Caitlin and John Matthews,
Ladies of the Lake
(HarperCollins, 1992)

This workbook leads the reader through a series of spiritual lessons and meditations, based on the archetypes of the Ladies of the Lake. These are the strong women throughout the Arthurian myth, although not all will be instantly recognizable to the casual student. These nine women have their own strengths and teachings for the reader, in order to discover these primal female forces within him or herself.

The book is designed to work with The Arthurian Tarot, also designed by Caitlin and John Matthews and illustrated by Miranda Gray. It is not necessary to have the deck in order to use this book, but some may find it a useful and beautiful tool.

The nine women are divided into three groups, which give direction to their energy. Igraine, Guinevere and Morgan are the kindred to Arthur. These are the women around Arthur with the most obvious effects on the stories. Argante, Nimue and Enid are of the Sovereign Sisterhood, spiritual figures in the Arthurian legend. They are more mystical and otherworldly, but still influence the primary characters. Finally, Kundry, Dindraine and Ragnell are the Grail maidens. They are most connected to the Grail quest, either as a part of the quest, or in aiding knights seeking the Grail.

The beginning of the book discusses how the book can be used for growth, and background on the ladies themselves. The Matthews' speak very clearly of the need for care in performing the visualizations, including the avoidance of drugs and alcohol, as well as visualizing while under intense emotional stress. Both circumstances can cloud the judgement of the seeker, resulting in an incomplete experience.

Each chapter contains the mythical history of the woman, where she appears in various tellings of Arthur's story, and how she influences the legend. Her value and symbolism as an archetype is explored, as well as her otherworldly nature, and the manner in which a seeker can learn from her lessons. The meditation at the end of each chapter serves as an introduction to the archetype, and how the seeker can use this aspect of themselves in their own quest for spiritual growth. After the meditation, clear references are listed for those who may wish to study a particular character in more detail.

The book is not specifically pagan or Wiccan, instead putting forth these archetypes as women who we can learn from, no matter what our spiritual state or religious affiliation. The meditations are easy to read, and are most effective when read to the seeker, or taped and played back. The bibliography -- nearly eight pages -- encourages the reader to go back to sources such as Chretien de Troyes and the Mabinogion to explore the variations of the myths and legend of the British Isles.

[ by Beth Derochea ]

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