The Braided River

ABOUT CAROLYN

I live on a thousand-year old farm in the ancient belly of Dartmoor, a mist-veiled landscape of wild hills, peat bogs and heather moors in the south-west of England. I draw the inspiration for all my work from the raw beauty and primordial memory of the ancient earth, and the untamed spirit of the sacred paths that women walk upon it. My creative offerings form a textured weave of books, women’s workshops and festivals, song albums and concerts, paintings and art installations, traditional drum making, and the tending of this place of wild sanctuary on Dartmoor.

For over thirty years I have been teaching a spiralling series of workshop journeys for women that braid together ritual song, intuitive ceremony, ancient initiation and direct interaction with the wild land. Most of these workshops take place on the land where I live but I have also travelled widely with my work, teaching in Japan, Canada, USA, Russia, throughout Europe and the UK. My books include the Weavers’ Oracle (which is now in several translations), archive song collection Wild Litany, original interpretation of the Proto-Celtic language Her Bone Bundle, the series of volumes Book of Hag and my earlier publication Sacred House.

I have recorded twelve solo albums of songs and chants, each born from hearth mysteries, feral trails, the weave of magic and the power of sister circles. My early albums enabled me to find a home within women’s sacred music, and my songs continue to express the essence and edges of my perspective on women’s experience, revelation and empowerment.

My paintings of life-size archetypal spirit women form the core around which so much of my work turns and are the keys that unlocked the Weavers’ Oracle. These weavers live in my studio but sometimes they are exhibited in shrine installations. I have spent many years making and teaching traditional frame drums, using red deer and wild horse skins sourced from the moor and prepared by hand. The large neolithic-style roundhouse, built here on the land from granite, oak and reed thatch, protects the sacred hearth fire which pulses at the heart of all these endeavours.

THE BRAIDED RIVER

Here is the braid that shapes this river…

There is a prayer that exists on sacredly-held land which is far more ancient, powerful, enduring and unknowable than any one of us can really understand. It moves beneath the surface of the ground, it winds through roots and bedrock, it pours out through the tips of twigs, it diffuses through dew-dripping webs. It circles and curls and meanders; it slices through like a blade. It disintegrates and dissolves and reshapes and spills out in new forms over and again. It moves faster than any one of us can run to catch it. It shifts shape more surprisingly than any one of us can try to dream it. It has one purpose: to feed the soul and song and memory of the land.

There is a prayer that exists within sacredly-purposeful women which is far more ancient, powerful, enduring and unknowable than any one of us can really understand. It is held within a vessel that belongs to none and is given to all. It is fed by our intent and action, it is formed from generosity of heart, it is empowered by authentic offerings from the bone of each woman’s body and the soul of each woman’s song. It cannot be held onto for sometimes it is a fish. It cannot be ignored for sometimes it is a bear. It cannot be consumed for sometimes it is a boulder. It is a river than dances around fish and bear and boulder as it finds its true course and swells into the prayer of many other rivers.

There is a prayer that exists inside the sacredly-tended fire which is far more ancient, powerful, enduring and unknowable than any one of us can really understand. It awakens, rises, burns, transforms into smoke and dissolves into ashes, over and again, even when not one of us is sat beside that fire. The hearth fire of women’s holy house rolls forward, warming our time then passing far beyond our own open laps. It resides within our care for just a moment. It waits for us to feed its heart with sticks and stories and our own breath, then it is gone, as are we, this fire to future spirals of time and we to ashes. The many circles of ancient women who stand around our gathered company know this truth, for they once sat with their feet close to these hot stones.

THE WEAVERS’ TRAIL
I have guided women’s workshop journeys and teachings for more than thirty years on Dartmoor. This online programme has been created to enable what is shared in this remote wild moorland sanctuary to be explored by a community of women far beyond those who are able to travel to my home. For some years I have circled the question of how to weave deeper digital connectedness into my work while preserving the integrity and wonder of what we experience in our physical gatherings and ceremonies. There are compelling reasons for offering online workshops: the practical limit to the number of places that may be offered for gatherings on the land, the urgent need to reduce our collective air miles around the planet and the ability of a digital vessel to fit fluidly around our domestic, work or personal commitments. So the task has been this: how to infuse an online experience with the raw energy of the moors and the untamed beauty of ancient feral dreamscapes? How to anchor the physical dynamic of women travelling their individual journeys into a framework that can be sustaining, inspiring and fully grounded in the integrity of sisterhood? How to bring the wild sanctuary of this ancient ritual landscape and this sacred roundhouse hearth and these fiercely tender sister circles into each woman’s own home? I hope that on this trail we are able to stride together towards meeting this task. I thank you, sister, for travelling with me…

THE JOURNEYS

Please click here to find out more about the Weavers’ Trail.