Grandmother Bear Prayer Beads

Click on the image to view in the shop

New prayer beads made under the waning moon as we approach the autumn equinox. I really like these new ‘Bear’ prayer beads. Autumn equinox is a time of balance and stillness before we make the descent into the dark of the year. It is an invitation for us to stop and evaluate how we really are. What things do we need to let go of and what things do we wish to take into the dark with us?

With working with the most ancient grandmothers and bear the first animal humans ever honored we enter into her great dreaming cycle with her, we call her cave home and can return there throughout the winter months when the franticness of the human world with its consumerism and endless distraction becomes too much. When we’re able to sink down to our roots we can weave the wisdom of bear into our lives.

 

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Brighid’s Wheels, Ritual and Snakes

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‘From the sacrificial fires of patriarchy, we must shift toward the burning fires within. From the burning fires of the Inquisitions, we must now turn towards authentic sources of empowerment by committing ourselves once again to becoming, daughters of Brigit’  

Mary Condren, Brigit SoulSmith for the New Millenium. 

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In this Celtic Soul School feature: 

The Psychology of Imbolc

Brighid’s Wheel – Ancient Symbol

Making a Paper Wheel

Using the Wheel in Ritual

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Goddess of the Threshold

Brighid’s Wheels, also called Brighid’s Crosses, are symbols of protection. They are traditionally placed above thresholds of the house, such as doorways and windows, to offer protection to those living in the house as well as offering protection to the physical structure of the house. Among her many attributes, Brighid is a goddess of thresholds, with tales of her mother giving birth at the threshold of the house.

Wheels are traditionally made on Imbolc eve using rushes or straw. At each Imbolc a new wheel was often hung in the rafters of the kitchen offering protection throughout the year. The old Wheel was either left in its place or taken outside and buried or burnt. Sean O Duinn explains it wasn’t unusual to come across houses with around 50 wheels in the rafters.

3-crosssnake-2-editThe Psychology of the Season

Imbolc, 1st February is Brighid’s festival and has numerous traditions of inviting Brighid into our homes and lives. Many rites took place over the threshold of the house where those outside would knock and ask if she was welcome, the reply being ‘she is welcome, she is welcome, she is welcome’. Each year my Imbolc ritual involves inviting Brighid in with her representing the light and life itself. Imbolc is a time in which many women take their vows,  their dedication to the wheel and of saying ‘yes’ to another year another cycle around the wheel. While we welcome Brighid in embodied by light yet if you live in the northern hemisphere at northern latitudes Imbolc can often feel as your plunged into a deeper darkness. This is the time of year that many old people who have survived the winter choose to die and let go.

The psychology of Imbolc can be one of worry and unease. I feel we have the hundreds of generations of ancestors feelings of Imbolc knitted into our bones – old worries if the sparse food resources would last much longer. Imbolc is the promise of new light but it is not yet spring as in my opinion the two snows we can be pretty much be guaranteed are in early November and early march. We too can be haunted with worries over ill friends, worries about paying the heating bill and maybe of lining up regular work. In our current political, environmental climate it seems we are in a permanent state of Imbolc, the worry and the unease being constant.

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An Ancient Symbol

Mary Condren, an Irish theologian, explains that it is likely that Brighid’s Wheel does not actually originate from Ireland but rather has an international ancestry. One main reason for her conclusion is that there are no instances of her symbol being etched on early pottery or stone.

   

In the middle of the Wheel (above), the central pattern forms a lozenge or diamond. Sean O Duinn notes that his shape is very similar to the symbol found on hundreds of early goddess figurines of Old Europe unearthed by Maria Gimbutas. Gimbutas concluded that the lozenge symbolized the sown field and the a dot or dash in its centre or in the corners was a symbolic invocation to secure fertility of the crops. Many ancient figurines are inscribed with this symbol, with some impressed with real grain. The symbol most similar to Brighid’s wheel is the lozenge within the lozenge, so Brighid’s wheel could go back as far as the Neolithic.

Lozenge and seed motif on Neolithic ceramic female figurine Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, ca. 5500-2750 BCE, Piatra Neamt Museum, Romania.

Types of Wheels

There are many types of Brighid’s Wheel, Sean O Duinn describes that different regions had their own style of Brighid’s Wheel, while some developed as ornate designs that were brought as decorations to church. Styles vary from the four or three armed or ‘swastika’ type to the diamond or lozenge type to a whole host of sheaf crosses.

The Wheel is similar to the swastika with four protruding arms which suggests the symbol is in motion. The Sanskrit meaning behind the swastika is symbol good fortune or well being. Variations on this sacred symbol can be found in many cultures, possibly originating in the Neolithic and found within Mayan, Native American, Hindu, Buddhist, Jainism, and Norse belief.

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A triple Goddess Brighid doll (Brighid and her two sisters) with wheel made from corn husk

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Making and Using Brighid’s Wheels

We can still make Brighid’s wheels and place them above the thresholds of the house for evoking Brighid’s protection over the coming year. They don’t have to be made from traditional rush or straw although I often use corn husks. Wheels can be made from paper, yarn, corn husks (as shown on the triple Brighid doll above), pipe-cleaners or wool.

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I like to use the paper ones for recording my own personal psychology at this time of the year. Using the paper ones to record what feeling of worries or general unease arise. Writing them down helps to acknowledge them and a better basis for beginning to work with them.

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I also like to make them from black card and then instead of writing you can use symbols and colors. There is no ‘right’ way to use wheels but as an artist and ritualist I like to explore ways of bringing these practices into my life. Wheels weren’t just for Imbolc as they were often given throughout the year in celebration given to a friend or to help them in hard times. You can explore using wheels from colors and shapes to varying materials. rom feelings of unease they can also be used to record what you wish to give life to in this coming year.

How to Make a Paper Wheel

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Step 1. Cut a rectangle shaped piece of paper into four equal lengths and then fold each strip in half

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Step 2. Lay our your first folded strip with the fold facing rightdsc_0036Step 3. Add the second strip feeding it through the first – fold facing downwards. When making a wheel you create it clockwise in the direction of the sun. dsc_0037Step 4. Add the third strip feeding it through the second – fold facing leftdsc_0038
Step 5. Add the forth strip feeding it through the third so it loops over the first
dsc_0041Step 6. Pull each of the ends in turn to tighten up your wheel

Personal Ritual

Where ever we are on the wheel I can often only make sense of things through ritual. Ritual doesn’t need to be some big grand organized affair, which can put many folks off, as it can be as simple as a silent gesture or some words around an action or intention. Ritual is my language, my way of making sense of things, they way to weave myself into the world and out onto the great invisible web that connects all things. From my breath and the stone I hold in my hand out to the furthest nebula exploding in the most beautiful colors ritual is my way of weaving it all together and making space for mystery.

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Quartz crystal, quartz stone and snake bones

In personal ritual I like to work with stones and natural objects and seeing it is Imbolc Brighid’s wheel can be a focus for lying all those things out into a representation of a gratitude, a prayer or request.

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Saint Brighid’s Cathedral is found in Kildare, Ireland where there are records of several orders of priestesses – we can’t say for sure that these priestesses (or nuns) at Kildare performed the same role at the Roman priestesses but as so much of the symbolism overlaps it does provide  light on the role of some of the possible rituals and features that may have been practised at Kildare. A perpetual lame used to burn there which was extinguished in the middle ages with the dissolution of the monasteries, but the flame was relit by the Brigidine Sisters in 1993.

The snake has always been associated with Brighid and there are theories that Kildare also may have been a cult centre for the serpent which it was thought were imported into Ireland as while popular myth says St Patick banished all the snakes (which was actually a metaphor for Pagans) snakes hadn’t existed in Ireland since the last ice age.

My Brighid’s wheel pictured above is adorned with snake bones.


screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-4-58-59-pmClick on the Etsy image to visit our shop for Brighid dolls and altars

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Click above to check out my online Brighid course exploring several traditions which involve invoking Brighid’s protection

Next week’s Imbolc post will explore the tradition of the ‘Bhrat Bhrighde’ which is laying out cloth on Imbolc eve for Brighid to bless as well as the tradition of the Brideog doll with instructions on how to make your own Brideog doll.
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For those in the Asheville, NC area check out out Imbolc weekend retreat – click on the image above

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Click on the logo above to join the school for free and keep up to date with workshops, courses and retreats as well as regular features as we travel the wheel of the year.

Resources referenced:

Condren, Mary. 1989. The Serpent and the Goddess. Women, Religion and Power in Celtic Ireland. Harper Row, San Francisco, USA.

Condron, Mary. Mary Condren. Brigit SoulSmith for the New Millenium. Available via Academia.edu (you will have to register for a free account).

Gimbutus, Marija. 1982. The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe. University of California Press, USA.

Gimbutus, Marija. 1989. The Language of the Goddess. Thames and Hudson, USA.

O Duinn, Sean. 2004. The Rites of Brighid. Goddess and Saint. The Columba Press, Blackrock, Dublin, Ireland.

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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Calling all Amazons against the Kurgen President!

final-imageThe hardest thing I did yesterday was to get out of bed. I could feel my shock in the election result in my body. It weighed me down, I couldn’t move fast. When I got out to the garden  was surprised that the world seemed the same – the tree’s were in the same places and the sky hadn’t cracked open.  I moved very slowly yesterday, glad for the little things – washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry and sweeping the porch, little things brought me back to life.

While on waking I had the fragment of a dream ‘we are born for these times’ rang in my head to which I loudly replied no, I’m small, I’m tired and I’m overwhelmed. By lunchtime, I really was tired and ready to back to bed.

I slowly stirred from my shock gratingly annoyed at messages of we must meet everything with love and reassurances that somehow this is part of the big plan that things will get worse before they get better.

Today was easier to get out of bed, I don’t feel so numb and my shock is lifting into a well-placed anger. As I made coffee I noticed lots of threads of spider silk coming off the big dead tree in the garden on onto the mountain laurel bush (who is flowering), other strands are roped out onto the fence post, onto the grass and I enjoyed the notion that we are all connected. It’s the great wheel of life that our foremothers honored, the great web of time, space and everything in-between.

The election news was like an alarm bell going off as if warning us of another Kurgen attack. Those initial attacks started 6,000 years ago, we live in a Kurgen society and now have a Kurgen as president! Today my shock has turned to a well-tuned anger and I have to admit I’m a little prickled to those saying we must turn to it all with love or that it has to get worse before it gets better – erm, 6,000 years of patriarchy is pretty freaking bad! The centuries and centuries of genocides on women, the witch burnings – exactly how much more can we take?

I’m not going to tell you words above loving stronger, or that there is a light at the end of the tunnel as right now I can’t see it. What I do know is that it is the dark of the year. I come from a circle culture and our temples that were burnt to the ground, all the women burnt as witches, all the women who have gone through the unspeakable we all come together in HER temples when we sit in circle. And behind our circle is another circle – one made up of the grandmothers, the old ones, our foremothers. We have the web, we have the tools of shamanic journeying, of dancing between the worlds and asking those ancient ones for their wisdom. We have circle, we have the wheel. And right now we have darkness – darkness where all our energies are rooted in the dark place, a dark place that birthed the universe, it’s birthing our creativity, it births our reality if we let it and not come from a pace of yesterdays emotions.

Our culture has endured thousands of years of persecution, thousands of years of misogyny, oppression, massacre, abuse, injustice, torture, murder, rape……

And while we may feel small alone we are of a circle culture, and when we come together her temples are rebuilt, we travel between worlds and return with visions and guidance, we inspire each other with our stories and root it into our lives through creativity and then weave it into our lives in the fight that seems ever-present.

Those thousands of years have turned us into amazons, warriors and we each fight this battle in our own way. I resonate to keep doing what I do and come together in circle around the wheel and nourish our roots with our great culture of femaleness, of togetherness, of ancestor, of healing and in fighting!

While I had to write these words (even for myself) I had to question adding on events I’m offering, but that’s what I do in the world – we each healing and together we raise our amazon swords!

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And in May 2017 we will gather in circle on the lands of the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland. We will do deep shamanic work with ritual and ceremony, visit her sites work with our fears and anger, our inspiration and commit to the work we do in this worlds.

Blessed Bee

beeAs i’m heading north later this year to move to Maine my last two workshops here in Asheville will take place in August.

The penultimate offering is Blessed Bee! A day exploring the role of bees and the spirituality of these wonderful little creatures.

Click on the image above for more details & booking. The early registration discount has been extended until Sunday

 

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Last 3 days of Shop Sale

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Last three days of the summer sale in my online shop

If you ever wanted a Celtic Soul Craft doll now’s your chance to get a unique piece of handcrafted art at half price!

 

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Red Tent Sister doll – click image to view in shop

 

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Witch – click image to view in shop

 

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Mother, Maiden, Crone – click on image to view in the shop

 

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White Horse – click on image to view in shop

 

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Celtic Woman – click on image to view in shop

 

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An Ancient Mothers Circle

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Magic of the Old Dark One

We gathered together in circle sharing stories of the ancient guardians of land that we love. Of places we call home, of places our souls have a longing for that are far away which we have an affinity with.  We lit candles for people that couldn’t be with us and candles for the girls around the world facing abuse at such young ages.

As the great wheel cycles around to Beltane we celebrated desire – a desire for those things our heart and soul yearns for, and with ears open wide we listened to our inner girl child.

This is the first circle (of many I hope) where I told the stories of the Ancient Mothers. Our guided meditation took us to the dark peaty waters of Loch Lomond. In the east we honored the Cailleach, the great creatrix. In the South where the Loch waters flow into the river Leven and then into the Clyde we honored Brighid in her bear form and all those ancient animals that only wander the land in spirit.

To the west we experienced water and the Goddess Clutha, she who takes many forms from ice of the great ice ages to mountain streams and mist and rain.

To the north we saw the great mountain of Ben Lomond with her roots stretching deep into the earth. Of the caves and burrows and the bones of our ancestors. Here in the north is the realm of the great antlered one, the old one she who wears a skeleton head of bygone reindeer.

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The sound of the drum was the horse that we traveled on as we journeyed between the worlds each woman off on her own adventure.

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We wove our stories into simple dolls made from sticks tied with yarn and wrapped in fabric. The dolls becoming a reflection of self that over time deepens the stories and our connection.

And we raised over $100 for Equality Now in the fight to end FGM and forced marriages.

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