Seanchai & Bean Feasa
Scotland is a land woven with stories that are full of threads of wisdom. These are as much a part of us as the red blood that flows through our veins. There is ‘no’ separation between lore and life. These ancient tales spoke freely of death and grief. Our long time dead understood that this is a natural part of life. They knew the importance of ritual when it came to caring for the eternal soul. Their belief in an afterlife enabling an unbreaking bond with the great Celtic otherworld.
I pass on many of these ancient traditions by teaching others about death and dying practices. I have always had a relationship with the dead. This was not of my choosing and it took me many years to accept that this was my purpose. Like the old stories the threads of my life have come together to weave an understanding of the part I now play in crossing over the accused witches. That by healing the original witch wound, we also begin to heal the invisible legacy of the burning times in the here and now.
WOMAN OF LAMENT
The ban chaointe, or woman of lament, was a traditional midwife to the dead whose singing opened the veil to the otherworld. Her songs of sorrow, sung home the souls of the dead and enabled a depth of emotions to flow that prevented the living drowning in their grief. During this, she might recite the genealogy to call on those that had gone before, so the ancestors could welcome their kin home.
Part of the lament was melodic and often recounted the deeds of the deceased. It might even name those left behind and sing about their deep love for the person who had died. But not all the keening was tuneful. Part of it was a primal wailing, an expression of loss from the pit of the soul. This outpouring of raw grief was often accompanied by the ban chaointe pounding the earth with her fists in protest at this great loss and on occasions throwing herself into the grave. This ritual act was intended to extract the turbulent grief of all those present, to enable the tears to flow and allow the healing of those left behind. This practice was discouraged by the church in Scotland and slowly died out. But there is an awakening to the use of these death traditions in modern times. A thirst for the old ways.
Like many other women, I feel anger and sorrow at the injustice the accused witches endured. But my connection to the witch hunts can be traced back to a previous incarnation. A story I rarely tell for most would not believe it. Born with an unexplainable fear of fire and haunted by a disturbing recurrent dream, I underwent regression many years ago in a bid to understand their root. It was then that I discovered I had lived in mid-century Scotland. That my daughter shared the fate of the accused witches. The reason I would not bear a girl child in this lifetime, as I could not endure losing another to the flames. I remember burying her body in the dead of night in consecrated ground, so her soul would be at peace. I still feel the wet dirt under my fingernails. A past life experience that is imprinted into my immortal being. Another thread in the tapestry of my life.
It is a strange thing to feel the irresistible pull to places in the land that still hold the trauma of torture. Stanger still to smell the burning flesh or to feel the hands of the doomster around your neck, as the dead share their pain of passing with you. But as a crone, I am accustomed to strange things. I am accepting of them and the role I have in the performing of death rites and like the ban chaointe, singing home the souls of the accused witches.
I have a circle of sisters; our name is the ‘Daughters of the Cailleach’. On the first day of May, they are joining me to cross over these traumatised spirits. I am allowing this ceremony to be filmed in a secret location as part of an international documentary series on female spirituality. A lifting of the veil on this sacred work.
Get in touch if you would like to learn the ways of the wise woman and become part of this circle of soul midwifes. There is much work to be done and the Cailleach is calling……..