Sisterhood of the Antlers

Stories of the Ancestral Mothers of Scotland from folk magic and the wise women who honored them. Rooted in the Bean Feasa (Wise Woman) tradition.

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The Dance of Clutha

Photo shared by on in Paths Blogs




Original image used by permission of K Mackenzie  


I grew up on the banks of the river Clyde, or more specifically, where the river Leven joins the Clyde. This place is marked by the unmissable landmark of the great Dumbarton Rock, the plug of an ancient volcano stretching 240 feet (73 m) high. It is here that the waters from Loch Lomond make their way down the fast flowing Leven and join the Clyde.

Dumbarton Castle, perched on Dumbarton Rock was once the ancient capital of Strathclyde. It has seen sieges from Picts, Romans and Vikings, Dukes, Earls and Kings – but it’s a time preceding all of them that calls on my imagination. 




Clutha dancing with a winter solstice sun


Since I was a child, I have always tried to imagine the place before cars and roads, before houses. Back to a time not long after the last ice age when mammoth and reindeer still roamed. I imagined the view those early people might have seen, imagining that if I squinted with eyes closed half open I would still see them, somehow living out their lives between or under our timeline.

What were their thoughts, how did they see the world? Who did they petition as they gathered and hunted, who did they honor around a roaring fire with bellies full? I wonder of Clutha played a role in their lives? Clutha is generally thought of as the Goddess of the Clyde. Very little is known about her with the first instance of her name being recorded when the Romans recorded the local tribe, the Damonii.


She Who Cycles

The earliest peoples believed that water held life, without it life couldn’t exist. Clutha isn’t just the essence of the river she is the waters within the clouds, the streams and the Loch. To sense something of those earliest people I turn to my drum. She led me across the worlds, over an ocean where I danced with Clutha. Clutha is 'she that cycles', from the clouds drifting in from the Atlantic, dropping their waters when they meet the mountains of the west coast. She falls as rain onto the shoulders of Ben Lomond, trickling down in little tributaries, joining others creating mountain streams, cascading down waterfalls and pouring into the dark peaty waters of Loch Lomond. 

The dark peaty soil soaks her up until it is saturated and creates dark pools which seem to have no depths providing perfect scrying bowls. Beneath the peat soaked up by heather and bracken, down through the layers to give distinctive tastes and prized for whiskey making. Tributaries, lochs – swimming with fishes, into the Clyde gulped up by the great giant basking sharks who are known to sail these waters. Out into the firth mixing with salt water and seals and forests of kelp.

Her dance is fueled by the sun, sometimes by the wind some nights she is transparent clouds illuminated by moonlight. What qualities did she bestow? What did her waters offer? We have so little information about her although she is still here cycling, replenishing, feeding. As the salt water surges up the Clyde at high tide we can feel her flow and ebb. Sadly our world has turned it's back on that world reveling in somehow being apart, aloof from nature. 



Loch Lomond. Image from


'The Apache people of the American southwest say that wisdom sits in places and tell their children to drink from places. Apache sage Dudley Patterson once described wisdom as water that never dries up. He articulated the connection of place and soul this way: You need to drink water to stay alive, dont you? Well, you also need to drink from places. You must learn their names. You must remember what happened at them long ago. The Apache are a desert people, but their idea of wisdom strangely echoes that which of rainy Ireland. It is important, both say, to repeat the names of places, for in doing so we evoke their stories. That happened there: place and story are deeply tied both Apache and Irish wisdom traditions'.

 P Monaghan, Red Haired Girl from the Bog.


I hear the call and feel the presence of those long ago people. There is times when I wander these hills and enter into pockets that feel as if they are time out of time. Sacred places. I like to sit and drink up their silence, bathing in that deep sense of place the silence offers. The wisdom of this place soaks into my cells, and even now though I maybe many miles from her I still have her wisdom, her water locked up in my cells.  


 Sister Connection 

I can still hear her call, although an ocean away as this deity of life giving water is known by many names across the world. In ireland she is Boann, in the foothills of the Appalachians she was Tah-kee-os-tee (Racing Waters) to the Cherokee peoples. I sense a similarity as I sit by her banks - her fast eddies and white caps. She pulls me into that space - time out of time. Tah-kee-os-tee or Zillicoah is the oldest river in the world, far older than the Blue Ridge Mountains she has carved her path through.  There is a sister connection. 





 A ritual to Clutha with 3 white quartz stones


On one of the hills above the Clyde stands a burial chamber marked by a five foot portal stone. It marks a grave where alongside a polished axehead a collection of white quartz stones were found. When you walk these hills they shine out set against the dark peaty soil. I too carry white quartz stones from that sacred place, I find myself reaching for them as I enter trance and shaking them like a rattle. Above is a ritual to Clutha, down on the banks of the Clyde. A request for her to still sing to me, to feel her tides and know that I will return to live by her waters once again. 





Towards the Firth of Clyde from Carman Hill


Towards the Firth of Clyde













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As an artist and Cultural Activist, Jude Lally is rooted in the inspiration of her Ancestral Mothers. All her work comes about through exploring her relationship with the land through art, ritual, imagination, and creativity.

She uses the inspiration of old traditions to meet modern needs. While keening, was traditionally a way to ament the death of someone in the community, Jude uses it today as a way to address modern needs in allowing an expression of grief we hold for all that is happening across the planet. In using keening in this cathartic way she then engages participants with gestures of ritual which help them deal with their grief and then inspires them to work in creative ways in acts of resistance, working towards a restorative culture.

She calls herself a Radical doll maker who views her art as part of a practice that stretches back to the first dolls fashioned from bones and stones – such as the Woman of Willendorf.

She gained her MSc Masters Degree in Human Ecology at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, Scotland) in partnership with the Center for Human Ecology, with her thesis entitled ‘Fire in the Head, Heart, and Hand. A Study of the Goddess Brighid as Goddess Archetype and her Relevance to Cultural Activists in Contemporary Scotland’. She currently lives in Asheville, Western North Carolina but is moving back to Scotland this year.



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