Ancestral Medicine

Singing for the Ghosts - Medicine Dolls for the Outcast Dead

12622142_10207431331314410_2092518864045037547_o How many of our own ancestors have been labelled as outcast? How many of us feel this label even now? Not too long ago, it was very easy for a woman to be made outcast and the energy and fear of being outcast for women even now, is huge. Very often all you have to do is rebel against the conventions of society to be labelled as a threat. It is especially strong when we break society's rules around sexuality - the ultimate 'original sin' for women.

All of this is presented to me daily in my work with swan blessing as I work with clients to bring healing and acknowledgement to their lineage and at the same time become aware of and clear old beliefs of the pas. But then all I have to do is turn on the television to see all of these old beliefs and shaming ways are still presented to us as normal by our media and governments. I won't lie, it troubles me. Sometimes it depresses me. But over the years I have found a way that helps me to make peace with the present and the past - to make offerings to the outcast dead. I often leave medicine dolls at natural places of great beauty - mountains and springs. But I have also begun leaving and sending dolls to places where ugly things have happened in the past. I believe that by sending our love and healing to these dark places we can re-enchant the earth and the bones of our ancestors.

In Melbourne, Australia I focussed much of this work on trying to heal and acknowledge the spirits of the women and children who were incarcerated in the Magdalene Laundries for being wild and 'fallen women' (usually meaning pregnant). A girl could find herself in this institution just for being too free-thinking, running away from home or even because she was simply already an orphan - can you imagine being punished again for being without family?  Those girls were locked up until until they were women and made to work in the laundries without pay. This was done to women over a century ago and was continued right up until the 1970's.

And so I am writing not only about the dead but about the many, many women who are still living with the memories of these institutions RIGHT NOW. I for one could have very easily have found myself in a similar place. I was just lucky enough to be born a little later, not much later but enough to have left home as a teenager and been left alone to make my own way. I believe the story of these incarcerations for being 'fallen women' are all our stories. We are all touched by them in some way or another - they live in us too.

I have been very moved and educated about the truth behind these practices by a talented and incredibly brave Australian artist, Rachael Romero  who was incarcerated in the Magdalene Laundries at the Covent of the Good Shepherd in South Australia in the 1970s. Her work rips at my heart and makes me cry but inevitable tells me the truth and this helps me to be stronger. To stand up and want to do something about it.

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I have worked with living survivors but most of all I work with the spirits of these women and children. I am very passionate about letting those spirits know that they are not worthless or unloved or unwelcome as they had been told. I wanted them to know that we remember them, that we love them and that they have ancestors waiting for them too. I shared this work in a public way finally in 2013. It took all my courage to stop doing this work silently and I'm so glad I did because many of my sisters with such beautiful big medicine came to assist me. You can read more about this work I called Femmina Unbound at the Magdalene Laundries here in Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne.

I have always had a desire to help find and bring home the lost. Lost spirits and lost parts of our own spirits. The doll you see below is called BirdGirl of the Shetland Islands and she has the spirit of an owl - a night-time creature known for her wisdom and insight, and she is dressed in fibres from the Shetland Islands that beautiful wild Scottish land and pure Australian merino wool. She has a hand blown glass bone that sits over her heart and a quartz crystal with blood red inclusions over her womb. And so now I come full circle back to work with the spirits of the Outcast Dead. She was created for the women and children, the wild 'Geese' of the Crossbones Graveyard in London. I became aware of this graveyard 3 years ago as I was preparing to hold the ceremony for the girls of the Magdalene Laundries. The spirits of the Geese were speaking to me within the same group of the Magdalenes.

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And recently I was contacted by one of the amazing founders of the Cross Bones Graveyard, writer, poet and all round magical woman, Jacqueline Woodward-Smith. She found me through my writing on Deer medicine and the Antlered Women (I love the weaving!). Three years ago I wrote this piece below for our blog when I discovered the Cross Bones graveyard:

RIP the Outcast Dead Re-Enchanting The Crossbones Graveyard

Sometimes, when Tony is asked to come out to do a clearing on someone or to clear spirit attachment from their home, it is not the person or building that is ‘haunted’ or unhappy, it is the land itself. The land carries histories of human life beyond what we can see with our eyes and much further back in time than the current residents can remember. This is when Tony is called to speak with the spirits of the earth and to clear and honour the traumatic events that have happened there so that the current tenants can live in harmony and peace. In our current culture we have not been taught to understand that we are residing on a living organism – the body of the Earth. Just as we carry emotional and physical scars long after a traumatic event, the spirit of the land also carries energetic wounds. We have found that very often what is required is an honouring of the event and the souls that were involved, quite simply, what is needed is for us to acknowledge and remember.
An example of this honouring can be found at what is known as The Cross Bones Graveyard in London. In operation at around 1598, it was a graveyard that the church would not consecrate because it was for the hundreds of young prostitutes known as the Winchester Geese. Ironically and terribly they were known as the Winchester Geese because they were actually licensed by the Bishop of Winchester as the church held so much power in London at the time. So they were in effect, licensed and managed by a church that would not bless the ground that they were buried in – damned in life and damned in death. In the victorian era it was known as a pauper’s graveyard and at the time of closing in 1853 it was ‘completely overcharged with the dead’. Long since forgotten and neglected, it was only during excavations in 1991 that it was rediscovered.What you see in the image below are the honourings and blessings for the forgotten Winchester Geese. And this was all made possible by the work of playwright, John Constable who together with a small informal local group, Friends of Cross Bones, fought to save it from redevelopment and to honour it for the very first time as a sacred space. In the image below you see many names on ribbons, naming the women and children buried here. John Constable has also written The Southwark Mysteries, a cycle of poems and mystery plays inspired directly by the spirit of a ‘Winchester Goose’.Now this site is open for visitors to pay their respects and to finally remember the Outcast Dead and because of it, this sacred site has been re-enchanted and become a place of positivity and healing. Just as your own spirit yearns for re-enchantment, for the honouring of it’s sacred essence, so does the land that we live on. She needs your love too.Here is a link to the full post with photos and videos
I am over the moon to find a sister like Jacqueline - in the first photo I ever saw of her she was holding a Swan smudging fan outside the gates of the Cross Bones Graveyard - I really couldn't believe it - so many synchronicities between us.  Sometimes we can feel so alone in our work, like we are scrambling around in the dark and then you find a sister on the other side of the world doing very similar work. I'd love to see a similar permanent place of honouring and love at the gates of the Magdalene Laundries where we can come and leave tributes and remember and sing for them too.I am sending the BirdGirl to a dear friend who will meet with Jacqueline to sing as she gifts the doll to the spirits of the wild Geese and sing over the bones of the graveyard. In a way she will be a part of me there until I can make it in person later this year. I am excited to be doing this work and planning a new ancestral trip with Tony to visit Scotland and England. We hope to share Swan Blessing work with our sisters and brothers across the ocean and also hold medicine doll workshops too.  A singing over the bones journey to our ancestors or the 'caves and graves tour' as I keep telling Tony.Here is a link to the Cross Bones Facebook page where you can join in vigils and events and if you are in London you should pop in.

I share this today to hopefully inspire you to make small acts of your own, offerings of love and acknowledgement to our ancestors especially those who were told they were outcast. In our small ways we can call them back into the circle of our lineage. The healing is for us all.

Sacred Familiar new moon offering

Swan Blessing Past Life Story - Vow to Not Use Her Medicine

a9c994f89761de6fd50a8fe76969e287 Very often the vow that comes up to be released in Swan Blessing past life sessions is the vow to close down or reject our personal ancestral medicine. This can be very confusing in our present incarnation as we will still be drawn, and deeply passionate about our medicine but will find it very hard to embrace and share with others - especially if we try and embrace it as our vocation again. It creates pain, confusion and fear of something that should be treasured and celebrated - our natural gifts and power.

Many moons ago I used to teach tarot circles to help others to trust their intuition and to develop their own individual way of reading and sensing messages from the cards. I was always blown away by the beautiful readers who came to develop their gifts with us and I remember these years of sitting in tarot circles very fondly. Recently I was contacted by Candice, a student I remembered well, requesting a Swan Blessing past life session. I remembered Candice so well because she was one of the most naturally gifted readers Tony and I had ever spent time with - a very gifted seer. But there was an internal battle going on within Candice and I could see this too - she was afraid of her gifts.

Candice told me that she had recently begun to offer her service of tarot reading to the public. I was thrilled for her because this has been such a long time coming and she is so good! But she then told me how much anxiety she felt when having to give difficult news to her clients. I explained to her that a reader is merely an interpreter for the cards and that often in our life the difficult times are our biggest teachers and assist huge shifts towards growth. That I am always grateful when my cards inform me that it's time to release an old dream that doesn't serve or that I am about to go through a period of understanding my fears. The reader's role is not to give a sugar-coated sweet reading every time as that would be false and is not a true reflection of life and the sacred circle of birth, death and rebirth that we go through each day just like every cell of our body.

While Candice understood this on a mental level she said she could still feel something very deep and fearful about one day having to be the 'bearer of bad news'.

This is Candice's Swan Blessing story of the past life events that created these old beliefs and fears:

"I decided to have a Swan Blessing to discovering the blocks I have in becoming a tarot reader. For such a long time I had wanted to start my tarot business but could not find the courage to. I had so many fears going into it. I have tried to give tarot up so many times before with many times throwing out my decks, my notes and any books I had on the tarot. But for some reason I keep feeling drawn to it. It’s like a bad habit that I keep being pulled into despite my efforts to stop.

This journey into my Swan blessing was truly a blessing. As I closed my eyes and relaxed I felt the presence of my family, ancestors and spirit guides with me in the room as I went completely within myself. I could feel myself travel back in time.

I was directed to a lake and in this lake I saw a Native American with long black hair, at first I couldn't tell if it was a male or female then I realised it was a young male. He was 24 years old. He was me and I was him. I asked him what is it that is blocking me in reaching my full potential. With a hardness in his eyes he could not tell me like he had shut it off from his heart, instead he took me on a little canoe across the water. He was pointing to the other side of the mountain. He left me on the other side of the river and I walked to the other side of the mountain by myself as he did not want to come.

As I went there and walked on the land it was so hard for me to see what was there. There was so much smoke lingering around. It was all grey and white before me and the tents that remained were just ashy. As I realised who's village this was my eyes filled with tears as I realised that this was my own village. My village was attacked and destroyed.

I was then shown what I did in this life time. I was the seer of the tribe. Elders who held leadership within the tribe came to me for guidance for the tribe. I could not believe that those who were so much older than I held me in such high regard. I used a crystal of some sort to foresee future events. I was guided to see what I saw in that lifetime. I foresaw the tragic event of the destruction of my village long before it happened and I did not tell anyone as I wanted to be wrong and I wanted the best for my people.

When I saw that I actually foresaw the event happening my eyes welled up again and I had such a heaviness in my chest. I felt heartbroken. I felt helpless with so much guilt for what happened. Something that I could have prevented but I didn’t.

As a punishment for myself in that life time I isolated myself from everyone and everything. I lived alone in a cave until I was a very old man and died alone in my cave and I never spoke to anyone again. I never practised any more magic or seer again in that life time as it was too hard for me. I punished myself for what had happened.

My blessing allowed me to be with the man that I was, I told him that this was not his fault and he only wanted the best. I also told him that I will make this right in this life time. I got it. I understood all his fear, pain and sadness because I feel it in my current life time. All the times I read for others all the readings I have sent out the process of when I do readings all of the pain and anxiety was so familiar because it was all mine. The pain I have held onto that long has allowed me to suppress my gifts because I was still too scared to hurt another person.

For such a long time I had all these anxieties when doing readings and everything finally made sense. I had a fear for reading people older than me, I also had a fear when turning over the cards I saw just in case I saw something that was not favourable. I would actually stress for who I am reading for.

Now I have learnt with Julia and this Swan blessing that the not great things I see in a reading can actually be of benefit. Now when I read I have such an inner confidence within me. I feel confident that I am doing exactly what I should be doing and I don't fear the reading like I used to. This doesn’t mean I still don't have normal anxiety but I have an inner knowing that I came here to earth with this ability and to share it. I love my tarot readings and love helping people and now know that I have the ability to do so. And now I will with the confidence that I was actually born to do this!

Thank you Julia for allowing me to go on this journey back to myself. You have given me a gift that I will forever be grateful for. You have given me the confidence to truly believe in my inner strengths and abilities from lifetimes before. A confidence of knowing my true abilities and purpose and why I am here. Forever grateful to you and your gifts. Thank you."

Candice 2016, The Blessed Path Within

I am thrilled to hear Candice speak and write these words. Her gifts are beautiful and she brings such insight and clarity to her readings and now she can share them with a strong and open heart.

It is a terrible feeling to be withholding our natural gifts - to be afraid of our personal medicine. I'm very happy to see that there is a new respect and opening at this present time for the holding of circle together, ceremony and the intuitive arts. We are learning to break through our fears and release old beliefs that do not fit or belong to us in this time and often our biggest fear is our own power. I thank the great grandmothers who come to assist us in Swan Blessing, they remind us all that not too long ago our ancestors used and shared their medicine with love.

Bookings for Swan Blessing sessions with Julia 

Image: Medicine drum from 'Shapeshifting : Transformations in Native American Art' - Peabody Essex Museum

The Witch's Daughter - Past Life Vow to Remain Alone

Witches' Wood by Bertrand H. Wentworth
Witches' Wood by Bertrand H. Wentworth

Swan Blessing is the past life and ancestral healing work that I began 7 years ago to help clear and heal the memories and ancestral trauma of the 'burning times' upon our ancestors and ourselves. The memory or soul loss created by witnessing events where women have been persecuted for simply being healers and connected to the earth and her plants or even carrying these memories from our ancestors in our DNA can create many kinds of problems in our present lives. The most common feeling is anxiety, but it can also manifest as a kind of sensation of being stuck and unable to move because in a way we remember what happened to the women who stood out, were different. The biggest crime of all is that it has conditioned us to believe it is safer to stay on the edge of the 'mystery', to never step back through the veil. 

Today I share Alex' Swan Blessing story of the witch's daughter and her vow to remain alone. When I read this story in full it had a profound effect on me because she was speaking from the heart about issues that were so personal and painful for her. I loved her retelling and the honesty, the raw guts and all approach to her life! Thank you Alex for reminding me that this journey with the collective is also personal and individual - we cannot compare it to anyone else's experience and the worst thing we can do is try to 'fit in'. Alex is also speaking honestly about the healing process and how it is often like peeling layers away - good and deep healing takes time. Most importantly I am so happy to see that now Alex is alone when she chooses to be alone and that she is MAGNIFICENT! 

With her story also came gifts of healing water gathered at the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye in Scotland where she was the only one crazy enough that day to swim in those freezing waters and from the Chalice Well in Glastonbury. When Alex arrived for her session I didn't know that she was about to embark on this journey, but as soon as she chose tarot cards from the Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert (an amazing deck that I find perfect for past life work) her destination was right there in front of her in vivid colour. The cards asked Alex 'are you going to always sit on the edge of the mystery daughter? How long can you keep yourself apart, a step away from joy?' Here is her answer.

Swan Blessing reading with the Gaian Tarot before Alex journeyed with the Swan

Swan Blessing reading with the Gaian Tarot before Alex journeyed with the Swan

"This has taken me a while to write. Soon after my Swan Blessing with Julia, I wrote some notes to remember my encounter. But to write it out fully, is to release it. And I haven’t been ready to do that. Until now. I very much enjoy wallowing in my pain and misery, observing it, letting it twist my insides until my anxiety levels peak. It’s quite sadistic, I know. But I learn from it, as long as I acknowledge it. Which takes a while. After I wallow, I ignore all the self-inflicted pain and become destructive until I am ready to face the truth. I am a big advocate of 'ignorance is bliss'. Yet the problem is, this no longer works for me. I know too much, have felt too much to be ignorant to my desires, passions and ultimately the light and dark of my being. Which was why I went to see Julia.

I arrived at Julia's home on the second day of spring, full of promise, hope, doubt and a little worried. Throughout the year, I have been doing a lot of soul searching, trying to understand my nature, patterns I repeat and my shadow aspect which I have a tendency to either deny or let consume me. I was going to Julia to seek answers. When she explained to me that sometimes vows or promises made in past lifetimes have the ability to affect us in this lifetime, my immediate reaction was "shit... I reckon I did some pretty crazy shit in my previous lives". But Julia's calming voice let me break away from my fears and feel the love and energy of my spirit guides and ancestors.

After I selected cards from a tarot deck, Julia was able to explain to me the vow I had made was having a major impact on my relationships in this lifetime. This was very accurate, as I do struggle to connect to others on a higher level as well as letting certain patterns destroy my relationships. However, the next card was the one that really hit me. It was a young girl sitting on the edge of the Chalice Well, a famous spiritual site in Glastonbury, England. Like the girl, spiritually, I had always found myself on the edge. Never delving in, never committing, yet interested and informed. Not being able to let go and experience spirituality had there caused me much sadness throughout my life, contributing to feeling like an outsider. What made this card particularly interesting, was that in approximately a month, I was travelling to the UK, so making the journey to the Chalice Well was at the top of my must see list. The final card was the Sun which showed a girl surrounded by sunflowers, dancing, with a beautiful, happy and knowing smile. I saw myself in that girl and instantly I wanted that version of me. I didn’t want to wallow and pity myself anymore. Nor self-destruct,hurt myself and others or waste my life away in ignorance. I wanted to release the vow I made, one so strong, it hid, forcing me to go deep within. One that I have carried through lifetimes, letting it affect me and even feeding it at times. But not anymore. This time I am going to let it go.

The first thing I see are green eyes. Green eyes peering at me in a pool of clear water. I try to reach to the creature with the engaging green eyes. But they disappear. I call to them again and this time they appear with a nose. But they still will not leave the pool, the safety. They are willing to let me in, but they will not come out. I must go deeper for this journey. As I break through the veil of the pool onto the other side, I find myself in a partially dried river bed, in a beautiful valley surrounded by trees, standing next to a girl of about 8 years old. She has straw coloured hair and is dressed in a filthy white woollen shift. As she turns to look up at me, somewhat defiant yet also grateful, I see that the eyes match the green eyes I saw in the pool. She still will not let me approach her, but she allows me to follow her so she can show me. I follow her along the river bank, watching her as she stops sporadically to pick something up, throwing stones into the river here and there and occasionally checking that I do not get too close to her. I ask her where her family are.

She speaks to me without opening her mouth, in what I can only describe as telepathically. She tells me that she is alone. She is upset but she looks into my third eye and shows me what happened to her family. I am not myself, I am her. I feel all her fear and horror as people surround her house, yelling and shouting, calling out to her mother. I can see my (her) mother standing in the corner shielding my brother, a toddler who is crying. The people around the house are yelling a number of things, directed at my mother such as“Heretic”, “Witch”, “Whore” and“Slut”. The mob burnt the house to the ground. Yet I was not in it. I am not sure how or why, but I was somehow watching the house burn from above.

I feel all her loss, pain and anger at losing her family. As the girl pulled me back to myself, she explained that she had been living in the valley on her own, taking care of herself. I ask her to show me happier times with her family and what it was like before they took them away. Again, I am forced into her consciousness. I see my mother, who radiated love and cared for me so much. The love I felt towards my mother, emanating from my small form was some of the purest, most joyful love I have ever felt. My mother was a medicine woman or hedge witch, who showed me how to make healing poultices, use healing plants and hunt and trap animals for food. I had no father. I played with my little brother and took him to the garden when people would come to see my mother. The same people who would kill her. Young women would come for love or fertility, and men for healing and virulence. To the child and to me she was the absolute embodiment of the divine feminine. The perfect balance of feminine and masculine. She was womanly and gentle with unbleached skin and light auburn hair with big blue eyes like sapphires.While these people used her for her services, they were always wary and scared of her. I could feel my child’s mind unable to understand, because the way I saw her as beautiful, loving and caring. She was pure. The people who used her were troubled and scared of everything including themselves.

illustration John D Batten
illustration John D Batten

I was thrown forward in time and I was still the girl but a little older, around 14 years old. I slept in a large tree at night to keep warm. I was able to hunt for myself and find any herbs, vegetables or plants that I needed. I was ultimately a recluse, withdrawing form human contact as much as I possibly could. She wanted me to see that we could take care of ourselves. That we didn’t need to rely on others. As I acknowledged this fact, I was thrown forward again to a time where I was approximately 20 years old. I was walking through the middle of a small town or village. The people that I walked past, mostly in a market place, stopped what they were doing to gawk at me. Some were whispering, few knew who I was. Others could feel or sense the power that was emanating from me, swirling around me, threatening to consume them if they dare approach. My destination was a hall which sat on a hill just above the village. The only way I can describe my thoughts while I was walking through the village was “NO FUCKS GIVEN.” I did not care what these people thought of me, what they said to me or about me. I was fucking magnificent, powerful and most of all, I knew it. I was there for a purpose.

As I approached the hall and opened the doors to enter, my eyes locked with a man in a large chair, someone who was clearly in charge. He knew who I was and I knew who he was. He was my father. And he had had my mother and brother killed. Whatever his reasons or intentions, I did not care. I stared at him until his gaze fell, possibly in recognition of who I was or in acceptance of what was about to happen. And then I cursed him. I cannot remember the exact words (probably a good thing) but they were similar to “I curse you and all your seed. Your line will begin and end with me. All you love, have ever loved and all you touch will turn to dust and fade. You will be nothing. You are nothing." The pure anger, hatred and vengeance was like nothing I had ever felt. At times I can be a vindictive person who will hurt others because they have hurt me, but this was next level. In this lifetime I was willing to sacrifice myself to hurt another person. To take away everything that mattered to him, because he had taken away the only thing that I cared about. My vow and the sacrifice I made for the curse was to be alone forever. I had lost the only thing that mattered and rather than try to find solace and acceptance, other people to care for, I chose hateful vengeance and a solitary life. I was shown a brief glimpse of the rest of my life, which was not overly long. I had a number of lovers and seduced anyone I could, with no acknowledgement of the pain I caused to people that had never hurt me. I bore children and in a way discarded them, found no joy in them, regarded them as a hindrance. And so I was always alone. I didn’t care for anyone.

Many years later, I went back to the village of my father. They eventually bound me in chains and placed me in a jail of some sort. In some way, I knew that my father was dying or very ill. I was at the end of my journey, the hate and rage had become exhausting and it was nearly over. I knew that to capture and kill me, despite the curse would give my father a measure of peace in his after life. So in my last act of defiance I pulled a vial of poison out from between my breasts, took the dram in one long swig and died with a smile on my lips because I had won. I had sacrificed my own peace to take away someone else’s.

Once again, I was standing in the valley beside the river bed, with the young woman who had placed the curse in front of me. As I looked at her, my eyes filled with tears and my whole body became tense, making me feel like I had been winded. I begged her to embrace me, to release the anger, hatred and the vow that held us both. She refused me. Who was I to tell her what to do? How could I make her release when no one else could? What happened next, was like some telepathic exchange where I explained that I knew how she felt, I had just seen it, I was also bound by her hatred. I pleaded with her once more and hesitantly she embraced me and then collapsed in to my arms. All the sadness, sorrow, hatred and pain left her, filtered into me and she became light as a feather. Before she was beautiful because she was fearsome. Now she beautiful because she was happy. She could be finally be with her mother and brother. They were standing there waiting for her, like they always had been. As she hugged me goodbye, thanked me and went to her family, all her emotions consumed me and bound me in vines from my feet to my neck. As they constricted and suffocated, this was the time I knew I could not wallow in my self-hatred and pity. I searched for anything to break me free from these constricting vines and found a dagger made of bone. As I began to hack away at the vines piece by piece, I could feel the tension in my body begin to ease, the anxiety slip away. I felt the hatred, vengeance and pain fall away with every vine. I cut through the curse and the vow and felt my body release generations of pain. I was free.

A month after I had my Swan Blessing, I journeyed to the UK. I went with a heart and head full of the excitement, knowledge and hope I had gained. And you know what? I was disappointed. I arrived in London expecting to be this amazing, free person, yet I still wasn’t. To be honest, after seeing Julia I did a little bit of work on myself but other than immediately after the blessing I didn’t feel significantly different. I thought it would all make sense when I left, when I escaped from everything I knew. I expected an instant fix. I saw friends in London and Liverpool and travelled to Glasgow on my own, waiting every moment for this 'epiphany' to happen. To let go of all my bullshit, to release my vow, to be as free as that girl in the sun, the one who had cut all the vines. Instead I was homesick. I was in a country I had wanted to travel to virtually my entire life and I was fucking homesick!? What the hell was wrong with me? Where was this magical realisation and cure all for me being a fucked up mess? Feeling quite dejected I continued on. I hired a car and drove through the Scottish Highlands, to the Isle of Skye, Inverness and back down to Edinburgh. I marvelled at the enormity of the highlands, the vast meandering emptiness that also felt so full of life with a sparkle in my eyes and a grin on my face. I forced myself out of my shell, talking to the travellers, asking their advice and picked up a hitchhiker who I travelled to Skye and Inverness with. I climbed mountains, stood on cliffs and swam in the Fairy Pools. I went searching for the Northern Lights of Inverness, driving along winding roads that felt so tiny and foreign. I stood on the banks of Loch Ness, with a song in my heart and picked a thistle for my one true love.

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During this time, I forgot that I was waiting for this 'epiphany'. I forgot that I needed a cure for being a mess, for being sensitive and cruel at the same time. It wasn’t until I was back in London and had a little down time that I remembered how important the Chalice Well had been to me. So I hired a car and drove out to Glastonbury, stopping at Stonehenge on the way. After arriving in Glastonbury late, I left early the next morning to drive towards Tintagel Castle and Cornwall. Due to lack of planning, I missed the opportunity to explore Merlins Cave. Pissed off, I hiked up a ridiculous amount of stairs against the tearing wind to look at some bloody rocks that form what was once a castle. I kept going, marvelling at the wildness of the country, avoiding massive slugs and goats that are apt to chase people. When I had reached a peak, I sat down partially from exhaustion, part memory and part sadness. I stood up and looking down at the ferocious sea, I screamed into the wind, yelling at the goddess, at god, at myself, daring the wind to become powerful enough to knock me into the sea and let it consume me. With a raw throat, salt stained face and teary eyes, I walked back to the car.

I had one more stop before I could finally go to the Chalice Well, and that was St. Nectan's Glen which I thought looked like a cool waterfall. Once I arrived, I started to walk along the path hurriedly as I just wanted to get a photo and get back in the car so I could make it to see the Chalice Well before it closed. Yet I kept walking. And walking. And bloody walking! Rather than taking in the beauty around me, I was hurrying. When I finally reached the entrance I walked down to the waterfall and I was on my own in this haunting glen. It felt like there was no one around for miles. Like I was the only soul left alive. I admired the ribbons hanging from trees, small piles of flat stones and the rushing water from the beautiful keyhole waterfall. I sat for a moment and contemplated whatever people contemplate in places such as this and then I stood up, took my clothes off and waded into the water and stuck my head under the freezing waterfall. Because why not?

I finally made it to the Chalice Well gardens that afternoon (after taking forever to find a park in tiny English streets, being yelled at for smoking too close to the gardens and scolded for coming towards closing time). I walked the gardens, took photos and drank the water which apparently has healing properties. By the time I came to the actual Well, I sat and cried. Not from sadness or happinessbut from acknowledgement. Sitting by it, I can’t honestly say if it was 'welling' with the spirits and powers of ancient magicks. I was too consumed in myself and my 'epiphany' moment. The Chalice Well was a reminder of how far I had come since sitting in the room in the forest with Julia and discovering my vow, my strength and my darkness.

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Despite making the vow to be alone and being afraid of it all my life, I learned it is okay to be a recluse at times in order to recharge and to do things on your like driving through Scotland. That like the little girl from my Swan Blessing, I can take care of myself, without reliance on others, what they think of me and their opinions on how I conduct my life. I realised that I am FUCKING MAGNIFICENT, even if I don't feel that way all the time and that while being born a woman, a cause of pain and frustration in many ways, is such a blessing that I need to own it and be proud of being this fucking divine. I don't need to constantly test people nor do I have to win all the time, as it is okay to let go sometimes. I acknowledge that I don't need to rush all the time, sometimes the universe is just screaming for you to take your time. Most importantly I realised that I am deserving of love and so much more.

While these might not sound like things worthy of a major realisation, these are issues that I have faced throughout my life. While I visualised cutting away the vines that day in the forest, they were never completely gone. Cutting the vines did not release my vow, but gave me the power to release it. However it doesn't come quickly. You release parts and pieces, acknowledging and bidding farewell. They will try to come back repeatedly (a bit like John Farnham) but you know better now. They're transparent and you are no longer ignorant. You won't let the vines creep up on you again. Whilst I understand not everyone can go on a journey like I did so soon after having their blessing, you don't need to. You have been awoken. You have seen your lightness and possibly your darkness. It won't come as easy as you think or will it come quickly and you will spend a long time keeping those vines at bay. But it's worth it. Because you're no longer happy to sit by in ignorance and bliss. Take the pain and harsh realisations because it is all worth it in the end.

I would like to thank Julia for not only the Swan Blessing but also the help and advice she has given me in the past. I have learnt that I don't need to hold on to things to make them true. I need to release them so that I am able to live."

Alex Walker, 2016

 

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Photos by Alex Walker

The Butterfly, the Black Swan and the Dreamers

Sacred Familiar MoonMedicine for this month is Butterfly Medicine.

As I dreamt with the butterfly medicine I became aware of how much we are living from our minds instead of letting the mind be guided by our soul or psyche (Butterfly). And let me say, I really love the MIND! I really do. I just think we use it for everything, including our dreaming and that changes the dreaming to planning or wanting or worrying. To dream and really dream we must feel free and open and expansive. This is why our sleep is so important - very often it's the only time the mind is resting. I believe the mind is best used as a powerful tool to research and plan with once the dream is known.

Is your dream known to you? My guess would be that at this point in time, especially after the very big shakeup we have been given astrologically over the last 3 years, you will have a sense of what you wish for yourself, your community and Mother Earth. Sometimes trying to hold a dream for the earth can feel really hard and so I always come back to the 'little' because the medicine dolls have taught me: 'the little is the big'. When we hold a new dream for ourselves of becoming whole, this ripples out and affects everything and everyone around us and that ripples out and ripples out... Even if the insight into the new dream has been gained by seeing events we don't want to create playing out in our present, this too is a gift. Sometimes it's very helpful to know what we don't want, to create the new dream. The key is to let go of the fears once we understand what the new dream is and wants from us. Hmmmm and this is where it gets tricky doesn't it?

I want to share two powerful examples of butterfly medicine here that have helped me so much over the last couple of weeks. The first is channeled wisdom from Lena Stevens shared on the Mystic Mamma website about the energy of this time creating stress and pressure that cracks the butterfly's chrysalis and most importantly why this is happening - because your dreams are working! And the second jewel was passed along to me by our dear friends in Ireland, Karen and John from Sli An Chroi . It is one of the most amazing performances I've witnessed in a long time. I felt it in every cell. I love it so much! Irish poet, Venus CuMara has dedicated her life to She, to the Mother of all Mothers and in this earth shattering piece delivers a loving and unstoppable message from Kali to the Butterfly. Whoah! It's all coming through the poets at the moment isn't it? I feel like we are finally listening to the poets again and I'm so happy and to have Venus CuMara's golden voice in my medicine bag as I step out of the cracked cocoon.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=su73InJ1raI[/embed]

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I feel like so much of what we are experiencing right now is already preparing us for next year and beyond. I get a sense that Butterfly will be with us for much longer than this month, perhaps it will be a totem for the whole of next year, an embodiment of the spirit of New Dreams and New Wings. But how do the new wings form? What dreams are building your new wings? What do you have to leave before you can try them out?

On the morning of the Full Moon last week I walked to the post office to pick up a parcel from my Dad. Inside was the enormous smokey quartz crystal you see above found on his friend's farm in Tasmania. They were digging a new track when this dark beauty was brought to light. Smokey quartz found in Tasmania is often very very dark but like all dark things when it's held to the light, you can see it is filled with chambers of brightness and caverns of colour. At the top corner of the stone you can see a yellow cavern - it is holding pieces of gold. Down the centre is a large cut where the stone was first hit - the cracking of the cocoon.

My cocoon is cracking too. I am awake and now cannot stay as I have been for the last 3 years in the forest. I had begun to presume that this was now my life - I would be a dollmaker living in the forest. I loved the simplicity and the unhurried feel to that dream. I liked the idea of being left alone to create for hours and hours and hours...and hours and hours and hours. This cocoon of creativity and very little contact with people in the outside world was beautiful and needed - for a time.

What I'm being shown in the new dream is that it's time to integrate the work of dollmaking with the Swan. There is a calling to travel and create medicine dolls with different plants in different lands and to experience the ancestral spirit there. I am very excited about this already dreaming dolls to be created in the Redwoods again next year, Scotland and Cornwall...and the ceremonies that will be held for the ancestral tracks and migration lines between Britain and Europe and Australia. I have been shown how these tracks are in need of love and tending and that by doing this work we will be bringing more peace to our ancestors and indigenous tribes of the land. My ancestry like many Australians is made up of Aboriginal, Irish, Scottish and English grandmothers and grandfathers. I would personally like to bring peace to this ancestral weaving and I am passionate about providing circle and ceremony for others to do this work in their own family constellations.

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Black Swan Fairy GodMother

In fairytales there is often a point when a magical person like the fairy godmother arrives and everything begins to shift and change - to dream. When I was young I loved to listen to recorded fairytales on little vinyl records that I would play over and over. I remember this moment of arrival of the fairy godmother or the witch or the wise sage was heralded by the sound of a bell or a harp. Just that sound told me that change and transformation was near. I believe that this repetitive and yes obsessive listening and engagement with oral storytelling was my wise child self practicing the art of active dreaming, vision-making and journeying. I have no doubt that the power of storytelling and significantly oral storytelling developed my mind's eye - I was tending to the ancestral track of the ancient dreamers and they in return shared their gifts.

Very soon I could dream awake - look into trees, rock pools, oceans and begin to 'see'. It is how I see a medicine doll before she is made.  I thought everyone saw like this but soon found I was wrong. I realised that many of the people around me had no access to vision, were either afraid to open their third eye or chose not to believe in it at all. The Swan, particularly the Black Swan, the bird of the land of my birth, is like a fairy godmother. She heralds the dreaming, the magical threshold, she acts as a trusted guide or psychopomp to the realms of the ancestors.

This is not my medicine but our medicine. We are dreamers. We all have our own individual way of dreaming and also our own totems that assist us in our journeys but we are dreamers in a huge weaving - we are dreaming as a collective. And so even though I resisted leaving my forest hermitage at first! I now understand how important it is to be gathering together to dream in community and to share those dreams. When I sit in a dream circle I am aware that each dream is all our dream. That the lessons and teachings are a gift for us all. And the Black Swan wants to bring more of the dreaming of our faraway brothers and sisters together. We will be opening the first of the Swan Blessing ceremonies in Melbourne in February, and travelling with the swan to return to Spirit Weavers Gathering in the Redwoods in California in June 2016 and also returning to Scotland, Ireland and to England in October 2016.

Hiraeth

Three years ago at Seven Sisters Festival I shared Swan Blessing and spoke to the women before we journeyed about the Welsh word 'Hiraeth'. This ancient word has no exact English match but when I explained it as a sadness, a homesickness for ancestors and ancestral lands and even times that no longer exist there was a huge surge of energy in the crowd. This Welsh word was describing what so many of us were carrying in our hearts - a longing for a time of connectedness through ritual and ceremony and communication with our ancestors.

I believe that dreaming is the key to unlocking our own sense of hiraeth. By actively dreaming and developing practice of dreaming at night whilst sleeping as well as active dreaming in journeying circles with community we are rebuilding and tending to the ancestral trackways. The more we engage, believe in and then act on the messages and visions we receive in our dreaming the more these trackways will become whole and strong again. There is no need for us to feel so lonely and adrift from our ancestral medicine - it is right there waiting for us to return, retrieve and use in our world now. Dreaming is our birthright.

Knowing that the Swan was waiting for me to journey with her again I travelled back to our old home in Williamstown and the swan sanctuary at Shelley Beach where the medicine of Swan Blessing was first passed to me. The black swans were there in a shallow lagoon and my hope was that I would find just 2 swan feathers - even that can be very difficult to achieve. That day the tide was right out and Tony and I stepped onto a beach covered in swan feathers. Last week on the full moon I returned to the swans again and this time was greeted by 3 swans who made a beeline for me. One swan came right up out of the water to display all of his feathers, including the white feathers underneath his wings (you can see him in the image below).

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How many times do we live and die and live again in this life? I think it is a constant cycle of living, resting in the cocoon until the new dream forms and leaving the cracked cocoon when it is time to live again. And so I encourage you to have faith in your dream and and your new wings and if you need an extra push just listen to Venus CuMara and her enchanting call to the wild and the free. I am so excited to sit with my sisters and brothers and hear the stories of their own dreaming.

I would offer one piece of advice - commit to your dreaming. As soon as I committed to the new dream to travel with the Swan I began to hear from other Swan Sisters from all around the world. I was surprised to discover we share so much similar medicine and dreaming after feeling like I was holding my own dream in the forest. We are many! If I had known this could happen in such a short time I would not have believed it, but that is the magic that awaits when we commit to opening the wings that we have been so lovingly growing. We are awake.

Mugwort Faerie Queen

Medicine Doll Story - RavenKeeper of Secrets

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A handblown glass vessel to catch tears. RavenKeeper of Secrets travels with her mama, a healer working with women & children in shelters and halfway houses. She is doll for them to tell their stories to when they are not ready or able to speak to anyone else.

In May this year I travelled to the Redwoods in California to share medicine dollmaking at Spirit Weavers Gathering. It was a beautiful experience to sit with sisters so far from my home in Australia and humbling too when I heard their stories about the deep and passionate work they are committed to doing. I especially loved catching up with sisters that previously I'd only spoken to online. Once of these women was Heidi Lafinier who I knew as Pura Vida Living and I was so happy when she sat beside me in one of our medicine doll circles. As we began Heidi mentioned that she had noticed how many of my dolls had braided hair and I told her it wasn't conscious it just felt right. She told me that in her Native American Cree tradition, braiding your hair was a way to preserve energy for yourself. To keep it strong and pure. She said just putting a small braid in your hair can help you from being affected by the energy of others - keeping your spirit close so you can work with other people who may be in pain and trauma and not have their energy affect you so much. I was very grateful to learn this and it really seemed to speak to the similar medicine of wool as an insulator, incubator, a holder of energy. Wool also is one of the few fibres that does not easily take in water -  just like our hair.

Fire Elemental Sacred Familiar

Fire Elemental Sacred Familiar

After I returned to Australia I made the Fire elemental medicine doll you see above and Heidi felt called to be her keeper. This doll told Heidi her name was Bold and she began to go everywhere with Heidi in her work with women and children in shelters and halfway houses. As a healer and grandmother herself, Heidi's passion is working with the Crone. Soon I received another request from Heidi for a new doll, a special doll and when I asked why, this is the story that Heidi shared with us to call in the spirit of RavenKeeper of Secrets:

"I have volunteered at the battered women's shelter and a halfway house for women just released from prison to perform Reiki.  I always take Bold and keep her with me, but on one occasion at the women's shelter a red haired little girl asked if she could hold Bold while I gave her mom Reiki, I saw no harm in this.  As her mom and I walked back into the room we overheard this: "And that's really how my arm was broken, thanks Bold I will tell the Police the truth now.  I love you too!"   She gave me Bold and we went home.

Bold didn't talk to me on the way home or at work the next day but I was busy and let it go, but after work we were off to the halfway house. These women are very hard or hardened.  I offered Reiki to one woman and another asked about the doll I kind of explained her and tried to hurry on, every red flag in my body said keep moving, she was someone I'd been warned about (hard, mean, hateful, violent etc.). But she said "I would like to talk to that doll while you do hanky panky to her" and she pointed to the other women.  I really did not want to give Bold to her, but Bold still wasn't really talking to me, so I handed Bold to her and I finished Reiki and rushed out to get Bold and it was like a different lady handed me back my doll.  And these are her exact words: "That is some doll, first person who ever believed me, and I have been telling the truth for 35 years"  and she turned around and walked away.  I stood there like an idiot.  On the way home Bold still didn't talk but that night I decided I should sage and cleanse her, but she spoke loudly then and said maybe you should meditate with me first!  Then she didn't betray any confidences but she let me see that she was not made to be a 'Keeper of Secrets'  she was there for me and she would always help me, but it was hard on her to take the pain of those she did not know, pain that was so indescribable she could not share with me.  Because she was my keeper.  So I helped cleanse her and we are whole again.

So I now Know, I need a medicine doll whose sole purpose is to be strong as steel, who can be the 'KEEPER OF SECRETS'.  This is something I believe I will come in contact with many times as I begin working with the Crones.  There are two very wise spirit animals that are considered Keepers of the Secrets.  One is the Lynx and one is the Raven.  The Owl is also related to secrets or the darkness of things.  None of these are bad as Creator only created good things for us."

RavenKeeper of Secrets

RavenKeeper of Secrets

I felt such strong emotions reading Heidi's story and request. It's stories like these that remind me of the power of the doll. How many times have we seen children talking with focus and emotion with their dolls? It is no wonder that many therapists and counsellors work with dolls when healing trauma. I felt a big responsibility to make her such a powerful vessel to hold all of these shadow stories but more than anything else I felt excited and very focussed.

The first question I asked the doll was who walked with her and it was clear - it was Raven. I began to lay out the silky black feathers. I thought about the doll's body and how strong she had to be - an anchor. I prepared a medicine bundle filled it with mugwort, fern roots, hawthorn flowers and peridot crystals from the Australian desert. I placed a drop of water gathered from the natural spring at the Equinox in the centre of the bundle. Everything about RavenKeeper of Secrets asked for the best. A medicine doll that was being requested so selflessly and who would be in service to so many received the finest fibres of angora, cashmere, merino and silk. Her hair is woven with Camel fibres and dyed with walnuts.

A vessel to collect your tears - RavenKeeper

A vessel to collect your tears - RavenKeeper

And then I remembered a beautiful glass bottle from my own personal medicine bag that held the sacred waters from the Chalice Well at Glastonbury. To these waters I added an oil blend gifted to me by a wise crone here in Australia for protection and healing and saw that this was a vessel to catch the tears as the stories were shared with the doll. And that she would hold the story for them until they felt strong enough to share it with someone who could be trusted.

And finally I decorated RavenKeeper's heart with silk rays of blue light around a labradorite that I only realised much later was in the shape of a tear that looked like it was falling into the glass bottle. This stone was also one of the finest in my possession and had been gifted to me.

In 6 months time I will journey again across the ocean to gather with my sisters under the redwood trees at Spirit Weavers Gathering. I look forward to hugging Heidi again and thanking her for honouring me with the opportunity to weave such a sacred doll. I look forward to holding RavenKeeper of Secrets again too and feeling how huge her heart has grown holding all those stories.

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Irina the Wolf Queen re-wilding in Sherbrooke Forest

Irina the Wolf Queen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNB8YZDhpIo&feature=youtu.be

 

There are parts of Sherbrooke Forest that have been wild and then owned and settled and then wild again.  In one part of the forest, an old residence is like a ghost in the garden, all that's left of any kind of human dwelling are pathways, drystone walls and mysterious manmade pools or ponds. It is a strange place because you feel the land's history and the present all at once and even though we are allowed to enter, I still often whisper and walk very quietly in this land. All I know is that many, many years ago this garden ceased being private land and was given back to Sherbrooke Forest and the trees, the vines and the ferns have made quick work of welcoming it back to the wild.

Melbourne author, Leah Swann is not only a writer I respect and admire, she is one of my dearest and oldest friends. We met over 20 years ago when we shared a house in Scotland with, let's say, a very curious collection of people. At that time it was rare to meet another Australian living in Glasgow. A  huge amount of our early conversations involved our fascination with sacred sites and ancestral mythology and nothing has really changed! As a writer, Leah is interested in creating ways to re-wild the spirit of women and men and at the heart of her trilogy for children and young adults, Irina the Wolf Queen, is a young female heroine who lives in a wild, intuitive and magical world inspired by the archetypal wisdom of fairytales.

As soon as I read Irina the Wolf Queen I saw it instantly as a film. Recently Leah had the opportunity to create a trailer, a visual welcoming into the imagined world of Ragnor where Irina and her wolves reside and she could think of no better place than Sherbrooke Forest. The young woman you see as Irina in the trailer and doing the amazing voice over is Leah's own daughter, Brigita - the inspiration for the character of Irina. I love this! I see this as active dreaming - to be literally creating the dream world of Irina in our present time. How amazing would it have been for our own mothers to have written a tale of magic and courage and then to have placed us as young women in the main role? And so Brigita is now walking and speaking in the dream of her mother and so this dreaming now belongs to both mother and daughter and the energy created is huge because underlying it all is a such a clear intention and collective dream for the sisterhood - to become the magical heroines of our own lives and to create our own mythology.

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It was a such a magical experience to watch the filming of this dream in Sherbrooke Forest. As usual, I am always tuning into the animals to learn more about what's going on and I spent a lot of time watching the beautiful Apollo, Irina's 'white wolf'. To say that his owner was worried about Apollo would be an understatement. Apollo is very powerful and strong, loves to chase birds and is extremely hard to catch. But like most intelligent beings, he is highly intuitive and sensitive to his environment and when he stepped into the filming and felt the focus and intention of everyone involved, he became at ease and serene. Apollo was so calmed by the conscious focus of the dreamers that he actually fell asleep in the middle of that busy forest at Brigita's feet.  I've seen this happen with our own dogs when they work with us. Even in stressful environments, the energy of creating with intention is powerfully calming. Perhaps this is a message for those of us who also feel sensitive in chaotic environments - keep your focus on the dream and what you are creating.

I believe there is a great need for stories like Irina for young women and men, if not only to create a balance with the strange message being broadcast through mainstream media to children but perhaps to even burst that bubble of pressure and illusion completely. Here's to the spirit of the wild wolf, to Irina the Wolf Queen and to the writers like Leah Swann who are creating dreams for us all to feel closer to magic and nature.

Sherbrooke Forest is a beautiful between place - between the tame and the wild. The last time Tony and I visited the garden where the filming took place we found deer tracks on the path. As we turned down a different pathway we heard the stag just ahead of us, we heard him snort and turn and disappear back into the trees.

www.leahswann.com

Purchase the Irina trilogy

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She Wears the Crown - Deer Medicine and Antlered Women

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"Originally Artemis herself was a deer, and she is the goddess who kills deer; the two are dual aspects of the same being. Life is killing life all the time, and so the goddess kills herself in the sacrifice of her own animal." 

Joseph Campbell

Sometimes we consciously track the sightings of our animal allies and sometimes they track us. I believe we have a family of animal guardians that make their presence known to us in many different ways. For myself, it is often in dreams but today as I prepared to write this letter as dedication to the medicine of Deer, I was amazed to realise just how much help and assistance Deer has been giving me all these years. I believe there is no right or wrong perception of an animal's medicine or message - it is very personal for each of us and so I can only share how the Deer shows up in my life and perhaps this will resonate for you too. I also want to share the medicine workings of a beautiful weaver who is working constantly with the spirit of Deer: Lindsy Richards. I feel that together we can find a common thread.

The first words that come to me when I think of Deer medicine are strength, grounding, intuition and sensitivity. Deer has taught me more than another animal that I need to be grounded to do intuitive work. It assisted me in creating my work and supporting myself financially through my art but only after I learnt the toughest lesson of just how dangerous it is for me to be in work environments that are damaging to my spirit. For me to talk honestly about this medicine and I understand now that Deer requires me to be truthful is to acknowledge the shadow. Recently someone commented that they hoped I was alright after reading one of my newsletters. I kind of had a little chuckle to myself - I am ok but if I just projected one side of my life where everything was light and easy that wouldn't be the truth and it wouldn't be natural. If I inspire or encourage anyone to embrace a creative life, I need to do it honestly and talk about the pitfalls as well as the heights. I think our society and media especially are interested in only presenting the light. But is it light if it is false? The cycle of nature that we get to observe so closely in the forest is always a balance between life and death. The Deer is one of the only animals where the females also grow antlers but these antlers are grown and then shed every year.

The biggest lessons I have learnt from Deer is the balance between freedom and discipline (limitation) and  independence and responsibility - when in balance beauty is created. So this medicine more than any other for me is about maturity and being healthy as I stand with one foot in the mundane world and one in the spirit world. When I do this it's as if my spirit grows antlers and I can then use them like antennae to receive messages and dreaming.

When I spoke to Lindsy there were many threads connecting us in our work but I was surprised to learn that the deepest thread was that the Deer and antlered women had come to us after a period of illness and breakdown - a kind of psychic and emotional rupture that made it impossible for us to keep trying to live in a way that wasn't truthful and authentic.

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In my mid thirties I was burnt out. I had spent most of my life in fight or flight mode and working in environments that were way too harsh for me and making me very unhappy. But I thought this is just what you did - you had to survive and support yourself right? Well my body soon told me who was really in charge. I got very sick and everything I was trying to hold onto and keep together fell apart - much like the Tower card in the Tarot. But something interesting happens when you hit rock bottom - you lose your ego and realise there's nothing left to lose so why not do what you love? I had to find my joy again and when I thought of where it lay it was always with reading the Tarot.

I began to dream up Sacred Familiar - a name in dedication to my beloved animal companions and so it is not really surprising that it was Artemis who began to show herself to me - the guardian of animals, women and children. I began to surround myself with imagery of Artemis and the Deer and for the first time in m life began to create my own work doing what I loved. At the same time as working purely in an intuitive field, I was managing a business, doing my own accounts and administration for courses. I have no doubt that it was the medicine of Deer that was helping me to navigate and create balance between these feminine and masculine traits. And I began to thrive.

My first ever physical encounter with a deer was when I leading a morning meditation walk at my first retreat in Warburton, Victoria back in 2009. I had chosen this area seemingly at random - little did I know I would be returning every month in the future to draw water from the natural spring. This was the first retreat I had ever held and a week before it was to begin, my father had a life threatening stroke and almost died. I had to fly to Tasmania to now be his voice as he had lost his power of speech and mobility. Suddenly I was the adult and was filling out and signing forms I could barely understand. I flew back to Melbourne and the next day I began the retreat. I was in a daze but felt strangely calm.

On the second day we woke early and went for a walk in the mist along the Yarra River. We heard an unfamiliar sound and looked up to see a stag and doe running through the front yards of houses along the street. It was a surreal moment to say the least especially as we had been talking about the Empress and the Emperor in the Tarot and now here they were presenting themselves. Just as quickly they disappeared from sight. To see these mythical creatures, not native to Australia, in the daylight, jumping the fences of suburban homes had a strange effect - it was at once magical and at the same time very, very familiar. That whole retreat was a graceful and easy experience and one I will never forget.

My next encounter with deer was soon after we moved to Sherbrooke Forest 3 years ago. The forest called and we answered but living here was another matter entirely. We soon began to hear stories from the locals of the wild deer and stag being sighted in the winter evenings. I felt that strange tug again in my tummy - a memory that I couldn't quite catch... At night I was beginning what would become my medicine doll apprenticeship and one of the very first dolls I made was a doll I called StagWoman. You can see her in the photo below and at the top of this post you will see the incredible drawing of StagWoman by Alice Savage who is now the doll's keeper.

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I made the first StagWoman (who actually lives inside Alice's StagWoman - a doll within a doll!) for myself to help me get used to living in the forest after living in cities for more than half my life. At night I would feel the heavy darkness and the movement of the animals and I felt the forest like a wild creature - Stag at my window. I was feeling old fears that I couldn't even believe I had - they felt somewhat medieval. My fear was of leaving the city or town - I worried about how to fend for myself, how to work for myself and how to survive when all of my clients lived in the city. As I was making this doll, a huge mountain ash tree fell a few metres from our home with a ground shaking explosion, sounding exactly like a car crash in the middle of the night. The next day I went and stood near the upturned roots of this fallen giant trying to come to terms with all this uncontrollable wildness - it all felt so dangerous.

As the doll grew I kept seeing antlers like the Stag growing through her hair. I was confused at first, was she male or female? She told me she was female but wore antlers. She was embodying both male and female and I let her be just that. She became an important talisman to help me find my own balance and to trust the wild that was not only all around us but also waking up inside me. Little by little I lost my fear of the forest and realised it wasn't actually even my fear but something like a bad spell or brainwashing put upon us to convince us that we need the city to survive or others to provide for us. I had to develop totally new habits and ways of working and as I did, the requests for medicine dolls grew. I now felt the spirit of the forest as a soft and caring presence who nurtured me but also confronted me when I was not being aware of nature and she would remind me to always live with nature instead of beside it or hidden inside my so called 'safe' home. I learnt that the forest is safety. The medicine dolls soon become my main source of work - work that I love and adore. And StagWoman keeps making herself known to me constantly through various different medicine doll incarnations. You can see some of them here.

Deer medicine is teaching me. And it keeps returning when I need reminding - like it's time to grow a new set of antlers. The lessons are about independence, freedom, living closer to nature and supporting myself to be here. The significance of the StagWoman is to clear and remove old beliefs around gender and what it means to be a woman living in this time now - how to be remain wild and at the same time take proper care of ourselves - to be free and responsible for ourselves at the same time.

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Deer Medicine Woman: Lindsy Richards

I met Lindsy when she attended one of my medicine doll circles at Spirit Weavers in the Redwoods this year. I remember her so well because she made the most amazing Marie Antoinette medicine doll complete with gown and white cotton candy wig. When I returned home to Australia Lindsy and I connected through instagram and when I saw the images of what she creates I was blown away. Through her work with Illuminating Archetypes, Lindsy is the creator of the most captivating and fascinating headdresses - many of them antlered. She told me how it was seeing one of my antlered medicine dolls that made her want to make her own medicine doll. We have since had a couple of discussions weaving the threads that connect our work and our own healing, discovering that it was the antlered women and Artemis that helped us to heal and grow forward.

I felt I truly understood Lindsy best when I read her story The Artist Mother - A Tale of a 'Wild Woman Archetype' on her website. It's such a strong Deer medicine and Artemis tale!

Lindsy Richards

Lindsy Richards

Lindsy: "Artemis is the resistance to domestication. Her twin brother Apollo (her opposite) represents the intellect and the culture, while she stands for the power of Nature and the Wild Self. She is the Goddess of the hunt, wild animals, the moon, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls. This Virgin Goddess symbolizes autonomy, the ability to belong to herself. She is an archetype of the self empowered woman. "Artemis comes to sanctify solitude, natural, and primitive living to which we may all return whenever we find it necessary to belong only to ourselves." ~Ginette Paris

All the animals of the forest are under Artemis's protection.  She is in such intimate relationship with them, she knows their rhythms, cycles, and habits. Yet as the huntress she must engage the primordial dance of kill and be killed. Artemis imagery is most often depicted with the deer/stag. She is a death/rebirth goddess. One who holds the mysteries of regeneration and cycles.

Artemis and Deer Wisdom: Be still and silent in developing your intuition. Trust your instincts and move swiftly. Approach your challenges with grace and determination."

I urge you to have a deeper look at Lindsy's work at Illuminating Archetypes to be taken to the realm of Deer medicine and I look forward to weaving more with Lindsy in the future!

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From Tree to Tree Dollmaking with the Spirit Weavers

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Well it's almost time for me to leave Sherbrooke Forest to meet our Northern sisters at Spirit Weavers Gathering in the redwood forest of Mendocino, California. I will be travelling with one of my dearest friends, Talulah of Making Sacred to share dollmaking and song circles at this gathering of amazing women sharing earth skills and wisdom. I see this gathering as a beautiful tapestry of medicine from our own ancestral lineages.

This is the first time that I have ever been to America and I am so curious about this journey. The Spirit Weavers Gathering is so exciting to me because it is a gathering based on sharing skills and crafts! There are so many incredible classes being offered it's really going to be difficult to choose what to do. Have a look at these beautiful offerings - perhaps you will be inspired to attend next year!

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And then of course there are the Redwoods themselves. These were the faerietale trees of my childhood imagination. When I was little I used to stay with an elderly couple after school. They would often be caring for injured and animals and birds. They were important to me because I didn't have any living grandparents - I see them now as foster grandparents. Their names were Mr and Mrs Elks and they would have been in their 70s. It was during the 70s too and they had this print, Serenity by Paul Detlefson on their wall and I used to sit in front of it for hours. In my imagination I played in this forest often. About 5 years ago I came across exactly the same print in an opshop and now this beloved image from my childhood is hanging in our home. It's going to be very special to actually meet and sit amongst these giants, and even better to weave medicine dolls in their ancient embrace.

If you would like to get in touch I will be back home in the last week of May.  Tony and Fox are holding space here at home as I move from one forest to another. And I travel with this boulder opal heart to keep them close with me.

See you soon weavers! Love, Julia

Boulder Opal Sacred Familiar

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You are already what you Seek - Medicine Doll as Mirror

Wizard doll by Sacred Familiar

"I wanted a doll that would remind him of who he really is, and oh my goodnes, I could not have orchestrated it more perfectly myself! When Lachlan saw his doll he was beside himself with excitement. He then started connecting with the doll and looked at me and said... "Hey Mum, this doll is ME. It is a wizard, just like me. It has a dinosaur tooth, and I love dinosaurs. It has nature, and I like nature. It has green, and green is my favourite colour, and it was made in Sherbrooke forest, and we love Sherbrooke forest!"

Wizard medicine doll made for Lachlan's 9th birthday

Over the weekend I received this beautiful message and it couldn't have come at a better time. To know that a doll has made a child feel this way is all the confirmation and praise I need. Thank you so much Lachlan and Nat - these words make my heart explode with happiness!

Medicine Doll by Sacred Familiar

StarTribes Medicine Doll by Sacred Familiar

At the moment I am writing about the magic of the medicine doll to help me to prepare for Spirit Weavers Gathering in 2 weeks. It's a hard one to put into words. People often ask me how to 'use' a medicine doll and I have come to understand that a doll is always personal, there are no rules. They are holders and vessels for love, for healing and for your intentions. They can be powerful links to ancestors, especially when adorned with sacred family treasures. A medicine doll can help you to access the child within, help you face your deepest fears and when placed beside your bed they can have a strong presence in your dreaming.

And the medicine doll can become a mirror or a bridge to a powerful part of yourself that you might not always be able to express or feel - but you're getting there! Essentially I feel like a medicine doll is a friend and the more time you spend with this friend the more you love them. Perhaps you begin to tell the doll the secrets that you hold in your heart and cannot share with others. Here is a doll that helped me overcome my own fear. The doll lives with you daily - through good times and bad - the doll is always accepting. And then a funny thing happens - you realise that this friend is also a part of you, perhaps the most deepest and honest part of yourself. And this little vessel has become a being that knows you so well and accepts you completely. Then, that love that you have for this little doll begins to flow back to yourself. You see that you are also a beautiful, magical and creative being. You heal yourself.

Dollmaker Sacred Familiar

Thank you Nadia Turner for this drawing of Fox and I dreaming in a doll together - I think it captures perfectly the essence of enchantment around a medicine doll.

Julia Inglis, Dollmaker - Sacred Familiar

I feel like I am at the very beginning of a long apprenticeship in the craft of dollmaker. I'm grateful to the lineage of ancestral doll makers of the past and for the opportunities to pass this craft on to future dollmakers. And while I am still trying to find the words to describe the ancient connection that humans have always felt for the doll, I have been looking at vintage photographs of children and their beloved dolls on Pinterest.  It might just be me, but I am starting to see that all dolls are medicine.

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Autumn Equinox Medicine Doll

Autumn Equinox doll by Sacred Familiar A huge thank you to everyone who joined in our medicine doll circle in the forest at Autumn Equinox. This is the doll that was created in our ceremony dedicated to the Stag, Fox and Lyrebird. She holds an Acorn and Wormwood with Fox and Deer medicine inside her body. The intention she holds is stillness and acceptance of yourself as you are. You are Love.  She is made from pure Australian Merino wool and her hair is created from Ramie – a plant fibre from the nettle family.

I completed her this morning after dreaming of a Stag running beside me.