Today we presented Crane Bags, our first Wye’s Women workshop at Garden in the City. It turned out to be a very small workshop just 3 participants, but the work was very exciting.

I began by opening the Interface. This is calling the four directions, plus above, below and within, ie our own spirit. For each I ask the energy of that direction to guide, guard and keep us in the work we would do this day.

Bags and materials at the workshop

Then Jenny and I began by talking about Wye’s Women, where the idea came from, what it’s about, how it began. It began with me needing a different name for myself when working; as always I asked otherworld to help me with this and got “Anny Wyse” … or so I thought, however it felt a bit kitch, like spelling “smith” with a “y” and never really worked but I couldn’t work out why. I kept asking and eventually otherworld managed to get through to me.

‘You silly woman!’ I got told. ‘You can’t spell.’

Dhhh ??? I asked them to show me.

‘Not W-Y-S-E,’ they shouted in my ear,  ‘but W-Y-E-apostrophe-S … Wye’s … of the river Wye.’

Dhhhhh again, this time I’d got it!

So, for otherworld’s purposes in this part of my work I’m Wye’s Woman, woman of the river Wye. I told Jennie about it and it just felt so right. We both live near the river Wye and love her dearly; she is one of the sacred rivers of Britain, rising to one side of the Plynlimon mountain and flows down to join with her sister, Hafren, better known as the Severn, the longest river in Great Britain, who rises at around 2000ft on the other side of Plynlimon and flows for 220 miles eventually joining with sea, and the Wye, at the Bristol Channel.

Wye’s Women is about rivers as the physical symbol of the goddess. The Wye is one of these, the name itself means “water”; one of our number, Fion, lives on another of the mother rivers, the Don at Aberdeen … Aber meaning river and deen a corruption of Don, and Don is the name of the mother-goddess in Britain. So you can see we’re not exclusive to the Wye and Hereford. Neither are we exclusive to women, men are very welcome to all our workshops and meetings … do please come whatever your gender or orientation.

After our story of Wye’s Women I went on to talk about the Crane Bag in the British Celtic tradition and told the story … see link.

People noticed how similar the Crane Bag story is to those of the better known Grail, and so it should be for it holds many of the same principles. The main ethic of the Crane Bag is service, service to the Goddess, the Earth. It’s not about self-aggrandisement but about caring for the Land, the Earth, the goddess. Aiofe is the goddess in one of her forms, Manawyddan is her Guardian. When she dies he takes her skin which is the skin of the Earth and put the treasures within it, one for each of the thirteen moon-months for which Aoife holds the energy. Her guardian, Manawyddan, as lord of the waters and the Moon is the lady who moves the water. We all held this idea strongly.

After some interesting discussion on both the physical and spiritual nature and properties of water – I’ll write more on this later – I led everyone into the first journey. This was to meet Aoife and ask her to show us the shape, form, materials and decoration of the Crane Bag we would make in the afternoon. This was fascinating. Of course everyone’s journey was different. When the journey was over everyone drew what they had been shown by Aoife. No words … just drawing, pictures, images, symbols. These engage the whole of the self, spirit, soul and body. Words let us hide within the mind, the thinking process, where we can distort the images the goddess has given us and make it small enough to fit into our current “reality box”! Not at all what the workshop was about J. Drawing is very immediate and cuts the crap of “normality” allowing us to grow, connect to the Earth, expand our awareness and that is what all the Wye’s Women workshops are about.

Here are a couple of examples of the drawings that came out of this first journey …

Everyone shared what they wished to from the journey and again this was fascinating.  It was now time to digest … and to have some of that lovely lunch Jennie had prepared for us. It’s important after doing spiritual work to replenish the body. It may look (to the inexperienced) like you’re doing nothing when you’re journeying but that just isn’t true. Your body is supporting the other senses as well as the spirit while you travel, walk between the worlds. Food is vital. We had a lovely roast vegetable quiche with salad, hummus and couscous, with passion cake for desert. Then we got back to work.

We began the making. There was some knitting, weaving, crochet, sewing and lots of colour. Everyone had got the message … ask! Everyone asked, each time they went to explore the baskets of materials they would stop for a second, hand hovering over the basket, saying ‘What shall I use? What would you like me to use?’

I found this thrilling. Working with folk who felt quite natural about asking Spirit to help with their making, who were very willing to make to the design of the goddess, not needing to push their own egos.

We stopped for tea and talked about how our work was going. Several found they were in continuous conversation with the spirits, asking when they didn’t understand, saying when they found something very difficult … and they got responses straight away. Spirit was very willing to change the design a bit to fit with the maker. This was new to some people and a very pleasant surprise as they hadn’t realised you can negotiate with spirit. They want the work done and are very happy to work with us. It’s about working with spirit … which is what spirit want us to do.

After tea we journeyed again, this time with Manawyddan, to ask what to put in our Crane Bags today. It is he who makes the Crane Bag from Aoife’s skin and puts into it the 13 Treasures of Britain. We did this journey out in the garden, travelling to the sound of the waterfall there. Again everyone’s experience was different. Things people had seen they would have included a kiss, a heart, a tiny statue of the goddess, a bone, a stone, a conker (Chestnut seed). Some were immediately available – I brought a bowl of “goodies” which included some of the things – and others, like the kiss, were not and required more work from the person.

This is how it is. Wye’s Women’s workshops are rarely “neat and tidy”, they always ask the participants to do more … after all learning and growing are lifelong processes.

Everyone took their Crane Bags into the final dedication and closing, along with the things that were to go into them today. I closed the Interface, going round in the reverse direction and thanking each for guiding, guarding and keeping us all for the day’s work.

We parted, joyfully and with lots to ponder on and continue working with. I look forward to working again with the participants and with new people who would like to come on future workshops. The next one will be Healing the Wasteland on 3rd July see the link for more details. It’s about ley lines and dowsing, reaching and touching the threads that – like the rivers – carry the goddess energy through the Earth. Do come, it promises to be another exciting day.

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Elen Sentier

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