The Story of Celtic Soul Prayer Beads


I’ve always felt the steady rhythm of beads moving through your fingers comforting.  They introduce a regularity, a heartbeat which calms my racing mind. From Catholic Rosary beads as a child or in later years rounds of mala beads provided this route yet neither fitted as they weren’t of my tradition. While I am only vaguely familiar with traditional Celtic prayer beads – the Paidirinean, I was drawn to create Celtic Soul Craft Prayer Beads.

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The new sets in the shop!

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My Tradition

Celtic Soul beads are born from my tradition which involves a deep communication with the land and a relationship with the ancestral energies of that place. My culture is a circle culture which stretches back through generations of wise women, of women who knew the thresholds of life and death and carried the stream of their ancestor’s voices. Ancestors who were weavers, drummers and singers – women versed in herbalism, stone medicine and doll making, women whose language was ritual and ceremony, women who danced between the worlds.

How to Work with the Prayer beads Set

I particularly enjoy using the beads as a morning meditation with no thought, just letting my fingers move slowly around the circle. In times when I need them, I find it comforting to hold them and simply breath into the circle, slow deep breaths which help me find my feet again and root me back into life. You can work with them through the phases of the moon and the holydays of the year. I will provide some suggestions on how to work with the beads although I am sure you will find your own way.

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Symbolism of the Beads

There is an order to each set of beads – this begins with the pendant, which sets an inspiration for the connection which is followed by 3 beads called the ‘step beads’ – envisage them as preparing to enter into sacredness, such as the last three steps before entering a temple.  The next beads (which is often the biggest bead in the set) is the mystery bead – which is an inspiration to consider the great mystery, call it source or creation. In the temple, you may dance, sing or kneel – all before this mystery. The circle of beads forms a circle, the wheel of life and the wheel of the year. There are 8 sections representing each of the holydays and the shifts between each holyday are represented by the threshold beads.

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The Deer

When I first started making prayer beads I was using different pendants for each set and as I sorted through my box of pendants I came across an antler with a drilled hole – just as I was turning the antler over in my hand I felt the need to go outside to the garden. As I stood on the porch I looked down the garden to the little teeny stream that flows and I couldn’t see anything in particular – then it was if a couple of branches were moving, but there weren’t any trees in that spot then all of a sudden I saw a herd of deer! How strange that they were in full sight all the time and yet I didn’t see them! There have been raccoon and possum visitors, bears, chickens, a rabbit, a host of wild birds (the garden is their land too) but I’ve never seen deer. There were two adult females, an adolescent, and two smaller deer. I was so excited to see them and a definite indication for antlered prayer beads! 

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Sisterhood of the Antlers

While some may honor Elen of the Ways (and antlered wearing diety from the UK), I have come to know an ancient old antlered one. She comes from a time before words like ‘Goddess’. She is female wearing antlers which speaks to a far older antler wearing herd – the reindeer who lived in Britain when it was connected to mainland Britain. For more of this story and weaving the great antlered one into our lives check out the link below to join our free online community – Sisterhood of the Antlers.

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Breathing Into the Circle

Each person is invited to find their own meaning. My main use of these beads is to pick them up and begin the pilgrimage with my fingers around the circle. As I begin to think about the circle I’m traveling I imagine breathing into that circle. A circle which holds all the mystery of life. I breathe out what I’m holding and want to release and then breathe in from the circle – it’s one of the few things that quiets my mind and lets me connect to the vastness of life with its thousands of connections. I find this is a wonderful morning meditation to root you into the day.

Other ways of Using the Prayer Beads:

You may simply wish to use the chant using three words which offer the essence of the particular holy day or to represent a situation

  • You may simply wish to use the beads with your own chant/prayer (protection, intention, gratitude)
  • Use them while walking, in ritual or in quiet time at your altar
  • Work with them in creating your intentions at new moon
  • Concentrate on the symbolism of the particular holyday of the wheel

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What People Have Been Saying About Celtic Soul Beads:

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

‘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

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

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Come Journey with the Cailleach



As the days grow shorter and the nights longer maybe among the falling leaves, or in the air on a frosty morning you might hear the call of the old crone. She is old, far older than you can really contemplate. She’s older than the mountains, so old that she remembers when the very ocean was a forest covered with trees.

This five-session course overs:

Session 1 – Her Great Age

Theories covering a race of Cailleach’s

Session 2 – Pilgrimage

We will virtually visit some of her sacred sites in Ireland and some in Scotland

Session 3 – Her Changing Story

We’ll look at a range of stories and consider if her story has changed and contemplate why

Session 4 – Down to the Roots

In this session, we explore her folklore, follow it as far as we can to see if it gives us any hints on her origin.

Session 5 – Her Role For Our Time

As a figure who is connected to the Bean Feasa (the Wise Woman), we will consider her relevance to us today.

 

The course also offers guided meditations, a week by week opportunity to build a Cailleach altar and a community where you can share your ideas and insights.

Click here for full course details and booking

St Patricks Day Fundraiser – 3/17 in West Asheville

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Take the Highroad to West Asheville

& join us for a St Patricks Night gathering!

at ASHH (Appalachian School of Holistic Herbalism), 2 Westwood Pl, West Asheville28806. 7 till 10pm.

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Music from Beth & Jim Magill (of the Swannanoa Gathering)

As well as music we’ll have storytelling a sing-a-long to ‘The Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond’ and hear the ancient story of the high road and the low road

The evening is a fundraiser for my pilgrimage and research trip home to explore

‘The Ancient Mothers of Loch Lomond’ 

Celtic Music

storytelling

singing

silent auction

beerBeer from Highland Brewing

(free beer with $10 entry)

click here for the facebook event page

 

 

New dolls. Brighid and Wise Women from Celtic Lands

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Brighid, once the Great Goddess – from which everything came and then returned to in death. Patron of the hearth, creativity, justice and healing. Goddess of perpetual flame who ignites the fire of inspiration in our head, the fire of passion in our hearts and warms our hands in her work that we carry out in community.

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Click to view on Etsy

She is the Wise Woman of her people. It is she who dances between the worlds and petitions the spirits in asking where they should go to move camps, where will they find the Reindeer herds. It is she who brings new life into this world, holds the ceremonies and guides the rituals of life and then is there to midwife those lives on their journey onto the otherworld, back to the Great Mother.

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Click to view on Etsy

This doll represents a heritage for many people. A symbol of longing for something we might never have experienced yet still our soul yearns for. This might be a different life with a peoples who had a very different outlook. It might be a calling, an ancestral yearning, a longing.

The Deer Goddess Cometh

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The drum became a heartbeat, drawing me deeper into the earth. Down past peaty layers, past ancestor bones, down, down, down. I emerged in a tunnel, deep with the mountain. Huge rib bones formed the curvature of the tunnel, I walk stretching out my arms to feel the walls, feet gingerly and slowly following each other.

I emerged into darkness , yet sensing a vastness. Slowly my feet begin to dance, a dance to bring all of the world into being, a dance to birth the world into being. As I danced I became skeletal, with tall antlers, wrapped in a black cloak whose layers are infinite. I am aware of both ‘me’ existing within this ancient creature.

 I am dancing,  like a conductor commanding the sun to rise, guiding it up across its pathway until it sinks in the west. As the sun dips and we enter into twilight I look up to the stars but they aren’t familiar – and so I dance, with sweeping movements until they are in their right positions. She danced for the moon to rise again plotting its course out across the sky, leading it towards setting. Days and nights flashed by, the sunlight marked like a stobelight before darkness came, impossibly fast. She continued to dance this bone mother, as I waved my  skeletal hands, conducting the path of the sun, moon and stars over the seasons – creating their sky routes.

The she stepped back, as if observing her work, turning her attention to the land. With one swoop of her hand the land was in winter’s grip, white and frozen. Stretching out her long skeletal fingers, she ushered a thaw and a green emerged from the great melt. The green then intensified, then slowly died back into a burst of orange and browns before the white took over again. The came ice ages, impossibly fast – covering this land in ice miles thick, then a great melting. She danced a dance of color, over and over as if well rehearsing the seasons, ensuring each happened at their right sequence. At times I was merged with her, in her eternal dance, dancing to bring fish to the loch, she danced to bring in great clouds from the west, who released their rain when they met the great mountain. Water trickled down the mountainside in small tributaries, gathering in streams until they poured into the loch. It was there in the peaty darkness of the loch waters I really saw my reflection, long curved antlers above an elongated deer skull. I knew this was simply a form she was wearing, for she is formless and has existed before time.

Suddenly she bounded off from the top of the mountain and in a few leaps landed on the islands off the west coast of Scotland. I lost sight of her but could see her leap high from island to island. I felt bored, alone and wondered why, realizing as there was no-one else, this was a time before ancestors, no people had yet stood anywhere on the planet. This deer goddess is a creatrix, she was weaving life, creating the patterns, weaving the luminous strands out over the land.

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Then people came, these were the people who followed the reindeer. They wove their own stories to the land, following the luminous strands the great goddess had embedded in the earth.

Among these reindeer people were the women who wear the deer skins, adorning themselves with reindeer antlers, around fire they give thanks and present their offerings to the creatrix. They are the deer priestesses, the ones who can still feel the presence of the old one. The ones who on moonlit nights climb in pilgrimage to the top of Ben Lomond and dance her ancient dance under the full moon. Their steps following her steps – steps that take them between the worlds, and in that dance they dance their intention into the star patterns, and down into the luminous strands which carry out throughout the network out over the earth.

The deer goddess watches, she is old, oh so old and tired. As she lays down, her bones sink into the great mountain. She dissolves into the luminous stands and is aware of every living thing. Her rib bones form the walls of a tunnel – a sacred place where others will travel in order to talk to this most ancient deity.

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The Folk Art Doll

black editedMagic. We all have it and each of us uses it differently. We balance magic, we attract it, we dispel it. We use our minds, we use tools, we use ritual, we use dolls. Some of us even turn it against our own selves without even knowing.

From the poppets of Scottish witchcraft to Vodou and Hoodoo dolls of these Appalachian hills, some stitch and sew and fill with sawdust, dirt and things of the earth.

This doll isn’t Scottish as she was born in Appalachia, inspired by the Hoodoo practitioners, the root workers and the folk magic grannies whose roots grow deep in this soil. Hoodoo’s roots are an impossible tangle, of African origin as much as European and native Cherokee influence. This is folk magic, folk magic of the people, magic of the people who are close to the earth.

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Although I’ve found a home here in Appalachia, Scottish soil is my home – a place for me that lies in the threshold. The threshold being not quite of this world and not quite of the other world.

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We constantly move in and out of the threshold, that stillness before we awake each morning – it is our magic to wither we give thanks for a new day, or start the cursing that we forgot to buy coffee. The threshold lies in those magical hours between sunset and darkness, especially in northern latitudes where the light lingers and feeds the imagination. It was that twilight that gave birth to  Celtic spirituality, minds inspired and haunted in those hours between the worlds. There is very little between our reality and the otherworld, the otherworld isn’t off in some far off clouds, it swirls around us like a winter cloak.

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These folk art dolls were born of the threshold – not quite of this world or the other. Their pins remind us of the knots we weave around ourself, the magic we spin without even realizing! They are a focus for our intentions, wither they be to attract or shield – gathering what we need, protecting ourselves against unwanted energies, and helping us reflect it back to its source.

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Both dolls stand on average 8-9 inches tall. Both are priced $49 plus packing and shipping. I can create dolls with particular color combinations – email via the contacts page on this website.