fire workshops


An unfolding programme of women’s workshop journeys on Dartmoor
with Carolyn Hillyer

Carolyn began a new programme of workshop journeys for women on Dartmoor at midsummer 2016. They are born out of the many women’s gatherings and circles created and hosted by Carolyn in this place of moorland sanctuary, especially the last four years of Shaman Weaver workshops and the Thirteen Moons Festival for women that took place in the autumn of 2015. This series of HEARTHSTONE WORKSHOPS has been designed to carry the experience and intent of our sacred work as sisters still further into shared explorations of wisdoms and understandings that are empowering, deepening, mending, mystical, simple and intricate, wild and ancient.




2017 dates:

Oct 27 – 29 / WINTER HEARTH (Hearth Gathering) 12 places Full
November 24 – 26 / WINTER HEARTH (Hearth Gathering) 12 places Full

2018 dates to follow

In 2018 Carolyn will start to offer a very small number of individual HEARTH TENDINGS at the farm, one-to-one sessions up to 3 hours long, intended to support a sister in strengthening her own journey and deepening her hearth (watch this website for more details).

There are three different weekends being offered in this programme: HEARTH GATHERING, THRESHOLD CIRCLE and TRAIL JOURNEY. At the heart of every workshop lies the magical tending of women’s wild, wise and ancient fires. Our shared journeys will encompass these things: entering, pathfinding, spellbinding, protecting and dreaming as we work in turn with the rituals and teachings of hearthstones, embers, flames, smoke and ashes. However, the theme and structure of each weekend will change, shaped by the season of the year and the depth or expanse of work being undertaken.

Spiral Riven reverseHEARTH GATHERINGS are for women who want to explore their own story within the sacred house of women; or who are new to sitting in sister circles that are safe, inspiring and empowering; or who wish to expand their wise knowing, and travel deeper on their mystical journeys as hearth women. We will be working in ancient and newly-envisioned ways with the ingredients of fire and ritual and drum and song and sacred land. This is the workshop to join if you have not sat in circle before on Dartmoor or with Carolyn, although these are not exclusively beginner weekends. All women are welcome, whether or not you have already worked in this way, and we aim to create circles that are rich with variations in age, perspective and life experience. This gathering offers a carefully supported and nurturing environment, where you will be tended by two kindling women (as well as Carolyn) while you journey through the weekend with your hearth sisters.

Accommodation is for two nights in triple shared rooms in the farm cottage, all food and materials are included. We will be working around three hearths: in the nomad tent (summer) or shrine room (winter); in the ceremonial roundhouse; and outside in the woods. Workshop is from 5pm Friday until 5pm Sunday, and may include a short walk onto the open moor. No Sunday night accommodation available. Places: 12 plus 2 kindling sisters

Spiral Riven reverseTHRESHOLD CIRCLES are for women who have worked with Carolyn previously or who carry some experience with women’s sacred circles; and who are willing to dissolve boundaries, travel beyond edges, explore intuitive landscapes, dive deep and throw caution to the winds. These weekends will involve a combination of night work, intense journeying, challenging initiations, and close cooperation and support between sisters. We will live, sleep and cook together on the land in a large Siberian-style nomad tent, and share both our domestic and sacred work in the manner of our ancestor mothers. Our ceremonial work will take place in the roundhouse, where we will have the care of an ancestral bone bundle. All our domestic facilities will be based outside (stream washing, compost toilet hut) therefore this workshop requires a specific level of physical ease, consideration and tolerance among sisters, and a willingness to forgo privacy during the weekend. The prayer of the circle will start as soon as sisters arrive, and continue unbroken until the formal conclusion of our journey.

Accommodation is with individual bed rolls in the nomad tent, outside domestic facilities, food is provided for the shared preparation of simple hearth-cooked meals, all materials provided. We will be working around three hearths: in the nomad tent, in the ceremonial roundhouse, and at the stone shrine fireplace. Workshop is from 5pm Friday – 9am Monday (although Sunday evening departure can be agreed if necessary). From Sunday 5pm we will return to the farm cottage for showers, individual retreat time, final circle and rest. Places: 12 in total

Spiral Riven reverseTRAIL JOURNEYS are for women who want to stride out into the wild belly of the moors, and travel with ancient stone women into shrine, beneath cairn and along high ridge. This workshop involves walking, wayfaring and vigil in deep communion with the untamed earth. We will make our pilgrimage through a neolithic and bronze age ritual landscape, travelling the hidden trails of primordial wild herds, and making homage to the ancestor mothers of the moor. We will honour the cistvaen and bone bundle of the white horse hill woman from 4000 years ago. We will work with a small hearth in the wild and with the roundhouse fire. The workshop will be supported by two heron track sisters who will assist in caring for women on the trail. The pilgrimage will take place during 13 hours, with plenty of time along the way for individual contemplation and ritual. On our return in the evening we will share a dream vigil in the ceremonial roundhouse. This workshop requires a very specific level of fitness and stamina, and the ability to walk at a steady pace over long hours. The first trail journey takes place in early summer 2017, after workshop groups have been working with the home hearths for one year.

Accommodation is two nights in triple shared rooms in the farm cottage, all food and materials provided. We will be working with our ceremonial hearth in the roundhouse, and a wild hearth that we will carry with us on the moor. Our pilgrimage will take place from 7am-8pm Saturday. Workshop is from 5pm Friday- 5pm Sunday. Supported with qualified outdoor first aid. Places: 12 including 2 heron track sisters

Drumming and the shared singing of prayer songs, drum songs and ritual chants will be important in all the workshops. We have spare drums for you to use if you do not have one, as well as large communal drums. There will be the ongoing creation of a hearth dance that we will grow together and pass from group to group, strengthening the hearth prayers that we place into this land. During many of the weekends we will be making simple totemic items to deepen and focus our journeys, such as hearth spirit dolls, ash pouches, fired earth prayer bowls or small horse hide masks. The intuitive casting of oracles, either individually or together, will be included in some of the workshops.

Lower Merripit Farm is a thousand year-old traditional farmstead located in the deep heart of Dartmoor and surrounded by wild hills. It is home to painting, music and instrument-making studios; workshop spaces; guest cottage and organic small-holding. There is a wild Dartmoor pony herd attached to and cared for by this farm, and we actively protect this land as a safe environment for deer, fox, badger, snipe, salmon and other hunted creatures. We have been creating a place of wild sanctuary here for over twenty years, and have hosted a wide range of gatherings and events during that time, from sacred world music festivals to small roundhouse group rituals. All food prepared here is vegetarian (with vegan option) and there is spring-fed well water in every tap. Part of our power is generated through solar energy and because we run septic tank and digester systems, we encourage the use of eco products where possible. Please note: we are very pleased to be able to offer you a retreat environment that is without wifi and mobile signal!

Travel by car is the easiest and we will try to link participating sisters to share lifts. Buses are rare beasts in the middle of the moors so if you are coming by public transport, the train or coach to Exeter is best, where we will link you up with other women to share the cost of a taxi. The taxi (with our recommended firm) takes about 50 minutes and costs around £45 from Exeter; the journey time and cost are cheaper from Newton Abbot but it may be harder for us to link you for a taxi share. This option is best, however, if you are going to be the sole train traveller. For return journeys to the station we always arrange lifts by car with other sisters. Be aware that road travel into Devon on Friday evenings can be slow, especially in the summer, so please allow plenty of time when planning your journey. Everyone will be given a list of things we advise you to bring for the weekend.

Each workshop weekend costs £290. This includes all your food, materials and accommodation. There is a non- returnable, non-transferable £100 deposit payable once your application has been confirmed with a place. Please do not send any money with your initial application form. Further payments may be made in one or two instalments; however we are able to accept up to four smaller instalments if that works better for you. Payments may be made with debit/credit card, through Paypal or by cheque. We have a clear cancellation policy that will be sent with your confirmation and may also be viewed on our website. There are two bursary places at a reduced price on each of the Hearth and Threshold workshops, intended for women who would otherwise not be able to attend. As we are flexible about payment by instalments for all participants, we ask you to apply for a bursary only if you could otherwise not consider making an application. To apply, please email directly with some evidence of financial circumstances.


  • There is an application process for the weekend workshops, with a simple form that enables you to share with us some basic information about who you are and what you do, your previous experience if any (for example: working in women’s circles, trainings and apprenticeships, travels and projects) and something about why you would like to be part of your chosen workshop.
  • There is also an undertaking we ask each woman to read and sign before her application may be completed. This is based on our sister charter, a statement which lays out the ethics and ethos of these gatherings, and the commitment to womankindness that is part of every workshop journey.
  • Places for each weekend are limited in number but we will do our best to offer you the workshop of your choice, although this might involve attending on a later date. We ask you to cherish your place; our cancellation policy (click here to see our CANCELLATION POLICY) is strict in order to encourage women to book with consideration and commitment.
  • There will be some preparations required for each workshop, simple tasks to enable you to get ready for our shared journey and to make an initial connection with the other sisters who will be attending. It does make a difference to your experience of the weekend if you are able to allow some time to prepare in advance, as well as space after you return home to absorb your workshop experiences.
  • The THRESHOLD and TRAIL workshops require specific levels of physical ease and fitness; please read these requirements carefully and be clear that you can meet them before making your application. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about this.
  • To apply for a THRESHOLD gathering you need to have attended a women’s workshop weekend(s) with Carolyn previously or to be able to give evidence that you have considerable experience in women’s sacred circle work.
  • Please inform us with your application if you plan to be pregnant when the workshop takes place, or have any physical disability or long-term health issues that might affect your full participation.
  • Please note that because these workshops are laid on a foundation of women’s blood mysteries and ancient womb magic, they are suitable for natal women only, rather than members of the transgender community.
  • Your prefered workshop may already be full but please send in your application form to be on the reserve list in case of cancellations and so we know you may be interested in the next cycle of weekends.
  • Application forms – please email to request a form.


Our system of kindling sisters has been developing beautifully. Women with previous workshop experience on Dartmoor can apply to attend a weekend to assist Carolyn and help in supporting other women during the workshop. Many women who kindled for workshops over the last four years, went on to carry out key creative and supporting roles during the recent Thirteen Moons Festival, including the physical kindling of nine sacred hearth fires throughout that event. You are welcome to apply to be a kindling sister (Hearth Gatherings) or heron track sister (Trail Journeys) once you have attended two previous workshop weekends here. There are no kindling sisters for the Threshold Circles, since all participants share the responsibility of kindling for those weekends.

Please click here to email Carolyn if you have questions about any of the workshops or concerns about making an application. You are warmly welcome to be part of these women’s gatherings on Dartmoor.

Please pay for your workshop deposit using this link. This payment link is only for deposit payments from women who have had their workshop place confirmed.