What is Avalon?
The mystical, mythical island of Avalon is central to the story of King Arthurian mythology. It’s name literally translates to “Isle of Apple Trees”.
Where is Avalon?
Glastonbury has always been identified as the Isle of Avalon. How can that be when Glastonbury is not an island? It was an island at one point. It was completely surrounded by marshland.
Glastonbury was at one time called Ynys Witrin, Welsh for Isle of Glass. The name suggests that the location was at one point seen as an island.
Around 1190, the monks at Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have discovered the bones of Arthur and Guinevere. The new abbot, Henry de Sully, commissioned a search of the abbey grounds. At a depth of 16 feet, the monks were said to have discovered a massive tree trunk coffin and a leaden cross bearing the inscription.
Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arturius in insula Avalonia.
(“Here lies entombed the renowned king Arthur in the island of Avalon.”)
Inside the coffin were two bodies, referred to as Arthur and “his queen”. The bones of the male body were described as being gigantic.
The remains were reburied in 1278 with great ceremony attended by King Edward I and his queen.
Historians generally dismiss the authenticity of the story, describing it as a publicity stunt to raise funds to repair the abbey, which was mostly burned in 1184.
Other locations for Avalon
And then there are others who believe that Avalon is located in Sicily, Italy.
For centuries, there have been an amazing number of breathtaking mirages that appear
over the Strait of Messina between Sicily and Italy. The optical phenomena known as Fata Morgana are mirages that are incredibly detailed and show entire cities on the horizon over the water.
The Fata Morgana phenomenon was named for Morgan le Fey. In the Sicilian version of the legend, Arthur is not actually dead but resting. He and Morgan le Fey are said to be deep inside Mount Etna, on the east coast of Sicily. His life is maintained by a single sip of the Holy Grail every year until he is needed again.
The legend tells that Morgana came out of the water with a chariot pulled by seven horses. She threw three stones into the water with a spell that transformed the surface of the sea into a crystal, making it magically reflect the image of a city in constant motion.
Other suggestions for the location of Avalon include:
- Arran, an island off the coast of Scotland
- Ile d’Aval near Lannion
- Isle of Sein--where nine priestesses lived off the coast of Brittany
I hope you enjoyed reading about Avalon! I first learned about the mystical place when reading the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I fell in love with the place, sight unseen and in 2016 I was lucky enough to travel to Glastonbury with my family.
What about you? Where do you think the REAL Avalon is?
Thanks for reading and have a great week!