The Story of the Woodswomen
|Image: Debra Bernier|
Once upon a time, many years ago – or perhaps it was only just yesterday? – I was out walking in the woods not far from here. It was a sunny winter’s day and a white blanket of snow enveloped the land. There were many animal tracks in the snow, but what really caught my eye was a pair of human footprints, as if someone had been out walking barefoot in the snow.
I followed the footprints and they led me deep into the heart of the woods. There I found a hut covered in snow and as I approached it, I heard the sound of crackling flames and a woman’s voice softly singing. Closer and closer I went, until the woman’s voice stopped singing and said, “Welcome, friend, come warm yourself by the fire…”
Curious, I crouched down and crawled through the tight entrance into the hut. Inside, there was a fire, and on the other side of the dancing flames was a woman unlike any other woman I had seen before. Her hair was long and thick, full of spider webs and crawling things. Her eyes were dark and bright, like glowing coals in the night. She wore many layers of skins and furs, and her bare feet looked as though they were made of old bark. She was a woodswoman, and over a cup of hot chaga tea, she told me a story about a time long, long ago. She said: There was a time long ago when women could be seen in the woods…
The woodswomen were guardians of the woods and keepers of the woodland lore. They knew the woods like the back of their hands and watched over all who lived there through autumn, winter, spring and summer; seeing that all was well, all was in balance and as it should be. In their keeping was the very heart of the woods and in order to protect and preserve it, they had to keep it drumming by the singing of its songs, the telling of its stories and the remembering of its ancient medicine.
In those days, the songs and stories of the woods were well known and loved by all. Following in the footsteps of the woodswomen, the people learnt from an early age how to walk in tune with the drumming heartbeat of the woods. The people were friends of the woods and helped the woodswomen preserve the woodland lore. Not only did they help preserve it, they brought it to life by the spirit of their own songs, and by the love of the people, the woods and its guardians thrived as never before.
|Image: Debra Bernier|
But what happened to the woodswomen? Where are they now? And why have the woods become so, so silent?
Some say that the woodswomen never left and that it was in fact the people who changed. The people left the woods and instead of calling it Home as they once did, they began calling it The Wild. The people become townspeople and their children grew up learning that The Wild was a dangerous place full of dark and menacing creatures. Among the townspeople were few who could still hear the beating heartbeat of the woods and sweet songs of the earth. In secret, they watched over the hearth of remembering and saw that the flame, however faint, kept burning.
It is said that the woodswomen once gathered at the edge of the woods, looking out over fields, towns and villages. Together, they sang a song so sad, so grey, dark clouds filled the skies and drenched the earth with rain. Some of the townspeople felt a sorrow they could not explain and children cried without knowing why. The woodswomen’s tears fell upon the earth and the Great Mother took them with her loving hands and laid them gently down to rest.
So if ever you go in the woods and listen very closely, you might just hear that weeping song of the woodswomen, softly singing in the wind.
Much has been said about that time so long ago and we may never know the full story. What we do know, however, is that the woodswomen’s song is calling louder and clearer than ever before.
Listen. Can you hear the song calling from afar? Can you hear the song calling from within? Listen. Hear the sound of Earth Song – the sound of our mother calling us home.
May that which once was lost be found once again and may that which once was forgotten be remembered once more. May the hearth of remembering be brought to life and may its flame burn brighter than ever before. May we walk in tune with the heart of the woods just like the woodswomen once showed us, and may we tell the stories we once knew so well, sing the songs we once sang and awaken to the songs calling to us today – Earth Songs for the healing of this land and all who dwell upon it.
The time has come to sing.
|Image: Debra Bernier|