About Wood Sisters
Who are the Wood Sisters? The Wood Sisters groups were dreamt up over five years ago and are co-ordinated and facilitated by Sam Wernham and Sue Charman. The inspiration for the name ‘Wood Sisters’ came from a German fairy story called ‘The Handless Maiden’, which describes the initiatory journey of a woman discovering her soul in a way that gives healing power and purpose to her life. This journey takes her through many changes and challenges and includes a period spent in the wild wood, where she is helped by angels or wise ones sometimes described as Wood Sisters.
Sue and Sam’s vision is of an ongoing cycle of groups where women can discover and share with each other this kind of soulful, wood sisterly wisdom and support. We draw upon over fifteen years previous experience of co-ordinating the ‘Circle’ in which women gather regularly around the seasonal cycle of the eightfold year for morning meetings based on meditation, sharing and sacred time in nature. This weekly circle continued to meet until recently within Wood Sisters (and from September will return to being a Living Spirit circle, click here for details) and in recent years we have also created a series of longer one day workshops in which women come together to explore myth and story… meditation, medicine walks and simple ceremony… practical and natural crafts… and to share reflections, experience and delicious food!
Please note Wood Sisters is taking a year sabbatical from October 2015.
In the Summer of 2011 after a storytelling of the ‘Red Tent’ inspired by Anita Diamant’s book and ancient Mesopotamian myth, the Wood Sisters created together our own Red Tent as a travelling home for sacred sanctuary and women’s mysteries. A council of women now co-ordinates the Wood Sisters Red Tent, which so far has travelled to Quest, The Westcountry Storytelling Festival at Embercombe, Exeter Respect Festival, Carolyn Hillyer’s 13 Moons Festival and hopes to be at Wild heart in the summer of 2016.
For more details visit our Facebook page. Our aim is to balance spiritual, creative and practical ways of approaching Mystery and to enable a down to earth approach to integrating inner learning into everyday life in a way that is of benefit to all.
Why is Wood Sisters called a modern mystery school? In Ancient Greece and Rome, Mystery Schools provided a process of religious training and spiritual initiation into the deepest aspects of reality… the Mysteries. Unlike the civil life or philosophical systems of the time, which used practical and intellectual approaches to understanding how to live, the Mystery Schools focussed on mystical truths expressed through mythical stories and used ritual and spiritual practices to enable participants to open to direct inner experience. Classical Mystery Schools probably drew upon the mystical explorations of earlier cultures and in their turn fed future spiritual traditions.
We see a modern mystery school not as a system or organisation but as simply a group of companions who are committed to spiritual awakening and want to come together over time for deep soul work. Unlike some traditional ways, we take an open approach to ‘truth’, which for us has one source but many forms.
We also take an open, transparent approach to learning and power structures. We have no hierarchy but meet in a circle as equals and emphasise collaborative ways of working. While there are certain roles, they are ones of co-ordination, and facilitation, enabling and holding, not of personal performance or exercising power or control over others. Our aim is that anyone who wants to learn about and exercise these roles will be able to, or will be encouraged in finding their own unique expression of empowerment and soul purpose.
What happens in a Wood Sisters Day? What is the Wood Sisters Slow Cook Course? A Wood Sisters Day is usually on a Saturday close to a celtic festival date and starts from 9.30am as women start to gather, meet and greet and drink tea! By 10am we are settled down in a circle, by the fireside in winter or in the Red Tent in Summer, to start ‘stirring the wisdom pot’. Each day is open to any woman to join us and also has a core of Wood Sisters committed to our Slow Cook Course… more details below…
Wood Sisters groups don’t focus on the teachings or ‘expertise’ of one person. Instead we focus on our collective wisdom about Mystery through focussing on the current celtic festival and the simple, seasonal cycles of the year. From about 10am, going round the circle, we ‘stir the wisdom pot’ together, as each women has the chance (if they want it) to share their own thoughts, feelings and experience of what that festival means to them, to share their reflections on what is happening in the natural, outer world and in their own nature, or inner world. We find this a much richer feast for heart and mind than one person could cook up alone and that each group has a unique blend of wise, witty, wild and wonderful women!
After a short break for elevenses, from 11.30 we’ll be moving into our main mythic storytelling session for the day. In this session we focus on a deep myth of soul transformation in the Western Mystery Tradition that features women, such as Inanna, Isis, Ceridwen or Persephone. (More details of our current myth cycle can be found on our events page).
These mythic motifs are then explored further from about 12 noon, through silent time for personal journalling and/or walking meditation and sacred time in nature. After this quiet half hour we come together at 12.30pm to ‘stir the wisdom pot’ again as we share insights and responses to myth and quiet time.
Between 1.30-2.30 pm we prepare together, enjoy and clear up our bring and share feast. These feasts usually include a delicious mix of contributions, from home made seasonal delights such as nettle soup or equinox buns (half dark chocolate and half light vanilla!) to simpler but equally appreciated bars of chocolate!
In that sleepy after lunch hour we raise our energy and spirits by getting crafty with natural materials, with anything from simple candle making to creating Bridie dolls (with the option for some quiet, digestion time for those who prefer this). Often this time includes gathering natural materials from the garden and starting to create or decorate our ceremonial space for later. After another cuppa, from about 4pm we settle into some guided meditation and more silence to further unfold the themes of the day and in preparation for ceremony from about 4.30pm. This could be anything from offering prayers and tokens into a wishing well or floating candles on the river, to celebrating a harvest home or simple communion. This sacred time includes space for each woman who wishes to share reflections on the day and something of her own creativity, whether it be a prayerful silence, a song or poem or whatever! There is usual music woven through the day and we close with a song and final blessings.
From 5.30pm most of us are heading home feeling inspired and nourished by our sacred time together to re-engage with our families, work and everyday life…
Meanwhile, after five gatherings a year, a core group of committed Wood Sisters continues into the evening with a Slow Cook Course meeting. Slow Cook Course members commit to attend all eight seasonal gatherings and stay in touch with each other throughout the year. This is a special opportunity to feel part of a community of women committed to deep soul work. Last year’s community ‘The Sisters of the Starry Bog’ was full and has now concluded. The next Slow Cook Course intake was at Samhain at the beginning of November 2014 and is also now full and will be concluding shortly..
Wood Sisters will be taking a sabbatical at the conclusion of this cycle, from the Autumn Equinox Gathering on September 19th 2015. So there will be no Seasonal Gatherings or Slow Cook Course after this for 2015/16.
What is the ‘Wild Wisdom School’? The Wild Wisdom School is designed to give a deep immersion into the Western MysteryTradition for women and men.
The Wild Wisdom School is designed to give a deep immersion into The Western Spiritual Tradition as together we make a pilgrimage through myth, mystery and history, with five weekends a year over two years. These days are now being offered for women and men through Open Spirit with a particular emphasis on reclaiming the Divine Feminine (The Restoration of Love) and the Sacred Marriage. They are centred around an unfolding and recurring rhythm of sacred mythic stories, moving from the Stone Ages onto Ancient Mesopotamian myth, through Egyptian, Hebrew and Greek, to Celtic and Arthurian and Biblical stories in the Christian tradition. Each day uses a holistic method and includes collaborative wisdom, meditation, and space for creativity and time in nature.
Each day is supported by story texts, notes on further reading and suggestions for further exploration. Individual mentoring is available to support the group work. Numbers are limited, so please get in touch to register your interest or book a place. A new cycle will start with a summer Open Day & Introductory Retreat Day in the Autumn of 2016. Click here for more details.