Saturday, 31 December 2016

The Abernethy Adventure

I am in Scotland visiting friends, more like family really. It has been a busy and intense time so to have some down time in the nurturing arms of loved ones in an epic landscape, with several glasses of something good, feels a pretty perfect end to the year and a good start to a new one.

I am in Scotland visiting friends, more like family really. It has been a busy and intense time so to have some down time in the nurturing arms of loved ones in an epic landscape, with several glasses of something good, feels a pretty perfect end to the year and a good start to a new one.

A few days ago, Sarah decided to take me to Abernethy because, knowing I am into such things, there is "a stone" there I might like. 

Oh what a discovery the whole thing turned out to be ... 

Upon doing a little research before we went I found out that this stone has Pictish carvings upon it.  My spidey senses began to tingle as I read that the symbols were an anvil and hammer; a tuning fork; and a crescent and V-rod.  Sounded rather like the symbols of the metalsmith, the bard and possibly the healing aspects of Brighid.  Then I read on to find that the tower, one of only two round Irish towers in Scotland, is next to a church dedicated to St Bride.  So it seems She is calling loud and clear.  

After meeting up for the walk, my friend's pal asks what do I want to see first, the Stone and Tower or the Witches Hole and the fort.  A witch's hole indeed.  So up the hill we go, towards the site of the Pictish fort.  A bit of climb rewarded us with an epic view and an info board.

The site of the fort, on it's commanding look out point, seemed to be in a perfect line, with the tower and the point in the distance where the Tay and the Erne met at a jutting point in the river.  From this vantage point the tower was clear, and it seemed to me that if there was a current church dedicated to St Bride/Brigid then, it must have been a sacred place to the Goddess for much, much longer. The map revealed not only a Witches Hole to find, but three small pools along the same line.  We climbed higher passing a small spring. 

The first pool was easy to find.  Right on top of the hill, inside the boundary of ditches, was a clear pool with a large yellow flat stone in the centre.  Magical and perfect for scrying.  I circled the water and again the large ditch remains.  After a bit of rambling and scrambling down the further side, the other pools were found.   It was at the second pool that I became aware that three pools were also three cauldrons.  The whole hillside was thick with a magical air. 

On the way back down I found a flat round area with a rather enigmatic hawthorn in the middle.  I spend some time sitting with fay energies there. 

Slightly disappointed not to have found an obvious Witches Hole, we began to make our descent, taking a slightly different path than before. And all of a sudden, there it was, up in the side of the hill, the place where only a few hundred years ago apparently three women had lived, healing those who came to find them.  A small cave.  

I cannot begin to describe how it felt to sit in that space.  The crystal waters dripping from the roof at the front, but bone dry at the back. Perfectly sheltered with the most incredible view.   We sat peacefully for some time. 

Down at the bottom of the hill we chose the Witch's Road into the village.  An old track that followed the banks of the river, till crossing near small falls and onto a way lined with hawthorns.  As we neared the village the Tower rose straight ahead, next the iron church gates announcing the "Kirk of St Bride".

And there was the stone ... 

The hammer and anvil are clear on the left and right, with the tuning fork in the middle.  The right hand edge and base of the stone is a little lost and worn.  At the bottom is the crescent and v-rod, which I found out later is a common Pictish symbol for the solar disc and broken arrow.  The arrowhead is missing on the right here. 

We acquired the key for the tower from the cafe, a whopping fifteen centimetre thing, and the whole thing got a bit Enid Blyton as we opened the door and ascended the spiral staircase.  At the top, next to the bell still in situe, we climbed the ladder, pushing a trap door up and out, to a panoramic vista.  In the distance the hill where we had just been.


In the past few days since the adventure itself, I have discovered that Abernethy Chapel was founded by one of the Nechtans, king of the Picts c460 CE and dedicated to St. Bride. The old church was demolished in 1802. The present chapel is 19th century.  

Abernethy was the most sacred of sites to ancient Picts. The capital of the kingdom as it was, was known as 'Obair Nechtan' to the Highlanders, which means Nechtan's work or stronghold.  No only that, the titular, royal throne name, The Bruide, was given to each Pagan Pictish king, because he was viewed as the male manifestation of the spirit of the Goddess. Bruide is derived from Brigid, which makes me think of the granting of Sovereignty and the Sacred Marriage of king and goddess in the land itself.  Quite possibly these rites happened there in Abernethy for many centuries.  We do know for sure though, that the place was dedicated to Goddess Brighid, in Pagan times, and to St. Brigid, in Christian times.  

The long line and history of witches of Abernethy was eventually halted by the Laird of Invernethy who, tricked them into revealing their names.  They were marched, not just three, but twenty two of them, along the Witches Road, burned upon the hill and buried, just beyond in the 16th century.  The mounds are still there on the other side of the hill, marked on the map as Witches Graves. 

In the area of the hillfort a bronze brooch, a polished felstone axe and stone lamps  from the 2nd or 3rd century have been found .  A legend  about the topmost pool reminded me of the large flat yellow stone I saw.   When the Scots were fighting the Picts, in a failed attempt to escape a nurse with the royal heir in a solid gold cradle drowned in the lochan. Apparently when Scots tried to retrieve the gold a strong wind blew up and a woman appeared to them, rising out of the water saying these haunting words ...  

"Forbear, forbear or thus feel my power! 
The golden cradle can never be got; 
till mortal man, undaunted, at midnight mirk hour; 
Nine times alone shall encircle me round: 
then, then shall the golden cradle be found." 

So ...  much history of kingmaking, magick and the goddess was found on our Abernethy Adventure.  I wonder where Brighid will call me to next.  I'm so glad I have friends that take me to see random stones.  

Heidi x

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Keepers Of The Flame

I'm very excited to announce this new e-course.  This has been emerging for some time and I'm pleased to say my dear friend Lou is also adding some of her wisdom to it too. It will be a wonderful opportunity to dive in deep, immersing yourself in the wisdom of Brighid, and the ancient ways of the Celtic lands during February.

Whilst holding the space for this exploration of this inspiring and potent Goddess I will be doing a different sort of vigil this year.  Lou and I are on a Pilgrimage dedicated to Brighid and her Flame.  So if you would like to follow us online please do. 

My friends Jani and Sharon have set up a fundraising page too, to make sure we are able to get to all the places we are hoping to visit as part of this honouring of the Goddess and the Saint.  

Please join us, in one way or another, celebrating one of our most important Sacred Feminine archetypes in the Northern Hemisphere during her days of vigil in the New Year.  

Heidi x

Monday, 12 December 2016

Treat Yourself To Multiple Relaxasms

I heard this gleaned this wonderful phrase from Shiva Rea, the yogini goddess.  She said ...

"Have multiple relaxasms, a being peace practice of letting go and relaxing completely for a full breath cycle or more wherever you are, no matter what is going on, multiple times throughout the day and night. Bliss of Being, Om Shanti"

How lush is that?  And very apt for the upcoming festive season, which, whilst jolly and merry, can also be a bit frantic, at a time of year when all we want to do is slow down.

So how do you have just one relaxasm, let alone a multiple?  Well the key is in the word "being". Being not doing.  Just stopping and existing.  Just being and coming fully into awareness of the breath and the body.  Allowing the breath to connect you so deeply with body presence that tension just drifts away a little.  Drawing in the breath with absolute focus and then exhaling with wave of release.  Do you feel it, that sensual, gorgeous wave of peace and letting go?  That right there is the relaxasm.

With practice, just like a few other things, those relaxasms can get really profound and blissful.  So remember to have as many as you like this coming Yuletide, Hanukkah or Christmas.  These traditions all celebrate the light, and just remember the breath is how the light gets in.

Heidi x

Monday, 5 December 2016

Why The Red Tent?

A while ago some friends and I, scattered across the world, had an online conflab, a heart to heart of the most honest sharing. We shared our fears around finances, conception, child loss and motherhood struggles. We supported and commiserated. We gave out wise words and virtual hugs. I personally felt so much stronger and more nourished for that.

Those friends and I are all women involved deeply in women's circle work, womb wisdom, healing the earth and the raising awareness of the sacred feminine around the globe. As I came offline I thought "that was red tent right there" and I so needed that.

This is part of the reason why I'm passionate about the Red Tent movement and the ones I am honoured to hold. This honest sharing  makes us not feel so isolated or alone in our worlds.  It is comforting to know other women get you, and to know that some are going through same or similar.

This popped up in my Facebook feed on Friday and I thought "Red Tents aren't like that"  In them during the Sharing Circle women do listen to understand, without interruption, judgement or feed back.  The other thing they do whilst listening is bear witness.   This is key to each of our healing process and strengthens our own intuition and trust in finding our own answers. To have someone honour the truth of your current or past struggles or successes is a powerful part of the Red Tent.  For many women it can be the first time their voice has been truly heard. When no one is listening to reply, but just to hear you and see you for all that you are this is the powerful juicy stuff of great change and inner transformation.

Once that bearing witness has happened, then if needs be advice can be sort.  But often in the listening to others, and hearing them, we find so much resonance and wisdom that our own answers come anyway.  I've seen women have huge lightbulb moments about their own stuff as someone else is speaking their truth.

There is something so true about "a trouble shared is a trouble halved" and it is also true that a joy share is a joy doubled, if not more.

And this is the other part of the Red Tent.  It is the place to celebrate all that is woman.  Recently I've had the joy to take part in three Mother Blessings and a Menarche Ceremony.  The happiness and healing generated in all the participants at these Rites of Passage and Celebrations is a wonder to behold.  A circle of women bond even closer and the wider community is strengthened.  The society of women as a whole is less fragmented, stronger and wiser.  From this place it is easier for each woman to rise.

These are just a few of the reasons I love the Red Tent.  Here are a few reasons why other women love them ...

“The Red Tent feels like a homecoming - a place I've always longed for but didn't know existed. It has healed my relationship with other women in a powerful way, I always leave having learnt and grown”

“The red tent gave me the sisterhood I didn't realise I was craving, the voice I hadn't realised I had lost, and the permission to be myself”

“In the Red Tent I felt a sense of recognition and strength with other women and found the belonging I've been missing.”

So why not join the circle.  Come and find our New Forest and Southampton Red Tent if  you are in Hampshire, or check out the European Red Tent Directory for one elsewhere.  

Heidi x

Standing Rock

I honour and applaud the sacred warriors, young and old, from many tribes, indigenous and otherwise, from many backgrounds and many different places around the globe, that came together to peacefully and compassionately to bring about a halt to the DAPL at Standing Rock. What an inspiration they have been.  To stand firm in their prayers and their love in the face of hostility and violence. To be unmoveable guardians and protectors for Mother Earth and all our relations despite the hardship and personal cost.  They have surely shown us the way.

It is a huge victory, but not for the reasons that may seem obvious. Here are some wise words and clarity about what this means for the world from Lyla June Johnston. "We have some work to do but let's take a moment to do the happy dance"  .  The full video is here .  Please take a moment to watch.

Inspired, for many years now, to be my own spiritual warrior in the ways I can, I have stood, in my heart, in my signing of petitions, in my verbal and written support, and with certain personal actions, with those at Standing Rock. I know so many of us have.  Together, not only in the big, but also the hundreds of small actions, we are the turning tide.

Here are my thoughts on stepping up in to the path of sacred activism and what that truly means. The long and the short of it is saying no and standing in firm in defiance when your truth tells you to do so, and saying a big yes and taking action when you heart calls you to do so. Let's continue to be that change, together

Heidi x

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Pilgrimage Is Afoot

A pilgrimage is a journey not only in the outer world, but also of the inner landscape. It is an unfolding of the heartmind and a transformational process of the soul that happens as we travel and visit, with intent, sacred sites.

This sacred journey is one of two women, both of us Keepers of the Flame, and between us we have been observing Brighid’s twenty day vigil in February for several years.
We met because, although an ocean apart, Lou had a dream which urged her to contact me. She dreamed that what she was looking for was to be found in a Moon Lodge in the New Forest, in England.  We were previously completely unknown to each other. Lou eventually flew to meet me and to visit her family in 2014. The night before leaving to go home, I gifted Lou the Brighid Flame.   It was a very sacred, yet short and snatched ceremonial moment, at one end of a restaurant table. Next to us nattering away were our two boys and Lou's dad, chowing down the rest of their curry.  I felt called to gift  the Flame before I met Lou at the restaurant, and our unfolding conversations revealed why it was perfect. We have done much Brighid research and journeying together ever since.
I personally have been inspired or guided for the last two years, during my time with the Flame itself, to go on a physical pilgrimage as a vigil, and it seemed to add to the particular themes that was coming up for both Lou and I in connection with Brighid as Saint, Druidess and Goddess, Brighid through the ages, and corresponding sacred sites and places in Ireland and Britain.
We plan to launch this online vigil for Brighid this coming February, and hope that many women and men around the world will sign up with us, as we send them a daily email message with visualisation journeys, meditations, prayers, poems, songs and crafts to support them in their journeys, enabling them to honour and connect with Brighid from their homes. We will also be holding a separate Facebook group for those who wish to come along on, virtually enjoying our pilgrimage too.
We intend to start in Kildare, Ireland, during Brighid’s festival, beginning with her in the present day as Christian Saint. We will be moving back in time gradually to her Celtic pagan past, finding our way to the Druid stronghold of Anglesey. Finally we will begin to retreat into the stillness and the presence of the Goddess herself as we make our way to Iona. We have a clear path of pilgrimage that will connect each time period to the facets of Brighid and the Sacred Feminine.
Lou and I both hold women's circles of learning and support, and facilitate workshops in our respective countries. We teach various areas of women's well-being, empowerment and spirituality, and both also offer one-on-one healing work for women. We work hard to create and be a part of evolving community. What we glean from this pilgrimage will be offered back into those communities. We both feel that Brighid is a pertinent archetype for the times we are living in and we wish the Flame to burn strong in the hearts and minds of many.
For me, this journey is three fold. I have this deep yearning and inner knowing that I just have to do it, and it is very much part of my soul’s path, my learning and my stepping up. I feel deeply called to honour her this way. I also wish to connect with others who love her, finding out what she means to them and why they think she has endured in our hearts and psyche for so long. Lastly this. Just three years into grieving the loss of my daughter, I felt called to do such a pilgrimage upon the ten year anniversary, not knowing how or where or for why. The Goddess Brighid, already a wisdom thread in my life, became more and more prominent after my daughter’s death in 2007. Two years ago the seed of an idea of a pilgrimage dedicated to Brighid emerged. It just unfolded with such a burning desire, that I had actually forgotten by this point my original plan of the ten year memorial journey. I realised after the wheels were set in motion that the two things remain entwined, but at a very deep place. So I will walk with that too in my heart at some level.
Lou has several layers to her journey too. Like me the Divine Feminine is woven into her life, so there is an enriching and learning to be had. Lou longs to deepen her connection with Brighid, and to strengthen her Celtic roots and her connection to the land she no longer lives in. The sacred songs are also calling to her. The Flame of inspiration is burning bright. She will gather old songs and create new ones. Songs for Brighid, her songs of water and of fire, and the songs of people and of the land. Lou will take them home to a singing community in Canada and the Flame will burn on there.
We ask for your help in making this so. Come join us on a very special pilgrimage. Our public Facebook group for this is here.  We will try and add photos and short videos on route.  For those who wish for a deeper journey keep you eyes peeled for our online "Keepers of the Flame" vigil and course.

So ... the pilgrimage is afoot ... and a car, and several ferries ... and who knows what else ;)

Heidi x