INSIDE THE SACRED HOUSE
For nearly 30 years Carolyn has been creating and guiding a series of powerful workshop journeys for women that are rooted in the oldest traditions of women’s spiritual and creative gatherings, bringing together sacred song and chant, ritual drum and dance, rites of passage and initiations, simple ceremony and celebration, dreaming and envisioning, ancient mythology and earthy mysticism, the work of wise hands, the tread of remembering feet, as well as direct interaction with wild and unharnessed land. All of these threads are woven together to offer an environment where any woman might be awakened, enriched, inspired and challenged on a journey into her own sacred landscape, explore a new or deepening relationship with her ancestor mothers, and share mutual nourishment within a warm and supportive circle of women. Carolyn periodically hosts larger events for women, including the international women’s festival Thirteen Moons. Most workshops take place on Dartmoor but she has also taught throughout the UK and elsewhere, including USA, Japan, Canada, Estonia, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Over the years thousands of women have participated in these workshop journeys; we look forward to welcoming you into these gatherings of sisters!
The Braided River workshops take place on our secluded thousand-year old farmstead located in the heart of Dartmoor. The farm is run as an organic small-holding, with species-rich flower meadows, rare protected peat bog habitat and a small herd of wild hill ponies on the open moors. Over the last 25 years we have carried out an extensive tree planting programme, as well as working to protect the ecology of the land to the benefit of red deer, roe deer, badger, fox, buzzard, heron, salmon, tawny owl, snipe, curlew, water vole, otter, marsh fritilliary butterfly and many other moorland creatures.
The workshops are based in the large guest cottage, surrounded by 24 acres of meadows, marshes, streams, woodland and hidden shrines. The workshops take place within a seamless weave of the main group room, the outside spaces including our nomad tent (North Siberian-style choom), and the neolithic-style stone & thatch roundhouse where most of our ceremonies, rituals and formal councils take place. Workshops may include a trip onto the open moor, enabling participants to have some direct experience of this extraordinarily beautiful and bleak landscape.
The accommodation in our guest cottage is for 12 participants in shared rooms of 3 women. The crew women who are supporting the running of the weekend have additional sleeping areas. For some events camping is available in the adjacent flower meadow. Participants are encouraged to use eco-friendly washing products as the farm maintains its own water and reed bed sewage system; all drinking water is pumped from two spring-fed wells. All food prepared and shared in the cottage is vegetarian (with vegan and gluten-free options) and we ask participants not to bring meat or fish with them during workshop weekends.
It is possible to adapt most aspects of the workshop to accommodate most health issues or physical disability so please discuss your situation with us. Unfortunately the 15th c. cottage in which much of this happens is built with narrow stairs and small bathrooms so wheelchair access is extremely limited, but we have been able to adapt the workshop space for a mobility walker and attendance with a designated support worker.
It is worth noting that the farm is located at 1000 feet above sea level and the nights especially may be cold. We also enjoy a very wet and misty climate so participants are generally advised to bring warm clothes, waterproofs, good boots and perhaps a hot water bottle! Weekend workshops generally run from Friday late-afternoon to Sunday 5pm. Public transport onto the moor is rare so we aim to link those using bus or train services to Exeter with other participants travelling by car. The nearest airport is Exeter (45 minutes) with a wider range of international services flying into Bristol (2 hours).
- The application process for the weekend workshops involves a simple form that enables you to share with us some basic information about who you are and what you do, as well as something about why you would like to be part of the women’s circles here.
- 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 (see below for details).
- 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 (sent out with your booking confirmation or available below) is fairly 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 the 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 prepare in advance, as well as allow space after you return home to absorb your workshop experiences. The preparation period for some of the new apprenticeship programme will extend over a few months and include online conversations with Carolyn and communications with other participants. Final information is sent 4 weeks before the workshop date and includes a list of things we advise you to bring with you.
- 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.
- Every workshop includes several bursary places at a reduced price and you may also make payments by installment; please let us know if you have financial reasons for not being able to make a booking and we will do our best to help.
- Places for these workshops are generally reserved quickly so early booking is recommended. If your chosen weekend is full, we generally hold a reserve list in case of cancellations so please let us know if you are interested.
- Every workshop sees a rich mix of women… seasoned travellers in women’s circles, occasional wayfarers and those for whom this workshop may be a new and challenging experience. The ethos of these circles is one of a warm welcome and supportive sisterhood, as well as responsibility and respect, not only for your own workshop journey but for the journey of each woman who sits with you during the gathering. You are very welcome to contact Carolyn with questions about practical matters, personal concerns or simply for some words of encouragement.
OUR PRINCIPLES: THE SISTER BLANKET
A charter of womankindness, a reminder of intent, a comfort of words to wrap around our circle… Please read through the charter before you apply for a workshop.
We have created a charter of womankindness, a statement of our intent, words with which to hold the energy of our circles, the integrity of our work and the nourishment of our sisterhood. These words were originally printed onto linen, sewn onto ancient woven cloth, lined with felted Dartmoor wool… and thus became our SISTER BLANKET (see left). We have since created small SISTER BLANKETS, bleached organic tea towels printed with the words of this charter (see the prints page to order), sold to support women’s projects and campaigns. The Sister Blanket has been used by women’s circles around the world and translated into other language. These words represent our common undertaking, a promise made between women who attend workshop journeys with Carolyn or any other gatherings sourced through this site.
1. KINDNESS sits at the heart of any meaningful gathering of sisters for our words and actions have the power to heal or harm
2. HONOUR offered to our sisters from a place of love, wisdom and peace; honour to our own lives, our inspiration and our edges
3. RESPECT for other women and ourselves; for the ways in which we are different and the same; for the courage it takes to travel our path
4. ACCEPTANCE without judgement or conditions, an immeasurable gift that we can offer to each other
5. COMPASSION we may not know what a sister carries, the ground she treads, the stories knotted in her heart; we sit with her and listen close
6. EMPATHY for a sister even when she expresses herself in ways we do not understand; reaching beyond her defences to the woman inside
7. TOLERANCE we cherish sisters even when behaviour irritates and words annoy; we appreciate the space given to our own peculiar ways
8. GRACE blesses all we do and think and say, how we sit in circles with our sisters, how we tend our sacred fires
9. HOLDING space when a sister seeks comfort or needs to be witnessed; keeping our gatherings strong and safe as guardians and protectors
10. HEARD may all our sister’s words be honoured, whether one word or a torrent; let us not miss a treasure
11. SUPPORT the touch of another woman’s hand when we are struggling to cope, words that make a world of difference
12. TRUST the loyalty of sisters; the faith we place in each other every time we share a story, a raw memory, a yearning vision, a revelation
13. EMBRACE taking into our hearts the struggles, strengths and insights that our sisters bring; giving a hug when it is needed
14. TENDERNESS towards our sisters, treading gently, behaving with care, being gentle with their vulnerabilities
15. SANCTUARY the nest that is formed by the strong and loving arms of all our sisters; we are cradled by the drumbeats of their hearts
16. NOURISHMENT of sister souls and bodies; songs that soothe, hands that heal, a warming brew, earthy food, good chocolate, fine cake
17. LOVE placing our hearts into the circle, meeting our shared times with warmth, showering love upon our sisters, caring for ourselves
18. WILLINGNESS remembering to have the word yes tucked into our belts, to go that one step further, to face the challenge
19. HOPE for here lies the source of our inner strength, our bravery and resilience, our ability to positively quest and seek change
20. COURAGE to be the women we know we truly are and will be, to stand firm, to let go and fly; to journey with sisters, to journey alone
21. HONESTY let us honour the truth and openness we bring to our circles; let us recognise when stark honesty requires a softening touch
22. GENEROSITY towards our sisters with time, care, support, space and any tangible thing we have to share
23. SERVICE to our sisters is an honour and a delight; extending ourselves selflessly is grounding and draws us closer as friends
24. AWARENESS of our sisters, being fully present in our gatherings and always mindful of how we respond
25. DEPTH we have the capacity to go way beyond the surface of things; let us reach far down to speak from that profound place
26. WISDOM we all carry the resources of wise knowing, ancient memory and intuitive understanding; may we grow into our wisdom
27. INTEGRITY remembering our own truth is not more true than that held by our sister; ensuring our eager feet do not trample on her
28. ANCESTORS through our ancestral mothers we are all woven deep, at the core of our sister circles we are linked by blood & bone
29. WILDNESS wild women need to let our wildness out! we shout in the wind and shake our hair and run like untamed mares!
30. SOAR we lift each other up; may we fly together and carry sisterhood on our broad wings to other women that we meet
31. FREEDOM to be ourselves (sometimes with humour), to stretch out and grow, to leap mountains and swim oceans
32. STILLNESS is the pause between the actions that weave our words together, a holy place where we reach into shared silence
33. CLARITY letting our eyes perceive on all levels, see through dark or mist, change our perspective, view visions, move with light
34. EQUALITY remembering that no one of us is greater or lesser; in a circle we all sit equal distance from the fire
35. SHARING joy, pain, laughter, tears, fears, fun, exciting anticipation, strange adventures, intimate spaces, sacred moments
36. BELONGING may we each enjoy the vibrant warmth of feeling connected, relish the loving care in which we are enfolded
37. MAGICAL within all our threads and weavings lies the mystery of the cloth we form together, the moons and magic of our lives
38. GRATITUDE for sisters met and the murmurings of those yet to be met; for the chance to gather, dream and drum together
39. SISTERHOOD is an experience, a way of being, an understanding, our undertaking, our remembering, our gift
woven by The Sisterhood of Weavers & Carolyn Hillyer 2013
This is how we keep things running smoothly!
RESERVE LIST: if you have simply put your name on a reserve list or indicated your interest in a workshop but not yet paid a deposit or had a place confirmed, you are welcome to change your mind as and when you wish.
CONFIRMED PLACE: we have a policy of charging fairly high deposits when places are booked. This is intended to encourage participants to treasure their place, commit to their booking and reduce cancellations – this is especially important as generally the number of available places is limited and we would not like to waste any.
DEPOSIT: while we appreciate that some participants will have genuine and difficult reasons for not being able to attend, it is impossible for us to judge whether any individual cancellation is deserving of a refund. To make things fair we do not refund deposit money under any circumstances and places may not be transferred by you. Any deposit money retained from a cancelled place is placed in the bursary fund.
FINAL PAYMENT: once a final balance has been paid, a refund of the balance may be made up to 6 weeks before the event. After preparation materials have been sent out (generally one month before the workshop) we do not refund payments under any circumstances as we cannot be sure that the place can be filled.
BURSARY FUND: any deposit or final payment that is retained from a cancelled place is added to the bursary fund for women who could not otherwise afford to attend – through this fund we are able to increase the number of bursaries available.
THIS POLICY has been established to help us continue to create our events here on Dartmoor, to enable as many women as possible to have access to the weekends, to strengthen the commitment between participant and workshop, and to maintain fairness between individual participants. Many thanks for your understanding.