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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Pondering My Deathday on the Day of My Birth

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Today is my celebration of being born into this world and in this life, there is only one thing we can be truly certain of, and that is death.

I watch the first fingers of light streak across the sky it is an old ritual of mine at my birthday to gather my younger selves. The 5-year-old joins, the fierce 13-year-old, the 19-year-old with her hunger for depth and meaning. The rest of them arrive until we form a circle of ourselves. It's an odd ritual, a council of sorts. We look across at each other, for each other is the one. Sometimes, just sometimes the old crone shuffles in. The younger ones are fascinated by the spider who appears to live in her hair and the arrangement of twigs that makes her hair look somewhat like a nest.

The teenagers recognize that wild look in her eyes, somewhat like a hares. When she shuffles around the circle, if you squint at her at just the right angle you can see her antlers.

 

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Things changed as I turned 50, giving me a different perspective - like reaching the top of a mountain broadens your perspective out towards the horizon.

As the sun rises in the east it sets in the west, west being the direction of the soul after death on its final journey home. Fifty showed me the horizon, dawning that life really was finite.

As we cycle through the solar year we mark and celebrate birthdays and all manner of anniversaries, yet unknowingly we also pass our death day. I often ponder to what day this might picturing a ball spinning around a roulette wheel.

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The Black Rabbit of Inlé from Watership Down

We live in such a death-phobic culture there doesn't seem room to celebrate death, to mark that final journey home, and take time to consider our own death which in turn helps us focus on our life. Yet a death day is another day to celebrate our 'self', to celebrate all those in our individual lineages who have made that great journey and now exist as ancestors - to look at our lives with fresh eyes and perhaps plan a detour here and a reflection of our place in the thick of things.

How do I select my death date? Perhaps I count the number of crows in the tree, or the tines of the stag's antlers...Whatever the date it is another invitation to sit with my past and future selves.

 

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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.

Website: www.pathoftheancestralmothers.com

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