Mindy Newell: Mother’s Day
“I have called on the Goddess and found her within myself”
Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon
Feeling very Hemingway-esque because I am sitting here in front of the computer sipping a glass of merlot and smoking a cigarette while I write – although the truth, according to the website Food Republic, is that while the Master was “notoriously fond of drinking…he refrained from indulging while writing [and] when asked in an interview if rumors of him taking a pitcher of martinis to work every morning were true, he answered, “Jeezus Christ! Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes – and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one. Besides, who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time?”
Not to mention that Hemingway’s favorite instrument for writing was the (lowly?) pencil. “Writing it first in pencil gives you one-third more chance to improve it… It also keeps it fluid longer so that you can better it easier” he wrote in his book On Writing. Although he would then transcribe it to his typewriter – over his writing career he used the Corona No. 3 & No.4, an Underwood Noiseless Portable, various Royal portables – aha! My first typewriter was a Royal portable – and a Halda portable (which, according to www.myTypewriter.com, was recently sold in an online auction, although the article doesn’t state the final bid).
Well, be that as it may – and also because I never could get into Faulkner, maybe because he is just waaaay too morosely Southern for this New York Jewish chick – Ernest still lurks beside me while I work today on my Mac desktop. And the merlot is very fine, fruity and yet exquisitely dry, from a Chilean vineyard I never heard of, but I loved the name on the bottle…
Anyway, since Sunday is Mother’s Day, I wanted to write about mothers, but in a different way …
I’m currently rereading, for the thousandth time, The Mists of Avalon by the late, and very great, Marion Zimmer Bradley. Simply put, it is Le’Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, perhaps better known to you as The Once and Future King by T.H. White or The Idylls of the King by Tennyson, or the movie Excalibur, produced, directed, and co-written by John Boorman, or Camelot 3000 by Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland, published by DC Comics over three years (1982 – 1985), which makes it DC’s first maxi-series. It is the great medieval romance of King Arthur, Queen Gwenhywfar, Morgaine of the Fairies, Lancelet, and the court of Camelot and the Round Table.
Except that Bradley tells it from the point of the women.
But more than that, Bradley uses the tale to spin a story of the ancient, and original, Celtic women-as-life-bearers, Mother Goddess-centric religion of the British Isles and its battle, with a patriarchal Christianity in which women were looked on, through Eve, as the source of original sin.
It is a story of women struggling to maintain their dignity, their wisdom, their power, and their equality in a world in which masculinity is uprooting their place in it.
At the end of Mists, Morgaine, sister to King Arthur, High Priestess of the Goddess, and the Lady of the Lake, goes through the mists that hide and separate the world of the Mother (the enchanted isle of Avalon) to visit the tomb of her mentor and aunt, Viviane, the greatest of the Ladies of the Lake, which now rests on what it is called the Isle of Priests or the Isle of Glass (Glastonbury) in “man’s world.” (Avalon and Glastonbury are also symbols of the duality of nature and humankind that Bradley discusses throughout the novel, as both are the same island, separated only by the mystical planes of existence). At first distraught and bitter that Viviane’s final resting place is in the world of the patriarchal Christians that call the Mother Goddess “demon,” Morgaine comes to a statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus…
And there she realizes that the Mother she worships has not left the world of men, but only taken on a new form; forever and ever, she realizes, the Mother Goddess will live in the hearts of humankind.
I searched Google to see if anyone had adapted The Mists of Avalon into comics form, and found none, though there were many, besides Camelot 3000, that adapted the Arthurian legends in one way or another. I think it would make an amazing adaptation; two artists that come immediately to mind for it are Jill Thompson and Charles Vess. And yes, of course I would love to write it, because it is a story, I think, which is particularly relevant today in our comics world.
Martha Thomases and I have written here about the negativity, bigotry, and the outward hatred being displayed towards women in comics and its related fields (such as gaming and cosplay) and it would take little more than a quick Google search to find other articles and blogs written by Heidi MacDonald, Corinna Lawson, Janelle Asselin, Alice Mercier, and, unfortunately, too many more. But as I reread Mists, I think some of the power of the Goddess comes down into my soul, and I feel uplifted; not angry or bitter or even snide about the abuses or the abusers, but actually sorry for them; that they are so consumed with fear and jealousy, and, oh, just so much negative emotions that they are unable to allow their feminine side to come out into the light.
Because, oh yes, these men do have the Goddess within them, just as we women have the God within us. As is said so many times by so many of the players in Mists, in different words and in different ways, but all still meaning the one truth: “All the Gods are one God, and all the Goddesses are one Goddess, and the one God and the One Goddess together are the Initiator, and the Initiator dwells within us all.”
May She bless you all on Mother’s Day.