When I was a very young child, my family would vacation at the Jersey Shore; now, the Jersey Shore is a series of islands off the coast of New Jersey. As islands, they are not as obvious as, say, the Outerbanks of North Carolina. Instead, they are seperated from the mainland by a marshy bay stretching half the length of the state, and are connected by a series of bridges which have the habit of being overwhelmed in the numerous storms of the summer and fall.

Of all the islands we would visit, the one which has a certain amount of poignancy is one called Avalon. A small island, not as busy as the booze-fuled Wildwood or the family-centered dry town Ocean City, Avalon was a place where we would escape from the dirty, broiling streets of Philadelphia. The cool ocean breezes, the sand and sun and waves were a paradise, and I can still hear my mom's Beach Boys albums playing on the porch.

Years later, when I was introduced to the Arthurian legends, I saw the name Avalon again--again an island paradise, where both the Holy Grail and King Arthur rested. I didn't connect the two instantly, though I do now. I didn't know then that King Arthur would be an obsession of mine--and yet I now see how it was oddly prescient that we would spend the best parts of my childhood on an island named Avalon.

This encyclopedia is the work of a (nearly) life-long obession with Celtic culture, an obsession fed by fantasy novels and trips to Ireland and Britain. It's a testament to my parents, who encouraged me to learn as much as I could, and who have supported me in this endevour.

Thank you for taking me to Avalon. I hope to return.

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Mary Jones 2003