The Ancestral Soul Path

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Dancing with the Grandmothers. Deep in the Cave

The snow began falling yesterday afternoon here in the foothills of the Appalachians. All throughout the night it fell steadily and soundlessly. I got up before dawn and went outside for my morning ritual of whispering into the threshold that time when it’s not quite night yet not quite day. I feel those deep heart gratitudes and prayers leaving me and travelling out onto the shimmering strands of the great wide web, into the weaving hands of the ancient foremothers.

Deep in the Cave

This winter I have followed the lulling song of the energies of the plants and trees as they took their energy down deep into their roots. I too have burrowed deep into my cave and tended to my roots. Some days I sit by the fire and stare into the flames, other days I paint pictures of the bear grandmothers on the walls and watch them dance and sway when the flickering flames reflect on them. Other days I draw all the insights gathered from dream fragments, of whispers and those that fall with the glittering showers of snow, sometimes I stitch and sew and create wise women who wish to be born. It is is a rich time indeed if you can mange to stay undisturbed and nestled in the thick layers of darkness.
There is a path, an ancient path that walks the strands of the great cosmic web. It is the Ancestral Soul Path, one which thousands of generations of women have walked, danced, sung and woven deep magic into. It’s a path that walks the thresholds as it weaves in and out of this world and into the otherworld.

 

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The Ancient Mothers of Scotland Retreat

This May you are invited to join a tribe of like minded women and travel the Ancestral Soul Path on a spiritual journey to the Ancient Mothers of Scotland. This journey takes you on one of the top 3 spectacular train journeys in the world – the West Highland Way weaves through the beautiful wilderness of Scotland, framed by mountains, a journey where you often spot deer from the train. This journey takes you from the bustling city of Glasgow up to the coast at Mallaig where a short ferry ride takes you over to the Isle of Eigg.

Eigg’s Gaelic name is ‘Eilean nam Ban Mora’, which means Isle of the Big Women and it’s the magical realm of these myths and stories that forms the hearth for our time together. From tales of Amazon warriors and Pictish Queens to the Cailleach and Brighid, from hints of Holy Women, Brighid and the great Deer Goddess whose bones form the bedrock of these small isles.

Ritual & ceremony provide women with the opportunity to explore their personal intentions while engaging in shamanic arts such as doll making, singing and nature art and mapping our journeys fosters an exploration of insights and experiences.

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The Stone Planting Ritual

Employing programs such as Joanna Macy’s ‘Work That Reconnects’ participants have the opportunity to express their joy of living on this planet as well as the grief in what’s happening in this world and then through shamanic journeying ask future beings for their guidance and then commit to the work they already bring, or wish to bring to this world.

As we walk this path the land is our ever present companion in this process as we synchronize to her rhythms and ever changing faces. The central focus of the Ancestral Soul Path is to sit in circle as we gesture, tell stories within personal ritual as each women speaks her story into sacredness. This path is walks on ancient spiritual bedrock and offers a deeply transformative process – that blooms a unique bloom within every woman unique to her and her path in this world.

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There are days set aside for personal reflection – walking on the beaches or with art


 me in a mythcal landscape

Mapping our journeys on the Ancestral Soul Path

Our retreat itinerary covers:

Blessing by the Well of the Holy Women

Storytelling of the Ancient Mothers & the Big Women of Eigg

Honoring our Wild Self

Initiation to your own Ancestral Soul Path at the Loch of the Big Women

Joanna Macy’s program of the Spiral of Reconnection

Shamanic art – Doll Making, art in nature, mapping our journey

Walks to local sacred sites

Visit to a local working Croft and the Crofting Museum

Meet up with local women and an evening joining their singing group

Stone planting ritual

Ritual, ceremony and a Celtic Need Fire

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You can sign up for retreat updates – just click below for full details and for details of our evening talk on the retreat 2/16.

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Brighid & Brideogs

Celtic Goddess DollMy dark skinned, dreadlocked Brighid

There is a soft, steady snowfall here in the foothills of the Appalachians. That is the way with Imbolc, winter hasn’t quite loosened her grip. The bone crone of winter thinks she is still in control, riding around on her steel grey wolf striking down any signs of spring with her great black throrn staff. Eventually her desperation turns into a kind of madness, then an exhaustion, which begins the ancient ancient drama where she will shape-shift again into the maiden Brighid.

It is Imbolc that awakens me, for I am not teased out of that winter hibernation by the shiny things of our modern world. I am not fooled into acting on new year resolutions, as I am far too comfortable in the darkness. Imbolc is still shrouded in darkness but it offers hope, a hope that our ancestors saw in the shape of a bear emerging from hibernation. That bear emerging marked the ending of winters grip on the land. The bear is magical, if they had stumbled upon her in hibernation she would have appeared dead – with heart rate and breathing dropped down to an inconceivable minimum. She is magic as she resides in the otherworld throughout winter, as it is she who brings the land back to life (Lally, 2013). She is Brighid, as Brighid’s roots lie with the great bear mother. Brighid after all is a shapeshifter, who has travelled with mankind – always regenerating, always relevant.

Our lives might not be quite as endangered throught the winter months as our ancestors lives were, but we still yearn for brighter and warmer days, to return the fertility to the soil, and life back into the land.

Imbolc traditions

One of my favourite traditions was in the laying out of the bhrat, a peice of cloth left outside on Imolc eve. In the stillness of the night, a time not quite night nor daybreak is when Brighid returns from the otherworld. A flicker of northern lights announces her presence, the worlds 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, cattle and the the cloth and objects laid out for her – stung out in gardens, across bushes and on trees.

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Copyright free image. Click on pic for source.

People awake excitedly on Imbolc eve and rush to the ashes of the hearth, seeking a footprint, a stone moved, any evidence to say that Brighid had visited, blessed the hearth and so the lives of all within the household. The bhrat, the cloth left out for her blessing, is collected before sunrise for it’s magic lies in the dew soaked into its fibres. To collect it after sunrise is disasterous as the sun will have dried up the dew. Midwifes would cut little peice of their bhrat to help mothers in labor, and to protect new born babies. peices of cloth would be tied around sick cows. The magic of the bhrat was that it was portable, you can keep some in your pocket – whenever you feel you need dear Brighid’s help. Strips were also tied onto trees by the house of a storm was due, invoking brighid’s help to protect the house, the souls inside, the barn and all the animals.

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There are so many aspects of Imolc traditions, rites and cermonies from Brideog dolls, making Brighid’s wheels, Imbolc eve meals, laying out of the bhrat etc. In his book ‘The Rites of Brighid’ Sean O Duinn gathers many of the Brideog rituals from around Ireland. The Brideog was an image of Brighid, which was made from readily available materials, in some instances dressed up with some rags or clothes, in others a figure made from rushes. One commonality was in the Brideog taken from house to house throughout the village. Although these rites varied there was always words exchanged over the threshold of the house from the travelling band of participants outside and the household inside. In certain rites, particularly in Kilcommon, County Mayo a stalk taken from the main Brideog doll was then incorporate into their new  Brighid’s wheel (or cross), which was made annually at Imbolc, which offered protection and healing and general prosperity throughout the year.

Brighid is a shapeshifter, a time traveller, from creatrix to bear, from goddess to saint she morphs and changes always offering us her fire of transformation. She midwifes our continual rebirth in all stages of life and death, but personally I find her greatest wisdom in the power of transformation. Her perpetual flame of inspiration, our own internal flames of passion in our relationships with each other, with the land and our non human relatives. In our role in life. If there is ever a time we need her fire it is now.

So leave out a piece of cloth this Imbolc eve, create something with it, maybe keep it with you for her protection. See your own flame mirrored in hers, a flame that sustains and never burns, and may we work with Brighid in our relationships with self, each other and community in building towards transformation.

PicMonkey CollageBrideog dolls

I create mini Brideog dolls if you would like one to adorn your altar or sacred place. Within your own rite invite her energy into the doll, in that age old tradition. Email email if you’d like your own little Brideog.

Sources:

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.

O Duinn, Sean. 2004. The Rites of Brigid. Goddess and Saint. The Columba Press, Ireland.

Nature, Spirit, Craft

Tree of life

This blog came about inspired by the amazing craft I’ve seen on flickr, Etsy and blogs. I’ve been so curious about the makers inspirations and thoughts and with serendipity weaving through virtual worlds we naturally connect, encourage and answer a barrage of questions!


My motivation lies in the sparks I feel when I see particular pieces. I want to walk around their creative sacred place and look at what they’ve gathered around them. I want to know what inspires them, what’s their working process and find words to converse in a language we naturally don’t use words for. This is an ancient language: one which we are naturally fluent in, through our long evolution on this planet alongside our non human family. We are after all interconnected and cannot live without each other.

‘It was as if my body in its actions was suddenly being motivated by a wisdom older than my thinking mind, as though it was held and moved by a logos, deeper than words, spoken by the Other’s body, the trees, and the stony ground on which we stood’.

D. Abrams*

Wooden Heart


The nature of modernity has somehow swayed us off that course away from our inherited knowledge, and lead us to believe that here in our man made world we are somehow elevated above the natural world.

Maybe that’s why we often feel a little lost in this modern world, we no longer embody that ancient natural knowledge we all possess. The prevailing powers feed us with distractions and maybe if we were a little more fluent in out mother tongue, we might just be less addicted to the quick fixes of modernity’s drugs and a little more self satisfied with our relationship to ourselves, each other and the place in which we live.

Reassuringly ancient

So when I see a craft piece that stirs my soul I wonder if the practitioner is fluent in this ancient language. I wonder if my questioning reflects that early on in life I knew I saw the world differently and by that nature it’s been impossible for me to ever feel alone, or lonely. How can you feel alone when their is the wind, the night stars beckoning from vast distances, bird song, snow, mist, weather, cold, thunder – they all have their voices their spirit.I am unsure where this questioning will lead, but it weaves serendipity so I set sail in it’s stream trusting the guiding forces. I do wonder if we are more aware of our relationship to nature – in that we are nature – do we then act accordingly? How can we then share that inspiration to act, share that feeling with others and offer an antidote to addressing the problems of the world?

* Abrams, D. 1996. The Spell of the Sensuous, pg 21. Vintage, USA

Migrating birds



I’m happy to report that my little birds have been leaving the nest as fast as I can assemble bodies, wings, beads and brooch clips. Like my little birds I too am preparing to leave the nest, my lofty eyrie looking out to Ben Lomond and the surrounding hills. My migration however involves the impossible task of taming an unruly flock of immigration forms which like little birds never seem to stay in the same place for too long.

A snowy Ben Lomond taken from my flat

Although my migration is voluntary, unlike the many forcibly moved from their Western Isles lands, I will follow paths many took over the Atlantic to Asheville, North Carolina ~ a place in the Appalachians where fibre arts are very much alive. Along with good friends, family and a small dog I will miss my mountain, Ben Lomond on the East shore of Loch Lomond. A peak which magically summons rain clouds from the Atlantic. Even on days when it envelopes itself in mist and cloud, immersed in its own weather system I feel its pull, its steady heart beat, its roots are my roots.

Carman Hill (Neolithic burial chambers and Iron Age Fort) pic taken from flat

As a kid on surrounding hilltops I would peer squinting through the half light of dusk and imagine the darkening land dotted with ancient fires, surrounded by an ancient people’s sharing stories. Time was wrapped up in layers and I was always looking for my way in to pull aside that vast curtain and crawl in. I still hunt for those keys in the shape of crow, tree or moonlight.

Driftwood

Out on the ocean beneath the forming rain clouds flows the North Atlantic Drift. It has brought me curious treasures washed up on the Clyde shore: coconuts, magically shaped driftwood and odd curiosities.Deep magic, our tie with the land, isn’t lost or forgotten, it’s very much alive. From my eyrie I look out to a town which cuts of the night skies in its excess of light pollution. As individuals we’re sidetracked by advertising, wide screen TV’s, traffic countless sources of noise into the belly of the consumerist beast. Above the artificial light the mountain peaks are tinged with the last light of the day, from the setting sun, shining on the lands of Tir na Nog.


We can bring the deep magic of the land alive through us, what we make with our hands and all that we do. It is a magic that lives within us as we are an integral part of the land. There is no ‘saving the environment’ we are the land saving ourselves.