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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The Immense Mothers are Crying. A Prayer for the Raging Wildfires on the West Coast

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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Dzooqua (Doll), Tsagaglala Petroglyph and the Cauldron of the Cailleach 


The Immense Mothers are Crying* 

Yesterday I noticed several Storm Hags in the clouds which were coming in from the east and moving west. I always have one eye on the sky as I practice the old Celtic tradition of Neldoracht, of reading the clouds and I know that here are always powerful energies at work when the Storm Hags appear.

Last night I fell asleep thinking of these hags-in-the-clouds and of a sensation of spiraling deep into the Cailleach's Cauldron, the great Corryvrecken Whirlpool off the west coast of Scotland.
I dreamt of ancient old women stepping through the fires which are raging on the west coast. They were huge and the tallest trees barely made it to their knees although the engulfing flames almost stretched to their wait, but not quite.
They bending low and scooping up deer and owl, raccoon, coyote and mouse. Another blew air into the creatures lungs and put them carefully into a basket she carried on her back. 

My first thought on waking was that this was the Cailleach, an immense old woman protecting the creatures of the wild. But the Cailleach doesn't walk on this continent, her lands are raincloud and heather, red deer and golden eagle.

However, the same energy is rooted in the Old Women of other lands - a distant sister perhaps of an ancient sisterhood (born out of the collective unconscious and the old woman archetype). I put a call out via my 'Sisterhood of the Antlers' Facebook Group and am grateful to the women who introduced me to two Old Women figures of the West Coast.
 
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The first Old Woman I learned of was Tsagaglala. (This petroglyph was moved from its original position 
due to flooding by hydroelectric dam expansion and was moved to Tamani Pesh-Wa, or “Written on the Rock,” in Washington’s Columbia Hills Historical State Park, formerly known as Horsethief Lake - saved by the descendants of the original Yakama, Umatilla, and Nez Perce peoples. 

One version of the story of Tsagaglala tells the tale that a woman had a house where the village of Nixluidix was later built. She was chief of all who lived in the region. That was a long time before Coyote came up the river and changed things and people were not yet real people.  After a time Coyote in his travels came to this place and asked the inhabitants if they were living well or ill. They sent him to their chief who lived up on the rocks, where she could look down on the village and know what was going on.

 

Coyote climbed up to the house on the rocks and asked "What kind of living do you give these people? Do you treat them well or are you one of those evil women?" "I am teaching them to live well and build good houses," she said.
 

"Soon the world will change," said Coyote, "and women will no longer be chiefs."

"Soon the world will change," said Coyote, "and women will no longer be chiefs." Then he changed her into a rock with the command, "You shall stay here and watch over the people who live here." All the people know that Tsagaglalae sees all things, for whenever they are looking at her those large eyes are watching them.

- Story taken from "Stone Age on the Columbia River" by Emory Strong, 1959 

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Dzoniqua doll by artist Shona-Hah

Shona-Hah (1912-1997) is the mother of Lelooska, Kwunkwa-dzi, Patty Fawn, and Tsungani. She was born in a black walnut log cabin in Oklahoma’s old Cherokee Nation. There, she was given the name Shona-Hah, “gray dove”. Her Kwakiutl name, Tl’alilhilugwa, bestowed in 1968 by , means “whale rising”.

The second old woman figure I learned about was Dzonoqua who is said to make a noise with pursed lips to attract small children who have wandered into the forest. Some stories say she eats the whiny ones. She is called Old Woman of the Woods or Mrs Bigfoot due to her connection with Sasquatch. 

In my dream one of the giant old women seemed to be trying to blow out the flames, just like the pursed mouth of Dzonoqua when she makes a noise in the forest attracting children. Her noise was attracting animals who could hear her over the flames and she lifted them up and put them in her basket.

 

 

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Story of Dzunukwa : Wild Woman of the Woods performed via Indigenous Tourism BC - Click on the image to watch the performance 

I am moved to learn about these mythic ancient wild women and connect to other doll makers and read about their lives. In my dream these old women cried as they walked through the flames, trying to rescue animals and put out the flames. Join them in prayer, or however you weave your magic as well as voting, protesting in this age of unprecedented climate devastation. 

Another story of Tsagaglalal is that she is associated with death and burial rituals, and that concentric circles around her eyes are thought to represent the sunken eyes of sick people, and around the time these images were left at grave sites of those who died of diseases such as smallpox, transmitted by white settlers and explorers, were decimating the Native American population. 

May these 'Immense Mothers' gather the spirits of those animals, birds, insects and people who are dying in these fires and offer them rebirth as they carry them over to the Otherworld.  

 

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* The Line 'The Immense Mother is Crying' is taken from Elizabeth Woody's poem dedicated to David Sohappy. Elizabeth is an award winning poet and was Oregon's Poet laureate 2016-2018 - click on the image aboe to hear her read.  

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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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