Your Invitation to a May Monday

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It’s monday. Imagine a monday this may looking out to this view. Picture yourself on a beautiful Scottish Island – one with a rich mythology rooted in legends of ancient powerful women.

 

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Feel the cool crystalline clear waters that have bubbled up from the depths into the Well of the Holy Women as it touches your forehead as you receive a welcome to the island and a personal blessing for your time here

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For your time on this island your role is simply to just be, to listen to the stories of the land and engage with these ancient energies through ritual and ceremony


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and switching off the head grab art materials as you get into that zone that seems outside of everyday time…


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Imagine a day when your only agenda was to walk along pristine sands, maybe a spot of beachcombing and peer at the curious creatures of rockpools

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Watch as twilight paints the land in very different colors. Enjoy a twilight that lasts until 11pm, hours after the sun went down which really feels as if it’s bringing you into a world between worlds.

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Leave this place renewed, rejuvinated, inspired and knowing that wherever you are in the world your roots stretch down and are fed by the bedrock of these Ancient Mothers.

If you’d like to join our Ancient Mothers of Scotland retreat this week is the time to book your place and secure it with a deposit.

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Celtic Soul Prayer Beads

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I’ve always felt the steady rhythm of beads moving through your fingers comforting. When growing up I would have a collection of ‘borrowed’ rosary beads although that faith never quite fitted. Then there was mala’s journeyed with a mantra – but then that was also a borrowed from a different faith. While I am vaguely familiar with the Celtic Paidirinean that’s also a little out of reach. So I decided to combine my love of beads with figures from my tradition to create Celtic Soul Craft Prayer Beads inspired by my tradition stretching back through generations of wise women, of women who knew the thresholds of life and death, women who carried the stream of their ancestors voices. These women are shaman, weavers, singers and part of the same circle culture that I am of. They are women versed in herbalism, stone medicine and doll making, ritual and ceremony and dancers between the worlds.
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Bone Mother beads – click image to view in shop

How to Use Celtic Soul Prayer Beads

These beads have eight sections corresponding to the eight holydays of the Wheel of the Year. there are five beads for each position of the wheel with a dividing bead as you cross to the next festival.
The beads begin with the pendant which sets the tone and the insight for the theme, followed by three beads which representing the three main stages of a woman’s life or the power of the triple Goddess (such as the Goddess Brighid for example – a triad made up of Brighid and her two sisters also called Brighid).
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Deer Goddess Prayer Beads – SOLD
Next is the largest bead in the prayer circle the Mystery bead – which invites us to consider the mystery that exists in all things and is the source of everything – before moving around the beads in a sun-wise direction. You may follow the beads with your own mantra or use them as a comfort when holding a thought or no thought in meditation as your fingers move you through the Wheel of the Year.
Full details of options of how to work with the bead are included inviting you to find a way that is most suited to your personal needs.
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triskele-celtic-soul-prayer-beadsCustom Orders

I do take custom order requests – matching your theme with a pendant as well as the particular semi previous beads you would like. To talk about a custom set of Celtic Soul Prayer Beads just get in touch via the contact page of the website.

The Keening Woman

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Brighid, Keening and a Time of Crisis 

In the days of keening, laments would be heard all year where people gathered to mourn loved ones. While many take their vows at this time of year and say yes to Brighid and yes to another year of living, there are those whose time isn’t to say yes as they have begun their journey onto the next world.

My grandmother was one of those who couldn’t say yes to another year of living at Imbolc and so took that journey with Brighid who birthed her into her next life. As with tradition, there was a wake with her body returned to the house in the coffin while neighbors came to visit. Keening was long gone by this time and the song for those days was the clinking of teacups on saucers and the rattling of rosary beads. I was a little taken aback when neighbors came over and lovingly touched her face and stroked her hair, for I had never seen a dead body before and my Grandmother looked different due to the makeup the Mortuary staff had used. The wake is an old tradition where the body is kept at home for three days after death – so that the person can adjust to being dead and know it’s time for them to leave this realm of the living and move on to what awaits them.

Click here to continue reading my article on Keening on Goddess Ink’s blog ….


Keening Woman Workshop

This March I am offering a Keening Women Workshop here in Asheville, NC.

We will begin our day together by discussing what elements from the reading resonated with us the most. Then we will move onto our feelings of living in these times which I don’t have to tell you can be overwhelming. We will explore keening within the Spiral of Reconnection created by Joanna Macy so we can express feelings but ground them in a positive framework that helps us move past our grief and into making a commitment to bringing change in this world. We will begin by sharing our gratitudes for living on the earth in a shared gesture before moving into honoring our pain which we will do within a keening ritual. Next we will undertake a guided meditation and shamanic journey to ask the advice of our ancestors and future beings for our personal role we walk in the world. Then we will spend time exploring this idea through art, journalling and collage – or perhaps you’d rather sit in silence, walk the labyrinth or just be in silence on the land.

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Labyrinth with Hawk Guardian in Attendance

Creating Keening Dolls

In the afternoon we will make a Keening woman doll – she can be adorned with items which represent our own unique path and the work we do in the world. The doll is designed so she can hand on a wall or outdoors and we will discuss how to work with these dolls as well as each participant receiving a booklet on how to work with dolls.

While all doll making materials are provided participants are required to bring special natural objects, pendants or ribbons and yarns.

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Scottish Amazon Women Rising!

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Cailleach Doll by the shores of Loch nam Ban Mora

I don’t have to tell you that right now we are in dark times. Each day seems to unleash new unbelievable moves in what seems like a game where no one is playing by the rules. I feel overwhelmed and have to balance this madness by unplugging. Unplugging from the world of social media, from being online, from human interaction and reach down into my roots which connect me to an ancient lineage of women.

The Scottish Island of the Big Women?

There is a little island off the west coast of Scotland who for me is rooted in an ancient female power, its name is the Island of the Big Women. There are several legends of big women both on and around the island – from the original Big Women said to be a mythological race of giant women, big enough that they could easily enough step across the small islands to their dwelling in the centre of Loch nam Ban Mora (Loch of the Big Women). One island over on the Isle of Skye is the home to Scathach, the Shadowy One – who trained the very best celtic warriors and then there is the story of the female warriors of the Pictish Queen Moidart. The stories of the original Big Women and the female warriors seems to have become so fused together it’s impossible to untangle them and say which belongs to which.

 

qPictish Queen by artist Leonie Gibbs

The story of the female warriors sets place in the 7th century CE when a Christian monk called Donnan arrived on the island on a mission to convert Pagans into the new faith of Christianity but as Dressler (1989) explains the religious annuls recorded that the establishment of a monastery on Eigg was not welcomed by the ruler of the island, the Pictish Queen of Moidart in whose territory Eigg was included and which was reported by Columban chroniclers as keeping such pagan practices  as observing Beltane rather than Easter and worshipping serpents.

‘Legend tells that from her dun in Glenuig, the Queen of Moidart ordered the monks to be killed: ‘I am keeping herdsman to herd my milking cattle on the face of the Corravein, not to be herded themselves by a monk’. When the newly converted islanders reused to obey her orders, she flew into a red-hot rage and sent her own warrior women over to Eigg. They came upon Donnan and his monks as they were singing mass in their oratory on 17th April 617, but the saint beseeched them to wait until they had finished their prayers. As they left the church, Donnan and his monks were beheaded one after the other, their bodies piled up and burnt’ (Dressler, 1989).

cailleach-with-lightsThe Cailleach by Loch nam Ban Mora and the Magical Lights

The Story Behind the Story

But the story did not end there and it is said that unearthly voices were heard chanting bewitching the warrior women who found themselves compelled to follow the lights as they were lead up towards the Loch. The lights rested above the little island in the middle of the Loch and the warrior women it is said entered the water with their eyes fixed on the lights each of them drowning below the surface (Dressler, 1989).

As the saying goes history is written by the victors and in this story the monks got the last word. I can’t help but feel this wonderful story of the lights appearing which bewitched the female warriors to their death is perhaps a story borrowed from the Big Women. Is what we are reading something the monks borrowed in a way to invert the story on its head as the did with so many Pagan tales?

Who were the Big Women,  big is another way of saying respected, looked up to or important. Maybe they were human women with special skills such as prophecy or healing. Maybe they were mythological beings much like the oldest crone of Scotland the Cailleach.  As an artist I am drawn to the story of the lights and the bewitching elements as in Celtic belief water held the sacredness of the Goddess. Was the Loch throughout generations a sacred place – it is high up in the middle of the island and it’s quite a climb to get there but when you do take that pilgrimage you feel your entering into another realm.

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Views from around the Loch

While some people take holidays to Spain and sun themselves on beaches, I find myself scaling mountains answering an ancient calling.  May 2016 found me back on Eigg, again in one of the hottest days of summer. May is always a good time to visit anywhere in Scotland even although the beginning of the month may bring snow the midges haven’t arrived yet! This trip may turned out to be HOT and while I’d brought many layers I cursed quietly for not bringing a sun hat.  There are times when I see a snapshot of myself – i’m not lying on a beach in Spain but heading up to a mountain loch with the extra layer i’d packed now wrapped around my head as an attempt at shading myself from the sun. Finally after several visits over the years I’m making this trip alone and there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining and there is  barely a cloud in the sky.

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In the waters of the Loch of the Big Women – a perfect swirl of water between my feet

I’m not quite sure what this pilgrimage has in store but I’m following the call. I reach the loch and the sun is shining straight ahead of me as the water surface glitters in thousands of bright lights dancing on the surface. I sit and just be in this place soaking the silence and the sun then suddenly feel I’m being watched. I look around but can’t see anyone and then I realize it’s not folks from this world who are watching me its folks from the other world! I feel I’m being watched by women – maybe it’s the generations gone who honored the mythical Big Women or maybe it’s the Big Women themselves? Big I remind myself is another word for respect or look up to and maybe that’s who the Big WOmen were – seer’s or wise women who people traveled to in a time of personal crisis.

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Daughter of the North WInd

Then slowly is dawns on me what this pilgrimage requires and I’m a little taken back at the idea of submerging myself under the loch waters,  yet when the old ones beckon who am I to resist! And so gingerly I take off layers and while I’m surprised that the water is warm (it’s relatively shallow and has been warmed by the sun all day) the bottom of the Loch is covered in very small extremely sharp stones. I have visions of a brave me diving in under the surface of the water down into the depths of the middle of the loch but in actuality I’m terrified of water with dark peaty depths and so I gingerly step out to waist height water, take a deep breath and fully submerge myself under the surface. I look back on that split minute in my head with slow motion as if there were otherworldly eyes on the shore watching me and in the water with my as I submerged myself. I felt radiant when I emerged – as if I really had swam into the middle of the loch dove down and reclaimed some ancient treasure. I had reclaimed something – I had reclaimed a sense of purpose and deepened my connection and relationship with these old ones for in dark political times like these we need to create new ways of working and being in this world that are rooted in an ancient spiritual bedrock to keep us anchored and fed.

Join Us on a Journey to the Lands of the Big Women

Without roots we are lost and so this May a circle of women are taking a very special spiritual journey. A journey that will require some to cross an ocean and for all of us to take a train journey, one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world – the West Highland Way and travel through the heart of Scotland’s wilderness. Then we will leave mainland Scotland by ferry and cross the waters over to this little island where we will tap into the stories of the land and work with these ancient female forces so we can come back into the world replenished and inspired for the work that lies ahead.

In Part two of Scottish Amazon Women Rising we will be traveling as the crow flies its roughly ten miles to Tarskavaig on the Isle of Skye to the ruins of Dun Sgathaich Castle (Castle of Shadows) and once home to renowned Celtic warrior Scathach.

 

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Join Jude on her Ancient Mothers of Scotland Retreat which includes a visit to the Loch of the Big Women where there is an optional submergence ritual under the water which is a significant ritual in reclaiming lost parts of ourselves, in particular embracing our wild self and is an initiation, or a rededication to our own and unique ancestral soul path we take in this world.

 

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Article resources:

Dressler, Camille. (1998). Eigg The Story of an Island. Polygon, Edinburgh, Scotland.

 

Welcoming Breejah

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While i’m a long way from home (currently living in the Appalachians) I left out my Bhrat – my piece of cloth for Brighid to bless as she returned to the world on Imbolc eve. The fabric is Harris tweed from an Island of the Hebrides – known as Brighid’s Isles. How beautiful to see the dew form as crystals on the cloth. I think of tweed as the interviewing of prayers and honoring of the land it came from – the colors and the stories.

I was lucky enough to be given a wonderful supply of Harris tweed on my last trip home which I have been saving to create my own mantle, such as the protective mantle Brighid encompasses.

This weekend I’m looking forward to our Imbolc retreat exploring brighid and the psychology of the season and how we can take those traditions of Imbolc and doll making and stone medicine to support our journey around the wheel of the year.

Brighid’s stories and traditions are vast for they encompass a Goddess, a Saint and the figure of mary of the Gael – the true essence of the Goddess Brighid incorporated into the new religion of Christainity in a very different form of Celtic Christianity – where the beliefs of both worlds were practiced side by side.

I have always been drawn to the tales of Brighid that somehow are a little hidden or on the threshold and the theory of Brighid as Bear energy as honored by the earliest of peoples (and proposed by irish scholar Seamus Ó Cathain) is one which certainly fires my imagination.

Click below to read my essay The Great Bear Mother: A Journey with Brigit to the Ancient Dawn of Imbolc which was published in the anthology ‘Brigid: Sun of Womanhood’ by patricia Monaghan.

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Guided Meditation & Shamanic Journey

Take a journey between the worlds with this guided meditation & shamanic journey…Take some time, create sacred space and journey with Breejah!

Click on the image below, the file is hosted on Soundcloud

bear-woman-and_the_dream_child1995Image: Bear Woman and the Dream Child by Susan Seddon Boulet

Brighid Art in the Shop….

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Brighid ‘Brideog’ Doll – Click on image to view in shop

 

 

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Brighid Altar Wall Hanging – Featuring protective Brighid’s wheel/cross and pocket for offerings – Click on image to view in shop

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Brighid Altar Wall Hanging – With pocket for offerings & Brighid’s wheel/cross which offers protection to the house for the coming year. Click on the image to view in shop


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Flame Haired Brighid in Red Velvet – with Brighid’s cross/wheel

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Deer Priestess – click to view in shop

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Crow Wolf Priestess – click to view in shop