The Ancestral Mothers Retreat, Losing the Cailleach and Back in Asheville

The Ancestral Mothers of Scotland Retreat

We all had a wonderful 13 days on the first Ancestral Mothers of Scotland retreat on the Isle of Eigg, off the west coast of Scotland. The weather was glorious which saw us paddling in warm waters and exploring white sandy beaches but we also spend time shrouded in mist on days when the clouds stayed close to the earth and made us feel like we were between the worlds.

We swam in dark, cold peaty lochs, danced to the drum, laughed, cried, made art and ate good food. We made promises to ourselves, befriended our wildest self, watched eagles soar and lambs being born. We stood under brief night skies (for at these latitudes there isn’t much darkness at this time of year), peered into dark caves, listened to the land and danced with ancestors.

We had such an enriching time that I’ve booked next year’s dates and vow to do it all again!

On Losing the Cailleach

Somewhere between the remote Glen Cailleach and Loch Lomond I seem to have lost the Cailleach (doll pictured above). Maybe she sneaked out of my rucksack and decided she needed to stay in Scotland. There is no image that can hold the likeness of the Cailleach, words can never quite hold her shape and our minds are limited in picturing the vastness of her being. What I have learned is that she lies in the thousands of eyes watching as you traipse through the heather. She is the snort of the ewe who protects her lamb when you wander a little too close, she is that breath of fresh air in the breeze which makes your eyes water and she resides in the honeycomb structure of white bleached bones of the creature who fell from the cliff.

My conversation with this old one is here in the wild places, in the strength of a wind that makes your eyes stream, the ideas which bubble to the surface out of an age old cauldron that exists half in this world and half in the other world. To get to know this old one you need to throw away everything you think you know as she’ll laugh at your bone stark ignorance.

Saying that I still spend time crafting words around this old one, shaping dolls into her fleeting forms but most of all my pilgrimages are in throwing what I think I know away, stepping into the wilds naked (metaphorically – most of the time) diving into high island loch’s and drumming into the great threshold of night on a highland evening. Through all this I may find an antler, an idea tied to a tree or a story from a snail – for these things are the language of this old one

Back in Asheville & What’s Planned for the Rest of the Year

Every time I leave Scotland it gets harder and harder to leave until at one point I’ll be there and not here. But for now we are back in Asheville (the collective ‘we’ being me and some assorted ancestors). After the retreat I visited my sister & her family in the South of England – lying in meadows & watching the clouds pass, visiting sleepy little villages and 14th century pubs. Visited the shore (English channel) for a haul of hag stones (everyone helped out). Then over to Ireland & Dublin for a visit to Newgrange where we squeezed up the great squeezed through the birthing canal of the great womb tomb of and hung out on the banks of the River Boyne. There’s a bit of a theme to my wanderings – bones, stones and wildness.

This is what’s planned for the rest of the year so far:


  1. Launching the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland Retreat

2. Celtic Amazon day workshop in Asheville

A day workshop in August exploring the reality of female amazon warriors and in particular Amazon warriors from the west coast of Scotland. With guided meditation, otherworld journey to live drumming, art making and creating your own needle felted Amazon doll. (Date to be set).



3. A new online course ‘Through the Eyes of the Ban Feasa’ (Wise Woman)

Through the Eyes of the Ban Feasa (Wise Woman) is a new online course launching in October. The course will explore five animals an opportunity to build a relationship with these animals through learning about their folklore, life cycle as well as giving voice to these animals & how we can step up for them.

To keep up to date with all of the above join our mailing list ‘Sisterhood of the Antlers’ by clicking on the image below:



Song of the Stones

The Cailleach on the Hebridean  island of Eigg

I’m glad to report that the first Ancestral Mothers of Scotland retreat was a roaring success! We all had a wonderful time on the isle of Eigg honoring the Ancestral Mothers – hearing their stories & visiting their sacred sites – beach combing, visiting a local croft, doll making, art projects with great company and good food.

The pre-Celtic shrine of the Cailleach

This was the year I finally made the pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Cailleach (Tigh nam Bodach) in the remote Glen Cailleach in central Scotland. It’s a pilgrimge that took two hours of driving then a round trip of 15 miles and worth every step! On the road to the shrine along by the dammed river Lyon

It was a great day to do the walk along by the dammed river Lyon (the river has been dammed to produce Loch Lyon for a hydro electricity scheme). On the way home we saw over 150 deer, bats and several hares. Laig beach, Eigg. The water was warm!


The Loch of the Big Women – Isle of Eigg

Sheep skull & cowrie shells

One of my favourite things of this trip was to discover Scotland has it’s very own kind of cowrie shell!!!


Sheep jaw bone – speaking for the animals!

I’ve been so inspired on this trip and whisperings from the great hag the Cailleach that i’m working on a new online course launching in October – Through the Eyes of the Cailleach (sign up below to keep up to date with launch details).

Seven Sisters cliffs – south coast of England

Today I’m southwards bound to visit family and possibly a wee trip down to the coast and hunt for hag stones on the beach!

Last trip before I head back to Asheville is a wee weekend in Dublin and a visit to Newgrange – the great womb tomb and monument of rebirth.

If you’d like to join us in 2018 on the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland retreat the website launches on 1st August – the retreat is limited to ten women.  If you want to be on the mailing list (Sisters of the Antlers) sign up below

A Pilgrimage to the Edge of the World

The Deer Goddess – an Ancestral Mother

Spring is exploding here in the foothills of the Appalachians as the ‘greening’ of the landscape intensifies. I’m always transfixed by spring which turns stark winter trees into great cathedrals of green. The greening obscures neighbors houses and becomes a sheltered refuge for birds and squirrels as we welcome swifts, hummingbirds and monarch butterflies.

We’ve already had days so hot they remind us of the blazing summer heat to come T – too severe for someone born in far more northern latitudes.

Drums of the Ancestral  Mothers

For the last month i’ve been weaving invisible threads in preparation for the first ‘Ancestral Mothers of Scotland Retreat’ – everything is booked and organized and I head off home tomorrow!

I’m looking forward to two weeks of ritual and ceremony of visiting interesting sites and staying in the once place on the Island of the Big Women (Isle of Eigg). Of all the sites we will be visiting on a small island which is only 3 miles by 5 miles I am excited to learn of a site which is new to me called The Oracle – an underground cave of sorts and possibly an Oracle site! I’ll be sharing more about this and all the other sites after our retreat but oh how this sites stirs the imagination! Wonderful inspiration for an otherworldly journey.

Entrance to the Site – Image copyright of Historic Environment Scotland

Image copyright of Historic Environment Scotland

Image copyright of Historic Environment Scotland


I’ll be posting on the journey here on the website as well as my Instagram account – which you can find here

If you missed the retreat this year we will be launching the 2018 retreat on the 1st August – if you haven’t yet joined activate your free membership in our Sisterhood of the Antlers and keep up to date with online courses, workshops and retreat.

New Dolls – Keening and Antlered Women!

The Keening Woman – click to view in online shop

These are the last dolls of the season before we shut the shop next week and get ready to pack our bags and head to Scotland for the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland Retreat! 

The Keening Woman

The keening woman was employed in Ireland and Scotland to grieve over the body as part of a death rite. Her role was to lead the communities grief for the person they were grieving and also to show the way home to the otherworld for the person that had died. Keening was always a woman’s role and goes back to an earlier pagan tradition and a shamanic role. Traditional keening (in the presence of a dead body) has long dies out yet has begun to flourish in an age where grief is taboo and is used in modern ceremonies for an entire host of reasons in which we see fit to release our grief not just for those who have died but for the state of the world. Click on the image above to view in the online shop.


She Who Whispers to the Deer – click on image to view in the online shop

She Who Whispers to the Deer

She comes from a time of ice, a time when great herds of reindeer crossed from mainland Europe across land to Britain. She is that energy of the reindeer running the ancient migratory paths. It was she who ran with the very first herd, guiding the leading female. She is protector of the reindeer and the long line of priestesses who followed. Click on the image above to view in the online shop.


Elen of the Ways – Click on the image to view in the online shop

Elen of the Ways

Elen of the Ways is an ancient British shamanic folklore figure. Elen wears antlers, which female deer do not have although female Reindeer do which links her back to the early people who followed the reindeer herds from Europe over to the UK before the great ice sheets melted and created the North Sea and resulted in Britain becoming an island.

Elen is the ancient Deer Goddess, an archetype of the land. The deer followed their pathways made over generations of migrations, often running along leylines. Elen offers insight into other worlds, to see between the worlds and to be that communicator between the realms. Click on the image to view in the online shop.

Antlered Prayer Beads

Prayer bead with Rhodonite – click image to view in shop

As my fingers move around the sacred circle of the beads I feel my mind quietening. I come to a still place which often feels a little between the worlds. The antler connects me to ancient herds migrating through the landscape as if they themselves are moving through space and time. This reminds me of our migration around the wheel of the year – honoring the growing life through the phases of a women’s life – from girl child to maiden, amazon to mid life woman, from crone to ancestor.


‘My beads have become constant companions as I go through the day‘,

A. Harrison


Prayer Beads with Golden Black Obsidian – click on image to view in shop

‘Powerful and beautiful soul practice tools. Working these beads through my hands I can feel the strength, love and intention in their creation and I’m so grateful that they have come to me. Thank you for your incredible work in the world and on this rosary’.

L Blinn

Prayer beads with Amazoite beads – Click on image to view in shop

I received the prayer beads today, and the are beautiful – thank you again for crafting something so powerful and full of medicine and magic.

Jane V.

Prayer beads with Spider Web Jasper – click image to view in shop

Click below to join the Sisterhood of the Antlers Facebook group and be in the drawing to win a set of prayer beads.

The Day of the Cailleach

Today is the Cailleach’s Day. In the old calendar this was the first day of the new year.

For those of us that follow the old ways and the wheel of the year we can see two sides of the crone in these last few weeks. The hag still whips up some spring snow showers and a frost you weren’t expecting that stomped the life of those little seedlings you were a little too eager to plant in the soil. By the next morning she is a far younger self and she cradles the colorful blooms and lifts the temperatures to the tune of the land is singing the song of spring.

This is the way it has been for thousands and thousands of years, it is only us that change the story and the meaning. We have told stories of an evil hag holding the maiden prisoner – those stories say more about our opinions of women and especially old women. I do not tell the stories of hags taking maidens prisoners, there is no evil and bitter old hag jealous of the young years youth and vitality.

For those of us who follow the wheel this time of the year is the great return – we have moved from the dark of the year and our inward focus to emerging back to the outside world and all its demands and tending. The hibernating bear and Persephone are both symbols of the return of life to the land. Persephone returning to her mother after her time in the dark with Hecate – the story of capture and rape have no place in my cosmology.


There are stories of the great Hag which tell us at this time of year she is called down to the shore. She needs to do this before any part of this world has awakened – before the song of the first bird and the hum of any insect. She makes her way down to the shore as she has done for countless cycles in order to renew herself submerged under the water. Water, since neolithic times has been imbued with life giving properties, similar to amniotic fluid it is the place where regeneration occurs (Gimbutus 2001). Water is the primordial source and so this otherworldly figure must return there in order to renew herself – a story we can see in tales such as her renewal in the Scottish Loch Ba. Submerged below the waves she is between the worlds, she belongs to the most ancient cosmologies and a mark of time more in tune with galaxies than our mark of days and hours. What happens below the waves is what happens to the land itself, it renews. It is part of the most ancient cycle o birth and lie, of death and renewal – the fuel of the wheel of the year.

The Eternal Dance

In some stories the Cailleach returns to the otherworld where there she renews herself at the fountain o youth and that younger self is Brighid. Who came first the hag or the maiden – we can’t have one with out the other. Myths are not something we can sift and sort for the are woven with mystery, they are part this world and part otherworld. Our age has tried to kill the old hag, many see her as being no longer relevant – which says far more about our society’s obsession with youth than it does of the old ways. This story of the crone falling down in a heap of bones is wonderfully told in the little film An Cailleach Bhearra, a tale of the demise of the female in a male world.

We have a host of stories to choose from with which to weave our own meaning – there is no right or wrong yet what storie we choose to live with says of how we each walk in this world.


The Online Cailleach Course

This online course offers five sessions – it begins by exploring the great age o the Cailleach and then we take a virtual pilgrimage to visit some of her sites in ireland before moving over to Scotland and visiting some of her sacred sites there. next we explore her changing stories which has morphed and changed over the generations before diving down into her folklore and seeing where that takes us. FInally we weave this journey all together and examine the role of this great crone for us today. There is also the invitation to create a small altar on this journey of exploration and a Facebook group for the course where you can share your insights and thoughts.



Gimbutas, Marija. 2001. The Living Goddess. University of California Press, USA.



My Clan Mother

It felt an empowering action that while I was en route to the Women’s march back in January I stopped off at the Post Office and mailed my mDNA sample. And as I walked the hour and a half to the rally I couldn’t help but think of all the generations of women on whose shoulders I now stand, of the countless generations and millions of women of my lineage – their stories, their experiences and what of their voices is knitted into my very bones.

Two months later and the results are here – all the way from the Oxford Ancestors lab in the UK. I am descended from Xenia who lived 25,000 years ago on the southern margins of the Great Plains, which stretches from the low lying British Isles in the west to Kazakhstan in the east. The plains were bare of trees save for a few patches of birch and willow scrub. This was a bleak and windy place with vicious blasts from the expanded polar ice caps sending winter temperatures down to -20oc (-4of) for days or even weeks at a time.

Mammoth bones & hides were the only materials for shelter

Xenia’s lineage is an interesting one and DNA records that as the ice ages got more severe they split up with some generations heading west and others east throughout Asia and eventually over the land bridge into the America’s. Her people would have followed the great reindeer herds as well as the woolly mammoth and horse herds. I have often had dreams of the great icy tundra and of following reindeer which in part might be due to a diet of documentaries from the FIlm Board of Canada when I was young or you could call it an artistic streak that listens to my ancestors stories which are knitted into my very bones! 


This insight will continue to resonate and inspire for knowing our matriarchal lineage certainly evokes empowering ancestral memories and inspirations which vibrate those luminous thread from us to them that connect us through space and time. We can still move between these worlds and ask them for their wisdom and insight and then weave that into our lives.

Working on mini drums for a new series of clan mother dolls – the drums set against a map o the Loch and Ben Lomond.

logo and text

Click above to join the women only space the ‘Sisterhood of the Antlers’ and join the conversion – you’ll also be in the draw to win a set of antler prayer beads.


An interesting family history which stretches back to Xenia

The Origins and Expansions of Ancient Boat-Oriented Way of life. The Post-Glacial Development and Expansion of Boat-peoples

Oxford Ancestors Lab