The Tradition of Women Who Wear Antlers

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Women Who Followed the Reindeer

Exploring the Stories of my Foremothers

Folk Magic

Antlered Headdresses and Drums

 

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Feeding Ancestral Longing

Dancing Between the Worlds

Sacred Circle

Women’s Mysteries

 

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Old Antlered One

Primeval Mother

Mother of the Herds

Deer Goddess

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A Celebration of Doll Making

Breejah –  The First Doll I Ever Made

It’s been a while since this doll maker made a doll. Although I’m always thinking of creations which want to be made, to be given form. My dolls hold the wisdom and insight of folklore, of the way of the Wise Women – and extend an invitation to view the world through their eyes.

This Samhain I’ll be launching a wheel of the year course which through the cycle of the year explores each of the eight festivals in relation to the folklore of the Bean Feasa (Wise Woman). Each festival is represented by an Ancestral Mother of Scotland and a doll who represents her – there will be creative projects which stir the imagination and guided meditations to journey with the wise woman.

This post celebrates doll making and an inspiration to me to celebrate these wonderful creations!

Crow Morris

Amazon

The Old Dark One

She Who Holds the Wheel

Vasilisa and the doll her mother gave her

 

The Great Eye of the Cailleach

Mari Lwyd

She Who Runs With the Herds

The Selkie

 

Sign up below for our mailing list and so you’ll hear more about our upcoming Wheel of the Year course as well as our upcoming celebrations when we launch our new website!

Click on the Etsy logo to see the dolls in the shop

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

 

 

Willendorf!

 

 

Willendorf has been in the news this week with Facebook banning her image calling it ‘pornographic’, while that decision was reversed our reaction to these ancient female figurines (Venus’s) says volumes to our values. The Woman of Hole Fels – 40,000 BCE

In 2009 when the Woman of Hole Fels was discovered she was met with these headlines:

 

Even the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna where she is on display has a description which read ‘Early Mother or Pin-Up Girl’

When I hold replica’s of them in my hands I consider the intention, the hours of work that went into their creation, I wonder what intention the maker held and I wonder about the relationship these people had with the world around them. While we will never know for sure the intentions and the reasons for these figurines we do know that some interpretations are life-sustaining while others are life-threatening. There is a danger in interpreting these figurines in a purely sexual context as it results in unintended social consequences such as giving the message that objectification of women is acceptable. It is also ridiculous to try and interpret their meaning while you’re analysis is rooted in today’s mindset.

Click on the image to view the Woman of Willendorf prayer beads in the shop

Gatherers and Hunters

To me, they form part of my own tradition in doll making. I interpret those ancients hands created these figurines in honor of their god – who was female. Ursula Le Guin in discussing Elizabeth Fisher’s work explains that some of the earliest cultural inventions came from women’s inspiration, this gather’s story birthed containers in a sling style, counting sticks used to measure the phases of the moon and the red ochre of handprints in dark cave recesses were predominantly made by women.

The hunter’s story,  the one our patriarchal culture glorifies,  lies in the hunter hero retelling the story of blood and guts, killing and slaying. When interpreting the practices of both into a modern context the gather’s story is one in which we care for each other, consider everyone’s needs and ensure all are provided for while the hunter’s story extends itself to the raping and killing story which is the dominating narrative in our culture today.

Click on the image to view the Woman of Willendorf prayer beads in the shop

The Facebook censorship of the Woman of Willendorf (although that decision has now been overturned) invites us into this greater story we choose, do you wish to live by the gatherers or the hunter’s story? Willendorf stands powerful (at just 11.1 cm 4.4 inches) to remind us things weren’t always this way. God was female for THOUSANDS of years and cultures were rooted in those life-sustaining values. She stands to remind us that..

 

This is an excerpt from my essay ‘Radical Doll Making From Willendorf to Today’ – you can read the essay by clicking here 

 

 

 

 

New Dolls – Keening and Antlered Women!

The Keening Woman – click to view in online shop

These are the last dolls of the season before we shut the shop next week and get ready to pack our bags and head to Scotland for the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland Retreat! 

The Keening Woman

The keening woman was employed in Ireland and Scotland to grieve over the body as part of a death rite. Her role was to lead the communities grief for the person they were grieving and also to show the way home to the otherworld for the person that had died. Keening was always a woman’s role and goes back to an earlier pagan tradition and a shamanic role. Traditional keening (in the presence of a dead body) has long dies out yet has begun to flourish in an age where grief is taboo and is used in modern ceremonies for an entire host of reasons in which we see fit to release our grief not just for those who have died but for the state of the world. Click on the image above to view in the online shop.

 

She Who Whispers to the Deer – click on image to view in the online shop

She Who Whispers to the Deer

She comes from a time of ice, a time when great herds of reindeer crossed from mainland Europe across land to Britain. She is that energy of the reindeer running the ancient migratory paths. It was she who ran with the very first herd, guiding the leading female. She is protector of the reindeer and the long line of priestesses who followed. Click on the image above to view in the online shop.

 

Elen of the Ways – Click on the image to view in the online shop

Elen of the Ways

Elen of the Ways is an ancient British shamanic folklore figure. Elen wears antlers, which female deer do not have although female Reindeer do which links her back to the early people who followed the reindeer herds from Europe over to the UK before the great ice sheets melted and created the North Sea and resulted in Britain becoming an island.

Elen is the ancient Deer Goddess, an archetype of the land. The deer followed their pathways made over generations of migrations, often running along leylines. Elen offers insight into other worlds, to see between the worlds and to be that communicator between the realms. Click on the image to view in the online shop.

Wings or Not Wings?

Bee collage

 

In my preparation for the Blessed Bee workshop (now full) I have been exploring the story of the Melissae (latin for bees), the priestesses at Cybele’s temples in Greece and Rome. Bee’s have been familiars for the Goddess for thousands of years and Cycele’s priestesses were prophets or oracles who entered an ecstatic trance enduced by preparations that included honey. Interestingly the Greek word for this state of transfigured consciousness is enthusiasmos — ‘within is a god” which is the root of our word enthusiasm.

‘In the center of the world, a fissure opened from the black depths of Earth, and waters flowed from a spring. The place was called Delphoi (“Womb”). In its cave sanctuary lived a shamanic priestess called the Pythia—Serpent Woman. Her prophetic power came from a she-dragon in the Castalian spring, whose waters had inspirational qualities. She sat on a tripod, breathing vapors that emerged from a deep cleft in the Earth, until she entered trance and prophesied by chanting in verse’.     Max Dashu

I’m not sure about the wings. I liked the idea of bee’s as messengers between the worlds. Maybe she needs a different style of wings? Somehow hinting at that element of prophecy?

References: 

The Pythias excerpted from Secret History of the Witches © 2009 Max Dashu