Scottish Amazon Women Rising!

cailleach-by-the-loch

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.

views-from-the-loch

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.

feet

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.

front-1-edit-with-watermaek

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.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-2-03-42-pm

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.

view-itinerary

Article resources:

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

The Ancestral Soul Path

deep-in-the-cave

Dancing with the Grandmothers in the dark of the year in the deep of 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.

 

day-8-collage

 

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.

stone-planting-collage

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.

reflection-day-collage

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 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

view-itinerary

 

Click here to read more about our evening talk on  Thursday 2/16 7-9 pm in East Asheville

 

head-bw-copy

Do You Yearn to Answer Your Soul’s Calling?

The CailleachHave you heard the call dear sister? Felt the longing to connect to your spiritual roots? To hear stories of ancient women and to walk the land they walked on? To walk the land with your own bare feet with ears and eyes wide open – for the land talks to us when we are in the right frame of mind. The soul is always receptive but living in our world we build up layers that sometimes get in the way of our connection.

This is one of the reasons I decided to hold this retreat – it’s not a get away from it all retreat it’s a sink your roots down retreat, strengthen those roots, inspire and empower us retreat so when we return home we are fully connected to our foremothers – who are whispering in our ears.

We will share stories of the mythical and historical women of this land – from Queen Moidart whose amazon warriors slayed the incomer Christian monks. The land itself holds stories of the Cailleach and the Deer Goddess – was this Deer Goddess a Cailleach herself?  What ignites my imagination and curiosity  is the the idea of all the priestesses of these old ones, the women who performed ritual and ceremony invoking these old ones throughout the year.

head-bw

One night as the day entered twilight, that time that’s not quite day and not quite night I had such a strong sense of that old antlered one, as if her very bones formed the bedrock of these lands.

Twilight is such a magical time and in these islands perched at the edge of the world twilight lasts for hours after the sun goes down. This is the time that spirituality was born. Like the women who came before us we too will pick up the tools of ceremony and ritual and work with our personal intentions ones which feed into community and global concerns.

Do you hear the call dear sister? Shall you step out onto sacred land with me and take a dance between the worlds?

with-watermark-jpg

Booking Update

We have 3 bookings so far so seven spaces left on this retreat to the lands of the Ancient Mothers of Scotland.

If you wish to receive the early booking discount for the Retreat you can pay the entire amount in one payment up until 31st December. If you’d rather take the option of paying a deposit first (which is available until 31st October) and then your remaining sum is due on 31st December).

regular-updates