Dragons in the almost-21st Century (previously published 1998)

Clothed in a simple robe I sit, next to a pond filled with moonlight.  Reflected on the surface are images… the High King and Queen of the land… the wise benevolent Merlin…. a fire breathing dragon.  The fate of a nation is shrouded in mist; it clouds the surface of the pond.  I stand and invoke the Great Goddess, Mother of all things.  She fills me with her power.  Suddenly, the phone rings.  I snap back into my body.

Astral travel?  No, I am simply reading  Mists of Avalon for the 7th time.  I can finish the last page and go right back to the first. It is the story of King Arthur and his knights, told from the perspective of the Priestesses of the magical land of Avalon.  These powerful women used their magic to put Arthur on the throne, so that he would defend the Old Religion, where God and Goddess were equal.

Perhaps I use the story as an escape, hiding in it.  I identify with the main character, Morgaine of the Fairies.  She is a powerful priestess of Avalon, and sister to King Arthur.  As a priestess,  Morgaine’s life is just so much more interesting than mine.  Spending an hour or two in her company makes it difficult to return to my life, here in the almost 21st century.

Morgaine makes herbs into medicines and charms, she spins, weaves and dyes her own robes.  I buy my herbs on sale at the health food store, and my clothes from Value Village.  Morgaine is so in touch with her intuition.  She calls it the “Sight,” and can access it at will in vision quests.  It rarely fails her.  Although I am an ordained minister of energetic healing, my college internship requires that I work in inpatient psychiatry.  There, people who hear voices or see visions are considered  potentially dangerous.  As for my intuition, well…I’m certain it’d be easier to access near a moonlit pond than in a traffic jam, which is another point Morgaine doesn’t contend with.  She rides a horse through beautiful forests, with plenty of time to contemplate her destination and connection to the earth.  I, in my trusty Honda with 220,000 miles, am propelled through time and space at 55 miles per hour.  I am frequently late.  Contemplate my destination?  Feel the earth?  This is the Motor City, not Avalon.

Morgaine fasts frequently and eats sparingly of animal foods.  She drinks only the water of the sacred well of Avalon.   While primarily a vegetarian, I have developed a bizarre fondness for Gatorade of all things, not to mention chocolate!

Morgaine has a blue crescent tattoo on her forehead, the “kiss of the Goddess,”  and is deeply respected as a result.  I have a pentacle on my left arm, symbol of the element of earth and the protection of the Goddess.  Yet I have been called everything from a witch to a devil worshipper because of it.

And what about religious worship?  Morgaine has the forest, the sacred well, and the moon in all its phases.  I have a small alter in the spare bedroom, optimistically called my “temple”.

So I retreat, time and again, to the pages…to the mists… of Avalon.  And I sulk.  Why am I not afforded the opportunity to slay a dragon, or assist in the birth of a baby?  Why can’t I feel the tides of the moon in my blood?  I want to be a priestess, not a “minister of divine healing” disguised as a “graduate student of psychology.”  Where are my vision quests?

In The Mists of Avalon, Morgaine warns the High Queen Gwenhwfar to be careful what she wishes for, as she just might get it.  And so it happened recently, visualizing all that longing for the days of old, that I got exactly what I asked for.  Dragons and everything.

I tried to buy a house.  A noble ambition.  I rode into the unknown land of mortgages, building inspections and purchase agreements with simply my faith to protect me.   When I left that forest, a short month later, it was as one re-born.  I had found the Priestess Within.

In 1997, dragons live disguised.  My dragons were disguised as Legally Binding Contracts. The mortgage verification process triggered a strange chain of events with my human resource department at work.  Suddenly, my seemingly safe and secure position became “temporary and at will.”   Next, the sellers tried to roof the house with an unlicensed roofing company to save money, and threatened to sue me if I did not agree. The irony was not lost on me.  In my search for the safety and security that home-owning represented to me, I now stood to lose both job and life savings!

Meanwhile, back in my “temple,” a candle burned.  Underneath it was all pertinent paperwork, and it was surrounded by symbols of the four elements.  It was not invested in any particular outcome, but simply invoked the Greatest Good For All Involved.  Sort of a “Not my will, but Thine” kind of a thing.  During my crash course in Litigation, Arbitration and Legally Binding Contracts,  I would pause and look at that candle.  Surrounded by the clutter of my life, it would comfort me.

As for intuition or vision quests, I soon realized I had little time for much else. Things moved so rapidly, I quickly found my gut to be my best indication of which way toproceed.  I dreamt one night of running barefoot through the deep rich dirt of my childhood home.  The next morning the lawsuit was canceled and my offer accepted.

I brushed off my rusty herb lore.  Valerian, skullcap and hops calmed my anxieties.  When I couldn’t feel confident,  I dressed in colors and styles representative of the image I wished to convey, acting “as if” it were true.  Driving became a pleasure as it was the only place I could not be reached by phone with the latest threat or red tape.  I played Van Morrison tapes and breathed deeply at each red light.  On the scariest day, I went to the zoo and connected with animal energies and the beautiful landscaping.  I breathed some more.

The entire process took less than a month.  As I lived it, I did not think “now I am behaving as Morgaine would.”  These realizations have come to me only in retrospect.  Yet, I was behaving as Morgaine would have.  I was accessing my God and Goddess.  I was using intuition, herb lore, breathwork, earth energies and ritual.

Whether a horse or a car, a forest or Woodward Avenue, vision quests still present themselves, and magic is still a viable response.  In buying a house, negotiating my job and facing a lawsuit, I have been given a great gift:  the ability to recognize the ancient tests of faith.  They are simply disguised in attire of the almost 21st century.

I am now a very proud, first-time home owner.  It is still strangely possible that I may lose my job as a result.  I will defeat that dragon if it comes.  Upon close inspection, dragons have not changed so much.  They still wear the face of fear.  Many are the philosophies that teach of the choice between fear and love.  They are teaching how to avoid  dragons altogether.

The first 6 times I read Mists of Avalon I grieved that I could not live that life.  This last time through may really be my last time through.  No longer must I envy Morgaine of the Fairies,  or the life she lives in Avalon.  For I am not so different than she, nor is Royal Oak so different than Avalon.  And all women wear the face of the Goddess.

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