Weaving the bone woman shawl with my ancestors….

by Nikiah Seeds

“Weaving is a profound metaphor for understanding the of the universe and our place in it. Through the physical process of weaving  we gain a better understanding of the world, and how we as humans are woven through it.” 
​Susan Barrett Marrill
My longing to to create using textiles goes back to my childhood, but lacking any kind of patient and loving mentor to guide me, my trials with knitting and crochet were all in vain.
To be fair, I could and probably still can make a very looong scarf, but the world of patterns and pearls and days of hats and sweater making were not in the cards for me.
For a long time I blamed it on being left handed, but  know way too many “lefties” that knit up a storm for that to hold any water…
However the loom for me held some sort of a deep ancestral memory, and I had been using the metaphor of a tapestry we could look at in order to see our ancestral connections and the holes/gaps within, in my workshops and my healing work for years. 

So by the time I sat down with my unboxed pieces of loom parts and started to lovingly spread beeswax onto them, and then to assemble them I was determined like I have never been before to learn the ancient art of weaving.

There was pure joy and bliss mixed with excitement, and then complete and utter terror that I might now be able to figure this out, but figure it out I did, and jubilation followed!


“We are bound to our bodies with the fragile threads of earth. Our skeleton is a loom on which every system is strung and woven with our blood.” SBM


My first little woven piece was dedicated to my ancestral altar and it was filled with all sorts of tears by the time it was finished followed by great emotion. At this point I decided to make one more piece and then to sell my first little loom so I could move several sizes up to one that could create a larger sacred shawl with. One that would become dedicated to my ancestral work.

However, it was not as easy as all that……

The journey took me deep into unknown territory, and in many ways forced me to review my entire life as I wove my story into a shawl that would carry the bones of ancestral meaning for me…
But I may be getting ahead of myself here….
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Boline to cut the cords…

I once read that the warp of a loom, {which are the threads that are strung vertically to create the foundation for any piece of fabric to work} represent our values and morals,  our belief system, and these are bedrock on which or lives are built. They are hidden from view, one has to get close to be able to see them. These are usually only shared with family and friends that we love and trust.

Creating a strong warp is the most important part of the weaving, because without it the rest of the creation will not work.

The Weft however is what we see, it is the patterns of our lives and the beauty we create from it, it is what the outside world also sees, and so as important as the weft is, without a strong warp or foundation, it all falls apart!

Keep this in mind if you choose to read further about the journey…

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As I started the process I realized that I wanted my ancestrally woven shawl to be soft so it could hold me though some upcoming shadow work, but wool {which I seem to be allergic to} is the common choice for these kinds of weavings so it took ages for me to make a final choice, taking into considering texture, strength and feel.

And finally I came home elated with soft organic textured cotton yarn in deep grey and black colours feeling grounded and with several hours before dinner I felt ready to begin.
Because I knew that the warp of this shawl needed to be strong and solid, I took my time setting up, measuring and understanding the pattern and what I needed to do to warp my loom, and then it began..
Time faded away and I felt that spacious time out of time feeling as I warped the loom, and soon I was feeling the yarn in my hands, the softness and texture, like a new child I was full of excitement and things were going well.

To warp a loom for a pattern of this size it should only take on hour, but this one took me three.
What I did not realize is that cotton breaks much easier, and no matter how strong my yarn was, cotton is cotton. I also quickly realized  that I should have had the shop girls make me balls from my skeins because I did not have the proper equipment to do the job, and halfway through I needed to tie another ball on, but it tangled and broke and my foundation was beginning to look like a bunch of broken threads with tied knots holding them with a bunch of pooled and tangled yarn spread all around.

It was not long after this that I realized that the first half of my shawl was deeply representing my own early childhood life….

The foundation was broken, but I gritted my teeth and carried on, because nothing was going to stop me making this shawl {plus I paid a LOT for this yarn!}

I was forced to trust the process, to trust that even though there were breaks and knots it would all work out, and soon enough the tears came, and added their own healing to the foundation of the first half of my shawl.

My tears felt like the ancestral pain not only of my own broken foundation but the broken foundations of all my ancestors going back, the ones I had been working on healing for the past three years, the ones I have come to love and understand, it was all there is the broken-ness of my first warp….

And then it was finally ready, and I began to weave….

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Serpent on the bone woman

The first half was a slow process, but slowly I wove and healed all of the broken spots, slowly I remembered my life, seeing it through the eyes of the tapestry I was weaving, and the metaphors were deep and rang true in a painful, powerful and healing way…

Eventually, I could see what the foundation was actually stronger then I thought and that it was holding strong, and more importantly, the imperfections it caused were actually beautiful, and soon I was smiling and laughing out loud through my tears….

I felt that I was honouring all of the ancestors that went before me by sticking with it, and I started to feel their steady hands behind me, guiding me in what needed doing to make it strong and beautiful!

The second half, much like my later life was easier, I was more resourceful and had learned what not to do, I also had more tools so the job was faster and flowed all around..

I felt confident in what I was doing and soon I was playing around with different  textures and wools and I could see the beauty of what I was creating, it was weaving medicine.

I began to think of my beloved husband and our two children and they were woven into my shawl, and soon enough I remembered all of my work with red and not by chance, that very week I was gifted an entire spool of beautiful deep red yard for weaving with, so it went in too…

And finally it was done! 

​Two halves of my life, my ancestry, my family my life…

Pulling the last piece off the loom was cathartic and I wish I had thought to capture it on film, but I was caught in the moment, and as soon as I had it in my hands I was holding it close to my heart and getting ready to sew both halves together..
Once a weaving is finished, it is said that one must wet it to bind the fibres more tightly together, some say to hand wash it with gentle soap, while others say just wetting it is enough.. but my ancestors had other plans, and instantly I heard “Take it to the river” and I knew exactly where the shawl needed to go and just exactly what to do…..But first the bones…

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Choosing bones for my Bone Woman shawl…
As a bone collector and bone thrower I have been working with bones for well over a decade, and the spirit name given to my by my ancestors reflects that. So I knew intuitively that this shawl would not be complete without carrying some of my most sacred bones.

These were threaded with care and love and strung onto each side of the shawl, and as I worked steadily I understood this to be my Bone Woman shawl, guided by the bone mother in one of her many forms.

Some may know her as the Calleach, and others may see her as Eriskegal the shadow sister/side of Inanna, some see her as Baba Yaga…

For me the bones were directed by my ancestors and guides, and of course the bone mother…
The last and final step was to take her to the river….
I have decided not to share much from that time, but it is my hope that these images speak the words for the process of standing in the cold river, feeling the current pulling me and submerging my shawl as a form of deep initiation {for us both}….

My Ancestral Bone Woman shawl now smells like moss and river water, the tears that once stained her cloth are now washed and cleansed by the current and she has been dried by the sun.

She makes small clicking sounds as I walk, her bones clattering off of one another in the most wonderful way…..

I wear this shawl proudly for it holds the reminder of my life lived, of the ancestors who have gone before me and for what is yet to come…
For now though, there are more tapestries asking to come through, but a good long break seems to be what is needed, for the moment at least…

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image created by Infinite Body Photography

All of the images that I appear in were taken by Jenny Ann Holden of Infinite Body Photography. Her work is driven by her own connection to the land and her passion to capture the beauty of what it means to be human. 

1 Comment

  1. Leesa on May 16, 2021 at 7:38 pm

    I found my way to your website this week… sister of my soul. And, though I was on a mission of sorts, I found my returning, over and over again . I have spent hours here with you, this day – reading your stories… listening to your voice (which sounds so familiar; as if I have always known you).

    It has been years since I last shared my voice on the web or wandered about dancing through the space of the ethernet. Yet, your images captured my attention. And, though seen mostly through the blur of tears, their message and hidden secrets were so clear and precious to me…, And your words – a whisper from far off, as if from a dream, I find myself holding on to them as if a key that will help me open the forgotten chambers within.

    And though it is late, darkness fell long ago, and I have lingered here for most of the day and evening….I find myself unwilling to leave your presence. There are many things I could share… much my heart longs to tell, but I remain quiet – in awe and gratitude… except to say: Thank you.

    You are a deep well and a blessing I have not expected to find.
    My heart encircles yours with a love true and whole. I hope you will feel it and know me as your own.

    Infinite blessings and bliss.
    Leesa

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IMBOLC
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has been a quiet day here today as I learn how to spin on my new country spinner for making chunky art yarns, and I am so excited to master this new form as it is my goal to weave more with my own hand spun and hand dyed yarns. (If you are a spinner and have any suggestions I am all ears!)
It arrived this week and I assembled it on Imbolc eve which somehow felt auspicious as we inch ever closer to the end of winter.
Of course today we woke to a light dusting of snow which also somehow felt fitting as the mantle of winter slowly lets go of its hold..
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Imbolc-meaning in the belly or the belly of the mother in reference to pregnant and lactating ewes this time of year in Northern Europe.
However here in the west in many places we are still very much in the grip@of winter.
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Over the years I have marked Imbolc in many different ways from a weekend of ceremony and creation to small family gstherings@and everything in between. This year is very quiet and somehow perfect for my slow returning creative fire that although at times has burned bright within me has been waning a bit as I mentioned in my previous post about how hustle culture has slowly been draining me over the years.
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Having said that I am ever so slowly and quietly re-kindling my creative fire and allowing the slow turn of the seasons to guide me as I go.
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What has your winter been like this year?
I would love to know of you have any great Imbolc traditions that you do?
I am a big fan of shortbread so there will be a nice pan of that happening shortly with offerings made to Brigid, and the beautiful spirits of the land I live on.
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Blessings of the season
Nikiah
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#imbolc #imbolcblessings #shortbread #spinning #countryspinner2

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Greetings everyone,
I have been away from this space for awhile on a bit of a social media detox as well as sitting with what was coming up for me with regards to my creative life, social media…
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I have been reflecting on my journey with being an entrepreneur, and how deeply embedded my creative life has been within it, however as I began to look deeper and deeper at what was happening within my creative world, or rather, what was not happening, I began to see how my use of social media was tied to it, and how the hustle culture of posting constantly in order to gain exposure was killing my creative voice.
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Its a complex mix of being both a spiritual person, a creative and a business woman, which is a strange mix if you think about it!
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As I sat with what was coming forward I realized that writing might be helpful as I processed what was coming up and so I decided to write a blog post, which ended up requiring two parts to fully track it all.{Link in Bio}
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Anyways if you are interested in some of these musings pop over to my blog as I will be writing more over there in the coming months as I give myself more distance from social media and allow my creative voice more room to play and flow…

I will also be sharing these posts with folks who subscribe to my newsletter
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#hustleculture #hustlecultureistoxic #creativity #spirituality
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Softness, Slowness, Stillness,
I am beginning 2023 on this note, and I am also...
Ditching the Gregorian calendar for the lunar one and easing into what 2023 will bring me..
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In part this means that I am taking it slow, sleeping and swimming and continuing to spend some time away from social media, for another week at least. I am also wanting to start this year out slowly because I am amping up for some big changes in 2023 which will take a lot of work and movement, as well as some exciting travel and other plans that are filling up the year fast!
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One of my favourite things to do each year has been to work with a word. Last year my word was mastery, which I believe was also my word for the year before, and which will probably be with me my whole life.
However this year there is no burning sense of a word that is pushing through like in past years, and I am guessing that is because I am still in transition in many ways.
Perhaps transition is my word!
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2023 will bring some big exciting moves, such as selling our home in Vancouver and some other exciting big things that I will share as they come into form.
Knowing this now though has me feeling a mix of excitement and also a bit of unsteadiness as I go into a new year knowing now that more change is coming, even if it is good, exciting stuff!
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Do you choose a word for your year? If not, is there something that you like to do that supports your soul as you move into another calendar year going forward?
I would love to hear.
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Today I am dreaming up a new line of weaving work that I am excited to begin and taking it slow...
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Blessings for 2023 everyone!
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Image taken by @_infinitebody_
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#newyear #wordoftheyear #stillness #quiet #transition
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Today I make offerings to my ancestors thanking them for this life I have.
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I recently found out on the cusp of my trip to Ireland that my great grandmother was originally booked on the Titanic!
Sadly/happily her mom got really sick and she missed her boat, deciding to take the next one instead in order to be at her moms side.
It was because of this that I am here, and because of this she came to Canada.
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It is for this reason and a million other things that went into my existence, that I am so grateful for all of my ancestors for.
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I am also thankful today because both of our kids are officially here, making it in time between the winter storms taking over Vancouver and Toronto!
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Yuletide blessings
Nikiah
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I have been in love with this beautiful book by my friend @carmenspagnola.
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It’s been wonderful to use it for inspiration and recipes during this Yuletide time.
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Today I am planning to make some cookies to share with my ancestors and family as we slide into this beautiful liminal space.
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What you you all doing? Send me some inspiration! 🌀
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Lots of love
Nikiah
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The longest night of the year, brings the return of the sun, also marking the beginning of the tile referred to as Yule.
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From Dec21st -Jan1st we mark the 12 days of yuletide which I love.
For me it’s all about setting intentions, making offerings and visioning for the year ahead.
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Each day for 12 days I might do any one of those things, as I like to keep things simple and in the realm of practical magic.
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Today, the winter solstice I begin with intention setting and spending time with family as is the tradition in our bodies.
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We share a big meal together, then light a fire and write either an intention for the year ahead or something we are ready to let go of and give it to the fire along with offerings and a lovely Yule log.
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Lastly we exchange small handmade gifts and I always get everyone a new set of comfy pj’s ❄️
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Over the years as our kids have grown I to adults they too have taken over the tradition and made it their own, so while our daughter is not here this year as she is knee deep in exams I know she and her roomies will mark the day in their own way.
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I would love to know what some of your traditions are or perhaps if you are new to creating your own tradition here what are your plans?
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#yuletide #wintersolstice #traditions #ritual #babayaga #winter
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Winter Solstice shawl.
This is my last shawl of 2022 and I am thrilled with how it came out, so much so I have been deeply tempted to keep it!
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This one invokes images of quiet snowfall, winter nights cozied in and the softness that snow can bring to the landscape.
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I was also inspired by winter foxes that change their colour for winter, and snowy owls in quiet flight over the landscape...
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This piece is now listed and available in my online store--link in my bip if you are interested.
Much love
Nikiah
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#solstice #wintersolstice #sacredshawl #weaving #snowyowl #foxmedicine
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Loom as altar.
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Since the fall I have been going daily to my loom as a form of spiritual practise.
However it was not until recently that I have been able to find the words for it.
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In many ways weaving has become a form of spiritual practise for me, and although I am still deepening into my own understanding of what it is to me, for now, this is what it has become in it purest most simple form.
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Today a new storytellers shawl came off the loom and with another already in my mind to start taking form..
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This piece holds a similar energy to one I made a few months ago, holding the essence of dragonflies and hummingbirds…
But mostly it was made for the king winter months as we cozy up by fires and in warm homes and read books or if we are lucky we tell or listen to great stories!
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I will list this piece in my online store sometime tomorrrow..
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In the meantime a new one shall take its place in full winter whites..
I am feeling the call of the white fox, and the white winter owl..
These two hold a kind of magic as they shape-shift from one colour into winter white so they are camouflaged against the snow…
More on that to come as the piece takes form.
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Also I would love@to know-do you have a hobby or creative outlet that borders on spiritual?
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Lots of love
Nikiah
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#storytellers #hummingbirdmagic #dragonfly #sacredshawl #weaving
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GIVEAWAY EXTENDED TILL MONDAY!
WINNER IS @copperwildpottery
This is just a little reminder of our awesome giveaway that is happening right now and ends on Monday Dec 12th!
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@carmenspagnola and I have paired up to give away a copy of her fabulous new book @thespiritedkitchen and I am giving away another of my 10” Red Drums.
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Here is how you enter:

1. LIKE this post and leave a comment tagging a friend-or two for extra entries!
2. FOLLOW @redmoonmysteryschool + @carmenspagnola
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And for even more entries:
SHARE the Podcast episode 'Embracing Sovereignty at Midlife with Carmen Spagnola and I /Nikiah that was released on June 10th 2022. {Link in bio}
Be sure to tag us so we can see! (You can do this by taking a screenshot of the episode in your podcast player or sharing directly from Spotify to your stories)

TERMS & CONDITIONS:
- Only one winner will be selected
- Giveaway will run until 11:59 EST December 12th 2022
- Winner will be randomly selected and announced on our stories by Dec 12th 2022
- Giveaway limited to US and Canada
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#giveaway #ancedtralhealing #kitchenwitchery #reddrum
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I had a little “reel” fun with this one, especially using this song :]
Anyways this is a little update on my Earth Ochre shoulder stole/Altar cloths as I have made two more which are now listed on my site.
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These pieces are inspired by my time in Ireland and the stunning red ochre I saw there while on the coast of Northern Ireland in an area called the Giants Causeway.
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These two pieces were created to be worn either as a shoulder stole for ceremony or beauty, you get to decide, and are easily transferable to your altar, for ceremony or beauty-haha you decide!
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Each comes with a small vial of hand ground red earth ochre in a vial, which can be used for making paint, or using in ceremony. Your package will come with a recipe for making earth ochre paint.
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Hope you love these pieces as much as I do!
Nikiah
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#ochre #redearth #ceremony #altar #priestesspath #weaving #ancestors
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Weaving another red ochre earth alter cloth/shoulder stole on my Saori loom.
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These looms are from Japan and their name Saori, in Zen means beautiful imperfection. “Sai” means everything has its own unique dignity and “ori” means weaving.
These looms were designed to support more humans weaving in a counter to all of the machine made cloth. They were designed so that they were accessible to every body, meaning that folks with disabilities can use them with as much success as able bodied folks which I love.
The whole point is Saori weaving is to be the antithesis of machine made cloth, and to embrace the perfect imperfection of human made beauty.
This to me is my kind of loom, and philosophy.
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My teacher Yukako has been slowly teaching me the ways of this loom for the past couple of years and I am loving how different it is from my rigid heddle loom.
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SAORI's 4 Principles

1. Consider the differences between people and machines.

2. Be bold and adventurous

3. Look out through eyes that shine

4. Inspire one another, and everyone in the group
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I have a few beautiful wall hangings listed in my online store in celebration of earth ochres if you fancy a peek and this one will be listed next week at some point as well.
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Have a beautiful weeekend everyone!
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Nikiah
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#redochre #earthochre #saori #weaving #ancestralwisdom
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Ochre has fascinated me for years now, from the vast amount of colours and shades that occur naturally depending on the mineral make up of the soil to how we as humans have used it over the centuries, from body point, to fine art, from sunblock for the skin, to cave wall paintings...
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However it was not until I travelled to Africa and saw the deep red earth there that I actually understood and began using it in its many applications.
It was from that trip where while staying with family I scooped up a large handful of red soil from outside my cousin-in-loves house that had been exposed due to construction and really had a deep look at it, and in turn she helped me to make offerings and then pack it away in a small zip lock bag so I could bring some small piece of this sacred earth home.
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From that soil there were many ceremonies and of course paint was made and used in turn was given away to my students as we worked through a year of ancestral healing for which red ochre was used in a powerful ceremony of forgiveness...
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So you can imagine my delight when I was recently away in Ireland on an ancestral journey when I came across the stunning swath of open red and black earth along the coast of Northern Ireland in an area called the Giants Causeway.
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Once back home I found myself in a liminal time of flow and creativity in particular with my weavings...
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Interestingly enough I had already started a weaving before I left using black and red yarns that reminded me of earth ochre, so upon returning home this piece {which is now listed as an altar cloth in my online store} was what started it all...
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For this piece though, I wanted to weave layers that represented the layers of earth, and how when the earth opens up we are able to see all of the many things that go into making soil such as plants, insects, sea creatures, mammals, and abiotic materials factors, like minerals, water, and air and how each one will create a different colour of soil.
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I now have a small and growing number of altar cloths, and wall hangings available in my store all affordably priced so folks can enjoy them, or perhaps gift them as we slowly make our way into the giving season.
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We are home again from our epic time away in Ireland and in all my years of travel I have never once been sad to come home until now!
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Ireland, the home of my ancestors has completely captured my heart and I felt at home the moment I arrived.
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Now that I am back and integrating all that happened while I was away I am feeling a little blue, it was healing to sit with some of the images from our time and put together a little reel.
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Some of the places you will see here {In order} are:
Sliabh na Caillighe otherwise known as the Hill of the Witch or Loughcrew cairns, where we were totally alone and able to connect in a way that would have otherwise been impossible.
Bru na Boinne/ Newgrange which even at this time of year had tons of people visiting the site and again we found ourselves with a smaller group which was wonderful. The Hill of Tara which in one of the photos has the stone of Destiny in, and Uisneach, otherwise known as the centre of ireland.
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We then went up to Northern Ireland to the Giant’s causeway on the wild coastal shores and the Dark Hedges which are amazing shots of the trees.
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Northern Ireland is where some of my more recent ancestors are from and it’s been powerful to spend time here on the land and to take it all in.
The ruins are from an old Castle called Dunluce.
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It was a joy to plan this trip, rent a car and then drive from Dublin to Northern Ireland stopping along the way to see things as we were called, I am blessed to have been able to do that.
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I was able to lay offerings for my ancestors and in a small way come back home to where some of them are from. I also learned a lot about my family, such as learning that my great grandmother had a 3rd class ticket for the Titanic leaving from Belfast, but because her mother fell ill she stayed close to home and as a result, I am here today and she came to Canada!
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My heart is now a little bit here and a little bit in Ireland and I am already planning my next trip back!
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Have you ever been altered by a place you travelled to?
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#ireland #travel #sacredsites #ancestors #ancestralhealing
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The Willow Tree (Salix) is one of the sacred trees in The. Magic and Folklore of Trees course and yesterday I found this ancient willow tree on the land we are staying on here in Ireland, which I just had to share!
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Willow trees are associated with water and emotion, the moon and inspiration, which I must say seeing and being near this ancient Willow was beyond inspiring for me.
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In the course I share some of the folklore of this magic tree, as well as practical applications such as did you know that Willow bark has been used for millennia for fevers, inflammation and pain? Chewing the bark of the white Willow tree which contains Salicin which is a chemical similar to aspirin and in the 1800’s the bark of the Willow tree was used by scientists to help them develop aspirin.
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Willow is also associated with dreaming and it is said that if you have lost touch with your dreams making a small Willow wand and placing it under your pillow will help, or you can make a dream pillow with things like Mullen and small pieces of Willow bark to use.
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While I have been away here in Ireland the trees have captured my heart and soul especially the willow, and hawthorn which are planted as hedges here and as such are everywhere and full of brihh go t red berries..
I will write a post on hawthorn next though as I have so much to say about what some say is the most sacred tree in Ireland.
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If you are curious about the Magic and Folklore of trees course pop over to my site and download a free sample chapter. ♥️🌳🌲🌳
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What is your favourite tree? Mine changes but for many years now it has been the Hawthorn.
#sacredtrees #willow #folklore #witches #ogham
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