The Sisterhood of Avalon is not a huge organization. We probably have less than 500 members, all told. Most of our membership are women living in North America; primarily the US & Canada. In addition, there are a handful of us scattered across Europe, and even less of us currently living in Australia, & New Zealand. We are a Women’s Mysteries Tradition rooted in the Celtic Archetype (specifically the Welsh/Cymric.) So it is no surprise that as a whole, we ride a Northern Hemisphere-centric, seasonally-based annual Cycle. As autumn descends into winter, the Station of Descent moves us to Calan Gaeaf. Through the darkest nights of the year, the Station of Confrontation culminates in Gwyl Mair. When springtime emerges from under the earth, the Station of Emergence brings us into the light at Calan Mai. And at harvest time, the Station of Resolution celebrates our inner work at Gwyl Awst. For Sisters practicing in the Northern Hemisphere, the lunar observances of these Holy Days usually take place roughly in October/November, January/February, April/May, & July/August. This was the energetic and seasonal rhythm of my spiritual practice before moving from the US to Australia.
It did not take long after making the move from North to South to comprehend the initial & abrupt rhythmic impact of changing hemispheres on my cyclical practice. I made the jump in June and it felt as if I dropped right through the center of the Cycle itself. In a mere 20-some hours of travel, I went from climbing towards the apex of the Light Half of the Year to sliding back down towards the nadir of the Dark Half instead. It was a shock to the energetic system. One that was initially a challenge to handle on top of all the mundane, physical logistical details of moving a young family of five internationally.
The core tenant of the Sisterhood’s Avalonian practice is working with the Avalonian Cycle of Healing in order to remember, reclaim, & renew our personal Sovereignty. It is the strong belief in a woman’s empowered Sovereignty that keeps me committed to and spiritually in love with the work of this Tradition; questing for the fruit of Avalon. Previously, I appreciated the ability to engage this work along parallel paths with the vast majority of my Sisters beside me. But after the dust settled from our move, I realized that I needed to keep the seasonal grounding of the Avalonian Cycle intact. In the Southern Hemisphere, however, that meant consciously placing myself on the exact opposite side of the annual Cycle’s wheel from the majority of my Sisters. For the most part, I would have to go it alone.
For two years, I’ve kept my upside-down cycle. Marking Calan Gaeaf in April or May & Calan Mai in around late October, Gwyl Mair in July or August & Gwyl Awst around the secular New Year. The opportunities for abundant spiritual harvest in the experience of this seasonal inversion of Cycle & secular calendar proved rich. Australia teaches me a great deal about the strength of energy of place. I am grateful for the Guides I met, the lessons I learned, & how living here enriches my work. One of the most applicable lessons in Sovereignty I can say I’ve worked with is how to carry my practice as a Sister with me wherever I go; how to see the Quest for Sovereignty in other lands, other peoples. This is an essential Quest for women to take up across nations, across cultures, & across spiritual traditions. That Quest may manifest as working towards securing women’s Ordination, revisioning religious art & music to honor the feminine, reclaiming female-positive wisdom teachings from spiritual texts, creating new venues, liturgy, & ritual that honor the feminine through spiritual practices, or simply an inner commitment to one’s own personal healing & growth in Sovereignty.
This is where my work is now leading me. Some of this work will be within my own Tradition. Now that my husband has been able to secure two more years of work here in Australia, I am hopeful I can play a part in establishing a local Learning Circle or Hearth for the Sisterhood. I will also continue my studies with our Avalonian Thealogical Seminary. Some of this work will be on this site, with the magnificent project that is FAR. And some of it will continue to connect across traditions and hopefully across cultures- towards supporting all women who wish to take up the Quest and reclaim the Sovereign Self, however that journey might manifest in their lives.
What role does the Quest for Sovereignty fulfill in your tradition? In your personal spiritual practice?
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 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.
5 thoughts on “Finding Sovereignty in the Move from North to South by Kate Brunner”
Hi Kate, if you can set up a webpage, it would be interesting to offer calendars that work with different global positioning, especially for other people in your community making the same trek you made. As regards your question, Emily Dickinson comes to mind, her poetry is the closest to personal sovereignty I’ve ever encountered. In fact you have given me an insight into her writings I’ve never quite been able to name before. She had a great love for the small, the seemingly unimportant, and yet able somehow to dress itself in the sovereignty of the universe.
Here’s a poem and a website that teaches ED’s magnificent “Philosophy of the Small” —
How happy is the little stone
That rambles in the road alone,
And doesn’t care about careers
And exigencies never fears —
Whose coat of elemental brown
A passing universe put on;
And independent as the sun,
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute decree
In casual simplicity.
~ Emily Dickinson
Beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I’ve been a lover of Emily Dickinson’s poetry since childhood. My parents gave me a beautifully illustrated collection of her poems that I use to read over and over. It makes me smile to think of that.
On our internal SOA site, I actually do have the Avalonian Cycle mapped out for the Southern Hemisphere on my personal page. I did it more for myself than anything else, but I do know it’s been helpful to a few new antipodean Sisters over the past couple years. Discerning & charting a cycle- in any tradition or location- is a great spiritual exercise. Working through it for oneself helps you notice the small things and connect more deeply to the roll various cycles play in ones practice.
I once participated in a ritual at Glastonbury. I led a guided visualization. But here in Southern California we have a Mediterranean climate, so I’ve never felt comfortable with the Celtic cycle of the year, even though that’s what we followed when I was a member of the Circle of Aradia (founded by Ruth Barrett). I suppose I am now what might be called a relaxed pagan. I don’t do regular rituals. I hope the circle you establish is successful beyond your present dreams.
Barbara- your description of where you are at now in your practice is, in my opinion, a great example of a woman establishing her Sovereignty. You have your path & walk it how it best suits you. This, to me, is the essence of freedom of religion. The ability to chose to practice in whatever way lights up our spirits & our lives; helping us to live with courage, compassion, & integrity– all the while respecting our fellow human beings’ ability to choose & practice differently.
In one of Jacqueline Carey’s fantasy novels, a character who is a spiritual teacher of sorts states, “All ways are The Way.” And within the Sisterhood, we often discuss a similar concept- All cycles are One Cycle. This is a huge part of what I appreciate about my Tradition & why it works so well for me. We have tools, a cycle framework, shared study of the Archetype. And yet, we also are free to adapt our personal Avalonian work to our location, our needs, our Sovereignty. This is also why it is relatively easy for me to support others in their spiritual journeys, whether or not they share a Tradition with me.
Have you read the novels or nonfiction of Dion Fortune? She was an English occultist who died shortly after World War II. Among other things, she said that “all gods are one god” and that all paths lead to the same place. Because she was an occultist, she was pretty much Christian, but she also wrote a lot about Isis. Her books were mostly written in the 1930s, but they’re still really good. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Especially The Sea Priestess and Moon Magic. Powerful magical women who transform men (in a good way–these priestesses aren’t Circe!).