Sisterhood of the Antlers

Walking the path of the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland with stories, art, and ritual

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An Invitation to the Shrine of the Ancestral Mothers

Posted by on in Paths Blogs


This morning I stepped from bed, dressed, and walked out onto the land. It was still misty and three dark sentinel shadows watched me. The watchers are turkeys, yet they seem to be shapeshifters, turning into thin old women, wrapped in a dark cape of feathers.

Although the sun has risen it hasn’t yet reached the crest of the hill and so the morning still seems shrouded in that magical threshold. I slip some horse chestnuts, which are lying in abundance, their spiky casings littering the ground, into my pocket.

I step into the labyrinth, to walk this morning's ritual of moving from the light to the dark of the year. In my mind I think of my favorite places of home - for although I am here part of me is also atop Carman Hill awaiting dawn. That is the place where this old crone, the Cailleach, has always spoken to me.

The Descent

I walk the labyrinth, prayer beads in hand. These are a bear set - for she was the first figure to lead us into the descent of the year. The next three beads are circular, solid silver beads - the invitation to come to the temple - wherever you are in the world. Whether you live in the wilds or 17th floor of a high rise - each sister can enter the temple. 

The Shrine

As each woman brings her passion, her unique skills, and creativity we rebuild the ancient shrines and temples once dedicated to the Ancestral Mothers. When we sit by our altar or sit in circle, when we care our neighbors and our community. When speak up for those who don’t have a voice, when we act for animals and the land - when we speak out against what is wrong.

Each woman plays her part – some carry fire, kindled from ancient fires and so tend to the hearth and the candles. Other women have carried the ancient songs, some are called to particular roles such and and some remember the ancient script which they paint on banners. Others create glorious altars, some step into the role of priestess, some are keepers of the drum, others dancers of the rattles, some are called to tell the old stories and together we create ritual and ceremony and dance between the worlds to ask the most ancient grandmothers for their insight and wisdom.

Together we support women and girls both in our community and around the world as we move towards a partnership culture that existed for far longer than our current dominator system has.

While each of us takes our own path and yet we walk together on a path forged by our foremothers - some remembering, some rekindling, and practicing their wisdom. It is the path of Ancestral Mothers that roots us to the spiritual bedrock of the planet as we rebuild a new world out of the collapsing ruins of capitalism and patriarchy.  


So dear sister, how will you visit the Temple today? Maybe you will set aside time for a small gesture of ritual into this great change the old Crone has ushered in. Maybe you’ll sit in the garden, or the park. Maybe you can only take 5 minutes and breathe out and breathe in that tangible change in the air.

The Great Mystery

The next bead my fingers reach as I walk the labyrinth is the mystery bead. The mystery bead on this set is a star-cut moonstone - with iridescent t flashes which I like to think represent the wonderful synchronicities that we find presenting themselves. To honor the stories we live by and honor them with heart, hands and soul.

I reach the center of the labyrinth and now my fingers reach the circle of beads in the prayer bead set. This is the sacred circle, the center. I sit in the centre by a great ion cauldron, filled with rain water. As I peer in I am transported to the Isle of Eigg (the isle of the Big Women - where I take women on retreat each year). There is a tradition there to look into the well to your reflection and to see who is peering over your shoulder. This morning as I peer into the pool of dark water it is the Turkey in her tall and slender shape - the shapeshifter, Taliesker. Beside me is a vibrant green rosemary plant - she invites me to inhale her scent. Rosemary is she who helps us remember and her magic this morning is to remind us that things weren’t always this way.  The Paths of the Ancestral Mothers originate in a time before patriarchy, a time of partnership - a time not of power over but of a power shared. A time when our lives were entwined with the Ancestral Mothers.

It is this sacred centre in whatever it is that you are doing that brings you to the Shrine.

A Gesture of Ritual

My age-long ritual at this moment is to offer a gesture of ritual to Bear who will eventually hibernate. A small green doll is placed into the cauldron along with Bear. The doll is the green vitality of the earth that slowly each plant and tree takes that vitality back down into their roots. Their is a part of each of us in that small green doll. The Bear is an ancient memory of the Goddess Brighid, who has been recognized in this most ancient of mother figures.

So what might be your gesture of ritual to mark this great transition? How might you begin to prepare for the coming dark?

Maybe you might plan to set aside ten minutes each day to sit by your altar? Maybe you need to fill a basket with art materials and paper. Maybe you’ll get a new notebook or treat yourself to an inspiring journal. Maybe you’ll commit to spending time with Her each morning on the porch over a cup of coffee. Maybe you’ll invite some dear friends to gather once or twice a month in a sacred circle.

It is the old crone, the one rooted in a primordial age, who ushers in the dark of the year. As the sun rises at Loughcrew it shines directly into the chamber of Cairn T and illuminates the ancient symbols etched onto the wall.In my mind I think of the long tradition of honoring this ancient old one for it is she who tucks up the tender green, keeping it safe over the winter.



Autumn Equinox at Cairn T, Sliabh na Cailleach, the Mountains of the Hag. Loughcrew, Ireland

She is a destroyer this ancient old woman and yet she is much misunderstood. She strikes down life over winter and brings frost, snow and freezing rain for things must die down and lie fallow in order for the rebirth to take place. This is the ways things have always been.

As we move from the light of the year to the dark the invitation stands to use your own language of ritual in art or dance, song or silence to mark this sacred passage





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Jude Lally is a forager of stories. You’ll find her out wandering the hills around Loch Lomond, reading the signs that guide her to stories in the land.

As a Cultural Activist, she draws upon the inspiration from old traditions to meet current needs.
She uses keening as a grief ritual, a cathartic ritual to express anger, fear, and despair for all that is unfolding within the great unraveling.
As a doll maker, she views this practice as one that stretches back to the first dolls which may have been fashioned from bones and stones and ancient stone figurines such as the Woman of Willendorf. She uses dolls as a way of holding and exploring our own story, and relationship to the land as well as ancestral figures.

She gained her MSc Masters Degree in Human Ecology at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, Scotland) and lives on the West Coast of Scotland on the banks of the River Clyde, near Loch Lomond. She is currently writing her first book, Path of the Ancestral Mothers.



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