Today I share Lori’s Swan Blessing story of the ‘weaving healer’. Ever since returning from Cornwall last year where I was given my first hagstone that I carried with me through Ireland and Scotland I began to feel a deepening of the Swan Blessing work. In honour of these magical stones that feature a hole made by the elements wind and water and were rumoured to show the ‘otherworld’ when looked through, I created new Swan Blessing sessions called The Hagstone. The focus of these sessions was to unblock or recover our own way of seeing into the unknown and receiving a healing vision that will not only give us answers about the past but help us to put our natural gifts to work again in our present lives. Even if these gifts are not understood by everyone and especially if we hold a wound about them being shut down as children, these gifts belong to us and they are beautiful and need an expression in the world again.
With all Hagstone sessions I ask the one seeking a vision to prepare in the days before by recalling a time in childhood when they felt completely magical and open to their gifts and shared them happily with others. Once this has been remembered we look at how and why these gifts came to be seen as wrong or even almost a secret. Lori had contacted me with the intention to ‘connect fully to my creative spirit’. She remembered that as a child she had loved being a storyteller and was good at it but there was now some kind of fear or anxiety around expression or trying to write about what is sacred. I opened and held space for Lori so that we could journey together and see where and why her voice been silenced? This is Lori’s Swan journey to find the weaving healer and uncover the hole in the stone.
Artwork: Woman Spinning Wool by Knud Berslien
The Hagstone – Swan Blessing Story
“My first Swan Blessing was almost a year and a half ago. It was a particularly visual journey and felt easy to write. Since that time, I’ve undergone a few deep initiations and find myself at another crossroad, deeper into my path. My inside voice said it was time to sit with Julia again.
For some reason, the story of my Hag Stone Blessing doesn’t feel easy to write. It was a far more “feeling/sensing” journey than a visual one this time. I was releasing a few profound pieces the night Julia and I gathered for the blessing (unbeknownst to Julia.) The process brought on immediate physical release and healing. For these reasons, this blessing feels far more personal. I am going to push through this uneasiness, though, and just write the story because it’s part of the healing.
My intention for this blessing was to fully open my gift of connecting to the language of nature ~ to fully connect to my creative spirit. When we entered the blessing space, I was reminded of my gift for writing stories and how it bridged the distance for my child-self when we moved away from my favourite magical place (“the lake”) and my favourite magical people (my maternal grandparents.) I was reminded how my maternal grandmother used to tell me stories and how I got lost in the magic of those tales ~ how I could literally FEEL the magic. “Magic”, to me, is a kind of full feeling that comes either into my head first or my heart. It feels like absolutely anything is possible ~ like doors you never knew were there are opening. It fills my body and sets off all the lights in my brain, like a beautiful symphony of fireworks. It’s the fuel of living beauty and when it flows, perspectives may be shifted, wounds may be healed and lives may be changed.
Julia guided me to the well. I looked in and saw a woman moving up through the water. She had the brightest green eyes and long, blonde hair. I didn’t recognise her. Julia asked me, “who do you see?” I was having difficulty because I didn’t know who I was seeing, but the woman kept staring at me with smiles and mischief in her eyes. I was about to tell Julia that I didn’t know who I was seeing when I was filled with a powerful feeling, beginning in my heart – one I knew inside and out. It was the spirit of magic. The woman was me in another lifetime. She took me into her realm and as we walked the footpath through the forest to her home, she was talking aloud in an almost sing-song voice. Many forest animals came running to her and she put her hand out to greet them. She lived in a small, white stone cottage filled with a welcoming spirit. Every part of this place was infused with a sense of peace, of grace, of being found ~ a place where a person could finally put down their troubles and find solace. It was a bright place filled with jars of delicious things, threads, brushes, cloth, and supplies for all kinds of needlework. A big fire was burning brightly in the fireplace and there was a pot hanging over the flames. There was a full picture window that spanned the length of the front of the cottage. To the right of the fireplace was a wall full of shelves. The shelves were full of wool ~ some raw, some spun. Then I saw a beautiful spinning wheel and a loom.
Women would come to her for healing. One by one. She sat them down in a chair and stood behind them, not touching them, but close enough that they could feel her comforting presence. She did this until she could sense they had settled into themselves. She placed her hands on their shoulders and, with the movements of her hands, began to settle whatever was troubling them ~ to bring healing, moving from the upper back of the woman and ending by placing a hand over the heart place. The women were completely at peace in the chair.
As they sat in their solace, she would move to her wheel and spin wool ~ putting into it the particular healing for the woman she had just laid hands on. Once the wool was spun, she worked needles or her loom to create a healing shawl for the woman, so that she could carry her healing wherever she went. Everyone who came to see her for healing loved her. They felt seen. They felt understood.
The healing work went on uninterrupted until one day, a woman turned up on her doorstep not wanting healing, but to apprentice with her. The woman appeared earnest in her desire, so the weaving healer woman wholeheartedly shared all the ways of her practice.
I was then shown the woman on the doorstep had 2 faces: one of an attentive student and one of a backstabbing gossip monger. The woman used everything the weaving healer had shared with her to discredit her work and mock her gift. She painted her as an insane, dangerous woman, she warned people away from her. At that moment, I saw a dark, clay wall build around the weaving healer ~ her heart was broken. From then on, she only allowed herself the smallest space for her gift ~ shared only with herself. She would sometimes let it out a bit further, but would always recoil with fear and grief. The animals in the forest, however, remained loyal to her.
At the moment of healing in this story, the weaving healer and I switched places. I was encased in dark clay and she was bright and free again. The Daughter of the Well gave me a copper hammer and I smashed the clay tomb around me into a million bits of dust. As the tomb smashed, I saw all the women who the weaving healer had helped – making their way through the forest – each wearing their healing shawls.
This gift of the weaving healer is no longer choked in me like a tiny trickle of water in a dried-up riverbed. This gift of the weaving healer, this spirit of magic, is now a flowing torrent that runs freely through my veins. The star grandmothers have blessed me and I am free to allow the healing spirit of magic, to allow the fuel of living beauty, to flow through me and my work, unfettered.
Thank you, always, dear Julia, for shining the light and illuminating a way in.
Infinities of love and all good things”. Swurlygirl – 2017
I am happy to say that Lori’s ancestral memory of weaving, spinning and knitting with love and intention is very much alive in her life again and you can see her beautiful work as Swurlygirl Working Wool. I will watch with great curiosity as Lori also makes way for her stories to emerge to be shared again too now that she has given herself permission to share them again with others. Thank you so much Lori I’m putting my name down for one of those healing shawls when they are ready to return.
“The swans beak presses against the back of my heart, and her wings wrap around me. The child and the grandmother. My inner child and my wise woman. Fled in fear, destroyed and separated. Yet leaving messages to be understood down the path of time, to return home to this place of light. To shine. And work the magic of our lineage that can not be destroyed.”
There is memory in our own DNA and spirit of the experiences and stories lived by our ancestors. Sometimes these memories are full of fear and guilt and at first they feel like they are part of our present experience but the more we journey with them we see how they are strange and irrational. We somehow know that they are part of us but do not belong to us. Today I share Rachel’s story of journeying with the Swan along her own ancestral line to uncover and release a chain of guilt and shame that has been buried deep in her ancestry. I’m so happy that the child and the grandmother – the inner child and wise woman can now play freely again. The knowledge of the plants and nature is part of Rachel’s ancestral folklore and it can be shared and received as it was intended – as a wise and beautiful inheritance.
Swan Blessing Story:
At this Equinox morning I am excited to share with you the Swan Blessing story of the reclaiming of ancestral medicine by Cornish healer and teacher of the Blood Mysteries, Mandy Adams. Just over a year ago I awoke from a dream of watching light on the ocean and heard the name ‘Cornwall’ spoken very clearly to me. I had already been planning to visit my own ancestral lands of Scotland but this call to visit Cornwall came directly from the spirit of the Swan. When I mentioned that I was travelling to Cornwall to Jane Hardwicke Collings the creator and Womens Mysteries teacher of the School of Shamanic Womancraft she told me about the work of Mandy Adams.
When I got in touch with Mandy I was thrilled to see the work she was doing. I could see we had much in common as talked about lineage and healer herbalists of the past and the need to heal fear of walking these ancestral paths again. Mandy spoke with such a deep love and connection to her homeland of Cornwall and her long line of grandmothers who were midwives and all born and bred in that ancient land. But the more we talked, the more Mandy became aware of a feeling of holding back from offering her work teaching women, young and old about the spiritual practice of menstruality. How even though this was her deepest most beloved work, there was a fear of something old…a memory of being persecuted for sharing ancient mysteries. And so we made a time to journey together with Swan Blessing to see where this was coming from and how to prevent the niggling feeling to work undercover.
Last October I got to meet Mandy in person and even better, we met at a place most sacred to her in Cornwall, Cary Euny which is where I took the photos above. In this ancient Iron Age stone village I could feel just how connected Mandy was to her land and that she belonged to it. There was such a serenity emanating from Mandy as she stood in this place, her connection was long and deep. She guided us into the stone temple space underground that had been reserved for women’s ceremonies and we chanted into the illuminated green stones. Phosphorescent moss!! It covered the stones inside the dark temple space so that when it was hit by the light the whole round space glowed bright green! I have never seen anything like it and will always connect this magical site to Mandy and her lineage of healers. Here is a little video that I shot inside the glowing temple with Mandy at Carn Euny.
Yesterday Mandy launched her new website !! proudly sharing the mysteries and spiritual magic of menarche, motherhood and menopause. I am so happy to see her sharing her wisdom with freedom and grace and I now share the story of the vow that needed to be released to help her to do it.
Swan Blessing Story:
‘I Mandy am Seer and Healer. I now choose to allow my medicine to flow through me again. I find courage when I am afraid. I nourish those around me with my words. It is safe to stay connected, and my gift in doing so allows others to come back into connection also’.
“Julia leads me on a journey. I am made aware of my body and any feelings of pain or tightness. I am asked to send love to these areas and through the water in every cell of my body – to flood my whole body with love. Julia asks me to call upon the Grandmother of my land, the ancient ancient grandmother of Cornwall. Place of my home, place of my birth and place of my long long line of ancestors who stand behind me. I feel this ancient ancient Grandmother holding my feet with her warm warm hands and I feel my body melt into being held by Her. I am surrounded by green and the trees that encircle me are the trees that have bared witness to my entire soul journey. They recognise me and I welcome in this ancient woodland. I call upon all my spirit guides, spirit animals and plants. I am surrounded by them. They encircle me and send encouragement towards me. The circle that I am held in reminds me that I am never alone and the love that enfolds me is tangible. I move my arms and it feels like a thick jelly-like sphere that moves with me as my spirit tribe holds me.
I am led to a waterfall and as I enter I feel my body. I am renewed and connected. Connected to the long thread of lives that I have lived. Moving all the way back and all the way forward, with me now as observer. I peer into the deep deep pool of water beside the waterfall. I see the face of an old woman. She has grey wavy hair. It is wild like mine. She has brown weathered skin and deep brown eyes. She belongs to the land. She takes me inside her roundhouse. It is full of drying herbs, foods and many many things are stored and being preserved by the fire. We sit and I watch her offering food to all the people who regularly come to visit her. They sit with her and she gives them what they need. It is nothing fancy or unusual it is simple. She is listening. She listens to their stories and offers nourishment. Each visitor is delighted to receive her knowing and the connections she can make between their dreams, their daily living and their longing. She is known for her ability to ‘reconnect’ the individuals who visit. Her insight and embodiment are part of her gift to her tribe. She is a ‘Seer’.
I am taken further back to watching her as a girl learning her skills. She is left to play and watch alongside her mother. She gathers food, plays on the cliffs among the wild flowers and rests on the granite stones all around the landscape. She is free to listen to nature, the plants, the animals, and she is filled with a joy of life and living.
I see her in the middle of her life with her children around her and her beginning to notice the change in her people as shining metal soldiers walking and with horses begin to live nearby. They are Roman and there is a desire in many to be seen as ‘civilized’ as those they understand the newcomers in square houses to be. There is fear and greed and a sense of striving, which was not here before.
I am taken to the time in this life when I die. I am being asked to conform in someway. To bow down to the holy Roman empire – to kiss the ring of the general in submission to their power over my land. I will not conform. I will not avert my eyes. I will not abandon my land or my people. One by one my children (now adults with families of their own) are killed before me. Each defiant and wet with tears that it is the right thing to do. I will not abandon what I know to be the living power within me, and my land. I am ridiculed as my eyes are burned with a red hot stick. “See now Seer of Cornwall” they jaunt. I have been weeping bitterly but can no longer weep, grief and rage consume me as I fall to my knees.
I am taken to view the scene from above. I am hanging from a tree. I have been bound with ivy, my hands tied behind my lower back. I am broken and I make a vow:
‘I must be invisible, I must not be seen, I must stay small. I have caused so much suffering to my family and my tribe. I must hide my medicine.’
I am taken to embrace the spirit of this ancient self. I forgive this Self as there is nothing I feel that needs forgiving. We hold one another in love and I am given a blade made of bronze to cut the ivy that is binding this oath to me. We merge into one.
I make a new vow now as myself:
‘I Mandy am Seer and Healer. I now choose to allow my medicine to flow through me again. I find courage when I am afraid. I nourish those around me with my words. It is safe to stay connected, and my gift in doing so allows others to come back into connection also’.
I am aware of a huge swan standing behind me, her wings are encircling me and her body is pressed against mine, with her beak at the back of my neck. She gives me a feather and gently brushes me with it.”
Mandy Adams, 2016
Thank you Mandy for sharing your story and the work of your heart and lineage at www.mandyadams.uk and Red Tent Cornwall. I am standing with you in this ‘revolution of courage and bravery to all women ready to step into their calling’!
Artwork: Sidney Sime (1865-1941)
How often do we allow ourselves to not only be seen but to truly shine? What beliefs do we hold about standing out or being unique and different? Through my work with Swan Blessing and our ancestral folklore, I have seen that many people often shield or veil their light so as not to offend others or attract jealousy or believe it will bring dangerous attention. In previous times perhaps this was true but I am happy to see that society is gradually changing and we are becoming much more acceptable of many different expressions of beauty.
Today I share the Swan Blessing story of Camille and her past life memory of a child’s love of adornment and exquisite jewellery that became tainted and damaged and led to a fear of shining too brightly or not being worthy to wear beauty. It should come as no surprise that my relationship to the artist Vali Myers, led Camille to me – Vali is a huge inspiration for Camille and she was the queen of adornment. When I had the pleasure of getting ready to go out with Vali I used to laugh and think of Coco Chanel who said: ‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off’ – Vali used to do the exact opposite. She was always adding a flower in her hair, another ring, a scarf… I loved her for this because she taught me that we must dress to please only ourselves. Vali was also one of the only women I ever met who could truly meet her reflection in the mirror and flirt with herself. Oh, and Vali’s jewels were legendary and absolutely they were magical talismans.
And how did we forget the magic and power of a jewel – made from crystals and metals from deep in the earth and worn against our body every day?
Camille’s Swan story brings so much happiness to me because her jewels are otherworldly and full of magic and are the perfect reflection of her heart.
SWAN BLESSING STORY:
“I’m a jewelry designer, and this is the story of how Julia and her Swan Blessing made my wildest dreams possible.
A few years ago, I was working a soul-sucking corporate job and I realized that if I wore all my colorful vintage necklaces to work, I was happy despite sitting in a depressing office doing mindless tasks among old guys in grey suits.
My adornments were my magical talismans against that dreary world – brightening each boring day, keeping me upbeat, reminding me that I too was brighter than my surroundings and inspiring me to get out of there. So I went after my dream job.
When I walked into Harper’s Bazaar on my very first day of work, I was more than a little nervous but I looked down at my colorful necklaces and smiled – I was bright, I was bold, I could do this. And the next year, when I had to go to a friend’s birthday party a few days after getting laid off, I got decked out in all of my necklaces and finally felt ready to leave my sofa and face the world. I desperately wanted share this magic with other women by designing my own necklaces – more wonderfully vibrant and enormous and colorful than any pieces I could find in stores – full on glorious, powerful talismans. But soon I started to doubt myself. “Who would actually wear something this bright and colorful?” I worried, “This is too much, no one else will actually like this, this is too weird.” So eventually I toned down my vision and spent the next few years designing simpler, smaller, more “normal” necklaces that I thought would sell.
Happiness and inspiration and color drained from my life.
Around this time, I came across Julia on Instagram and I immediately wanted to do a Swan Blessing session to see my previous lives, but since I live in New York City and she’s in Australia, I told myself it was something for the future – I thought that doing it over Skype wouldn’t be as “effective” as doing it in-person. But a few weeks ago, I knew, somehow deep inside, that it was time, despite being halfway across the world, despite being busy with life, despite thinking “who am I to do this?” and despite being scared of what I might see.
The moment I connected with Julia over Skype, I felt like I was sitting right across from Julia in her beautiful, peaceful forest home. Her ancient knowledge, deep wisdom and magic shone right through my laptop screen and the city noises outside my window disappeared.
She pulled two tarot cards for me and each hit at the very heart of what I was going through. The Seven of Earth showed that I was beginning to plant new seeds, zeroing in on my true vision. The Shaman card spoke to my power, that I always knew I had deep inside, to share the incredible magic of adornment. I was very nervous and also very excited, because it was actually happening, Julia was going to take me hundreds of years back.
She began guiding me into the journey, telling me of all the grandmothers who were there next to me supporting me, and I saw them and I knew that they had always been there for me. Next Julia guided me through a forest with sun filtering through the tallest trees and I felt the dirt beneath my feet and my arms open in awe as I walked upon the earth, looking up at the dazzling branches so high they seemed to go on forever.
Julia led me to the water, and I looked in and saw my own face, and then looked deeper and saw another woman who was so unlike anyone I had expected to see when imagining what this journey would be like (real life is always so much more beautiful than we ever imagine!). She had cloudy blue eyes, she was blind, and her light brown hair was dry and shorn, like someone who didn’t care had cut it off in chunks with a pair of old, rusty scissors. Her clothes were dirty and ripped, but her face was still pure and she was smiling sincerely, and though she was blind, her eyes were seeing and deep – like gorgeous opals. She was so happy to see me, she had been waiting.
This woman who I knew now was me in a past life, was so light and joyful despite the state she was in….She led me through to her world, as Julia guided me, always asking what I saw, and whenever I wasn’t sure, Julia gently helped me look in a way that I could see – so really, there is no way to “not get” or “mess up” this journey as I had feared! We were in Cornwall, England, in the medieval times.
The woman was now a young, eager girl, her light brown hair shining and her face full of freckles, smiling so wide. She was happy and energetic, the spirit of a wild, curious girl, as she pulled me by the hand through a bustling market, full of vendors and the glory of daily life. She was at home here, this was her happy place where she went every day. She was so excited to show me everything there that she loved and I knew the vendors and people there loved her too.
I recognized this feeling as the same excited feeling I had when hunting through my favorite vintage and antique markets for bright treasures for my necklaces, bonding with vendors over the shared love of some incredible pendant, and spending hours just wondering and seeing beautiful things. A Sunday at the market had always spoken to my soul more than any yoga class or other “spiritual” activity, but I had forgotten that…
Next, the girl showed me where she lived, which I immediately knew was a sadder place for her than the market – a light colored stone house with a thatched roof on top of a sloping green hill at the edge of the forest. She lived with her brother, who was only a few years older but who cared for her – her parents were dead. They had been killed in a fire after she accidentally left the stove burning. Everyone told her she was careless and she believed them and blamed herself for their deaths.
Yet her happiness was so strong it still shone through despite this. She would gather bright red berries from the bushes at the edge of the forest, squishing them in her hands and painting her face and running around laughing in the sun with wild abandon, full of so much energy. Watching her, I realized that this was her gift – using vibrant adornment to bring out happiness and joy and inspiration and life.
But then Julia guided me to see this girl when she was a few years older. She was sullen and quiet now, the perfect picture of obedience. Her hair was pulled back, her hands were behind her back, her apron was tied on perfectly over her dress, her eyes gazing down – all the color and life was gone from her face. Her brother and other adults hadn’t seen her gift of joyful, wild adornment as a gift at all – they thought it was simply a silly child’s game and that it was time for her to get serious and do more important things. She automatically believed them – they were adults so they had to be right, right? She was very careful to not be too loud, too outgoing, too wild, too much. She began selling apples in the marketplace every day, the same place that had once brought her so much joy.
She stood silent at the edge of the market in her plain clothes and bare face, looking down at the basket of apples at her feet. She felt so self-concious and small, like she was nothing and so she was and every shopper passed her by, making her feel even more inadequate. Often, her eyes filled with tears.
But there was one thing that made her happy and brought her back to life – a gorgeous, shining gold locket that she secretly wore around her neck under her dress. She would reach up to hold it whenever she felt down and it would bring her so much hope and joy.
“Where did she get the locket?” Julia asked me, and I knew at once that she had stolen it…I saw her opening a wooden drawer, eyes lighting up at the sight of this necklace, like a starving person who finally sees food.
Now I saw her standing at the top of a hill, holding the locket up to the sky, her beautiful treasure, and there were storm clouds in the distance and a band of men wearing black hooded capes approaching her. They were coming for her and she knew it. The leader of the men was chubby and pale with small eyes, a dumb bully. He was laughing at her, giddy in his power over this beautiful girl who would never notice him otherwise. He smiled and said “this is what you get pretty little girl for stealing beautiful things, now you’ll never be able to see beauty and steal it again!” And he laughed more as he slashed her face, blinding her, and the mob of men descended, kicking her, joyful in this act that was just a game for them, their daily amusement, as she curled up in the dust.
The girl was too ashamed and embarrassed to return home to ask her brother for help, so she went to the forest. The trees comforted her and took her in and taught her, she learned their ways and the ways of the glorious plants. She loved her solitude in this forest, where she could finally relax and be herself, and she lived there alone for the rest of her life. I saw her now as an old woman, laying beneath her favorite tree, her tree, arms wide open to the sky, smiling so much and so sincerely and peacefully, happy at the end of her life despite all she had been through. And that is how she died.
Julia now led me back to the water, and I saw that these past experiences had made me doubt the power of colorful, bright adornment and hide my gifts because I was scared of not fitting in, of being mocked, of being judged by my family and others, and being harmed.
I didn’t think it was safe to be myself.
All of these fears had festered in my soul for centuries, creating an iron rope tied around my chest and knotted right over my heart. I immediately recognized this rope and knew it was real – whenever I was designing, I had trouble breathing and literally had to force myself to inhale and exhale. I thought I was just anxious and stressed, or maybe that I drank too much coffee. A water maiden held out a tool for me to use to cut off this rope, and Julia told me that I had created it so I could remove it too. The second I cut into it, it just disappeared, as if it was nothing at all…
I embraced my old self and we smiled at each other – I forgave her for stealing, for thinking she had to be “normal” and “fit in”, for being ashamed of her true self, and I understood why she did it all – society back then (and sadly, sometimes even in our modern society today) saw colorful and fun adornment as inappropriate and frivolous. I realized that her brother was only doing what he thought was best for her, trying to direct her life in a way that he thought would keep her safe.
Now the grandmothers were all around me, singing of my gifts to me – my gift of creating and sharing magical, powerful adornments, the gift that I had doubted was important or even real…and then Julia led me gently back to my apartment and I opened my eyes.
I tried to take off my rings before going to sleep, but they wouldn’t budge – my fingers were swollen like after a long flight. I really had traveled a long way.
The next morning I woke up and began creating the glorious necklaces that I had been dying to share for many centuries and many lifetimes. I know now that it’s true – that what we wear can change our mood, our day, our life, and when we adorn ourselves with all that is colorful, unique, vibrant and wild, we smile more, we have more energy, we remember our own bold power and stay true to our own beautiful unique selves. We’re inspired to share all our colors with the world and go after our wildest dreams.
I am so happy to finally be free of my old fears that kept me quiet and small for so long, and when my old doubts resurface or life gets me down, I know how to lift myself up and re-ignite my joy – I put on one of these talismans. Wear yours every day, you never need to tone yourself down, you are never too much, too bright, too big, too bold, too colorful – you can be your full on, shimmering self every moment of your life, and just smile at anyone who thinks otherwise, because they are the ones who need color most of all.
I am so grateful to Julia and her Swan Blessing, she gave me back my life, my freedom, my happiness. If you feel as if something is holding you back, reach out to her and go on your journey – your true self is waiting for you and Julia will guide you there so safely and gently.”
Thank you Camille for sharing your personal story and folklore of the talisman. I’m so happy that you are shining and creating again. Below is a beautiful necklace that Camille created in dedication to her love for Vali Myers. It’s called the Vali necklace and in real life is so beautiful and huge like a jewelled shield for the heart – not to hide but to illuminate even more brightly.
The link between the Deer and Women and ancestral wisdom is huge. I have this confirmed to me again and again when I sit in journeying circles with women all over the world and wrote about healing with Deer in a piece I called She Wears the Crown. Recently I have begun holding Swan Blessing sessions: Hag Stone and Animal Wife that explore the ancestral stories held in our spirits from lifetimes of our own lineage and also past lives to see where and how we lost connection to our natural abilities to connect to the earth and to heal. In the Animal Wife sessions we recover and reclaim our ‘animal soulskin’ the instinctive and wild gifts of nature. Like the Selkie seal woman who had to forfeit her sealskin (soulskin) and gifts to live amongst humans I believe we have also become divorced from our natural animal instincts due patriarchy and institutionalisation. We have been forced to obey man made laws over the natural Lore of the land and her plants and her people.
Again and again as I journey beside women as they recover their ancestral stories, the Deer makes herself known and when she is recovered such a feeling of gentle wisdom and intuition is gifted back to the us. Through my own connection to the Deer I have met talented artists and healers, such as Alice Savage who drew this incredible drawing above after being inspired by a doll that I had created for my own healing when I moved to Sherbrooke Forest 4 years ago. The doll now lives with Alice and I am this drawing now lives in my home. I called her Stag Woman because I felt she helped me to bridge and create symbiosis between my feminine and masculine traits and natures and to heal my fears of living in the forest again and sharing Swan Blessing in a world that still struggles to make peace with the purity and wisdom of the witch, the healer and the seer. I am only realising now, years later that in creating the Swan Blessing to recover the Soulskin of our personal animal ally and spirit marriage, that she was my first introduction to the Animal Wife.
Today I share Gemma-Kate’s personal Swan Blessing story of a lifetime where she had to make a vow to keep the gifts of her lineage and her Grandmothers a secret. She had to hide her ability as a healer, the one gift that made her most proud had to become her deepest hidden part of herself. When we hide our greatest treasure it can sometimes create such a fracture in our spirit that we almost split into two personalities. We sometimes become the warrior in the world to protect what is the most vulnerable – our own spirit. When I met Gemma-Kate I recognised her as one of ‘Vali’s Daughters’ another wild and beautiful woman touched by the magic of Australian artist, Vali Myers. I could see Gemma-Kate’s power and strength and she told me how she was a veterinarian nurse and animal rescuer who had to step away from working in conventional ways and institutions with animals because something older and deeper told her that some of the practices used there were harming the animals instead of healing them. I saw this was a huge wound for her and I could also see the enormous amount of wisdom and healing abilities within her. I was honoured when she contacted me to tell me she was ready to journey with the Swan.
“I no longer need to hide the person I am, the gifts that were given to me as a woman. I can be true. I can follow my path as intended, and most importantly, share my gift to others.”
“I am taken to a waterfall. There is dappled sunlight bouncing off the lush greenery. Butterflies flutter in the grass. I journey through the water, through the veil of water, and find myself in a dark cave. There is a pool of water in a natural basin. I look into the water, and find looking back at me, an old woman. Her hair is white, her skin deeply wrinkled with years of emotions, and pale, no longer showing the flush of youth. Her eyes. Her eyes!! They are the palest blue, like topaz. They tell a thousand stories and are full of sorrow. I feel she is me. I look up into the cave and now see a dwelling. A woman’s dwelling within the cave. A secret hideaway. Her secret hideaway. My secret hideaway.
I am led into the forest. I know this place. It already exists in my mind. I walk towards a clearing. A place where we sung and danced and celebrated. I leave the forest, and head to my home nearby. I live here with my sisters. I am the eldest. I am 42. I have been the parent. Our parents have been taken. I am a spinster because of this, and I hide many secrets. Secrets I only share with my sisters. We keep herbs of all kinds. We are healers.
I am taken to another time in the same place. I am much younger. Only a girl. I am playing in the long grasses on the fringe of the forest, where the grass is thick from plenty of sunlight. My sisters and I hear the horses coming, and we are very close to the road leading to the small cluster of houses. We are hidden well, and we can see they are soldiers. They have come to take people. There is talk from the townsfolk about the group of people in these dwellings. They have come to punish us for our old ways. My family are safe. This time at least. We all make a vow to keep secret our gift, and our knowledge. I feel shameful.
I now find myself back in the cave with the woman. I realise now her sorrow. She has lived a life predominantly in solitude, the only place her secrets are safe. She receives comfort from the plants and animals, and they her. I feel a tight force, a weight, binding my chest, restricting my breath. I see white rags binding me. They look like sacred cloth from the religion that has destroyed the ways of life of my people. I notice the sensation that the cloth is loosening. The old woman is using her mind to release the rags. She only needs her mind, because these rags represent our sacred vow. She is releasing me from the ties that bind me. She is taking away my shame. She is telling me it is safe now. I am feeling so much emotion now. I have been crying throughout, but now I feel it in my chest and throat, where the cloths had once been. I am released, I have freedom, and I am led to waters at the bottom of the waterfall. I bathe in the waters. I am now healed.
I am now on the edge of the water, and I feel the swan embrace me. Her huge, warm, loving wings engulf me. I feel so much love. I feel white and yellow. We fly, but I notice little. I am surrounded by light. Then we are walking. I am grounded. I am aware. We are walking in my forest, toward the clearing, for this is a celebration. The sun is shining bright and the air is crisp. There are many small creatures here, there always is. I look towards the edge of the clearing, where the trees begin. Grazing at the edge of the grass is a deer. A doe. She looks up at me, and she ‘sees’ me. We exchange a long gaze. She is my guide. She is my medicine. She is so gentle, and I realise it is her I fiercely protect in life. She is what I am tough, brave and strong for. I realise how much I have pushed her away.
I am now asked to repeat something three times. I am so emotional that I am having trouble forming words. So emotional that the exact words evade me. What I feel as I repeat this sentence, this new vow, is that I no longer need to hide the person I am, the gifts that were given to me as a woman. I can be true. I can follow my path as intended, and most importantly, share my gift to others.”
I was so thrilled this week to see Gemma-Kate in a new state of beauty, transformation and vulnerability. She had cut off all of her hair and was wearing colours I had never seen before. She looked like a beautiful butterfly with the wise eyes of the magical and gentle Doe. I felt that I was seeing Gemma-Kate’s spirit in it’s true form – no longer split but embracing her strength and vulnerability at the same time. She also told me that she is now actively sharing and opening her heart to her healing gifts again. I look forward to seeing her magic I’ve got a feeling it will be big. Thank you Gemma-Kate for showing us your Deer heart and sharing your story here.
Today at the full moon eclipse in Leo I share with you the Swan Blessing story of the vow to close down a Grandmother’s teachings. This is the swan story received by artist and tattooist, Victoria Rose on Mt Tamborine in Queensland. It was also the very first Swan Blessing session that I held in Australia after journeying through the lands of England, Ireland and Scotland leaving dolls for the forgotten and interviewing the guardians and keepers of sacred sites dedicated to the women’s mysteries and healing.
After returning from this journey, I felt even more dedication to working with the Swan to clear the blocks and pain from our own ancestral folklore of the plant healers, seers and storytellers. I was also gifted new experiences and understanding after spending time in Scotland, the land of my own Grandmothers that has led to a deepening of the Swan Blessing work with 3 new journeying sessions:
New Swan Blessing Sessions
The Animal Wife: Dreaming back the animal skin and gifts that have been forfeited to live in the mundane world.
Hag Stone: Tracking and healing the Witch lineage, opening the eye of the Seer.
Family Folklore: Reclaiming the lore of your ancestors & releasing unhealthy family beliefs.
If you would like more information on this next level of Swan Blessing work, you can contact me to discuss what you feel you need.
Victoria Rose and I had had interactions with each other for just over a year and I could feel that she wanted to journey to clear and unblock her own healer’s story but that there was also a lot of resistance. This is completely understandable when we think about the centuries of persecution of women’s medicine and wise ways. I understood the trepidation but let Victoria Rose know that the journey we make with the Swan is always a gentle and loving one. This is her gift to the women – to hold them with great strength and softness as they journey back to heal the fragmented story. We have been through enough trauma, we do not need to experience it again to heal it. We already know the pain, we have been journeying for lifetimes with memories in our DNA from our lineages and grandmothers, we may have memory of past lives and we are also sometimes carrying the collective memory or story of what has happened to the healers, herbalists and witches of the past.
This can lead us to believe that it’s still not safe to share all of our gifts with an open heart and freedom again but I believe the planet needs the people of the earth who are connected to nature and her healing ways more than ever. And the important thing to remember is that we are living in different times and we have so much more support and wisdom opening up again to be shared with love.
We share these stories because they are all our stories. These are part of the ancestral folklore of women’s medicine and wise ways and I hope they bring understanding to anyone who needs them. By releasing the stories of how the wise ways were closed down we create space to write and create new ancestral folklore stories for ourselves, our ancestors and the daughters to come.
Victoria Rose told me after her journey that this was a lifetime and story that she had journeyed to previously but had not been able to heal and complete the teachings. And so instead of empowering her it still frightened her. I believe it’s so very important to come to resolution and healing with our journeys and I was honoured to hold space for this beautiful young artist to reach this resolution with the Swan.
I am healed, I am safe and I will serve as my Grandmother taught me
“I’m in a cave with a deep pool of water. As I look into the reflection, I see a woman. Her hair is dark and her eyes are wild with fear and confusion. This woman is me. I have heavy gold collars hanging from my neck down my chest with a long robe underneath. In a large stone temple, I’m there as a servant to the elites. I’m alone.
How did I get there?
In a beautiful valley. Mountains in the distance, woodlands open out to grass plains. It was here that I learnt the healing arts from my grandmother. This is my home. We provided a service to the community. I was at peace an very happy being connected to the land and my people. I do not want for anything.
One day the authorities turn up at our doorsteps and ask if I would go work in the temple. I refuse. They return and remove me by force. It was in the days after this that I promised I would not use my abilities ever again. This vow did not change what was to come.
I am back in the cave now. The lady of the sacred well is with me. I can feel a heavy helmet over my head sitting on my shoulders. The lady uses a tool and breaks it open. I am free from this bond and she takes me into the pool. In the healing waters I am scrubbed clean by the Spirit Grandmothers.
Out of the pool now the Swan has come to take me high in the sky. We are journeying to the Sun. I have gold antlers. Inside the Sun, I’m filled with light and all trauma is burnt away.
The Swan takes me back down to earth. It is time now for me to release the vows I had once spoken. I must say three things.
I am Healed.
I am Safe.
As I try to make my last statement, tears start choking, electricity shoots through me and I am convulsing.
Finally I say, “I will serve as my Grandmother taught me”.
As I drive home I take a different route down the mountain. I pass black swans beside a pond.
Thank you Julia for this journey. Throughout I felt held in Truth and honoured. I felt like I was understood and respected. I’m forever changed and have started to integrate parts of myself I had lost. It is an amazing gift you have given me.
Forever grateful to you and the Swan.”
Victoria Rose, 2016
I am grateful to Victoria Rose for facing her fears and healing this story. She has also courageously shared her story to help anyone who may have similar memories. If you would like to see Victoria Rose’s beautiful artistry and tattooing this is a link to her Instagram page. I think it’s important for us to have artists working on our body that carry magic and healing. I know that many feel that tattooing is also a new way to re-write our ancestral folklore and to break through old laws stopping free expression. Many of us have memory of sacred markings and sigils on our bodies and the bodies of our grandmothers. Embracing tattooing again is like stepping over another threshold into freedom to adorn our bodies as we please and in a ceremonial way again.
Thank you to Nadia Turner who has allowed us to share her beautiful artwork The Wood Witch and The Storyteller as reflections of the new work with the Swan: The Animal Wife and Hag Stone. Please have a look at the rest of her enchanted creations at www.waywardharper.com
Enchantment. That is a word and feeling that has fascinated me since I began making dolls. How do we breathe life into an inanimate object? How do we create feeling and emotion? Today I felt the need for some extra inspiration for doll making – it was time to fill the creative well. I had heard about Bruno’s Art and Sculpture Garden for many years and this morning we drove up to the town of Marysville in the Victorian Alpine region (stopping to drink water from St Ronan’s Well along the way) and oh were we rewarded. I have so many new ideas and dreams for dolls percolating after spending time talking with the sculptor Bruno Torfs and meeting his incredible creations. I hope these photos help to inspire your own creativity in some way and perhaps encourage you to make the visit to see them for yourself. Thanks for a great day Bruno!
You can see lots more photos from our visit to Bruno’s Art and Sculpture Garden on our Facebook page.
This month I have been exploring the ancestral and rare breed wool and fleece of many of the Celtic and Viking lands such as the Shetland Islands, Soay, a tiny island off the Isle of Skye in Scotland, Leader Sheep from Iceland. What a great adventure to take with the masculine medicine doll and his seafaring ways. Interestingly as I began to work with these figures I was drawn back to working with raw fleece and found a bag of fleece from a friend of my father’s in Tasmania that was perfect for hair and beards and rugged woollen shawls.
These masculine medicine dolls have also been very popular with our clients, some going to families to represent grandfathers and fathers – I love the idea too of dolls that can assist young boys to feel strong and grounded in their lives. These dolls gave me such a gift of stability and energy as I was creating them. They have all found homes now and I look forward to hearing about the adventures they inspire.
I feel like this is an adventure that may keep calling to me for a long time.
“I am naked under the gaze and protection of the stars. I am stargazing, star bathing, star being. Filled with the light, and energy and knowing of the stars. They move into me, touching me, illuminating me and the map, the mystery, the way, connecting me to my story, my songs, my dance, my medicine. As my blood returns to source, source fills me in return, with the dreaming and visions that will hold me during my growth, my woman years. I am star clan, star dreamer and star weaver.”
I’m always honoured to sit with people in their ancestral journeys in Swan Blessing sessions. I am not only holding space, I am listening intently, learning, travelling with and being taught about the ancient ways of each ancestral lineage. Because not only is ancestral clearing about releasing vows and beliefs the biggest gift and point to the work is to see and remember times when our ancestors lived in great connection to the earth and where respect for her cycles was woven into everything they did. Living life as a ceremony. I had the pleasure of sharing such a journey with Sarah who came to clear a vow, a memory in her lineage of a lifetime as a a priestess living in this beautiful way and then witnessing the destruction of this time of sacred living. A vow so strong that it created a separation between body and spirit. Her journey took her back to her most ancient of ancestors, the star clans, the star grandmothers and she was reminded of that she will always be a child of the stars, she will always have ways of finding her way home. When Sarah came out of her journey she looked up at the painting you see above, an original artwork by artist and fellow forest-dweller, Nadia Turner that hangs in our healing space as quiet guardian and was amazed to recognise her from her own journey and ancestral lineage.
“In the clearing we gather. In the clearing we work, laugh, play and connect to source, to her. The earth underneath our bare feet is soft, cushioned by leaf fall from the tall trees that guard our homes, which lie on the flat stone plateau. The trees are known to us. We listen to them, talk to them, understand their wisdom and offerings. We are in constant exchange with them, air, shelter, shade, fruit, and our own prayers and tending in return.
I move through time, through the ages watching myself in this place of sacred connection. As a child I walk with my father through the forest, listening to his songs and chants. He takes me to the place where the grandmothers dwell so that I may learn from them. Learn about the plants, the herbs, their gifts, protections and poisons. Life and death are close allies too.
At my first blood I am taken by the women to the bleeding place, and then left. They leave me to journey here alone with the trees and the stars. I am naked under the gaze and protection of the stars. I am stargazing, star bathing, star being. Filled with the light, and energy and knowing of the stars. They move into me, touching me, illuminating me and the map, the mystery, the way, connecting me to my story, my songs, my dance, my medicine. As my blood returns to source, source fills me in return, with the dreaming and visions that will hold me during my growth, my woman years. I am star clan, star dreamer and star weaver.
Older, much older now. I am sitting in the cave of the Grandmothers, feeling the warmth of their wisdom and knowing. They are deep in the belly of the cave, while I sit at the entrance, with my fire and a pot filled with leaves. Smoke from the fire merges with the potent steam from the pot, the small clay pot that was once my mothers, and hers before her. Another woman is with me, inhaling the scent, and the healing of the steam. The spirits speak to her through smoke, cleansing and healing. I hold her hands .
We are not such a large group, 50 or so people living here with the trees, the plants, the forest animals, and with earth, water, fire, and air. We are strong in our bonds to each other, and other local clans. We are strong in our connection to source. We have lived like this for a long time, a long time. We know how to listen.
But my listening troubles me now. I hear a noise in the forest that I do not know, I sense fear in the animals, and even the trees. I ask the grandmothers. The Grandmothers see a time of pain, a time of estrangement and loss. A loss greater than we have ever known, but they seem to wait for it. I am upset and angry, even though they reassure me that we will remember, that the stars will call us home again. But when and how and what is coming?
I know soon enough. Soon enough I see them coming on horseback, coming with a ferocity we have not experienced. Hooves pounding, earth and dust flying, shouts and screams from them and us mingle into a horrifying scream. They come only to destroy, There is no regard for our rules, our ways, they come to trample and burn. Fire our ally, is turned against us, and they on horseback ride through our homes, alighting everything that will burn. Trees, ancient trees burn with my people, burn with the animals and the bodies of the young, the old, the all. Death is everywhere. Death is.
I am alone now, howling and grieving, and raging, and lost. I am a survivor only by there doing, one to witness the destruction, and to tell of their victory, their ways, their story. I will not tell their story, I will not tell their story and I will not priestess again. I will not. Not now, not ever. The temple of our lives is gone, the wisdom and knowing is gone and although my body lives on, my spirit is gone too.
How long did I wander in the wilderness, scraping an existence, scraping something called life together? I wanted death, I wanted destruction but I was alive . Seven years passed before I saw daughters again, before I saw daughters of another clan, sowing seeds, preparing what they knew. I should have been overjoyed, I should have helped them, But I was not and I did not. I was not going to help create that which could so easily be destroyed again. I had made my vow, and I would keep it. I cut myself off from the wisdom that remained in the trees, the earth, the water, the fire and the stars. I even turned my back on the stars. And this turning away from, this cutting off from has been so very painful. In this life I have sought to reconnect with the source of all, to be held in the deep embrace of the earth mother, to refind myself as an earthling, a wild one, she who knows…and yet I have stumbled through the pain and separation of activism to the joy of my embodied dance work, but still I have been caught in the illusion of separation, still disembodied. My work with the school of Shamanic Womancraft was a deep resurgence of all that I knew, and all that I had to trust. It was a huge part of my healing, and still I stumbled to trust my medicine, to trust my gifts.
So this is my story. And through the swan blessing I realised that the vow I had made meant that I had cut myself off from my people, my ancestry, my knowing. I had separated body and spirit. I had in fact chosen to live the story of the oppressor, separating myself from source, just as they said was true. This story of separation is with us now, embedded in the culture in which we live today , and for many years I have been trying to reclaim a way home, to my body, and the body of earth, to integration with and to source.
And although I went looking for my medicine instread and for me more profoundly I found a way home, a way back to my clan, my heritage, to source. After releasing my bindings and my vow, the grandmothers welcomed me home. They sang me and carried me home. They had never left, it was I who had left them. But now I am home, singing myself, dancing myself, trusting myself that my medicine is a home coming, a return to earth/star/body/spirit. And the messages keep coming, the grandmothers, the animals, the spirits are guiding me.
Towards the end of the swan blessing, I saw a star clan sister on the wall, and in front of me. I was staggered to see a woman from my vision there in a painting. Deep bow to the mystery. My work now is to continue to remember, to reclaim my heritage and to listen again to the wisdom of the heavens and the earth. I have had many beautiful conversations with the earth since then. A spontaneous swim with dolphins in the sea, visits by birds, feathers and of course the stars. My work now is to listen again to the songs of the trees, the earth and my people, to deepen my connection to my clan and this blessed earth.
I am home.” Sarah 2016
Thank you Sarah for sharing your Swan story here with us, your words are a poem to remind us all of how we used to live and how to recreate this sacred life again. You can explore Sarah’s beautiful offerings of circles embodying the women’s mysteries and earth wisdom through dance and movement at Embodiments Dance – Sarah Miller