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”
Stones for the Season: Samhain-tide

Stones for the Season: Samhain-tide

by Sarah Lyn

Stone has a beautiful language. Anyone who has ever had a rock jump out at them has heard it. Pick me! Pick me! Before you know it, you have either slipped it into a pocket, or you find yourself holding it in your hand, uncertain of how long it has been there. Do you remember stuffing rocks in your pockets as a child? How they were each a tiny treasure all their own?

Do you remember how you saw their magic before you knew what it was?

Deep stone sleeps but the more surface it gets the more connected it is to us and our life cycles. Some rocks just want to introduce themselves and have a conversation. Some rocks do bite and want to be left alone. And some rocks have been looking for you to take them on a quest to some unknown corner of the world they have only heard about in the whispers of the deepest bedrock (even if that’s just your front yard).

[ALWAYS respect places that ask you NOT to take their rocks.]

The Trio

Labradorite, amber, and black tourmaline

Different stones I encounter have different energies to them. Some energize me and some ground me. Each sabbat, I put together a trio of stones to focus on for that season. It’s divination to me. I reach out into the web and see where we are in the world, creating a recipe of stone allies, and then I send that energy back out into the web.

It’s not the same grouping of stones every year. I will work with these ones in my nightly meditations until the next sabbat, sometimes individually and sometimes as a group.

The stones I chose for Samhain this year are Amber, Black Tourmaline, and Labradorite.

Amber is fossilized sap from ancient forests. I have seen it mostly in rich amber hues, but I have also seen versions of it that are blue, red, yellow, and black. It is light to hold and transparent. A lot of the inexpensive stuff on the market right now has been heated and formed in molds. It still passes amber tests, but the age of the inclusions in it are suspect. It has history in it and it strengthens the magic in my Work.

Depth and fortitude, is what it says to me.

Black Tourmaline gets heavy use in my home. It is great for taking negative energies in and transmuting them into positive ones. It is a power boost to any spell I work. It is a good stone for people uncertain about spirit visitations at this time of year and a good talisman for sensitive people.

Trust yourself. Do your Work, it whispers steadily.

Labradorite is a Feldspar mineral that can look like a dull brown lump of rock. Certain cuts of it display a wide array of iridescent colors; yellow, red, blue, purple, etc. This stone is a journey stone. I call it the Samwise Gamgee of the quest I am on, called Life. I have pieces I have been using for twenty years and they have grown and evolved with me. Whenever something calls for deep Work I turn to this stone.

We got this. Let’s see what’s out there, it says.

These stones, together, become sentinel magic workers, quest guardians that walk with you as you discover what waits for you come Winter time.


For Advanced Work

If you want to go deeper into the season? Use fossils. I can’t say that enough. My favorites? Ammonites and Petrified Wood. To touch something that was once alive, millions of years ago, when you can tap into its energy…? I have had some of the deepest and most visceral ancestral connections through the use of fossils.

Ammonite and petrified wood

A Grief Balm

Rose quartz and howlite

If your heart is heavy with grief this season, I recommend keeping some Rose Quartz and Howlite nearby. Rose Quartz is a soft pink crystal with soothing energy. Howlite is white with grey veins and eases anxiety and claustrophobic feelings in crowds. A fun fact about Howlite is it takes dye well, and most of the inexpensive ‘turquoise’ you see on the market is dyed Howlite.


[Notes from Sarah Lyn: I never purchase rocks from people who do not know where they are sourced from. It’s important to know where your rocks come from so you can make informed decisions about where to put your money. For those of us buying tumbled stones at rock shows, we’re picking up the chips of what has already been cut from the earth, we are not part of the demand of the mining world. But know where your stones come from.]

All photos © Sarah Lyn

A Spread and a Spell: Tarot for Winter Work

by Irene Glasse

Within the pattern of the Wheel of the Year, Winter Work is a specific area of self-work we engage in during the dark months of the year. As the lessons and wisdom of our time together at Twilight Covening settle within us, we turn our attention to the path ahead. My own Winter Work generally runs from Samhain to Ostara, but there’s a lot of room for variation. Winter Work is often spiritual or magical, but it can also be related to career, family, mental health, or the home.

Tarot is so much more than a tool for looking into the future. It can also be used to support a project or direction in life. Here are two ways you can use Tarot to enhance your Winter Work: a spread and an altar working.

As I contemplated my own Winter Work this morning, I realized I could use more information, and turned to my deck. The layout I developed is called the Inward Spiral Spread, and should be usable with any sortilege-based system – Tarot, runes, oracle cards, Kahina stones, etc.

The Inward Spiral Spread

Begin by holding the divinatory tool you’ve chosen to use and think about your Winter Work. If you already know your area of focus, visualize what that might mean in practice and how it will impact your life. If you are still settling on your Work, visualize the turn of seasons ahead of you.

Then, beginning at the outer edge of a spiral, lay your cards down:

The Inward Spiral Spread by Irene Glasse

One: Your Winter Work, or an aspect of it that needs to be focused on

Two: What is slowing down your progress or getting in the way of your Work

Three: What information/resources you need to access to support your Work

Four: The next step to take

Five: How to best support your Work within the rest of your life

Six: A message about your Work I’ll share my own reading with you so you can see how this spread can play out:

One: My Winter Work: The Four of Swords: Deep rest and solitude. The need to listen to my inner voice rather than the many voices that surround me. I’m dangerously close to burnout and need to do some reevaluation/prioritization as well.

Two: What is slowing me down: The Two of Swords: Indecision about how best to proceed. Both mind and heart need to have a say here, and consciously sitting with this fork in the woods (and all its pros and cons) is necessary in order to determine the path forward.

Three: What information/resources I need: The King of Wands: I need to delegate more in order to create space for my own Work. I’m surrounded by people who can help, I just need to ask for assistance. My vision is what’s needed, and some of the busywork I spend time on is getting in the way.

Four: The next step to take: The Ten of Wands: Prioritize tasks and spend energy on the highest-impact ones. My workload is heavy, so targeted application of energy is important here. And, just do the Work. Get started now.

Five: How best to support my Work: The Star: Know that this Work is a time of renewal, of recovery after pain and challenge. Prioritize activities that are spiritually anchored, include rest or beauty, or are uplifting in nature.

Six: A message about my Work: The World: This Work is the end of one cycle and the beginning of another, and will place me in a very empowered position when it comes to choosing what comes next.

A Winter Work Altar Practice

Another way Tarot can support our Winter Work is by acting as a focus point on our altars. Select two cards from your deck. The first card corresponds to where you are right now. Choose a card that resonates with how you’re feeling. The second card corresponds to where you will be once your Winter Work is completed. Try to visualize how you will feel and what your life will look like on the other side, and choose a card that resonates with that visualization.

Place both cards on your altar, with the first card, the one representing you now, on top so that it completely covers the other card. In the coming days, when you visit your altar, slide the top card (now) to the side a little bit, beginning to reveal the future card underneath. Perform this action mindfully, contemplating both where you are now and where you are headed.

In time, the cards will be side by side. Sit with that balance as your life begins to change through your Work.

Then, day by day, slide the future card over to cover the starting point card. Again, perform this action mindfully. Feel the way your Winter Work is changing your life. Feel how far you’ve come. Consider how best to continue supporting this transformation.

When the future card has completely eclipsed the starting card, take a moment to celebrate how far you’ve come. Then, evaluate: where are you going from here? If you feel like your end goal card is not quite where you are now, start the cycle again. Choose a new card for where you are now and either the same card for your goal or a different one if the shape of that goal has changed for you. Then, begin the pattern once more.

If you find that your Work is complete, congratulations. Shuffle your cards back into your deck and reset your altar for whatever magic is next for you.

May your Winter Work be nourishing, healing, and transforming. May the deep roots we send down this winter stabilize and support us. May we emerge in spring time better and brighter, and ready to connect with community as our best selves.

Find more of Irene’s work at http://glassewitchcottage.com.

Farewell to the Spirits of Place

Farewell to the Spirits of Place

Rose Sinclair

Recently we had to move our home from a quiet rural mountainside in Vermont to a neighborhood in Massachusetts — neighbors within spitting distance, street lights, porch lights, etc. When it became evident that leaving was a foregone conclusion, I went deep into grief. The quiet and the wild are much like sleeping and breathing for me — and the adjustment was intimidating. As I wandered in spirit and in my yard, a song from my childhood emerged unbidden and strong — a goodbye song from a children’s show “The Magic Garden” which aired when I was 6 and I was immediately hooked — shapeshifting, trees that held stories, a chuckle patch that shared jokes furled in their leaves… I learned that I wasn’t alone in knowing there was magic in the garden, that everything spoke and had consciousness, and then found that, in fact, I was alone among my peers, and got very quiet about such things, and sought adults to be friends with who could at least hear what I was experiencing.

So, walking in the yard, allowing hot bitter tears to flow, Covid losses, lost job, new job, now have to leave, my familiar died — heart heavy, mind swirling, wishing to scream and instead…

“See ya, see ya! Hope you had a good good time, la dum. Hope you’ll have a good good morning, mmm hmmmm, hope we get to see you again.

See ya, see ya! Glad that you could stay awhile, mm hmmm, glad that we could say good morning to ya, hope you have a shiny day! Byebye now!”

My memory of them singing includes the words “glad we got to spend this time together, hope we get to see you again! Bye!”

And suddenly it wasn’t Carole and Paula singing it in my memory, it was the land wights, letting me know it was ok, they loved having us be so very present to them for 2 years, and knew we wouldn’t forget them…

The land does sing, we just need to allow there’s a song and to Listen for it. Tears merged with a huge grin and the salt taste on my lips was the stuff of life.

It is so.

Thank you Paula Janis, thank you Carole Demas, for sharing your magic with us, magic that continues to grow.

Seasonal Celebrations 2022

At Lunasdal in early August, about 60 folks met for our annual ritual at the stone circle at Glenwood Farm. In September about 30 gathered for the Fall Equinox celebration, including some tending of the Trees in the Sacred Grove there.

The Green Man – a Lughnasad Tradition

by Juniper Talbot

The Green Man (photo by Andras Corban Arthen)

In our family tradition, Aidan and I use parts of our Yule Tree in different ways for the eight seasonal Celtic holidays – Yule, Spring Equinox, Beltaine, Summer Solstice, Lughnasad, Fall Equinox and Samhain.

 At the Summer Solstice, we create a Green Man out of branches from last year’s Yule Tree, woven together with vines. We then pick summer wildflowers and decorate him while we sing a song we wrote.

Green man, green man, formed of vines
In your body, flowers we entwine
Green Man, green man joined with the maid
Summer starts on your wedding day.

There is a secret hollow woven into his back, and as we approach Lughnasad, the Festival of the First Harvest, we ritually bake bread and tuck a small loaf inside this secret hollow. Since the First Harvest celebrates the reaping and cutting down of the growing things, we offer the Green Man to his Funeral Pyre and watch him burn, as we sing a song we wrote.

Tongues of flame, fire is burning
Ashes remain, the wheel keeps turning
Tongues of flame, old things burning
Ashes remain, feel peace returning

When the burning is complete, the small hidden loaf of bread is brought forth from the ashes, and we share in the nourishment of the Bread of Life, born from the Green Man’s sacrifice.


“John Barleycorn,” reenacted by the Bridges and Littles (photo by Andras Corban Arthen)

Fall Equinox

by Chris LaFond

In mid-September, about thirty members of EarthSpirit gathered at Glenwood Farm to celebrate the Fall Equinox, the coming cooler weather, the tipping of the seasons, and to tend the trees in the Sacred Grove. Of all our seasonal celebrations, this is the one that is a “working ritual.” Following the Sacred Land Walk, we process up the mountain to the Grove Shrine that EarthSpirit has been cultivating for many years. We spend time with each of the trees, and as part of our ritual, weed and mulch them, especially the smaller ones. We sing, dance, share food from our abundance, and socialize.

This year was a warm overcast day, perfect for doing a little gardening. Our Fall Equinox ritual is a good reminder that “celebrating” the Sacred Earth without giving back to her can sometimes be a somewhat empty gesture. The effects of climate change and global warming were obvious this year, in the condition of the trees and the amount of water available to them. But we adjust where we must, both in tending our groves and gardens, and in our own advocacy for the overall Web we are part of.

We plant and tend trees, often not for ourselves, but for the Earth and those who will come behind us. We are part of a Web of Life that has stretch from time immemorial, and will continue well beyond our own time here.

Fall Equinox 2022 (photo by Rowan Hawthorne)

Twilight Covening: A Poem

by Emily Cavin
written the Tuesday before Twilight Covening 2019

It is Autumn
It is a chilly, cloudy, day
But when the Sun breaks through the Clouds
Colors shimmer in the Lake
Reflecting the leaves, flying from the Trees
Rooted in the Mountain, under the Sky,
Lit by the Moon and Stars,
And the glow of the Season.
I am with myself
I am with Spirit
And with many other Pilgrims,
Sisters and Brothers All
Honoring the Sacred Earth.
This will be my seventeenth Visioning Ritual.
It will be the seventeenth time I have gathered in a Circle
As a member of a Clan.
I have been held in natural harmony by the Cranes
Transformed as a Luna Moth
Sailed the Sky with Swifts
Traveled far on the Labyrinth
Shifted shape as a Salamander
Run the river as an Otter
I was a weaver among Spiders
Called out the cry of the Screech Owl
Kept silence with the Swans
Knew the forest as a Deer 
Dreamed the dreams dreamt by Bears
And flocked with the very first murder
Of cauldron-keeping Crows – 
After being reborn with wings, from within a Chrysalis.

Sometimes it is a struggle to be here – 
I have to work hard at it.
More often, I am encircled and guided by Beauty and Mystery,
And also joy.
When all the stars and powers align,
I am riding, with ease,
An otherworldly wave that seems to know 
My Spirit’s very heart’s desire.
Whatever my journey here,
It informs in true and potent ways
the journeys I make everywhere else.

I declare!
There is only one place
In the whole wide web of existence
I could be 
And speak of all of this as Truth.
Twilight Covening!
All Beings of the Earth
Teach me
Carry me
I am here once more
I am opening – 
My Soul 
Is on Fire

Public Rites, Private Work

Andrew B. Watt

In my first career as a schoolteacher with a speciality in world history, I was often tasked with making the deep past relevant to a modern audience. In my current, second career as an astrologer and artist, I find that this is still in a sense my real job — finding ways to make ancient insights and wisdom available to a modern readership. This is the first of what I hope will be a regular series.

When modern people engage with ritual in an Earth-centered spirituality, it may not be the case that they are explicitly pagan — that is, they may not worship a pantheon of pagan gods with names like Zeus and Aphrodite, Odin and Thor and Frigga. Some of them certainly do; some of them are quite open about it. Others may follow a Christian path, attending a local church in their home community on Sundays. Some may light Shabbat candles, keeping with Jewish family traditions of worship at home.

At Rites of Spring and other events connected with Earth-centered spirituality, though, they will often engage in public rituals in which no god or gods are mentioned by name by the presiding officers. There are things that are said at these rituals, of course — the names of the recently deceased may be read solemnly, or the names of newlywed couples may be announced with joy. There are things that are done at these rituals, too — attendees may dance around a fire to the sound of drumming; or they may erect a Maypole; or take a walk in the woods to connect with nature. Finally, there are things shown: a loud figure in startling garments and grotesque make-up may stand between two smoking torches, terrifying all who hear her; veiled figures may appear at a meal with everyone present, to chaperone a select few off on pre-arranged journeys.

This formula, of Things Said, Things Done, and Things Shown, is very ancient — we know that this was the standard formula of the secret Mysteries of Eleusis in Greece. Candidates for the initiation process underwent a purification rite in mid-March, and then in mid-September of the following year, they all went into the initiation hall at dusk to spend the night in complete darkness. Nothing was said of what occurred in this hall on penalty of death. The Mystai, as the initiates were called, were only able to say, “Well… Things were said, and things were done, and things were shown.”

The ten days prior the Autumnal Equinox are about when these September Mysteries were celebrated — a season that begins this year on September 12. It’s a good time to reflect on one of the essential parts of the EarthSpirit Community’s traditions — that in our public rites, things are said, done and shown — but the meaning of these things is rarely defined for us as members. It remains the private task of the individual and their trusted family and friends, to sort out how what’s said, done, and shown, affects our personal lives — ethically, morally, intellectually, emotionally.

Proserpina with Ceres and Triptolemus
Proserpina with Ceres and Triptolemus, Ancient Greek, circa 330 BCE, Eleusis Archaeological Museum

Many community members call that highly personal and private process, Work—first reflecting on how the public parts of the ritual resonate deeply within us; and second, figuring out how to turn those internal meanings into outward behaviors and actions. Work is an active intellectual, emotional, and creative process. No two members of the community do their Work in quite the same way, either — but you can observe their Work in what they say, what they do, and what they show.

Under Stars,
Andrew B. Watt
Astrologer & Artist
http://andrewbwatt.com/

Beltaine Blessings

This past Sunday ushered in the month of Beltaine (or Bealtaine, as it’s spelled on modern Irish calendars), and for the first time in a long while, we gathered in person at Glenwood Farm, EarthSpirit’s home in Western MA, to celebrate. More than 70 people joined us for the Sacred Land Walk and the Beltaine ritual. The day was glorious and warm, and we visited shrines, danced a Maypole ritual, sang, and shared food and conversation.

But not before burning away Old Man Winter. Kate Richardson led us by eulogizing the old codger, and then burned his effigy in the ritual fire. We share her eulogy with you here, and wish you the brightest of Beltaine Blessings!

Kate and Old Man Winter (photo by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen)

Eulogy for Old Man Winter 2022

We’re gathered here for a joyful occasion: to welcome the spring and the summer to come. But before we can do that with our whole beings, we have to dispose of the Winter that has passed. The old man that was Winter stands here before us in effigy, and we should take a moment to remember him before we dispatch him. As he burns away he can take with him any ill luck and bad feelings from the past season, leaving us free to celebrate what’s to come.
Each year between Samhain and Yule a new Winter is born. We welcome him with feasting and songs, gathering with friends and family to remind ourselves of the bonds of community which will keep us safe and warm through the hard and cold times. As this Winter drove us indoors, he still kept company with the pestilence of the last two years. Although the Rona seems now more ubiquitous but less deadly, it managed to sow discord, anxiety, illness and distress. We were reminded more than ever to take care of each other, even if that meant keeping a distance.
As the Winter reached maturity, going from Yule to Imbolc, he showed off his strength by biting the extremities of hopeful apple tree wassailers, and casting snow in the way of gatherings. And yet, for folk who can enjoy the outdoors, there was snow enough for skiing, and ice enough for ice fishing, as is right and proper for our climate.
Waning in strength after Imbolc, and on to the Vernal Equinox, he still maintained an imposing presence. But there were cracks in his mansion when warmer weather peeked a toe, a finger, a nose, through for just a moment. Winter gripped tight but the trees knew, the birds knew, that his end was coming. The sap flowed sweet, as it is supposed to. The snow and ice melted in the sunny places.
Finally, after Equinox, he came into his dotage, a cranky and unkempt being. The mud season he bequeathed us was the stuff of legends. He petulantly threw late-season frosts and snowfalls our way.
But now we declare that he is well and truly gone. Any lingering chills will be in his memory, and not from his presence. But let us not forget the lessons of Winter:

★ That we must turn to each other to get through the reign of tyrants with hope intact.
★ That we have strength and resilience, fed by songs and stories, by gathering and breaking bread together.
★ That we can get through tough conditions if we plan and prepare, and help each other out.
★ That kindness matters, and can counteract the cold.
★ That there can be great beauty in difficult conditions.

What lessons and blessings has the Winter brought to you?

All that said, we are properly glad to see him gone. He was cold and nasty, and we are ready for the warm and growing times. We may mock him for the bully and codger that he was, for he is gone, and we are all still here to see this turn to the warm times. Go ahead and make fun of him; this effigy will carry the bad words and feelings away. Then we will sing and dance our way to the tide of returning life, taking our place in the turning of the season’s wheel.

Kate Richardson, Beltaine 2022

Samhain Musings

by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen

At this time of year I feel especially conscious of the deepening darkness, the stark stillness of the Earth. As the sap slows down in the trees and the animals gather food and ready their homes preparing for the cold, I too look into the cold and the dark and prepare, recognizing my own fragility and mortality in the face of the winter to come. I stack the wood, rake and mow the grass, put away the tools and toys of summer, and I go out to tend the Ancestor Shrine. 

Nestled deep in the woods by the stream and against an old stone wall, this space is dedicated to those beings whose lives have made ours possible, and to the ones we love who have gone before us into that other way of being that we call death. I rake the path and brush off the leaves that have accumulated in the Shrine, revealing the growing moss and stones beneath. I uncover the trinkets that have been placed there and offer libations to the ones whose bits of ash or hair are buried beneath the trees. I make sure that the clouties tied on the branches are not preventing growth. I add this year’s offerings – a stone, a key, a yarn-wrapped stake. 

It is now, at Samhain, in the quiet of the twilight of the year, that we can find an opportunity to truly see, to feel and to listen – to be fully aware of and acknowledge those who came before us, and those who came before them. I feel surrounded by my ancestors, by the spirits of the woods, by the songs of the stream and the caress of the wind. I feel welcome and a part of everything. 

photo by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen

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