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Crossing to Avalon: A Woman's Midlife Quest for the Sacred Feminine

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  656 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
A Midlife Quest For The Grail And The Goddess

Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen's extraordinary memoir celebrates the pilgrimage that heralded her spiritual awakening and leads readers down the path of self-discovery. In this account of her journey to Europe in search of the sacred feminine, she unveils the mythological significance of the midlife search for meaning and renewal.

Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 20th 2004 by HarperOne (first published 1994)
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Mar 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have re-read this book many, many times since I was about 16 years old. Not just for women in mid-life.
Sep 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the feminine aspect of spirituality
As someone else said in her review, you don't have to be at midlife (or a woman, for that matter) to enjoy this book. Jean Shinoda Bolen takes on a tour of some of the ancient mystical Goddess sites of Europe. I have been to these sites many times, and it was nice to take a trip back there with Bolen and observe the different feelings she felt on her journeys. It was hard for me not to get a little depressed, as I always do, at the almost complete annihilation of matrifocal worship in our world' ...more
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Actually, I just started this today 4/21/12. I had only read the Preface when I posted and I picked it up today and read to the fourth chapter. I'm torn between this book and everything else that calls for my attention -- one very good reason to dive in! It's about just that -- participating in an archetypal inner journey that transforms one's life in the outside world. That transformation is described -- and through the Grail Legend, no less -- in a way that rings so true and is so pertinent to ...more
Deborah Blanchard
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book takes you on a magical journey from the very first page. It will make you honor your inner self as a woman. This is a book to be savored and I will continue to read it to reinforce my sense of self worth as a beautiful soul, called woman. It is written in such a way as to make you think and ponder life in general. This book will be on my nightstand, along with my Bible and my daily affirmations. I highly recommend this book and I would like to thank my wonderful friend Christine, for i ...more
Mar 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, spirituality
The author is a jungian analyst (psychiatrist affiliated with UCSF). She has written a variety of interesting books. I enjoyed this one because of her focus on mid-life, the divine feminine and Glastonbury, England - which is a town (and Tor) we have enjoyed.
C.J. Prince
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
For those of us who search for expression of the Divine Feminine, Jean Shinoda Bolin shines a light.
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Hmm, what to say about this book. I liked a lot of the ideas the author had, but by no means all of them. Sometimes I felt like she was generalizing too much in her analysis of peoples lives. People frequently (myself included) make statements and use the word "everyone" carelessly. This felt more deliberate then that, as if she truly felt that every single woman should feel this way, and have such and such understanding of the world. I am glad I read it, and agreed with the general feeling of t ...more
Kathy  Petersen
"Take what you need and leave the rest." That's what Al-Anon says. I found plenty to leave in Crossing to Avalon but quite enough to take as well. I don't entirely buy the Goddess concept, for I have long determined that my Roman Catholic triune God definitely has a feminine component, aka the Holy Spirit or Holy Wisdom. Yet much of Bolen's very personal memoir is enlightening and - no disrespect here - entertaining.
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
I just couldn't get through this. I thought the subject material was interesting, but her writing style does not jive with me. It felt choppy and monotone, and read more like a textbook than something written about an inspiring, life-affirming journey. I tried and tried to finish this and finally gave up.
Courtney Anthony
Some parts are fascinating, and some parts seem to lack focus and drag on. Definitely still worth a read, but read Goddesses in Everywoman first.
Oct 20, 2009 rated it liked it
A bit "woo woo" but interesting non the less.
May 08, 2017 rated it liked it
I found this book as a recommendation for an Iona retreat I will be attending this fall. I found the portions on Iona interesting as well as a couple of the French locations I have been to before. I was a fish out of water for much of the book. I also enjoyed the last chapter of the book.
Tessa Floreano
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There was much here I could relate to. I very much resonated with the writing, too. I recommend this book for any woman in midlife, whether she realizes she's on a quest or not.
It's nice to add a book to my all time favorites shelf. It's been a long time since I've been able to do that!

This book was incredibly profound and was exactly what I've been looking for at this time in my life. Having become very interested in and involved in the Goddess movement..... or, push towards Feminine Divine consciousness, I found this book to be very balanced. It meant a lot to me that JSB finds a way to hold both God the Father and Mother Goddess in her heart in a real and balanced w
Anthony Larusso
The description of how she started her journey prepares the reader for a magical journey, and leads the reader to believe it'll be equal parts magic, description, theory, history, and adventure. Her book circuitously hits some of those points but inconsistently.

The Author is a highly-thinking therapist moving steadily into heart-opening and mystery -- and this journey is very moving at times, but in a subdued manner. There's smaller revelations that add up, rather than a few building with a sen
Janice(JG) George
Nov 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Author Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., a Jungian analyst and clinical professor of psychiatry at UC Berkeley, was invited to take a pilgrimage to several sacred sites in Europe in order to experience first-hand what these places had to offer by way of the mythic, legendary, and archetypal presence of the Goddess (or goddesses / empowered females and their stories and artifacts). She accepted the invitation, and the result is this fascinating memoir, travel journal, and compendium of myths, archetypes, ...more
Sep 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
While "Crossing to Avalon" is completely and utterly in my wheel house and unofficial Celtic studies, I found fault in a great many things I can barely name all in one review. in "Goddesses in Everywoman," Bolen does have a knack for understanding and analyzing archetypes beneficial to the topic at hand. My biggest issue, as the child abuse survivor that I am, is presuming in journalistic inclined statements generalizing the experience in one sentence then mea culpa-ing that statement up until t ...more
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Crossing into Avalon"
This is a Woman's midlife quest to find the Sacred Female, with our know She will find Her heart's longing, the Goddess Herself. I read this book 5 years ago, and forgot to list as a wonderful adventure for anyone wishing to find the Loving, beating heart of the Mother Goddess Herself.
The author is an excellent writer and you are on an armchair express with Her, as She experiences Her spiritual awakening rekindled. I highly recommend this book for any Woman, who might fe
Green Iona
Feb 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, spirituality
This book was kind of like an Eat, Love, Pray setup but a lot less exciting. I'd say it was not so heavy on her story, but more of a half and half-story to teaching ratio. She gave us a lot of analysis of the symbols in her journey, and didactic writing about the feminine hero's journey. If you've read her other books then it becomes a little repetitive. It was good to hear about her mystical experiences as she travels, and to learn about these sacred sites she traveled to. It reads very casuall ...more
Jennie Floyd
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
I had enjoyed the "Goddesses in Every Woman" and "Every Man" books by this author, and picked this up at a thrift shop. It's a memoir of her pilgrimage to the sites that were sacred to the Goddess in Europe and the UK, and it was written in the early 1990s, before the Goddess movement really took off. But it still spoke to me, about the value of pilgrimage and how much we need to include the feminine in our spiritual journey. Jean Bolen is a graceful and gifted writer, and if you are interested ...more
Apr 19, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: women-centered spirituality seekers
Recommended to Jodi by: no one
I enjoyed the way the author pointed out connections between pagan traditions and Christianity in this book, as well as the various ties/aspects of women's involvement. The reason I've rated it a 3 is because there are sections that are poorly written, and thus are somewhat difficult to understand. I would also like to have seen a basic description of the Grail myth at the beginning (for those of us who don't know much about it) since much of the book presupposes this knowledge.
Jan 12, 2011 rated it liked it
I have a fondness for Bolen since she was on the vanguard of the goddess spirituality movement with 'Goddesses in Everywoman' in the mid-'80s. This book has some interesting personal insights, particularly when she contrasts the different spiritual encounters she has had with God vs. those with the Goddess. But overall, the book has a cerebral rather than spiritual tone & reads more like a psychology text (she's a Jungian analyst) on the symbolism of the Grail legend. So, eh.
Jan 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Part memoir of spiritual awakening, part self help book. I expected it to be a bit more memoir than it actually was. It's definitely a useful book, though I didn't find it as engaging as I did Goddesses in Every Woman (by the same author). This would be of interest to anyone looking for their spiritual path or anyone interested in finding the goddess in themselves and in the world.
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Slow going on some parts but in others she was writing about my life in addition to her own. If not for my desire to pass along to someone I think would also appreciate it, I would keep to reread in a few years as I am with her Goddesses in Every women which I originally read when it came out in the 80s
Oct 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, and easy to read. About the goddess religions which existed prior to the current 2,000 year old patriarchal world, and the sacred places, some cathedrals, now occupying former places of goddess worship. Her personal journey to some of these places and how deeply it affected her. This is so inspiring, I may go on a Jean Bolen trip to Ireland (sacred sites)!
Nov 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Jean Shinoda Bolen's descriptions of these magnificent places and her story of growth couldn't have come at a better time for me. I really want to go on a similar pilgrimage and see all these places for myself. I am getting older, my nest is starting to empty, and I am making life changes, this book helped me put some of this into perspective and really look inside to learn more about myself.
May 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, spirituality, own
I liked the mix of personal spiritual experience and more scholarly information. Lots of information about Jungian archetypes and the Goddess. I'm going to have to read this again when I reach my fifties.
Jun 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Good to read, made me think about my life and the coincidences in it, but at the same time it was not extraordinarily deep for me as it was an account of one woman's journey and what it meant for her.
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
I read this during my high peak feminist days and was really impressed. Now I see all the things I was searching for was right in the LDS church all along. Sometimes you have to go away to appreciate home.
May 31, 2012 rated it really liked it

I agree the writing is a little choppy. Worth the read though. There is so much wisdom in this book and it's woven into a very real experience. I like the marriage of the mystical and mundane in this book.
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Jean Shinoda Bolen, M. D. is a psychiatrist, Jungian analyst, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and recipient of the Institute for Health and Healing’s "Pioneers in Art, Science, and the Soul of Healing Award". She is a former board member of the Ms. Foundation for Women.
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