by Andras Corban Arthen
During last December’s Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Jonas Trinkunas — the head of the Romuva pagan religion of Lithuania, whom I had invited to attend the Parliament as one of the Indigenous speakers — reciprocated by inviting me to speak at a Congress of European Ethnic Religions which he had founded a dozen years previously, and which was to be held in August in Bologna, Italy. Jonas also very kindly invited me to participate in a Romuva camp which would take place in the Lithuanian countryside about two weeks before the Congress.
I consulted with the EarthSpirit Board, and everyone thought it would be important for me to attend these events; after checking the books, we found that there were enough funds in the interfaith budget to finance the trip.
Then, this past spring, Kusumita Pedersen — a friend and colleague on the Parliament’s Board of Trustees — told me of some people she had met while participating in the annual United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York. Kusumita said they ran an NGO based in Torino (Turin) which consults with the U.N. on Indigenous concerns, and that as part of one of their presentations which she attended, they talked a great deal about the Indigenous European traditions (“they sounded just like you,” she told me). This raised some interesting possibilities, given that I was already planning to attend the Congress in Bologna. Later on, while talking with my old friend Phyllis Curott, who has taught in Italy several times, she suggested that I should meet some of her friends and students there, and kindly put me in touch with them.
So, little by little, my trip has taken shape: Boston to Dublin, to do research for a couple of days at Trinity College. Then on to Vilnius and several days at the Romuva camp out in the country, followed by a return to Vilnius to testify on Romuva’s behalf with the Deputy Mayor for cultural affairs in their effort to secure government support for office/meeting space in the city. Then off to Copenhagen for a one-day stop to do some research at the Nationalmuseet. From there a brief stop in Milan, followed by a train ride to Torino to meet with the heads of the Ecospirituality Foundation. Then a train to Rome and a meeting with local pagans, and, finally, the conference in Bologna before returning home.
I am in Europe now (in Bologna, to be precise), though it’s very difficult to write more extensively on EarthSpirit Voices from here, given that I’m not staying in any one place very long and that it’s sometimes difficult to find good and accessible Internet connections. I will be publishing a full report of my activities here as soon as I am able, though it may have to wait until I’m back in the States.