The Intention of our Lodge by Eartha Love Varda
For us it’s about making sure that the next generation is fully and harmoniously integrated into themselves, their bodies, their families, their communities and into nature. So they grow up to be happy, strong, and fully functional for themselves, their tribe and families.
The purpose of this is so life works in a good and becoming way and that this carries on into the future and down the generations.
In traditional tribes they would spend a huge amount of time and energy into holding their young people and initiating them because the cost of not doing that is greater.
So not only are we teaching and guiding them, we are giving them the new pattern and that is what culture is.
How did we begin to gather and circle around our daughters?……with a vision.
And the women of the red tent under the blue stones gathered
But this time they brought their daughters………
They heard the sound of the great drum calling, the rhythm of the Earthmother, pulsing, rising up into their bellies and into their hearts.
They wrapped themselves in their blankets and they came from all corners of their land, bringing their wisdom for the girl-women.
Wrapped in their blankets of beauty, they carried their truth, their connection to the land and each other.
They carried the knowledge of womanhood. The women’s beauty way. They put the Earthmother at the centre of their circle,held council, they spoke truth. They spoke the language of the trees and the plants and the animals. They talked of the messages in the stars and the wisdom held in the stone people. They spoke of the truth in their hearts, and the truth of their wild natures. And the girl -women listened……..
extract from ‘stories for the daughters of the earth’
We had a vision, we felt a sense of urgency to be with our daughters, we gathered and we started wrapping our collective wisdom into a beautiful bundle we could share with the girls…
but before we could be full present with this journey with our girls…..
before we could put out the invitation
there was work to do first,
we sat in circle and began the journey to recover our authentic natural selves.
Starting Your Lodge by Rachael Hertogs
Our core group came together as concerned women, 3 mothers, a mother to be and a grandmother.
We were concerned, concerned about todays pressures girls face.
How could we be an antidote to the media pressures, false beauty images, internet bullying, food issues, teen sex….
We know that girls imitate, especially from age 8 onwards, when the hormones begin to stir, they start to watch women, watch the older girls in their families and their peer groups.
To be able to pass on Womens Wisdom, women need to do some inner work first, you cannot pass on what you don’t have!
We were inspired by Gail Burkett’s book “Gifts From the Elders- Girls Path to Womanhood” she advocates women and girls groups – to include girls from 8-18, but stresses the need for the mothers and women to do the personal healing and community building first, she encourages women to create ceremonies that resonate with their own beliefs- whatever they are and celebrate themselves though “Catch Up” work, reviewing the major steps in your life, and sharing and honouring them with women.
So we put out the invitation….
Does your heart sing when you sit in a circle of women? Do you feel you are part of the earth, part of the whole? Do you believe all beings need to be treated with respect? Do you want to walk down a path of sustainability and connection, to create a new earth based culture?
Together we will begin a journey to awaken the path to womanhood for our girls, through nature activities, wisdom sharing, play, craft and earth connection; we will recreate our culture and rewrite “herstory”.
You are invited to join our Women and Girls Lodge
The first Lodge is just for the women, to welcome and celebrate you and share our dreams for the first UK women and girls group!
Come and join us, be you grandmother, mother
or guardian angel of girls from 8 upwards – to learn more of our intention. bring food to share and a donation.
We hope you can make it!”
The Women are Welcomed
We put out our invitation and mothers came to the first lodge session; where we sat in circle, talked about the need for the lodge, the need for our daughters to be with women, we connected to the earth through a beautiful Journey. The women were wrapped in blankets, we painted their hands and feet with red ochre and sang to them to welcome them to the circle and the lodge.
What Our Core Group Did
We sat in circle and put the earth at the centre (not our egos!) and together we dreamed and wove our dreams into the Women and Girls Lodge.
We continued to gather for months, putting the earth at the centre and sharing our TRUTHS. We co-created catch up ceremonies for each other, celebrating our mid girl and menarche selves, we shared stories of our youth, our brokenness and our courage, then we began to plan sessions and wrote invitations to the mothers!
We gathered and the expectation and excitement was rising in anticipation of sharing our wisdom.
We shared our vision with the women, the mothers, we wrapped them in blankets, sang and painted them in red ochre.
Again we gathered and planned the first session for the girls, we wrote invitations to them and their mothers and we waited…..
And the Girls arrived with excitement and fear, with giggles and nerves they sat in circle, explored the land, made rainbow bracelets- while the women in the Red Tent drummed and sang, painted their bodies with red ochre and prepared a ceremony.
Food was eaten in the sunshine, the girls played while the women talked.
Before the girls entered the lodge they put all their giggles and fidgets into the stones piled at the door, one by one they entered the lodge, they were saged and cleansed and sat in silence while the women beat their drums and sang songs.
We began the sacred Despacho Ceremony, giving prayers, gratitude and offerings to Pachamama, we sang songs and offered flowers, food, incenses, shells, feathers and chocolate to the Great Mother which where wrapped and placed on the fire.
We walked like foxes and played and laughed in the sunshine until it was home time!
We have a loose format that we mostly stick to each month!
10.30am arrive & welcome
10.45am Girls activity begins
Women gather in the Red Tent- smudge, meditation, circle sharing then a deeper sharing/activity
12.30-1.30 lunch break
1.30 Women welcome the girls into the Red Tent, smudge, sing, meditation, activity
3pm closing sharing circle
Arrive & Welcome
Girls are welcomed with their mothers at the outdoor kitchen/roundhouse. We usually have flapjack or pancakes ready for the girls, hot teas for the women.
To start we often have an introductions round, a story or a sharing circle where we all answer a simple question, such as what animal do you feel like today? Example replies are “I’m Jemma and today I feel like a sleepy doormouse” or “I’m Laura and today I’m a bit grumpy so I feel like a prickly hedgehog”, “I’m Amber and I’m full of energy so I feel like a jumpy frog”. Or we might ask the question “what do you most love about Autumn (or whatever season we are in)?”
If the group is feeling a bit disparate, or has become a bit cliquey we begin with a cooperative game to get everyone working together such as the Cinnamon Roll, or a bean bag game like Pattern Ball.
Our morning activity with the girls is usually an outdoor one, where we hold the lodge there is an open sided roundhouse which offers cover from the rain- but not much warmth! One of our group also has a tipi that we have used on occasion and sometimes the girls and mothers swap and the mums stay outside for the morning!
As the core group we really want to listen to the girls and what they want from the group. Our girls have requested games, crafts, cooking, to spend time in sacred places, making altars, journalling, henna painting to name a few activities.
Our girls have each chosen a “spirit spot” – somewhere they can be alone, make offerings and connect to the earth, they have all created little altars at their spots and they love to show their mothers their special spots.
Our journey over time has been to build the girls up with challenges mixed in with really fun games and activities. It has felt like we are on a deepening journey together, deepening their relationships to their bodies, to each other, to the earth, to us.
So each lodge day has been building on the last, weaving together womens wisdom and earth connection.
Jenny and the girls in the roundhouse with their beautiful weaving.
Activities we have shared with the girls have been; beating the bounds, songs and chants, leather pouch making, fire making/lighting and cooking pancakes, popcorn, chai, soup, jam making, dough sticks, nature games, medicine bundles, circle sharing, glass painting (candle holders), candle making, using a compass, creating earth altars, exploring the medicine wheel, moon and menstrual connection games and moon time necklaces.
Women gather in the lodge- smudge, meditation, circle sharing then a deeper sharing/activity
We are lucky enough to have a beautiful Red Tent yurt where the women gather in the morning. We hold this space as a sacred one, consciously putting aside all our worries and negativity before entering. We do this by having 2 bowls by the door, an empty one and one filled with stones. Women choose a stone and take a moment to put all thoughts that are bothering them or stopping them from being fully present into the stone, which is then placed into the empty bowl. At the end of the day there is a choice as to whether you might want to pick up the stone again and take back whatever you put into it! Any stones left are cleansed by the rain/moon before being returned to the original bowl.
The women enter in silence (sometimes it’s difficult to keep the silence so one women might start singing to prevent chit chat happening.) they find a spot to sit in circle and then we begin to smudge each other with sage or mugwort while drumming and singing.
We then move into a meditation or journey to hold the sacred space. Emma wrote a beautiful earth connection meditation that we often use, and Rachael has some womb/earth meditations and journeys that she uses when appropriate.
Afterwards we each take turns lighting a tea light for the altar and stating we are present (“I am Rachael and I am present”) and passing the story bowl* around the circle. One of the core group will start -giving the topic for the sharing. Topics have included remembering our mid girl selves and bringing photos of ourselves, our menarche stories, where we are in our cycles (monthly and life cycle!), co creating a special altar and speaking about the altar items we have brought, talking about our relationship with our daughters/our mothers.
This sharing space is also where the core group might bring up practical issues for the women to share council on- such as finances, how we hold the girls on their journey, whether to have an open or closed group etc.
When the group first started the core group welcomed each mother by wrapping them in a blanket, singing to them and painting them in red ochre as a way to make them feel a valued member of the lodge. As we became a closed group and there were no more women to welcome in this way, it allowed more time to dedicate to circle sharing.
After one round of sharing we might go around again, sharing more deeply on the subject, or we might have an activity such as a craft, do some yoga, look at the menstrual medicine wheel etc
The mothers really value this time together, giving them time to share some of the issues they might be facing with their daughters, whilst building up the friendship and trust between us all.
*We choose to have a “story bowl” rather than a talking stick as it feels much more feminine, and we hold the idea that all our stories are held in the bowl and all women passing the bowl can access the wisdom of our stories. The bowl also contains some beautiful essences made by Clarity Vibration (UK), a small doll, a rose quartz and heart stone. Sometimes women will spray them selves and hold something from the bowl as they speak.
We always eat together outside, taking about an hour for our lunch break. We all bring food to share and will have extra special feasts if we happen to hold a lodge on a special day like Imbolc or Earth Day. Everyone helps to wash up and clear away dishes.
Women welcome the girls into the Red Tent, smudge, sing, meditation, activity
We really wanted to keep the specialness and sacredness of the Red Tent as a magical experience for the girls, so before they enter they put their giggles and fidgets into the stones outside, and they are smudged and sung to before entering the yurt, inside the women are singing to welcome them.
They enter one by one, sit quietly in the circle with the women (often not sitting by their mothers!) and wait until all the girls have come in.
Then there will be a simple meditation or journey or sometimes a story that connects to the shared activity for the afternoon, an activity that brings the mothers and daughters together, activities have included a despacho ceremony, co-creating a 9 passages altar, painting each others faces (mothers painting daughters, daughters painting mothers) with natural ochre paints, girls and mothers sharing things they love about each other, water and fire ceremonies, knitting and crocheting, medicine bundles, we have also gone outside on sunnier days and done foraging and herb tea making, tree planting, and the girls love to take their mums to their sacred spots on the land.
We try to allow time for the girls and mums to do some journalling, to keep a record of their journey and to allow a space for some creative flow!
The core group gathered once again to weave the next lodge session. We would celebrate the season with a soup from our harvests and weave a beautiful loom of offerings for the animals and birds of this land, weaving ribbons, wool and fabrics together with popcorn on string, berries, nuts and other foods. We will gather berries and make jam on the fire, play games and feat together, any new women will be welcomed, sang to and painted in the Red Tent.
And so again the girls and mothers gathered, they were welcomed with a story Emma has written, the “story so far…” of our lodge, they listened , enraptured. Then we all snaked across the land with our chants, drums and rattles, to beat the bounds so the spirits of the land know our place and the girls knew the boundaries of their playground.
Then the chopping of vegetables began, sharing stories, laughter and love as we chopped and washed, washed and chopped. The girls ran off to collect blackberries and the women crept away to the red tent where they meditated on Mother Earth and had a ‘pow wow’ about the day, the journey they were setting out on together, their hopes and fears for their relationships with their daughters.
Rachael and Hannah sang to them, wrapped them in blankets and painted their hands and feet with Red Ochre, massaged them and welcomed them with love.
Together the women left the warmth of the Red Tent to prepare the feast of soup, breads, cheeses and salads….
Meanwhile the daughters had played games and collected things for the weaving session in the afternoon.
After lunch Rachael lit the fire in the Red Tent yurt, burned incense, lit candles and the mothers enetered and sang as the girls came in one by one, leaving their giggles and fidgets in the stones at the door and where smudged at the threshold.
We had a drum journey into our very centres and saw the web of life within ourselves, we journeyed with animals and fish across waters and lands to a sacred stone circle.
When we came back from the journey we all put our gratitudes, prayers and wishes into fabrics, ferns, wools, ribbons, branches (with berries and nuts attached!) and plants which were woven into a beautiful loom that Jenny had made in the centre of the yurt, while everyone sang songs of weaving, of autumn, of the earth and of love.
Gradually the loom was filled and the girls filtered outside to make jam with Jenny while the women held a council about how the group will run, our maximum number the space and group feel comfortable to hold, how to book and reserve your space and the timings of the day.
We finally gathered all together in the roundhouse while 2 women ceremonially carried the loom up from the yurt for us to sit around, we had a sharing circle, held hands and finished by chanting 3 Ma’s (the sound of the heart-womb meridian).
The core group had a lot of clearing up that day, so we decided we would ask the mothers to help with washing up and to be responsible for their possessions and keeping areas tidy after activities!
As the leaves turned golden the tipi was put up in expectation of a colder day, but the morning was warm and bright as the 5 women of the Lodge gathered to pepapre for the day. We chanted 3 Ma’s and called in our guides and spirits and held the earth in the centre. We lit fires and prepared the yurt….just in time as the first mothers and daughters arrived. We sang happy birthday to 3 of the women and circled on the things we had enjoyed from the last couple of lodge gatherings.
The women left to gather in the Red Tent where we saged each other, sang, lit candles, meditated on our Mother Earth and welcomed the new women. Then together we created a ‘life spiral’ altar (inspired by the 9 passages by Gail Burkett), sharing our journeys and where we are -what threshold we stand at…for most of us we are between mothering and the mid woman place, we placed special items and bundles to represent ourselves on the altar, and sang Carolyn Hillyers “Girlseed” song.
After a delicious lunch of soup, baked potatoes, salads, breads, we came back to the Red Tent and welcomed the girls in, surrounding them we shared the life spiral,placing offerings of raspberry leaf and the girls placed bundles they had made in the morning. Emma led a life spiral drum journey and afterwards we gave the girls printed copies of the spiral which they coloured and stuck in their journals.
They sang to the women a song they had learned that morning…’who are the witches…’ and they told us about the games they had played and we discussed what we could call our group.
Who are the Witches?
Who were the witches? Where did they come from?
Maybe your great, great grandmother was one. Witches were wise, wise women they say. And there’s a little witch in every woman today!
Witches knew all about flowers and weeds. How to use all their roots and their leaves and their seeds. When people grew weary from hard-workin’ days, They made ’em feel better in so many ways. (chorus)
When women had babies the witches were there To hold them and help them and give them care. Witches knew stories of how life began. Don’t you wish you could be one? Well, maybe you can! (chorus)
Some people thought that the witches were bad. Some people were scared of the power they had. But power to help and to heal and to care Isn’t something to fear, it’s a pleasure to share. (chorus)
The women and the girls of the lodge gather again with stones and offerings for our spirit spots on the land. We began all together in the roundhouse and welcomed a new mother and daughter into our circle, sharing with them some of our favourite things from the last sessions. Together we meditated on Mother Earth and shared our truths and connection to the Earth and processed to our “Truth Cain” (a place where over time women have gathered and laid stones while speaking our truths) and placed our stones down in revered silence.
The girls went up to the round house for hot drinks and then to visit their spirit spots on the land while the women gathered in the yurt to sing to the new mother in welcome. A wile later the daughters came into the red tent, being smudged and sang to and then the mothers shared in our circle things about their daughters that they are so proud of…things none of us knew….and then the girls shared about their mothers and then mothers and daughters painted each others faces with natural ochres and together we sang the ‘beautiful’ song.
How could anyone ever tell you
You were anything less than beautiful
How could anyone ever tell you
You were less than whole
How could anyone fail to notice
That your loving is a miracle
How deeply you’re connected to my Soul…
Then it was time for a shared lunch and excitedly the girls took their mothers to visit their spirit spots and we finished the day all coming together in the yurt to journal about the day.