A note from Carolyn

This is a record of many past and recent workshops for women, created and guided by me on Dartmoor, within these islands and elsewhere in the world. It is a lengthy scroll but I offer it as a woven story, with the long warp threads that catch the continuity of magic and prayer unrolling through the years, and the short weft threads tying in the colours and textures of these many women’s circles and cycles, the undulating flow of sisters who have brought their courage, creativity, vision, honesty, understandings, intuitive wisdom and enduring kindness into this shared work. So in many ways this scroll of workshops represents a gratitude to all these women – I and we would not now be here, on this curve of the wild road, in this extraordinary river of wonder and tenacity, without all you have brought into this weaving…

This new programme of workshops began in 2019 and now includes a weave of different and interwoven circles, groups and events including hearth circles, wildsong collective, salmon sisters, creel sisters, braided river apprenticeship, sisters of the braid and the braided river confluence. All details in the women’s workshop page.

WHEN WOMEN DRUM TO THE NORTH Women’s Journey to Arctic Sweden (2018)
We travelled as 40 women from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden to create a gathering in the Arctic north that connected our landscapes and women’s cultures. We shared workshops, ceremonies, music, creative projects, experiences of travelling across ice and snow, experiences of diupping under ice and glacial water, traditional suppers and sisterhood. The gathering was shaped around a special exhibition called Women Drum for Trees at the Ajtte Saami Cultural Museum in Jokkmokk, curated by Cedar Shaw, with drum installations by Gun Hofgaard and Carolyn Hillyer, and music from Saami singer Nina Norvall Vahlberg, as well as contributions from Saami cultural ambassador Leila Spik. There are many more words and images to share about this journey – we are in the process of creating the When Women Drum To The North presentation for this site which will appear on the archive page (under About Us) later in 2019.

Over 50 women from Dartmoor and beyond came together for regular Wildsong Sessions over 18 months, creating a choir of exhuberant voices and spirited drums. This led into our midsummer pilgrimage across the north moor accompanied by three Dartmoor pack ponies that had been specially prepared for this journey by wildsong women. We were accompanied by others – partners, supporters, photographers and musicians. We were carried by the walk to dripping forest, peat bogs, stony tracks, rain-washed hills, breeze-kissed grasses, gentle rivers, rolling mists, old farm ruins, stone circles and eventually, after nine hours, into the warm welcome of people waiting with drums and supper on the other side.We made a film of this journey which is located in the video section (under About Us).

A series of three annual workshop weekends in the beautiful Arkuna women’s centre at Wennenden. First year: Hearthstone & Threshold – the wise tending of women’s sacred fires. Second year: Threshold & Heron Trail – the wild envisioning of women’s sacred journeys. Third year: Heron Trail & Hearthstone – the deep returning to women’s sacred source.

Workshops created for women in California.

Workshops created for Czech and Slovakian women by the southern border of the Czech Republic.

At the heart of this series of workshops lay the magical tending of women’s wild, wise and ancient fires, returning us to the profound source of our raw knowledge as women of spirit, of earth and of power. These gatherings involved entering, pathfinding, spellbinding, protecting and dreaming as we worked in turn with the rituals and teachings of hearthstones, embers, flames, smoke and ashes, and women explored their own stories beside our sacred fires, travelling deeper on our mystical journeys as a hearth women. The programme included Hearth Circles for women who were newly arrived at this work, Threshold Gatherings for women who wished to travel deeper and Trail Journeys for women who wanted to make a prayer walk acoss the open moor. It also encompassed individual groups of women travelling to Dartmoor from the USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Australia and Germany during these two years.

THIRTEEN MOONS Women’s Festival on Dartmoor (2015)
This wondrous event was created from the coming together of more than 400 women from over 25 different countries and cultures.Together we made a tapestry of many voices, heart, spirits, dancing feet and crafting hands. There is a record shaped by photos and words in the Thirteen Moons archive – it is a beautiful, profound and vibrant piece of the whole and offers a taste of what we all shared and awakened and distilled that weekend.

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: KINDLE Council of Sisters (2014)
A gathering of 50 women around the roundhouse fire, to share something of our journeys during three years of shaman weavings; with tassels and fringes, to bind the ends of the magnificent loom cloth we been creating since 2011; and to stir new ideas and plans into the cauldron for future events, circles and women’s wise work here on Dartmoor.

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: BROKEN Weaver of Desert (2014)
Dartmoor weekend workshops with BROKEN, also known as the Rivenstone whose totem is snake. Her work is the weaving of deserts and with it the weaving of what is scattered, the mending of what is broken, grieving souls, unbound spirits, exile, lament, losing, finding, healing and tending.

A JOURNEY WITH ANCIENT SHAMAN WEAVINGS: Deep Down into the Loom (1) and Across the Woven Cloth (2) (2014)
Workshops created in Glastonbury for the first exhibition of the Shaman Weavers paintings and installation. Inside the belly of the shaman weavers’ loom, we unwind the mysteries of sacred woven cloth and the primordial ancestor women who work at the threads, using ancient drum song, guided soul dreams and ritual dance. What is being created in the hands of these old women as they weave mountain, river, forest, tundra, and wild hills?

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: Weaving Tundra, Ocean and Desert (2014)
A workshop created for women in Germany

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: VESSEL Weaver of Oceans (2013 & 2014)
Dartmoor weekend workshops with VESSEL, also known as the Grandmother Drum whose totem is turtle. Her work is the weaving of oceans and with it the weaving of the profound mystery of women’s ancient drums, primordial rhythms, prayer dances, ritual songs and the grandmother drum.

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: SHARD Weaver of Tundra (2013 & 2014)
Dartmoor weekend workshops with SHARD, also known as the Ancient Ice whose totem is reindeer. Her work is the weaving of tundra and with it the weaving of women’s deep ancestry, winter trails, distant motherlines, remote boundaries, symbols, signs and the memory of ancient ice.

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: LICHEN Weaver of Wild Hills (2013)
Dartmoor weekend workshops with LICHEN, also known as the Weathered Edge whose totems are salmon and wild horse. Her work is the weaving of wild hills and with it the weaving of freedom and wild spaces, the turning seasons, quiet magic and returning to the source.

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: DUSK Weaver of Caverns (2013)
Dartmoor weekend workshops with DUSK, also known as the Cave Song whose totem is Bear. Her work is the weaving of caverns and with it the weaving of shadows and soul journeys, intitiations and intuitive voices, symbolic death and profound understanding, travelling with oracles.

One day workshop for the Glastonbury Goddess Conference, a mythical journey in from edge to source and out to edge again, a celebration that included working with leather, ochre and flax; making prayers with our feet and weaving a road of symbols.

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: Women who weave wisdom into the earth (2013)
A workshop created for women in Israel

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: Weaving Islands, Caverns and Wild Hills (2013)
A workshop created for women in Germany

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: THORN Weaver of Islands ( 2012 & 2013)
Dartmoor weekend workshops with THORN, also known as the Witch Tree whose totem is Crow and Raven. Her work is the weaving of islands and with it the weaving of strong protection, hidden knowledge, deep magic, earth mysteries, secret wisdom and the sanctuary of coracle and briar.

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: ANTLER Weaver of Forest (2012)
Dartmoor weekend workshops with ANTLER, also known as the Bone Hill whose totem is Stag. Her work is the weaving of forests and with it the weaving of deep stories of lost clans, honouring ancestors and remembered bones; sacred lovers and the balance between women and men, hag and stag, shadow and light; the ancient depth and wild shadow of forest.

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: COPPER Weaver of Rivers (2012)
Dartmoor weekend workshops with COPPER, also known as the Heron’s Coat whose totem is Heron. Her work is the weaving of rivers and with it the weaving of womanhood and the mysteries of blood and moon; the flow and energy of women’s lives, creativity and mothering; the changing journey from the first blood of girl to the last blood of crone; the honouring and strengthening of female energy and sisterhood.

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: WEFT Weaver of Mountains (2011 & 2012)
Dartmoor weekend workshops with WEFT, also known as the First Weaver whose totem is Spider. Her work is the weaving of mountains and with it the weaving of primordial power, the rhythms of the world and of the whole universe, the silence of memory, the ancient craft of wise hands, the gathering of what is scattered, the mending of what is broken…

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: Weaving Mountains, Rivers and Forest (2012)
Workshops created for women in Sweden and Germany

THE SHAMAN WEAVERS: Where women weave wisdom into earth (2012)
Workshops created for women in Canada, Czech Republic and Russia

A ceremonial circle to honour menopause created for women in Prague, Czech Republic.

A gathering on Dartmoor created for women from Russia.

A gathering of 120 women hosted by Carolyn Hillyer plus workshop contributors Julie Felix, Jana Runnalls, Kat Brown, Shannon Smy, Maya Preece, Tegwyn Hyndman, Katy Marchant and Kate Fletcher. A weekend entirely dedicated to the celebration of our weaving voices, our drumming hands and our dancing feet, created by inspired and inspiring musicians & singers, with ceremonial circles by the roundhouse fire and a concert celebration on Saturday night. With songs for ancestral mothers, earth blessings & sacred lands; songs for integrity and change; songs from islands and forests, mountains and tundra; refrains to loosen our hips and soothe our souls; ancient chants for weaving and waulking; laments for our tears; lullabies for our prayers; surprising musical ditties for our laughter; rounds and rondelays to enrich our spiralling journeys…and all infused with the rhythms of our sacred drums.

WEAVING THE LAND: Stone and Sky (2010)
Continuing the theme of the Wood and Water workshop and the weavings of wild nature, this winter journey combines the raw experience of stone and sky in the ancient landscape with the magical bindings of our words, stories and songs as we move around the loom of the land. We make small totems on which to catch the elements of stone and sky.

CAULDRON OF CROWS: A Winter Journey (2010)
A workshop created for women in Russia and Germany.

WEAVING THE LAND: Wood and Water (2010)
The songs and stories of wild nature play constantly across the ancient land. They exist without us being there to hear them but once we add ourselves into the weave, the remembered threads of journeying, yearning, returning and belonging entwine to become our deep mythologies and rich harmonies of word and sound. A creative and magical journey into the deep spriit of the landscape, combining trips onto the open moor to meet ancient wood and wild water, with the weaving of our expereinces into words that we will sing and speak and pray. We feed our ceremonial fires and turn our women’s circle around the loom of the land. We make small web looms in which to catch the elements of wood and water.

THE AMBER ROAD: Return to the Ancient Land and a Sacred Journey into Sisterhood (2010)
Held in the beautiful North Hungarian countryside, attended by women from Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and the UK. We shared a powerful journey into the mysteries of women’s ancient spiritual traditions, rooting our travelling souls into the wisdom of the grandmothers, the beauty of the season and the blessed earth of this ancient landscape. We worked with our creative hands, our singing hearts and our deep magic to make a strong circle of women. We bound together the bright elements of copper, amber and flame to celebrate sun and moon. We sang to the earth and danced inside the storm. We gave laughter and tears to honour the wild land around us and within us.A wonderful gathering of women from 6 countries with our translated words flowing between us like small rivers. There are plans afoot for more gatherings like this in Central Europe so watch this space!

CAULDRON OF CROWS: A Winter Journey (2009)
A winter retreat inside the primordial cauldron of crows, the vessel that holds our most profound mysteries of death and life, as we enter the earth along the harsh edges of winter and deep into the silent lands. A journey through a starkly beautiful landscape of death and restoration, touching into dark solitude with the Dissolving Woman (who carries the burden of wounds within the deep belly of the cauldron); silent incubation with the Hollowing Woman (hidden far inside the marrow of ancient bones); inspired renewal with the Bleeding Woman (as she follows the strange seam where death and life are knitted together); and the blessing of lament with the Illuminating Woman (who dances on the cauldron rim where the ultimate gifts of light are finally revealed). Through all of this we trace our intimate connection with the moon as she carries us around the circle road.

ASHES AND EARTH: The Illuminating Woman (2009)
A blessing of light. The final weekend in the Ashes and Earth cycle of journeys that has explored our intimate connection with a moon that repeatedly carries us on a circle road through dark solitude, incubation, inspired renewal and the illumination of memory. In the full brilliance of the Illuminating Woman we discover the ultimate blessing of ashes and earth. She slowly dances around the rim of the cauldron of crows, where light is revealed through its relationship with shadow, creting deep ceremony enriched by the intricate weavings of soul songs and lament and the wonder of life. Together we prepare a white ritual house, a ceremonial dancing ground and small looms on which to catch light, air and bright memory.

ASHES AND EARTH: Raw Earth (2009)
A moment of awakening. Over the raw spring earth runs the quickening woman, following the strange seam where death and life are knitted together, where a perfect balance exists between the winding of shrouds and the vibrant expression of new energy. We are midwoves of so much: last and fisrt journeys, blodd of grave and of womb, return and release, physical and elemental bodies, all lifted on a rising wave of change. Involves a profound connection with a wild place and the alchemy of sacred water. We use willow and hazel on which to spin some spring magic and paint our red journeys as we catch the early spring waves of energy that carries us onwards towards the illumination of summer.

ASHES AND EARTH: The Hollowing (2009)
A place of incubation. A special retreat for the deep winter. Within the silent stillness of the hollowing woman, caught in the marrow of ancient bones and far inside the cauldron of crows, rests one seed that holds the key to the restoration of life. So we create a journey of germination and renewal as we pause before the last out-breath of winter, held at a turning point within the protecting hands of the oldest guardian, and guided by the visions that wait behind our eyes. A time for mending, dreaming, tending fires and travelling gently, supported within the circle of women and nurtured by the ancient land.

ASHES AND EARTH: The Cauldron of Crows (2008/9)
A journey into shadow. Solitude, the disintegrating woman and the bearer of wounds are aspects of the darkest mythological guardian of the Ashes and Earth cycle. She is found within the primordial cauldron of crows, the vessel that holds our most profound mysteries of death and life. In this workshop we enter the earth along the harsh edge of winter and deep into the silent lands. Involves a personal ritual journey into the Cauldron House and the shared creation of a winter book.

An evening around the hearth fire in the ceremonial ancestor house with drums, songs, prayers, spells, remembrances, sacred tales, shadowy myths and earthy ritual to honour the veiled season, the silent lands and the bones of our ancestral mothers.

THIRTEEN MOONS Autumn Festival on Dartmoor for Women (2008)
Celebrating bright edges, deep shadows, ancient sisterhood and wild hills with workshops, talks, presentations, craft workshops, concerts, song circles, drum house & simple earthy rituals. A festival for 300 women shaped as a journey around thirteen moons: copper, fallen crow, salmon, warriors, healers, nameless, leaping hare, drummers, weavers, granite, bone, honey and finally honouring our sacred journey with many sisters moon. An ancient pilgrimage of sisters sharing wisdom, wonder, music, old magic, inspiration, spirit, food and fun.

Women’s drum making weekend. A weekend of creating wild skin drums (with reindeer, red deer and horse) and using them as sacred tools for harnessing the raw power of the autumnal shift. We walk into the ancient hills to find inspiration for our own drum song and make a ceremony around the roundhouse hearth to bless our drum journeys and honour the spirits of the skins.

RIVENSTONE: Song of the Harvest Drum (2007)
Day workshop to make and decorate a harvest drum, a bright moon deerskin dancing drum conceived within a place of fruition and celebration. A drum with which to honour the abundance of the earth and the rituals of the gathering time. With our drums we create and perform a special harvest rite.

Pausing on the bridge between a cycle of work that describes the primordial grandmothers of ancient ice and a new work that travels the silent lands of the death mothers, this day workshop uses sacred song, quiet ritual and strange mythology, as well as the making of dark moon drums (small reindeer skin finger drums) to shape and honour night shadows and hidden places.

A day of winter ceremony and preparation for the hibernating months. As we turn to face the darkest nights and the dead of winter, we explore the themes of feeding the hearth fires, keeping safe the winter light, and moving ourselves into quiet hibernation where we may rest and dream and mend. Together we share a winter ceremony around the roundhouse fire, brewing the elements of ice, flame, mist, stone and black earth within our cauldron and drawing inspiration from the wise bones of our ancestral mothers.

The deepening winter journey and long night vigil. A winter retreat and intense journey into the powerful territory of the bear drum. We work together to prepare for a special all-night ceremonial vigil in the roundhouse, deepening our connection with ancestral and inner landscapes. We learn ancient song techniques from the cold northern lands and use clay, ashes and bear magic to make traditional fire oracles. A chance to investigate the maturing of our journey and travel through the mysteries of our ancient mothers to a place of silent strength and fierce courage.

The returning autumn journey and the dance of life. The ancient salmon drum draws us into a
spiralling dance of seasonal ebb and flow, initiations, rites of passage and circling currents in the
rivers of our own lives. Following the magical routes of water, laid out as living veins across the
wild earth, we seek the gifts of the salmon drum: freedom, perseverance and clarity of intent.
Around the sacred fire of our ancestral mothers we build the power of the long journey, honouring
its sacrifices, its challenges and its changing shape. We learn how to tan salmon skin using
traditional Arctic methods and we make salmon rattles and small fish leather pouches in which to carry tokens of our journey out and of our return.

The awakening summer journey and full moon celebration. A weekend of bright circles, drum songs and sacred chants, gentle ritual and shared council at the roundhouse fire. We travel lightly and dance wildly/ We work with the primordial symbols that lie at the core of our constant dance with the moon: dark blood, white salt and soft black earth. We walk beneath the night sky across the moon-lit moor to visit a hidden ancient shrine and we make hare drums (small deerskin finger drums) on which to sound the pulsing lunar rhythms in our veins.

A workshop created for women in Russia and Germany.

A journey for thirteen women to the far north of Sweden within the Arctic Circle, living for nine days in forest cabins beside a frozen lake. The retreat combines silent days and nights within the frozen landscape, visits to Arctic craftspeople and teachers, plus experiences with dog sleds, wild reindeer and the northern lights with a series of group circles during which we explore aspects of our most ancient northern women’s spirit traditions.

A workshop created for women in Hungary, Holland and Sweden.

INSIDE THE WINTER HOUSE: A Journey Through Ancient Ice (2005)
Set within a circle of primordial grandmothers, The Northern Sisterhood of Drums, as they sit together in council, and sourced from a body of work created both on Dartmoor and in the frozen north, this workshop travels into deep archetypes, the power of the sacred drum voice and a women’s mystery that was born 25,000 years ago from ancient ice. Includes the opportunity to use our wise hands to make a spirit of ice pouch using materials gathered from the Arctic.

A workshop created for women in Hungary, Holland and Sweden.

A workshop (for women 38 years and over) that traces a deepening spiral into the spirit of midwoman and explores our sacred responsibilities as older women. We begin to unravel the threads of what might be waiting for us as we journey northwards, facing our mortality and our aging, slipping into our old skins and moving closer to our final transformation as crone women. We challenge our boundaries of perception and courage at a time of year when the shadows of the coming winter reach towards us and the mists of samhain swirl around our feet. We draw on the untameable moors as a source of gentle and fierce darkness, quiet secrets, unexpected mystery and wise revelation.

A weekend to explore and experience women’s ancient drum mysteries, share drum songs and dances, learning drumming techniques as well as embracing the autumn elements of the wild moors. We make and decorate traditional Arctic reindeer paddle (or dancing) drums using reindeer or red deer skin, and we create a ceremony to honour the spirit of wild deer.

RIVENSTONE WOMEN’S MEET: Our Oldest Magic (2004)
A gathering to nourish, celebrate and honour women’s creative and magical energy with song and drum, simple ceremony, the work of women’s ancient hands, the secret testimony of the land and the power of sacred circles. In the heart of wild moors, women meet together to share ancestral wisdoms and express wild spirits. Includes guest presenters, contributions from participants and a special creative group project using traditional felting techniques and involving the hands of 80 women. Concludes with a shared ritual within a marsh labyrinth and around the roundhouse fire.

A sacred journey to the colds lands of our ancestral mothers and the mysteries of the ancient Grandmother Drum ~ a symbol of our ancient woman spirit, our mystical journey and our original raw connection to the living landscape. Working together in three clan groups (Bright Wings, Amber and Red Ochre) we share sacred mythology, ritual song and ceremony to strengthen awareness of our rich and deeply rooted women’s heritage, and ultimately travel into the distant territory of the Grandmother Drum. Includes the making of red deer or horse skin rattles.

A workshop created for women in Japan

We prepare and craft a traditional deer skin drum, including ceremonies to honour the skins and bless the finished drums. We make drum beaters and prayer tokens, share drum songs and explore the drum traditions of northern Europe.

A workshop created for women in Sweden.

MIDWOMAN The Gift of Amber (2003)
A workshop intensive (for women aged 38-59) to embrace, honour and commit to the journey towards and through the middle years. Exploring the outer and inner dynamics of menopause, working with words, music, herbs and sacred myths and tokens, creating rites of passage and simple ceremony to bring power, courage and wisdom to our understanding and experience of the midwoman time.

A chance to prepare for the winter months in a nurturing, warm and inspiring atmosphere, with time tobe quietly alone, enjoy the magic and peace of Dartmoor as well as share in close group work.

WEATHERED EDGE: The Deep Landscape of Women (2002)
Ancient ragged spirit women, concentrated fusions of wild energy, gather in the Weathered Edge cycle of paintings and songs to create the gateway through which this workshop is experienced.We meet the concealer, the protector, the hunter, the summoner, the bestower, the visioner, the destroyer and the drummer. They are all shaped by weather, by season and by the hidden patterns of the land. They are formed from the deep life and death forces of nature. They help to shape the landscapes that we are. Through them we remember, rediscover and bind together a story that describes our own spirit land.

RIVENSTONE WOMEN’S MEET: The Ragged Megs (2002)
A gathering to celebrate and honour our sacred relationship with the wild land, weaving together ceremony, talk, creativity, shared song, ritual dance and drum, tending the roundhouse fire plus the stretching of limbs and the moving of spirit. We seek out the strange and ancient megs of the wild weather and the enduring seasons, who dance the cycles and rhythms of the earth, the ebb and flow of the year and the deep magic of the elements found at the very edges, and in the secret places, of the ancient land.

Binding together ritual, myth, drum and chant, this workshop enters the Oracle of Nights through a series of challenging encounters with the five protectors: toad, crow, spider, bat and mare. A black-wrapped journey into the cave, a descent into a personal territory of darkness and shadows, and an intimate exploration of underworld. A place in which to seek, confront and ultimately understand our fears…and from which to emerge again empowered.

OLD SILVERHEAD: Songs and Initiations of Womanhood (1998)
A powerful exploration of the experiences and transitions that define our passage through womanhood. This journey is created around song, rites of passage and a cycle of eight initiations to honour and celebrate our changes from girlhood to old age: from girlseed and first blood; through fruitmother, spinmother and midwoman; to earthcrone, stonecrone and Old Silverhead herself.

THE HERON HOUSE: A Women’s Ancient Mystery Round (1997/8)
The Heron House is the place through which we travel to meet and honour our very ancient foremothers and to rediscover our indigenous ancestry. It represents a forgotten spirit land and the primordial cycle of life and death. The Heron House contains the memory of all that we have been and all that we are as women wed to the earth. The Heron House is the woven fabric of our wise stories, our strong truths and our deepest relationship with the earth.

Sitting within a circle of grandmothers, we experience thirteen powerful deep-woman archetypes, each of whom holds a key to an aspect of our inner landscape. We uncover and absorb the mythology and wisdoms that lie behind them, gather together the fragments of our own ancien

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