a short lived moment of balance before the sea reclaims what is hers
Fox face driftwood
Sea weed face mask – she wears many faces
Sea cave – can you see the hags face by the entrance?
Can you sea the sea hags face?
A story of the making of a doll, or rather the beginnings of a doll.
I once encountered a very ancient energy at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. I wasn’t seeking or calling her yet this great primordial force made her presence known to me from the depths of the ocean. She was angry with me, furious even – it was dark and I couldn’t see the ocean, couldn’t see the waves – only the last few meters that crashed onto the shore. Standing there on that shore felt like the very edge of the world, as if the land just dropped off into dark space with the stars above intermingling with the ocean. I could feel her range, like an mother who wants her daughter to find her path – frustrated yet full of love and caring. That old one give me wise advice .
Many years later as I walk the shore here in Maine picking up driftwood, seaweed and prices of old rope I’m aware of that ancient figure again but in a different form. She is an energy that has transformed and shape shifted alongside humanity offering different stories and meanings to different people at different periods in time. What was the power of the ocean to the earliest peoples – she who brings rain clouds and storms and churns up the sea as if she is stirring her great cauldron and then can bring a great silence by muting both the sea and land in blankets of thick fog.
I have an affinity for the sea and have not long left my home surrounded by water in her many forms – of lochs and rivers and mountain streams.
In North Carolina I’ve been landlocked, although we have are in the presence of one of the oldest rivers in the world the French Broad or Tah-kee-os-tee, just to sit by her banks lulls you into a magical place out of time.
Last night on a dark moon I walked through the dark back streets. There was a fog swirling and a light drizzle of rain. The dog was spooked as if she was following us, taking the form of crow and bat and the hum from electric streetlights.
She reached into my dream last night with long skeletal fingers, like prices of bleached driftwood. she gave me a stone, a small brown stone with a hole. It is a hag stone, and if you were to look through it you can see into another realm, a place outside of time. And so I gather driftwood and seaweed and weave these together with wool and begin to create the sea witch, the sea hag.
The great meadow, Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, Maine
I have arrived at my destination. My feet are firmly on the ground, inhaling deep lungfuls of sea air while my ears take in the sound of the waves crashing onto the rocky shore but somehow I’m not fully here.
Arrival had been working on you long before you made your first step of the journey. On arrival we have already gone through several layers, the first longings that birthed the concept, the anticipation, planning and the journey all separate layers we unpeel before getting to arriving.
Arrival is an unfolding, only when all of the parts of me having fully arrived can that ritual fully begin. I am still shaken and stirred from two full days on the road – there’s no shortcut to between Asheville NC to Bar Harbor ME, it’s 21 hours unless you come across a wormhole in space and time.
Arriving involves listening and watching and the universe weaves you back from that threshold place with her language of synchronicities – signs and meanings of things that only makes sense to you.
When we’re outside our normal everyday things, no longer tied to all those daily to-do things a feeling of clarity forms. This perspective allows us to see those things that we’ve shoved to the sideline. Those things that wilted due to a lack of watering and light, but with a little soul tending the can flourish again Writing is one of those things for me, too often is is work with a looming deadline of words, words that are counted and fussed over and become a struggle.
Slowly I let the process weave its magic with the help of the sea and stars, trees and trails – and heed the words if John Burroughs
I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order
Click on image for more info about the doll
It is said that there was once a cult of Amanita muscaria, otherwise known as Fly Agaric. No one can quite say how or when, we can take a good guess as to the why, but there are definitely clues out there. Coming across this tallish (by mushroom standards) bright red mushroom with speckled spots has always evoked a little magic for me. Once while planting trees in the Highlands of Scotland I can across a little grove of a great granny pine and there at her base was a antlered deer skull with several Amanita muscaria growing beside it. That little scene marked a sacred threshold to an ancient past, another realm, I was unaware at the time that it was stirrings of a calling, the callings of the Ancient Mothers of Loch Lomond which i you wish you can read about here.
That other realm to is a pre-celtic era, an ancient past in the realm of the Deer Goddess, a figure far older than the antlered figure of Elen of the Ways who I see as possibly a priestess of this most ancient creatrix. But for now lets delve into the Celtic realm – of Druids and their sacred foods and of Brighid, patron goddess of the filidh, the Druid poets and diviners.
The use of Amanita muscaria is widely documented in numerous cultures throughout Europe and Asia yet obscurely mentioned in Celtic Culture. Laurie & White point out that Celtic legends are full of sleep-inducing berries, magical apples, illuminating hazelnuts and knowledge bestowing salmon. Although these were selected by the filidh as magical foods, there is nothing whatsoever psychotropic about these foods as no matter how much of a feast you indulged in would lead you to inspiring and prophetic visions. The Roman Historian Laertius recorded that the Celtic Druids and bards spoke in ‘obscure and coded ways’ obviously they weren’t going to divulge their most sacred rituals and insights to the Romans and Laurie and White suggest that referencing these foods as magical was actually a metaphoric reference to Amanita muscaria.
Click on image for more details on the doll
The Goddess Brighid and Aminita Muscaria
The Druids who would be using these sacred foods were the filidh, the poets and diviners. Their work involved answering questions of the tribe leader advising battle strategies and foretelling the future. In order to do this they undertook shamanic practices, particular rituals that took them to the otherworld to engage with the spirits and then bring that knowledge back to this reality. Hazelnuts and salmon wouldn’t help in entering into a deep trance but Amanita muscaria would facilitate that journey. The filidh would also petition their goddess in their work and as poets their goddess was Brighid. The great Goddess Brighid has offered different meaning to people over the ages. As a triple goddess she is made up of three sisters and together they are the triad who are patrons of smithcraft, poetry and healing.
Celtic poetry wasn’t rhyming verses of daffodils and fluffy clouds it was a poetry that recorded brave deeds in battle – that held the history of the tribe. It was woven to build up a great tribe leader but was as sharp as a sword and in an instant could bloodlessly cut someone down to size. Poetry was the realm of the filidh and so they must have turned to her in honoring and or helping in their work to inspire ecstatic poetry and induce prophetic visions. Brighid as we know is a fire goddess, and throughout her life in many instances was associated with pillars of flames flickering around her head, a fire which never burns, which in instances could have been an ancient coding for Amanita muscaria, which produces a pronounced heating of the head. We need to remember within the stories of Brighid that as Mary Condren (the feminist theologian and to me the greatest scholar of Brighid) advises it is an impossible task to say what stories are related to Goddess and which to saint as they are woven so tightly together they have felted together over the ages forming such a dense fabric is it no longer possible to tease out a single threads.
The Essence of Aminita
While possible Amanita muscaria references were coded, so too were Brighid’s associations with the speckled cow and speckled snake, these appear many times within her legends and both have otherworldly origins. Her association with the snake is well known, and in Scottish and Irish folk references refer to Amanita muscaria as the speckled snake. The legend of Saint Patrick in banning snakes from Ireland, although the it was the last ice age that had actually killed of any snakes in Ireland, is thought of as attempting to wipe out the pagan practice of the speckled snake cult claim Laurie and White.
Greg Marley author of ‘Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms‘ explains that fly agaric has been a symbol of yuletide happiness in Central Europe, Russia and Scandinavia for centuries, calling it “a red light shining bright in the winter darkness.”
This isn’t a straight forward story as it weaves over eons of time and we can only look for clues and try and piece the parts together, obviously there is so much that we can’t reclaim but we can try!
Reindeer and Amanita Muscaria
We’ve all heard of the connection of Santa and fly agaric but really this connection could be a very old remnant to the Aminita Muscaria cult. Terence McKenna notes the relationship between Santa and a fly agaric shaman concluding:
The Dark Months: Reindeer and Amanita Muscaria
One festival of this cult was the darkest of winter as that is the time of stories and sharing, of living together. This is a time of trance work and dreaming. By the time we reach Imbolc – which in northern climates is still the dead of winter things can get desperate, food might be running out and questions of surving into spring are looming!
Brighid is a far older goddess than Celtic culture Alistair McIntosh, a Scottish Scholar notes that Professor Seamas O’Cathain (Author of the now out of print Festival of Brigid) suggests that the folklore evidence associating the bear with the Goddess Brigit in Ireland is so strong that it may demonstrate a continuous link with religious practice of four thousand years previously when the bear still roamed Ireland and psychoactive fly agaric mushrooms were likely used in religious ritual.
The Partnership Culture Mushroom?
For someone fascinated in the demise of a partnership culture (a society where women and men hold equal status), a goddess culture which honored the great mother in all things and it’s destruction and overthrowal to a monotheistic male god cult – Terrance McKenna offers an interesting insight on human development and mushrooms. McKenna’s opinion is that psilocybin, a mushroom that he states was the catalyst that triggered self reflecting consciousness in humans. It’s constant availability and inclusion in the human diet for over 50,000 years is a key to what he explains was the suppressed the male urge of dominance and then due to climate change and the scarcity of psilocybin it’s withdrawal from the human diet started us on the track to the patriarchal culture we live in today.
Lally, Jude. 2013. The Great Bear Mother: A Journey with Brighid to the Ancient Dawn of Imbolc. Contained in: Monaghan, P and McDermott, M, (Eds), Brighid: Sun of Womanhood. Goddess Ink, USA. Pgs 10-16.
McIntosh, A. United Nations Biodiversity Proceedings: Cultural and spiritual values of biodiversity, Cambridge University Press,1998. Access online here: http://www.aislingmagazine.com/aislingmagazine/articles/TAM23/Deep.html
McKenna, Terrance. Part of a speech: Mushrooms in ancient and modern cultures. Access online here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzFnxfIxT-c
The Guardian of Lion’s Gate
I’ve been thinking for a while now about trying a new way of making dolls. So I found a wire coat hanger, chopped it up, twisted and moulded
Basic shape from a wire coat hanger
Wrapped some wool around the wire & shaped, then added some hair
She was made in the middle of the Lion’s Gate astrological alignment played out. Now I know nothing about astrology but I did notice some different energies occurring about how I was viewing certain things in my life – and a great unfolding of what is next. And as I pondered these energies my hands created Lion colored dreadlocks and this Guardian was born!
Click on photo for more info/view in online shop
This create took a long time to make. Usually I’m guided, I follow instructions that take me to these colors and impulses to these beads or those bones. With this one the trail went dead – I tried antlers, they didn’t work out, I tried this and I tried that.
Click on photo for more info/view in online shop
Then I followed my Grandmothers advice when it’s not working just leave it alone – so I did. Then slowly it came to me – she wanted a mask – and then it all fell into place.
Click on photo for more info/view in online shop
She is made in honor of our distant grandmothers, those who are spirit as their bones have long dried and turned to dust. Those women and their ancient ancestors before them – the ones who gave us the first notions of marking time – by creating notches on bones as they recorded their moontime. To the first baskets they wove to carry food back to others and share their harvest. These women gave us the first stirrings of language and astronomy…the list goes on but you’ll never find them acknowledged in any text book or within western mainstream shamanism.