ABOUT ME, DAUGHTER OF THE CAILLEACH
I am Rowan Morrison, daughter of Evelyn and Alick Morrison. Granddaughter of Evelyn and William Irvine, and Violet and John Morrison. Great granddaughter of Kate and Issac Lockyer. Grace and James Irvine. Jemima and John Morrison, and Mary and John Ballentyne.
I hear the calling on a deep soul level to the land of my birth and the worlds of myth and magic. I am Daughter of the Cailleach, the creator and first ancestor of Scotland. The greatest crone of them all. The old woman of the otherworld. The primordial giantess of land, sea, and sky. The wise woman spirit who has watched over me all my life that has taught me many things. This calling is the fire in my blood and breath in my bones.
Writing about myself feels strange. I have always hated labels, they are by nature limiting but feel forced to use them to try and describe the key parts of myself that inform my current work and associated beliefs. Here goes........
As a child, I would sit by the hearth and listen to my bird-charming granny tell stories. It was then I knew that words were magical, for when they were spoken they somehow transformed into living breathing images in my mind. Fed by my imagination, they grew into all sorts of fantastical creatures and places. Their enchanted threads led me into the depths of the dark forest where I met wicked witches, covens of crones, and my mither, the Cailleach.
This planted a seed in my heart that was nourished by my hunger for knowledge of the lore and tales of my land. It was an alchemical reaction, that grew arms and legs and ultimately led to me becoming a storyteller in a country that is steeped in magic and customs. I tell in the 'mither tounge' as Scots vernacular is an incredibly beautiful language. After centuries of enforced eradication through colonisation, it is still under and mis-represented today in all aspects of society. As an elder, I am old enough to remember the punishment of children in schools for speaking their native language and the ongoing derogatory bias towards those who do not speak 'proper English'.
I am pulled like a moth to the flame to stories that are connected to the landscape, such as the Cailleach tales for these are as old as mankind. To supernatural stories of witchcraft and dark magic. To tales that take place in the liminal place where land meets sea and to stories of Scotland's wild mythical female creatures. I believe that stories can be doorways to the otherworld. I have told stories at both local and international level and was interviewed for a Shift Network Celtic Shamanism course about the Scottish bardic traditions.
After years of writing my own original short stories and rewriting traditional tales for oral telling. I have self-published my first book The Witches of Culross, as I wanted to retain creative control of my own work for future performances. It is a weaving of historical fact and fiction that was inspired by the true story of a mother and daughter from Culross who were both executed for the crime of witchcraft. It is threaded with belief and customs and the dialogue is written in Old Scots.
I am still collecting stories for my Anthology of Scottish Witch Folktales, which has been in the cauldron for a long time and hopefully be out sometime next spring if the Carlin wife approves. Although, this might change as I am feeling the pull to create something for those that wish to return to ancestral practices. We shall see which ways the winds blow this coming winter.
WISE WOMAN (BEAN FEASA)
In was born with a strong connection to spirits of the otherworld, flora and fauna. As a child, there was no one to teach me the old ways. No unbroken lineage of ancestral healers. In those days I learnt my craft from the spirits that spoke to me in the darkness. The ancient land of my birth and the traditions of my people. However, walking a solitary path when you are young is difficult and my visions and dreams were often overwhelming. For a long time, I tried to shut this doorway to the otherworld. I did not want this sight or prophetic death dreams. I believed it was a curse that branded me as an outsider. This was not a choice. I was chosen by the spirits and there is a price to pay when you deny your true nature.
At the age of 16, I trained in Community Drama and Arts, as a Theatre of the Oppressed Facilitator and Counsellor to support my work with communities. Then I took a degree in Community Education at Edinburgh University and specialised in Adult Education. After that I worked in the fields of community mental health, women's homelessness, domestic abuse and health and wellbeing.
Then began to listen to the call to become a healer and studied a range of practitioner and teacher level courses including flower remedies, which I still practice. This enabled me to begin to heal my own soul wounds and took me further along the path of my fate. Then a recurring dismemberment dream that I had experienced since childhood led me to shamanism. I fell in love with the power of the drum as a way to connect with ancestral and familiar spirits. To deepen my understanding of the unseen and dream worlds. I trained as a shamanic practitioner in the core elements with Stephen Mulhearn. After years of practice, I qualified as a cross-cultural teacher with Sandra Ingerman, a world-renowned shamanic teacher. But for me, without ancestral roots some of these teachings lacked power. If you are interested you can read my blog on Shamanism.
I am qualified to teach the following:
Introduction to Shamanism
Death and Dying
Medicine for the Earth
Healing with Spiritual Light
Plant Spirit Medicine
In an attempt to work in a traditional way in a modern world, I taught a small number of gifted apprentices for a longer period of time, as I did not care for the commercialisation of spirituality. Then my thirst for knowledge pulled me to train in the sacred traditions of sweat-lodge but I knew as I sat there, that this was not the medicine of my people. That as a daughter of the Cailleach, I should never pour a sacred lodge. I never did!
The message from the spirits was loud and clear. I was to reclaim the magic of my own people. My life had come full circle, I immersed myself in the lore, tales and animistic folk magic practices of Scotland. I put the meat on the bones of the cross-cultural courses and went on to research the forgotten practices of lamenting and keening, which enabled me to create a vocal form of psychopomp that I have used to cross over the earthbound spirits of the women accused of witchcraft.
We have no need to look to other cultures for spiritual practices, for our heritage is rich with otherworldly traditions. Hence, I follow humbly in the footsteps of the Bean Feasa (Wise Woman) and offer workshops, for those that wish to reclaim an more authentic magical practice and return to our magical roots.
WITCH ANUM CARA
I have always had a relationship with the dead. This was not of my choosing and it took me many years to accept that this was my purpose. Now, the threads of my life have come together to weave an intimate understanding of the part I play in crossing over the earthbound souls of accused witches and in teaching this form of vocal psychopomp.
I view the burning times through multiple lenses, the main one being a spiritual lens. One that is rarely considered in these contemporary times of disconnection and is mostly overlooked by the witch trial academics. I believe that this traumatic period in history has left a deep scar on the collective unconscious. Many women know if they had lived during the witch hunts, they would have shared the fate of the accused. What happened to them has left a legacy of fear in its wake, along with a cultural entanglement of misunderstanding of our magical customs.
As someone who works with the soul of the living and the dead. I have always found it unforgivable that the accused were denied funerary rites and what was left of their charred remains were likely thrown on the local midden. At that time, most would have believed that without the observance of death customs and their soul would not ascend to heaven. It come to me in the dreamtime, that like the Bean Chaoite of old, I should lament and keen to sing home the souls from the witchcraft trials who had not crossed because they were denied these funerary rites. I built the small Cairn of Remembrance that I saw in the dream at the Crook of Devon. Since that night I have become a Witch Anum Cara and created a devotional practice to the dead and lay white quartz stones in rituals of remembrance while singing their souls home to the otherworld.
I have taken part in an international documentary that focuses on women's spirituality and allowed them to film a crossing over ceremony and a traditional healing session where I allowed the spirits to enter my body and then used pastels to draw the image of the familiar spirit. I previously supported the campaign for a national memorial but did not care for the politics, so hold local memorial events and collaborate with other creatives whose work is inspired by the Scottish witch trials.
Telling the stories of the women accused as witches is a personal act of remembrance. By saying their names and honouring them as ancestors they live on in my heart. I have created a handwritten book that sits on my ancestral alter that contains almost four thousand names. I hope that one day their history will be taught in schools and memorials will be erected all over Scotland in recognition of the injustice they suffered at the behest of state and religious authorities.
When I am not doing all of the above, I can be found creating strange things and walking around Loch Leven with my two little dogs, Angus and Florrie.
When Rowan tells a story she transforms and pulls you into another realm. It is magical!” (Barbara Neznek)