I am slowly getting excited, because the arrival of the new baby is now only about a month away. I had so many plans for my maternity leave, I was going to paint and write and tidy the house... Instead I caught a nasty virus which had me lying in bed for almost three weeks now.
Right at the beginning of my maternity leave I went to Avalon. I was completing my 34th week and returning home well within my 35th week. The baby didn't seem to like the flying much and was moving a lot. I kept caressing my belly and singing to the baby and s/he calmed down soon enough. And that was it. It was a short flight, about an hour and a half, and it was really no problem. Some friends were surprised that I wanted to do this, but I have been listening to my body and my baby all along the pregnancy, and knew there were not going to be any difficulties. I trust my body and myself like that. And there were none.
It was wonderful to be in Avalon with my sisters and brothers of the Orchard of Avalon. We met for our annual Gathering, where we share, learn together and together decide in which ways our Orchard should evolve. There are now so many Priestesses and Priests of Avalon all over the world, the Temple in Glastonbury is now licensed to conduct legal weddings – isn't that amazing??? And Priestesses are developping further Priestess trainings in Avalon. So we are at a point where the Orchard is no longer a small group of hippies in Somerset finding out what we are doing as we go along, but becoming a bigger group that needs some sort of organisation and liability, otherwise the “title” Priestess of Avalon becomes meaningless.
I really enjoyed the discussion and the communal work to take the Orchard into the future, to really work together to find a solution together. It's in these circles where I really learn about sitting in circles, about speaking up and being heard and supported, whether the others share my opinion or not.
The PoA training runs through the temple, and so do the Priestess of Rhiannon training, taught by Katinka Soetens, and the Priestess of Brighde training, taught by Marion Brigantia. The temple is run by a group of temple directors that are elected by us, and there are also meetings of of the Temple Weaver Group that are open to all of us. In the past a Priestess Code of Conduct has been developped and that has stirred up some commotion. Some people do not want to sign it, for their own reasons. The CoC has been discussed in the Orchard Gathering and put to vote, and we have together decided that from now on every student will have to sign the it in order to initiate and become part of the Orchard. Basically it asks all of us to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions, do our shadowhunting and own our woundings, in order to allow others to support us and to be able to support each other without projection, manipulation and the rest of it, whether it's consciously or unconsciously done.
I love the CoC. It really teaches us how to practice sisterhood/brotherhood in a community. I am a rather shy person and like to hide and avoid confrontation, but I really feel in the Orchard everybody is committed to try and change the patriarchal behaviours of competition and all the rest that they might have taken on. I really feel that this hugely important and that re-learning how to practice community and sisterhood will be part of what will heal the world. It is also very scary for me, but I know that in this community I am safe to learn how to speak out for myself and others.
We have also opened the Orchard to the Priestesses of Rhiannon and Brighde. These Priestesses and Priests will also sign the CoC and become part of the core Avalon community. This will make networking and serving the Goddess together so much easier.
However, I got really ill during my stay in Avalon. I spent most of my time during the Gathering lying on the couch and enjoying being loved up by everybody. It was fabulous. Sadly though I had to cancel the Blessingway Ceremony on Saturday night, I just wasn't up to it. My SiStars Michelle, Angie and Gittan showed up anyway and we had a really relaxed, laid back evening together, sharing deep conversation and hilarious laughter. I had asked all my sisters to bring a candle and a bead to the ceremony to give to me with their blessings, so I could wear the beads while giving birth and light the candles, to feel them as in a circle with me. When I cancelled a few women gave their candles and beads to Angie and she brought them with her. Since I came back I have had some more beads and candles in the post as well... it's so lovely to be connected and receive these tokens of sisterhood!