Doll Making on the Ancient Mother’s of Scotland Retreat

AM collageThe Ancient Mothers/Ancestral Mother dolls – Deer Goddess, Clutha, cailleach, Brighid. 

I hated dolls as a child. I found them eerie and to be truthful I didn’t know what to do with them. Fast forward a good few decades across an ocean to another continent – how did I end up a doll maker? I remember a distant aunt once giving me a doll – I didn’t know what to do with it. I did the only thing I could think of I cut off her hair and as I waited for it to grow back she received a set of full body tattoos. I loved playing with toy animals and their stable, I even had an invisible dog but I just didn’t understand dolls.

When I first arrived in Asheville (NC) seven years ago I went to volunteer with a local group called Our Voice a non profit supporting survivors of sexual abuse. While I practically couldn’t be a volunteer I ended up running a series of workshops. Now here’s a bit of syncronicity – many years ago before I could even point to NC on a map I met a woman via a photography site. It was several years before we met in person and guess where she lives – Western North Carolina. I signed her up for a doll making workshop then when she wasn’t able to run the class I learned doll making from her to run the class myself. I headed up to her town on the Tennessee border in the sweltering summer and there we created magic with wool.

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Breejah – My first doll

Breejah (pictured above) is my first doll and when she emerged from the wool she announced her name was Brighid. Hmmm – the Brighid I asked? Yes she replied with her dark skin and dreadlocks. I was expecting Brighid to have pale porcelain Irish hue and the flaming red hair. Breejah and I have travelled a lot and she has guided me to many places and shown and taught me many things.

Doll making is my exploration with different deities, they almost call out from the wool to be made. My relationship is in the making, in the co-creating. I’m curious about this place we interact with, is it the ultimate source? (however you wish to name it?). Dolls are powerful tools and I see our ancient foremothers as doll makers with figures like the woman of Willendorf. I love to think of the intentions and rituals as the ancient made their dolls.

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My Cailleach doll by the Loch of the Big Women on the Isle of Eigg

On the Ancient Mother’s of Scotland retreat we will be making a doll. I hope to get some local wool we can use. Our dolls will be born of our own intentions, gratitudes and prayers. They might be adorned with special shells, hold small little glass vials with sand or holy water. They might have the wild hair o the Cailleach, antlers of the Deer Goddess, hold vials of sacred water or ashes of our sacred fire. Dolls are sacred vessels, they can be our focus for our relationship with the ancient mothers. They are altars for offerings and gratitudes for requests and intentions.

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Click on the doll image above to read my essay Radical Doll Making From Willendorf to Today: The Relevance of an Ancient Tradition 

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Click on the image of the book above to learn more about the anthology my essay is published in as well as reviews and ordering information. 

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Click on the above image to view the retreat itinerary

A Costume for the Cailleach

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‘At Samhuinn, the veil between the worlds draws thin and the spirits gather close to bear witness as the courts of Summer and Winter battle for control of the seasons. In her wild ecstasy of grief and sorrow, the Cailleach ushers the last breath os Summer’s opulent decadence into the beyond to make way for the icy storms of Winter’s dark reign’.                        Beltane Fire Society 

 cailleach-postersBeltane Fire Society’s posters

The Beltane Fire Societies events – Beltane & Sumhuinn in Edinburgh are not to be missed! The creativity, the dancing, the drumming – the ritual! Those were wild nights. These days my relationship with the crone has changed and shapeshifter as I too have. My reflection on the wheel is more of a women’s psychology – the wheel of my foremothers. There is room for all views of the wheel for we are not all from the same village.

This year the Beltane Fire Society’s Cailleach extends an invitation to send a fabric square which will be stitched together to make her costume which will be worn in their great ritual on Samhuinn night in Edinburgh.

Click here for the original post and mailing address (to Edinburgh, Scotland) 

I was stitching little keening dolls when I read this news. Intention woven into the fabric with each repetitive action – as i my hands were spinning new weaves which went out into the great web that connects all things. I so love this idea of a communally created gown and so if you miss the Scottish deadline I am more than happy to take strips of fabric (measuring 20cm x 10cm or 8 inches x 4 inches) which will be stitched together and worn at a Cailleach ritual in november – in the belly of the deep. The garment will be a shroud of sorts for the Cailleach – for she ushers in death in the winter months as without death there is no rebirth. if you’d like to send a intention or request with your fabric – you can roll it up in a scroll and it will be burnt on our dark need fire. Deadline for fabric – 20th October.

Contact me here for my address. 

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The Keening Woman Workshop

keening-dollsSunday 2nd October 10.30-5.30 2016

Location Woodfin – 5 mins from downtown Asheville.

When my grandmother died we had a wake. I remember her friends and neighbors gathering – there was much talk and tender words as they approached her body and gently touched her face and hair. I remember the rattle of teacups and the sound of rosary beads. While my Gran was Irish (although lived in Scotland) the wake was probably still common but the art of Keening had long died out.

 

Wise Women In a Time of Crisis

The wise woman in various forms has always been called on in times of crisis. This can be personal crisis, community or global. Women lamenters can be found in cultures throughout the world. It is said that it was the Goddess Brighid who created keening in lamenting the death of her son.

 

In this workshop we will explore the ancient roots of Keening as well as picturing the life of the Keener woman – who was often a figure outside of normal society. We’ll explore how Keening was eventually banned by the church and why. Also the American Wake – the Keening of those immigrants leaving Ireland to go overseas and likely never to return. We’ll also listen to some keening singing to hear the qualities of the singing as well as listening to modern songs which are inspired by keening.

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We will listen to what recordings exist of women Keening – and discuss why there are very few. We’ll see Greenham Common Protest outside of the UK Parliment.

Create a Keening Doll

In the afternoon we will make a Keening woman dolls and a fabric holder – honoring that lineage of women mourners and their important role in society. We will explore how we can tap into this tradition.

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The Cailleach Course – Registration is now open

It’s getting cold up there in North Dakota as the season is changing fast. We have become the media sharing posts and videos and doing what we can to help support the land and water protectors in the camps at Standing Rock.

I was all ready to get a truck full of winter clothes and items that the camps are looking for and head up to North Dakota. Small problem – I don’t drive. So we do what we can. In writing my post Invoking the Cailleach in the Fight Against the Dakota Access Pipeline with the Cailleach course ready to launch in early October registration is now open.

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Half the price of the first ten sign ups will be donated to the Sacred Stone Camp.

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What does the course cover?

We start off with looking at the great age o the Cailleach then take a pilgrimage to some of her sacred sites in Ireland and Scotland. We examine her changing story and look towards why that story changed in relation to the beliefs of the people. In Down to her roots we examine two cases o her folklore which take us back to the culture of Old Europe (5-4,000 BCE). FInally we take each of these threads and weave them together in exploring what is her role for today and how to we ground that in our lives.

head-bwThe course is now in it’s second year and received great reviews. 

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The depths, the research, the heart, the soul, the honoring of Cailleach is formidable and powerful!   It feels you heaved a large boulder from this Great Goddess, She stood stretch her old bones and turned to grin at you for remembering and uncovering her wisdom. I thank you for remembering!  Your medicine is a gift to this world, this world that so needs to remember Cailleach!  In deepest gratitude!  Reda R

head-bwFrom the beginning, I felt a real connection to the Cailleach. She is forever a part of me, I know this now. My mother was born in Dublin and my father in Belfast. They immigrated to the US, and left the myths and stories behind. I’ve found a connection to my ancestral line through this course. I love how you are able to retain the feeling of fireside storytelling in this digital format. Wherever I was at the time, I was transported.  Mary du Plessis

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full details and booking 2

 

Invoking the Cailleach in the Fight Against the Dakota Access Pipeline

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Click on image for source. Sacred Stone Camp, North Dakota.

Our elders have told us that if the zuzeca sape, the black snake, comes across our land, our world will end. Zuzeca has come – in the form of the Dakota Access pipeline – and so I must fight.The Dakota Access pipeline threatens to destroy our sacred ground. I am defending the land and water of my people, as my ancestors did before me.’ Lyuskin American Horse in Canon Ball, North Dakota (click to read Guardian story) 

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Water is life. All life here on earth depends on it. When exobiologists look for life in the universe they look for the presence of water. Our planet looks mostly blue when seen from space. I’ve watched videos on twitter with the gathering of native peoples and supporters across America and been inspired with speeches on Standing Rock Spirit Resistance Radio which is based at the protest. 

More than anything i’ve been so moved by these gracious people, rooted deeply in non violence. How they talk about the fight, their lives and their solidarity with people supporting them with a spirituality that seeps into every word and action, comments rich with concern with the children and future generations.

Their fight is our fight, water is under threat around the world from fracking, pollution and this huge proposed pipeline which would carry approximately 470,000 barrels per day of fracked oil from the Bakken oil fields, 1,172 miles through the country’s heartland, to Illinois. The pipeline will cross the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers, where it threatens to contaminate our primary source of drinking water and damage the bordering Indigenous burial grounds, historic villages and sundance sites that surround the area in all directions.

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Sacred Stone Camp founder LaDonna Tamakawastewin Allard’s great-great-grandmother, Nape Hote Win (Mary Big Moccasin) survived the bloodiest conflict between the Sioux Nations and the U.S. Army ever on North Dakota soil.

I’m not saying anything new here but in light of the lack of news (or tainted news from mainstream media) we are now the media. Sharing each others stories, films, news from the frontline.

In the oldest beliefs from my country the Cailleach, the oldest deity is renewed every one hundred years when before any birdsong or human noise she submerges herself fully under the waters. These waters are her otherworldly source, they are the the primal and cosmological essence which everything is born from. To pollute the waters is to pollute the most sacred essence, upon which our lives depend on.  Ancient wells found around Scotland and Ireland are decorated with clooties, Celtic prayer flags where people leave requests from the dieities of the place. The water itself comes from deep underground aquifers – the embodiment of the Great Mother who on her gushing forth into the land provides life.

Today in the same lands the Cailleach is often laughed at as an old irrelevant hag, a useless old woman but she is still here and I wouldn’t mess with her. This dark moon I held a silver bowl filled with sacred waters from the Well of the Holy Women from the Isle of Eigg in Scotland – and evoked this great old one in this fight against the zuzeca sape (the black snake, the Dakota Access Pipeline).

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Modernity no longer honors the crone – but she forever renews herself and answers those that call on her (warning – you might not like her reply!) Click on the above film for a short ilm on the Cailleach and the modern age that has ignored her!

We can support the people on the frontline with rituals and magic, with donations and sharing this news.

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I’m offering 25% of any doll sales going to support those protecting the sacred lands. Click on the image above to view the online shop.

For those in the Asheville area I’m working on a small fundraiser. In times of dire need Celtic folks would light a fire, a big huge burning festival. So in this time of need i’ll be inviting local folks to come to a BBQ, a fire where we can offers prayers and ceremonies and dig into your pockets and send $$$. Lets invoke the old Hag so she can do whats she does best! Bring death to the black snake, for without death there can be no renewal of life – and a way of living that doesn’t threaten life. We invoke her for the folks on the frontline the protectors of the sacred lands of North Dakota – knowing they are emblems for struggles all around the world.

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The Sacred Stone Camp – suggestions to support those on the front line:

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Click here to support the Sacred Stone Camp fund via GoFundMe – We are asking for financial support for water-propane – food and blankets  for the camp.  This is a prayer camp movement to save our sacred land and water and has been entirely supported by the people and the campers.

Click here to donate to the legal fund

Click here for the Sacred Stone Camp FAQ – other ways to help

 

 

The Mother of all Retreats!

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Do you ever feel a deep longing – one your soul yearns to answer?
Come join us on a shamanic journey with the Ancient Mothers.
Pack your antlers, your drum, your passion, your grief …

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An altar to the Ancient Mother’s

Under skies of magical twilight we will shape-shift each night into our true selves – the ones who are fluent in magic and ritual and understand the language of the landscape, the birds, the four leggeds and all those we share our spaces with. We will come together in circle like generations of our foremothers did and stretch our roots down where we meet the Ancient Mothers. With stone and claw and water and antler we will dance between the worlds to the song of the universe – and renew each and every cell.
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We will fill our baskets with that magic, let it inspire and shape us. Let that creative force move through us – through our souls and our hands.

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With song and art, insight and silence we will let the Ancient Mothers talk, sit with them in circle and let them kindle our fires.

 

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