Created and guided on Dartmoor by Carolyn Hillyer
Update November 2018

During the last few winters, I have been prowling around the quest to find a new ongoing form for the workshops I have been sharing on Dartmoor, a shape that would fit not only my own deepening into an older body and a more slowly-turning dream, but also honour and enrich the momentum of the many circles and gatherings and ceremonies and workshop journeys that women have been creating with me during the last 25 years. The shape-shifting is nearly complete. It has required more time than I originally envisaged and I have serenely floated past several self-imposed launch dates! I came to understand that there was a threshold, an initiation, a personal journey of my own to move through before I could fully anchor this new vessel. So I have been getting on with that, and clearing space around my travelling feet so I might more carefully place them on the track and more closely observe the passing landscape. Dates and details and bookings for the new programme are waiting until I have walked to a mountain, returned from the mountain and sat completely still inside the heart of winter; with thanks for your patience if you are one of the sisters who have been asking about dates so you can plan ahead for your own schedules. Meanwhile here are the threads that I have been braiding into this new river

The BRAIDED RIVER programme is formed around a commitment to sacred wild land, to the sacred house of women’s shared wisdom and ancient memory, and to the sacred circles of our sisterhood. It aims:

To offer a weave of environments and gatherings for women that encompass these things: sanctuary, celebration, ceremony, intimate hearth circles, welcome weekends for new sisters, deepening weekends for returning sisters, guided apprenticeship journeys that travel over thirteen months, bearing witness to apprenticeship journeys that travel over a life time, wild singing, wild pilgrimage, the creation of mutual bonds between sisters and lands and cultures, the creation of small prayers that protect and honour and change our lives, the creation of vast prayers that protect and honour and change our Earth.

To enable women to anchor a deeper sense of belonging: to these wild moors, to the sacred roundhouse hearth and to the sister circles that are shared here. It embraces women have planted their footprints and sung their soul songs into this land for a few or many years, and it welcomes sisters who are newly arriving to these circles and who want to taste or travel a while with the shared journeys that we are unfolding. _

To create a continuity of shared experience, sacred work and wild magic that avoids tying sisters into a formalised structure or hierarchy of power, while braiding us into a supportive, inspiring, challenging, healing, innovative, effective and rebellious sisterhood! Our most profound apprenticeships are created directly from our intuitive understanding of our own journeys; our most expansive and meaningful initiations are drawn from the vessels of our own courage, tenacity, integrity and intuitive knowing.

HEARTH CIRCLES (weekend event)

Welcoming HEARTH CIRCLES will continue to be a gateway through which women may have their first experience of working with Carolyn, either for a single visit or with a view to stepping into the braided river apprenticeship. These circles offer a safe, inspiring and empowering environment for women who are new to sitting in sister circles or who wish to travel deeper on their own journey of exploration within the sacred house of women and in the wild ancient landscape of Dartmoor. Summer hearth and winter hearth weekends for 13 women will take place each year, tended and supported by braided river apprenticeship women and salmon sisters.


This apprenticeship is a new addition to the women’s gatherings here, enabling Carolyn and a small group of 9 sisters to work together intensively during a thirteen month period that will include 3 workshop weekends on Dartmoor, participation in the Braided River Camp or Confluence (whichever is happening that year), monthly group sessions within the online roundhouse to share and work with apprenticeship sisters and a Roundhouse Hearth Tending. The apprenticeship is created, braided and guided by Carolyn and will involve three cords of exploration and initiation. (1) HEARTH KEEPER: the work of women’s ancient and mystic fires; udegan (hearth woman) magic in the tending of domestic, ceremonial and wild hearths; creating fire to honour ancestors, awaken spirit, hold the integrity of circles, travel through vigil; working with drum, song, dance and prayer to honour and empower the hearth. (2) LAND GUARDIAN: creating protection and making guardian totems for a sanctuary, a circle, a ritual; walking boundaries and strengthening edges; tending the shydi and other wild shrines; night vigil, wild hearths and the embrace of fear, vulnerability and aloneness on the land; caretaking burial cistvaens and ancient bone bundles; working with drum, song, dance and prayer to honour and embrace the elements and weather. (3) RIVER DREAMER: working closely within roundhouse and braided river rituals; exploring ancient dreamer ceremonies and intuitive oracles; travelling with stone, earth, moon, night and animal spirit mothers; working with the shydi (wild shrine); engaging with and empowering personal thresholds (such as significant life experiences, motherhood, eldership, bereavement); working with drum, song, dance and prayer to honour and travel with the braided river.


For long-time returning women who have worked with Carolyn previously over several or many years and who have forged strong connections to the roundhouse hearth, this sanctuary land and the sisters who regularly gather here, there are SALMON SISTER CIRCLES. Many of these women have offered their time and energy as kindling sisters (supporting other women’s workshop journeys), or as coordinators, contributors and crew at previous women’s events. In these ways they have already braided many cords in this river and, as salmon sisters, are able to gather together to deepen their own journeys, as well as continue to support the explorations and initiations of other women. The SALMON SISTER APPRENTICESHIP is an informal, flexible vessel of previous and ongoing sacred work and initiation, created by each individual sister to her own needs and vision, supported by Carolyn and other women within these salmon circles. This ongoing apprenticeship is for sisters who are working to dissolve boundaries, travel beyond edges, explore intuitive landscapes and dive deep into the braided river. It will enable women to work more intensively and profoundly with any or all of the three cords of hearth keeper, land guardian and river dreamer.


There will be fairly regular events, taking place every few years, where we can gather in greater numbers to share and strengthen the harvest of our circles. The BRAIDED RIVER CAMP (3-day gathering at Lower Merripit Farm for 40-80 women) is intended primarily for salmon sisters and apprenticeship women, to share hearth and river rituals, fire dances and drum songs, roundhouse dreamings and wise craftings, all fed by clear waters, nurturing earth and wild moor. The BRAIDED RIVER CONFLUENCE (single day event in Dartmoor venue for up to 130 women) is open to all women who are inspired to come into these waters, sharing workshops and presentations, drum circle and wild song, celebration and ceremony.


In addition to the regular annual drum-making weekends that take place on the farm, Carolyn will offer occasional ceremonial river drum-making weekends for women who would like to make their first drum or add a new instrument to their collection.


Following the gatherings of the Wildsong Collective during our 13 month preparation for the pack pony and sacred song pilgrimage across Dartmoor in June 2018, the singing women and the ponies seem keen to create another project together! In 2019 we will hold some new sessions in the roundhouse and see what develops from there…


Individually shaped one-to-one sessions with Carolyn in the sanctuary of the farm and roundhouse will finally begin in 2019. Each hearth tending will involve an opening session in herding hut or nomad tent, roundhouse hearth session and solo retreat time on the land. More details to follow…


If you would like to register your interest in this programme and receive early information about dates and details for next year, please email Carolyn to receive a registration form. Once you are registered with us, you will be able to make a full application to the workshops or apprenticeships once booking begins in January. Please note: not everything listed here will take place every year; this is a fluid programme! It is useful for us to know what you are interested in when it comes to shaping and scheduling future workshops and sessions. For further information about the practicalities, ethos and ethics of our programme, please go to the general information section of women’s workshops. Thank you. 

“… And beneath it all the river sang. It sang with the insistent clatter of gravel and the protesting pummel of stones and the fierce resounding resistance of boulders, all rolling forward in the water’s force. Surfing through the foam, we could hear it all. And we could also hear the dip and rise of women’s songs being threaded through the water. They sang with the gathering gravels of hope and the transforming stones of justice and the great unstoppable boulders of truth… Over and again and maybe forever we will make our river rebellion, until the solidity of water and women has changed the shape of the ocean, until the force of our songs has cleared the silt from the estuaries, until the power of our gravel and boulders has swept away the banks that contain us, then we will all ride the tides that are equal and free…”  (from Rebellion at the House of Rivers, 2018)