Thursday, October 30, 2014

New Coursework for the Noble Order of Tara: An Introduction

Introduction to A New Course for the Noble Order of Tara
By Sheila Broun, NOT
© 2013

In November 2012 Olivia Robertson invited me to go to Avebury with her for the day. Later, we travelled on to Lacock, and over tea Olivia was suddenly inspired to ask me to write a Coursebook for the Noble Order of Tara, and wrote the following message, asking me to email it to Caroline Wise.

My Dear Caroline

I am so delighted that Sheila Broun is producing a book (Coursebook for Level 1 & 2) for N.O.Tara. I recommend that each chapter be recorded on your website with British illustrations.  I feel this is the work of  Elen, what we both are looking for – including Yeats, AE & Co in Spirit.



I am an artist, poet, and priestess of the British Goddess Sulis with the Fellowship of Isis. For many years previous to joining the Fellowship I had been immersed in Taoism and the Chinese Arts, Women’s Mysteries, and experiential work in Nature, creating my own meditations and rituals, and working with the Elements – experiencing different qualities of rain, wind, earth and light – around the seasons and wheel of the year, and communing with the trees of the forest.

In 2011 I was drawn to the Noble Order of Tara by the key text chosen by Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, from Yeats, about The Journey of Red Hanrahan on Samhain Night. This text drew me like a magnet. In every other description I have read of the Hallows, they are in the hands of male figures who use them for war, and I have discovered that war, and normalising the model of war, is central to our alienation, and our current environmental issues.

I sent Olivia my first draft for Level 1, and at Spring Equinox 2013 she wrote to me:
My Dear Sheila,

CONGRATULATIONS ! It is a terrific Course with the 4 Elements. And I love the masks. i suggest you send a copy of your mask photos plus an introduction to the Course for Isian News  - Rt  Rev Linda Iles, DCD, www.fellowshipofisis.central.....We’ll meet in August. My fingers are FROZEN – so cold. Lots of warm love and appreciation – tell Linda you are my friend – we did a Rite at Avebury!

Lots of Love & Blessings of Brigid,


Sadly we never met in August, and Olivia passed over the day I sent her the final manuscript on 14th November 2013. Now, a year later, Linda has suggested that I post exerpts in Isian News.

By Sheila Broun, NOT
© 2013
Tara is a very ancient Goddess, and appears in cultures all over the world, not only in India, and Tibet, but in Russia, Mongolia, Ireland, Scandinavia, the Middle East, and South America. ‘The oldest reference to Tara, perhaps, is found in an ancient saga of Finland, thought to be five thousand years old. It mentions a group known as Tar, The Women of Wisdom. The frame drum is also known as Tar, and as The Old Woman Who Never Dies.
Tara also shares many attributes with Xi Wang Mu in China, who resides in the Tien Shan mountains, and ‘controls the cosmic forces: time and space, and the pivotal Great Dipper (Ursa  Major) constellation. She ordains life and death, disease and healing, and determines the life spans of all living beings’.  The oldest reference to Xi Wang Mu is an oracle bone inscription from the Shang dynasty, thirty-three centuries ago.’ She is one of several Mu divinities or ‘Mothers’.

The word Tara literally means ‘star’ and Patricia Monaghan describes Her as ‘the Star Goddess who is a manifestation of Time (Kali, Kailleach); and is also the Goddess of self mastery and mysticism; in Her Maiden form a Goddess of Compassion and a Celestial Boat Woman, ferrying Her people across from the world of delusion to that of knowledge’. The Pole Star, the brightest of seven stars in Ursa Minor, was known as Druva-Tara – the immovable star, and is still used for navigation.

The connection of Xi Wang Mu to Ursa Major (Big Dipper) and its seven stars was central to Chinese culture. She is also a cosmic weaver who creates and maintains the universe. ‘People exchanged sheng tokens as gifts on stellar holidays, especially the Double Seven festival in which women’s weaving figured prominently. It was celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month, at the seventh hour, when Xi Wangmu descended among humans….and cosmic energies were in perfect balance’.

Another meaning of ‘Tara’ is ‘the pupil of the eye’ , suggesting that She watches over those who navigate life. ‘The Book of The Centre says that Xi Wangmu is present in the right eye’. Tara’s name in Tibetan is Dölma, which means "She Who Saves.  "In Hinduism Tara is known as the ‘rescuer’, and She is the second of the Ten Mahavidyas, or ‘Great Wisdom Goddesses’.

There are many similarities between Tara and Kali in India, and many mantras include them both as one. However, Tara is differentiated by her blue, rather than black, skin. She also wears a tiger skin skirt, which links Her again to Xi Wang Mu who is depicted as a Tigress. ‘As early as 2400BC, Indus Valley seals depict tiger-women and women dancing with tigers….Yu bronzes of the early Shang dynasty show a tigress clasping children in her paws – possibly a clan ancestress, or a shamanic initiator’.

‘Tara can be distinguished visually from Kali primarily via her implements. Four armed, she carries a sword, a severed head or skull cup, a lotus and scissors. Kali never holds a lotus or a pair of scissors’. This links her to the third Fate, one of the Cosmic Weavers, who cuts the thread of life at death.

In Tibetan Buddhism ‘Tara holds a blue lotus in her right hand ... in the teaching mudra. The blue lotus is a night-blooming flower, and so Tara protects at the time of greatest fear, during both literal darkness and while we are in the darkness of ignorance.
It is said that Tara Ma's footprints are preserved in the smashan.  Ish-tar also has footprints, four times human size,  in the rock outside Her temple, as does the Kailleach in Scotland. In Scandanavia,  Givinarhol, the troll woman/giantess' cave, belonged to an old woman who left her footprints in the rock near the lake. 

Tara appears in the British Isles and Ireland as the Crone or Kailleach, like Xi Wang Mu.  To the north of the ring forts on the Hill of Tara in Ireland is a small Neolithic passage tomb known as Dumha na nGiall  (The Mound of The Hostages) which was constructed around 3,400 BCE . It has a short passage which is aligned with sunrise at  Samhain and  Imbolc, when a 13’ long sunbeam enters the Mound.

In the Scottish Highlands the Kailleach‘ is an elemental power of winter, the cold, wind, and tempests. She comes into power as the days shorten and the sun courses low in the skies. She carries a slachdan (wand of power) with which she shapes the land and controls the weather. In the Skye folk-tale “Finlay the Changeling” she strikes the ground with it, making the earth harden with frost. Wherever the Cailleach throws her slachdan nothing grows.....In early spring the Cailleach hurls her slachdan into the root of the holly and gorse, plants symbolic of winter and sacred to her…she metamorphoses into a gray boulder that exudes moisture’.

‘Her face was blue-black of the lustre of coal
And her bone-tufted tooth was like red rust.
In her head was one pool-like eye,
Swifter than a star in a winter sky.’

Max Dashu notes that the Kailleach is ‘a deity who is both transcendent and immanent. She is connected with rivers, lakes, wells, marshes, the sea and storms; with rocks, mountains, boulders, megalithic temples and standing stones; and with cattle, swine, goats, sheep, wolves, bird, fish, trees, and plants’. The figure of Crone known as Black Annis in Leicestershire is described as having a blue face by the poet Milton. She is also seen in the form of a Black Panther.

Mountain springs were sanctuaries of the Scottish Cailleach. She was said to visit them to renew her strength, or to perform rites bringing on passage of the seasons.  Her incredible longevity came from the water of life....The Scots often spoke of beur cailleachan in the plural, as powerful beings living in lochs and among rushes.  A certain tall lakeside reed was called “the distaff of the Bera wives’ again linking the Kailleach to the Cosmic Weavers or Fates.

The Kailleach shapes the landscape, hurling rocks from Her Apron to create mountains – which are still named for Her. As a builder She is similar to the Egyptian Seshat, in later times known as Mistress of The House of Architects. Seshat also wears a leopard skin, and is connected with Ursa Major, wearing a seven pointed star on Her headdress.  Seshat is a very ancient Goddess and was often referred to as “The Original One”, who measures time and space. She is also referred to as ‘Lady of Writings in the House of Life’. ‘Seshat comes to us from the very beginning of Egyptian culture as one of a group of sky deities who were ousted by the solar religion of Ra’.

Shrine to Water

Create a shrine somewhere in the west side of your room/house, where you can meditate on the different qualities of water; the activities you are engaged in to bring you into a more  connected relationship with this element; and a growing awareness of the vastness it encompasses. As you continue to work with the element of water your shrine will develop in a way that is personal to you.







high waves









Grave of








deep water



Get to know your local river. Find out it’s source and visit it. Maybe create a journey and walk parts or all of it. How does the energy of the river change along its length?  Note how the river changes throughout the seasons. What plants and creatures live in it, on it, or on its banks?  What trees grow beside it? Where are the bridges over it?  Is it polluted or is it clear?  Find out the whereabouts of your local waterways group and research the history of the river. Maybe you can volunteer to help look after it.

What is the Cauldron, what does it hold? How many cauldrons are there and what is their purpose? In the British and Irish traditions ‘there is a cauldron of the harvest & garnered fruits of the earth; there is a cauldron of death & rebirth; there is a cauldron containing the stored seeds to be planted for the next and future year’s crops; there is a cauldron containing carefully gathered and boiled essence of trees, plants and herbs, such that it produces remarkable  mystical knowledge and inspiration’ 1


The Cauldron is a vessel, and is commonly  linked to the element of water. Study water in all its forms. Water has been found to have memory. Work with mists, seas, springs, rain, dew, ice, snow, rivers, waterfalls. Know water as an indestructible element, but one which constantly changes form, which is in your blood, your urine, your spittle, which evaporates on the air and is ancient, yet ever new.

Kerridwen– life, wisdom, inspiration – these attributes she boiled in Her cauldron for a year and a day. Finally She was able to distill three precious drops of the Grace of Inspiration (the Awen) for Her Son. His inspired poetry spoke of the Cauldron, from which proceeded the Word.
Morgen – mor/sea  gen/born. Sea Goddess and Queen of Avalon, the Isle of the Dead.
Mannannan– God of the Sea, particularly linked to the Isle of Man.
Silina – Moon aspect of Sulis, who rules the tides and cold springs.
Nimue – the Lady of The Lake. She lives surrounded by beautiful immortal maidens in an island realm where there is neither winter nor pain nor death.
The Maidens of the Wells – offered sustenance to the weary traveller.

From you experiences, how do you understand ‘pleasure’ to be the designated property of the Cauldron?

1, KaledonNaddair. Keltic Folk & Faerie Tales.



A gift
That can only be freely given
From a generous source.
I am the gift of the Cauldron
Which emerges
From the depth of the Lake
And the mists of time
In the keeping
Of the Dark Woman of Knowledge
Who is the Voice of The Land.
I bring Pleasure and Healing
And teach you to love yourself
So you can love all life.

Sheila Broun © 2013

Please note: The coursework will be available on Sheila's website in about two weeks.
© Sheila Broun, 2013

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