The Blackface Sheep Speaks

Sep 5th, 2013 | By | Category: Kris Hughes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHi there! My name is Kris Hughes, and I’m excited to be a Moon Books blogger. I’ve been a Celtic Pagan for several decades, with an interest in Druidry. I have developed an oracle system based on the symbolism I see in nature, and how for me, it is a mirror of what is happening in us, in our lives and our relationships. I’m interested in traditional topics like Ogham trees, divinatory bird lore, and animal symbolism in mythology, but in my consciousness this simply provides a rich backdrop for the more immediate and personal knowledge and connections I have for aspects of nature and the landscape.

I look forward to sharing my approach in this blog. It’s a way of understanding things that has been of great value to me, and I’d invite readers to consider the things in nature that are familiar to them, that speak to them most directly, and to experiment with this approach in their own lives.

The Blackface Sheep Speaks
The knowledge and wisdom of so many generations. My mothers and grandmothers, and theirs before them. We were hefted to Blackie Knowe and the glen where the Blackie Burn flows into the river. It was fine country. Rocks provided hiding places and markers when the snow came. We knew which side of the hill to graze on, depending on the wind and on whether the day was fine. Our mothers led us to the best things to eat in each seperate and singular week of the year. We watched our mothers, and aunts, and the old ones and learned everything. The sorrel and the thistle, the joys of yarrow and wild thyme, the different grasses and the tasty water mint. We learned not to fear the shepherd and his dogs too much, even though we didn’t care for him, either!

blackface sheepIn my second year I was wild and fleet of foot and often caused trouble by breaking away from the flock when the men moved us about for one of their yearly rituals. I learned to be dipped and dosed and shorn. I learned the rollicking time of the tupping paddock, and the long, tiresome winter that followed.

In fear I panted in the lambing pens, and endured the prodding of a human, while I longed to be out on the clean hill, hidden by a gorse bush, keeping my lambs safe, keeping them all to myself. I could see the patient acceptance of the others as they willingly put up with it all, and I could see the shepherds helping them, too. I felt my milk run and followed the course of its stream back through my mother and grandmother, and outward and forward through myself, my daughters and sisters, and I felt good.

In the autumn, with new lambs just starting in us, many of us were driven into a moving box and taken to a frightening place. We couldn’t understand what was happenng. My daughter was with me, and I followed my mother and the others I had always looked to, but they were also afraid and lost. Soon we were driven into another box that smelled very strange. In the evening we were put into a strange paddock with long, rank grass. We have not seen Glen Blackie since then.

We are confused and fearful in the new place. There are many fences. Some that you can run through, and some you can’t. We don’t know where to go and where not to go. Nothing makes sense. When we see this new shepherd and his dogs, he is usually fast and angry with us. There doesn’t seem to be a way to get back to Glen Blackie. Winter has been mild, my lambs will be born soon. Here, in this new place, my milk will run for them.


What I understand from the Blackface Sheep is the value of native knowledge of one’s environment. If you are a city dweller, you know that it can be important to be a bit streetwise. If you are a country person, it’s helpful to understand the rhythms of the agricultural year, and the tasks that are going on around you, even though you might not be a farmer yourself. We need points of reference: where to find the things we need, how things work in our world and who our friends are. Some of us know our environment well, but many of us are struggling with new environments or unfamiliar cultures. Sometimes we need to pause and recognise that such changes may be unsettling us more that we think, and to look for sources of knowledge both within ourselves and without, that can help us to re-orient.

This animal also speaks to me of the importance of recognising and honouring intelligence, in ourselves and others. Intelligence isn’t just formal education. It isn’t as simple as an IQ test. It is also being able to read situations, knowing what is appropriate in the moment, knowing how the world works. Sometimes intelligence is knowing when to patiently put up with things because tomorrow will be another day.

Maybe you’re surprised that I see all this in sheep, but give it a try. Pick something that you understand, and see what it has to show you. I’d love to hear about your revelations in the comments!

Kris Hughes is a writer, oracle reader, poet, musician and horsewoman. She spent most of her adult life in and around Edinburgh, Scotland, and currently resides in southeast Colorado. She has diverse interests including plants and animals, meditation, mythology and folklore.

2 Comments to “The Blackface Sheep Speaks”

  1. Kim says:

    Kris, as usual, your oracular readings are revelatory.

  2. Kris Hughes says:

    Thanks for the vote of confidence!

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