The Greatest Outdoors

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Because I Have a Voice: The Heroine’s Journey

Drawing from the Triple Goddess in Irish mythology, this series of workshops will explore and honour the Divine Feminine in all of us over the course of the cyclical year

Dates: 

5 February 2023 : Imbolc – Brigid – Oak/Apple

30 April 2023 : Bealtaine – Macha – Apple/ Oak

5 November 2023 : Oíche Shamna – Cailleach – Yew

Time: 10 am – 5 pm

Cost: £60 pp

(6 participants minimum, 12 participants maximum)

Facilitators: Siuban O’Hare, Stephanie Sim, Jemma Weymss

To register for the course, please click here. Please take note of the different closing dates in the form for each session.

Brigid

All original artwork for this course was created by Siuban O Hare

Introduction

The idea for this series of workshops began with a conversation between Siuban O’Hare and Stephanie Sim around tree journeys, the Goddess, mythic time and consciousness.

Over the course of the year, frequented the hills of Craigantlet and forests of North Down, to explore putting together something which would draw on the wealth of Irish mythology to enable participants to develop their connection with the unseen consciousness. A consciousness which, because it is quiet, almost forgotten and unspoken, has had little currency in our culture and soul life, and flown under our collective radars.

We spoke about the importance of thresholds and the Divine Feminine, her beauty and sublimity as Maiden, Mother and Crone, and wondered how we could work with her blessings and bounty through a mythic narrative which would simultaneously strengthen the Sacred Feminine presence in our lives as well as root it in nature, the land making the experience an earthy, practical one.

Jemma Weymss then joined the conversation and over several sessions we discussed the phases of womanhood, as well as the importance of the feminine consciousness in the lives of not just the women we knew, or the women we were, but men who were part of the picture.

Macha

The topics were wide ranging and covered everything: from the experience of girlhood, periods to the blossoming potential and perils of teenagehood, the triumphs and challenges faced by young women, mothers, and single women, as well as society’s impoverished and debilitating attitudes to the riches of the menopause and elderhood. We covered what wisdoms the ancient myths held for us as we reconnected with a renewed spiritual consciousness in the 21st century. It spiraled out into social constructs, economic systems, religion, the media, including social media, as well as the historic suppression and abuse of the feminine and how impoverished we were because of this. Yes, it did feel like we were setting the world to rights a bit.

In late June, we were invited by the Navan Centre to suggest workshops which we run over the course of the year. This was very exciting. As the home of the Goddess Macha herself and the ancient spiritual centre of Ireland, the Navan Centre’s unique location would be the perfect place to explore these ideas and renew our connection to the land, through a series of workshops which worked with the Triple Goddess.

The workshop is called Because I Have a Voice – The Heroine’s Journey as we were reclaiming and reframing that forgotten and long abandoned space through story, song, poetry and art. Of great importance as well was reestablishing a connection with the land through blessing as well as working with the trees as a medium for journeying into mythic time.

Cailleach

Content

The three sessions can be attended as stand alone workshops, or as a full set.

The idea is to take the participant on a journey through the threefold incarnation of the Triple Goddess – Maiden, Mother and Crone.

During each workshop we will work with an aspect of the Goddess and very closely with a tree.

This will be done through various media, including sand play, poetry, art, woodland skills, music and storytelling. Each workshop will explore what that aspect of the Goddess means, and how it has informed and continues to inform the participant’s own journey.

Lunch will be held outdoors, as we cook over a campfire, reconnecting with the mood of the season.

At the end of the session, participants will leave with a momento of time spent in mythic space, as well as, hopefully, a deepened understanding and connection of the role the Divine Feminine which they will be able to continue to strengthen independently in their lives.

The workshop will be facilitated by Siuban, Stephanie and Jemma.

Who should attend?

Anyone who is interested in journeying, nature and conservation, mythology, tree lore, creativity, woodland and outdoor activities and skills, exploring their own relationship to the Goddess in all her aspects and forms. You can be brand new to the process or a seasoned practioner yourself. No experience is necessary and depth of experience will be welcomed!

If you are on a threshold yourself – or would like to retrospectively look back at your own experience of those thresholds. We hope to offer a space where all are able to share of their experiences openly and draw from the journey of the Goddess herself to develop a nourishing narrative.

Ages: 16 and above

Gender: Open to anyone who seeks to connect with the Divine Feminine within them. It is important that as a participant you must respect the experiences of everyone else.

Mobility: Allowances can be made for people of varying mobilities. If you have a question about ability, please contact us directly by email.

What to bring

Participants need to bring a Journal and Pen – although loose leaf paper and stationery will also be provided. All food will be provided. All art materials will be provided.

Must be dressed for the weather (outdoor element). Dress comfortably to enable movement during workshop.

The Venue

Navan Fort (Emain Macha) is an ancient ceremonial monument near ArmaghNorthern Ireland. According to tradition it was one of the great royal sites of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland and the capital of the Ulaidh. It is a large circular hilltop enclosure—marked by a bank and ditch—inside which is a circular mound and the remains of a ring barrow. Archeological investigations show that there were once buildings on the site, including a huge roundhouse-like structure that has been likened to a temple. In a ritual act, this timber structure was filled with stones, deliberately burnt down and then covered with earth to create the mound which stands today. It is believed that Navan was a pagan ceremonial site and was regarded as a sacred space. It features prominently in Irish mythology, especially in the tales of the Ulster Cycle. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, “the [Eamhain Mhacha] of myth and legend is a far grander and mysterious place than archeological excavation supports”.

Facilitators

Siuban at Hill is Uisneach this year

Siuban O Hare

Siuban is a fulltime artist, sculptor and storyteller, who lives and works in Bangor Co,Down. She has exhibited her work with the RUA annual exhibition in the Ulster Museum Belfast, Scuplture in Context National Botanical Gardens Dublin, ForM Sculptural exhibition Walled Gardens Bangor and the Chimera international Gallery Mullingar WestMeath. Siuban is a member of a local writers and storytelling group. Her knowledge also extends into Irish mythology and Folklore, Divine Feminine and Irish Indigenous beliefs and practices.


Before becoming a fulltime artist, for over 25 years, Siuban worked as a Trauma and Systemic Family Therapist. Using art, play, poetry, storytelling and journaling as a form of communication. With children, adolesences and their families, in residential and community settings.


Siuban designed and delivered training and workshops on Trauma and Systemic Family therapy.

Stephanie and Gary, her cat

Stephanie Sim

Stephanie has had a long standing interest in mythology, especially Goddess mythos. She has delved into shamanism, tree journeys and has facilitated workshops with teenagers – boys and girls – to enable connections with the world around them to assist with sense making.

She currently teaches in a Waldorf school and has also been a Forest School practioner for the past 11 years. She started Elements Forest School in 2020 and is working closely with the Fostering Network to deliver their Wild About Learning Programme.

She has a MA degree in English Studies and holds amongst other certifications, a diploma in Steiner education and has been an accredited Forest School practioner for the past 11 years.

Jemma Weymss

What’s next?

Well, quite a lot actually…

The Goddess Journey

Starting in February, at Imbolc, we will be starting a series of workshops honouring the feminine and everyone is invited, regardless of gender.

We will be taking a voyage with Brigid (Imbolc), Macha (Bealtaine) and the Cailleach (Samhain) through the course of the year. Along with the goddesses, we will be working with trees as well as the land. The venue is being confirmed now, but it is quite close to being confirmed! So we are most excited about this.

Cailleach by Siuban Regan

After Schools

We will continue our After Schools club in Holywood Steiner School. But if you are interested in having one for yours, please contact us and let us know.

Easter Scheme

Processing potatoes…

The dates for the Easter scheme are the 4, 5 and 6 of April.

Summer Scheme

The dates for the summer scheme will be confirmed soon.

Fostering Network

We will continue to work with the Fostering Network. We are planning a session over the February half term already for somewhere in Belfast!

If you are interested in any of these activities or getting in touch with us email hello@elementsschool.net or call us/ WhatsApp 07540075991. You can also drop in on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/elementsschoolni/.

Oíche Shamhna

and Halloween was back! Sadly we didn’t get too many photos of it, but here are a few that were captured by the parents. It was a collaboration between Elements and the Parents and Friends of the Steiner School. over 150 people attended despite the downpour! It was a truly memorable evening.

This was Emma Foley’s station – the amulet making
Apples anyone?
The shadow play by Siuban Regan
Art by Siuban Regan as part of the cailleach story
The eternal other
We turned the portacabin into a shadow play theatre! It was rather magical!

So, what’s next?…

Working with the Fostering Network

We were very lucky to work once again with the Fostering Network, this time in Antrim. We operated out of the Compass Network farm in Ballymoney and went through four native trees here.

The activities centred around the birch, alder, ash and oak. The sessions which lasted four weeks included storytelling, knife skills, den building and working with trees.

We worked with ten children regularly, ages between 7 and 12 years, with varying abilities. Some of the feedback was…

We learnt…

❤️‍🔥How to survive

🌿Everything about trees

⛺️How to make things

😍How to stay alive

🪵Doing whittling and deciding to do woodwork for GCSE said an 8 y.o… 😘 the rain stayed off. Thanks to CAN for the use of their barn and baby forest. Can’t wait to go back and see it in 20 years time. 🌈

Learning how to make a fire
Making smores on the last day
Learning about the oak
Whittling

We hope to work with them again in the future!

What have we been up to?

I must apologise for not updating the site since June! Unforgiveable!

In my defence, it has been extremely busy the past few months though.

Here is a run down on what we have been up to:

After School Sessions at the Holywood Steiner School

We have had full session of up to 18 children here on Monday afternoons between 3 to 5 pm. The children who attend these sessions are now so well seasoned, that they engage in deep play. We set out our activities and the children then self direct play. There could be some who play int he hammock.

Others choose to hone their knife skills.

Yet others play in the woods, creating worlds which are limited only by the imagination. Others build dens. It is the sort of thing which you really want to do after school, with friends…

Here two students have made a bug house on their own…

After that, most importantly, we all have a good feed…

Bon apetit!

And that’s just one thing which we did!

Kids who spend time in nature are happier… whodha tot?

This article from March 23, 2022 outlines not just why and how kids are better in nature but how you can do it and it doesn’t have to cost a million squid (hint: urban spaces are nature too.)

Find out how you can get Elements Forest and Garden School to give your child a great time while learning without learning… if you know what i mean…

Contact us on 07540075991 or email us at hello@elementsschool.net

Resilience. Adventure. Memories…. and Friends…
Exploring boundaries. Caring for Nature. Developing Skills.

Heard of it? Nature Deficit Disorder?

Working with the Killinchy Sure Start kids.

Nature Deficit Disorder was coined as a term just over 10 years ago. It was the first time someone had done a study on just how not being out in nature was detrimental to our children.

It it now universally acknowledged and recognised that spending a lot of time outdoors – there is no upper limit really – has a positive effect on mental, physical and spiritual health.

Here is a recent news item on this. The clip is not playable but the article does describe the issue well.

Learning and play

Here are a few thoughts after ten years of Forest School… yes I started teaching Forest School in 2012…

Here is one of the wee gnomes on the Forest School flag we still use…
Here it is being made…
Literally my first Forest School class… those kids are now 17

Well, my thoughts… what always inspired me was the wish to have children understand and be connected with nature. Yes, true it was about how nature was great for children. How nature was important to us. How they are the future and therefore they are entrusted to nature. And from the very start to was always linked to the unseen beings, the invisible law of physics or pharies, you choose, that surrounded us. Always.

Beach school…. we also did beach school

The most important thing though – along with working with all of nature – was bringing this joy, this constancy of love. If the activities were overprescribed and joyless, then it would defeat the purpose.

So Forest School would always be a place of learning, yes, but also magic and play…

Fast forward ten years… that’s ten years of being a Waldorf teacher, ten years of Forest School, two years of Covid, two years of starting our own social enterprise… and here we are…

Here are the top 5 things I have learnt as an outdoor teaching practitioner:

  1. Plan, plan, plan with the children and the activities in mind.
  2. Have everything at hand.
  3. Health and safety of course, but also boundaries they can explore and grow into.
  4. Always read the children – see where they are and what they need.
  5. Have fun with it! Make sure that there is always space for fun.

It has been a wonderful 10 years and with any luck there will be another 10 to go! Thank you everyone who has helped along the way.

Wonderful summer

We have had a return to Forest School After School at the Holywood Steiner School where we focused on foraging and rope… we made a rope ladder, had fun in hammocks, foraged the abundant greens and cooked pasta and rice over the fire… and of course had several games of hunt!

Busy as bees with the Fostering Network

Well, yes it is true, we have been absent online – there is no excuse, but we have been very very busy…

First there was the Easter Scheme which saw three days of wonderfully warm weather and sadly due to my phone being on its last legs, I was unable to take photos of the wonderful time we had. From playing in the river once more to lounging on hammocks and even getting ‘lost’ during our walk there was just so much to do!

After that we worked with the Fostering Network over four Saturdays – Helen’s Bay was home to Wild About Learning – an outdoor classroom where we harvested mud, drew and IDed trees and foraged the tender spring greens.

As you can see we were only allowed to take the set up photos but here are some quotes from the children…

1  What mark would you give the ‘Wild About Learning’ programme out of 10?

  1. Didn’t enjoy       5 OK 10 Brilliant

    9 (3), 10 (4)
  1. Did you have fun?  Yes or No?

Yes (7)

 – tell me one thing you really enjoyed and why.

River walk – I like playing in water (3)

Making new friends – I like meeting new people (1)

Starting a campfire – I always wanted to learn to do this (1)

Building a hammock – I liked to swing in it by myself (1)

Cooking marsh mallows – like love eating them (1

  1. We hoped you would try new things.  Tell me about something new you tried for the first time.

Cooking on a campfire (2)

Starting a campfire (4)

Learning about leaves (1)

  1. We hoped you would learn new things.  Tell me about something you learnt that you didn’t know about before you came to ‘Wild about Learning’.

That you can eat some leaves (3)
Learning about bugs (1)

How to cook on a campfire (1)

How to build a den (1)

How to make things from river mud (1)

  1. Was learning outdoors a fun way to learn?  Yes or No?

Yes (7)

We worked together and listened to others.

– Did you like being part of a team?  Yes or No?

Yes (7)

– Did you make new friends?  Yes or No?

Yes (7)

  1. Do you think coming to We are Wild About Learning gave you more confidence?  Yes or No?

Yes (7)

  1. Were the staff friendly?  Yes or No?

Yes (7)

  1. Would you come back again?  Yes or No?

Yes (7)

Well really you couldn’t ask for more could you?

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