Imagine an island on the very edge of the Celtic world. An island steeped in myth. An island which in summer is bathed in long lingering twilights which paint the landscape with mystical hue - the inspiration for ancient people’s who told the first stories. This is an island whose Gaelic name is the Isle of the Big Women.
This year on the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland retreat (8-15th June) on the Isle of Eigg in Scotland you will create a doll inspired by one of the Ancestral Mothers, one of the ancient stories. You will learn the process of needle felting and create your very own art doll.
Your inspiration is boundless as you walk the land, visit sacred sites and offer gestures of ritual and hear stories of the Ancestral Mothers in guided meditations.
Ever since my first visit to these shores 20 years ago I was smitten - who are the Big Women?
One story of the Big Woman dates from the introduction of Christianity to the island. A local Pagan Queen based on the mainland used the island for grazing her cattle. When a local monk (now known as Saint Donnan) set up shop and began practicing the new faith of Christianity she wasn’t amused. She gave him a few warnings but the saint in training kept on preaching and so the Queen of Moidart sent in her female warriors. The warriors gave Donnan another warning but he kept on preaching and Donnan and his monks were slaughtered by the warriors. Archeological digs have actually unearthed excavated bodies which were indeed headless! That’s not the end of the story as the legend which flowed from the pen of Christian scribes states that after the slaughter of the monks that night at midnight eerie lights appeared above the bodies and entranced the female warriors. The warriors were seemingly powerless to resist the pull of these lights and in a trance-like state followed the lights which led them up to the Loch high up on the island. The lights then entered the water and the female warriors followed them to then be drowned under the waves.
This magic motif of the eerie lights sounds like something borrow from another time, a Pagan past. The lights possibly symbolic of mystery and magic, of earth energy. Personally I believe that the Christian scribes borrowed this motif from an older era and used it as a story to kill off the warriors.
When you visit the loch and the sun sparkles reflecting big fat diamonds it’s a reminder of the warriors. And there is an invitation to step into the loch, to submerge yourself below her sacred waters as I was called to do several years ago! On the retreat we will hear the stories of other Scottish Amazons - such as Scathatch from the neighboring isle of Skye and another ancient amazon from the isle of Hirta (St Kilda).
Cee’al - A Bean Feasa (Wise Woman of the Seals)
So who will be your inspiration to make a doll - the warriors? The Cailleach - a pre-Celtic crone who offers one of the most ancient creation stories. Maybe you’ll be drawn in by the stories of the Old Antlered One and her priestesses, or maybe the Goddess Brighid - as these isles ‘The Hebrides’ are her islands. Maybe the sight of a seal, dolphin or even an orca and the story of Cee-al a wise woman who dates to the time of some of the first visitors to this island over 6,000 years ago will be your inspiration.