The Heart of the goddess calls
6 Stories of Her
The Making of an Irish River Goddess
I had been drawn here, to the River Boyne, and I knew not why. I only knew that Ireland always felt like a land of living magic, an emerald place defying explanation.
The Boyne orients herself on the map haphazardly, flowing in bends and eddies. Unbelievably, she almost perfectly mirrors the Milky Way above. In the curve of her bend lie the great temples of indigenous Irish spirituality: Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth- ancient astrological temples aligned to the stars.
In the morning she looks shy, blushing like she’s not quite ready to wake up and be seen yet, frosted pink with sunrise. I watch her ceaselessly flowing, hundreds of gallons per second. She’s a fierce river. Myth tells us that Ireland’s Boyne River originated in the Well of Wisdom. According to legend, a grove of nine hazel trees stands in the center of the otherworld, and in this grove there is a mystical well of great power.
The legend goes that Boann was the wife of Nechtan, who owned the Well of Wisdom. Nechtan’s well was guarded by three cup bearers, who were the only ones allowed to visit the well. A grove of nine sacred hazel trees surrounded this well, which contained a powerful and mysterious fiery water, so powerful that myth goes it could burn eyes out of any who gazes into it.
In the well swam the Salmon of Wisdom, and it said that anyone who eats the Salmon of Wisdom receives the blessings of ‘Imbas’, the the mystical power of poetic inspiration and prophesy arising from the well’s waters.
Though forbidden by her husband, Boann was curious about the well, and in defiance went up to this forbidden well and walked around it three times. The well cover burst open, causing the water to violently rush forth, blinding her and chasing her to the sea. She was smashed against the rocks, ripped to pieces. The water dismembered the goddess, she lost an arm, and a leg, and ultimately her life before she became the river. She flowed out into the world as the Boyne River, the new body of the goddess.
The tale left me bitter. Something was lost. The oral tale translated by the monks into written word must’ve lost its esoteric meaning; its mystical underpinning. A forbidding, then a punishment. It sounded like a half-truth, something lost in translation.
There was something hidden, a truth more archetypical, more metaphysical and astronomical, some metaphor written in the cosmos, that was long forgotten. I felt sure of it. A mystery hidden, locked away in secret. Something stolen from deep inside me. A pearl from within my womb. I felt it missing, aching for it.
I wander the valley in the bend of the River Boyne, visiting the temples. Newgrange, with its quartz, overpowers my senses. I feel faint, the spiritual energy so strong. Dowth, with its winter solstice alignment, and Knowth, with its equinox alignments, complete the picture of an Earthen calendar; a cosmic landscape slowing forming in my mind’s eye.
I walk the Earth, the sun and moon my guide, green rhythm and birdsong permeating my heart. I lay on the green hills surrounding the riverbank, look out at the haze of emerald and yellow and almost remember my ancestresses living here. Something deep inside wanted to remember, to become itself, and I did my best to let it pour out.
I go to sleep next to the river. The purple glint of winter sunset on frost enraptured me, the river’s moods mirroring the changing sky. Where was Boann’s truth hidden? Was it written in the stone circles, illuminated by sun and moon? Was it written in Venus’ transit across the evening sky, was it in the hawthorn’s blooms? Was it in the wells?
‘The true story, show me in my dreams….’ I ask her.
I fade into dreamland, and see Boann peering out from her castle. I see her striding towards the garden, determined to sip from the well, filled with a thirst for life so great it could only be slaked by the Well of Wisdom itself. Determined for sovereignty, she wanted to know what the salmon in the well tasted like. She wanted something more.
The water rose up, like in the tale, and as the water overcame her she merged with it to become the river itself. For a moment, I flowed with Boann, first as a salmon, silvery and strong, then as a swan. I shifted from one shape to the next. Salmon, swan, seashell, silicate and sand, shapeshifting into the river’s endless life forms. Boann rose up like a great wave, winked, then sank back beneath the surface, swans and salmon gliding and darting in her wake.
I wake up from my dreaming, and look out at moon glint on the river’s surface. I understood a little better. Her death was symbolic. She, like a Celtic heroine, met death valiantly. She knew it was only a rebirth into something bigger. And never for a moment did she look back at the castle; her gilded cage. She was the original shapeshifter, the woman shaman. Her actions expressed a deeper truth: you cannot control feminine life force. No, the feminine bursts forth, breaking all chains that would hold it, like lichen breaking rock.
I related to her. A dark river flowed through my heart. I would die for one sip of fresh green truth from the well, too.
I felt like a wolf, in exile, wandering the banks of the Boyne a spiritual refugee, a follower of the lost sacred feminine, looking for red berries under winter frost to survive, my paw still dragging around an old trap I had only half broken loose from. It crippled me. In the first dawning of goddess consciousness, I feel even more like I am wandering a wasteland, made up of stories told to shape an Untruth.
Beyond the veil was a silky, safe place, but I could only get through the veil if I left consensus reality, shapeshifted into a mermaid, sailing through the sea of stars with a whale waltzing beside me, holding the key to the high feminine libraries of truth. Each star a pearl of forgotten wisdom from the living temple. I sailed in there, I sailed away from consensus reality, and was called mad. So I sunk beneath the waves again, into the belly of the waltzing whale, to wait. To wait for the time to rise, with a knowing smile, for when the truth of the feminine could be accepted once more.
My spirit was longing for freedom. Take me home, Bo, I pleaded, staring into her depths.
Boann rises up from the river, salmon swirling around her. She frightened me, she looked wild eyed, giant. Maybe she resented me raging on her banks, seeking her out of her slumber in the riverbed.
She rose up, swirling with salmon, chasing me with a torrent of water. I am frozen in fear for a moment. THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT? She bellows, as she overcomes me. I try to run from the bank but the river overtakes me. She towers over me in a powerful wave, rising out of the river in the shape of Woman. She grabs me by the throat, lifts me up and dangles me in the air. With a swing of her axe, she begins chopping away at me.
Bits of me fall off in chunks; she severs my limbs, slashing at me. All the tightly clenched, frozen places inside. Pieces falling in, till nothing was left of me but bones. Satisfied, she refashioned me into a mermaid, with a strong silvery tail, chained something heavy to me, and threw me down with such force into the well that I swirled to the bottom, sinking. Disoriented, I looked up to catch a glimpse of sunlight before Boann lifted the stone well cover and began sealing the well.
The light started to fade. I saw the last sliver of sunlight disappear from under the heavy stone. All went black.
I clawed at stone walls, limestone crumbing in pieces under my fingers, breaking my nails ragged. There was no escape. I lay there inert, drifting back and forth, turning paler and paler. I curled my mermaid tail around myself for comfort, and leaned against the cold stone in the dark well.
I longed for a burst of fire in the darkness of psyche, a lit match, but it never came. The deep dark pool in my heart kept flowing. I surrendered to the fury, to the not-nice-ness, the unbridled force of rage of the exiled woman. Why was she exiled? Because she couldn’t live in an image. She remembered her wild ancient freedom. Her unconquerable wild innocence. Why surrender to any authority other than ones own?
In the dark I began to see with my inner eye. I saw the ancient mystery schools, led by high priestesses. I saw the sovereignity goddesses. The herstory behind the lies. I saw ancient goddesses: Tiamet, Nieth, Sekhmet, Pasidae. I saw queens, oracles, and prophetesses, holding the flame of the sacred feminine with their wisdom. The original shamans of this land were females. They lay buried under megaliths and dolmens of the green hills above.
Woman, Boann whispers into my third eye, know thy power, and free thyself.
In the void, the cauldron of the Dark Goddess, there was nowhere to hide. I had to face myself. I had to face my shadow.
Vicious, destructive power was swirling in me, something deeper that wasn’t just me, some primal archetypical force. Primal energies, fury and ferocity, the aspects given in mythologies to unbridled feminine creative forces.
In Celtic shamanism, as well as in alchemy, there is a symbolic death. One must go through a dissolution, a descent into the boiling cauldron of the Dark Goddess, where the meat of our “stories” dissolve, until only the bones remain. We must experience our own annihilation in order to arrive at the truth of our eternal nature. We must meet those aspects of the self that became separated through shame and fear and accept them into the heart without judgement in order to merge with the cosmic mother, in the great void of potential.
In descending into the darkness of the collective shadow of woman, I think of my ancestors, the ones who were called weak and inferior. I think of the women who sang to the moon and gathered mugwort and hawthorn berries, and who burned at the stake for it. The granddaughters of the survivors who knew all along that they are magic, living in a system that doesn’t see them.
Suddenly, I heard someone stamping around the well above. I heard rain drops falling on the well. I looked up. It had started to downpour outside, and drops were falling into the cracks in the cover.
It was a little girl. She had chased a butterfly to the garden around the well, and was stamping her little feet in the puddles. She had prayed for rain, because she loved splashing in those puddles. The little girl, born magic, didn’t know her power. She didn’t know that her wish for rain had caused the downpour. She ran around the well three times, laughing, chasing the butterfly, as free as the wind.
The well cover slipped open and the water poured forth. I rose up, but the water didn’t burst this time. I grabbed her before the flood overtook her, held her tight against my chest and swam with my mermaid tail in swift strong strokes towards a safe lagoon.
I would never let her forget her magic and power. I would do everything I could to ensure that she became sovereign and free.
The real herstory is this: Boann was a daring soul, a freedom seeker. Her myth is a metaphor of metamorphosis. She dropped all fear, doubt, and control, and simply entered into pure existence without boundaries. Her courage brought tremendous transformation.
Now she is the force. She’s the raging river carving the canyon, the waterfall, the wildfire rising. She’s life and death and rebirth. The feminine is the source; the primal mother. She’s the brightest moon in a dark night, leading the way. Diminish her no longer, Boann pleads, throw off the shackles inside, chaining you to untruth. Rewrite the stories.
I see great torrents of cleansing medicine bursting from an Otherworld well, crumbling the old, carrying the dust to the void for a chance at rebirth.
I’ve never lived in a world who saw the Great Mother in the Milky Way, who saw a Goddess in a River, who saw all her different faces in the changing of the moon. I’ve never lived in a world that loved the feminine. But I hope to, yet.
I see one last vision of Boyne before I step away from the well, shed my mermaid tail, and walk back towards Earthly life, with the innocent girl who loves splashing in puddles.
Boann rises up, shimmering blue. “I’m always with you”, she says, “In the flame in your heart”. She hands me a clay bowl filled with rose water, with a small candle floating lit. “Keep this safe within you, in the deepest part, at the bottom of your wellspring.”
My little candle was small, and the flame went out easily, in a gust of dark wind, in ashes from burning embers falling. But I looked out, and saw a million tiny candles all floating on surface of Boyne as she flowed. A million more women lit from within. A million tiny points of light converging on the river, floating together. It was dazzling, each moving with a different hue, twinkling like a rainbow prism. Combined, they lit up the night, illuminating and lighting up the sky in starbursts.
She slips back under the water for the last time as a swan diving, her graceful neck disappearing below the surface. Whenever you need to remember this power, just dip your toe in, she smiles.
Take my hand, and dive in.
Into the Well.
Image: Chalice Well by Angie Latham
When I Met Gaia
When I met Gaia, I came by water, gliding on a boat driven by drumbeat. Beyond the veil I traveled, down a river of stars that lead inside the Earth to her lagoon. She was there, in the trunk of a weeping willow tree glowing with dewdrops, longing to be seen. I climb her great tree and rest in a curve in her branches, into the folds behind her leaves. She radiated something almost indescribable. Pure love.
She showed me the way that the flower petals unfold open to the sun is the same way that throats open to sing; a divine sacred geometry pervades everything. She was trying to keep love on Earth alive.
Look what I can do, my daughter, she whispers…
The Milky Way turns into a silver snake, coiling down from the sky. It lunges into rock, sparking and slicing a canyon, snaking into a river of liquid silver. A bear from Ursa Major awakens from her bed of constellation and jumps to Earth. She lands and the surface rumbles, each footstep makes valleys in the clay, big spaces for oceans, lakes, bays and rivers. The liquid silver flows into the paw prints, water flowing steadily until perfectly filled. The bear hugs earth before returning home.
Watch, daughter! A cascade of birds from the tip of Gaia’s branches emerge. They fly into the air, filling the sky with raucous squawks and wing flaps. Skyward toward freedom.
Whales, from space, see the warm blue oceans and dive into Earth, too. They sing to the stars of their journey. They sing of the memories of Earth forming, libraries of an ancient cosmic past held deep in their bellies.
Look! Says Gaia. I sit up from her tree branch and she transforms me into a tiger. I lay high in a tree in the savannah, stalking prey. I leap, lunge, for a bird, it looks delicious. I’ve got it. And as I clamp my jaws onto her neck, I am transformed into the bird instead, and am eaten. Into the belly of the tiger. I fly out of her mouth as a ghostly Owl, to cross the veil and be born again.
That’s life, she says. Birth, death, and rebirth, under one umbrella.
The sun begins to rise. She signals flowers to open, blooming open to receive the light of life. Honeybees dive into the nectar to do their work of alchemy. A sunlight and pollen and honey miracle. The hexagonal storm cloud above Saturn swirls, matching their hexagonal honeycomb hive. The same divine geometry authors life from the smallest honeybee hive up to storms over celestial bodies.
She rustles, in raindrops and wind on wet leaves and hands me a bowl of rainwater. I look in and see my past lives. I was a nautilus for eons, then a jellyfish for millennia. I curl into her tree curves, cradled in the crook of her long neck, bark scratching my skin. I don’t want to leave you Gaia. I tell her.
You are a child of Earth, she said. The fire that creates planets fires your cells and your will. The water of the ocean is in your blood. Minerals from ancient soil form your bones. You are welded from the same spark of fire that hit the primordial ocean, exploding, changing lands, creating worlds. From black magma you still survived. You are ancient, animated with sentient fire. The rhythm of those you came before you beats in your heart. The spirit breath of the ancestors moving from one generation to the next in your lungs. Plant a tree, sing to water. Pray for the ones yet to come.
You are the meaning maker, she said. She handed me a lotus. Look at the petals. What does a flower blooming open to the light act like? Be like that.
And in that sweet moment, before I left her, before I had to return home, being simply held snug like a child, tight in the web of her lovely creation — that was plenty.
I sailed away, back through the weeping willing sparking with dew, up the underwater crystal river, back to the surface. Gaia’s love settled, resting in my soul and filling up my heart, like a blessing.
Of Ancient Magic
Ancient Viking seeresses, called volurs, would travel the land freely, beholden to no one, on the outskirts of society.
They practiced a form of magic which called upon spirit with song and drum. The more sweetly sung the song, the more Great Spirit was pleased.
With their healing magic, they were treated with a mixture of deference and wariness. Their power made others uneasy.
The ancient Minoan priestesses of Crete would drum together in underground sound chambers, entering into trance to receive communication from the Otherworld.
In Ireland, there is the Cailleach, the Veiled One, and her daughters the ‘bean feasa’ who can see beyond the Veil. The women who kept the Old Ways of healing had to go into hiding throughout the centuries, though their magic remained alive.
They went into the forests and gardens and tide pools to seek divinity, they called upon earth, air, fire, and water, and they never forgot.
When I drum and sing and see, I am following in the ancient footsteps of long ago ancestresses. Song heals the land. Spirit hears, and always has.
To those who cast spiritual women as erratic, crazy, delusional:
I pity your close mindedness, because the beauty and Mysticism right under your nose you shall never see through the lens of judgement
To any sisters who ever doubt their natural healing power, I say never again hide your magic. Express it for all. Vulnerability is courage.
We were damned long ago by those who couldn’t understand, so dance in the fire, and hold your shadows close like old lovers.
Claim your rightful role on this Earth with integrity and dignity. No one can take our dignity without our consent.
We are needed now, to pour forth wisdom from a millennia old nautilus shell, like water flowing from a sacred chalice onto a parched land.
The Elusive Bear Goddess
Celtic, Norse, and Germanic mythologies have a legend of a Bear Goddess. The Bear Goddess is curious to me, because she represents the woman shaman. She goes underneath the surface, builds a winter den, and falls asleep in the fertile dark. As in a shamanic death, she seeks hibernation in underworld darkness, deep into the universe inside, with only a subtle knowing that she will emerge.
Then, in spring, after her long sleep with the stars, wiping the crust of the dark moon from her eyes, she emerges into the clear light of knowing. That which was lost can now be remembered:
The power of the shamanic female.
Woman by their very nature are shamanic. Woman is the original shaman, according to a Chukchee proverb.
The mantra of the sacred feminine could be, “ I amplify in stillness”.
It unfolds open to the unknown. It is about being, not doing. It asks for silence and stillness to hear itself.
The visionary guidance of the oracular and shamanic feminine is as useful now as when Caesar consulted the Oracle of Delphi. They didn’t burn a million witches at the stake because they weren’t powerfully visionary.
Becoming receptive to the shamanic feminine and reclaiming this empowerment means to evolve beyond the ways in which consciousness has been manipulated. It requires a great opening of the heart.
The female body is a temple of magic. She is the temple priestess of her body. She contains a body wisdom connected to the cosmos, and she is the sovereign owner. She knows. She sees. She remembers.
The depth and truth of female gnosis and power has been hidden. One example: belly dancing was traditionally used in ancient cultures to help women during childbirth by tuning into the wisdom of their own bodies. Belly dancing was taken from women and eroticized. In the great lie, her body turned into property, and she lost the birthright of her ancestress’ ancient wisdom.
A new Earth is being born, and she’s already begun, in the same place where everything begins, below the surface. But first, fierce, paradigm shattering truths are needed. Necessary destruction of all systems which harm Earth must be let go, and rebirthed with love.
The priestess and the shaman understand a cosmic truth that under the umbrella of ‘life’ is the birth-death-rebirth continuum. She is a doula of those coming and going beyond the Veil, a keeper of the cosmic flame.
At the very last moment, thousands year old towering structures that held up old realities will topple, crashing down like dust around one single bloom, one green shoot growing fiercely from the rubble of old.
The Goddess will rise, to lead the way from fear to love. She is unsinkable, because she always had the most powerful tool in the universe under her command:
Lost Priestesses of Omey Island, Ireland
Come on a journey to Omey Island, off the west coast of Ireland. Legend goes it was Eire’s last pagan outpost.
But first, we will have to go back in Time.
Back to the Neolithic era, and beyond. When Nature, humanity, and divinity were interwoven under the constellations. When the ‘anima loci’, the spirit of place, spoke, and humans listened.
A classic example of a sacred place lost to history, it has gone down in the records as ‘the last pagan outpost’, so what has this island seen?
The island can only be reached at low tide, and it’s known for a special hill, named the Hillock of Women, where 300 female bones are found.
There is a legend of a dead sailor being buried under this Hill of Women. The next morning the man’s bones were scattered around the hill. Earth rejected them, because this was a women’s hill, folklore goes.
Not much else is written about it.
The Druidess and priestess and goddess knowledge was purposefully destroyed, after all.
Why? To control our perceptions of reality.
But there are those who can’t be mind controlled, who remember. It’s still within us, in our DNA. The spirit of place speaks into our blood like cosmic electricity.
At the top, the stones buzz. The wind whips around the island. I close my eyes and feel ancient magic. Pagans gathered here at this particular spot for a purpose. It is a place to hear the music of the spheres, to connect to the Great Mystery.
Reclaiming these special places requires an open mind, open heart channel for deep memories to flow.
I reckon the ancient pagan women of this island were Priestesses, seers, and water diviners and protectors above all.
They spoke the language of water, the water held in their blood matching the frequency of the water in the sea, like sacred vessels of ancient memories, chalices for source to flow. It was an ‘anima loci’ to connect with stars and water. To sea wisdom. To mermaids (yes, mermaids). To a beautiful way of knowing, being, and seeing.
The archeologists perhaps cannot understand.
What is really buried under the Hill of Women is far more than just bones.
What is buried is truth, which is treasure.
It’s a treasure that animates my spirit as I walk on the sacred land. I know in my heart mind that Omey Island was a holy island for Priestesses, who ran a temple, and maintained deep connection to stars and ocean.
So much beauty lost. So much magic lost.
I hope it returns soon.
From an earthen temple in Ireland, I look out over the hills as if sailing through an undulating green ocean. Through the fog, I see traces of magic from a long gone past. The wanderess within says be silent, be still; simply be.
The specific temple I stand near is dedicated to Ireland’s most ancient sovereignty goddess- the Cailleach.
She represents the Great Grandmother spirit that holds us all in her earthen womb. Inside this temple lies great indigenous feminine wisdom; an ancient lineage of female sovereignty, power, and enlightenment. She is the divine earth mother from where we emerge and return, she is the womb and the tomb of life. She is paradox, the universal feminine life force that encompasses all cycles.
I drum in the stone circles, and see shadows of long gone priestesses, dancing. The Cailleach calls to me, whispering into my bones, “Gather the sisters of the Rose, dear one!” I see stone circles arising all over the world; the stones turn into women, lit from within, glowing and flowing like starlight, a cosmic fire in their heart.
What is Priestess?
A priestess is a woman who walks on Earth within the backdrop of a vast cosmic remembrance. They are birth guides through deep transformation. And there’s a timelessness to the priestess role that is very relevant right now.
The sovereign goddess teaches the lessons of death and rebirth. She teaches us not to fear transformation. She’s about overcoming the fear of death and seeing oneself as an energy being, a spirit having a human experience.
That’s why the sovereignty goddess is potent medicine right now, because we are going through a death and rebirth process, a transformation and evolution of consciousness.
The priestesses served a certain function for their community. They held a flame within, they were a conduit for Shakti, or feminine creative force, to flow. The priestesses lived life in ritual, like a living prayer, knowing that the feminine principle is what creates, nurtures, and nourishes the web of life.
Ancient people’s knew and understood the divinity of the womb and of the feminine creative powers. They knew a woman’s body was a cosmic temple, with a deep and primal connection to Nature’s wisdom.
The Oracle of Delphi was consulted for a reason.
In ancient, pre-patriarchial times it was known that what we now call “women’s intuition” was much more than intuition, it was a connection to Great Spirit. It was known that through the womb, heart, and third eyes were receptors of much cosmic wisdom.
The ancient priestesses of Egyptian, Maltan, Minoan Crete, Norse and Celtic cultures used to go into womb-like spaces, drum, chant, and use sound to reach altered states of consciousness that allowed the gifts of prophecy. In fact many female bones are found buried these ancient dolmens and cairns; the woman shaman played an important role in the guidance of tribal societies.
Most of the ancient sacred temples dedicated to the Goddess, such as the earthen structures of Bru na Boinne in Ireland, and the Hypogeum of Malta, are designed to resonate to 110 Herz. The temples are often also covered in rock art in geometric glyphs and symbols. They are a Goddess language, representing sacred feminine consciousness.
It is a different type of consciousness, for the goddess cultures were pre-alphabet. The symbols and glyphs are ways to attune into energy frequencies that can raise awareness into a more cosmic way of knowing.
That’s why remembering the true purpose of these ancient earthen temples is so important to the expansion of consciousness.
The priestesses were cast out, brutally, for thousands of years. But now the tides are turning, the moon is returning with a bright vengeance to shine light on old truths.
These times have been spoken of in many indigenous cultures for millennia, the Hopi, Mayan, Aborigines, Cherokee, and Sumerian prophecies all speak of the ending of an old world and the beginning of a new.
The priestess role is to be midwife to this great cosmic rebirth. They come with a flame within, and a message of hope. A hope that a great new age is upon us, and that there is nothing to fear if we listen to the voices of those eternally connected to Nature. To the indigenous voices, to the female voices, to the lost and muffled voices which now will speak their truth and wisdom.
Old structures built on unsustainable foundations must now collapse so that we may create a sustainable new earth. It seems chaotic and frightening to enter into this Void, to enter in the chaos of the unknown, but it is from this place of unmanifest potential that new energetic structures can be built.
Within the deep remembrance inside the priestess heart is a great faith. She wishes to express the love and guidance of the Great Mother, soothing the heart during times of stormy seas of change, providing courage during great rebirthing pains.
To the Priestess, a beautiful new earth is not only coming, on a deeper, cosmic level, it is already here.
All we have to do is open our third eyes, look deep within, and see it.