Women Write

An Invitation to the Woman Soul Gathering

By Chalice Bailey


Many of us have heard the stories, and feel them to be true.  How we come into this world from the other side with a gift placed into our hands that is for us to live into and express through our unique and precious life.  Some stories speak to the forgetfulness that befalls the infant as she is born into the world, and a lifetime of seeking for her soul’s purpose.  Other stories speak to the task of the midwife who sees the newborn’s gifts, and steals them away for safekeeping until the child is ready to leave home in search of her gifts, her medicine, her soul’s purpose.

As the child grows, she learns her role in the family. She learns what is expected of her, and what is not acceptable.  She embraces beliefs and values that bring her the positive nods of her peers, and in other situations, she withdraws in confusion from a world that isn’t understanding her, isn’t recognizing her unique spirit, so she hides, pretends, and does the best she can to fit in.  This may not be your story, but you have one that is true for you.

The stories of soul work always involve a leave taking and a journey through what has been called the underworld.  This journey takes us to places where our experiences live that want to keep us small.  Where distorted thinking presents itself as truth.  Where hurt feelings and the anger of betrayal have left us frustrated and confused.  These stories have been layered over our gift, our personal medicine, and it is through these layers we need to journey.  It is for such a journey this Woman Soul Gathering has been created.

Over four days there will be time in small group with other women, and an elder or two in attendance. Your group will turn over the toxic waste that has layered over your birthright. You will have the opportunity to participate in a water cleansing ceremony and continue to deepen into the wisdom of your gift.  You will have time for personal walks through the 120 acres of woods and around Lake Flora, for morning meditation and/or journaling, and time for hand crafts so you can bring back with you a talisman of your experience at the Woman Soul Gathering.

Morning circles will begin with time on the four mother drums, singing, dancing, and stretching yourself into the day.  You may want to take time in the mornings to ask questions of the Honored Elders, who will also be sharing their wisdom and experience shared with us during our times in large and small circles.  The Grandmother Moon Bundle will be opened and stories told, and there will be ceremony and ritual Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights that will take us through the life phases of releasing and letting go, being still and going within, and stepping forward into our soul’s purpose.

Life may seem out of control and chaotic, and that is the birthing ground of creativity.  You are invited.

An Invitation to Experience the Truth Mandala 

By Mary Shackelford


In these urgent and turbulent times of change and great uncertainty, there is much about our world that is overwhelming. In response we sometimes grow numb. This numbness threatens our capacity to bring our full selves to participating in our changing world in a positive way, engaging all of who we are, all we have to offer.

Speaking the truth of how we feel is essential to dispel the numbness that threatens to immobilize us. Telling the truth about our fear, allowing ourselves to feel, speak and witness the suffering in the world and in our hearts and bodies stirs up our innate healing intelligence – our compassion – and brings clarity to our intention and impulse towards empathy and action.

In the flow of Woman Soul Gathering, in the spirit of inspiring and igniting our soul’s wisdom, we will join together to create a Truth Mandala, a ritual that comes to us from Joanna Macy. This clearing and purification ritual offers the opportunity to reflect, share, speak and witness the truth of what’s happening in our world – what’s unfolding around us and inside us. Its purpose is to clear the way for each of us to bring our gifts, willingness and commitment forward into our lives, into our communities, into our world so that we may fully engage with our changing times to create a new paradigm.

We will create the container for the Truth Mandala in the sacred space of a circle. Hope is the ground of the mandala, and a symbolic object is placed in each quadrant. Women move into the circle to speak one by one, if and when they are so moved. We take a symbol in our hands and speak, or move from one symbol to another. We let the ritual object focus our mind and heart and help us voice the truth of our own experience.


In the Truth Mandala, we speak not only for ourselves. It is the nature of ritual that it allows and invites us to speak archetypally on behalf also of our people, our Earth. We speak briefly; in brevity, words are powerful. The ritual requires the support of the whole group; after each person speaks, we say together, “We hear you.” and then we pause in silence. Typically there is a lot of silence and space that grows increasingly tender as together we deepen into the holiness, vulnerability and honesty of the ritual.

Each symbolic object is like a coin with two sides:

– The courage to speak our FEAR is evidence of the trust it takes to speak it.

– The GRIEF spoken is in equal measure love. We mourn that for which we

deeply care.

– The ANGER we feel – what does it spring from but our passion for justice?

– Expressing our EMPTINESS makes space for the new.

Embracing the Crone

By June BlueSpruce

June at Cairn WomanSoul

Elder and Author, June BlueSpruce, at Sliabh na Cailli, sitting on An Cailleach’s chair.

In the Celtic tradition, October 31-November 1, the days right after the WomanSoul gathering, mark the time of Samhain, the start of the New Year. This is celebrated in the United States as Halloween.Samhain is the time to call on the Crone, the Hag, the fearsome one who, in the old tale, blocks the way to the life-giving spring and demands a kiss from those who, in desperate thirst, seek access. She rewards those brave enough to fully embrace her with beauty, power, sovereignty. Wild, generous, nurturing, wise, this ancient Earth Goddess belongs to the stone mountains in the west of Ireland. SliabhnaCaillí (Hill of the Hag), a high hill in the east of Ireland, is also dedicated to her. She is called An Cailleach.I first met her seven years ago during a shamanic journey as I lay near the ancient stone cairn (mound) on top of that hill. She terrified me. Over time, her wise, kind grandmother aspect emerged. She embodies strength and determination. I draw on her for backbone and connection with the Earth.Last autumn equinox, I again stood on Sliabhna Caillí, this time at dawn, waiting my turn to enter the cairn. The rising sun’s light shot through the passageway and illuminated the beautiful Neolithic carvings in the stone at the back of the cairn. Those of us crouched in the darkness inside gasped in awe.
An Cailleach is strongly connected to the North, direction of overcoming challenges, confronting one’s shadow, undergoing transformation. She whips up gale-force winds, torrential rains, deep snow, bone-chilling cold. Her love is fierce, and she asks us to call forth our own fierceness to meet her in the North, so that we can receive her gift, the gift of sovereignty. In a political sense, sovereignty means the ability of a state to govern itself. It also refers to the ability to stand in our power and use the full range of our gifts in our own lives. It is inextricably linked with the responsibility to recognize and honor the sovereignty of others and to serve the common good.Our country now faces the extreme consequences that follow centuries of violating the sovereignty of its people, particularly indigenous people, people of color, and women. In the old days in Ireland, to become king a man had to marry the goddess of the land in sacred ceremony and vow to protect and honor her sovereignty. He was required to rule in a way that allowed all to share in the land’s abundance. If he failed to do so, he was ousted as king. How far we have come from those days!An Cailleach can help us through the challenges we face at this time. Most of our leaders have not served the land and her people well. We suffer from rampant racism, ongoing war against the indigenous peoples from whom the land was stolen, oppression of and violence against women, economic inequality, environmental destruction, and on and on. To access the life-giving spring and regain our sovereignty, to fully embody our wild, lusty, powerful selves, to honor the stones, the Earth’s backbone, we can call on and embrace the old one, the Crone, An Cailleach. Whatever name you have for her in your culture or tradition, it’s her time.

Grandmother Moon Bundle

By Barbara James Snyder; Bundle Keeper of the Grandmother Moon Bundle; Bundle Keeper of the Bow & Arrow Bundle; Co-Bundle Keeper of DeekWadap’ush Bundle; 
Giver to Sacred Sites; Pipe Holder


Summer 2001, I am visiting another bundle carrier and in the presence of a Sun Dance Sub Chief. During the night, I am unable to sleep as Grandmother Moon’s bright light shines in my vision. I seek council with the native elder; it’s clear to him that the subject of women’s moontime had come front and center. As a native woman from the Great Basin, it was my duty to share our ways.

So I brought the teachings of moontime to different communities, and as a bundle carrier, it is very important to uphold the protocols and respect these ways. I found myself in an awkward position as many of the people got impatient with my speaking of women’s ways.

Years later, I am standing with Ella Larkin making offerings to the water of life at Greenkill YMCA in December. Grandmother Moon was full, the night sky clear, the air crisp and chilly. My prayers were to let go of teaching women’s way, especially the way of women’s moontime.

No sooner had I ended my prayer with relief, I heard “I hear your prayers, now receive the gift.” I knew for sure that it was Grandmother Moon speaking. As I looked at her beauty, my eyes followed her bright moonbeam through the leafless trees to the water; there in the water was a Heart Rock. My heart started beating faster as I called Ella to look. We gazed at the stone, and we smiled and hugged each other.

Ella asked me “what do we do?’

I said with excitement and gratitude, “We receive Grandmother Moon’s Gift.” So we made offerings and received the Heart Stone. This is a precious universal gift from Grandmother Moon and the start of the Grandmother Moon Bundle.

Our Woman Soul Gathering to ignite and inspire our soul’s wisdom will be opened ceremonially by the Grandmother Moon Bundle and Barbara James Snyder. The Bundle will hold us in blessing and well-being throughout our time together. Each woman is invited to bring a stone to create the Grandmother Moon Stone Circle.

Poetry of Woman Soul Gathering


By Mary G.L. Shackelford

Be still.
Still time, space, and movement.
There is no time but this time.
There is no place but this place.
And there is no movement but for
The rhythm of your breath and the beating of your heart Which rise out of and fall into Silence.

Listen deep inside.
See, sense, and feel the flow of your blood.
Sink into the river of blood
That pumps the steady beat of your life force Out, out, into and through, and back again In the arteries and veins of your body.

Hear the Air arising in the winds of the East, Filtering through your lungs and rushing from your heart To replenish your blood with the Breath of Life.
Feel your blood
Carry your breath Carry your life.

Feel the Fire arising in the brilliant Light of the South,
First enlivened as a spark of passion in your mother’s womb When you shared blood with her, Her heart your first drum.
Now you carry the fire of your own life force
In the blood coursing through The steady beat
Of your own heart.

Sense the Water arising from the vast cauldron
That pours the Love of original creation
From the mystical waters of the West.
Remember how you swam in this water in your own first beginning, And sense how your blood carries the Water of Life Throughout your body.

See the Earth arising out of the eternal Law of the North,
Where the wisdom of the old ones brings us to our knees
As life gives way to death and Renewal promises possibility
When we are reduced to bone.
Smell the rich soil of earth’s natural bounty,
Ground of our being
And source of the fertile minerals and nutrients
Which mingle in the blood That feeds your body,
That nourishes your life.

Here we sit with the sky above us
And the earth below us
Here in this time that is outside of time
In this place that is neither here nor there.
Here we sit at the center,
And it is the Air and Fire and Water and Earth of our blood
Which has brought us here,
Here within the ancient stone circle, The Medicine Wheel of Life.

We are already that which we are becoming.
Remember who you are.
Remember who you really are.

A Mother’s Ponderings on the Dawn of Her Daughter’s Birthday

The glow of dawn on the horizon
Multi-colored glories
Celebrating a new day.

Morning air fresh and moving,
Lifting, carrying, rising
Beyond all that came before.

Bird song chattering, lyrical,
Speaking to unfolding promises
Of what is yet to come.

Feel the embrace of life.
Join in the Song of Creation.
You are the Beauty you see.

Chalice Bailey
From the loft on the south-facing hillside of Bainbridge Island

Words & Music by Lorraine Bayes
c 1999 LorraineBow Music

We shall dance beneath the Moon in all Her faces
Sing to Grandmother Moon in all Her graces

At the New Moon’s dark’s dawning
Crescent quickens to the light
There’s a First Quarter balance
Building darkness and light
So when Gibbous Moon is budding
To a dominance of light
Then the Full Moon shall peak in all Her brightness
Flowering, illuminating brightness
Carry on Disseminating
For the fruit must be fulfilled
In the stirring of the darkness
The last Quarter Moon She will
Break it down to let it go
As the darkness takes Her fill
So Balsamic Moon Her wisdom can distill
That the seeds of future visions be instilled

We shall dance beneath the Moon in all Her faces
Sing to Grandmother Moon in all Her graces

Dream again through Winter’s darkness
Birthing seeds of futures past
Healing serpent sheds an old skin
The new struggles free at last
With the warming of the Spring time
Growth is coming full and fast
While the truth of the Light keeps advancing
Towards the Summer dawn so full of life and dancing
Consummation clearly shining
Now a sharing must begin
Reap the wisdom of the season
Feel the changing Autumn wind
Turn around to wane and whither
As the Blood Moon pulls within
Crone shall feed the soul of future generations
Release the truth and trust the dark’s creation

We shall dance beneath the Moon in all Her faces
Sing to Grandmother Moon in all Her graces

Reflections on My First Woman Soul Gathering

By deJoly LaBrier, Mentone, Alabama, USA


When I first received the email from Bobbie Snyder that there was going to be a women’s gathering outside of Seattle, and that she was bringing the Grandmother Moon Bundle, I knew I had to be there. I had assisted Bobbie with opening the bundle at the Tennessee Naraya, Dance for All People, and I knew the honor of being in its presence.

So that was what drew me to the gathering. But there was more. The idea of igniting the spark of Source within me to follow my purpose was powerful for me. I wanted to hear the teachings being offered by the elders who were to be there. There was a paragraph in the material I received from Chalice Bailey about Listening and Speaking in Circle, that said it all to me. “Collaborative creation. Willingness to lean in and engage. Plunge deep. Step into the fullness of who we are.”

And so, I made arrangements. Coming from Alabama to Tacoma to get on a ferry was like something out of a dream.

I was greeted at Pilgrim Firs Retreat with warm smiles and a “Dark Moon” stone pendant that symbolized our connection.

After taking my bags to my cabin, I went straight to the Lodge. As I approached, I heard singing and the grandmother drum. Uncle Debbie Geurrero and Mary Shackelford and a few other women were welcoming me to join them on the drum. I was home.

As more women gathered, I could feel anticipation rising in my heart. MattieDavis and Chalice called us together and I was stricken by their clarity, wit and desire to make all of us feel safe and welcomed. I was intrigued by Mattie’s talk about gathering power through the phases of a woman’s life. It brought back so many memories and stirred thoughts in me as I stand in my elder years.

Thursday afternoon and evening we introduced ourselves, and opened the Grandmother Moon Bundle, for which I was an honored assistant. Then we went outside and created the beautiful moon circle of our crystals and sacred items we each brought.

Then Lynette Edge introduced us to the sunrise ritual of many of the tribes of the Northwest – Spirit Bathing – where the women of the tribe go into the lake (or river), greet the four directions and cleanse themselves inside and out through a scream. As we stepped out of the chilly lake water, we each were gathered into the arms of an elder, and received a shawl they had for each of us. Mine hangs in a place of honor next to my Sundance shawl.

At Saturday night’s lamenting circle, a ritual to help us understand that our soul’s gifts can be found next to our wounds, I circled the room with cedar to help balance and cleanse us, I felt how deeply we were moved to express our sorrows, anger, and losses. And I was equally moved by the transitions we made to forgiveness and joy.

I didn’t want to leave on Sunday and was glad that I’d made arrangements to stay in the Seattle area a few days. The mix of women’s spirituality and Native American Spirituality was nurturing and beautiful. I invite you to experience this transformational weekend in October.

The Woman’s Dreaming Soul

By Dawn Dickson

IMG_4110(1)The ancients said we do not have dreams, but rather, dreams are given to us. They believed that dreams are the original language of the spiritual path, giving us messages for our personal growth and community healing. Whenever we make a commitment to our soul, the dreamtime hears us. When we make an agreement toward growth and awakening, psyche is alerted and we are often given information for our soul’s growth and evolution. Early peoples engaged in dream incubation where a question was posed and they dreamed for an answer. You have heard the call to join the Woman’s Soul gathering, and as such, it is especially important for you to note your dreams and ask questions of the dream spirits as you prepare for our time together.

Author Rosemary Ellen Guiley writes in her book, Dreamwork for the Soul, that “dreams do more than help us understand ourselves better. They help awaken us to our full identity and potential – that we are souls, not egos.” She reminds us that dreams are a pathway to self-love, and in the process, help us to “touch the greatest expression of love” which is so needed in the world today. We do not always immediately understand the symbols that dreams provide because they speak in the language of non-ordinary reality. But if we track our dreams, we are often able to see patterns that later make sense to us as we travel on our path. Your dreams may offer information for personal and emotional healing as psyche (which means soul) always leans toward healing and equilibrium. Or your dreams may offer symbols for community healing and the greater good. We need to dream for each other and the world!

Indigenous people do not always see images as symbols representing something else, but rather consider dreams to be real, happening now, in another realm. They believe we are visited in the dreamtime by spirits and our ancestors. Are you being visited? Listen carefully!

Working with dreams is a process of inquiry. Here are some ways to work with your dreams as you prepare for our gathering:

  • Keep a special journal and pen by your bedside. Record dreams as soon as possible as their memory can fade quickly. Write down everything you remember, even if you think the details are insignificant.
  • Track themes and recurring patterns in your dreams. One way to do this is to use a highlighter to note which themes and patterns show up frequently.
  • Make note of the emotional content of your dreams, especially content that feels charged.
  • Distill the dream down to one sentence. What is the essence?
  • Name the dream.
  • What does the dream want? What does it seem to be asking? Is there an action that needs to be taken?
  • Notice if any archetypal images appear in your dreams, i.e. The Great Mother; The Heroine; The Orphan,
  • Draw, paint, collage, or dance your dream.
  • Try this: Prepare for dream incubation. Take quiet time for meditation on a question. Perhaps light a candle and make entries in your journal. Take a warm bath or enjoy a cup of herbal tea. Ask the dream spirits for guidance with your question. Some people like to use an essential oil diffuser at bedtime. There are lovely blends specifically available for dreaming. You can also write your question out on a piece of paper and place it under your pillow. Have your journal ready for noting the dreams that come your way. Be sure to thank the spirits!

Ask yourself, is the dream a:

  • Map dream? (Telling you about your journey)
  • Mirror dream? (Reflecting on a particular issue)
  • Medicine dream? (Encouraging healing)
  • Mystery dream? (A very powerful image that should perhaps not be dissected)

Our gathering will be held at a powerful dreaming time of the year when the veil between the worlds is thin. We gather at a very powerful time in history when our dreams and visions are so needed. We look forward to dreaming with you at the Woman Soul gathering this autumn!

Women of Soul in Circle Together

By Mary Shackleford

WWRL drumThe framing for this retreat rests within the beautiful and bountiful space of creative collaboration. It depends entirely on our willingness to lean in and engage; it calls on all of us to plunge into the deepest places we can reach to listen, speak, witness, encourage and share. Each of us is invited to step into the fullness of who we are in this moment and to take responsibility for our desire and commitment to the transformational possibilities we are unearthing for ourselves, each other and life.

The flow for our retreat features a morning circle, which focus will be guided by our Elders in service and what Spirit brings through you. Mornings will also include time for your morning practices, spontaneous dream circle discussions, movement and meditation in the South Lodge.

In the afternoons there will be an invitation to join in small group with an Honored Elder to inquire, explore, share, witness, question and deepen into our shared journey. You may also choose to express your soul’s wisdom through creative handwork and artistic expression. Two of our Honored Elders will be present in the art room to talk with you and provide guidance as needed.

This retreat asks for vulnerability and risk. To that end, we will cultivate a space of clarity, safety and respect. Here are some basic guidelines:

Using The Talking Stick

Our words in these circles are sacred. We honor each sharing and allow the deeper wisdom to shine through by attending to our listening and speaking skills.

  • After receiving the talking stick, the person speaking has the right to speak without interruption, and an obligation to speak in a focused way.
  • Each speaker takes a brief moment to attune – to allow the inner voice to speak spontaneously with clarity and simplicity. Each person is invited to share in an empowered way what truly has heart and meaning for them.
  • Sharing may be cumulative, building on what others have spoken. However, this is done with care to not comment directly on another’s experience, offer advice, fix anything or supersede another’s experience.
  • Silence is always honored. No one is required to speak. If one receives the talking stick and does not want to speak, simply hold the stick for an attunement moment and then pass the stick.
  • All others listen for the soul, release judgment and hold loving presence.

The time in circle can allow a more intimate sharing that outside of circle feels like an invasion of privacy. We ask you to take care in engaging a woman in her personal story outside of circle.

Wisdom of Medicine Wheel Teachings: The Four Elements and the Four Directions 

By Mary G.L. Shackelford4 DirectionsWisdomTeachingsCAVEAT: The wisdom of the Medicine Wheel is incorporated into the life of many native tribes in this country. I honor and bow to the First People with appreciation for the guidance of their ways. I am not of indigenous blood, though my family has been in this land for more than 13 generations. I am one who since I was a young girl has been blessed with deep, embodied connection to the earth and all my relations. I am one who seeks to nurture and live from the indigenous soul. Following my own cultural heritage, I have visited the stone circles of Scotland and made inquiry into an array of cross-cultural traditions centered on the wheel of life, the four sacred elements and the guidance of four directions teachings. This wisdom tradition speaks to me in the most comprehensive and true way; my daily spiritual practice, my walk in life; truly who I really am in my ignited soul work is grounded and funded by my walk in the Medicine Wheel of Life. I offer the following with great respect and deep gratitude for the gifts and teachings that come to me from the ancestors and all the different wisdom traditions.

The physical manifestation of the Medicine Wheel is a stone circle with four gates: East/Air, South/Fire, West/Water, North/Earth. As we enter this ancient symbol of wholeness gifted to us by our ancestors,we turn towards the wisdom of indigenous peoples all around the world who call on the wheel of life to see the patterns in their lives and guide their inner transformation. When we meet in circle, side-by-side, facing the center, we are turned powerfully towards each other. The simple act of beginning in circle invites us to see, sense, honor and appreciate each other’s different perspectives.

Becoming aware of and exploring each direction in the circle can add rich meaning to the cycles of our day, month, season, year or lifetime. With each complete turn, we journey through a beginning, a passionate growth, a harvest of lessons, and each cycle ends in stillness, peace and transformation. This simple act of beginning in circle invites us to see, sense, honor and appreciate each other’s different perspectives.

The four sacred elements connect us with all life across time. The air of our breath, the fire in the heat of our blood, the water that comprises so much of our bodies, the minerals of our bones is the same air, fire, water and earth that is shared, used and given back by all living things since the beginning of time. We are stardust. The light of stars, moon, sun and that which is at the center of the earth reflects within us. Our breath is the breath of the spirit of life breathing through us.

Four directions practice is a way to renew and deepen our body/mind/spirit connection with the natural cycles of Gaia and the features of the landscape of our home. The actual symbols vary widely throughout indigenous cultures, tho’ worldwide, the basic practice is consistent: using the circle and the four directions orients us in our soul’s journey through time and connects us to the ground of our being. It’s a way of remembering who we really are and finding our way, as human being, to walk in harmony with all our relations. And it can also be a doorway to travel into mystical realms and find your way home again.

Some of us stand in the EAST – in beginner’s mind. Some of us stand in the SOUTH – passionately, playfully willing to take RISKS and grow, holding the fullness of woman’s body wisdom. Some stand in the WEST – going within ourselves to dream, harvest our intuitions and integrate what we are learning. And, some stand in the NORTH where our ancestors await us with blessings – silently tuning into our inner wisdom, reaching deep to do the bone work of transformation, letting go, opening to change, entering into new possibilities.

The Medicine Wheel holds the full journey of being alive – so in the CENTER of this circle, we call in the BEGINNER, the GROWER, the DREAMER, and the WISE ONE within each of us. For GREAT MYSTERY, flowing through the center of all, invites us to become aware that we are all teachers and learners – all at the same time – until we leave this form. Journeying with awareness, we can see the whole and arrive at the center of our being. Welcome home to our true selves.

This is compiled from work I did with Kristina Turner and Kelly Ziniewicz when we shared Medicine Wheel teachings as part of a Leadership Hoop produced by Woman’s Way Red Lodge (http://www.wwrl.org) in 2013. Kristina and I created the chart that follows as a way of bringing together cross-cultural symbols associated with the Medicine Wheel of Life. Please note that the colors and symbols for each direction are different among different tribes and fluid also for individuals using the Wheel. Concluding our Woman Soul sharing about Medicine Wheel teachings is a poem I wrote to open a dance performance created in 2007-08 by Stacey Hinden in completion of her personal transformation journey.