This week, I’m going to write about three archetypal feminine figures – a witch, a goddess, and a lady of mystery. These are Baba Yaga, the fearsome, wise and enigmatic Russian witch, the Goddess Kuan Yin, spirit of healing and compassion, and a figure of stone who I recently found in a hedge and who may be part White Lady, part mermaid. At present I’m on a personal trek to explore the significance of these. I have a story to tell about each one of them, and then I’m also going to let them interact as they will, and see what dances, what images or dreams emerge. I’ll be posting on my two blogs www.cherrygilchrist.co.uk and www.circleofnine.org, and probably other sites too. As publication of The Circle of Nine approaches, I find that the work isn’t over yet – the cauldron of myth and legend, and the ever fascinating questions that they raise in our lives, is still drawing me in. Wish me luck on my journey! And I'll plan to post soon. Once I've put this up, I can't really back out, can I?
And in the meantime, here are some images to whet the appetite.
'The Company of Nine - An Ancient Template for Women's Magic' is a new blog post I've written, now up at https://singinghead.wordpress.com/. It looks at the ancient radition of nine women forming circles for divination, healing and magical practices. The evidence is often right there in the landscape. Rod Thorn, who runs the site, has included many other fascinating articles there on old magical traditions. He and I have also explored a few ancient sites together - here's a picture from a recent trip to the Nine Maidens stone circle at Belstone, on Dartmoor.
I’m currently hard at work, writing blogs to go out in webzines world-wide to support publication of The Circle of Nine, which is coming up fast now. Thanks to my terrific editor and publicist, I’ve got a raft of stimulating mind-body-spirit type websites to explore, and I’m having a creative time thinking up ideas to weave articles around. The first one to go live is ‘Renewing the Spirit of the Home’, about how a group of female friends helped me to restore the vitality of my house back in 2000, and have a good time into the bargain! It’s on Elephant Journal at https://www.elephantjournal.com/now/renewing-the-spirit-of-the-home/.
There’s another in the pipeline, called ‘Surviving the Reunion – Where Past and Present Collide’. I love reunions (mostly) and have become fascinated by how we share memories on these occasions. That will be on World of Psychology blog at PsychCentral.com. I’ll flag it up when it appears.
I’m also writing one about ‘Following the Female Line’, inspired by my interest in family history and the discovery that my 3 x Great Grandmother was a camp follower in Wellington’s army. And there will be an article too celebrating Women’s Circles – and explaining why nine is such a very good number to work with for women!
Photo below: women dancing Border Morris at the Bridge Inn, Topsham last night
Here’s a lucky find from a charity shop today! I’ve always had a weakness for ripping yarns – old schoolgirl stories, and girls’ annuals. These date from the late 1940s and early 1950s, and are packed with adventures. Girls saving others from burning houses, having midnight feasts, getting lost on Dartmoor, capturing enemy spies…you name it, they did it! I’ll hold my own fire now until I’ve had a chance to read through these, and then I’ll see how they match up to our Circle of Nine. I know for sure that I can find a Queen of the Night and a Weaving Mother there.
I was so happy to meet my favourite bird again recently! Boss the Eagle Owl was on show at the Exmouth Festival along with a fine selection of birds of prey. His owner says that he's a real softie, and even a little lazy too. He's also very calm, but observant, as you can see from those glowing golden eyes. I first met Boss at a medieval street fair in our own town of Topsham last year, and it was love at first sight. (for me, that is - I can't speak for Boss). With Boss sitting proud on my gloved hand I feel proud, regal, and in great awe, too, of his stature and powers. Could I be emulating the Queen of the Night?
Of course, owls have a connection to far-sightedness and wisdom. The Greek goddess of wisdom, Athene, was associated with an owl, and some species of owl are even named after her. This Eurasian eagle-owl though has the Latin name 'bubo bubo', which doesn't have quite the same ring about it.
The eagle-owl-eyed among you may notice that I'm wearing exactly the same T-shirt and hat as I am in the photo taken with Boss last year, on the 'About' page of this website. So is the photo a fake? No - just one of those strange coincidences! And I do have other clothes that I wear, I promise. Perhaps this is my 'lucky owl' outfit!
Visiting the historic Saltram House, near Plymouth, I was awed by the sight of a row of women working on the restoration of an antique carpet. They sat patiently, completely focused on their delicate work – a silent row of Weaving Mothers. This is an old Axminster carpet and can only be mended by those with the finest skills. The project will take over a year to complete.
This is a painting which my husband, Robert Lee-Wade, has just completed of The Nine Maidens stone circle at Belstone on Dartmoor. I’ve been there a few times – we struggled through the fog on our first visit – and love to visit this ancient site. The first thing you may notice is that there are more than nine stones. Why? Well, extensive research that I carried out for this book shows that the tradition of Nine Maidens (or Nine Mothers, Ladies, Sisters and so on) is embedded so strongly both in landscape and in mythology that no one minds very much if the literal number doesn’t match the sacred concept of ‘the Nine’. Our landscape here in the British Isles is studded with ancient ‘Nine Maidens’ landmarks and monuments called and so on. And practically none of them have nine stones or nine features! As I’ve written in the first chapter of Circle of Nine, the numbering probably stems from 3 x 3 (as in triple goddess). And it’s incredibly widespread throughout Europe, the Mediterranean and elsewhere. Historians and folklorists have tried to explain away the discrepancies, but even William Bottrell, the nineteenth century Cornish folklorist, who tried to deny the validity of ‘nine’ in the names of the megaliths nevertheless said: “You know everybody hereabouts uses nine in all their charms and many other matters.” Long live the Nine Maidens in the landscape!
These particular Maidens are said to be dancers frozen in time – but for those who have eyes to see, they come to life at midday, and begin their dance again…
This blog will be fully active as we approach publication day. In the meantime, I'm busy putting up other posts on this site and thoroughly enjoying myself sorting out photos and stories to add. And what I hope to do on this page is to keep you up-to-date with any developments about the book, and about articles I'm writing, as well as snippets of info, ideas for groupwork etc, and anything that goes into our patchwork quilt here. Did you know that Circle of Nine is also the name for a kind of patchwork? True, it's not quite the same as our Circle as it tends to be eight around the edge and one in the middle, but here's a gorgeous example anyway, which reminds me of the bunch of nine daffodils which inspired our own Nine. I like to think of the Nine dancing in a ring, taking it in turns to be the one in the middle!