Sisterhood of the Antlers


Did you mark the moment yesterday when we stepped into the threshold? The moment which took us from the outward time of the year into the dark of the year, from summer to autumn.

This is an invitation to come journey the wheel of the year with us with the Sisterhood of the Antlers. At each holyday there will be an offering o a guided journey, a suggestion of a gesture of ritual as well as some art projects. The aim of this journey is to keep us grounded with the wisdom of our foremothers so we can weave the insights gained from them into our lives inspiring us to social and environmental activism through ways of creative and radical resistance against the dominating power structures.

Our journey starts with the gathering of the Sisterhood in their ritual of marking this great threshold of the year and we’ll continue our journey with them and the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland throughout the wheel.

This is a free journey with lots of opportunity to share your insights, thoughts and art.

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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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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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Wheels, Spirals and Circles

Day 8 collageTour Launch Date is 31st August!

Wheels of Destruction

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the volume of information and news stories we’re subjected to? Stories evoking an emotional response which can leave us feeling traumatized? Does sensory overload and a feeling of constantly running to keep up with life sound familiar? Some days this feels like the treadmill of our lives set to a soundtrack of daily onslaught of news of climate chaos, violence in unimaginable forms to political mudslinging which doesn’t even address the most pressing issues. Society knows it creates this dis-ease and so offers a host of distractions to take your attention from the things we really should be concerned about. All of this can leave us with a longing, a longing that we often can’t say what is missing.

We have arrived at that scary sci-fi future the one we watched in films which gave us nightmares.  But you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t feel a longing for something more, if you dreamt of lives that are completely in tune with the planet and honor the great webs of interconnectedness with all the other winged and clawed, hoofed and burrowing beings on this planet.

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Spirals of Reconnection

When I undertook my Masters Degree in Human Ecology on a weekend exploring Ecopsychology we set personal intentions for a day’s wilderness solo. I sat all day from a hill looking out towards the Isle of Skye and the Isle of Eigg watching the sun come up, move overhead but it was only when we entered into twilight- that magical time of not quite day and not quite night that I had a sense of my grandmother sitting beside me. My intention was to feel a sense of ancestry and she told me that I was a living ancestor – loved, watched and supported by all those who had come before. My ancestors stretching back through those blood ancestors who we knew in life way back through thousands of generations to what she called the bone ancestors the ones we are all descended from. She explained we could ask for their help and ask those future ancestors too – for what we did in the world shaped those generations to come.

Within the layers of overwhelmingness at all the work that needs to be done in this world a  deep longing can sprout, one which is rooted in our soul. While we will explore this theme on the Retreat I use the work of Joanna Macy in her Work That Reconnects to go through a process which allows us to share our joys of being alive on this planet and experiencing life to then expressing the pain we feel, the sorrow and despair at what is happening in the world.

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I bring in my own techniques in exploring her powerful work and with shamanic journey we will travel to a place where we can ask ask advice of future beings. Coming back into circle we share our messages we received as we envision what that world looks like.  Lastly we will share what we personally commit to doing towards what Macy calls ‘The Great Turning’ we’ll focus on some of our fears around our abilities to carry out that work as well as hearing replies from future beings of that new world.

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Circle Culture

The Isle of Eigg is an inspiring place for this work as we are rooting ourselves in the deep herstory of women, the wise women, the shaman – on an Island named the Isle of the Big Women. This is a sample of one of the days on the retreat and yet each activity from the Stone Planting Ritual to the trance dance Through the Eye of the Cailleach and weaving in aspects of an ancient Celtic culture allows the opportunity  to sink our roots down deep, make new connections as we connect to the spiritual bedrock of this planet and engage with the most Ancient Mothers of this land.

Ancient Mothers Retreat info

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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