Sisterhood of the Antlers

Walking the path of the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland with stories, art, and ritual

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Sisterhood of the Bears. A Ritual for Preparing for the Deep

Felted Bear Hearth Altar by Jude Lally 
I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling that just one more worry, just one more stress can tip me right over the edge and into free fall. As we move from Autumn Equinox and cycle towards Samhain what is is that keeps you balanced? What is it that you root yourself down into? 

For me, it begins by trying to shut off my head, although silencing those chattering voices aren't always easy and so I try to let my feet or hands take over.

Feet take me a walk around the neighborhood and never too far afield these days but there is still lots of magic to be found in the hedgerows. 
Hands perform rituals which have always been a focus to keep me sane, to make meaning when sometimes it feels that there is none. They keep me tethered to the land and the voices of the old ones. Small little gestures about how I'm feeling - needing an unravelling here and a weaving there. 

Each Autumn Equinox I feel a certain fluttering, an unsettling - a rustling of anxiety, the flutterings of a little wild bird who has flown into the house and is trying to get out. 
I acknowledge that feeling, for it happens each year and try to tend to myself as I would that wild bird. To put covers over the windows and open the doors wide. 


And so I walk the dog and I collect leaves - bright red leaves the color of a luscious velvet, fiery yellow and some with all the colors within them. I also pick up a few with the black spots of rot which are beginning to break down - for so much of life is retuning back down to the roots. I take a few petals from the last of the roses and some butterfly wings which have graced the garden all summer and fed on the flower nectar.


A small gesture of ritual at this time is to line the cauldron - to add in the leaves one by one, to breath into them with all the uncertainty and worry. Sometimes I don't know the cause and just let the leaf hold the feeling. This is a long, ancient ritual passed down by the Sisterhood of the Bears - the women who prepared the cave for the great She Bear who came to dream the world asleep and would awaken the world again at Spring Equinox. 

There are many rituals of these Bear women, the women whose hands created little curled up figures of bear and woman. Little figurines made of clay to which they added seeds and and stands of their own hair and saliva to soften the clay - all this helped to imbue the figurines with their own magic. 


Sometimes, in times of great need, the women buried the clay figures so that they dreamed along with the sleeping She Bear. Wrapped in the energies of the roots of great trees, or plants they nestled in the great webs of mycelium. 

Fast forward thousands of years to now, when Bear only walks the land of Scotland in spirit. I was guided by the Grandmothers to bury this little figurine on an island off the West coast of Scotland. Perhaps because we were about to be thrown into a global pandemic in the coming months.

So if you are feeling a little unsure or unsettled perhaps gather some leaves - whisper in your worries, line them on your winter cauldron or perhaps release them back to the forest floor. May you dream alongside the soon-to-be-sleeping She Bear or perhaps you'd like to perform a ritual of the Sisterhood of he Bears and create a little figurine to keep close this deep? 

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Jude Lally is a forager of stories. You’ll find her out wandering the hills around Loch Lomond, reading the signs that guide her to stories in the land.

As a Cultural Activist, she draws upon the inspiration from old traditions to meet current needs.
She uses keening as a grief ritual, a cathartic ritual to express anger, fear, and despair for all that is unfolding within the great unraveling.
As a doll maker, she views this practice as one that stretches back to the first dolls which may have been fashioned from bones and stones and ancient stone figurines such as the Woman of Willendorf. She uses dolls as a way of holding and exploring our own story, and relationship to the land as well as ancestral figures.

She gained her MSc Masters Degree in Human Ecology at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, Scotland) and lives on the West Coast of Scotland on the banks of the River Clyde, near Loch Lomond. She is currently writing her first book, Path of the Ancestral Mothers.



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