The link between the Deer and Women and ancestral wisdom is huge. I have this confirmed to me again and again when I sit in journeying circles with women all over the world and wrote about healing with Deer in a piece I called She Wears the Crown. Recently I have begun holding Swan Blessing sessions: Hag Stone and Animal Wife that explore the ancestral stories held in our spirits from lifetimes of our own lineage and also past lives to see where and how we lost connection to our natural abilities to connect to the earth and to heal. In the Animal Wife sessions we recover and reclaim our 'animal soulskin' the instinctive and wild gifts of nature. Like the Selkie seal woman who had to forfeit her sealskin (soulskin) and gifts to live amongst humans I believe we have also become divorced from our natural animal instincts due patriarchy and institutionalisation. We have been forced to obey man made laws over the natural Lore of the land and her plants and her people.
Again and again as I journey beside women as they recover their ancestral stories, the Deer makes herself known and when she is recovered such a feeling of gentle wisdom and intuition is gifted back to the us. Through my own connection to the Deer I have met talented artists and healers, such as Alice Savage who drew this incredible drawing above after being inspired by a doll that I had created for my own healing when I moved to Sherbrooke Forest 4 years ago. The doll now lives with Alice and I am this drawing now lives in my home. I called her Stag Woman because I felt she helped me to bridge and create symbiosis between my feminine and masculine traits and natures and to heal my fears of living in the forest again and sharing Swan Blessing in a world that still struggles to make peace with the purity and wisdom of the witch, the healer and the seer. I am only realising now, years later that in creating the Swan Blessing to recover the Soulskin of our personal animal ally and spirit marriage, that she was my first introduction to the Animal Wife.
Today I share Gemma-Kate's personal Swan Blessing story of a lifetime where she had to make a vow to keep the gifts of her lineage and her Grandmothers a secret. She had to hide her ability as a healer, the one gift that made her most proud had to become her deepest hidden part of herself. When we hide our greatest treasure it can sometimes create such a fracture in our spirit that we almost split into two personalities. We sometimes become the warrior in the world to protect what is the most vulnerable - our own spirit. When I met Gemma-Kate I recognised her as one of 'Vali's Daughters' another wild and beautiful woman touched by the magic of Australian artist, Vali Myers. I could see Gemma-Kate's power and strength and she told me how she was a veterinarian nurse and animal rescuer who had to step away from working in conventional ways and institutions with animals because something older and deeper told her that some of the practices used there were harming the animals instead of healing them. I saw this was a huge wound for her and I could also see the enormous amount of wisdom and healing abilities within her. I was honoured when she contacted me to tell me she was ready to journey with the Swan.
"I look towards the edge of the clearing, where the trees begin. Grazing at the edge of the grass is a deer. A doe. She looks up at me, and she ‘sees’ me. We exchange a long gaze. She is my guide. She is my medicine. She is so gentle, and I realise it is her I fiercely protect in life. She is what I am tough, brave and strong for. I realise how much I have pushed her away.”
"I am taken to a waterfall. There is dappled sunlight bouncing off the lush greenery. Butterflies flutter in the grass. I journey through the water, through the veil of water, and find myself in a dark cave. There is a pool of water in a natural basin. I look into the water, and find looking back at me, an old woman. Her hair is white, her skin deeply wrinkled with years of emotions, and pale, no longer showing the flush of youth. Her eyes. Her eyes!! They are the palest blue, like topaz. They tell a thousand stories and are full of sorrow. I feel she is me. I look up into the cave and now see a dwelling. A woman’s dwelling within the cave. A secret hideaway. Her secret hideaway. My secret hideaway.
I am led into the forest. I know this place. It already exists in my mind. I walk towards a clearing. A place where we sung and danced and celebrated. I leave the forest, and head to my home nearby. I live here with my sisters. I am the eldest. I am 42. I have been the parent. Our parents have been taken. I am a spinster because of this, and I hide many secrets. Secrets I only share with my sisters. We keep herbs of all kinds. We are healers.
I am taken to another time in the same place. I am much younger. Only a girl. I am playing in the long grasses on the fringe of the forest, where the grass is thick from plenty of sunlight. My sisters and I hear the horses coming, and we are very close to the road leading to the small cluster of houses. We are hidden well, and we can see they are soldiers. They have come to take people. There is talk from the townsfolk about the group of people in these dwellings. They have come to punish us for our old ways. My family are safe. This time at least. We all make a vow to keep secret our gift, and our knowledge. I feel shameful.
I now find myself back in the cave with the woman. I realise now her sorrow. She has lived a life predominantly in solitude, the only place her secrets are safe. She receives comfort from the plants and animals, and they her. I feel a tight force, a weight, binding my chest, restricting my breath. I see white rags binding me. They look like sacred cloth from the religion that has destroyed the ways of life of my people. I notice the sensation that the cloth is loosening. The old woman is using her mind to release the rags. She only needs her mind, because these rags represent our sacred vow. She is releasing me from the ties that bind me. She is taking away my shame. She is telling me it is safe now. I am feeling so much emotion now. I have been crying throughout, but now I feel it in my chest and throat, where the cloths had once been. I am released, I have freedom, and I am led to waters at the bottom of the waterfall. I bathe in the waters. I am now healed.
I am now on the edge of the water, and I feel the swan embrace me. Her huge, warm, loving wings engulf me. I feel so much love. I feel white and yellow. We fly, but I notice little. I am surrounded by light. Then we are walking. I am grounded. I am aware. We are walking in my forest, toward the clearing, for this is a celebration. The sun is shining bright and the air is crisp. There are many small creatures here, there always is. I look towards the edge of the clearing, where the trees begin. Grazing at the edge of the grass is a deer. A doe. She looks up at me, and she ‘sees’ me. We exchange a long gaze. She is my guide. She is my medicine. She is so gentle, and I realise it is her I fiercely protect in life. She is what I am tough, brave and strong for. I realise how much I have pushed her away.
I am now asked to repeat something three times. I am so emotional that I am having trouble forming words. So emotional that the exact words evade me. What I feel as I repeat this sentence, this new vow, is that I no longer need to hide the person I am, the gifts that were given to me as a woman. I can be true. I can follow my path as intended, and most importantly, share my gift to others."
I was so thrilled this week to see Gemma-Kate in a new state of beauty, transformation and vulnerability. She had cut off all of her hair and was wearing colours I had never seen before. She looked like a beautiful butterfly with the wise eyes of the magical and gentle Doe. I felt that I was seeing Gemma-Kate's spirit in it's true form - no longer split but embracing her strength and vulnerability at the same time. She also told me that she is now actively sharing and opening her heart to her healing gifts again. I look forward to seeing her magic I've got a feeling it will be big. Thank you Gemma-Kate for showing us your Deer heart and sharing your story here.