughly an interpretation based on ancient themes of seasonal cycles of initiation, Franklin’s off the cuff words rang in my head, bouncing from inner wall to inner wall, echoing until they collided with the image of another young woman’s mythology stored in my mind. Sitting there at my desk, I think I actually physically shook my head a few times to see if the images would dislodge or if there was solidity to them. They stood their mental and metaphorical ground. And the channel between Blodeuwedd and me began to slide open.
Originally created by Joss Whedon as a movie, the mythology of Buffy the Vampire Slayer came into being through Kristy Swanson’s performance in a feature length film in 1992. For all the campiness and cult appeal of the original movie, Buffy did not really breathe herself into being for me until the premiere of the WB television series and Sarah Michelle Gellar’s portrayal of her began in 1997. My freshman year of college, I was instantly drawn to her. Seventeen years later, I can still connect that one television show to my life in various ways on a regular basis. I will also freely confess to owning the entire series on DVD and to usually watching the whole thing from beginning to end in a rather ritual fashion about once a year. As the mythology of the Slayer unfolded over seven seasons, a prevalent theme existed throughout the show. Buffy was a Slayer unlike any other, redefining the archetype and regularly bucking her own mythological history. She did things her way. She let her instincts guide her. She got confused, got hurt, made mistakes, dealt with them, grew stronger, brought lessons of the past forward and continuously evolved. The more I thought about Buffy through an Avalonian lens, the more I could see the entirety of the series as Buffy’s own quest for Sovereignty.
The Buffy-Blodeuwedd connection forged by the initial happenstance of reading Anna Franklin’s article was further tempered for me by sitting down to re-watch the fifteenth episode of the seventh and final season; an episode entitled “Get It Done.” The episode begins with a prophetic dream in which the First Slayer tells Buffy, “It’s not enough.” Spurred on by this urging and the looming threat of an extremely formidable foe, Buffy undertakes a shamanic journey of sorts to return to the original source of the Slayer’s mythic power and see what she can bring back with her to help her fight the largest battle she’s ever faced. There she meets the Shadow Men; elders, magicians, leaders of an ancient patriarchal culture. She learns that the Shadow Men created the Slayer by placing the spirit of a demon inside a captive young girl. The first Slayer was therefore created by men to serve their purpose. To fill the role they chose for her without her input or consent. In their infinite wisdom, the Shadow Men attempt to repeat the process with Buffy—including the “without consent” part– in order to instill in her the power she needs to defeat her epic opponent. Not surprisingly, Buffy refuses, fighting against them for her freedom.
Craving more to work with, I continued to explore the connection between Blodeuwedd’s and Buffy’s quests for Sovereignty and the potential breaths of Spring energy flowing between them on their oddly parallel paths. Published in the fantastic meeting of pop culture and philosophy that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale, Jessica Prata Miller’s essay “’The I in Team’: Buffy and Feminist Ethics” discusses the emergence of Buffy’s sovereignty. In a portion of the essay addressing moral autonomy, Miller highlights feminist ethicists’ historic concerns that “heterosexual women tend to overidentify with the moral perspective and world view of their male partners, preventing… true moral autonomy”. Miller then uses Buffy as an example of the possibility of achieving feminine moral autonomy while simultaneously stepping outside traditionally masculine paradigms. As she matures, she rejects the traditional framework of the institutions of the Slayer, one by one; shedding the oversight of the predominately male Watchers and their Council to function independently in the world around her. Eventually, by descending into the shamanic realm to confront the Shadow Men, she exerts her sovereignty in the face of the very foundation of the Slayer’s creation and emerges with her moral autonomy complete. And completely feminine.
Feeling I now had a solid initial grasp on Buffy’s transformation, I turned to Jennifer Heath’s On the Edge of Dream: The Women of Celtic Myth and Legend, for a deeper look at Blodeuwedd’s journey towards feminine moral autonomy. In her creative re-telling of Blodeuwedd’s tale, Heath is rather clear about her interpretation of the goal of Blodeuwedd’s own Shadow Men: Gwydyon, Math and Llew. They intended to create a woman who was “compliant, submissive and manageable”. However, she grows into her feminine strength and gradually begins to reclaim her sovereignty, decision after increasingly autonomous decision until they realize she has “emerged far enough from the shadows to rebel against [their] authority.”
The rich tapestry woven through me with the warp of Blodeuwedd’s chronicle and the weft of Buffy’s saga created quite the energy with which to cloak myself as I engage my own Spring emergence that year. The twin tales of inspiration blew away all discernible obstacles to establishing just the healing dialogue Blodeuwedd and I needed, allowing Her to work in me as I worked on me. In addition to meditative, experiential reflection, ritual and formal scholastic inquiry, I also learned to widen the lens somewhat. To include looking at slightly less formal sources that equally encourage connection between the ancient Avalon and Her evolving modern existence. In other words, I learned to get it done. My way.
Kate Brunner is a freelance writer & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon, studying at the Avalonian Thealogical Seminary. She is an American expat, living in Queensland, Australia and homeschooling her children, with the world as their classroom. Before motherhood, Kate earned a Bachelor of Arts from Tulane University, while studying Economics, International Relations, & Religion. She then served four years as a logistics officer in the US Army after which Kate became a doula and holistic birth educator. She is a regular contributor to The Sisterhood of Avalon’s online journal, The Tor Stone and is active in the Red Tent Movement. Kate volunteered in Houston as a presenter for monthly Red Tents and semi-annual women’s retreats before relocating overseas. She enjoys international travel, perfecting her cooking, reading great books, & having fascinating conversations with friends, old or new.
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