Mythmaking programme 2016-17

I’m breaking the flow of my usual writings here just this once, to offer updates both on ‘Sisterhood of the Bones’ creative retreats for women, and on online courses, for the coming year.

Sisterhood of the Bones creative retreats for women

Since the remaining 2016 retreat in October is full with a waiting list, I’ve now organized the schedule for 2017. There will be two of them, each set in a stunning location in the Irish and Welsh landscapes that are steeped in wild myth. The full information, including accommodation details and fees, and information on getting there, is available on my website beginning here: Please note that all retreat accommodation is in single rooms, in comfortable, well-equipped large holiday homes. These retreats are small and cosy by design: maximum numbers vary from 7 to 9 depending on the location.

General information

‘Sisterhood of the Bones’ creative retreats are for women who are between stories; for women who see that the world is challenged, changing, and are wondering about their place in it. During all these retreats we explore the ways in which we can bring into being our uniquely female wild wisdom, which so often remains unawakened or suppressed. We do this by working with wild myth and story, and by mapping and deepening our connections with place, the natural world, and the non-human others who share it with us. Whilst all retreats are structured around this overall focus, the specific stories we work with will vary according to the retreat’s theme (see individual retreat information below). During each retreat, I’ll offer you stories and together we’ll explore their deeper meanings and the ways in which they can lead us to a deeper sense of belonging, both to the world and to our wilder selves. In this way, our own stories begin to merge with the stories of the land. We fall into the land’s story; we become a part of the land’s dreaming, and the dreamings of the non-human others who inhabit it along with us. Ultimately, we are exploring the ways in which our native mythologies can inform an authentic and transformative Heroine’s Journey, a journey of re-enchantment which will lead us back to our place of belonging.

The emphasis on ‘Sisterhood of the Bones’ retreats is on writing as a mode of expression, but all forms of creative expression are welcome and encouraged. The retreats will offer inspiration for anyone who is interested in exploring the power of myth and story in their lives and their work: writers and storytellers, artists and craftspeople, those who want to incorporate narrative into their therapy work. Although these are not ‘how to write’ programmes, and do not focus on technique (and nor do we ‘workshop’ our writing), we will spend some time delving into the construction of myths and fairytales, and explore the ways in which we can begin to create our own.

‘Singing Over the Bones’ retreats are also founded on our immersion in the Celtic lands in which they take place: lands whose ancient flesh and bones I know and love, and which I have lived in and am deeply connected to. This is not just an imaginal immersion, but a physical one too: we will be actively experiencing the land and the nonhuman others who share it with us. My approach, then, is deeply grounded, rooted in sensory experience as well as in creative imagination work. I aim to create a warm, supportive but creatively challenging and transformative atmosphere in which we spend time indoors and outdoors to deepen our connectedness, catalyse our own personal metamorphoses, and enrichen our creative practice.

The Power of the Celtic Woman. Snowdonia, Wales, Saturday 18 to Friday 24 March, 2017


This retreat will take place on the edge of the tranquil coastal village of Llwyngwril, in Gwynedd, North Wales, where ancient granite mountains meet the sea on the western fringes of the Snowdonia National Park. Join me for this week of the Spring Equinox in an area rich in Celtic and Roman history to explore the myths, stories and native traditions which spring from this beautiful and ancient land.

Our work will be centered around the stories of the strong, fascinating and complex female characters in the magical medieval Welsh manuscript, The Mabinogion. From Rhiannon of the white horse to Blodeuwedd the flower maiden; from Branwen the peace-weaver to fiercely independent Arianrhod in her castle by the sea, we’ll explore wastelands and wonderlands, cauldrons of inspiration and rebirth, the origin of the Grail myths (and the centrality of the Grail Maidens and the Loathly Lady), and the pivotal role of women in our native mythologies.

Please note that as of June 2016, this retreat is full but the waiting list is open.

Islands and Otherworlds. Connemara, Ireland, Sunday 14 to Saturday 20 October, 2017

omey island beach

This retreat will take place in a house with its own private sandy beach on the wild Atlantic shoreline of Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland, next to a tidal pathway across the sands to Omey Island. Omey is a place to which pilgrims have come for many centuries; these retreats, then, are centered around our individual Heroine’s Journeys as a pilgrimage back to belonging. We talk about what it means to be a pilgrim; what an authentic Heroine’s Journey might involve; what it means to fully belong to this earth.

The myths and folktales we work with on these retreats include the story of the selkie who lost her skin, the mythology of mermaids, and other shape-shifting, transformative sea-stories of the Celtic lands. We’ll also explore the old Irish echtrae: heroic journeys to an Otherworld which is dominated by strong women, and the immrama: ancient sea-pilgrimages to Otherworldly islands, including Tír na mBan: the Isle of Women.

Bring a pilgrim’s open and searching heart, bare feet to paddle in the wild ocean, and a basketful of sea-longings.

Online courses

Three online courses are now available.

The Mythic Imagination

shadow-within-6 crop320‘The Mythic Imagination’ is a new six-module, six-month online course designed to present myth and fairy tales not just as entertainment, or a collection of stories which offer insight into beliefs and traditions from the distant past, but as a living principle, deeply enmeshed in our lives. Over the course we’ll explore the many ways in which myth can illumine and inform our journeys through life. Although some theory and background information will be presented to help you in your studies, the major focus of this course is to offer practical guidance, exercises and writing meditations to help you develop and deepen your own mythic imagination. More info here.

Sisterhood of the Bones

Night Woman / Crone Tree, Carolyn Hillyer

‘Sisterhood of the Bones’ is a unique year-long experience for women who want to delve deeply into wild stories, myths and archetypes, and so to connect in a grounded, rooted way with the cycles and seasons of the year. The course is organised around the eight seasonal festivals which many of us in Ireland and the other Celtic countries still acknowledge. The reason for this focus is simply to work with one way of rooting ourselves into the seasons and cycles of the living land, deepening our relationship with the land we occupy, using those eight festivals as anchor points for our own experience of the cycles and seasons of the year.

From this grounding, ‘Sisterhood of the Bones’ offers you ways of finding your own stories of cycles and seasons, showing you how to penetrate the musky, earthy places of your own territory, and so to apply the lessons that you’ll learn here to the reality of your own embodied life. You will also follow a guided Heroine’s Journey: a journey back to enchantment, to a sense of place and belonging to the world. It offers exercises and prompts that will help you to explore and the stories you tell about yourself and your life. More info here.

Reclaiming the Wise Woman

The Moss Maiden, Heligan

As the state of the biosphere grows ever more perilous and contemporary culture becomes ever more alienated from the natural world, I believe it is the job of women to bring us back into right relationship with the land. Women have a special relationship with the earth, a unique understanding of her stories; the old mythologies across so many cultures tell us that it’s always been so. And in my native Celtic lands, once upon a time women were the guardians and protectors of the natural world, the heart of the land, ‘Sovereignty’ personified.

The Wise Woman emerges out of our own native myths and literature, and our own iconic native landscapes. The Wise Woman is more than just an archetype: she is a living, breathing woman with a deeply connected way of being in the world. She knows that this connection to place and to the land she inhabits is the secret of women’s creative power. The Wise Woman knows how to listen, and she knows how to tell. She has fallen into the land’s story; she has become part of the land’s dreaming. She is a land-whisperer, a place-conjuror, a story-weaver; she listens for the wisdom of the Earth. The Wise Woman is a woman who has reclaimed her stories, and has found the voice with which to tell them. The Wise Woman is remaking the world.

In this course we explore and reclaim our native Wise Woman stories and traditions, bringing them alive and making them relevant to the world we live in today. We explore both old and new representations of the Wise Woman in myth, story and literature. We explore a range of skills and practices – practical and creative, and always deeply grounded – which help us develop a rich and authentic relationship with the natural world around us, and bring us back into balance with the land on which we live. More info here.



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