Femmina Unbound

Reconnecting to the Roots of our Medicine - Journey to the Magdalenes

A month ago Tony and I opened a medicine circle - dreaming well,  an energetic pool at the site of the Magdalene Laundries at Abbotsford Convent here in Melbourne in preparation for Femmina Unbound. I created this pool with intention and love to connect to the women and children whose spirits are still bound to this place, I asked the indigenous Aboriginal ancestors of the Wurundjeri to allow us to enter and to open up a pathway back to the Ancestral Medicine of the Grandmothers. Down at the Yarra River that curves around this site, I called mightily to the Grandmothers asking them to join us here to help all of the women who will be joining the medicine circle and to assist the spirits to return home. You see I have been wanting to help the Magdalenes for many years now but always doubted that I could be of any assistance - it always felt like such a huge undertaking. And I doubted my medicine - was it enough to help? Over the last year the fire has grown, particularly with Royal Commission into Child Abuse being launched by the brave detective Peter Fox - some call him 'whistleblower' I call him the brave Fox. I knew that if I did not do something, that the rage and pain would eat me alive. And so I began to plan a day of bringing women's medicine to such a place as the Magdalene Laundries this year I received confirmation that the time was now. I realised that I could do something, it may be very small in the scheme of it all but I could do something.
When I launched Femmina Unbound and especially when I physically opened the dreaming well, I began to have nightmarish visions and waves of fear moving through me particularly early in the morning. I received another vision to help me understand what I was feeling. I saw a young woman screaming at me and I felt her hysteria. Her hysteria, her madness, terrified me more than anything else. And I recognised it in myself, because it lives so deeply entrenched in the females in my family. We carry strong chords of madness, suicide, depression in my blood line, in our lineage. Many of the women in my family are psychic and Catholic - something that they never seemed to be able to hold together in harmony. And then in the vision I saw this frightening 'Lilith' cowering but still hysterical as someone came towards her to help her. And she became like a small frightened dog who has been beaten too often. I saw the dog bite the hand that wanted to help it and return back to the abuser instead. The dog had lost all of it's natural animal instincts. I saw that this is what happened to the women when we had our ties to ancestral medicine and wisdom cut by religion and patriarchy. We lost our power and knowing of our own spirituality. We lost connection to our instincts and intuition. We no longer knew what was good or bad for us - we had become conditioned. To receive this message was huge for me, it has helped me to understand many of the women in my family, to understand my own poor choices of the past. In that moment, I felt the line of women in my family released and unbound from a belief that we needed to be forgiven.
Enormous tree growing outside the Abbotsford Convent windows
3 nights ago I dreamt of an enormous tree. A tree like the enormous Moreton Bay Fig at the top of this post. I took this photo 2 weeks ago while holding Swan Blessing in Sydney - the place of my birth and family. In this dream I was shown that we are 'sleeping trees' when we have not reclaimed our ancestral roots and medicine. But like a sleeping tree, when we are ready to awaken, we can blossom and grow to monumental heights. I received a vision on the morning of this dream and in it was shown that one of the most harming outcomes of religion and patriarchy upon Feminine Wisdom was that it cut the tap root to the Ancient Mother. When people move trees from different lands without wisdom, they often do not take care to look after the tap root - a root that travels far down into the earth way beyond the reach of the main roots. When they sever the tap root they cut a chord that draws from the deepest part of the Earth and this is vital to the health of the tree. And so when the tree is re-planted in a different environment, even when feed and watered and cared for, the tree never grows in the same way again and in many circumstances, the tree withers and dies. My vision told me that we are not dead, that our wisdom is not so far removed from us in the modern world that we cannot find our way to it again. By consciously creating an energetic tap root back to the Ancient Mother, we can awaken and leave our slumber to blossom fully in this country, and in this time now.
When I felt the gift of wisdom that came when I connected my own tap root back to the Mother, I was filled with such trust and love for my own way of being in the world again and a healing of my 'hiraeth' ancestral longing for the mother country of my ancestors. In that moment I felt the waves of fear and sadness I had been experiencing about returning to such a place as the Magdalene Laundries fall away. I felt the power of my love to acknowledge, remember and assist the spirits of these women and children rise up. And it was a gentle, radiant rising - it was not about fighting, warring or revenge. It was a knowing that with the love of all of the women attending this medicine circle together, that we would remember how powerful we have always been and how ancient our power and medicine is. Just like the ancient earth itself, our wisdom has been here forever. These buildings that held the incarcerated women and children are so superficial - so new in our ancient world. We are stronger than these buildings, we can heal these places of deep wounding and return love to the earth.
And so I write this today, to share these visions and dreams of my own journey to my medicine for all the women who are feeling to come and be a part of this medicine circle but are holding back. I just want to say that I understand your fears and your concerns but I want you to know that these fears you feel do not belong with us in this time - they are from the past. Whether that be from a recent or distant past - they are past. Whether they are flowing from the wounds of your own blood lineage - grandmother to mother - they are past. The ancestors are waiting for us to remember who we truly are. This is not a war or a day of intense pain - it is a day of honouring and blessing ourselves and reclaiming the sacred land beneath the buildings. A day to fully experience our own power to heal the spirits of our ancestor sisters, the Magdalenes, and sing their spirits home to the Deep. It is a day of honouring the indigenous tribes of Australia and bringing our own Ancestral Medicine into alignment with the spirit of this ancient country. I urge you to bring yourself forward sisters, you are all worthy, you are Medicine Women.
Tree growing in the quadrangle of the Magdelene Laundry compound
Here before the convent - Yarra River below the grounds


Sinead O'Connor - Response to the Magdelene Laundries Report

SINGER Sinead O’Connor has sent the following letter to The Irish Post. It is her response to the apology by The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity concerning the treatment of women in their care. “I have written the below open letter to The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity in response to their published apology upon release of the Magdalene Laundries report,” said Sinead, who as a teenager spent time in a Catholic institution for shoplifting and truancy.
Dear Sisters,
I am one of the very few who can say with my hand on my heart that the time spent time in your institution at High Park in Drumcondra, saved my life.
It was named An Grianan, and is named so in The Residential Institutions Redress Act, where An Grianan is listed first, should there be any doubt as to whether or not An Grianan (the house of the rising sun) was a residential institution.
It was the very place indeed which gave the name ‘Magdalene Laundries’ when sometime after I left in 1984 the land was sold and some builders digging up the ground found many graves, all marked only ‘Magdalene’.
During the time I spent there the girls used to say they saw a ghostly white lady crossing the garden. I laughed and mocked them. Until the day I heard about the graves.
Sister Margaret who was in charge during the time I was there was the number one greatest thing that had up until that time ever happened to me in my life. She loved me as if I was own daughter.
Specifically she loved me because I was rebellious. She knew I had a good heart. Now that I have grown I think she saw in me the girl that she would like to have been had she not been herself a slave of the theocracy. the epilogue to the Magdalene story will be how much in fact some of you ladies were as much slaves of the theocracy as the girls were. Your stories have yet to be told.
Sister Margaret bought me my first guitar and saw music would save my life and told me to go from my dreams and to know that God was always with me and she even bought me a parka coat like all the punk rockers had, from a punk rock shop in Dublin called No Romance. The woman was an angel.
However I must state that while my experience in your institution was good for me I saw something absolutely appalling happen there to someone else and I felt very sad last night when I saw the wording of the apology you published in response to The McAleese Report on The Magdalene Laundries.
You said: “It is with deep regret that we acknowledge that there are women who did not experience our refuge as a place of protection and care.”
What I saw happen to a girl I loved in your institution deserves a much more specific response. Not least because her experience is not an isolated case. She is one of many girls who had similar experience in institutions all over the land.
The McAleese report is incorrect when it states that there is no evidence to support that women ever had babies in institutions.
Indeed on the night the report was published a woman who was born in an institution and taken from her mother a told her story.
In the Irish Times of Wednesday, February 6, 2013 On page four, there is an interview with a lady named Patricia Burke Brogan. She states she was a novice with the Sisters of Mercy in the Galway laundry. She left because she could not stand to see the women being locked up
She states: “When I asked the superior why they weren’t let out she said ‘oh if you let them out they’ll be back here in no time pregnant again’. AGAIN is the key word here.
In fact babies were often born in institutions and laundries. And often they were taken from their mothers against their mothers will.
I witnessed this happen to my friend in your specific institution. I really feel she deserves something better than you regret she didn’t experience your refuge as a place of protection and care.
My friend was 17 years old. She was pregnant and we all were with her and she was happy and so were we. My friend is the only woman that I ever met in my life that I could justifiably call a true lady.
She became pregnant whilst under the care of your institution in fact. and went joyously through the pregnancy with us there. I am not the only witness to these events.
She had a baby boy. Black hair and skin so white he shimmered palest blue, like a little Krishna.
She adored him she minded him and loved him and fussed over him and was the best mother I have ever seen in her precise ways of caring for his every possible comfort. He was her lamb. Her Christ. The light of her life. And he was also and remains a little tiny light of mine. Which is why I am writing This letter.
One morning I woke to hear my friend screaming. And I ran out of my cubicle I saw her surrounded by two or three nuns. I can’t quite remember how many. They tore my friends baby from her arms. She struggled, I tried to help as did others. Her desperate beggings and pleadings and screams were ignored. She was physically overpowered as was I and the other girls and the baby was gone. With no trace of where he went.
Again I state for the record I am only one of several witnesses to this event.
If there is true regret on your part that your institution was not a place of refuge could you please compose a more suitable response to this particular incident.
I am certain that my friend will have been gutted by the composition of the ‘apology’. Which flicks a flaccid wrist, frankly at her experience.as if it isn’t of consequence .
If you are regretful. Produce the man who was that baby. And if the Church generally is regretful. Let ye produce all the stolen babies.
And if Enda Kenny means it when he says the state intends to fully support these women for the rest of their lives and is regretful himself. Let him produce my friend’s son. And records of all the stolen children and where they went and where their children are now.
Yes the state should say sorry. But they were the dirty worker for the Church. And the Church thinks it looks like the good guy now with these so called apologies. No. It doesn’t wash. You need to go back to whomever authority composes these apologies and ask they specifically respond to this case please.
Yes you can say ‘the law was you couldn’t keep your baby if you were unmarried and under 18′. But it is for the police to enforce laws. Not the clergy. And police never tore babies from their mothers arms. Indeed they never had the power to when they should have had it, while Irish children were being savaged by clergy and theocracy.
Answer this.. Why were the nuns and not the police enforcing the laws of the land ?
I regret to say I have several friends who were never in an institution yet had their babies stolen by clergy at hospitals when they went for a shower. None of my friends that this happened to were given any choice in the matter. Indeed they were not even informed of what was to take place until after it had taken place.
Enda Kenny I admire you greatly. I hope you don’t let me down. What do you have to say about the state’s Compulsory removal of the children of un-married mothers under the age of 18? Please explain to me why the police were not the ones enforcing this law.
It is highly important the state acknowledge that it in plain terms. And apologise for that.
Sinead O’Connor