A Celebration of Doll Making

Breejah –  The First Doll I Ever Made

It’s been a while since this doll maker made a doll. Although I’m always thinking of creations which want to be made, to be given form. My dolls hold the wisdom and insight of folklore, of the way of the Wise Women – and extend an invitation to view the world through their eyes.

This Samhain I’ll be launching a wheel of the year course which through the cycle of the year explores each of the eight festivals in relation to the folklore of the Bean Feasa (Wise Woman). Each festival is represented by an Ancestral Mother of Scotland and a doll who represents her – there will be creative projects which stir the imagination and guided meditations to journey with the wise woman.

This post celebrates doll making and an inspiration to me to celebrate these wonderful creations!

Crow Morris

Amazon

The Old Dark One

She Who Holds the Wheel

Vasilisa and the doll her mother gave her

 

The Great Eye of the Cailleach

Mari Lwyd

She Who Runs With the Herds

The Selkie

 

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Click on the Etsy logo to see the dolls in the shop

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Snakestones, Hagstones and a Witch Burning

 

Holey stones are part of a long magical curative tradition in the UK. Different regions of the UK used the stones for different uses, throughout the country holey stones are known as hagstones, witch stones, snake stones, Druids stones and mare stones to name a few. These stones were used to curing eye issues curing diseases in cattle, protecting horses from night-hags and preventing nightmares and to help children through teething (which in the 1700-1800’s in Glasgow, Scotland was the cause of a considerable infant mortality).

Impression of Agnes Sampson, the Witch of Keith

Snakestone Beads

Snakestone beads are generally thought of a being a glassy disc with a hole in the center and said to have been created by the spit or foam from the mouths of snakes. There is a legend from Cornwall which tells of a tradition that snakes would gather at midsummers eve and as they joined their heads together and hisses they created a bubble till it formed around the head of one of the snakes and it would travel over its body until it came off at the tail.

Agnes Simpson –  the Wise Wife of Keith

Snakestone beads were also natural stones with holes in them, were sometimes used to ease the pain of childbirth in Scotland. In the trial of Agnes Sampson, as part of the North Berwick witch trials, another woman on trial –  Eufame Macalyane, is said to have called on the services of Agnes. Eufame had called on Sampson for the relief of her labour pains, the cure involving the use of enchanted powders as well as the ‘baird stane’ (a bored stone, ie a stone with a hole in it). Agnes was eventually convicted not just for having the snakestone but the bigger sentence charged with treason (of allegedly trying to kill Kings James VI and his new wife on their voyage from Denmark by conjuring up a violent storm). Her use of the snakestone inferred her use of using magic as the stone wasn’t attributed with any known actual curative properties – the use of the stone was then used as additional evidence that Sampson was indeed a witch and was burnt at the stake in Edinburgh 1591.

Antler hagstone – click to view in shop

To me, a stone with a hole in it connects us to these wise women and to their beliefs which they tapped into in doing their work, whether helping with childbirth, find something treasured that was lost or to make sense of a particular situation and to bring balance back. People sought out the help of wise women in times of crises in their lives and while the world has gone through many crises we are currently in a monumental planetary wide crisis. There are many women from different traditions who call themselves wise women, or are called wise women by others. Each woman brings about balance in her own way through her skills within her tradition. I work in a pre-Celtic Bean Feasa tradition – while the word is from Gaelic I recognize my recent ancestors and all the generations of women before them. Countless generations of women who brought their healing skills, their helping and organizing skills, their skills as nurturer and therapist, of herbalist and skills of artist and storyteller weaving the magic of imagination.

My hag stones are decorated with an embellished cord, a symbol of the roots, the bones and the blood which link us to the women who came before us – down through countless generations of women healers. The cord is a symbol of the tap root that weaves through us to past generations and all those women. It is emblellished with talismans which some women would have held sacred in that special relationship they had with an animal, plant or Goddess.

Whatever she was doing, weaving together some magic, tracking down a lost calf for someone, a lost mind for someone else or giving out instructions on a ritual on how to appease the Good Folk the Bean Feasa (wise woman) had her own way of working.

Brighid hagstone – click to view in shop

The cord of this stone holds Brighid’s wheel (or cross) and a snake bone. The red yard represents Brighid’s flame, the fire priestesses kept alive or generations. the piece is an invitation to work with the hag stone and Brighid.

Ancestral Mother hagstone – click to view in shop

The threads attached to these stones invite you to follow them, like roots they branch out past your hand, past your mother, your grandmother, further and further to women whose names you don’t know, women whose lives you don’t know. Yet within that lineage sings a language, a magic, a creativity. This is the red thread, the beating in the heart, the wise voice that comes from nowhere, the stream of synchronicity.

 

The Witches and Deer Hag Stones

The Deer Stone

The deer stone was found tied onto an ancient antler. The antler was carried by a line of ancient priestesses who honored the great antlered one, which some call Elen of the Ways. Who knows why the antler was buried but the stone has told me that it is ready to be worn again, to be used by one who also honors the great antlered one. It offers and insight and guidance to work and learn with Elen.

Click on the image to view in the online shop

The Witches Stone

This is a curious little stone, said to be owned and worn by a local witch. It was found in a nest tucked away in the middle of a hedgerow. How did it get there? Hedgerows of Britain are often very ancient, some hundreds of years old. They are a wonderful metaphor of the boundary between the worlds, one one side the cultivated everyday while they offer a continuation of the wild with all the plants, birds and little creatures which play out their lives within the hedgerow. This stone offers a powerful ally in journeying between the worlds and an invitation to work with the ancient energies of the land.

 Click on the image to view in the online shop

Celtic Soul Prayer Beads

Both stones are offered as the focal point for a set of Celtic Soul Prayer beads where you have the unique opportunity to select the gemstones used. The prayer bead set will be created in ceremony just for you. Click on any image to view in the shop

Through the Eye of the Reindeer

 

Image from the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre

Through The Eye of a Reindeer

What an invitation into the wild, to see the world through the eyes of a reindeer. To see through their eyes is the story about a rather special hag stone. It’s is a rather magical stone, which told me it’s intriguing tale.

Reindeer eye hag stone

The great eye of the stone was formed many thousands of years ago, yet this tale is set in its relatively recent history – a mere yesterday of 14,000 years ago.  It was worn around the neck of a wise woman. She practiced the ways of being with the reindeer. She was the one who ran with the herd and saw the luminous trails of their ancient migratory paths sparkle and shimmer in the land where there was no path to the discernible eye.

She wore this stone around her neck and when in trance, swaying to the heartbeat of the drum she would look through the stone and find the herd. Then she would shape shift, feeling her hooves touch the earth run and stretching her legs she would run, run with the herd. She would interpret their movements into answers she needed for her people. How to cure this, what plant for that, what solution to this – this is how she gained her answers. As the female reindeer led her herd this wise woman led her people.

She Who Runs With the Herds

Here lies an ancient invitation here to work with this stone and to view the world through it’s eye under a dark and a full moon – what stories and insights she might whisper…..

Celtic Soul Prayer Beads

Click on the Etsy heart below to view the stone in my shop – it forms the focal point for a set of Celtic Soul Prayer beads and you get to select the gemstones. The prayer bead set will be created in ceremony just for you.

 

 

 

Stay tuned for Scottish travel stories as next week we’re off to visit the Cairngorm reindeer herd!

 

Morrighan, Selkie and Moon Hag Stones – Create your own prayer bead set!

A Rare and unique chance to co-create your own Celtic Soul Prayer Beads. Choose your hag stone, select the beads you’d like for your prayer bead set as well as the eight threshold beads. These limited edition run of prayer beads will be created in ceremony with prayers and chants recited as your beads are assembled.

Choose from the following stones (click on the image to view in the online shop) :

click on the photo to view in the online shop

Morrighan Raven Stone

click on the photo to view in the online shop

Half Moon Stone

click on the photo to view in the online shop

White Selkie Stone

click on the photo to view in the online shop

Seal Stone #2

click on the photo to view in the online shop

Through the Eye of the Cailleach Stone

click on the photo to view in the online shop

Crystal Selkie Stone

click on the photo to view in the online shop

Seal Stone #1

 

My Babushka Matryoshka

I have always loved Matryoshka dolls. I’d love to tell you about the set I had in which I’d named every of the 25 little dolls and could tell you a story about each of their lives – but then that would be a complete fairy tale.

My mum just returned from Russia and brought me a set that contained four dolls. Matryoshka means little mother and refers to each of the dolls decreasing down to size with the smallest often refereed to as the baby of the set.

 

It might just be my eye and imagination but the smaller two in my set definitely seem older, not younger.  I get a sense of the two of the biggest and youngest dolls are the living ones, and as the dolls get smaller (as women often do in old age) we carry within us part of our grandmother, her mother and her mother before her. Within us we carry threads of all the women in our lineage – the strengths, the traumas, the dreams and inspirations and sometimes the songs and the wonder.

Moscow, Russia, 2011. An exhibition of of giant Russian matryoshki dolls 


 

 

 

Scottish Travel Journal – DISTASTER and the best beachcombing find ever!

We arrived to the small island of Eigg to some wonderful rainy days which are all the more enjoyable knowing they aren’t going to last for the entire time on the island. We got properly soaked (even with waterproofs on) which is all the more wonderful knowing you can have a hot shower when you get in.
Mist was the perfect cloak to be wrapped in as we made our pilgrimage to the Well of the Holy Women. Throughout the UK and Ireland there is a long tradition of women who tended wells, keeping the water free from overgrowing weeds and allowing the water to run free. This is the perfect place to sit and soak into this place. To consider who were the Holy Women and even to consider what in us needs to be tended, what weeds need to be removed in our lives in order that the same flow can run within us.

The weather cleared in a few days and we had glorious skies which darkened just for a few hours each night after a wonderful wash of twilight.

The disaster part of this trip was that by the time I  got home to Loch Lomond I started to feel a bit strange with severe aches in my joints. The next day brought a rash of spots and I was beginning to consider if I had Chicken Pox. I’m recovering now but wow this illness, most likely a sever case of dermatitis/heat rash has taken its toll with  all the symptoms very similar to Chicken Pox.

So it’ been a strange twilight of illness as I get my strength back as this illness has floored me. As I get my strength back there will be more tales from Eigg such as the story of the Hebridean Sheela na Gig but next up on this trip is my annual beachcombing for some hag stones in the South of England…..then it’s a visit north to the Cairngorms to visit their reindeer herd!

A Beachcombing Adventure

Beachcombing has to be one of my most favourite things – who knows what treasures might be thrown up from the bottom of the sea. While on Eigg it’s a great motivation to get up to reach a certain little beach when the tide is out. To join the seagulls, the oystercatcher’s and to glimpse out to slightly distant rocks in the hope of catching sight of one of the seal people.

On this little beach is the hope of finding something rather special – a Scottish Cowrie Shell. Cowrie’s have been prized by people around the world and by the earliest people to walk on this island around 50000 BCE (you can see the cowries in the photo above in the middle of the skull looking like eyes).

It was last year I came across this wonderful skull. As I held it and turned it around in my hands it took me a minute to relaise it was a dolphin skull with the thinner nose cartilage had long gotten smashed against the rocks. How amazing to hold a dolphin skull and wonder what she had seen through her eyes as she swam in the sea channels around these Hebridean islands. What wise woman looked out to sea for the sign of a fin or flick of the tail and what women shape shifted and dove down into the depths to find the answers to their questions.

I’ll return her to the beach or the waves next year after we’ve share a few stories.

The Seal People

Seal’s really have been the pointers on this journey home. From books falling off shelves to an open page to a chapter I’ve highlighted in the past (that’s some serious wu wu from someone who spent most of their life as a librarian). I was lucky enough to spot some seal people hanging out on rocks as we arrived on the Isle of Eigg and I’ve been exploring the dark, scary depths around towering kelp forests in my dreams.

It’s been many years since I’ve read ‘Seal Morning’ long enough for me to forget most of the story so it was a perfect read – the story follows a young girl living in India with her parents who is sent to live with her aunt in a very remote croft in the North West of Scotland. The story is a wonderful adventure of self sufficiency and survival of a small family of two humans, rats, otters, squirrels and a seal. Plus the wild animals visitors and the curious insights from their distant crofting neighbours.

Published in the 1950’s there has been some controversy to wither the book is indeed a true account but it’s such as wonderful tale woven with so many interesting characters and nature observations I wonder does it really matter if it’s true or not?

Wise Woman Doll Making on the Isle of Eigg 2019

We return to Eigg in 2019 with a doll making retreat which launches in August.

The retreat will have lots of story telling of all the Wise Women from Eigg, the surrounding island and of course the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland to inspire your doll making.

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