Comfort Kills

by Asherah Allen

After hearing Andras Corban-Arthen recount a story during a workshop he led at Rites of Spring 2009, about having attended a New Age conference where he witnessed the white participants engage in what they called a “Native American Sun Dance,” I was inspired to write this piece in response. Growing up in Colorado I experienced a potent presence of Native Americans in the culture, the land, and as friends. This poem is a response to the co-opting of traditions that altogether happens too often with little regard for the wishes of the indigenous people from whom the ceremonies are stolen. It is my prayer that all people may find a way back to their own spiritual heritage, however mixed, while respecting the wishes and traditions of the native people whose land they currently reside on. When traditions are chosen to be shared outside cultural boundaries, I pray they will be honored, held in their integrity, and not profited from.

Comfort Kills

This madness cannot be named
I just heard of a “Sun Dance”
performed in a hotel lobby
a chandelier for a pole
with ribbons and safety pins
not to be punctured into flesh
but to be safely pinned into expensive clothes
I remember my friend Eric
Injun Eric as we liked to call him
as close to a full blood Arapaho as a modern Indian could be
I remember him lying
on the couch in the warehouse
that lay smack in between the
East Side and West Side
Inca gang boys
While they were busy
shooting coward bullets into flesh,
pretending to be warriors,
Injun Eric lay there
limp and humble
as we applied the juice of tenderly chewed tobacco
into his Sun Dance wounds
Holding moist towels to his forehead as
he went in and out of fevered consciousness
though the ceremony had ended a week ago.
His wounds were not infected
his soul was another matter
Half of his soul lingered in the sacrifice of flesh
he offered to Spirit, his family, and community upon the Earth
while the other half lay rotting in a modern world
with no appreciation of what he had undergone
Painless sacrifice
is not sacrifice
it is the pure hubris
of ill begotten attempts at
touching the sacred
succeeding only at drowning
in the stench of comfort.

Sparks and Ripples at Rites of Spring

by Deirdre Arthen

This year at Rites of Spring, EarthSpirit’s largest annual gathering ( ), we embarked on what will doubtless become a tradition there – an exploration of how our community’s spirituality manifests in the world. We called it “Sparks of Inspiration, Ripples of Action, Exploring How We Walk in the World”. We all come to the EarthSpirit Community from different places and paths, but we all share the belief that the Earth is sacred so we wanted to look at the many ways we live that belief in our day-to-day lives. The ways may be large and dramatic, or small and simple; public and visible, or private and subtle, and together we make a vibrant mosaic, a beautiful pattern of spirited and spiritual engagement with the world.

To make the patterns visible, we invited all Rites of Spring participants to share their particular part of the mosaic – any actions that have been inspired by their spirituality or connection to the Earth, whether those be in the community, through creativity, for the Earth directly, or in the lives of others – by creating a page, including a description of what they are doing, to add to an actual mosaic on the wall of the Dining Hall. It was wonderful to see how many different ways people are living their spirituality. We read about permaculture and green building, about assisting with births and deaths, about living off the grid, about working with children and working with local communities and about college students planning career paths directly emergent from their spiritual values. The scope was broad and the writing thoughtful. I look forward to sharing some of the specifics with you here soon (after I get permission).

There were several other aspects to “Sparks and Ripples” this year, in addition to the wall mosaic. One was an event on Saturday morning where some very active members of the community, Jimi Two Feathers, Sarah Stockwell-Arthen, Steve Trombulak, ALisa Starkweather, Isobel Arthen and I and some others, spread out on blankets in the merchant Circle to share more about our inspirations and actions in person. The topics ranged from environmental activism, to community planning to service-learning to healing. On Sunday during lunchtime, Sarah Stockwell-Arthen and Isobel Arthen hosted an introductory talk and round-table discussion about sustainability and activism, and several of our community rituals also included some focus on how we manifest our spirituality in the world. (Many thinks to Sarah, Isobel, Stephen, Morwen, Eric and Chris for their work to make this vision a reality at Rites of Spring this year.)

The Web Ritual, in particular, was very meaningful as people first made commitments to taking their own actions in the world and then as so many stepped forward to hold the strands of the web that make our own community – strands of communication, teaching our children, creating music and art, writing, growing food, developing earth-friendly technology, maintaining our sacred traditions and more. As small groups held the strands the rest of us wove ourselves into the web with many colored yarn – some even home-spun that day. The resulting structure was not only beautiful, but especially powerful to be with because of the depth of true intention that went into it.

“Sparks and Ripples” is a chance for us to see new aspects of each other and be inspired by the many ways that members of our community take actions that ripple out through the web, far beyond the bounds of Rites of Spring. We look forward to hearing what you have to share. Please drop us a comment and let us be inspired by you too!