This is a beautiful book, but difficult to review – because my experience of dipping in and out, opening at random, somehow quiets me internally so that – for once - I don’t have much to say!
The book exists in a dreamtime, where we - bodies, souls, minds – and the landscape are not separate but part of a greater whole, and the stories, songs and ceremonies within the book celebrate this vision.
At over 390 pages, this is no lightweight book. It contains many beautiful stories and songs – with sources given for songs so that you can get to hear the melodies if you wish. There are also references and a list of books the author found inspirational, not to mention colour plates of paintings by the author.
Rather than write a “normal” review, I want to share some random passages and my response to them in from a sort of inner dialogue. This seems to be the way the book works for me.
Coincidences abound – and I always regard synchronicity as a sign pointing a way forward on my own journey. After writing about how we’re all part of the landscape, I open the book at random to page 215 – “We are all landscapes”. This is a beautiful tale of how the author found and recognised her home, high on the moor:
“Every landscape carries a mythology, which is really many memories woven into a lasting cloth …. a myth is an ancient story that embodies spirit; it is a long-held secret and a holy sacrament.” (page 216)
The book opened next at the story of Toad and the Magic Vulva (p179)… perfect for this Autumn season. Toad is ancient, and I picture her, shrivelled like an old apple, revealing her red, open vulva. How vulnerable this makes her, and, by extension, how vulnerable it makes me feel. I worked a good deal with Sheelagh-na-gig images, years ago, after realising how uncomfortable they made me. But I’d never before given much thought to the feelings of the woman presenting herself to us in this way. As the author points out, she presents us with a challenging and extraordinary archetypal image of our selves, our power:
“When we find the courage to fully engage with her and to open up to what she represents, then we will have passed through the first challenge on our way to the deeper regions of the cave.” (page 180)
Later in the book I come upon Rivenstone, who holds the secret of the nature of grief. Very few reach cronehood without many experiences of grief – and who can not identify with this?
“… She is a shell inside which a great journey unfolds, and she dare not open up even the smallest crack for fear of letting out torrential storms and drowning tides.” (page 343)
There are many references to our wisdom, our ancient knowledge, within the book. “The Pot” tells us how:
“A cracked pot stands inside the house of weavers to remind us that the shared wisdom of women will never be entirely lost to us” (page 57)
Pots are indeed our sacred vessels, holding the essence of our wisdom as we cook and stir. Even when broken, the fragments remain, waiting for women to find them in the dirt and restore them, to wake the treasures in the shards.
I think of Marija Gimbutas and many other women who have dug up treasures from the earth, and found within them some part of our experience of wisdom, and reflect on the truth of the tale of “The Pot”.
My next random opening is at page 183, Crow and the Mortuary House:
“Within the belly of the cave we started to remember … Ancient, distant memories filled our bellies like a rich wine of the dead.” (page 183)
The source of Crow’s energy is earth. She digs, unearthing memories, bones; ghosts cluster around her. I think of the sisters who have gone before us, and look around the room for their ghosts, gently encouraging me toward wisdom.
Another random opening brings me to page 125, where I’m told of ancestral women - Raumi, known as First Hearth, the guardian of the home and all life around the hearth fire. Berridraun, Stone Teller, who listens to the stories in the rock, from her walks “along a boundary where realities shift and stir”. Vwalu, Grave Hag, is the mother of death, cold winter and the deep night. All these ancestors, these foremothers, feel very present when meditating on this.
Opening at page 369 brings me to the end of a lament – a song for women whose lives are broken by war:
“You masters of hellfire, you champions of steel
your war is not our war your truth is not real
this battle is over and nobody’s won
but women are singing: our time has come
women are singing: our time has come!”
Finally, I open at page 152, where Good Mother Honey takes me on a journey to a golden day, in a world where we:
"will sip a secret harvest from cups hidden in the land … With wings we set a dance of life in motion ... (with) cradles of cloudy sweetness that push the day towards a drowsy close …”
Who could resist?
Sacred House is published by Seventh Wave Books and can be purchased at their website.