SACRED HOUSE (hardback)

 

CAROLYN HILLYER

WHERE WOMEN WEAVE WORDS INTO THE EARTH

NEW PUBLICATION all copies signed by the author

Weaving together profound stories, original source materials and lyrical texts, this extraordinary book travels a spiralling route around the hearth fire of a sacred ceremonial house, gathering up the words that are fed into the ancient flames. Drawing on over 30 years of being absorbed in women’s work (political, spiritual, creative and magical), and decades spent as a workshop creator, song writer, intuitive painter and inhabitant of hills and moors, Carolyn has written a book that describes a deep mythology for women in relation to earth, spirit mothers, mystical journeys, sisterhood and the unfolding landscape of our travelling souls, as well as a view through a personal window into life and wild land. 400 pages / 235mm x 160mm / with colour plates

 

Price: £32.00

Additional Information

WELCOME TO THE SACRED HOUSE 

 

This book is written as a spiral that spins in both directions. After a long time searching for the bones on which to hang these stories, the skeletal form finally emerged, a non-linear structure that could gather up all my dancing words and tie them together. A circular loom, in fact, on which I could weave fragments of texture and colour, and then stand back to see how the pattern of the threads was spreading out to feed the cloth. A sacred house, indeed, that was solid and magical and timeless enough to accommodate all the many women who were travelling into these tales, and friendly enough to encourage their voices to sing out across the flaming hearth. With wild nature prowling so strongly at the centre and around the edges of these stories, I wanted to catch something of the raw dynamic of the land within these words. Some of these story cycles have emerged from workshop journeys that I have created for women over many years. Some stories are newly born and freshly grown; they have flown in over winter snows and scarcely left a trail, so lightly they have woven themselves into this book. Some are written around a rhythm that can best be experienced when they are spoken out loud; some will even take you out to dream and trance if you stay with them for a while. The songs that are threaded through the book can of course be read as lyrical text, although they will enjoy being sung, with your own tunes if you are not familiar with the original melody, harmonies or rhythm. The sacred house exists; it was built some years ago on the wild land where I live, a ceremonial roundhouse like those used by the ancestors who walked these hills five thousand years ago. Its roots and soul are far, far older. Time inevitably shifts from lines to circles within its walls, and layers of ancient faces flicker across those of the women sat within. I welcome you through its door and invite you to travel with these stories as they are woven by us onto this loom.

 

Here you will find stories about… returning home, constant rivers & ancient paths… feeding the soul & gathering the harvest of songs… binding power & the work of wise hands… womanhood & the mysteries of blood and moon… lost clans, remembered ancestors & sacred lovers… protection, deep magic & old knowledge… darkening shadows, death totems & intuitive voices… weaving the land, wild places & the turn of seasons… deep winter, ice warriors & the web of mother lines… primordial rhythms, prayer dances & drum rituals… grieving hearts, unbound spirits & distant terrains… sisterhood, strong circles & shared journeys… the dances of life & bright joy…

 

FORGOTTEN BUT STILL FREE (a story from Sacred House)

These are long journeys to be made, perhaps achieved through a combination of small plane, night train, steaming bus, steaming huskies and crisp cold dreams. When you finally stand outside, about to place your foot across the threshold, take a moment to pause: it may be possible to hear a quiet knocking on the drum skin of your inner ear. For ancient drums have not stopped sounding the rhythms that they were always accustomed to playing; now they just do so very discreetly. Upon entering the halls there may be many valuable and shiny distractions lining the way through to the old drums; it may be necessary to negotiate labyrinthine corridors or reduced winter opening times or the dark unlabelled caves of secondary collections, but the insistent thrum of the ancient drums will draw you deeper in and eventually you will locate the entrance to their dimly lit territory. It is respectful to spend a little time in front of tiny carved totem dolls sewn into scraps of seal fur, and amulets hung with bear claws and thunder stones and human hair. It is essential to stop for a long while beside the paper-thin tattooed skin that was peeled like a grisly shirt from the body of an ancient drum keeper; pray hard with tears for what other response could possibly be enough to honour this forgotten man? And still the drums are calling in the dark and dust of captured time, in the cluttered corners where they have landed after so many generations of flying with their drummers over vast unfettered lands. The empty shaman coats of dead drummers are displayed close by, maybe exchanged for food or some small measure of liberty, more likely stolen in bloodshed or acquired through threat or wile. Perhaps the potent magic of the coats has been defeated, dormant inside dulled metal discs and yellowed bones and shreds of tasselled braids. But the ancient drums are not silent. To see the old drums sitting, lying, hanging in these places, hundreds of years and thousands of miles away from fires and songs and human spirits, ripped and tricked from the hands of keepers and makers and healers and mystics and women summoning the herds; to see the old drums, broken and bent with twisted spines, cracked bodies bound with iron or twine, tattered skins all patched and sewn; this is a cause for dark and awed reflection. Lean your head in close and listen to the rhythms that still buzz and burr. The ancient drums are singing on. Between those drum beats there are so many stories, all coated with a thick black patina of age, all steeped in layers of spells and healing and peace and hunger and struggle and mystical revelation. Dark old stories have been stored safely against all odds inside the rhythms of these ancient drums. Of course things are getting better for the drums. Some are back in the hands of their own people, treasured as sacred precious tokens of what can be saved to rebuild a battered culture and, like the peoples’ stories, lovingly restored. And these drums in particular sing loudly. They sound their remembered rhythms consistently throughout the hours when visitors pass by, but it is at night that they truly come into their own. For this is the time when old drums sing across the open land, to the secret holes and crevices in soil and rock and ice and tree root, where other ancient drums are hidden, saved long years ago from blade and axe, concealed at great risk, kept safe through generations, maybe now forgotten but still free and not caught, however kindly, inside museum walls.

 

CHAPTERS IN SACRED HOUSE

Section 1 ENTERING: Stones washed by moon
1 Granite /2 Doorway
Section 2 EARTH & HEARTH
3 Earth Floor /4 Hearth Fire
Section 3 FIRST WEAVER
5 House of the Weavers /6 The Loom /7 The Pot /8 The Drum /9 The Mask
Section 4 HERON’S COAT
10 The Heron House /11 Heron Flies East /12 Heron Flies South /13 Heron Flies West /14 Heron Flies North /15 Heron Flies Home
Section 5 BONE HILL
16 Forgotten People /17 Hag and Stag /18 The Old Valley
Section 6 WITCH TREE
19 The Oldest Magic /20 Warm Spells /21 The Coat of Many Eyes
Section 7 CAVE SONG
22 The Oracle of Nights /23 Toad & the Magic Vulva /24 Crow & the Mortuary House /25 Spider & the Silent Lace /26 The Cave-Beyond-the-Cave /27 Bat & the Unknown Night /28 Mare & the Surging Tide /29 Moth Wings /30 Death of Owls
Section 8 WEATHERED EDGE
31 Damp Earth /32 Sweet Day /33 Heathen Hills /34 Cold Winds
Section 9 ANCIENT ICE
35 Inside the Winter Book /36 The Northern Sisterhood of Drums /37 Wolfsmilk & the Mending Drum /38 Wise Ashes & the Dream of Fire /39 Red Ochre & the Breaking Drum /40 Twisted Braid & the Bear Dance /41 River Nomad & the Fish Girdle /42 Raven Scar & the Bone Needles /43 Shadows & the Dark Smoke /44 Moon-in-Water & the Human Heart Drum /45 Edge of Ice & the Reindeer Soul
Section 10 GRANDMOTHER DRUM
46 Spirit of Drum /47 Hare Drum /48 Salmon Drum /49 Bear Drum /50 Lost Drum /51 Nameless Drum
Section 11 RIVENSTONE
52 Ashes & Earth /53 Dissolving Woman & the Burden of Wounds /54 Hollowing Woman & the Restoration of Grace /55 Bleeding Woman & the Gift of Shrouds /56 Illuminating Woman & the Blessing of Songs
Section 12
57 Ash and Ember /58 Smoke in Thatch
Section 13 LEAVING: Stones warmed by sun
59 Song Rivers