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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Gather What Your Need for the Dark

Posted by on in Paths Blogs


A Prayer Whispered into the Threshold


We're at the threshold of Samhain and Winter Solstice. Can you feel the pull, the heavy thump - the heartbeat of the old antlered one whose bones lie deep in the belly of the earth?

At Autumn Equinox the old crone drew us into her ancient ritual of bringing us into the dark of the year. The morning light streamed into Carin T at Loughcrew as women sang and played drums announcing the beginning of our descent into the dark of the year. 



As the old crone, the Cailleach walks the land, striking down life so it returns to its roots - for there can be no birth or rebirth without death.  Small hibernating creatures spend the winter tucked up under her skirts, and I've seen a curled up hedgehog or two in her eyebrows. The Cailleach holds the greening of the year safe within her plaid.

As the days shorten and the days lengthen women have gathered in the dark around hearths, around kitchen tables, and around smoldering fires. One tradition for these women is to gather some clay-rich earth, add some saliva and create the figurine of a curled up sleeping woman. The women keep these figurines close - some keep them in pockets while others keep them in special pouches or bundles. The figurines remind them that no matter what they are going through a part of them is curled up in the deep rich earth hibernating. That hibernating self is curled up with the great she-bear in the Cave of the Grandmothers and the small dolls are invitations to step between the worlds to visit the cave and ask the wisdom of the bear Grandmothers. 


One ritual for these women is in gathering kindling for their winter fires. Kindling for sacred fires that burn throughout the dark. These are fires for the things they hold most sacred. A stick or two for something special and a gnarly branch for that thing you need some willpower and courage to deal with.  


Whatever these women do when they gather - there's always a rattle or a drum, rituals and some ceremony and they sink down. Down into the belly of the earth, down into the cave and the womb to a place where you're surrounded by bones. Some sit and listen to the bones - their stories and their wisdom. 

These women usually bring many baskets - overspilling with thoughts and dreams, hopes and fears some worries and some grand plans. As they gather together in gestures of ritual they make magic - meaning and intention - and most importantly conscious shifts, cosmic shifts that bring about change in their own lives, change that they want to be in the world. 

So gather your kindling, gather your sisters and shift between the worlds to ask the wisdom of the Bear Grandmothers.





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As an artist and Cultural Activist, Jude Lally is rooted in the inspiration of her Ancestral Mothers. All her work comes about through exploring her relationship with the land through art, ritual, imagination, and creativity.

She uses the inspiration of old traditions to meet modern needs. While keening, was traditionally a way to ament the death of someone in the community, Jude uses it today as a way to address modern needs in allowing an expression of grief we hold for all that is happening across the planet. In using keening in this cathartic way she then engages participants with gestures of ritual which help them deal with their grief and then inspires them to work in creative ways in acts of resistance, working towards a restorative culture.

She calls herself a Radical doll maker who views her art as part of a practice that stretches back to the first dolls fashioned from bones and stones – such as the Woman of Willendorf.

She gained her MSc Masters Degree in Human Ecology at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, Scotland) in partnership with the Center for Human Ecology, with her thesis entitled ‘Fire in the Head, Heart, and Hand. A Study of the Goddess Brighid as Goddess Archetype and her Relevance to Cultural Activists in Contemporary Scotland’. She currently lives in Asheville, Western North Carolina but is moving back to Scotland this year.



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