Singing Their Souls Home - Witches Revival
I am not often lost for words, but they are currently elusive as my thoughts swim in the outpouring of historic rage and pain that was expressed in terms of what happened to the accused witches from Lancaster. The unsung ancestral grief that has been carried in the blood and wounded the women who participated on that day. Too many threads to unravel for the present, so I will try to offer words as a wise woman who teaches the ancient traditions of caring for the souls of both the living and the dead and has performed psychopomp rituals for many years to cross over earthbound witches.
Not that long ago, death and loss were accepted as parts of life. Nowadays death is feared and hidden away. We have forgotten how to die, how to mourn, and are shamed for our grief. Keening is a ritual act for the dead and the living. It can prevent both from becoming trapped in a world of suffering. If grief is unsung, the living can become stuck in limbo and the unexpressed loss can cause illness in the body, mind, and spirit.
The workshop at The Witches Revival was a brief introduction to the ancient practice of kenning. This is something that I normally teach as an element of Death and Dying. I was honoured to lead a ritual sounding out of unsung grief for the 21 accused witches from Lancashire in the hope that if any of their souls were earthbound, they would accept our offering of raw grief, so they could become the peaceful dead. By doing so, those present could begin to heal this ancestral wound, and break this disempowering curse for their blood lineage.
We began by weaving our words into a ball of red thread to bind us as a circle and create a symbolic boundary between this world and the great otherworld. I showed them how to create holy water with the magical whispers of women, which they used to anoint themselves to prepare for the sacred ritual as the veils began to open.
On the altar, I offered oats that the dead may never be hungry and water that they never thirst. In exchange, I asked the dead whose names were read out to accept the sounds of our unsung grief, so they could cross the sacred threshold and we could begin to heal these ancestral wounds.
Becoming an Anum Cara to the dead is a sacred role. I made my expectations clear, that if they did not want to commit to honouring their memory afterward, they should not choose a name to cry for. To me, this is a devotional practice. There were some there who chose not to become an Anum Cara, and this was absolutely the right thing to do. They still expressed their love for the accused, nonetheless.
I explained that during the ritual, they might also touch on their own grief from this lifetime. When you go deep with this work, it can make you feel nauseous, until you release the pain and if anyone felt overwhelmed, they were to wrap their arms around themselves and let the tears flow, for the ritual can be very healing on a personal level. Reminding everyone to fill the void that outpouring leaves in their soul, with healing energy to enable them to stand fully in their own power as women of magic.
We warmed up our voices, it was hard to contain the desperate need of those present to grieve before I led them into the womb of the Cailleach to the place where all the cried and un-cried tears of women reside. I asked that our voices, sing home the souls of any earthbound witches, to heal the original witch wound. That would heal in the here and now, so our children and their children can be free of this ancestral curse.
Then the floodgates opened wide and those who took part opened their hearts and there was an outpouring of pain and love in equal measures. It was a sight to behold and to hear.
As a teacher, it is a huge responsibility to care for those who take part in your workshops, and I immediately wished that I had more time to spend with this group of amazing women to ensure that they all felt supported. I hope that they did, for I have never felt such an outpouring of love and sisterhood as was present at The Witches Revival.
As for me, I will only continue to teach the ritual act of keening as a longer workshop, so I can do this ancient practice the justice it deserves.
A final word for those who attended and are drawn to this all-but-forgotten tradition. Please seek out an experienced teacher, crossing over the spirits of the dead and supporting the grief of the living is not something that can be done without the necessary training and experience. To do so will likely cause harm to yourself and others.
I do not allow pictures of sacred workshops, this was one from the performance of The Execution of Katherine Mitchell.