I don’t really talk much about my “spirituality,” but if someone asked me about it, I would hand them this book as well as a Buddhist pendant and a My Little Pony unicorn. That would pretty much sum it up.
The truth is that, deep down, I am a moon-worshiping pagan hippie Goddess type at my core who likes nature and enjoys the idea that sex and death are part of a wondrous, immense fabric of the cosmos. Or something like that. Plus, I’m a feminist, and I like to think that Great Big Universe supports that in some way that is absolutely incontrovertible. (You can’t argue with Great Big Universe, right?) What’s the most feminist religion you can think of? That would be part of it, for sure.
The Mists of Avalon plays into this side of me. And, it is a rip-roaringly awesome retelling of the Arthurian stories through the perspective of the women in the story: Morgane Le Fay, Guinevere, the Lady of the Lake, like some crazy great early British girl gang. It also details the historical moment when Christianity was just starting to take hold in England, with plenty of political intrigue and war and pagan rites. And there is enough sex and death to make this quasi-Goth happy.
I first read The Mists of Avalon in high school; a friend told me about it, and lent me her copy to read. I read it in like two days, completely sucked in, and my English teacher wondered what happened in my life that would make my weekly essay assignment so bizarre and ferociously feminist. This book happened, that’s what, although I’d be confused, too, if one of my good students suddenly turned in this huge, semi-coherent argument against the Christian patriarchy and the subjugation of female sexuality.
Of course, I’ve gotten fancier and well-read about feminism, women, sexuality, spirituality and many other things, but reading book was a moment in my life where all these different strands of feelings, experience, thoughts and theories coalesced into one epic story. That is the gift of great fiction — to make whole and coherent a great mass of consciousness, using the threads of emotion and narrative to pull it together. That’s what I love about a good story — when it’s well-woven, it’s a beautiful fabric of the cosmos, one that can pull together and give shape to inchaote spiritual urges and emotional longings. If this book only had a unicorn, it’d be perfect.