Outlander

 

 

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For years people have been telling me to read the Diana Gabaldon series, and to be truthful I resisted. When I finally did get round to it I didn’t make it half way through the first book. Now i’m usually the read the book, then see the film but with this series I’d rather have someone else paint out the costumes and the landscape.

Right now i’m up to my ears in swathes of tweed, every color of the Scottish landscape – rich Harris Tweeds, woven on a wee Hebridean isle. I am embracing Outlander and making an army of dolls.

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Click on the above pic to watch the first episode online

There will be Highland Women workshops to follow, where we’ll listen to waulking songs (songs the women made up and sang while shrinking the tweed). We’ll explore legends such as the selkie (half seal, half human) and have a guided meditation where we step into the mists, and the magic that awaits on the other side!

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Click on the link for details of the Highland women workshop

I’ll be posting the outlander dolls this week.

The Old Dark Bent One: A Lughnasadh story

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Who says the most ancient one is old?

Today is the festival of the Gaelic festival of Lughnasadh, celebrating  the first harvest. We are at that point mid way between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. It feels fitting that this morning here in the mountains the sky is overcast with cooling breezes. As a wonderful sign of the movement of the great wheel I awoke this morning to a rustling in the bushes and as I opened my eyes the snout of a mama bear appeared, munching on greenery. She weaved her way through the trees with two little bundles of black fur running between her legs.

Across cultures there are many festivals at this time of year, maybe you celebrate Lammas, the Anglo-Saxon harvest festival of loaf making – which reminds me I should really get some spelt flour and see if I can concoct a gluten free soda bread. Or maybe you celebrate Lughnasadh, with the sun god  in Lugh, or in honor of his mother mother Tailtiu, after whom  Oenach Tailten, the great festive games,  were held in her honor. The games were named after her as  Tailtiu died in sheer exhaustion from clearing hundreds and hundreds of acres of Ireland, clearing the way for planting and farming. 

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Yet none of these festivals satisfies me as I hear a calling, a deep ancient calling. I hear it in my blood and my bones, as it is a calling from the old dark bent one himself, Crom Dubh, one of Irelands oldest deities, part of the very psyche of Ireland itself. So I find myself digging again, under myth and legend, trying to find the source, and here he is the opposing figure to the shining sun god Lugh.

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Crom Cruach as represented in ‘The Secret of Kells’. Click picture for trailer.

Among the roots of Crom Dubh, lies his earliest form, Crom Cruach. Crom means bent, crooked or stooped, while Cruach means both bloody and gory, or slaughter. He was a golden figure surrounded by 12 standing stones, stones that stood in an ancient circle on Magh Slecht (the plain of prostration), where people would bring their sacrifices. He demanded no less than your first born, to ensure your continuation of life through providing a good harvest. Crom Cruich was a terrifying figure, as all the old gods and goddesses are – as we humans need those lessons! Due to his golden appearance scholars suggest he was a solar deity, surrounded by 12 stones representing the zodiac. The sacrifices suggest he was a fertility god, and I even stumbled upon some theories relating Crom Cruach to Moloch the Ammonite god – both figures demanding a very high price in their sacrifices! ( Bohemian Grove’s owl represents Moloch – and their sacrifices, the sacrifice of ‘care’, but then that’s a whole other modern horror story).

Crom Cruach later morphs into Crom Dubh, Dubh meaning dark so Crom Dubh is the stooped bent, dark one. He lies under the earth with the great earth goddess Aine (of whom there are many aspects and forms) and at Lughnasadgh Crom Dubh emerges from the otherworld carrying his great offering, the first sheaf of wheat. Lugh and Crom Dubh fight, not just over the wheat but also the wheat sheaf is his daughter Eithne (pronounced Onya/Enya). Although of course Eithne isn’t just his daughter sometimes she appears as his consort.

I love getting lost in these myths as just when you think you’ve plotted the story, boom – and your back to a muddle, unsure of who is who. But I guess these days we can give it 5 minute research and think we’ve got it straight. These myths although hold a burning truth at their centre, a centre covered in a thick, thick weave. This cloth tells of symbolism we don’t quite get, as we are of another age. Untangling the threads of this cloth is an impossible task. You think you’ve picked up a strand until it morphs into something else completely. I love the chaos and the uncertainty, teaches us not to take ourselves too seriously, and give over to all those things which our modern age can’t quite grasp.

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Cruachan Aigle (Crough patrick)

Many made a pilgrimage at Lughnasadh, barefoot up the rocky path to the summit of Cruachan Aigle (the original name of Crough Ptrick).  A great festival was held at the foot of the mountain in honor and gratitude of the harvest. On Lughnasadh’s eve women would climb to the summit to spend the night in Aine’s bed to aid in their fertility. The next day those that made the climb brought offerings but also to ask of special blessings and requests at this sacred time in such a sacred place.

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Saint Patrick fought one of his greatest battles at this site as he was lured into battled with Corra the triple goddess taking serpent form. From Loch Derg (Lake of the Cave) Patrick was abducted into the otherworld but he escaped which shows his victory not only over Corra but of all Paganism as it is said that after defeating Corra all snakes on Irish soil disappeared. But there is a hint on that Island the lake of the ‘cave’ and with Corra in snake form, for the ‘cave’ was a pagan sanctuary, with a temple of incubation – which practised this ritual of incubation of entering the otherworld through mind altering techniques or drugs. The snake was always associated with these sanctuaries as throughout Europe in similar temples they roamed free. It is well documented that the Romans wiped out such sanctuaries, wiping out these ancient practices, creating the way for Christianity – and so we have Saint Patrick fighting Corra, a symbolism of Irish Paganism.

Somewhere along the web I picked up an interesting quote from Michaal Dales and his book ‘Mythical ireland’ who explains that after the neolithic it isn’t just the great sheaf of wheat that Crom Dubh is bent over from it is the rise of the iron age warriors and the clash with Christian Saints. His burden is all the weighty issues he’s supposed to carry, like his alter ego the bull, enduring everything heaped on him by his symbolic foes, the Irish saints!

And that about scratches the surface of my Lughnasadh….the tale has barely begun…

Sale

A few loved items looking for their forever homes….

 

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Witch. Wise woman. Her linage weaves back to the great ancient goddess. She can sit on an altar or a special corner in your home and inspire you in magical workings, in your own connection to the great mother.

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Click on photo for full details

Sold and off to Australia

Brighid is a well loved Goddess across the Celtic lands. Yet she has traveled far, over the Atlantic and is equally loved here in the Appalachians. She has travelled far throughout time offering meaning to different ages. Her roots stretch back way before Ireland back to the earliest veneration o the cave bear.

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Click on photo for full details
drum 2This small (10 inch) but powerful Arican Sakara frame drum is adorned with an india ink painting of the White Horse of Uffington. Many Shaman refer to their drums as a horse, for she leads you in the journey between the worlds. The White Horse was created in the neolithic most likely by a tribe whose totem was the horse, and naturally we think of horse goddesses such as Epona and the Welsh Rhiannon.

The spirals surrounding the horse represent this journey, moving from our reality to the realm of ancestors, guides, gods and goddesses. May you travel well and gain the answers you need.

Elen of the Ways

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Elen of the Ways is an ancient British shamanic folklore figure. Elen wears antlers, which female deer do not have, linking her roots back to (the female Reindeer having antlers) the early people who followed the reindeer herds from Europe over to the UK before getting cut off from mainland Europe and becoming an island.

Elen is the ancient Deer Goddess, an archetype of the land. The deer followed the ‘plods’ their tracks which ran along leylines. Elen offers insight into other worlds, to see between the worlds.

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From the ancient stone Venus figures, to poppets, to Voodoo dolls – people have created dolls for many reasons. They are vessels into which we invite the divine, so they become infused with spirit. They aren’t simply ‘things’ and can become interactive as part of a spiritual practice – offering them gratitudes and intentions as you might work with a religious icon. They are our portal to the divine which exists as much within us as it does around us and within every thing in our universe, for we are all connected through the divine matrix.

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I see her role as to facilitate your journeys to the otherworld – through dream, dance or inspiration. She can sit in a special place or adorn an altar to inspire you in your soul work.

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Going Deeper

If you wish to explore Elen’s roots check out the Deer Goddess retreat, just outside Asheville, NC this August.

 

 

 

 

Maleficent: The Dark Feminist Fairy Tale





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One upon a time, before time lived a young fair folk called Maleficent. Her story has more roots in reality than you might think, like the graceful swan effortlessly swimming on the loch there is far more going on under the waves.

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The Moors – Step across the threshold, between the worlds

The young Maleficent is a faery, one of the fair folk but is adorned with no gossamer shiny wings or glitter, she wears huge set of ram-like horns and wings almost the height of her body. She lives in the Moors, a place inhabited by other fantastical creatures, the Sidhe, the creatures of the land.                                                                      A Telegraph reviewer described night in the Moors depicted as ‘ nuclear-grade sweetness’. Sure there are luminous colors glowing, flying and swirling and dancing the darkness but have we forgotten that we once saw the divine in everything, each creature large or small, buzzing insect, blade of grass, the wind itself, imbued with the divine, this is the belief of indigenous people’s the world over.

What is clear from the wonderful creatures of the Moors and in stark opposite a land gripped by the rule of a king in his castle without the fair folk is that this is a place of two worlds. The Moors requires no king or queen, Maleficent is not their horned queen, she wears no crown, she is their mother, their protector. She knows and loves each flower spirit, each troll, each Gillie-dhu, and she protects them with a fierce love. The king on the other hand rules with an iron fist and as he lies on his death-bed he utters a quest, which to each male present is an intoxifying consuming quest, one for ultimate power. These two worlds are divide by a boundary, a threshold marked by giant sentinel stones.

 

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The fair folk
The Rape – The original trauma

The young Maleficent makes friends with a young human, son of the king. Their relationship grows. On the other side the king leads many quests to claim the lands of the Moors for himself, Maleficent stops him at every turn. As protector of the Moors she will do anything to protect her lands and the creatures within so she magically summons an impossible thicket of twisted thorny gnarly trees.

The king, now lying on his deathbed announces that his Kingdom will be passed to whomever can kill Maleficent. The kings son plots his revenge. One night while in the Moors he drugs the young Maleficent, and as she lies there in her drugged coma he hacks off her wings. The power offered y his father overcomes his love for his friend. When Maleficent awakes you can’t help but feel her pain when she realizes the full horror of what has been done to her, a bone jolting, goosebumping horror, felt through the primal anguish, the screams and the sobbing, the rape – which is wholly unexpected in a PG film. It is a fitting parallel to the loss of a young girls voice in our culture, work where Carole Gilligan  explores why a once confident young girl becomes a self-conscious teenager.

“At the buried core of women’s identity is a distinct and vital self, first articulated in childhood, a root identity that gets cut off in the process of growing up female” (Hancock 1989, p. 3).

The loss of voice, of confidence happens as a young women awakens (albeit unconsciously) to the patriarchal system. This comes about by how she is treated by others, y the role models offered to her and expectations portrayed in the media.

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 The great mother, dark goddess, witch

This date-rape also represents the downfall of the mother. One upon a time, before time, we lived in harmony as life is played out on the Moors. We honored our mother, the earth in a matriarchal power structure as outlined by Marija Gimbutas , there was a balance between female and male energies, both working together. The divine mother took her form in trees, the stars, the owl, the snake and the caterpillar as we saw her in the eyes of each and every human. She was the great mother, she gave birth to the cosmos and in death we returned to her, she was the great regenerator. She created meaning out of nothing, was was the creatrix.

Maleficent with her horns, and sweeping huge wings is the dark mother, as she sweeps down over the kings army she is the Morrighan, the dark goddess of chaos and death, she is Kali. The one who lives in the thresholds, one of the old ways, the healing ways, now misunderstood and named evil, bad, wicked.

In cutting off her wings the kings son vilifies her power, it is now she who is cursed, is spat upon,  is burned at the stake, she is the wise woman. She is the great mother demoted to the kings consort, mother of his children yet she really is the wise woman with her knowledge of the healing ways of herbs (earths magic), the witch, the keeper of the old stories, the traditional ways. We need a balance of both light and darkness, and what we have banished to the darkness isn’t dark at all but an essential part of ourselves. In taking her wings the kings son chooses power, by violence (the original date-rape?). What we have lost seems unimaginable but we only have to look around us at the values of our society to see how things went wrong.

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Jung. 

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While is was Maleficent who curses princess Aurora, it is she who breaks it. Not the soppy sickly sweet prince of the original tale, but a fierce mothers love (albeit it fairy-god mother, dark goddess mother). Our mother is the earth, we are her children. A Telegraph review writes that maleficent ‘ lacks the enchantment’, it does? This is the greatest story ever, that we have lain asleep for thousands of years, creating a modern myth around us while we remove mountain tops, have changed the planets climate, and now as we run out of resources our greed gets frantic, desperate  as we begin the dirty process of tar sands removal, fracking, poisoning drinking water aquifers.

We need to return to balance, awake from our sleep, break the curse, embrace our dark mother, tell her story and see how her vilification has affected each and every one of us. This story teaches on so many levels, as Jolie herself explains that maybe this movie will helps kids see that when bad things happen it silences us, abuse makes us feel different and this tale highlights how abuse changes us. Our cultural values abuse us, patriarchy effects men and women can we awake in time to overthrow the curse we ourselves created?


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If you wish to learn more about the dark Goddess and how we can practically bring that ancient energy into our modern lives check out celtic Soul Schools fall schedule of workshops and courses, check the main menu for the workshop and courses pages.

Final workshop poster 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bone Mother. Death and Renewal

Caill 1 edit.jpg   There was a time when there was one mother. She wasn’t good nor bad, she just was. She was everything. She was the one who created out of nothing. She was the one who gave meaning out of nothing. She birthed being into being, she was nurturing and provided what we needed.

Our ancestors gave thanks to this mother, she was their everything – as everything was born from her. This same mother was death, chaos and destruction. In death she took things back into herself in order to renew. caill 3 edit.jpg    She is the one whose chaos of winter struck down life in order to birth spring. She is the one who took the old bones of our loved ones back to herself, to the womb of being. She is the one who initiates change through death-like experiences, breaking down before renewal. caill 4

She is the one who was tore apart with our dualistic minds. The one who was called witch, the hag, the useless old woman.

Least we forget that her creativity is inexhaustible! She is the one who is undermining our capitalist foundations, working through the grass roots, the individuals, the network of  communities who are birthing a new world, a new way of working, an old way of working. A way of working with our mother – who takes us through breaking down, feeling we’re never going to recover from these patriarchal ties that have rewired out synapsis and made us question our very selves.

Her creativity is inexhaustible! This is why we need the cailleach, the primal mothers. This is why we sing over their bones, as calling them back into being, we call her back into being within ourselves. We call in right relationship with ourselves, each other, our communities and our plant and animal relations.

But first we break down our old patterns, the patterns taught to us, the lies taught to us. This is ugly, painful and death-like experience. As women we do this in circle, non judging, listening and supporting. Taking the chaos and rebirthing it into the new. Renewal from death. New ways of being out of this dumbing, numbing culture. In grounding with her we reach the bedrock, an ancient spiritual bedrock – it’s from that taproot that the new growth flourishes!

This is the core work of the Celtic Soul School. To birth and old wisdom into our modern lives. Sign up, it’s free and join a community of like minded folks. 

Deer Goddess workshop – Singing over the bones. Invoking the mother! 

The Cailleach is seen in the Celtic tradition of being the Crone face of Brighid. Check out the Brighid Study group – we will also be offering an online course, let us know if your interested in this.