This morning I hiked up the mountain of St. Baume, through the beautiful, ancient Druid forest, to Mary Magdalene’s cave where she spent the last 30 years of her life as a contemplative. The hike was wonderful, good for my soul to be in such an old forest. The view from the cave was sublime. As was the sheer rock face that rises from where forest meets ancient stone stairs, winding up to the cave entrance.
Amazing, I am holed up (as in: a refuge, a cave) for three days in St. Maximin, an ancient little village holding the gothic basilica of Mary Magdalene. Her relics, especially her skull, are on display in the crypt, sheathed in gold, and held by golden angels. The small stone entrance to this crypt is inviting, a quiet place to dwell underground with her mysteries. Horseshoe carvings, all over the walls that go down into the crypt, are inscribed into the stone by pilgrims past.
This cathedral housing her mortal remains is run down, in need of repair. It is like a relic itself, with its crumbling stone facade. But there is the beauty of what is falling down, the ancient feeling of such a place.
[Author’s Note: This poem is written in honour of the work of Marija Gimbutas, archaeologist, linguist, visionary. I was lucky enough to hear her give a lecture one day in 1990 in Los Angeles. She had the audience in thrall to her ideas. I hope that one day her name will be better known than any other archaeologist. You can see by the bends and markers on her books that these are well-thumbed copies of just three of her remarkable books.]
The roses are in bloom. They are red and cool
and have a smell that makes me remember
my mother, cutting stems of red roses.
Cutting red roses
A Wild and Ancient Site
There are many sites across Scotland and Ireland relating to the Cailleach for there wasn’t just one Cailleach as she had many sisters. Less than one hundred miles from where I grew up is the long loch of Loch Tay in Scotland. If you were to take to the hills until you reach Glen Tay, then continue onto Tigh na Cailliche (Glen Cailleach), you will come across the little structure of Tigh Nam Bodach, the Shrine of the Cailleach. It is possibly the only surviving shrine to the Cailleach in all of Scotland.
“She is a symbolic personification of a cosmos that has been in place since time immemorial, certainly since before human society.” Gearoid O Crualaoich (2003)
While growing up my Samhain’s (Halloween’s) were all about Guising – diving into my grandmother’s bag of old clothes and wondrous fabrics and piecing costumes together. Guising was all about dressing up so that when the ancestors and spirits came through from the otherworld, they wouldn’t know who was who as we were all in disguise. I can remember the thrill of running from neighbours’ houses imagining the ancestors and spirits embodied in the night’s winds – swimming through treetops and swooping down to chase us while blowing up piles of fallen leaves for dramatic effect.
It must have been around my twelfth year when I found the Saga of the Kingdom of Fanes in the local almanac of the South Tyrolean city of Bozen/Bolzano. It was illustrated by a pen-drawing of the legendary princess Dolasilla mounted on a black horse, wearing a blue Rayeta Stone in her tiara and glowering against her enemies.
It was this woman on horseback who never left my mind. In those moments of truth that decided my life she appeared to me again and again.
On my arrival in Melbourne, a young migrant without money or connections, I was ready to return to my Tyrolean mountains, when I suddenly found myself in front of the equestrian statue of the State Library: this image of my heroine Joan of Arc changed my mind. Many years later, the altar of Epona at the museum of Stuttgart (Stuttgart means Garden of the Mare!) touched me just as much as the image of Australian saint Blessed Mary McKillop, riding in nun’s garb through the endless solitudes of Australia to bring the blessings of literacy to lonely farmers’ children.
For our full moon rites coming up on the first of July we will be honoring Aine, Goddess of Love, Light, and Fertility who is also Queen of the Faeries. Aine’s name means “Bright” and She is typically honored at the Summer Solstice when the sun is at its peak of power. The next full moon falls just after the Summer Solstice. The Solstice is associated with abundance, beauty and bounty. It is not necessarily about the harvest season, as that is yet to come. However, everywhere we look we can see the abundance of the Mother and so it is when we first acknowledge, with joy, what is before us.
In my Tradition, the Summer Solstice falls within the Oak Moon, the Moon in which we “court the lightning bolt.” What that means to us is that with our roots planted firmly in the ground, as does the oak tree, now is the time to take all of our plans and put them into action. “Go for it” is what we are saying to ourselves and to the world. Continue reading
The theme of each Goddess festival held the gathering together as a whole, and from there, it flowered into a wild diversity of lectures, ceremonies, workshops, dancing, sharing groups.
For example, in one of the programs we were introduced to Goddess Yoga, to the Sewing and the Dancing of our Hands, and to Birth-giving as a self-experienced Initiation to Motherhood. In the meadow, we danced Oriental Dance on Roses, and walked the Flower Labyrinth of Self Discovery. We learned of better alternatives to democracy, realizing that democracy will always allow the majority to over-rule the dreams of minority groups or individuals; instead, we (and society) might engage in giving support to and finding ways for everybody’s dreams to become physical. We heard about the Ancient Women Culture in Crete that has never died out, but lives on, to this day, underground. We stepped into our Divine Feminine Power though our Womb-Flower; and we learned about practical Green Economy; we used our Powerful Voices; and we manifested our sisterhood symbolized by Tortoise and Snake; we experienced Shamanic Communication with Plants; we learned about the dramatic change following the Minoan and Mycenae cultures colliding; we let our Dancing Feet Bless the Earth and we made Fire Ceremonies.
Old Agostino was the yardman in my uncle’s building yard. He was a hunchback with a large bony face, sad grey eyes and unkempt grey hair. His hands were like shovels, strong and hard, and he walked with a heavy shambling gait like Alberich in the Northern saga. But to me, a lonely little girl in a world of grown ups, he was always of exquisite gentleness, and I soon discovered that he was a wonderful storyteller. His voice was deep and strong, in stark contrast to his misshapen body, and his words, broken Austrian-German interspersed with his native Ladinian, sounded like water murmuring, rippling and gushing over a stone-filled creek bed.
Agostino hailed from the Dolomite mountains, from the forgotten tribe of the Ladinians, and that was his pride and his sorrow. “Agostino, tell me of Dolasilla”, I begged, and waited for the radiant smile to light up his face.
“Ah, Dolasilla, the Princess of Fanes … she was so beautiful. Straight and slim she sat upon her charger, and the blue Rayeta Stone gleamed in her crown. She wore the white mantle of the marmots and she had the unfailing silver arrows in her quiver.”
This was a story that I did not find in my book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. A princess who fought in battle and who was an invincible warrior. But Agostino did not spare me the tragic end. Yes, Dolasilla wanted to stop fighting and conquering, but it was her father, the wicked king, who would not allow it. He banished her lover, handsome prince Ey-de-Net, and promised his daughter to the King of Aurona, the Great Goldmine. But Dolasilla would not be married against her will. When the King of the Aurona came to get her, she fought against him. But without her lover, who was also her shield bearer, she was vanquished. She was killed in battle and her kingdom, the Kingdom of Fanes, was destroyed.
hawthorn gathered in the may
atop a tree of birch
gaily blowing in the wind
rainbow ribbons spin
queen of may, jack o’green
bless the fields and land
lively dancing kissing twirling
ribbons in the hand
Deanne Quarrie. D. Min. is a Priestess of the Goddess, and author of five books. She is the founder of The Apple Branch where she mentors women who wish to serve as priestesses. There she teaches courses in Feminist Dianic Wicca, Druidism, the Ogham and Northern European Mysteries.
She is also an adjunct professor at Ocean Seminary College. She is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine, and the publisher of The Oracle, and online magazine for Goddess Women.
Australian author David Tacey speculates that the power of the Australian land is activating a deep layer of psyche in white Australians that has been overlaid by civilisation…“ in this context a descendant of the Celtic world is likely to discover that a version of ancient Celtic spirituality is awakened… it is as if the psyche, automatically realising that a bridge must be constructed between the colonising consciousness and the primal landscape, reaches back into cultural memory to find an answering image of aboriginality.” (Tacey 2000, p. 139)
To reflect the hybrid state of an Irish person living under the southern cross, I also made works of oak grafted onto eucalyptus branches. Some branches had a snake-like quality that reflected both the Blue Snake of Ireland and the Australian indigenous Rainbow Serpent. Like the Cailleach the rainbow serpent is female and she created passages through rocks and formed waterholes in the Kakadu landscape helping form a habitat for all beings. She is also part of the life cycle of plants animals and seasonal changes.
The Book of Durrow Carpet – Page with interlacing snakes. c.675: 9×5 inches
This connection is lent weight by research which has also found common genes and language between the Dravidians of India and Australian Indigenous people. (Sidharth Gautham Sunder 2013)
The Indo-European words for oak and Pole Star have been traced to the Sanskrit words Daru and Dhurva respectively. The Gaelic word for oak is dair while druida and the Irish draoi refer to the wise man of the oaks. Drui -in is the wren, the little bird of the druid. Several D -R English words include duration, endure and durable. (Meehan 1995, p.17-18).
A monument to the ancestors was based on Grunewald’s Crucifixion. Psychoanalyst and art critic Julia Kristeva used Grunewald to describe the state of abjection a place of primal anguish where borders between self and other dissolve. The women at the foot of Grunewald’s cross arch backward in the Arch of Hysteria, a posture described by Charcot in the 19th C. asylums of Paris. The arch was the subject of many of Louise Bourgeois sculptures that reflect upon to the relationship between the genders, and in Ireland’s story a painful one of violence, alcoholism and multiple pregnancies emerged, as is found in any dispossessed and vilified people. The Catholic Church was both a source of comfort and control especially of women’s rights within marriage in terms of contraception and abortion.
I was summoned to Ireland by a crow tapping its beak loudly against my window just after dawn for many months. In frustration I yelled out, “Who are you and what do you want?” Surprisingly, a thought responded, “Mother and grandmother”. Then the crow came no more.
However at night I dreamed of the Gaelic place names of Ireland, and the mysterious words, Cailleach Beare and Fianna, written in the scales of a snake’s back. The great blue snake sped across the south west of Ireland and transformed into a woman in white with a red sun behind her. Then little ceramic figures emerged including one of a woman riding a turtle.
The great Ah ha moment came when I found other contemporary artists who had made similar works of a woman on a turtle.
French artist Annette Messager drew a constellation in the form of a woman on a live turtle and set them free in the Jardin du Tendre. Peter Jones, an Iriquois Indian, told an old tale of Louise Skywoman falling to earth, off balance as she copes with contemporary life as a drinks waitress. The final discovery was the blue Hindu god Vishnu’s 2nd incarnation as a turtle that bore the earth mountain on his back during a flood similar in ways and times to the biblical Noah.