A Brighid Documentry & Invoking Her Protection

 

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Click on the image above to read more about the Brighid course & for signing up details 

Weaving the Protection of Brighid – an Online Course

The following documentary clearly outlines the great span of time Brighid has existed for as she morphed and changed alongside us. These different ages of people took different meaning from her. In my new online course offered in partnership with Motherhouse of the Goddess we explore several customs of Brighid which offer protection. We explore their origins, there are journal prompts to explore your own feelings as well as suggestions in incorporating these age old rituals into your life. The course runs for a week, is self paced and explores her rites of making her wheel or cross, smooring the fire, charms, augury and clooties. There are also prompts in getting to know Brighid through creating a Brighid altar and a guided meditation which takes you back to a very early form of Brighid.

 

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Click on the image above to view a Brighid documentary screened on Irish TV – It’s available to view (from international locations) until the end of february 2016.

The Brighid Documentary

I’ve always hoped someone would make a documentary or a film that dives into the depths of Brighid. A work that would flesh out the stories of Brighid taking her back to a time when she was the Great Goddess, the one and only Great Mother.

This documentary answer that request, a story that begins thousands of years ago, a time only remembered by the stones. I was glad to see the familiar face of Sean O Duinn, author of several books on Celtic Spirituality and someone I was honored to talk aside at a Celtic Spirituality conference in Edinburgh. O Duinn sets the record straight stating that we can only speculate about the belief systems of ancient Ireland as we cannot know for definite what our ancestors believed.

Wheel of Perpetual Motion

The shape of the woven Brighid’s wheel, or cross forms a lozenge pattern in the centre, a form that archeologist Marija Gimbutas links to similar shapes engraved onto Neolithic stone Goddess figurines. This symbol has been found etched onto to belly of such figurines, Gimbutas interpreted the lozenge to represent the feild and a seed which was actually often pressed into the clay became the seed planted into the mothers belly. ‘Fertility’ is a word that comes up too often in general discussion of the stone Goddess figurines. The Great Mother was fertile in the sense that she provided everything – she gave us life midwifing us into this world, she was there as we moved from cycle to cycle in our lives, as she cycled from moon cycle to moon cycle and cycles through the great WHeel of the Year. She was also there as midwife as we left this world and crossed over to the otherworld and returned back to her. She was birth, death and renewal.

This is what Gimbutus found through her work in the great language of symbols of Old Europe. This Great Goddess took many forms – snake, bird, owl…

The documentary introduces us to the outlook of megalithic people who did not see themselves as individuals as they were fully integrated with nature, they were an integral part of the cosmos. Slowly Brighid, the Great Mother was given different names in different locations as she became localized to each of the peoples in different parts of ireland. For thousands of years the Great Goddess was the deity that flowed through all things.

Waves of Invaders

Then came the invaders to Ireland, each wave of incomers bringing their beliefs and meeting the Great Mother. The Celts were a warring culture, a patriarchal culture. They were influenced by the Great Mother but ultimately the legends got rewritten and the strong women were defeated by male Gods – becoming wives, consorts and often being killed off.

Brighid shares has similar qualities to other mother Goddesses from Juno to Isis, Hecate, Artemis and Diana – sharing qualities of healing, crafts, patron of midwifes – of both life and death. In the face of all this change Brighid survived by adapting – now she has a father in the Dagda (King of the Gods) and a son Ruadh, killed in a war waged by his mothers people against his fathers people. At this stage with the belief in the Great Goddess waining Brighid, she as with the rest of the Tuatha de Dannan, retreat into the depths of the earth.

As the message of Christ came to Irish shores his message was woven into Irish belief and Christianity and local indigenous belief existed peacefully side by side and formed a merging of both in Celtic Christianity. Yet the message of this new faith of one male God figure took the power of creation from the womb of the Mother Goddess and he became the sole author of life. This view rejected the great birth of the Mother who had birthed all life for thousands upon thousands of years for a God who created the universe as an act of his own will. Her great cauldron of life becomes the new chalice of sacrificial blood which promising eternal life after death. An eternal life in heaven rather than a life renewed to be played out again and again on earth.

We’re introduced to the figure of the Sheela-na-gig, found carved over the door in many old Christian churches, she exists as a nod to the Great Mother as in walking into the church you are passing into her great womb, the cauldron of the Goddess. At this point Brighid is now reduced to the holy woman of the Christian church, placed under God the father. Time has now altered the peoples perception of Brighid. Mary is now the great queen and Brighid is cast in the same mould of virgin maiden.

Moving onto Kildare (Cill Dara – Church of the Oak) the documentary suggests that the origins of Saint Brighid of Kildare was likely to have been the priestess of the local temple. Addressing the point that the very name of ‘Brighid’ when you consider it’s wide appearance not just in ireland, Britain but all over Europe might actually have been a title rather than a name.

The biggest threat to the legacy of Brighid arrived with colonial rule, it’s impacts rippled through Irish life. Her stories were embedded in the folklore of the people and with the Celts an oral people her tales were never written down. A later banning of speaking Gaelic in turn marginalizes Brighid further and so it was in the farmsteads, with the country folk where Brighid’s beliefs were still held and could be seem in her customs and rituals.

I was hanging on every word of this documentary – guessing where it was going next, wondering what they would consider and address. They explained the concept of sovereignty – of Kings being married to the land and a mythical wedding to the Goddess Herself. And that She would often challenge them by approaching as an old haggard woman – to reject her was to bring downfall to their reign, to accept she then shape shifted into her maiden form. This concept adopted and romanticized by the Irish language revivalist movement and this young virginal maiden inspired many revolutionaries. They highlight that this image called for blood sacrifice as to them only blood could purify the land, this was never the a requirement by the Great Goddess and so by this point She, Great Goddess, Mother Goddess, Brighid had now been wholly colonialised.

Brighid’s Role Today

I was glad to see that the documentary ended questioning Brighid’s role today – questions I continually pose. An interesting answer is now that science has harnesses the ‘miracle of life’ and all that is there any wonder left in dawn and dusk and the cycle of the moon? Another answer nods to a need for partnership culture, born of Old Europe when men and women lived peacefully with no evidence of war or weapons. there’s was a time men and women worked together and honored the Great Goddess. That we need that relationship not just between men and women but also in humanity and nature. Sean O Duinn answers that she is still relevant as everyone needs a symbol of sorts. Another answers describes that as Brighid is relevant to her as the Goddess of inspiration and poetry  if inspiration and poetry survive then too will Brighid.

The documentary concludes by highlighting Brighid has and always will be an intermediary – between the new and old, night and day, winter and summer. She links all of what has passed with all that’s yet to come.

I arrived in the foothills of the Appalchains not quite realizing the depths of Celtic roots, I was surprised to see Brighid alive and flourishing here. To me Brighid is a wonderful figure or birthing a new world. A fitting deity with the rebirth of the Goddess as we sow the seeds for a new world rooted in her rich spiritual bedrock.

 

Imbolc Traditions, Creating Ceremony & House Blessing

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Today we are experiencing snow here in the foothills of the Appalachians, big snow. With it brings feelings of wondering if you have enough food, enough fuel – will the power go out? And of course addressing is being co-oped up with family members going to drive us all mad!

The storm has delivered the very essence of Imbolc. The wheel of the year isn’t a rigid thing with just one meaning (as in mainstream Pagan interpretation) it is viewed slightly differently with different peoples. There isn’t one story, there are as many stories as our own experiences. In my tradition, born at Northern latitudes, Imbolc is the very essence of that uncertainty, that feeling of being unsure, that not knowing how things are going to turn out. Our ancestors faced these very same questions at this time of year – the worry over were food stores going to run out, when would winter eventually end? It’s as if that worry at this very time of the year is still knitted into our bones – as who doesn’t worry about paying the fuel bills? But it’s ok, we acknowledge this feeling. The wheel is our practice, that’s why at Imbolc we acknowledge these feelings and work out how best to deal with them so when those feelings hit again at another time of the year we have practised, we know what to do to take care of ourselves.

 Beyond our knowing, honoring mystery

Throughout the ages Brighid has meant many things to many people, at each age her mystery and stories grew another layer, another dimension. We each have a personal relationship to her, mine may well differ from yours, as yours does to the next person. Just like our circle of friends, each friend seeing us differently valuing and appreciating particular qualities of us.

I first found my Brighid in the thresholds, the liminal places, the in-between places, the on -the-edge places. She is this, she is that and she is beyond knowing, she is that mystery which is reassuring in its incomprehensibility and so unfathomable. She leads us to this place in Gaelic which is described as neart, a Gaelic term meaning ‘strength’ or ‘power’ that can described as the energy of the creator or spiritual source. I have talked to others who know Brighid as a shapeshifter, who changes and morphs offering insight, offering steps along the path which ultimately arrives at nothingness, that place where we merge with the divine.

 Her rich tapestry

It’s impossible to tease out the threads of Brighid’s rich tapestry and say this one is about her as Goddess, this as one saint. All her stories are so interwoven that they are tightly felted together, picking at a single thread seems to pull the entire fabric even tighter. It’s an impossible task.

As she was many things to many people – Celtic Goddess, christian saint,  some even taking her even further back as being related to the bear (see my essay listed below).

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The Brideog doll

Traveling forward to more recent times Imbolc offered us a host of traditions from Brideog dolls, making Brighid’s wheels, Imbolc eve meals, laying out of the bhrat, making her a bed and inspecting the morning hearth ashes for evidence of her visitation.

In his book ‘The Rites of Brigid’ Sean O Duinn gathers many of the Brideog rituals from around Ireland explaining that the Brideog doll as an image of Brighid, which was made from what materials were readily available, rushes or old rags or everyday clothes. One thing that all the Brideog rites and ceremonies had in common was that she was taken from house to house throughout the village in a procession.  This gathering would stop at individual houses and perform a ceremony over the threshold of the house.

 

From outside the house they would call (to those inside):

Teigi ar bhur ngluine (go on your knees)

agus oscailigi bhur suile (and open your eyes)

agus ligigiisteach brid (and let Brighid enter)

 The reply from inside the house would be:

Se beatha (she is welcome)

se beatha (she is welcome),

se beatha (she is welcome)

These rites varied regionally in the physical rituals carried out, O Duinn a rite common in Kilcommon, County Mayo where a stalk taken from the previous years Brideog doll was incorporated into the new Brighid’s wheel (or cross), offering the prosperity of protection and healing throughout the year.

 The Brideog doll was often in attendance at the Imbolc eve meal. O Duinn explains that Brighid was called from the otherworld and was seen as being held in the doll herself.
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You could make your own Brideog doll – she can be as simple as wrapping some fabric around a stick, or clothes pin or fashioned from corn husks or an elaborate art doll. There is a long history of dolls reaching back to the handheld stone figurines (Often called Venus figures). It is likely that these were used in ritual and ceremony and you could tend to your Brideog doll throughout the year and the seasons. Marija Gimbutas connected the woven lozenge shape at the centre of a Brighid’s wheel to engravings made on early Goddess figurines, linking Brighid back through the ages to Old Europe.

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Brighid needle felted art doll – wearing a Bhrat cloth cloak

One of my favorite traditions was in the laying out of the bhrat, a piece of cloth left outside on Imolc eve. In the stillness of the night, a time not quite night nor day is when Brighid returns from the otherworld. A flicker of northern lights announces her presence as the world seems to hold its breath – for she is here, she is here! Wind and breeze pick up her energy and tree whispers to tree underneath the carpet of the forest. Birds awaken, and sleeping critters feel her presence. She blesses everything in her path, the pregnant ewe’s, the melting snow, the gushing spring, houses and lochs, tall towering Ben’s (Scottish term for mountain) cattle and the the cloth and objects laid out for her – strung out in gardens, across bushes and on trees.

It was import to collect your bhrat before sunrise as it’s magic lay in the dew soaked into its fibres. The blessings remained on the cloth for a year, making sure not to wash the cloth as then its  healing power was removed.  What makes the bhrat important is that whatever you make from it is mobile, wither that is something you pin to your clothes or kept hidden in a pocket. The bhrat was seen as being particularly useful in combatting particular ailments such as headaches, sore eyes, toothaches or helping sick animals. It was particularly used by midwives who aided both women and often animals in giving birth, and so when complications arose the midwife would have her special cloths which had been blessed by Brighid who herself is a midwife in both bringing life into this worlds but also in midwifing those souls as they depart this world and pass into the otherworld at the end of life.

A strip of your bhrat cloth would even be used as protection, and tied to a tree if facing an approaching storm and so it offered protection to the house, those inside and also it’s protection radiating out to the barn and the farm animals. You may wish to leave out your own cloth offering on Imbolc eve, possibly beginning your Imbolc ceremony.

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House blessing

As the Brighid wheels, or crosses were renewed each year and put up throughout the house over thresholds to offer protection to the house itself and the people within you too could also engage this tradition  but also you could invite Brighid in in a house blessings. You can make this up yourself but if it’s helpful this is the format that I usually follow.

If your working with someone else you could incorporate the threshold exchange mentioned in the Brideog section.

Tools – what tools do you normally use? I gather my drum, candle, incense or/and sage.

1. I start off by grounding and purification – such as cleansing yourself in sage and grounding. As you ground consider letting go of anything mentally you have been holding onto. You may wish to tap into the long history of Brighid herself and any other deities, energies that you work with. I particularly like to connect with the ancient womenfolks in my lineage, not the ones I knew (as this can be triggering) but those ancient ones, the ones we are all related to.

2. I begin with clearing the space in the house. For this i use my drum, drumming loudly, walking from room to room shaking up the energy, breaking apart anything that is stagnant. I drum loudly into the tall ceiling corners, and under the bed and into open cupboards. This isn’t something you need to think about instead it’s something you feel. Continue around the entire house.

3. Next i repeat that step with sage, or inscence burning on a charcoal in a small cauldron or holder. I  consciously concentrate on feeling about letting go of the old and making way for the new. Work with the visualisation of the smoke doing the work. To me this is a prayer of feeling. Feel your intention as you hold it within your heart. Feel gratitude for having a home and to the physical house itself.

4. Next I will say something as I light my candle – a 7 day candle in the tall glass jar. You might decorate it with images that resonate with you. Again holding that intention on your heart – I think of Brighid goddess of hearth, of fire, and fire – a fire that heals and never burns. My prayer is held within three words ‘Heart, hearth, home’ – within the feeling of this prayer I am inviting Brighid in and I do this throughout every room in the house. I will end in the kitchen – or wherever you feel the centre of your house is. I will sit by the candle feeling Brighid’s energy radiate from me and the candle again throughout the house past into the garden – use your imagination here to blend in with your image of source, divinity – all that is. Ground again, back into the earth which is our ultimate home, and acknowledging Brighid as a face of our great cosmic mother, bear, Goddess or saint. There are so many Imbolc traditions for you to reclaim and make your own, many ways to say yes to Brighid and invite her in again in this annual ritual of inviting her back into our homes and our hearts.

References:

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. Copyright Jude Lally 2013.

O Duinn, Sean. 2005. The Rites oF Brigid Goddess and Saint. The Columba Press, Dublin, Ireland.

The Ancient Mothers of Loch Lomond

 

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As the crow flies, I grew up about five miles from Loch Lomond. That meant wet dogs in the summer swimming who swam out way further than they thought tempted by ducks. It meant jumping into the Loch whose waters were cold on hot days while getting increasingly panicked that you could never see the bottom and a lingering feeling that something ancient and primordial was watching from the depths. It meant scaling mountains that took you into a whole other realm, one far, far above the human world. It meant sinking into stories of long ago as you sat on a rock your fingers tracing the forgotten script gouged out by glaciers. It also meant a hand-fasting ceremony on those very shores.

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Wither rambling round the hills or on the Loch Shore I was always aware of a presence. As is someone was watching from behind a tree, or peeping out from the thick mists that sometime draw a heavy veil obscuring the sky creating a day that feels your between the worlds. It is a place with many sacred sites, which to look at them might appear very ordinary, but to stand in them opens up a whole other world.

 

These northern latitudes are gripped tightly in darkness in the winter months and in the summer blessed with dramatic thresholds which weave the day together and then release it ever so slowly back over to night again. Summer is so full of energy that she barely needs to sleep providing days where it is still light at ten pm. It’s in those long shadows of twilight that the magic happens, that our ancestors birthed the stories of the land.

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Ancient Mothers of Loch Lomond is a gathering of the old ones of this place. A place to explore the Cailleach, the Deer Goddess, Clutha and Brighid. Within this space I aim to explore the stories and the sacred places, examine how those stories changes over time, what the folklore tells us and ultimately answerer the question of the relevance of these old ones to us today.

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Clutha

It’s said that distance gives us perspective.  It took me to leave Scotland and land in the Appalachians for me to begin asking these questions. Little did I know that I had transplanted myself into a land full of deep longing for Celtic roots. Living amongst a people who actively celebrate their Celtic heritage,  who not only hear the song of longing in their blood but sing that song in all manner of creative ways.

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The Cailleach. The Blue Faced Hag

This work has fed many workshops in Asheville, NC holding space for women to travel between the world to the sound of the drum – a heritage passed down from our ancient foremothers. To do these things together in  sacred space and share the insights and experiences of these ancient guardians helps us to recover them and weave them into our lives.

The next phase in this work is a fundraiser, to take place in march 2016 to raise some funds to take me back home. Not just for a whistle stop tour but a sinking in, a deep listening to the land a conversation. For a rambling around hills, visiting sacred places, exploring folklore and scaling mountain tops for overnight vigils.

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The beginning sketches of the map

As I begin work on gathering some musicians, finding a location the next step is in creating a map. A soul map of sorts, a weaving of those sacred places.

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Want to read more? Click on the links

The Dance of Clutha. Goddess of the Clyde. 

Sage Woman article pdf (An article on the Cailleach and Deer Goddess). Appeared in Sage Woman Magazine Issue No. 87, 2015)

 

 

 

The Cailleach Course

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Cailleach doll by Jude lally

She existed way before people ever arrived to the northern lands. It was She who arranged the landscape, mountains perfectly balanced and lochs perfectly filled. She has no known genealogy as she is old, older than the very hills. She is the landscape, born from a primordial world.

I confess, I lied. This course isn’t an introduction to the Cailleach it is a submersion. It’s a pilgrimage, an exploration, a journey to find her roots and a rebirthing of her in our world today. You’ll travel from Ireland to Scotland visiting her sacred sites and a guided meditation & shamanic journey to take you between the worlds.

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A Cailleach Traveling Altar – Altoid tin

You’ll explore the evolution of her myth and her role alongside the Goddess Brighid. We’ll pick up her trail that leads us to Old Europe and explore what this figure means to us today and how we can weave her into the fabric of our lives.

This course is an online go at your own pace course with journal prompts, guided meditations and suggestions for building an altar as you move through the course. There is also a private Facebook group where you can connect and share your experiences.

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The Cailleach’s daughter from Tign na cailleach, the Shrine of the Cailleach, Tign na Cailleach, Glen of the Cailleach – west of Glen Lyon, by Loch Tay – West coast of Scotland

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The Year We Killed Winter

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Living in the foothills of the Appalachians, and coming from Scotland,  I always seem to be longing for cool weather. While the Appalachains are a wonderful place to live – amidst the ancient song sung by both the mountains and the flow of the even older French Broad river it is even one of the most biologically diverse regions in the temperate world – but the average temperature is too hot for this transplant.

The summers here are harsh. This summer I lost weeks, months in an overheated stupor lacking energy and inspiration – the heat just seems to suck it all out of you. I need the temperature to dip at night to reset my body clock. Yet in my 6 years of living here I have come to enjoy the chorus of the night with it’s serenading songs of tree frogs and cicadas.

Fall here is one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen as this lushly forested land explodes in a riot of colors. As for winter, I don’t know what has happened to winter. December brought us early morning frosts, I’d creep out into the silent world and photograph the last remaining flowers.  Christmas however brought us temperatures in the 70’s – Scottish summers don’t always reach those temperatures, strange to meet Christmas in tshirts and flip flops.

Someone once told me that the divine Hag, the Cailleach wasn’t relevant in our modern world, but I feel as we really begin to feel the bite of climate change we need her more than ever! The driver of climate change is the amount of carbon released into the air and now we have reached the 400 parts of carbon per million which we reached in early 2015. Humans are wonderfully creative folks, we didn’t know we were doing this – how were we ever to guess that burning fossil would have such a detrimental effect to our climate.

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This beautiful yet disturbing image shows a storm which originates along the 35 degree North Latitude line west of Spain, these winds forced a train of warm air and moisture north towards the north pole which is expected to bring rising temperatures to the North pole. The average temperature at this most highest northerly point is on average between -30 C (-22 F) and -20 C (-4 F) respectively. Predicted figures state this storm is to bring a rise of temperature in the 36-72 degrees above normal. According to NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) temperature at the North Pole have only reached above freezing once.

I am no climate scientist, although I do have a Masters Degree in Science in Human Ecology but that just lends me a teeny tiny grasp of these figures. What I do understand is that we are changing our climate and we are seeing the results of that shift. 2015 has been the year of breaking many climate records, the first few months of 2015 broke record temperatures around the globe, it’s officially the hottest year ever. since records began.

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Although the images of a warming North Pole is in my mind I am not one for doom and gloom. We can easily give into feelings that this is a hopeless situation – yet as consumers we have power in who we give our money to – we can choose where our food comes from, where our energy comes from – we need to remember that we are wild and creative creatures. On this threshold of a new year we don’t have to reinvent the wheel we just need to take personal responsibility – there are groups out there already tackling each and every aspect we might want to do something about and support.

Our age is the age that is going to make the difference – ours is the year zero. It feels like we are being given the future of the planet to hold in our hands – we either make it or break her! Personally I take that challenge, I rise to that challenge and I do it with roots woven deep down into the earth and secured in the very bedrock. I don’t do it alone – I do it with community, I work with my fears and anxieties about the future of this wonderful planet. I  turn to the old ones, the ones our society rejected and called irrelevant. The ancestral mothers and grandmothers. I walk with the Cailleach in her ancient cycle of death, renewal and rebirth! I find the things I am passionate about and support people working politically in that realm. I create sacred space where we can share our worries and our successes and hold and inspire each other and most of all I sing the song of humanity – that we are wild and creative creatures and our story of renewal starts with a single step…

Click here to read more about working with the Cailleach and exploring Her Role for Our Time

 

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Links

Warm Arctic Storm To Hurl Hurricane Force Winds at UK and Iceland, Push Temps to 36-72+ Degrees (F) Above Normal at North Pole

 

The Night Mare of the Winter Solstice

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Image use by permission of Mari Lwyd Larcher

I love the roots of some ancient british traditions which stretch back to a time before time.

Click here to visit  Witches & Pagans and read the tale of the Mari Lwyd 

A curious tradition of Old Bone Face!

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Wishing you all a inspired and magical Winter Solstice!

from all at Celtic Soul Craft

(ie me & Old Bone Face, several curious antlered creatures & a cackling old hag!).

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Image use in permission of Mari Lwyd Larcher