Sisterhood of the Antlers

Stories of the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland from folk magic and the wise women who honored them. Rooted in the Bean Feasa (Wise Woman) tradition.

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A Lughnasadgh Story - The Sisterhood of the Antlers

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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The Sisterhood of the Antlers

Lughnasadgh’s ancient roots is where the story of the Sisterhood of the Antlers lies. Yet it’s in a time before farming, before the Celtic God Lugh’s name ever reached anyones lips, before the story of Lugh’s foster mother Tailtiu, before any waves of invaders reached Ireland’s shores.

It’s the tradition of great gatherings of people that holds the threads connecting to the roots of the Sisterhood. People have gathered at late summer for countless generations, follow the thread back past Scotland’s Highland Games, back past the dawn of agriculture, back to when the great sheets of ice still ebbed and flowed on the land that is now Scotland.

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Looking over Galway Bay from the Burren, Ireland

Antlers

Antlers are the symbol which I choose to honor my female lineage, which stretches back to an ancient ancestor, who lived in Europe at the time of the last great ice age in 25,000 BCE. She and her people followed great herds of reindeer, horses and mammoths over the tundra*

Since I first climbed the hills above Loch Lomond I always wondered what the land looked like before people, cars and houses. I would squint my eyes making all the signs of modernity disappear until the trees returned, the land again covered by the great Caledonian forest.

Blink - back further still, until memories of the tundra and the great sheet of ice were still in living memory. It’s at this point I saw those people following great herds, and if I sat silently enough, in that half light through squinted eyes I could still see them as if all layers of history existed simultaneously.

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'You run through valleys, over streams up valleys and down. You know the way for it’s etched into every cell of your body.Running the terrain is a dance between you and the landscape. There are old, old stories set into these pathways, these are the pathways earth magic flows through. The herd is a map, the ones which know the way with every hoof and heartbeat, communicating with those who ran these pathways before them and reaching out into the future to those who seek the path'
— J Lally. Taken from 'She Who Runs With the Herd'

 

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The Old Antlered One - an art doll by Jude Lally

The Shrine

It is up by the Shrine of the Cailleach (near Glen Lyon, Scotland) where I dreamt of a great bone and stone shrine. A place the women visited as they shape-shifted to run with the herds. Those women were the original Sisterhood, the wise women of their people whose mysteries and rites were tied in with the birth and death of the reindeer.

Today women still gather, not knowing why they are mysteriously pulled by the way of reindeer, of the stories of the Old Antlered One. These gatherings still happen when women come together in circle in person, or through engaging conversations online and sometimes it is when we go on pilgrimage to the ancestral lands of our foremothers and place our feet on scared soil. It is a place where we often find through many paths, paths which often magically appear when we answer an ancient longing, a call which rings in our ears, sings from our blood and is knitted into our bones.

Rebuilding the Shrine

As each women brings her passion, her unique skills and creativity we rebuild the ancient shrines. When we sit by our altar or in circle, when we care for our neighbors and our community. When speak up for those who don’t have a voice, when we act for animals and the land - when we speak out against what is wrong.

 

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She Who Runs With the Herds - An art doll by Jude Lally

Each woman plays her part – some carry fire, kindled from ancient fires and so tend to the hearth and the candles. Other women have carried the ancient songs, some are called to roles such as guardian or gatekeeper and some remember the ancient script which they paint on banners. Others create glorious altars, some step into new roles, some are keepers of the drum, others dancer of the rattles, some are called to tell the old stories and together we create ritual and ceremony and dance between the worlds to ask the most ancient grandmothers for their insight and wisdom.

Together we support women and girls both in our community and around the world as we move towards a partnership culture which existed for far longer than this current war mongering dominator system has.

A Sustainable Connection

While each of us takes our own path we choose to walk together on the path forged by our foremothers - working in the ways of women’s wisdom, working with the tools we yield in the world. This is a path which roots us to the spiritual bedrock of the planet, a sustainable relationship which supports and empowers us as we weave creative acts of resistance in the face of the dominator society.

* mDNA analysis by Oxford Ancestors

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I am descended from a long line of wise women – for I too am a shapeshifter, a mythmaker, a woman who has always had one ear to the ground and a foot in the other world. I am a listener to old bones and a collector of stories that I gather from the shorelines, deep in forests or atop mountains. Sometimes my shadow shows my other selves sometimes crow sometimes bear, I am She Who Wears Antlers.

I am a radical doll maker, taking this tradition back to its roots and the hands of my foremothers. They remind us of our sacred connection to this world, the otherworld and our ancestors. I am a collector of stories, carrying old ones and those who need retelling.

I am inspired by the Bean Feasa tradition, a wise woman tradition that stretches back past pre-Celtic generations. People sought the wisdom of the wise woman in times of personal crisis and today this tradition can help us face this deepening global crisis.

I am a cultural activist working from the Bean Feasa tradition rooted in pre-patriarchy which honors imagination and creativity and provides us with tools that can help us overcome the psychological effects of patriarchy.

Visit my website for details of online courses, in-person workshops and our annual pilgrimage to the lands of the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland.

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