Marion Zimmer Bradley



·        PLACES

·        PROLOGUE

·        Part One—THE WAY TO LOVE

·        Part One—THE WAY TO POWER

·        Part Three— THE WAY TO WISDOM


To our grandchildren


This is the story of a legend.

The provable facts about Helena are few in comparison with the wealth of stories that have attached themselves to her name. We know that she was the consort of Constantius and the honoured mother of Constantine the Great, and that she had some association with the town of Drepanum. We know that she owned property in Rome and that she made a visit to Palestine, and that is all.

But wherever she went, myths sprang up behind her. She is honoured in Germany and Israel and Rome, where she is hailed as a saint in the churches that bear her name. Medieval hagiography makes her the great discoverer of relics, who brought the heads of the three Wise Men to Cologne, the Robe Jesus wore to Trier, and the True Cross to Rome.

But she holds a special place in the legends of Britian, where it is said that she was a British princess who married an emperor. She is believed to have lived in York and in London, and to have established roads in Wales. Some even identify her with the goddess Nehalennia. Did these stories arise because Constantius and Constantine both had such strong connections with Britain, or could she have originally come from that isle?

If so, perhaps it is not so great a stretch to link her with the mythology of Avalon, and add one more legend to the rest.

Marion Zimmer Bradley and I began this work together, as we have worked together before, but it was left to me to complete it. At the end of her life Marion attended a Christian church, and yet she was my first high priestess in the ancient mysteries. In telling the story of Helena, who also walked between the Christian and the pagan worlds, I have tried to remain faithful to Marion’s teachings.

In the creation of this book, Marion’s was the inspiration and origin. The historical legwork was mine.

Among the many sources which were useful I should list: Fry’s Roman Britain; Gibbon’s classic Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which includes all the gossip; The Later Roman Empire, by A.H.M. Jones; Robin Lane Fox’s fascinating Pagans and Christians; and The Aquarian Guide to Legendary London, edited by John Matthews and Chesca Potter, particularly the chapter on the Goddesses of London by Caroline Wise of the Atlantis Bookstore. More specifically, I relied on Constantine the Great, by Michael Grant, and Jan Willem Drijvers’ classic, Helena Augusta; and for Helena’s journey and the reinvention of the Holy Land, Holy City, Holy Places?, by P.W.L. Walker. The hymn in chapter thirteen was written by St Ambrose in the fourth century.

I would like to express my gratitude to Karen Anderson for working out the astronomical configurations in the third century skies, and to Charline Palmtag for helping me with their astrological interpretation. My thanks also to Jennifer Tifft, for enabling me to make an extra trip to England and find the chapel of St Helena in York, to Bernhard Hennen, for taking me to Trier, and to Jack and Kira Gillespie for showing me Cumae and Pozzuoli.

Diana L. Paxson
Feast of Brigid, 2000


^ »


= historical figure


= dead before story begins




Aurelian —Emperor, 270-275


Aelia—a young priestess, trained with Helena


Allectus—Finance Minister to Carausius, later Emperor of Britannia, 293-6


Arganax—Arch-Druid during Helena’s youth


Asclepiodotus—Constantius’s Praetorian Prefect


Atticus—Constantine’s Greek tutor


Carausius—Emperor of Britannia, 287-293


Carus—Emperor, 282-3


Carinus—older son of Carus, emperor, 283—284


Ceridachos—Arch Druid when Dierna becomes High Priestess


Cigfolla—a priestess of Avalon


Claudius II—Emperor, 268-270, Constantius’s great-uncle


Corinthius the Elder—Helena’s tutor


Corinthius the Younger—master of a school in Londinium


Julius Coelius—[King Coel] Prince of Camulodunum, father of Helena


Constantia (I)—daughter of Constantius and Theodora, married to Licinius


Constantia (II)—daughter of Constantine and Fausta


Constans—third son of Constantine and Fausta


Constantine [Flavius Valerius Constantinus]—son of Helena, Emperor, 306-337


Constantine (II)—eldest son of Constantine and Fausta


Constantius Chlorus [Flavius Constantius]—consort of Helena, Caesar and later Augustus, 293-306


Julius Constantius—second son of Constantius and Theodora


Constantius (II)—second son of Constantine and Fausta


Crispus—Constantine’s illegitimate son by Minervina


Cunoarda—Helena’s Alban slave


Dalmatius—son of Constantius and Theodora Dierna—Helena’s second cousin, later Lady of Avalon


Diocletian—Senior Augustus, Emperor, 284-305


Brasilia—cook in Helena and Constantius’s household


Bishop Eusebius of Caesaria—Metropolitan Bishop of Palestine, a major writer of church history and later the biographer of Constantine.


Fausta—daughter of Maximian, wife of Constantine and mother of his legitimate children


Flavius Pollio—a kinsman of Constantius


Galerius—Caesar, 293-305, Augustus, 305-311


Gallienus—Emperor, 253-268


Ganeda—Helena’s aunt, Lady of Avalon


Gwenna—a maiden being trained on Avalon


Haggaia—Arch Druid when Helena returns to Avalon


Julia Coelia Helena, later, Flavia Helena Augusta—(Eilan) daughter of Prince Coelius, consort of Constantius, mother of Constantine and priestess of Avalon


Helena the Younger (‘Lena’)—a noblewoman of Treveri, wife of Crispus


Heron—a maiden being trained on Avalon


Hrodlind—Helena’s German maid


Joseph of Arimathea—founder of the Christian community on the Tor)


Katiya—a priestess of Bast in Rome


Lactantius—a rhetorician and Christian apologist, tutor to Crispus


Licinius—Caesar appointed by Galerius to replace Severus, later Augustus in the East, 313-324


Lucius Viducius—a pottery merchant trading between Gallia and Eburacum


Macarius—Bishop of Jerusalem


Marcia—midwife who delivers Constantine


Martha—a Syrian slave, healed by Helena


Maximian—Augustus of the West, 285-305


Maximus Daia—Caesar appointed by Galerius


Maxentius—son of Maximian, Augustus in Italy and North Africa, 306-312


Minervina—Constantine’s Syrian concubine, mother of Crispus


Numerian—younger son of Carus, Emperor, 283—84


Philip—Constantius’s servant


Postumus—rebel Emperor of the West, 259-68


Probus—Emperor, 276-282


Quintillus—brother of the Emperor Claudius II, Constantius’s great-uncle


Rian—High Priestess of Avalon, Helena’s mother)


Roud—a maiden being trained on Avalon


Severus—Caesar appointed by Galerius, executed by Maximian


Sian—daughter of Ganeda, mother of Dierna and Becca


Suona—a young priestess of Avalon


Teleri—wife of Carausius and then of Allectus, later, High Priestess of Avalon


Tetricus & Marius—rebel co-emperors of the West, 271


Tulia—a maiden being trained on Avalon


Victorina Augusta—mother of Victorinus and virtual ruler


Victorinus—rebel Emperor in the West, 268-270


Vitellia—a Christian matron living in Londinium


Wren—a maiden being trained on Avalon




Helena’s dogs: Eldri, Hylas, Favonius and Boreas, Leviyah


« ^ »


Aquae Sulis—Bath







Inis Witrin—Glastonbury

Isurium Brigantum—Aldborough, Yorkshire




Sabrina estuary—the Severn

the Summer Country—Somerset

Trinovante lands—Essex

Tamesis—the Thames

Tanatus Insula—Isle of Thanet, Kent


Alpes—the Alps

Aquitanica—southern France, Aquitaine

Arelate—Arles, France

Argentoratum—Strasburg, Germany

Augusta Treverorum (Treveri)—Trier, Germany

Baiae—Baia, Italy

Belgica Prima—eastern France

Belgica Secunda—the Low Countries

Borbetomagus—Wurms, Germany

Colonia Agrippinensis—Cologne, Germany

Cumaea—Cumae, Italy


Ganuenta—formerly an island where the River Schelde joins the Rhine in the Netherlands

Germania Prima—lands just west of the Rhine, Koblenz to Basle

Germania Secunda—lands just west of the Rhine, North Sea to Koblenz

Gesoriacum—Boulogne, France


Mediolanum—Milan, Italy

Moenus fluvius—the River Main, Germany

Mosella fluvius—the River Moselle, France, Germany

Nicer fluvius—the River Neckar, Germany

Noricum—Austria south of the Danube

Rhaetia—Southern Germany and Switzerland

Rhenus fluvius—the Rhine

Rhodanus fluvius—the Rhone

Rothomagus—Rouen, France

Treveri (Augusta Treverorum)—Trier, Germany

Ulpia Traiana—Xanten, Germany

Vindobona—Vienna, Austria


Aegeum—the Aegean

Aelia Capitolina—Jerusalem

Aquincum—Pest (Budapest), Hungary

Asia—Western Turkey

Bithynia et Pontus—northern Turkey

Byzantium (later, Constantinople)—Istanbul

Caesarea—a port city south of Haifa, Israel

Carpatus Mountains—the Carpathians

Chalcedon—Kadikoy, Turkey



Danu, Danuvius—the Danube

Drepanum (Helenopolis)—Hersek in northern Turkey

Galatia and Cappadocia—Eastern Turkey

the Haemus—Balkans

Heracleia Pontica—Eregli, Turkey




Naissus—Nis in Romania

Nicaea—Iznik, Turkey

Nicomedia—Izmit, Turkey


Rhipaean Mountains—the Caucausus

Scythia—lands above the Black Sea

Singidunum—Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Sirmium—Mitrovica or Sabac on the Save, Serbia

Thracia—southern Bulgaria

Marion Zimmer Bradley - Priestess of Avalon-1.jpg

Marion Zimmer Bradley - Priestess of Avalon-2.jpg


« ^ »

249 AD

With sunset, a brisk wind had blown in from the sea. It was the season when farmers burn the stubble from their fields, but wind had swept away the haze that had veiled the heavens, and the Milky Way blazed a white road across the sky. The Merlin of Britannia sat on the Watcher’s Stone at the top of the Tor, his eyes fixed on the stars. But though the glory of the heavens commanded his vision, it did not hold his entire attention. His ears strained to catch any sound that might come from the dwelling of the High Priestess on the slopes below.

Since dawn she had been in labour. This would be Rian’s fifth child, and her earlier babes had come easily. The birthing should not be taking so long. The midwives guarded their mysteries, but at sunset, when he had prepared for this vigil, he had seen the worry in their eyes. King Coelius of Camulodunum, who had called Rian to the Great Rite for the sake of his flooded fields, was a big man, fair-haired and massively built in the way of the Belgic tribes who had settled in the eastern lands of Britannia, and Rian was a little dark woman with the look of the faerie people who had been the first to dwell in these hills.

It should be no surprise that the child Coelius had begotten was too large to come easily from the womb. When Rian found that he had got her with child, some of the older priestesses had urged her to cast it from her. But to do so would have negated the magic, and Rian told them she had served the Goddess too long not to trust in Her purposes.

What purpose was there in this child’s birth? The Merlin’s old eyes scanned the heavens, seeking to comprehend the secrets written in the stars. The sun stood now in the sign of the Virgin, and the old moon, passing him, had been visible in the sky that morning. Now she hid her face, leaving the night to the glory of the stars.

The old man huddled into the thick folds of his grey cloak, feeling the chill of the autumn night in his bones. As he watched the great wain wheel ever further across the sky and no word came, he knew that he was shivering not with cold, but with fear.

Slow as grazing sheep, the stars moved across the heavens. Saturn gleamed in the south-west, in the Sign of Balance. As the hours drew on, the resolution of the labouring woman was wearing away. Now, at intervals, there would come a moan of pain from the hut. But it was not until the still hour just as the stars were fading that a new sound brought the Merlin upright, heart pounding—the thin, protesting wail of a newborn child.

In the east the sky was already growing pale with the approach of day, but overhead the stars still shone. Long habit brought the old man’s gaze upward. Mars, Jupiter and Venus stood in brilliant conjunction. Trained in the disciplines of the Druids since boyhood, he committed the positions of the stars to memory. Then, grimacing as stiffened joints complained, he got to his feet, and leaning heavily on his carven staff, made his way down the hill.

The infant had ceased its crying, but as the Merlin neared the birthing hut, his gut tensed, for he could hear weeping from within. Women stood aside as he pushed back the heavy curtain that hung across the doorway, for he was the only male who by right could enter there.

One of the younger priestesses, Cigfolla, sat in the corner, crooning over the swaddled bundle in her arms. The Merlin’s gaze moved past her to the woman who lay on the bed, and stopped, for Rian, whose beauty had always come from her grace in motion, was utterly still. Her dark hair lay lank upon the pillow; her angular features were already acquiring the unmistakable emptiness that distinguishes death from sleep.

“How—” he made a little helpless gesture, striving to hold back his tears. He did not know whether or not Rian had been his own child by blood, but she had been a daughter to him.

“It was her heart,” said Ganeda, her features in that moment painfully like those of the woman who lay on the bed, although at most times the sweetness of Rian’s expression had always made it easy to distinguish between the sisters. “She had laboured for too long. Her heart broke in the final effort to push the child from the womb.”

The Merlin stepped to the bedside and gazed down at Rian’s body, and after a moment, he bent to trace a sigil of blessing on the cool brow.

I have lived too long, he thought numbly. Rian should have been the one to say the rites for me.

He heard Ganeda draw breath behind him. “Say then, Druid, what fate the stars foretell for the maid-child born in this hour?”

The old man turned. Ganeda faced him, her eyes bright with anger and unshed tears. She has the right to ask this, he thought grimly. Ganeda had been passed over in favour of her younger sister when the previous High Priestess died. He supposed the election would fall on her now.

Then the spirit within him rose in answer to her challenge. He cleared his throat.

“Thus speak the stars—” His voice trembled only a little. “The child that was born at the Turning of Autumn, just as the night gave way to dawn, shall stand at the Turning of the Age, the gateway between two worlds. The time of the Ram has passed, and now the Fish shall rule. The moon hides her face—this maid shall hide the moon she bears upon her brow, and only in old age will she come into her true power. Behind her lies the road that leads to the darkness and its mysteries, before her shines the harsh light of day.

“Mars is in the Sign of the Lion, but war shall not overcome her, for it is ruled by the star of kingship. For this child, love shall walk with sovereignty, for Jupiter yearns towards Venus. Together, their radiance shall light the world. On this night, all of them move towards the Virgin who shall be their true queen. Many will bow before her, but her true sovereignty will be hidden. All shall praise her, yet few will know her true name. Saturnus lies now in Libra —her hardest lessons will be in maintaining a balance between the old wisdom and the new. But Mercurius is hidden. For this child I foresee many wanderings, and many misunderstandings, and yet in the end all roads lead to joy and to her true home.”

All around him the priestesses were murmuring: “He prophesies greatness—she will be Lady of the Lake like her mother before her!”

The Merlin frowned. The stars had shown him a life of magic and power, but he had read the stars for priestesses many times before, and the patterns that foretold their lives were not those he saw now. It seemed to him that this child was destined to walk a road unlike that which had been trodden by any priestess of Avalon before.

“The babe is healthy and well-formed?”

“She is perfect, my lord.” Cigfolla rose, cradling the swaddled infant close to her breast.

“Where will you find a nurse for her?” He knew that none of the women of Avalon were currently feeding a child.

“She can go to the Lake-dwellers’ village,” answered Ganeda. “There is always some woman with a newborn there. But I will send her to her father once she is weaned.”

Cigfolla clutched at her burden protectively, but the aura of power that surrounded the High Priestess was already descending upon Ganeda, and if the younger woman had objections, she did not voice them aloud.

“Are you sure that is wise?” By virtue of his office, the Merlin could question her. “Will the child not need to be trained in Avalon to prepare for her destiny?”

“What the gods have ordained they will bring to pass, whatever we do,” answered Ganeda. “But it will be long before I can look upon her face and not see my sister lying dead before me.”

pdf to jpg

The Merlin frowned, for it had always seemed to him that there was little love lost between Ganeda and Rian. But perhaps it made sense — if Ganeda felt guilt for having envied her sister, the babe would be a painful reminder.

“If the girl shows talent, when she is older, perhaps she can return,” Ganeda continued.

If he had been a younger man, the Merlin might have sought to sway her, but he had seen the hour of his own death in the stars, and he knew that he would not be here to protect the little girl if Ganeda resented her. Perhaps it was better that she should live with her father while she was small.

“Show me the child.”

Cigfolla rose, flipping back the corner of the blanket. The Merlin stared down at the face of the infant, still closed in upon itself like the bud of a rose. The child was large for a newborn, big-boned like her father. No wonder her mother had fought such a grim battle to bear her.

“Who are you, little one?” he murmured. “Are you worth so great a sacrifice?”

“Before she died… the Lady… said she should be called Eilan,” Cigfolla answered him.

“Eilan—” the Merlin echoed her, and as if the infant had understood, she opened her eyes. They were still the opaque grey of infancy, but their expression, wide and grave, was far older. “Ah… this is not the first time for you,” he said then, saluting her like a traveller who meets an old friend upon the road and pauses for a moment’s greeting before they continue on their separate ways. He was aware of a pang of regret that he would not live to see this child grown.

“Welcome back, my dear one. Welcome to the world.”

For a moment the baby’s brows met. Then the tiny lips curved upward in a smile.

Part I

« ^ »








midi to mp3   pdf-to-jpg.org   flash-map-shop.com