Your Invitation to a May Monday

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It’s monday. Imagine a monday this may looking out to this view. Picture yourself on a beautiful Scottish Island – one with a rich mythology rooted in legends of ancient powerful women.

 

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Feel the cool crystalline clear waters that have bubbled up from the depths into the Well of the Holy Women as it touches your forehead as you receive a welcome to the island and a personal blessing for your time here

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For your time on this island your role is simply to just be, to listen to the stories of the land and engage with these ancient energies through ritual and ceremony


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and switching off the head grab art materials as you get into that zone that seems outside of everyday time…


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Imagine a day when your only agenda was to walk along pristine sands, maybe a spot of beachcombing and peer at the curious creatures of rockpools

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Watch as twilight paints the land in very different colors. Enjoy a twilight that lasts until 11pm, hours after the sun went down which really feels as if it’s bringing you into a world between worlds.

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Leave this place renewed, rejuvinated, inspired and knowing that wherever you are in the world your roots stretch down and are fed by the bedrock of these Ancient Mothers.

If you’d like to join our Ancient Mothers of Scotland retreat this week is the time to book your place and secure it with a deposit.

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Scottish Amazon Women Rising!

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Cailleach Doll by the shores of Loch nam Ban Mora

I don’t have to tell you that right now we are in dark times. Each day seems to unleash new unbelievable moves in what seems like a game where no one is playing by the rules. I feel overwhelmed and have to balance this madness by unplugging. Unplugging from the world of social media, from being online, from human interaction and reach down into my roots which connect me to an ancient lineage of women.

The Scottish Island of the Big Women?

There is a little island off the west coast of Scotland who for me is rooted in an ancient female power, its name is the Island of the Big Women. There are several legends of big women both on and around the island – from the original Big Women said to be a mythological race of giant women, big enough that they could easily enough step across the small islands to their dwelling in the centre of Loch nam Ban Mora (Loch of the Big Women). One island over on the Isle of Skye is the home to Scathach, the Shadowy One – who trained the very best celtic warriors and then there is the story of the female warriors of the Pictish Queen Moidart. The stories of the original Big Women and the female warriors seems to have become so fused together it’s impossible to untangle them and say which belongs to which.

 

qPictish Queen by artist Leonie Gibbs

The story of the female warriors sets place in the 7th century CE when a Christian monk called Donnan arrived on the island on a mission to convert Pagans into the new faith of Christianity but as Dressler (1989) explains the religious annuls recorded that the establishment of a monastery on Eigg was not welcomed by the ruler of the island, the Pictish Queen of Moidart in whose territory Eigg was included and which was reported by Columban chroniclers as keeping such pagan practices  as observing Beltane rather than Easter and worshipping serpents.

‘Legend tells that from her dun in Glenuig, the Queen of Moidart ordered the monks to be killed: ‘I am keeping herdsman to herd my milking cattle on the face of the Corravein, not to be herded themselves by a monk’. When the newly converted islanders reused to obey her orders, she flew into a red-hot rage and sent her own warrior women over to Eigg. They came upon Donnan and his monks as they were singing mass in their oratory on 17th April 617, but the saint beseeched them to wait until they had finished their prayers. As they left the church, Donnan and his monks were beheaded one after the other, their bodies piled up and burnt’ (Dressler, 1989).

cailleach-with-lightsThe Cailleach by Loch nam Ban Mora and the Magical Lights

The Story Behind the Story

But the story did not end there and it is said that unearthly voices were heard chanting bewitching the warrior women who found themselves compelled to follow the lights as they were lead up towards the Loch. The lights rested above the little island in the middle of the Loch and the warrior women it is said entered the water with their eyes fixed on the lights each of them drowning below the surface (Dressler, 1989).

As the saying goes history is written by the victors and in this story the monks got the last word. I can’t help but feel this wonderful story of the lights appearing which bewitched the female warriors to their death is perhaps a story borrowed from the Big Women. Is what we are reading something the monks borrowed in a way to invert the story on its head as the did with so many Pagan tales?

Who were the Big Women,  big is another way of saying respected, looked up to or important. Maybe they were human women with special skills such as prophecy or healing. Maybe they were mythological beings much like the oldest crone of Scotland the Cailleach.  As an artist I am drawn to the story of the lights and the bewitching elements as in Celtic belief water held the sacredness of the Goddess. Was the Loch throughout generations a sacred place – it is high up in the middle of the island and it’s quite a climb to get there but when you do take that pilgrimage you feel your entering into another realm.

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Views from around the Loch

While some people take holidays to Spain and sun themselves on beaches, I find myself scaling mountains answering an ancient calling.  May 2016 found me back on Eigg, again in one of the hottest days of summer. May is always a good time to visit anywhere in Scotland even although the beginning of the month may bring snow the midges haven’t arrived yet! This trip may turned out to be HOT and while I’d brought many layers I cursed quietly for not bringing a sun hat.  There are times when I see a snapshot of myself – i’m not lying on a beach in Spain but heading up to a mountain loch with the extra layer i’d packed now wrapped around my head as an attempt at shading myself from the sun. Finally after several visits over the years I’m making this trip alone and there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining and there is  barely a cloud in the sky.

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In the waters of the Loch of the Big Women – a perfect swirl of water between my feet

I’m not quite sure what this pilgrimage has in store but I’m following the call. I reach the loch and the sun is shining straight ahead of me as the water surface glitters in thousands of bright lights dancing on the surface. I sit and just be in this place soaking the silence and the sun then suddenly feel I’m being watched. I look around but can’t see anyone and then I realize it’s not folks from this world who are watching me its folks from the other world! I feel I’m being watched by women – maybe it’s the generations gone who honored the mythical Big Women or maybe it’s the Big Women themselves? Big I remind myself is another word for respect or look up to and maybe that’s who the Big WOmen were – seer’s or wise women who people traveled to in a time of personal crisis.

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Daughter of the North WInd

Then slowly is dawns on me what this pilgrimage requires and I’m a little taken back at the idea of submerging myself under the loch waters,  yet when the old ones beckon who am I to resist! And so gingerly I take off layers and while I’m surprised that the water is warm (it’s relatively shallow and has been warmed by the sun all day) the bottom of the Loch is covered in very small extremely sharp stones. I have visions of a brave me diving in under the surface of the water down into the depths of the middle of the loch but in actuality I’m terrified of water with dark peaty depths and so I gingerly step out to waist height water, take a deep breath and fully submerge myself under the surface. I look back on that split minute in my head with slow motion as if there were otherworldly eyes on the shore watching me and in the water with my as I submerged myself. I felt radiant when I emerged – as if I really had swam into the middle of the loch dove down and reclaimed some ancient treasure. I had reclaimed something – I had reclaimed a sense of purpose and deepened my connection and relationship with these old ones for in dark political times like these we need to create new ways of working and being in this world that are rooted in an ancient spiritual bedrock to keep us anchored and fed.

Join Us on a Journey to the Lands of the Big Women

Without roots we are lost and so this May a circle of women are taking a very special spiritual journey. A journey that will require some to cross an ocean and for all of us to take a train journey, one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world – the West Highland Way and travel through the heart of Scotland’s wilderness. Then we will leave mainland Scotland by ferry and cross the waters over to this little island where we will tap into the stories of the land and work with these ancient female forces so we can come back into the world replenished and inspired for the work that lies ahead.

In Part two of Scottish Amazon Women Rising we will be traveling as the crow flies its roughly ten miles to Tarskavaig on the Isle of Skye to the ruins of Dun Sgathaich Castle (Castle of Shadows) and once home to renowned Celtic warrior Scathach.

 

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Join Jude on her Ancient Mothers of Scotland Retreat which includes a visit to the Loch of the Big Women where there is an optional submergence ritual under the water which is a significant ritual in reclaiming lost parts of ourselves, in particular embracing our wild self and is an initiation, or a rededication to our own and unique ancestral soul path we take in this world.

 

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Article resources:

Dressler, Camille. (1998). Eigg The Story of an Island. Polygon, Edinburgh, Scotland.

 

An Invitation to the Temple of the Ancestral Mother’s

temple-of-the-ancestral-mothersThe Temple of the Ancestral Mother’s 

Fall is definitely creeping through the foothills of the Appalachians and finally the temperature is beginning to cool. All summer I’ve yearned for cooler temperatures as there has been so many days where there is very little difference between the day and the night temperatures.

Today I feel unsettled, restless. I had this vision that I just want to retreat to the temple of the Ancestral Mother’s. To enter the temple in the half light of dawn and open the door and windows to the new day. I yearn to lie down in front of her altar, look up to see images of the ancient mothers and her symbols as I purify myself in the aroma of dried herbs grown from the garden. To turn on some music which expands this moment and stretches me back through the ages to my foremothers and to the future foremothers.

I’ll light some candles and offer prayers into the day. Remind myself to create from a place of mystery rather than yesterdays or last week’s emotions! Then i’ll make some coffee and head upstairs to the studio which shares the same roof as the temple as of course it’s sacred work!


Since the times when our temples to Her were razed to the ground, our beliefs poured into ‘fairy tales’ for safe keeping, our work done in the shadows as a reign of terror was raged on womankind, one which is sadly raging after thousands of years!  I see the old temples held by each women – one might hold the light of the candles, another remembers the ancient songs. Some women recreate the banners and the old script, others create altars while some have the vision of the rituals and deep ceremony. When we come together in circle we rebuild the temples, we might have to travel for our temples are nomadic and the faces in our circles may change but between us we light the candles, sing the songs and still honor Her.

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Altoid tin traveling altar

Her Temple on Scottish Soil

For now my temple and my tribe of women are nomadic. The call is out for women to gather and build that nomadic temple on Scottish soil. Some will bring the light of the candles, others bring her songs in their blood and each of us bring an honoring that is knitted into our bones. Together we will create her temple on Scottish soil on a land steeped in her rich mythology!

Please share this link with any kindred women who you know hold the memory in her honor!

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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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