ISLANDS AND OTHERWORLDS, 2018Creative retreat for women
If you would like a flavour of the retreat, please head over to Vimeo and watch this short video, made by a participant from 2016.
For general information about Sharon’s creative retreats, please visit this page.
‘Islands and Otherworlds’ retreats currently take place on the wild Atlantic shoreline of Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland, next to a tidal pathway across the sands to Omey Island, a place to which pilgrims have come for many centuries. In these retreats, we explore what it means to journey to the Otherworld.
The myths and folktales we work with on these retreats include the story of the selkie who lost her skin, and other shape-shifting, transformative sea-stories. We also encounter the old Irish echtrae: heroic journeys to an Otherworld which is dominated by strong women, and the immrama: ancient sea-pilgrimages to Otherworldly islands, including Tír na mBan: the Isle of Women.
Bring a pilgrim’s open and searching heart, bare feet to paddle in the wild ocean, and a basketful of sea-longings.
‘Some of us may hear the Call sooner, others later. But whenever it happens, whenever it transpires that we find ourselves on an edge, out of our element, out of our skin, there is something in us still which hears, no matter how deeply buried. Like the first August swallow fidgeting on the telephone wires, we know there is something we should be doing. We know there is a Journey we should be undertaking. We cannot rest; we cannot sleep. Something in us knows that there is somewhere we should be going. And in the end, whether or not we think we can, we go because we must. We go, on a wing and a prayer, because to stay is to die.’
(From If Women Rose Rooted, by Sharon Blackie)
Sunday 14 October (arrivals from 3pm for a 5pm start) to Saturday 20 October (departing by 9am) 2018
(This retreat is fully booked; if you would like to be added to the mailing list, please read the ‘How to Book’ section below.)
The spacious, beautifully equipped modern house in which we’ll be based is situated in Claddaghduff, a small townland in the far west of Connemara. Getting there is easier than it might seem by looking at a map; it is just 15 minutes drive north-west from the small market town of Clifden, less than an hour and a half’s drive from Galway. (Buses are available from Galway to Clifden, and taxis can be arranged from there.) The nearest airports to Galway are Knock (Ireland West) and Shannon, with bus transfers from both into Galway City; Galway is also easily accessible by bus and rail from Dublin.
As well as the main house, we also rent a lovely neighbouring house, just a five-minute walk away, to provide extra accommodation. The houses have access to their own private sandy beach and look out over a wide bay to the grassy headlands of Omey Island; Crow Island lies beyond it and then there is only the Atlantic, stretching out westward to the Americas. Omey Island (a designated Special Area of Conservation for its ecological importance) can be reached on foot or by car across Omey Strand from half tide to half tide; it is famous for its beauty and for its rich monastic heritage. For more information about the Aughrus Peninsula, Omey Island and its stunning coastal scenery, please visit this local website.
11 single rooms are available (there are eight bedrooms in the main house; and three bedrooms in the neighbouring house). Seven of the rooms in the main house are en suite; one has its own separate but private bathroom next door. In the neighbouring house, one bedroom is en suite and the other two share a full bathroom.
FOOD: Plentiful vegetarian food is provided, organic wherever available. At lunch and breakfast, you help yourself from the pantry. In order to keep the costs of these retreats as low as possible by omitting the need to pay a cook, I prepare our evening meals myself – I’m a pretty competent and enthusiastic cook! But because I only have one pair of hands, I cannot cater for very restrictive diets. Straightforward vegan (dairy- and egg-free) and wheat-free diets are usually okay if you are prepared to be flexible and do a little extra work on the small number of days when separate dishes might be needed. But if your diet means that you do not eat legumes, for example, or carbohydrates such as potatoes or rice, then I’m afraid you cannot be accommodated as alternatives can’t be provided. If in doubt, please enquire BEFORE booking; it is not feasible on these retreats for people to bring and cook their own food. If you are usually a meat/fish-eater, please don’t worry that our vegetarian meals will be low in protein! – I am very conscious of the need for balanced nutrition. Please note that all participants are expected to work together on a rota basis to clear dishes and maintain the dishwasher, as well as to keep the houses clean and tidy during the retreat.
The cost per person, including tuition, a single bedroom and food for six nights, is 995 euros. A deposit of 250 euros will be required on booking; the remainder will be due three months before each retreat begins.
REFUND POLICY: Although we recognise that life can change rapidly and that unexpected things might occur, we have a strict refund policy. This is because of the accommodation and other costs that we are committed to once bookings are taken for a retreat, and also the costs and time required to re-advertise places which are booked and subsequently cancelled. All deposits are non-refundable. If you cancel within three months of the retreat, the remainder of your payment (i.e. minus the deposit) will be refunded only if a replacement can be found to take your place. (This is often possible – though having a waiting list is no guarantee that those on the waiting list will be available to actually take up a place, and it becomes increasingly difficult to find substitutes within the six weeks or so prior to a retreat.) We recommend that you take out travel insurance where possible to minimise your risk if the unexpected happens.
How to book:
These retreats usually fill up well in advance, and participants travel from all over the world — America, Canada, Australia, Europe — so please book early if you are able.
Because by design my retreats are intimate, and intensive, when you contact me (please send me an email, or use the contact form on the ‘contact’ page of this site) to enquire about booking a place, or to be placed on the waiting list, please let me know a little bit about yourself, and what you hope to gain from the week. This isn’t a formal ‘application’ process — just a way of ensuring that all of those who sign up have a compatible set of expectations, and are committed to the work we’ll be doing together and to creating a gentle, nurturing and supportive sisterhood for the duration. But this information is necessary to be considered for a place on the retreat or waiting list.
Please be prepared to go outdoors in all weathers; if you have an aversion to rain and wind, then a retreat on the west coast of Ireland focused on deepening our relationship with place might not be for you!
O mother of the sea
lend me a wave that is strong and true
to carry me from this Age which unbinds me.
I do not need a ship, mother,
but make it a buoyant swell
to bear me up and float me on the sea’s dreaming
then beach me on some lighter shore.
When I land there, mother, give me warp and weft again,
and an urchin quill to remind me
how the prettiest barb can lodge under your skin
and leave you undone.
Only lend me a loom and I will
take up the threads of this unravelled life.
I will weave a braid from three strands of seaweed
I will wind it three times around my finger
I will dig my salt-encrusted hands into the soil
and wed myself to the thirsty
brown roots of a new beginning.
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