Cultural Gravity

Cultural Gravity

Katie LaFond

In The EarthSpirit Community, we are “…dedicated to the preservation and development of Earth-centered spirituality, culture and community…” and I have done my best for myself, my family, and the community to embrace and nurture those things. Today I’d like to talk about pagan culture, and the pull of the cultures that surround my family. 

In Western Massachusetts, the wider culture is one I am mostly comfortable in. We enjoy cow pie bingo, many agricultural fairs, a festival in which children roll pumpkins down a hill every year, and other fun, satisfying traditions. Traditions and customs knit people together, and provide the sense of belonging that we need to be happy people. People know what the expectations are about what they will do, and what they can expect in return, because of culture. 

I’m doing my best to raise children who know who they are, and celebrate the customs and traditions of our pagan culture. This is made difficult when the majority of the kids they see day to day aren’t part of those customs and traditions. It can be confusing for them when my kids watch their friends celebrate customs and traditions that my family does not. It is so much easier to be excited about Yule when your friends are also excited about Yule (and not telling you that “you mean Christmas”).

Some of the adults my children see are not part of the pagan community. Many of them are loving and accepting, but don’t understand that when they expect my kids to be excited about their Christian holidays, they reinforce a cultural gravity I’m actively trying to help my kids avoid. A couple of years ago, a grown-up who knows we’re pagan asked my then-four year old if he was looking forward to Easter. He looked confused, put his hand on his hip and said, “I do Equinox, NOT Easter.” I wish my children didn’t have to navigate these difficult cultural waters, and I wish people who know we’re pagan would not put them in that position. It is an opportunity to teach tolerance, of course, but now we’re expecting children to do the emotional work, and not the adults around them.

My husband and I have tried hard to make the pagan culture in our home vibrant and rich, with the gravity to cradle our children in its rhythms. It is much easier to handle the pull of other traditions when you feel secure in your own culture. Words matter. Day-to-day routines, choices, diet, and activities matter. Holidays, rituals, and traditions matter. I have filled my home with pagan books, music, and art, and that matters. The friends they talk with matter.

Adults, too, feel the familiar gravity of the holidays and customs of their families of origin, their workplace, and their circles of friends. But I often wonder if I would be as dedicated to nurturing a rich pagan culture in my home if I didn’t have children. 

I’m not advocating for stripping celebration out of shared spaces; there is nothing wrong with sharing and celebrating lots of holidays and traditions. But it is much easier to handle the pull of other traditions when you feel secure in your own culture, and you don’t feel pressured to pretend you’re part of a culture that you’re not part of. It is important for everyone to notice and respect both the areas of overlap and the areas of difference between the traditions and customs of majority and minority cultures. 

Because the thing is, with gravity, all things are pulling on all other things. People pull on the Earth even as the Earth is pulling us toward it. Cultures have gravity. My hope is that instead of tearing us apart, these different cultural gravities will draw us into a dance. Best wishes from my home to yours for a swirling, twirling season. 

Why Pagan Pride Day?

Why Pagan Pride Day?

by Katie LaFond

Western MA Pagan Pride Day is this coming Saturday the 23rd, 10am-6pm, in downtown Northampton in Kirkland Plaza between Thorne’s and the parking garage (where the Farmers Market happens). We need pagans and non pagans there (and it’s a good time).
I’m pagan. I volunteer for The EarthSpirit Community because I want to nurture my home community and tend my own spiritual self. I volunteer for Western Mass Pagan Pride Day 2023 because I believe in its mission to educate the public about who pagans are and what we do. I represent pagans at The Parliament of the World’s Religions because I think pagans have a lot to offer on the world stage about addressing climate change, among other things. These are very different missions and energies, and I see value in each.
Pagan Pride Day only works if there are pagans there to talk to. The public and the press are invited, and it’s all about people seeing that pagans are people, and not the weird stereotypes or caricatures that they might have in their head. No one voice speaks for all pagans; we have no hierarchy. It’s an organic community, like a meadow; meadows have perennials, annuals, grasses, bushes, vines, trees, etc. We have pagans that have been raised by pagans, others who are “converts.” Some love tarot, others herbs. Some are solitary practitioners, some are in covens, others help organize communities of hundreds or thousands of members. Animists, pantheists, even some atheists and agnostics that identify as pagans.
One of the things I love to show people at PPD is that there is no one right way to be pagan, that there are a couple of things they mostly agree on (the Earth is sacred, we mostly find cultural appropriation distasteful, and if you’re not hurting anyone, do what you want), but that beyond that, part of why I remained pagan when I grew up is that no priest or book tells me what to do, what to wear, how to live.
If you’re pagan, please come to Pagan Pride next Saturday in Northampton and be one of many voices, showing the many ways people can be pagan.
If you’re not pagan, come join the fun and learn more about what it means to be pagan.

Wednesday at the Parliament

Wednesday at the Parliament

by Chris & Katie LaFond

One Step Sideways: When the Divine is Feminine

The morning opened with a panel discussion featuring four pagan animist speakers moderated by Dr. Drake Spaeth of Earth Traditions. We addressed the current climate crisis and how we see it as a logical consequence of the patriarchal, hyper-masculinized environment we find ourselves in.

Rev. Angie Buchanan, also of Earth Traditions started with her focus on the connectedness of everything, offering the analogy and example of mycelium, which permeates much of the ground we walk on. She drew on her experience as a Death Midwife as she spoke on the pagan world view as a connected web.

Dr. Derrick Sebree, Jr., a psychologist at the Michigan School of Psychology and practitioner of Hoodoo, spoke as an animist and person of color, spoke about his work in the field of climate psychology, and the importance of the whole, not just the parts. His most salient point was probably pointing out that, from the perspective of race, we as humans don’t even see each other fully, which makes seeing other beings as fully alive even more challenging.

Rev. Byron Ballard addressed the interconnectedness of all beings and specifically some of her work in the interfaith movement, pointing out that with hard work, it is possible to work with spiritual communities that we might assume are so different as to be beyond reach. The second point she made was that while some of the “traditional” religions can claim to be 6,000 years old (or more), these hills (the Appalachians in her case) were far older and full of wisdom. Finally, she warned that nature will always seek balance. Because humans have become apex predators, nature will find ways to restore the balance, as long as we refuse to do it ourselves.

Finally, Chris LaFond took on the legacy of colonialism in the dismissal of the feminine in the conception of the divine. First, the religious and spiritual colonization of pre-Christian Europe, and then the European-Christian colonization of Africa, Asia, and eventually Australia and the Americas. The suppression of any hint of the divine feminine has wounded much of the world. He pointed out that the divine feminine is not equivalent with “woman,” and asked those present to keep in mind what the divine feminine might even mean or look like for feminine-and masculine-presenting people, because our society at large is currently lacking good models for this. He drew the connection that in most cultures, the Earth is considered “Mother” and feminine, and when we denigrate the feminine, then the Earth is profane. In a connected point, he addressed the idea that is often found in interfaith circles that we are all “on the same path,” or “going to the same place,” and how that is not true at all from a pagan animist perspective. But that it doesn’t have to be true to work together. He finished by quoting Andras Corban Arthen, that “the Earth is not our home, the Earth is what we are.”


A Parliament tradition since 2004 in Barcelona, the Sikh community once again is offering Langar this week. Langar is a free meal that is a part of the Sikhs’ service commitment to the larger community. All who come are fed a delicious vegetarian meal, prepared in large pots and served to those who come. Everyone sits on the ground and eats the same meal from the same pots, a ritual demonstration of the equality of all. The practice has been part of the Sikh tradition since the time of its founder, Guru Nanak. On the way in to the dining area, a display provided information and photos about the origins of Sikhism, of langar, and of kirtan, the practice of ritual chanting. Sharing a meal like this is also an excellent opportunity to meet others at the Parliament and break bread together.

Persephone Speaks

Persephone Speaks

by Katie LaFond

Editor’s note: Twelve women, supporting a Web that cradled the Earth, wearing masks crafted by Lauren Raine, presented “Goddess Speaks: Our Earth Has a Voice” at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. The presentation was organized by the Rev. Angie Buchanan of Earth Traditions, and supported by drummer Helen Bond and harper Chris LaFond. In this post, Katie LaFond reflects on her preparation for, and participation in, the presentation. The masks can be seen here:

Part of my summer work this year was working with Persephone. I was invited by my friend Angie Buchanan of Earth Traditions to bring the voice of Persephone to her ritual, “Goddess Speaks,” at the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
It shouldn’t have surprised me that the work permeated my dreams and worked its way into my daily habits. It was such a part of my life by Lunasdal that it took me several minutes to remember it; for many surprised minutes I thought that I hadn’t done any summer work.
While I’m an animist, I appreciated the opportunity to delve more deeply into my relationship with Persephone, and to work to bring her forward on the world stage. I got to work with some incredible priestesses from around the country, and explore stories and webs, both old and very new. 
Persephone was Kore, daughter of Demeter and Maiden of the Spring Flowers. She is also Queen of the Underworld. Tending both Kids Club at Rites of Spring and working with Twilight Covening helped me appreciate the way she fully embodies both roles without apology. 
In preparing our presentation, when the other priestesses seemed to be doing their best writing in the deep of night with the full moon, I shouldn’t have been shocked that at Beltane, Persephone waited until the sun was high in the sky to send words to fall out of me. Completely unprepared, surrounded by flowers, in my gardening gloves and a big hat, sitting in a pile of mulch next to radishes that had just sprung up from the deep dark depths of fertile soil, I recorded the following on my phone which needed almost no editing after:
Even the God of the Underworld didn’t know what he was asking for when he brought me to his realm. I don’t need you to understand me. Your need for understanding isn’t my problem. Still, I bring you these words.
I have dirt under the fingernails of one hand, and blood beneath the other. What would happen if you stopped underestimating women? 
If you don’t seek rest, rest will take you. What would be possible if cultures embraced rest and reflection, and not unsustainable, cancerous growth? 
Sometimes, change comes that we don’t choose, and we learn things about ourselves that we don’t like. What happens if instead of fighting change, we decide to be curious?
I love my mother. I love my husband. I love the slender seedlings and I love tending the bones.Who would you be if you embraced all of your parts? 
Dance with discomfort. Breathe into the gray areas. Release your need to be right.What does it feel like if you learn to hold paradox like you hold your lover’s hand?
I receive both my crown of flowers and my crown of bones with eagerness and poise. What would this world look like if we weren’t a death denying culture? 
I cannot be all things to all people all of the time, but the night is long, and all of us are complicated creatures. What would be possible if we eased into our discomforts and asked what power lies beneath?
Be unashamed of your naked self, and savor the joy of sharing your bodies in consensual sex. Why must I remind you again and again that sex, bodies, and joy are sacred?
Live your stories of courage, growth, and kindness, that you have stories to share in my unending halls. Are you in a rush to meet me, with all of these climate disasters you nurture with your short sightedness? 
Who are you if you let go of who you’re expected to be?Bloom where you are planted.

In the Spirit of the Earth, Katie LaFond

Katie LaFond is a member of the Board of Directors of the EarthSpirit Community.

Photos by Drake Spaeth and Angie Buchanan

PoWR 2023 Monday

by Katie LaFond


On Monday, I attended Reparations: What is it and What is the Faith Community’s Role in the Contemporary Movement? This workshop was presented by a panel of speakers, including an African American lawyer, a white Jewish Rabbi, a Japanese American, and others. The presenters started by explaining what reparations are. From a legal perspective, they pointed to international law that stipulates five criteria: compensation, (health and mental) rehabilitation, restitution and repatriation, satisfaction (e.g., the taking down of monuments), and a guarantee that it won’t happen again (always challenging). Then they presented some historical examples of reparations, specifically in West Germany after WWII. 

John Tateishi, a Japanese American panelist who shared his experience as a three-year-old in an internment camp, detailed how the Japanese American community has always thought of itself as “American,” and therefore was hesitant for a long time to acknowledge the need for, and to ask for reparations of any kind. When members of that community finally did, they received little response from government sources until the issue of money was broached, at which point some real challenges began. This, along with the testimony of other panelists (as well as some attendees’ comments) pointed to the reality that the language of legislation seems to be cash, and until it becomes the issue, communities are often ignored or put off indefinitely. Money — a shocking amount of it — is often what calls necessary attention to this issue.
The workshop concluded with a few ideas about what steps to take. The speakers suggested joining groups that support this issue, reading about it, talking to your faith communities about it, and more.

It’s clear to many of us that there needs to be some sort of conversation and addressing of this at a national level. I was slightly disappointed that a couple of the presenters seemed to come at this from such a strongly denominational perspective. Using one’s own community to drum up support for this issue is commendable. But we also need to be clear that we do not legislate based upon any one spiritual tradition’s approach. Surely at the Parliament, we can see that we need the cooperation and input of many groups to address such huge societal issues.

Maya Q’eqchi World View: Human Rights, Cosmology and Calendar

by Chris LaFond

Before the main presenter, Miguel Angel Chinquin Yat, spoke, the moderator of the session encouraged the attendees to access the intuitive parts of ourselves, and invited us to “just experience” what we were being presented, even if we didn’t understand all of it. Sr. Chinquin Yat, a Mayan priest speaking in Spanish, began with an invocation in his Mayan language, and then laid out a general model of the Mayan understanding that we are in the fifth Sun, and that this means that we should be progressing beyond a linear understanding of reality into a more circular one.

He assured the attendees that our ancestors had brought us here together this afternoon, and that nothing happens by coincidence. He explained that he was not here to “teach” us, but rather to invite us to share the seeds of corn in our hearts, and that we are our own teachers.

He then presented what he called a “cosmic base” of 20 energies (nahuales), of which each person has four, which influence who we are and what we do in our lives. He gave a brief description of each, and explained what a child who is born today would have as their four nahuales.

A notable quote from the presentation was when he was speaking about our relationship to the earth, and asked “Are we giving our good fruit?” (spiritually and materially). Another was “God isn’t about power, it’s about values.”

During the question period, I asked about how Mayan youth from his tradition learn about these things. Whether there was still a strong cultural infusion (despite the effects of colonialism), whether they learned them through some rites of passage, or whether they had to consult with specialists. He explained that these teachings were strong still throughout the culture and that there were some rites of passage involved. I did get the impression though that for more specific teachings, one would need to consult with the experts (priests and priestesses).

The presentation was fascinating, and reminded me of what many western astrologers refer to as Mayan astrology. It was clear to me though, that there is no one “Mayan astrology,” and that despite the interest and research of a number of astrologers into the topic, when we deal with spiritual systems of other cultures, unless we study with teachers from that culture, we will never fully understand (and in fact might completely misunderstand) what hat seems to be simple and clear on the surface.

Gardening with the Sacred Earth

Gardening with the Sacred Earth

By Katie LaFond

The abundance of life and webs of nourishment in the land where I live are fascinating and ever changing. Whether we are tending a hardy houseplant or doing our best to grow much of the food we eat, we are forming relationships with plants, critters, and fungi, and it is a wonderful way to deepen our relationships with the Sacred Earth.

The first thing to do is to become acquainted —and comfortable—  with failure. 

The ability to fail successfully is incredibly empowering. If you’re just getting started with a garden, you will make mistakes. The way you dance with those mistakes may determine how deep your relationship with your garden will be. I have grown so much from my gardening fails. 

“Listen” as much as you “do.”

Spend time just observing in the garden. Sit in it, make it a beautiful comfortable place with flowers and plants you love, and have a comfortable chair. I have a section of the garden that my toddlers were allowed to dig in and it became a place we all wanted to be. I would notice what plants were doing well (those sunflowers really love that sunny spot!) and what plants didn’t seem too happy (is it too hot for those peas?). Before you even decide on a spot to plant things, spend time outside, observing how the light and water move through the day and seasons, and where the snow melts first. I also enjoy planting phenology, or watching for signs for when to plant things. Blooming crocus means it’s time to plant spinach. Daffodils are blooming when it’s time to plant beets.

Honor your boundaries and needs. 

Some of us have a lot of time and energy, and a large garden with orchards and a flock of chickens makes sense. Others feel stressed out just by the thought of maintaining all of that. You are part of the relationship you’re building with the land. Listen to your needs and desires as you make decisions. 

Enjoy your first date.

Speaking of desire, plant things that will bring you joy. I love eating tomatoes, I love fresh flowers on the table, and I am amused by fast growing plants, so the first year we lived at our home in the Hilltowns I planted tomatoes, flowers, and peas, and I mulched my plants because I don’t enjoy weeding. Listen to yourself, and get your hands dirty. 

Commitment and perennials

Perennials are fantastic; herbs, asparagus, berries, and walking onions are some of my favorite friends in the garden, but they take time to establish. Take time to listen to where the plants want to be, think about where you can realistically commit to tending them regularly, and make the decision together. You can always replant, but it will take a couple years for them to sleep, creep, and then leap again. 

Plants have friends and frenemies too

We all have different needs and wants, and some needs conflict. If you observe and remain open to your plants, they will often let you know if things are (or aren’t) working for them. I had a close call with planting some trees one year; the town offered a group rate on purchasing black walnut trees, and I liked the idea of nut trees on the land where I live. After I placed an order, I had a strange dream and a gut feeling that I should google walnut trees, and in fact, tomatoes won’t grow near walnut trees (walnuts create juglone which is toxic to tomatoes). My friend was two trees richer, and my tomatoes were glorious that year.

Begin to think in circles and webs. 

So often, we think of input and output, and cause and effect, as if things have a beginning and an ending. Healthy relationships, like the ones we’re building with the land, are often more complicated. Listen and open to the Earth, nourish your relationships with it, and let it guide you as you plant, feed your soil with organic matter, encourage mycelial webs to stretch out their fingers to tickle roots, and dance with water flow in your garden. Notice what grows well and look up what it is telling you; different plants grow well in different conditions. If you notice that chickweed is abundant, perhaps your soil is compact, and you might want to grow some daikon radish to loosen the earth a bit. Have tea with the bees and plant flowers, bringing cycles of fertility to your garden and beyond. Feed the worms and microbes with compost, and then let them be; digging disrupts the fascinating and fertile communities that live beneath the surface.

As we in the Northern Hemisphere turn again towards the bright half of the year, I’m looking forward to the sleeping land waking up and stretching new green to the sky. I’m looking forward to warm sweaters and looking for the first snowdrops poking their heads through the snow. I’m looking forward to seeing how huge my heat-loving pepper plant will grow in the microclimate I have near the bricks and asphalt, and I’m looking forward to my children’s faces smeared with dirt and raspberries, with spinach in their teeth. Our relationship with the Sacred Earth is a blessedly messy one, and I wish you all the luck with your plant relationships this year. 

In the Spirit of the Earth,

Katie LaFond

Massachusetts, March 2023

Indulging in the Dark Time

Indulging in the Dark Time

by Katie LaFond

Now that the Yule season is over, a lot of my friends have a hard time as they wait for spring. The days are getting longer, but we still have a stretch to get to Spring Equinox.

Here are some things my family and I like to do this time of year, in case they help you. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comment section below.

  • I set up hot chocolate or tea to be ready when I come back in from some bundled fresh air, yes even when I’m tired.
  • We light candles, even if overhead lights are on. It’s surprising how they can change the mood in a room.
  • I always have three or four books going. You don’t need to hold yourself to false moral reading standards. I usually have a comedy, fantasy, and a couple nonfiction books going on in the winter.
  • Stillness. We use winter to encourage myself to slow down, monotask, and to say “no” to lots of things. This is one of the ways we try to tap into the natural cycles that are so easy to forget with modern technology.
  • Darkness. I love it and I’m unafraid of it. I shower in the dark all the time and turn on as few lights as I can, both out of silly, childlike “can I manage to put my earrings away, find my pajamas, and get to bed without being able to see anything?” and because the dark allows other pieces of me to surface and flex.
  • Extra sleep. My Nan talked about how our Nordic ancestors told stories of how people would sleep more in the long dark and less in the endless day, so I often indulge in nine hours a night. I have a lush relationship with Dreams, and when I sleep as much as my body wants, it nurtures that relationship, and it is deeply nourishing to me. This is where the power of “no” comes in handy, because if I said yes to everything, I would not have the time to get this much sleep.

These are just a few ideas that carry us through the dark, cold days of Winter. What are some of your favorite activities, whether playful or self-care-ful?

Yule Book Flood

Yule Book Flood

Katie LaFond

Editor’s Note: Katie LaFond began the Jolabokaflod tradition for the EarthSpirit Community in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic — when most of us were isolating and unable to see each other in person — as a way of connecting as community. She wrote this two years ago, but just recently submitted for publication. This is the third year (2022) that Katie has run an EarthSpirit Jolabokaflod. 2022’s Book Flood is underway! If you haven’t had a chance to participate and are interested in it for next year, watch the EarthSpirit Facebook Group and Page for information and sign up right around Samhain.

December 2020

This year was unlike any other, so I shared one of my family’s traditions with the community, in the hopes that it brought some joy to your homes.

Jolabokaflod (Yule Book Flood) started in Iceland during World War II, a time of rationing for many people. Paper was one of the few things that wasn’t rationed, so people gave each other books. Today, the tradition as I understand it, is that people give each other gift-wrapped books and on Christmas Eve they stay up all night reading them and eating chocolate. This is definitely a tradition I can get behind. If you’re interested in learning more about the Icelandic tradition, there are many wonderful resources available.

My ancestry is from all over, but the grandparent I was closest to (and who survived long enough for me to have deep conversations with) was Scandinavian. While my family identifies as American, I have always been fond of Scandinavian traditions, and they’ve made my winter seasons so much happier and fulfilling living in the Hills of Western Massachusetts.

I’m a fan of traditions and have built many with my young family. We have a prayer we say at each meal, we have an annual Dumb Supper at Samhain, and we love Jolabokaflod. Simply put, we give each other books on Yule eve and sit by the woodstove in our jammies, eating chocolate and reading them late into the night. We wake up in puppy piles, kindle a Yule fire, and sing up the sun eating cinnamon buns and drinking spiced coffee.

This year it was my pleasure to extend our tradition to all of you. We each found a book in our homes that we had read and enjoyed and were ready to send on to someone else who might enjoy it. We signed up with a google form, I organized an exchange, and sent out names, addresses, and genre requests to each person. Despite some shipping delays, most people ended up with a book to tuck into, with a mug of hot chocolate perhaps, and a quiet evening of enjoying a good book.

Here are the books that we sent each other this year, in alphabetical order. 

Title. Author (genre, if listed)

  • Assassin’s Apprentice. Robin Hobb (fantasy)
  • Beggars in Spain. Nancy Kress (sci fi)
  • Blink. Malcolm Gladwell (nonfiction/science)
  • Blood Heir (Kate Daniels series). Ilona Andrews (fantasy/romance)
  • Braiding Sweetgrass. Robin Wall Kimmerer (nonfiction/spiritual)
  • Caste: the origins of Our Discontents. Isabel Wilkerson (non fiction)
  • Chronicles of Chrestomanci Volume I. Diana Wynne Jones (fantasy)
  • Code Talker. Chester Nez
  • Do What You Want: the story of Bad Religion. Jim Ruland (non fiction/memoir)
  • Dreamblood: The Killing Moon. N.K. Jemisin (fantasy)
  • Dreamblood: The Shadowed Sun. N.K. Jemisin (fantasy)
  • Fledgling.Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
  • Flesh and Fire. Laura Anne Gilman (fantasy)
  • Free Play. Stephen Nachmanovitch (nonfiction/art)
  • Hex Appeal. PN Elrod (anthology)
  • How To Be ultra Spiritual. JP Sears (comedy)
  • Howl’s Moving Castle. Diana Wynne Jones (fantasy)
  • Love the World. Todd Parr (board book for ages 0-3)
  • Mind of the Raven. Bernd Heinrich (science)
  • Minecraft Dungeons: The Rise of the Arch-Illager. Matt Forbeck (young adult/fan fic)
  • My Abuelita. Tony Johnson (kids book)
  • Norse Mythology According to Uncle Einar. Jane Sibley (comedy, Norse mythology)
  • Pagan Consent Culture. Edited by Christine Hoff Kraemer and Yvonne Aburrow (non fiction)
  • Press Here. Herve Tullet (board book for ages 0-3)
  • Prodigal Summer. Barbara Kingsolver
  • Quarantine and Constellations. Katie LaFond (kindle book, memoir)
  • Rosemary and Rue. Seanan McGuire (fantasy)
  • Songs of the Seven Gelfling Clans. J.M. Lee (fantasy)
  • The Buried Giant. Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge. Jeremy Narby, Ph.D. (nonfiction/science)
  • The Divine Thunderbolt. Jane Sibley (nonfiction/spiritual)
  • The Hammer of the Smith. Jane Sibley (historical fiction)
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora. Scott Lunch (fantasy)
  • The Long Lasting Love of Lady and Lord: The Bonding. Darrell A Roberts
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Agatha Christie (Mystery)
  • The Mystery of Mercy Close. Marian Keyes (mystery)
  • The Night Circus. Erin Morgenstern (fantasy)
  • The Night Fairy. Laura Amy Schmitz (children’s fantasy)
  • The Rakess. Scarlet Peckham (romance)
  • The Shortest Day. Susan Cooper (picture book/poetry)
  • The Way of the Wise. Jane Sibley (nonfiction/spiritual)
  • The Wishing Spell. Chris Colfer (fantasy)
  • The Word for World is Forest. Ursula K Le Guin
  • Tigana. Guy Gavriel Kay (fantasy)
  • Trace: memory, history, race and the American landscape. Lauret Savoy (memoir/travelogue/science)
  • Twelfth Night. Shakespeare (drama)
  • Wild. Cheryl Strayed (non-fiction memoir, semi-spiritual)

Interfaith Service Reflections October 2022 (1)

Katie LaFond

Editor’s Note: Westhampton holds a Fall Festival each October, which begins with a town-wide interfaith service. EarthSpirit Board Members Katie and Chris LaFond have been part of planning and officiating that service since 2019. The following is the reflection that Katie offered at this year’s service, on October 16, 2022.

Patterns, routines, rituals. It is a Thing humans Do. It helps root us in time and space, helping us understand our roles in family and community. It helps us save energy as we anticipate events and lets us relax into appreciating the changing elements; new babies and puppies, and the amazing dessert that Aunt Beth has been talking about.

Merriam-Webster defines routine as “a regular course of procedure,” and it defines ritual as “done in accordance with social custom or normal protocol.” 

In my pagan home, these words are used fairly interchangeably, but I suppose that our routines are personal, and our rituals are the customs we become accustomed to within The EarthSpirit Community. 

When I ask my friends what the difference is between routine and ritual, they often describe ritual as being solemn, and routine as being synonymous with boring. 

In my family’s home, I honor routines as a way for us to make sure that our needs are met, and that I’m lucky to have clothing to fold. There is beauty in routine. Most days, I carry gratitude for my daily routines; the washing clean of dishes in anticipation of delicious shared meals tomorrow, and the stacking of wood for cozy wintertime fires. On harder days, routines let me relax into their familiar shape when I’m feeling overwhelmed or sad. If routines and rituals are serving us, they feel good, and they nourish us.

Sometimes though, our routines and rituals aren’t serving us, and still we cling to patterns, because they’re familiar and the familiar feels safe. Changing patterns means creating new paths and that takes energy. It doesn’t feel safe. You don’t always know where you fit in. 

Sometimes we choose to change the pattern, and we feel like since we chose it, we’re not allowed to be upset, or to need to rest or ask for help sometimes. Change still takes energy. It is still a process of grieving old shapes, stretching, and growth can be painful. Sometimes the pattern changes without choice, when things we took for granted are taken away, or when Death visits our home. Sometimes the change is joyful; we marry the love of our life and we get to create new patterns together built on love and hope. Whatever the case is, be patient. People will expect old patterns and will be confused and might be hurt that patterns are changing. We do our best to build new, resilient patterns of vitality, meaning, and potency. 

In The EarthSpirit Community, the rituals in the Pagan calendar give shape to our year. Some of our pagan rituals are solemn. Samhain when we recognize our beloved dead is often a quiet, solemn observance. It is also true that love, joy, and pleasure are pagan values and our rituals support that. The Beltane Maypole where we join earth and sky and hope for a fertile growing season, the Web Ritual where we weave a web of community that represents the unseen bonds we sustain with all beings of the Earth, and Handfasting ceremonies when pagan couples get married are joyful rituals. 

Paganism honors the Sacred Earth and we do our best to have our rituals reflect natural cycles. It would be disingenuous to say that one of our rituals is either all solemn or all joyous. We are like a tree, growing and dropping dead branches, and letting old leaves go, and reaching for the sky.

There are solemn elements within our joyful rituals, and we often dance and sing in gratitude for our lives at the end of our Samhain ritual as the last autumn leaves fall.

“It’s the blood of the ancients that runs through our veins, and the forms pass, but the circle of life remains.” 

“Chi Mi Na Morbheanna”

An Art Meditation

by Katie LaFond

This piece is a transcription of a meditation Katie shared at an EarthSpirit Saturdays event on July 25.  If you’d like to join future events, please follow the EarthSpirit Community on Facebook.  

Hello, and welcome.

My idea for today’s session was inspired by my difficulties with Zoom. Like many of us, I have done a whole lot more Zooming lately than ever before. I find it difficult and an incredible energy drain. I had a moment recently where I was doodling while I was Zooming, and my whole body and brain felt better. I suspect Zoom is mostly left brained for me, and the doodling was helping me get back into more right brained space. So, I thought that today I might share a doodling meditation with all of you beautiful people. 

I’ll lead us in some opening exercises, then we’ll meditate as I read some poetic prose I wrote, and draw for a bit. So take a minute, and get yourself some materials for doodling, painting, sculpting, whatever feels good to you right now. It needn’t be serious art, that’s not what this is about. It’s about relaxing, softening, and calming the self in meditation, with art as a way to help that process. I’m hoping this will jumpstart your creative process, and help unstick that creative block. You don’t have to be a trained artist to enjoy making art. Humans make art. You’re qualified.

I invite you to gently close your eyes and notice your breathing. Don’t try to change it, simply be curious about it. 

Open to the breath in your lungs; the heat of summer; the waters of tears, sweat, and the sea; to stone; to the trees, that even as they are full and lush have begun to turn within; to the Sun Moon and Stars; and Open to the Unseen Ones.

Gently open your eyes, take up your tools, and create as you’re moved to.

All improvisation starts with the first mark, word, note. That first piece creates entire universes, makes thousands of decisions in a single stroke. Yet we do this every day, all day, with our words, our steps, our thinking. In one breath the urge to consider this first motion is undeniable and thick with significance, and how can we possibly just do it? And yet if we take too much time to consider all the possibilities that come with the infinite before boldly making a decision, we find ourselves paralyzed, unable to move forward. Go with your gut. Make that move. Make your mark. It needn’t be large, perfect, earth shattering, it simply needs to be. 

The first move invites the second. The second wants to dance with the first, whether mirroring it from a distance, or intertwining with it as a tango dancer, dragging her toe with the density of her passion. The second move is almost as significant as the first, bringing us a second dimension to the world we are creating with the motions of our bodies. You already know where that second mark goes. Let it flow.

With our third mark, we bring shape to our world. Just as milking stools rest upon three legs because they will always be stable, our third mark creates stability but not rigidity, and the art will begin to take on a life of its own. Our job is simply to be curious and see where it goes. Moving from a place of decisive action, from seeing possibilities and making impossible choices, to watching as our creation evolves on its own. 

We plant seeds in our gardens. Tiny hard packets of possibility. We go, armed with tools that bring us confidence if not guarantees. Spades, forks, rakes, cultivators, watering cans, tiny pots to start plants on windowsills, intensely scrutinized as morning coffee brews… Perhaps the seed won’t sprout. Perhaps a bird will eat it, or it will mold before it grows, or it will grow politely in its patch, or perhaps it will grow to take over entire gardens. Seeds are not promises, they’re possibilities. 

Do your seeds grow in a garden, or are they wild? What do you notice first? What takes time to become clear? Are there vines and brambles and hidden mushrooms? Are there neat, tidy rows? Do you plant with a ruler, or do you toss them, wild eyed, daring them to compete for light, warmth, water, and will? How does it grow through the season? Does it feed you? Does it feed itself, symbiotic plants fixing nitrogen, creating structures to climb… what other things live there? What bugs, worms, butterflies and critters make their home here? Sleep. Creep. Leap. 

So many marks in our lives are not of our choosing or making. We zentangle the corners of our identities, weaving our webs of self in the corners and doorways of our hearts. Sometimes we do the arduous work of shifting some of the major structures, but always there will be a shadow of where the structures used to be. 

A sigh. The body heaving and moaning, lungs letting go of their cargo. Another breath, and a moan. Breathe, and keen. Breathe, and sing. Breathe, and speak. Breathe, and whisper. Breathe, and whimper. Breathe and cry. Breathe, and wail. Breathe, and hum. Breathe, and shush. Hush. Hush.

Puzzle pieces, jumbled in the heart. Slowly assembled, but not all the parts belong, and some fit together only tenuously. How do you approach this puzzle? What do you do with the pieces that don’t quite fit? 

Another place, another time. A wind comes, and sucks fiercely at the branches, and the stones, and the bones. Taking away anything that is not solid and strong and it is scary but in its wake is a clarity and lightness of spirit that would never have been chosen…… but dances with the vastness of spirit.

Sweat, beading and falling, rolling down warm skin, finding its path and blossoming as a dark patch on fabric. Tingles on sun- warmed skin, and more sweat. A salty sting in the eye, and then the delight of a gentle breeze kissing salty, sweaty skin. A face turned to greet the breeze, and the scent of flowers comes with it. An eternity in a moment, an indulgent moment, in deep awareness of the strong currents swirling, always swirling, in an endless dance.

What sweeps you away? What grabs your fascination with thousands of enfolding hands and everything else falls away before the deep passions of your being? What is it that you pick up, and the hours disappear as you dissolve into the joy of doing? Is there more than one thing? How often do you let yourself become so absorbed in something? Does it scare you? Delight you? Confuse you? 

What is the weave of your fabric? What is the warp, running along the length of your life, sticking with you, stubbornly or consistently, supporting you? Is it thick or barely noticeable in the final tapestry of your story? What is the weft? The threads you choose each day, weaving in and out of the other strands of your life? Is your weave smooth and even? Do you feel the threads with your fingertips? Is it sticky and fuzzy and awkward, tangling from time to time? How patient are you as you untangle the threads? Do you change your weft, to make it easier to weave, or do you like that soft, fuzzy wool so much you’ll take the time to slowly work it into your fabric? When you pull a thread from your life, how careful are you to pluck each remnant fiber out? Do you keep it? Do you add it to a new project? Do you let it go?

Consider for a moment,

The sensation of sun on your skin


Cold shivers

The scent of rain and leaves in autumn

The crunching sounds of cold snow underfoot

The smell of wildflowers

The sound of bumblebees

The warm heaviness of loved ones sleeping in your arms

The taste of honey

A cup of tea, a toasty woodstove, and a compelling story

Easing into a warm bath

Watching the sun rise

Watching the sun set.

Soddenly crawling into bed after fulfilling, challenging work, to relax into a deep velvety sleep

Bathing in Full Moon light.

The feel of writing with the perfect pen

Waking slowly from a sweet dream, a smile on your lips, as you gently bring that sweetness into your waking day

Gently soaking knitted lace, spreading it out, and seeing the patterns and swirls emerge clearly for the first time

The first flowers pushing their way through the winter snows

Working diligently at a piece of art, stepping back, and realizing it is so much more than you thought as you were working so carefully up close

The way a perfect sunset takes your  breath away.

Music so beautiful you gently cry

The first ripe tomato in the garden

What feelings make you stop, forget the past and the future, feelings that make you exist only now?

What is precious to you?

What moments in your life changed you forever?

What mistakes have you made that were actually happy accidents that revealed things to you you can’t now imagine your life not containing?

What is your favorite flower? Color? Bird call? Food? Animal? Person? Time of day? 

What do you turn to for comfort when the world feels too big, too hard, too much? 

How do you celebrate when things flow well?

How do you know when it’s time to be done? When it’s time to step back, to look at the whole, and to contemplate final touches? How do we know when, and how to let go? 

Look at your piece. Close your eyes. Breathe deep and think of puppies, waterfalls, and candle flames. 

Open your eyes again. If you were only to make one more mark upon the page, what would it be? 

Perhaps things need to sit sometimes. Perhaps the time isn’t now. Perhaps your work isn’t complete, and there isn’t anything you can do about that right now. Are you able to let things be, trusting that when the time is right, you’ll know, you’ll return, and both you and the piece will be ready?

It’s time to set our tools down for now. We are not static. We need to rest, to nourish, to eliminate, to dream. Our art flows like waves in the ocean, with tides and swells and spray.

Feel yourself. Be curious, but not judgemental. Feel your breath, and the points of your body that are supporting your weight. Feel the spots of tension you’re holding. Go ahead and roll your shoulders. Feel the frustrations, and the satisfactions, and the confusions, and the surprises… and breathe.

Feel your chest rising and falling with your breath. Wiggle your fingers and toes, your legs and your arms, give yourself a hug, run your fingers through your hair, take a deep breath, and take a minute to just be in your body. 

Thank you so much, and I wish you a beautiful season.

Art doodle

Art by Kimé Moore, used with permission

To see more of Kimé’s art, visit her page, SwedishWillow Arts, on Instagram or Facebook.