The Inspiration and Creativity of Spring Equinox

She Who Holds the Wheel – Needle felted doll by Jude Lally

I have been following the Wheel of the Year for almost 30 years. Within those years I have viewed the wheel very differently which reflects many of the changes I myself have gone through. While I grew up with the Celtic wheel the inspiration of my wheel is the four Celtic festivals and the four pre-Celtic festivals. I  weave in the inspiration of my relationship to the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland, the foremothers of my own lineage – the mtDNA Xenia Clan, a descendent from Mitochondrial Eve (Sykes 2001) and the lineage of both sides of my family are from Western Ireland and the lineage of the megalithic builders, descendants of the hunter-gatherers of Europe.

I think of the wheel as a great path, one which holds the stories, myths and a deep inspiration of the season. As a doll maker, these creations hold that vision and inspiration for they are vessels which hold the ancestral connection, the story of my foremothers.

The Cailleach – Needle felted doll by Jude Lally

I have probably changed my favorite point on the wheel as many times as I have traveled around the wheel. When I was younger I was all about the wild Beltane festival and in the last few years, I enjoy the stillness of Winter Solstice and the Equinoxes which mark our descent and emergence from the dark of the year. At each equinox, the morning sun shines into Carin T at Loughcrew, Ireland – known as the Hill of the Witch or the Cailleach. This cairn is connected to the great Hag – the Cailleach, the great horned kerbstone is said to be her ancient seat. It is she who marks this imaginary still point, a balance point as we begin our descent into the dark. It is if the great hag herself marks the thresholds in and out of the dark of the year through an imaginary balance point a still point which we could view as our own invitation to consider what do we want to walk with for the rest of the year. What did we work with throughout the dark of the year through our rituals and dreams and what have we worked with that we are actually now able to leave behind.

In the dark of the year, we retreat to our caves, the cave of the sleeping she-bear. It is a place that many women come to throughout the dark as they dream with the great bear and come to be with the wise woman – those most ancient foremothers of the bear.

The Green of the World and the Bear

I begin the descent into the dark with a ritual in which I line a great black clay cauldron and put in a small green doll. She represents the green vitality of the world which returns back to its roots over the dark months. Alongside the green doll, I place a bear, who at this time is preparing to enter into hibernation. While the bear only walks the land in spirit in Scotland this gesture is to honor all the women who honored her. She holds a most ancient spark of the Goddess Brighid – and so my bear is marked with gold, fiery swirls. If you had come across a sleeping bear hibernating she might have appeared dead for her breathing and heart rate was slowed to almost undiscernable levels. To ancient peoples, it would have been an act of deep magic that not only did she come back to live in the spring, but she often would have cubs with her. As she emerged with new life it may have seemed that her emergence brought new life back to the land (Lally 2013).

 

Grandmother Dolls – A place to hold the intentions of working with the energies of Spring Equinox

Emerging From the Cave

Now at Spring Equinox, it is time to take out the great cauldron. In a gesture of ritual, I look over the writings and drawings and the art made in the dark of the year this way I see what it is I can finally leave behind and what ideas were planted deep in the darkness and are stirring towards the light. I take out the bear and the little green doll – which represents the green vitality returning to the land as me myself emerges from the dark and returns to the outward life.

Grandmother Dolls – A place to hold the intentions of working with the energies of Spring Equinox

A Reminder of the Dark

Through the business of the warmer months, the heat and the so-much-to-do days I like to have a symbol of my time in the cave and a reminder that I can return there any time to visit the ancient Grandmothers and ask for their insight and wisdom – so at Spring Equinox I make a Grandmother doll. This doll is my reminder of my connection to my foremothers and they hold all manner of charms and talismans and little glass jars with small scrolls of paper on which I’ve written things that are only between myself and the Grandmothers. They adorn a wall or sometimes hang outside under a full or dark moon.

Big News!

Celtic Soul Crat is about to undergo a big transformation. We are changing our name, our website and relaunching this fall. We will be offering a year-long Wheel of the Year online course which is woven with the folklore, stories, inspiration and creativity of the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland – and all the dolls, stories and insights mentioned in this article. 

Click on the logo to join our mailing list to keep up to date with our changes. While we’ll be pretty quiet over the summer we will be posting a series of Travel Stories from our time home in Scotland with the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland annual retreat on the Isle of Eigg.

 

References

Sykes, Bryan. 2001. The Seven Daughters of Eve. The Science that Reveals our Genetic Ancestry. W.W. Norton & Company, USA.

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. You can read this essay here

 

 

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Grounding with the Wise Woman

Doll Making & Stone Medicine

Imbolc Retreat

East Asheville Fri 2/3 7-9.30pm & Sat 2/4 10am – 5.30pm


biddies-crossImbolc is the festival of the Celtic Goddess Brighid the ancient Mother Goddess of Ireland yet it can also be described as the feelings of unease and uncertainty that often arrive at this time of year. Our current political climate and the current state of affairs on this planet could be seen as embodying the feeling of Imbolc.

In this weekend retreat we will explore two main tools in staying grounded, rooted and nourished through stones which support our journey throughout the wheel of the year and making a traditional Brideog doll. Tools which both have an ancient lineage found in the woven baskets of the Wise Woman.

 

 


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In this Weekend Retreat We Will be Exploring: 

Imbolc Traditions

Several traditions around Imbolc – from protective prayers we can cast in times of feeling uneasy to traditional songs and carrying out the tradition of laying out the Bhrat – cloth for Brighid to bless (which we will do on the friday night). We’ll also exploring our intentions through Brighid’s Wheel (cross) discuss how to work with your Brideog doll as well as guided meditations & shamanic journey.


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Stone Medicine

Explore the basics of what stone medicine is and how the stone pack you receive can support you throughout the year as well as meditations in relating to the energies of the stones we are working with. We will also incorporate stone medicine into our doll making.

 

 

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Practical Magic

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Click on the image to view the dolls in my Etsy store

Poppet definition: Late Middle English: based on Latin pup(p)a girl, doll. Compare with puppet.  A term of endearment (Oxford Dictionary online)

These little poppets are made with clothes pegs and special scraps of tweed and linen dressed in headscarves and shawls sometimes wearing pendants and symbols. I see them as representing the traditional wise woman that populated myths and stories throughout time. They are a symbolic representation of those who carried the stories, the herbal knowledge of working with plants, those women who midwifed not just new souls into this world midwifes of hopes, dreams and souls.

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                                   Cailleach an Dùdain, Isle of Eigg (The Old Woman of the Mill-Dust).

My Wise Women foremothers followed the wheel of the year observing each stage in the cycle as it related to themselves.

I grew up with the term poppet which in Britain is still used as a  term of endearment said to a child. My poppets are tools and it is up to the practitioner on how they work with a poppet – it was Hollywood ran with the ideas of the poppet and the Vodou doll as a practice of dark arts. The doll, after all, is simply a tool which helps focus our intentions.

Being Scottish I see the poppet as a traditional Scottish doll that can be placed on the timeline which traces dolls as tools of intention, magic and ritual back to the stone figurines of the Paleolithic and Neolithic.

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My poppets represent the rich layered traditions of women’s mysteries, the ones who carried the stories – acknowledging that often those stories had to go underground in times of persecution. These poppets are a focus, a tool in our connection to She Who is Everything, they are reminders of ourselves, our lineage, the person we are, the person we are becoming and an acknowledgment that we have much work to do in these dark times. We live in thresholds times, like the wise women themselves who walked between the physical and spiritual boundaries some of us work in the threshold and rebirthing of a vision that once flourished in a time before patriarchy.
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Women in Galway, Ireland

The women in these photos were good Christian folks but Christianity in Scotland and Ireland existed side by side with the indigenous pagan beliefs for hundreds of years. Even good Catholic women like my Grandmother, born In Ireland in 1900 always had a saying or advice that harked backed to a far older time. She once gave me a written prayer to be said at a dumb supper at Samhain (Halloween) which invited the recent dead to a meal, with a place set for them in a ritual of sorts that enacted their place with the ancestors and the need to move onto the otherworld. We are the wise women of today, those who carry the old stories, sing the old songs sit in circle as we sing and dance between the worlds and share stories with each other that nourish the soul and fortitude the heart – for we so need each other in these dark times and to know we are not alone.

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Working with Poppet dolls

Poppet dolls can be incorporated into simple rituals and ceremonies for healing, intention or gratitudes. How you work with them is up to you. Little vials can hold whatever is needed to be held, scrolls of paper rolled up and tied onto them. Talismans pinned and secret symbols stitched onto the fabric.

With our use they become alive in a sense imbued with our deep intentions fulfilling their use as tools aiding us as spiritual helpers.

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Click on the doll photos to go to my ETSY store and use code freeshippoppet at checkout for free shipping.

 


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Click on the book image above to read my essay Radical Doll Making From Willendorf to Today: The Relevance of an Ancient Tradition.

Through the Eye of the Cailleach – Workshop

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*3 places left * (as of 11/7)

By the end of November the pumpkins have started to rot, the costumes discarded and the decorations back in their box. The majority of ancestral souls have returned to where they dwell. The world is quiet, dark and it is time to answer the souls calling and journey into the cave. As nature draws her energy down to the roots it is natural for us too to turn inwards as it is here in the dark that we can best tend to our soul life.

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The Cailleach is sometimes described as having a great third eye in the middle of her forehead. Through this eye she can see through all time and space with a primal intuition. She see’s all that causes havoc in our world. We will draw on her wisdom and activate our own third eyes so we can see afresh into our own lives and see the cause and effects that we might otherwise be blind to.

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Forest offering to the Cailleach

In this workshop we will share stories of the Cailleach (provided) and discuss our feelings around them. We will also watch a short film about the great hag and get a sense of her great age. We will have a guided meditation which takes us to the priestesses of the Cailleach, the ones who know the ways of this divine crone.

We will then take those inspirations and weave them into our dolls. Our dolls will be made through a needle felting process, suitable for complete beginners. We will decorate our dolls with Scottish tweed as well as pockets and little jars which can be used in ritual and with intention – we will also discuss working with dolls.

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Doll Making on the Ancient Mother’s of Scotland Retreat

AM collageThe Ancient Mothers/Ancestral Mother dolls – Deer Goddess, Clutha, cailleach, Brighid. 

I hated dolls as a child. I found them eerie and to be truthful I didn’t know what to do with them. Fast forward a good few decades across an ocean to another continent – how did I end up a doll maker? I remember a distant aunt once giving me a doll – I didn’t know what to do with it. I did the only thing I could think of I cut off her hair and as I waited for it to grow back she received a set of full body tattoos. I loved playing with toy animals and their stable, I even had an invisible dog but I just didn’t understand dolls.

When I first arrived in Asheville (NC) seven years ago I went to volunteer with a local group called Our Voice a non profit supporting survivors of sexual abuse. While I practically couldn’t be a volunteer I ended up running a series of workshops. Now here’s a bit of syncronicity – many years ago before I could even point to NC on a map I met a woman via a photography site. It was several years before we met in person and guess where she lives – Western North Carolina. I signed her up for a doll making workshop then when she wasn’t able to run the class I learned doll making from her to run the class myself. I headed up to her town on the Tennessee border in the sweltering summer and there we created magic with wool.

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Breejah – My first doll

Breejah (pictured above) is my first doll and when she emerged from the wool she announced her name was Brighid. Hmmm – the Brighid I asked? Yes she replied with her dark skin and dreadlocks. I was expecting Brighid to have pale porcelain Irish hue and the flaming red hair. Breejah and I have travelled a lot and she has guided me to many places and shown and taught me many things.

Doll making is my exploration with different deities, they almost call out from the wool to be made. My relationship is in the making, in the co-creating. I’m curious about this place we interact with, is it the ultimate source? (however you wish to name it?). Dolls are powerful tools and I see our ancient foremothers as doll makers with figures like the woman of Willendorf. I love to think of the intentions and rituals as the ancient made their dolls.

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My Cailleach doll by the Loch of the Big Women on the Isle of Eigg

On the Ancient Mother’s of Scotland retreat we will be making a doll. I hope to get some local wool we can use. Our dolls will be born of our own intentions, gratitudes and prayers. They might be adorned with special shells, hold small little glass vials with sand or holy water. They might have the wild hair o the Cailleach, antlers of the Deer Goddess, hold vials of sacred water or ashes of our sacred fire. Dolls are sacred vessels, they can be our focus for our relationship with the ancient mothers. They are altars for offerings and gratitudes for requests and intentions.

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Click on the doll image above to read my essay Radical Doll Making From Willendorf to Today: The Relevance of an Ancient Tradition 

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Click on the image of the book above to learn more about the anthology my essay is published in as well as reviews and ordering information. 

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Click on the above image to view the retreat itinerary

The Keening Woman Workshop

keening-dollsSunday 2nd October 10.30-5.30 2016

Location Woodfin – 5 mins from downtown Asheville.

When my grandmother died we had a wake. I remember her friends and neighbors gathering – there was much talk and tender words as they approached her body and gently touched her face and hair. I remember the rattle of teacups and the sound of rosary beads. While my Gran was Irish (although lived in Scotland) the wake was probably still common but the art of Keening had long died out.

 

Wise Women In a Time of Crisis

The wise woman in various forms has always been called on in times of crisis. This can be personal crisis, community or global. Women lamenters can be found in cultures throughout the world. It is said that it was the Goddess Brighid who created keening in lamenting the death of her son.

 

In this workshop we will explore the ancient roots of Keening as well as picturing the life of the Keener woman – who was often a figure outside of normal society. We’ll explore how Keening was eventually banned by the church and why. Also the American Wake – the Keening of those immigrants leaving Ireland to go overseas and likely never to return. We’ll also listen to some keening singing to hear the qualities of the singing as well as listening to modern songs which are inspired by keening.

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We will listen to what recordings exist of women Keening – and discuss why there are very few. We’ll see Greenham Common Protest outside of the UK Parliment.

Create a Keening Doll

In the afternoon we will make a Keening woman dolls and a fabric holder – honoring that lineage of women mourners and their important role in society. We will explore how we can tap into this tradition.

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