The Hearth of the Antlered Mother has grown out of the Pictish Spirit Nine Drums space, a creative totality that includes all aspects of my experience of motherhood, feminism, spirituality and art practise. I walk with Cailleach and Bhrìde at core, with aspects expanding through the mythological women of Sgàthach and Aoife as symbolic of women who have had to exist and survive in patriarchal and warrior cultures since the Bronze Age. In this way, the Hearth is connected through my Scots ancestry to a current re-visioning and re-storying of what it means to be human, and particularly a woman, in our very troubled, contemporary times.
The Antlered Mother walks in many cultures, her primal source quite likely found in the human experience of interdependence with herds of reindeer and deer in Europe. Cailleach is envisioned as Deer Mother from the most ancient times living in sacred relationship with the prehistoric herds of reindeer, giant deer and red deer that roamed the land and were depended upon for survival. Her vast age can be seen to be synonymous with the very beginnings of human consciousness in such relationships, and, of course, with Earth herself.
The evidence of widespread female-honouring cultures of Palaeolithic, Mesolithic Britain and Old Europe support the assumption for co-operative prehistoric tribal groups, and provide skeleton-myth and seed-stories which, although fragile, can provide a template for the values of mother-centred culture we might imagine today. The cyclical value system and nurturing practise of the act of mothering which includes but is not limited to the process of childbearing, informs Goddess consciousness (also known as The Female metaphor*), activism and visions for matristic economy and culture. A deep shift to this value system has the potential to form a scaffold for healing from at least five thousand years of the prevalent violent patriarchal / dominator societies. Coming into some understanding of the historical context for these dominator societies is vital for women.
I have long been interested in facilitating space for women to learn about, celebrate, and to heal and grow with relationship to their own ancestral lineage with the Antlered Mother and a value system connected to Goddess, or The Female Metaphor. Connecting with like-minded women, women with questions, women who are just embarking on their radical spiritual quest in tune with their own ancestry, and women who need support simply to keep going on already well-undertaken journeys – Hearth of the Antlered Mother offers time and space, guidance, grounding and inspiration for such endeavours. For like the Reindeer, we make the cyclical migrations throughout cycles great and small, growing in ourselves and with others in readiness for that time when we may one day find ourselves as guiding matriarchs of a wisdom-herd.
The Components of the Hearth
The components of the hearth – earth and stone, kindling, fuel, oxygen, shelter, and opportunity for transformations – are actual and symbolic structural and guiding energies of life. I envision the Hearth of the Antlered Mother as a Hearth – one of many such spaces facilitated by women – specifically connecting the symbol of the cultural hearth and an individual’s ‘inner’ hearth, to the natural, organic reality of the Reindeer Mother, the only female deer to grow and shed antlers in a cyclical round. I have learned mostly from other elder women concerned with this kind of work in very domestic, nourishing situations – usually around a hearth of some sort – and it has therefore been a priority for me to make the space approachable, organic and warm.
Winter Solstice is a relatively mild time as experienced here in Strathalbyn, South Australia. The cold and dark time brings the need for light and warmth most starkly into focus for me, challenging me to get creative with quilts, shawls, and handmade blankets from mother and grandmother. The focus is on thick nourishing soups and stews, simple food to nourish and appreciate.
Here, the winter solstice season occurs in June, but when December rolls around the mainstream cultural appropriation of symbols and traditions of this seasonal event are firmly embedded in the wider, consumerist culture of tinsel, plastic, and over-extended budgets. At both times of the annual round I am trying to integrate and balance what the Ancestral Mother advises, and the needs of the immediate environment, sometimes very contradictory things! And yet these contradictions can also provide a fertile ground for creativity. A themed dinner party, red and green ribbons and the ceremonial releasing of stored energy in a fire (which here in December might be a candle, or a symbolic table decoration), honouring my Ancestral Mother and our family and cultural lineage by remembering and sharing stories whilst enjoying iced drinks and fresh fruit, the bounty of an Australian summer. For me, contradiction and complementarity are the essence of honouring the Antlered One, for life and death flow together in ever-renewing cycles. The practice of bringing my awareness to two simultaneous solstices enables nuance, and one might hope, some threads of wisdom to be woven into the lives of family, friends and community.
The term "The Female Metaphor" referred to in the essay comes from the work of Glenys Livingstone in PaGaian Cosmology https://pagaian.org/book/contents/
Louise Hewett is a writer, artist and Goddess feminist, based in Strathalbyn, South Australia where she lives with two of her four children among books, crystals, and a growing collection of antlers.
The Pictish Spirit novels, Mist #1, Wind #2, Flowers #3 and Storm #4 are available to purchase via Amazon and Book Depository. Click here to visit her author page on Amazon