The Lineage of Maid Marian
* St Marie Cathedral
* Legacy of Mary Worship
* Garland of the May Queen
* The Motherline Wound
* Pre-Raphaelite Mysteries
Do not fear daughter
when they lift their sticks, their stones,
when they hiss beneath their breaths
fallen woman, adulteress
breaker of marriage vows
made before a holy priest to an honourable man
for you daughter; there is no blame,
for you no portion of guilt,
for you're made in my likeness.
You can take the crucifixion from your voice.
I will stroke your forehead till you sleep,
Till you pass over into the dreamworld
where we can walk together in gardens wet with rain
or fly along old star roads
or sit quietly near running water.
And when you wake refreshed,
you'll be ready for their sticks their stones
their names that cannot hurt you
balance your gypsy soul
lodged in the body given you, my daughter
for your pleasure and as a tool for struggle
against the weight of the world's troubles
take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone
there are many like you on the earth
and you will be numbered among the warriors
when the great book is written
because I am your mother, I will protect you
as I promised you in childhood
you will walk freely on the planet, my beloved daughter
fear not the lightning bolts of a catholic god, or any other
for I have placed my body and my soul between you
and all harm.
By Paula Meehan
As we approach Beltayne here in the northern hemisphere, I am reminded of the Mayday revels and festivals my ancestors celebrated, where the garlanded altar to the Goddess spoke of the abundance of nature, and the gift and miracle of her renewal.
On Mayday, and in various other celebrations such as Oak Apple Day, flower garlands of the goddess were placed on outdoor altars and shrines, such as sacred springs and stones. In Ireland, young women crafted garlanded female dolls and attached them to the tops of maypoles, and different villages gathered together to declare the best-dressed doll. Over time this talismanic feminine spirit doll, who embodied the spirit of the Goddess of the land was dropped and just the garland of her flowers remained.
Maid Marian, mistress of Robin Hood was a Queen of the Mayday revels, and her altars were garlanded in village greens and also deep in green-shaded forests. Her legacy is a forgotten one, that comes from the deep-rooted grail lineages of the Old North, Hen Ogledd, a Brythonic Motherland that once spanned from Wales across to the Dales.
This lineage is woven like a garland into my feminine soul, with so many secrets that over time I want to reveal to you. But first I want to share how it took its roots….
Losing my parents,
remembering my lineage…
Just before the Winter Solstice of 2012, and a few months into our marriage, I received a dreaded call from my mother – my dad had been diagnosed with cancer.
The whirligig of life seemed to spin like this; a peak high descends down again, and I was called back into the deep underworld of my ancestral soul, still living within me.
It was as if someone had gutted our family as surely as they would dismantle a fish; and the innards of buried pain spilled out, messily, as if to prepare for a feast.
Without the coziness of an assured tomorrow, all the hidden sorrow of the past peeled open, revealing a deep, raw wound, and just as I was starting a new married life, my old life called me back, like Ereshkigal, telling me: “we are not done”.
It was as if my father had decided to leave, and invited the cancer in, and whatever journey we had been on together, as father and daughter, was now complete. I recalled the eve of our wedding when my father had “the talk” with Azra, calling him ‘my lad’ and laying down the law of how he should treat me. Azra listened intently for over an hour, agreeing, even though he couldn’t understand a word of what my dad was saying, with his thick Yorkshire accent. He got the gist. And so did my father. He knew this was a man he could trust, and in his mind, his job as a father was now done, and he could make his preparations to travel back home to Spirit.
As my dad was dying in 2013, I was drawn back to the St Marie cathedral, where I had a strong Spirit vision when I was thirteen. I had not visited since then.
My dad had Catholic blood on his maternal Irish side, and maybe it called out to me.
On the way to the hospital, I felt a strong urge to stop and visit the St Marie Cathedral. As soon as I walked in, I was astounded as I took in what I saw around me. It was a temple to the feminine. I had not noticed the sacred feminine décor when I was young, and had thought it was an ‘ordinary’ church. I saw Marie of the Womb Mysteries, presiding in luminous wisdom over the church, hands on womb.
Many of my father’s ancestors were from the Derbyshire Dales and Yorkshire moors, full of wild old magic, spitting distance of the stone circles and the mother mountain of Mam Tor. Just after Samhain in 2013, as life rested back into the Earth Womb, dad was buried in the foothills of Mam Tor, the ancestral Mother Mountain.
The very name “Mam Tor”, is rooted in the Sumerian birth-womb words, Tor/Kur, showing how, unbeknownst to us, a lineage of Earth Womb Dragons unites our paths.
Nearby, in Hathersage, the next village along from my father’s burial place, is the reputed burial ground of Little John, one of the scarlet-and-green Magdalene worshippers of Robin Hood lore, also connected with the ‘oak wood god’. His grave can still be visited, and measures thirteen feet. Bones of an unusual size were found buried there in 1784 – and folklore says a curse is upon those who remove them.
Cosmic Eucharist – The Grail Legacy
My father’s death created a pathway of pilgrimage back to my Motherland.
Visiting his grave, I got to sit with the land, who had been like a mother to me. I can feel dad’s presence. He is at home here. The land is our Great Mother.
I remember my dad’s funeral; as the hole is dug in the ground near Mam Tor, the ancestral mother mountain, it is as if he is returning back to her ancient womb. The grave opens up into the earth like a dark birth canal, so he can be reborn in her. I have the distinct feeling her Nethermouth is opened, like the great maw, and we are feeding my father’s body and life back into the dark fertility he originated from.
Just as Mother Earth has ministered to my father with the substance of her body for his life, just as his body was woven into being by her, as her body fed his body, her air was his breath, now in his death he is feeding her his body; offering her back the Eucharist rite, in gratitude, a graceful at-one-ment with the Mother.
We throw red roses into this earth-maw as offerings, and play harp as a serenade.
On top of Mam Tor are burial chambers thousands of years old, and family burials in Treak Cavern at the base of the mountain suggest that Neolithic people lived around Castleton 7,500 years ago. Mam Tor was also home to Celtic tribes who lived in terraced round houses on the peak almost 3,000 years ago. This indigenous Celtic tribe called the Brigantes worshipped a Goddess called Brigantia – and her memory lives on in the folk memory of the land, where the Garland Ceremony is still held every year in May, in one of the last living traditions of Goddess worship in Britain.
The Garland Ceremony features a King and his consort, and a flower bower called the “Queen” which crowns him. This may be the same bower of Robin Hood, whose memory is laced across these lands, as he hails just a few hilltops across, in Loxley. Likewise, Maid Marian is his May Queen, bestowing the female blessing of the land.
‘The May Queen and the May King as bride and bridegroom is reminiscent of the sacred marriage of the Magna Mata Festival; and as Kybele was responsible for the flowering the fields, so the May Queen sat in an arbour wreathed with flowers, or in a porch of the church, similarly adorned,’ says British anthropologist, E.O. James.
Later on, this tradition became associated with the ‘Rape of the Flower Bride’, where an evil knight kidnaps the Queen and imprisons her in a tower. In Arthurian myth, Guinevere is held in a citadel in Glastonbury, so Arthur raises an army to find her. In Christian lore, Mary Magdalene takes up the mantle of the fallen flower bride.
On the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death, I receive a mysterious message sent from my father’s Facebook account (he was 70, with only a few online friends, and no one who had access to his account or its password). The message was colored black, like the backdrop of the universe, with a circle symbol in the middle. Similar to the Celtic triskele, it was a womb-gateway sign, and the Buddhist symbol of reaching Nirvana.
My down-to-earth father was sending me messages from beyond the grave, letting me know he had reached the Divine Mother – ‘heaven’ or ‘nirvana’ as She is called.
We were once enwombed
in the earth and the
silence of the body
remembers that dark,
“Fashioned from clay,
we carry the memory
of the earth.
"Ancient, forgotten things
stir within our hearts,
memories from the time
before the mind was born.
“Within us are the depths
that keep watch."
John O’Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace
Paradoxically, my father’s cancer and imminent death began to open the mother wound. The mental instability of my mother, from her own deep trauma, re-ignited, and I got to remember that little girl inside me who needed to be ‘good’ to survive.
“Be a weaver,” my womb told me; naming the magical title of the Magdalene. There were two worlds divided, one living in the past and one rushing towards the future; and here I was in the middle, with a foot in each world. I needed to weave the lines back together. Not in an unconscious, disempowered continuation of the toxic patterns in my lineage, but in an audacious ancestral soul retrieval and reweaving.
I had to face my broken motherline, with love and wisdom, in order to become a mother to myself, so I could birth out into the world the woman I was meant to be.
My maternal forbears had been too damaged, too traumatized to have the manna within them to rebirth this. Yet my foremothers were also alongside me now, as my wise Ancestors, rooting for me, and holding the threads of a great weaving that was beyond my comprehension.
It was the soul wisdom that looked into the eye of pain to say; I see you, I love you, I include you. I am you. Our blood is shared, stretched out across the old loom of time.
I saw how my own life, was but one fairy light, threaded on a maternal ancestral loom, that hangs ornamented by great lights all the way back through the timelines. Wombs within wombs, within wombs, of memory and wisdom and trauma and pain.
Fairy-lore would say my maternal line, and my spiritual line, was under a negative enchantment; where dark spells were cast inside wombs, passed on by wise witches who had forgotten their magic, yet who unconsciously still had the power to curse. Each child inherited this womb hex, forgetting there had once been a great blessing.
On the day my mum died, after arriving home from Bailey Hill, a sorrowful peace had descended upon me, as if my heart had sunk to the bottom of a strange and forgotten ocean that I once belonged to. I had become a vessel for a fluid time to be poured in.
As the sun set on this one day, that contained an entire world and life, Azra picked up the phone, and reported back to me “she’s gone”. I am now an orphan, yet a hollow vessel for my ancestral line. The word orphan comes from the ancient orphic mysteries and referred to someone who had been born again into the light of the divine mother.
Priestess and Death Doula
To prepare for my mother’s funeral, I created a womb pouch containing secret knitted spells, made in the old way of the ancestral medicine women, using glass knitting needles. Knitting, sewing, weaving, embroidery were not just crafts, they were magic.
I placed this talisman in the wicker coffin alongside other ‘grave goods’ for her journey.
There was no way a vicar or priest could officiate at her funeral – she might actually rise from the grave to protest over that, I explained to the undertaker. Instead, it was agreed that I would lead a simple graveside service for her, and priestess her back into the earth.
Because the weather was cold and threatening rain in the lead up to the funeral, I ended up buying a vintage big black cape to wear. Wisely, I stepped back from wearing the hat!
Under a grey sky, on a November new moon in Scorpio we gathered around her graveside, a womb-like space dug in the sacred earth, next to my dad’s resting place. Mam Tor loomed in the distance, her long dragon tail curling down to the graveside.
I spoke a few words about her returning home to the earth, and celebrated her life. Rather than long sermons, we had time to be in silence with the land and the spirit of my mom.
Each person was then given a red rose to place on her coffin, as they made their personal prayers, and said goodbye. Some old friends had brought their own white Yorkshire roses, a nod to the War of the Roses, and the balance of white and red rose united again.
Afterwards we went for a ‘wake’ with sandwiches and a few pints of ale. My mum had insisted upon this, that the neighbors, friends and family would enjoy a ‘good spread’. Speeches were to be made in the pub, as only a seat and a pint could hold such a task.
So, our community gathering moved to a nearby place called “Old Hall”, where I gave the eulogy. I had made it full of humor, poking fun at playful memories of my mum and dad’s foibles. In Yorkshire, humor was serious medicine and was not to be messed with. The most insulting thing was to remember a person with righteous pompous solemnity.
Most of the crowd were old ‘uns themselves, and spoke frankly about death – and how many funerals they had attended already this year. One old lady, came up to me after the graveside service, she was crying, and confided to me: “what you said made sense.”
The funeral had been a surprise hit with the ‘old folk’ of the neighborhood, and I understood – though they could not put it into words – it had made sense to their ancestral selves, to have a witch-priestess midwife someone back to the earth-womb.
I realized how disturbing it was for ordinary people to have lost the rites of passage that made sense to their inner self and resonated with the old native traditions of their blood.
Of course, the ancestral thread was still weaving – and leaving more magical ‘winks’. The Old Hall where we had gathered for the wake, and to give form and magic to the old rites of passage, was famously the supposed seat of Lizzie Siddal’s lost family heritage.
I have been writing a novel about Lizzie Siddal and Mary Magdalene for over a decade, and since I was seventeen years-old I have been enthralled to the legacy of Lizzie Siddal and the Pre-Raphaelite muses, and their secret sisterhood the Swan, the feminine spirit. Lizzie Siddal was born in my home town, and the story goes she had a noble family heritage that was lost. It felt like a wink from my magical maternal ancestors.
I remember back to the day my mum died, and our pilgrimage to the old church of Robin Hood and Maid Marion, followers of Mary Magdalene and the ancient Goddess lineage.
My mind drifts back….
We open the gateway to the old Church and walk through the pathway. On a yew tree to the right I see a baby’s pacifier dangling from the branches, alongside ribbons. This is the old custom of honoring a ‘Mother Tree’ and tying ‘clouties’, rags and ribbons, and even dolls and baby wares, if fertility is needed, into her branches for luck. It goes back to the old traditions – as far back as Sumeria – which tell of a Tree of Life. I’m amazed to see that the old ways are still being practiced, for all to see, in the church grounds. The offerings flutter against the wild sky, politely ignored by religious folk.
Inside the Church I go to light a candle as a prayer for my mom. But perfectly, there are no candles. Instead there is a small crafted ‘Mother Tree’ with hand cut pieces of paper, on which to write prayers and petitions, and brightly colored ribbons to tie them onto this ‘prayer-tree’. Choosing a red ribbon, I smile to myself. Even here, inside the sanctuary of the old church, I find the old Goddess rites of tying ribbons and prayers into a holy tree.
The Ancestral Robin Hood
We walk out into the graveyard, as a mist and rain is coming in – the hill is always moody with the ancestral realms seeping in. We see a wooden carved plaque with the words “Hood Grave” written on. We are shocked – did we really just stumble onto Robin Hood’s grave? This church was my favorite place to visit with mom and dad, and possibly the only church I ever saw mom set foot in, as it feels more like a dark cave. In all the years I’ve visited I have never before seen a sign designating Robin Hood’s grave.
It is not a casual sign either: it is carefully carved out on a round wooden cut of a tree; it is varnished to withstand the weather, and the carving elegantly spells out ‘Hood Grave’.
The church is just down the road from Loxley, where my mom was born. Of course, Loxley is also the birthplace of Robin Hood – ‘Robin of Loxley”, so it would make sense he might be buried here. Earlier on, driving to the church we had passed ‘old Loxley road’ post office, written in medieval text, and seen a sign for “wisewood”, another name of the area; Robin of the wise wood, the wild wood. My mom’s address was ‘wise wood’.
Recent scholarship is re-examining Robin Hood legends, often now placing him in the Yorkshire region, rather than in Nottingham. Sherwood Forest spanned both counties.
It’s not just a new theory either; the historian Roger Dodsworth in 1620CE wrote, "Robin Locksley, born in Bradfield parish of Hallamshire.” Joseph Hunter writing in 1819, reaffirmed this local tradition, stating that Loxley Chase has ‘the fairest pretensions to be the Locksley of our old ballads, where was born that redoubtable hero Robin Hood’.
Robin Hood was also known as a ‘God of the Witches’, a theory put forward by Dr Margaret Murray. Old local lore supports this tradition. Robin as a primeval ‘Christ’ figure, possibly a Templar Grand Master, was a central figure in medieval worship –rooted in the sacred feminine ‘Magdalene Mysteries’, with its tantric ‘witch sabbaths’.
“John Harrison's Survey, dated 1637, relating to estates in Hallamshire, mentions a field called Haggas Croft, which contained "the foundation of a house where Robin Hood was born." The croft was less than half an acre, and it lay in the heart of a forest. Perhaps some wood sprite or sylvan god was once worshipped there. When Alice Duke, a witch, was examined in 1664 she is reported to have said that "when the Devil doth anything for her she calls for him by the name of Robin, upon which he appears."
Intuition told me that if this was the church where Robin Hood was buried, then chances are it was also a Magdalene church, connected to the Templars and their Mary worship.
It certainly is an unusual place, filled with strange atmospheres and histories, with the mound of Bailey Hill rising up behind it, reminding it of its place in the scheme of things. If Christ was here, then the fairies and the witches were dancing the circle around him.
Secret Templar Church
Bradfield church – or St Nicholas church to give its proper title – is a dark stone primeval church of the underworld, actually rooted into the earth and embedded into the hill. It features carvings of gargoyles, dragons, a hound of hell, and figures with open mouths and water or pipes coming out. Inside is a green man carved into the wood over the chancel. Maybe there was even a Sheela Na Gig at one time? Yorkshire has the earliest Sheela Na Gig in England, at another nearby church connected to Robin Hood. Many were removed during times of religious upheaval, and red church walls whitewashed.
The font of the church is said to have been donated by the Cistercian monks of Roche Abbey, a beautiful monastery in nearby Rotherham, inhabited by Bernard of Clairvaix’s order, until it was dismantled in 1538 during one of the religious wars. Bernard of Clairvaix was one of the protectors of the Templar's, and Yorkshire was a hotspot for fleeing Templars. The Cistercians' skills as farmers made the order extremely rich and influential, and they were a popular order in the rural north of England where they were also very successful sheep farmers.
As usual, the Templar connection, with their devotion to the secret church of Mary Magdalene, is often found alongside legends of Robin Hood. Loxley, his birthplace, is permeated by the memory of the Knights Templar, especially as they fled the persecution in France. Several local buildings are still standing which were connected to King John and the Knights Hospitalier's of Jerusalem, an organization related to the Templars.
In medieval times, Bradfield Church was a popular meeting place, and local lore says people gathered to practice archery in the churchyard - mirroring the legends of Robin Hood and his ‘merry men’ as skilled archers. Robin is popularly depicted with bow and arrow. Inside the church was an unusual iron-bound chest hewed out of a solid tree, that was used for collecting money for the Crusades. Inside the church is a stained-glass window featuring Mary Magdalene anointing Jesus, with the words “she hath done all she could” written above it. In another window, there is an unusual image, as two doves hover over the scene of Mother Mary’s ritual purification, 40 days after the birth of Jesus.
For such an obscure, rural place, Bradfield Church has attracted high-placed fans. The famous Victorian art critic and benefactor of the Pre-Raphaelites, John Ruskin, considered founding an art college there, possibly a covert type of ‘mystery school’ or occult magic college. He also bought a farm nearby with thoughts of creating an off-grid community.
He was mentor to Lizzie Siddal, famed for her red hair, who posed for Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s artwork, including a painting of Mary Magdalene. Lizzie’s family had originally come from Yorkshire, and she even attended art college in Sheffield. Legends are she came from a noble family in the area, with claim to a famous lineage, before it was lost and forgotten.
I contemplated if the Pre-Raphaelites were connected into a secret Mary Magdalene cult, through their artwork, based on Templar memory? Maybe they knew secrets about this mysterious church, sat up high on a pagan holy site, and connected to Robin Hood? Maybe Lizzie Siddal was their modern Maid Marian? Explaining why she was financially supported by Ruskin for years, as her art patron, but even when she didn't create art.
It felt like the land spirit, and the Ancestors, were trying to tell us something. the winds were wshipering, with forgotten tales and threads of Maid Marian, Mary, Our Marion, Merry Men, and the Mer lineage of old.
As my mother’s life hung in the balance, something had seeped through from Otherworld, trying to communicate to us; asking us to peel away layers of time.
Rainbow Family – A Worldwide Web
As all this information was pouring in, a well of grief and loss was also pouring out of me. I felt beyond the help of humans, and it was as if only the Spirit of the Land could soothe me. Pilgrimaging to these sacred places felt like meetings with family to me.
Next, we pilgrimaged to the womb of the ancestral mother mountain, visiting the caves carved deep inside Mam Tor, nearby to where my mother and father were returned to earth as ‘resting ones’. The caves were famous for precious stones – bleu jeaune crystal – only found in this site in the entire world, which has been mined for two thousand years.
Fitting with the ancestral theme, one of the womb chambers is called ‘Witch’s Cave’.
Our flight back to America was booked. It was like a slow, painful stripping away of the Motherline. First my mom’s death, then returning her body to earth, sorting through all her possessions, dismantling an entire life. Next, we would have to leave the land behind.
Inside the womb of the mother mountain, Mam Tor, I spoke my grief to her, telling her I no longer lived on the motherland, and that I now lived in a faraway place called Appalachia in America. I waited for a reply. The Dragon Mother spirit in the mountain paused for minute – she’s over 300 million years old, so sometimes it takes her a moment to gather her thoughts. Then she said, “Oh, yes I know her well – she is a dear sister of mine. You can call her “Auntie Appalachia” and let her know your Mam sends love.”
Back in my new home of Appalachia, where I had lived for the last five years, I vowed to carry my ancestral red thread with me, so I wasn’t cut adrift. Through the universal spirit of Maria-Sophia, the Great Mother, the Spirit of this new land also came to greet me, as if her sister Mam Tor had sent a note of recommendation for “her lass” from up North. I found the spirit of the native Feminine Christ still shining out in these lands, despite all the persecutions against her body and people, kept alive in the wisdom traditions of the indigenous nations; Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Navaho, Hopi, amongst many others.
Upon arriving I found an old Mermaid Staff, and then discovered that a small nearby town held an annual ‘Mermaid Parade’. I also learned that author Sue Monk Kidd had based her book Mermaid Chair in Charleston, inspired by the story of the mermaid chair in Zennor, Cornwall, my old childhood sacred place. Somehow the threads were weaving. I could feel the Grail and the ministry of the Mermaids in America.
I learned about Rainbow Woman, White Buffalo Calf Woman, and the mystical Manataka Mountain with its sacred healing springs, and felt them as the motherhood of Sophia on earth. The most holy and sacred mother spirits, who guide and protect the world. But who, like Sophia, have had their powers stolen and their people persecuted.
Rainbow Woman, or ‘Our Lady of the Rainbow’ – known as Ix-Chel by the Maya - was said to preside over this ‘valley of peace’ wearing white buckskin and holding an eagle feather in each hand. White Buffalo Calf Woman is said to wear white fur and feathers. I was also reminded of the swan robes of Divine Isis, or the white swan feathers of Bride.
From Bride in the Celtic lands to Isis in Egypt, and Yemaya in central Africa and White Buffalo Calf Woman and Rainbow Woman in the Americas to Saraswati and Kwan Yin in Asia, we see a global sisterhood of Sophia, united under the universal motherhood of God, calling to us – who have so many shared rites and symbols, telling of a pre-historic indigenous religion that covered the entire world, until it was suppressed and forgotten.
My own mother was gone, but I could feel the Great Mother with me, in all her guises.