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SHOULD WE BURY SECRETS IN THE MISTS OF AVALON?

I had a shock today when I read how Marion Zimmer Bradley protected her pedophile husband who committed serial sexual abuse and how her daughter has been saying that the fantasy writer was violent and sexually abused her too.
Like the writer Jim Hines who wrote the blog with all the details, I was a big fan of Zimmer Bradley who opened up the Arthurian mysteries to me. The world she portrayed was full of strong feminist figures fighting against some really unpleasant male aggression.  Now that world and those characters and world is dead to me.  They are the creations of a writer who did not mean a word of it.  Her fantasy worlds were not an expression of what she believed.
What is also strange is how there is a movement among her fans to say that this does not matter, what matters is the worlds and characters she created. Equally there are those who say that Bradley and her husband should not be judged because the matter has been “dealt with.” Besides  Zimmer Bradley was a victim of her own mother so surely that gave her the right to repeat the pattern etc..
But a writer is, in some ways, a God, or a magician.  Everything that happens in a book is a creation of the writer.  To write a novel is to expose yourself to the reader.
In the Zimmer Bradley case the writer is a hypocritical god… she is not her heroines, but the cruel abusers. She is not the struggling feminist icons but the oppressor. Needless to say this turns Zimmer Bradley’s books on their heads and makes them effectively unreadable.
In her books it is the heroines who hold the magic and not the oppressors and what Zimmer Bradley is effectively projecting is her own cruelty against her magical self.  She is unconsciously aware that the two things are mutually incompatible.  You cannot be a magician and be cruel to the innocent.
Now you can be a magician and an arsehole.  Being a magician does not stop you being arrogant, violent, intolerant, rude, or anything that many in the new age world says you should not be. But there seems to be a line after all, one where you stop being a magician and become something else. That line appears to be one of cruelty to another person or form of life for your own aggrandisement.  If you contribute to wrecking another’s life, then like Marian Zimmer Bradley’s universe, your magical world collapses.  Suddenly you lose the right to speak because the world has seen your hypocracy.  The magic might continue, but really the spirit of it has gone.
Watchers of the Dawn ran a story about how one of the heads of the AO Order in Ireland had been sentenced by a court for collecting child porn. If true and it seems to be, not only did the head of the Order David Griffin know about the man’s convictions but also he expelled three members for daring to complain about it.
Like the Zimmer Bradley case we are being asked to look away by those who are “fans” of that system.
On Facebook, the writer Fr Barabbas, who always takes the role of Griffin’s apologist, said that it was not up to anyone to judge someone who had already been sentenced and punished in a court of law. (Of course you could use the same logic to say that you should not judge someone who has NOT been found guilty in a court of law) Another person suggested that the story was just part of the Golden Dawn Flame wars and people should really be getting on with each other.
But really, like the Zimmer Bradley case, the magic dies when you hear of such things.

5 thoughts on “SHOULD WE BURY SECRETS IN THE MISTS OF AVALON?

  1. Nick,
    It is truly sad to find out these things when they involve people we put on pedestals. I can say that what is going on in the world today is horrendous and heinous. They piss us off and injure our “souls”. But, Karma will out!
    As for where you say, “Now you can be a magician and an arsehole. Being a magician does not stop you being arrogant, violent, intolerant, rude, or anything that many in the new age world says you should not be.”,… some (many) “New Agers” are fooling themselves. For all the lessons, rituals and practices we perform we still live in the mundane physical world. For many people in the world, who don’t know of the worlds and ritual and works many of us do, the base and mundane is all they truly have to work with and manipulate, and they do. Some to incredible and beautiful highs others to the basest realms of the abyss.
    As for me, I am sorry that this has ruined a great memory and feeling you got from her works. And I agree with you and your position on the matter. Hopefully you can find a new or old author to fill this void.
    Many respects,
    LVX
    ~Stan aka coalfire777

  2. Magic never dies, only your need to have the author be something other than what she has died. The Mists of Avalon inspired me to explore my spirituality and discover a religion that still remembered the Goddess. This is not something the author set out to make happen for me-it is something I found for myself that the story somehow awakened within me. The work itself does not change for me because of what she did or who she was but then, I never expected her to be one of heroines. I never expected her to be Pagan or someone who “believed” or “lived” the story. It is, after all, a work of fiction. I never expected her to be anything more than the vessel the Muse chose to tell this story. I accept that she hid the child abuse that her husband was involved with and if her daughter says that she was abused by her Mother then I accept that too. I understand how difficult it must be for her to admit this publically. What these two people did was wrong, unacceptable and I will not defend it. However, one can be a horrible person and a great artist or writer at the same time and there are many examples of this throughout history. I will not burn my first addition book of The Mist of Avalon (I am old enough to have purchased it when it first came out) because I did not fall in love with the writer, I feel in love with the story and a story once released takes on a life of its own for those who read or listen to it.

  3. I agree with your remark that it is shocking to learn how a writer of such beautiful novels about strong feminine magical characters can be a very sick and disfunctional person in her private life. On the other hand it does not shock me at all that this combination exist. I came across it more than once in the magical world that there is a group of people who use spirituality and magic as an easy escape from a disfunctional life.

    How is it possible that the writer of such absolutely beautiful and strong characters does not apply this knowledge into her own life? Does it make the characters or the books less valuable? To my opinion Marion Zimmer Bradly made a classical mistake; to use the magical world to escape from reality, and not use it as a tool to heal herself and her life.

    To my opinion the characters and the books of Marion remain breathtakingly beautiful. They don’t come from Marion, they came through her. They belong to a different reality; the Deep Mind of consciousness underlying the daily reality, the archetypical level where magic exists. The magical images have a great healing capacity.

    The archetypes channeled and written down by Marion were a great inspiration for me, and helped me a lot. But they do not do that automatically when they appear in your mind. They can help you to heal issues in your life, when you train systematically with them. Only then they do their job to heal you and your life. In order to get that effect you need to work on three levels; subconsciousness, transpersonal consciousness and daily life. Only then the spiritual archetypes strenghten your personality to the extend that you grow strong enough to withstand the external pressure of an unhealhty disfunctional lifestyle and become life-changing.

    Magic is not there to escape reality, it is there to help you to manifest your life mission and to serve the good of all. In that sense the discrepantion between Marion’s work and her life is a serious warning that dreaming magical dreams do not turn you into a superhero! Magic is no escapism, it is there to serve the Great Work.

  4. In 1999, just after MZB’s death, one of my coven-sibs stated simply, “She wasn’t officially Pagan, but her writing provided many of us a way in.”

    I never read MZB’s Arthurian tales; I’d wandered through the Darkover tales early in my acquaintance with SF fandom, owned several for a while, and let go of them. By the time “Mists” was published, I just noted that fact on the shelves of my fave booksellers, and keep going, finding more meaningful, and better-written, reading from other authors.

    Humans have flaws. Humans covering up those flaws to the extent done by sci-fi fandom (in the case of Breen, do a web search on “Breendoggle”) makes me sadder than ever to see the hopes & dreams of generations of both fans and Pagans so fatally wounded by the actions and words of one of its fatally flawed heroines.

    I’m glad I no longer own anything MZB wrote.

  5. What if the stories about her are just that? People that have passed on cannot defend themselves and Ive met many solid men and women who deny the accusations of others. It didn’t change my view of her fiction writing skills at all. It kind of reminds me of the way many turn on the founders of the GD.

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