Whoosh! Issue 12 - September 1997


IAXS Research Project No. 197
By Tanya Agbayani
Copyright © 1997 held by author
1518 words

Hearsay And Misinformation (01-04)
Power, Bondage, And Children (05-08)
Sacrifice (09-12)
Decline (13-14)
Conclusion (15)

Amazon Princesses and the Priestesses from Mists of Avalon

Mists of Avalon (1983) by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Hearsay And Misinformation

[01] Hidden behind a veil of hearsay and misinformation, two separate groups of legendary women strive to continue societies fashioned of their own making and for their own purposes. Servants of the Mother Goddess, as described in the novel The Mists Of Avalon (1983) by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and the Amazon Princesses, as depicted in the television shows Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, have discovered the tremendous power that can be channeled by courageous women who have banded together in unified purpose. Both of these societies defy the prevailing notion that women are weak and deftly sidestep the shackles of marriage and housewifery. This leaves the women more free for self-actualization, although it does demand a price. Both the Priestesses and Amazons recognize that to save their society, real sacrifices must be made. Sacrifices that paradoxically could lead to the very destruction of that which they are trying to save.

Stand and Deliver!  We want all your hair care products!

Those pesky Amazons are on the attack

[02] The first appearance of the Amazons in a misty forest in Hercules and the Amazon Women (Bill L. Norton, 1994) raises the hackles as the viewer is confronted with an entity that cannot be seen but can be felt. As two men are killed swiftly, the viewer is left to wonder at what sort of animal is on the prowl. As Pithus describes his village's problem to Hercules, he maintains that there is some sort of "beast" terrorizing the countryside. The men in the village describe the "beast" as having the heads of wolves, bears, hawks, and various other animals. As Iolaus later discovers, to his unfortunate surprise, the attackers are not beasts at all, but women.

[03] So too, were the Priestesses from Avalon misunderstood. Gwenhwyfar, Arthur's Queen, lived side by side for many years with Morgaine, the woman who became the "Lady of the Lake", the High Priestess of Avalon. Even though she knew her well, Gwenhwyfar still doubted Morgaine:

"[ S]he herself knew nothing evil of Morgaine...and Morgaine was, so far as she knew, as virtuous as herself. Yet it was rumored that Morgaine was a witch...and was in league with the fairy folk or the Devil."

[04] The people in the worlds of the Amazons and the Priestesses find it more convenient to explain away the power exhibited by the women as unnatural, beast-like, or of the Devil. They do not want to admit that it might be an untapped power ever-present in the lives of ordinary women.

Power, Bondage, And Children

So, Herc, do you wax or shave?

Hercules' strength didn't save him from being bound and gagged by Amazons.

[05] The power these women exhibit is real. In Hercules and the Amazon Women, the warrior woman training the young girls advises them in the ways of vanquishing an enemy by using his strength and arrogance against him. In HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10), it is revealed that the Amazons have waged many successful wars, holding their own against centaurs and others and building a great society. The Priestesses of Avalon, the "Holy Isle," have honed their ability to raise the mists between dimensions, possess the gift of the "Sight," and are adept at "Sendings." Morgaine, a short woman, can easily robe herself in a "Glamour" that makes her appear tall and stately. These women can invest a lot of time and energy into perfecting their craft because they are not tied to the hearth of any particular man.

[06] Xena, like the Amazons and the Priestesses, recognizes that marriage is not only bondage to a man, but to the children produced in the union, as well. Xena's son Solon in ORPHAN OF WAR (#25) must be left in the care of Kaleipus, the child's foster-father, not only because it is in the child's best interests, but also so Xena can continue the heroic lifestyle she was born to live. Xena cannot properly care for a child while traipsing around the countryside having adventures. Callisto, too, recognizes the dangerous product of romance in RETURN OF CALLISTO (#29) when she responds to the amorous advances of her second-in- command, Theodorus, with the lines "Love is a trick Nature plays to get us to reproduce. I want no part of it." Callisto no doubt would view pregnancy as some sort of alien intruder in her body.

I say we strike on Saturday, when everything is on sale!

Amazons discussing events of the day.

[07] The Amazon women in Hercules and the Amazon Women do want the childbearing part, but they appear to have a "village" method of child rearing which leaves the warriors free to explore their abilities. Notably, they do not want sons to sully their society.

[08] The Priestesses of Avalon, as well, do not necessarily bloom under childbearing. The sister, Morgause, describes pregnancy as being "trapped, angry," with something "she can't change and is afraid of." But to avoid the rigors of motherhood the Priestesses do not choose celibacy, the choice of Christian nuns, because that would be denying one of the great gifts of the Goddess. If a Priestess becomes pregnant during the Beltane fire rituals or at another occasion, the child is either carried to term or "cast forth by the knowledge of herb lore and drugs." Children who are carried to term are either "reared or sent to fosterage as the Lady decreed." Most precious, of course, to a Priestess as to an Amazon, would be a daughter. Viviane, the first "Lady of the Lake" in the novel confesses "I longed for a daughter into whose hands I could resign my office."


Those fishcakes are mine!  Gimmee!

Gabrielle throws herself in harms way for Terreis, but alas, it is too late.

[09] Viviane also confesses that the path she chose in being a Priestess for the Goddess exacted quite a bit from her:

"I, who have given my life to it, say still it would be simpler to live the life of a peasant woman, beast of burden and brood mare in season."

[10] Daily sacrifice is an integral part of their life, as Viviane's sister Igraine, who is not a Priestess but was born on Avalon, muses:

A daughter of the Holy Isle must do as was best for her people, whether it meant going to death in sacrifice, or laying down her maidenhood in the Sacred Marriage, or marrying where it was thought to cement alliances...

[11] The Priestesses of Avalon recognize that not everyone is called to be a Priestess, however. Another sister of Viviane's, Morgause, is described as having a different destiny when Viviane says, "She is not fit. She sees, under the mantle of the Goddess, only power, not the unending sacrifice and suffering. And so that path is not for her."

[12] Sacrifice is no stranger to the Amazons, either. Each and every one of them would be willing to give up her life for the group. In addition, giving up one's male children is also quite a sacrifice. That sacrifice turned out to be too dear for some of the Amazon women in Hercules and the Amazon Women. For some, the best course is to be a "brood mare in season" and full-time Mother. Forcing every Amazon woman to abandon her sons proved to be a downfall of the Amazon tribe. Yet, since the Amazons reappeared in several later episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess, Amazons were apparently able to thrive despite this practice.


This is what happens when you sit too close to the TV.

Velasca trashes a temple dedicated to Artemis
after killing the only two male speaking characters

[13] What did seriously threaten the Amazons were the ambitions of Velasca, who appeared in THE QUEST (#37) and A NECESSARY EVIL (#38). Velasca was so consumed with trying to regain the "former glory" of the Amazon Nation that she was willing to destroy the village when she could not rally the support she thought she deserved. A critical cause of the decline of the Amazon Nation was their inability to find something else to unify them besides war. Because they could not find something else greater than individual ambitions to inspire them, they inevitably declined.

[14] In decline as well were the Priestesses of Avalon. As Kevin, the Bard and Merlin of Britain, said, "Lady, ... The Nazarene has conquered, and we must go into the mists further and further until we are not more than a legend and a dream." The sacrifices exacted by the Lady of the Lake did not ultimately preserve Avalon, but only pushed it further into the mists.


[15] Women and men both can learn from the lifestyles of the Priestesses and the Amazons. While not everyone is fated to a life of total sacrifice, small sacrifices in daily life can be made for the sake of the community. In addition, too many wrongly think that a high-pressure time-consuming career or endeavor should not conflict with caring for small children or having a healthy relationship with a mate. The Amazons and the Priestesses realized the conflict, so they avoided marriage and traditional family life so that they could pursue their goals. Perhaps everyone needs an "Amazon" time in their life, away from the demands of a mate and family, to fully explore themselves and bring a richer, deeper self to their home hearth and community.

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