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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Marion Zimmer Bradley



I know, I know: lots of people just love Mists of Avalon. I even know some who became pagan because of it. I won't deny that it was (for its time, anyway) a significant book.

But it's a terrible book. These days, I find it virtually unreadable.

And as for its so-called paganism....


Pagan Nuns: Thirteen Things That I Hate About Mists of Avalon


Its medievalism.

Most Arthurian lore has come down to us in medieval form. MZB makes a half-hearted attempt to transpose these stories into sub-Roman Britain, but—since she hasn't bothered to educate herself about what 6th century Britain was actually like—we've still got the castles and duchesses, the frenchified names (“King Leodegranz”) and the faux medieval language (“I beg my Lady's pardon”). Ugh. Authenticity: F.


Its anachronism.

There's barely a page out of all 500+ that doesn't contain at least one anachronism. (Sorry, Marion, nobody said the rosary in 6th-century Britain; the rosary wasn't invented until hundreds of years later.) Really, if you're going to set a novel in 6th century Britain, shouldn't you know something about what 6th century Britain was actually like? Cultural authenticity: F.


Avalon's horrible 'pagan' nuns.

Penances. Chastity. A distant deity who expects blind obedience. Dea vult: Goddess wills it.

These aren't priestesses, they're nuns. Avalon isn't a temple, it's a convent.

Honestly, if that's your paganism, I'd rather be something else. Anything else. Priestesshood: F.


Its 'All gods are one god' premise.

If all gods are one god, and all ways lead to the same place, then why bother with the hard way?

Why not just crawl back to the church on your belly before you die?

Oh, yeah: that's exactly what MZB did. Caveat fidelis: Let the believer beware. Theology: F.


Its cardboard-y male characters.

MZB is one of those woman authors who couldn't create a convincing male character to save her life. (Just like all those male writers whose women characters are so thoroughly unbelievable.)

Since her female characters lack depth or substance as well, I suppose that this is not surprising. Still, it is one of the tests that I apply to any author, and—unsurprisingly—MZB fails. Characterization: F.


The 'nature' is all wrong.

Unlike real pagan fiction, 'Nature' and the Land play virtually no role in Mists, and what little there is, she mostly gets wrong. I'm sorry, in a pagan writer, that's simply unacceptable.

This isn't paganism; it's Christianity—at its worst—in drag. Knowledge of nature: F.


Its essential Christianity.

MZB apparently thought of Mists as a major contribution to pagan theology.

Unfortunately, there's no there there.

There's nothing to MZB's paganism. Even the supposedly 'pagan' characters cite Christian Scripture and precedent constantly. Whenever they express a supposedly 'pagan' sentiment, it's always by contrast with a Christian example. Christianity is the point of all comparison; Bradley's paganism has no life of its own.

To repeat: This isn't paganism; it's Christianity in drag. Paganism: F.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I did like her "Darkover Landfall" book and some of her other Darkover books were good; not all of them, but I didn't get past mor
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, MZB was also a monster in real life. I never read, "Mists Of Avalon", but I did read, "Firebrand", which was about th

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
To Those Who Stay

I think of the Big Names of the American Craft who, before they died [bitterness alert] went crawling back to the Church: Eddie Buczynski, Jesse Wicker Bell (a.k.a. Lady Sheba)*, Marion Zimmer Bradley. I don't doubt that among the rest of us, we of the little names, there are others, locally known, who went the same way.

I'll be the first to admit, it hurts. Even to those of us who didn't know them personally, what the leavers did comes as a betrayal. To those who were their friends and students, I can only imagine the dissonance. What do you do when your mentor in the Mysteries, in the end, betrays those very Mysteries?

At the end of The Mists of Avalon, after fighting spiritual imperialism all her life, Morgaine realizes that maybe, as her elders have been telling her all along, All Ways Are One. Bradley's own cowardly defection demonstrates why this is such a poisonous belief. If all ways are equal, why take the harder?

I'm sure that, in the early days, Christianity had its share of defectors, too. Their stories haven't come down to us, but—human nature being what it is—we can be sure that they were there. In the end, the defection of a few Big Names, and unnamed others, proves nothing about the Craft itself, only that in extremis even the strong can be weak, the which we already knew.

That some, even among the leadership, should choose to go should be no surprise to anyone. What is perhaps even more surprising, under the circumstances, is that so many should choose to stay.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I enjoyed Bradley's Darkover series, especially Darkover Landfall. I tried reading one of the Avalon books but couldn't get into
  • Chas  S. Clifton
    Chas S. Clifton says #
    An article on her collaboration with Carl Weschcke, etc. could be really interesting.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    She was before my time, but I'm in the process of interviewing some of the few remaining community elders around here who still re
  • Chas  S. Clifton
    Chas S. Clifton says #
    Bell, really? I don't know much about her biography.
Watery Wednesday Community News

It's Watery Wednesday at the Pagan News Beagle: the day we share stories of our many communities.

The Wild Hunt offers a report from this year's PaganSpiritGathering (Circle Sanctuary.)

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  • Ivo Dominguez Jr
    Ivo Dominguez Jr says #
    Thanks for boosting the signal about the New Alexandrian Library project. Blessings, Ivo

Posted by on in Culture Blogs


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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Glad you mentioned Diana Paxson; she and MZB collaborated on an entire series of Avalon books predating Mists, that start all the
  • Hunter Liguore
    Hunter Liguore says #
    Thank you both for your comments. Yes, it is one of those tough questions regarding responsibility, a theme I see often in MZB's b
  • Heather Kaminski
    Heather Kaminski says #
    This is my favorite novel and I've given some thought to all you have talked about here. Ultimately as is the case with most leade
  • Heather Kaminski
    Heather Kaminski says #
    Good article. Just want to point out error at the end of the seventh paragraph. "Uther was born" should be "Arthur was born."

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