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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Scottish Travel Journal. The Best Beach Combing Find Ever!

This part one in a series of blog posts as I head home to Scotland for the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland Retreat. I'll be spending time on a Hebridean island whose name means Isle of the Big Women, heading in search of hag stones and a visit to the Cairngorm reindeer herd.

We arrived on the small island of Eigg to some wonderful rainy days which are all the more enjoyable knowing they aren't going to last for the entire time on the island. We got properly soaked (even with waterproofs on) which is all the more wonderful knowing you can have a hot shower when you get in.
Mist was the perfect cloak to be wrapped in as we made our pilgrimage to the Well of the Holy Women. Throughout the UK and Ireland, there is a long tradition of women who tended wells, keeping the water free from overgrowing weeds and allowing the water to run free. This is the perfect place to sit and soak into this place. To consider who were the Holy Women and even to consider what in us needs to be tended, what weeds need to be removed from our lives in order that the same flow can run within us.

The weather cleared in a few days and we had glorious skies which darkened just for a few hours each night after a wonderful wash of twilight.

The disaster part of this trip was that by the time I  got home to Loch Lomond I started to feel a bit strange with severe aches in my joints. The next day brought a rash of spots and as I suspected - Chicken Pox in my 40's! 

 

A Beachcombing Adventure

Beachcombing has to be one of my most favorite things - who knows what treasures might be thrown up from the bottom of the sea. While on Eigg it's a great motivation to get up to reach a certain little beach when the tide is out. To join the seagulls, the oystercatcher's and to glimpse out to slightly distant rocks in the hope of catching sight of one of the seal people.

On this little beach is the hope of finding something rather special - a Scottish Cowrie Shell. Cowries have been prized by people around the world and by the earliest people to walk on this island around 50000 BCE (you can see the cowries in the photo above in the middle of the skull looking like eyes).

It was last year I came across this wonderful skull. As I held it and turned it around in my hands it took me a minute to realise it was a dolphin skull with the thinner nose cartilage had long gotten smashed against the rocks. How amazing to hold a dolphin skull and wonder what she had seen through her eyes as she swam in the sea channels around these Hebridean islands. What wise woman looked out to sea for the sign of a fin or flick of the tail and what women shapeshifted and dove down into the depths to find the answers to their questions.

I'll return her to the beach or the waves next year after we've shared a few stories.

The Seal People

Seal's really have been the pointers on this journey home. From books falling off shelves to an open page to a chapter I've highlighted in the past (that's some serious wu wu from someone who spent most of their life as a librarian). I was lucky enough to spot some seal people hanging out on rocks as we arrived on the Isle of Eigg and I've been exploring the dark, scary depths around towering kelp forests in my dreams.

It's been many years since I've read 'Seal Morning' long enough for me to forget most of the story so it was a perfect read - the story follows a young girl living in India with her parents who is sent to live with her aunt in a very remote croft in the North West of Scotland. The story is a wonderful adventure of self-sufficiency and survival of a small family of two humans, rats, otters, squirrels and a seal. Plus the wild animals visitors and the curious insights from their distant crofting neighbors.

Published in the 1950's there has been some controversy to wither the book is indeed a true account but it's such as wonderful tale woven with so many interesting characters and nature observations I wonder does it really matter if it's true or not?

 

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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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