by Anya Arthen — I come from Seed of a wild strawberry, Morning dew, Bark of apple tree, Heron, Cornflower. I am the coalescence of Spirit personified Sweetness of love mixed with raw inexperience I come from earth.
Soil between my toes, grew me Flowing water nourished my roots I emerged out of the carrot patch Sprouted legs, to walk away And dance among wildflowers
I come from traditions Only my mitochondria remember Passed to me by my mother Passed to my mother by her mother , Passed to her mother by her mother, To her mother by her mother, To her mother by her mother, To her mother by her mother, How many generations back, to remember?
The water that nourished me, Flows under bedrock Feeds plants and wildlife Filtered by roots for my consumption How many generations back, to remember?
My life is intertwined With those roots, With that water With those beings that feed it and feed off of it How many generations back, to remember? The earth is not my home The earth is who I am How many generations back, to remember?
The Ceremonies Ones honoring the more-than-human world Ones that revere the beauty of co-creation Ones of reciprocity to land and all her beings How many generations back, to remember?
by Anya Arthen — I am standing at the center of the world, stars above me in all directions as far as the eye can see. The words “I come from” are swirling in my mind, stirring the core of my being. I am at a crossroads, a convergence of three paths, and I have a choice.
I choose Red Walking, I come face to face with human ancestors, recently passed. I see moments, now only captured in memories. In a shard of pitch black, I stare at my own reflection, watching my features shift. A deep knowing, I too will be among them.
The red river of my blood flows on and I follow its path. Under the moonlight, I am faced with questions.
What harm did my ancestors do, what atrocities have my ancestors committed? How will my actions, here, in my life, in the world of the living do better? I receive a thread from a tapestry unwinding and an invitation to tie down my commitment, transmute that tapestry into something new.
The shore glistens, water lapping at the sand, I move on, my heart heavy and yet inspired. In a warm space, I sit with other living beings, silent, as we wash each other’s hands, and allow our tears to fall.
I am standing at the center of the world, stars above me in all directions as far as the eye can see. The words “I come from” are swirling in my mind, stirring the core of my being. I am at a crossroads, a convergence of three paths, and I have a choice.
I choose Blue Weavers are weaving, as they have been since the beginning of all that was, all that is, and all that ever will be. The First to light a fire, the First to sing, the First to cry, the First to make art, the First to make love, the First to kill, the First to plant a seed. I have been transported into the world of the ancestors long past, the ancestors of the evolution of my species. And I witness as the weavers entwine these threads of firsts into the tapestry of life.
With voices of the Firsts still echoing in my ears, I hear the story of Skywoman*, she who fell clutching in her hand branches, seeds, flowers, and fruit of the Tree of Life. Skywoman’s story is the story of the animals that sacrificed to help her. The muskrat who gave her last breath so that Skywoman could have mud. With a dance of gratitude, Skywoman stomped that mud into earth on turtle’s back. The story of Skywoman is the story of creation– rather it is the story of co-creation and Skywoman is our ancestral gardener, inherently intertwined with the animals and beings of the world her fall helped to create.
Through the woods I move, crouching under branches, soft moss under my feet, the crackle of fire drawing me closer, its warmth palpable in the cool night air. And I am standing in a ceremony of gratitude surrounded by embodiments of traditions to be remembered. An invitation: given grain, I am shown how to offer it to the fire imbued with my gratitude for those who came before.
Holding the fire close, I keep going. Out of the corner of my eye a flicker, something in the distance beyond tangled branches of mountain laurel. I pay attention. Peering in, I see distant human figures flowing in dance. I try to get closer, I want to dance with them. There is no path between them and me. It takes a moment to understand, I am witness to the dance of the ancestors. With no path to them, I keep moving forward and find myself among stargazers, reading the stars that have provided guiding light for time immemorial.
I am standing at the center of the world, stars above me in all directions as far as the eye can see. The words “I come from” are swirling in my mind, stirring the core of my being. I am at a crossroads, a convergence of three paths, and I have a choice.
I choose Green The trunk of this tree is vast, it holds the stories and memories human language has not touched. I am in awe as symbols and bright white bones of creatures once alive surround me, shift my awareness. The trunk of this tree, a portal. Step through.
I feel stone, mountain, boulder tell me their story. Through it I feel the weight of the frozen world. All That Time Ago. The loneliness. Then the tree beings came and everything changed.
A voice? A light? A mote of….? I follow deep into the forest over jagged rock and soft pine needle floor. I follow, feeling the language of leaves, the song of those on the edge of falling.
I follow, sinking deep into the bits of me that are like this ancient forest, that are of this ancient forest, that are this ancient forest.
I curl up in the roots of a tree and take their shape. I breath with the fern that pushed up through the soil between my limbs. My breath gives them life, their breath gives me mine.
It is hard to leave, unwind, reshape to walking. Back to self, yet somehow different.
At forest’s edge once more an invitation, this time to leave a piece of me forever behind, to leave the forest floor an offering of self, a reminder that she and I are one.
I stand at the center of the world, sStars above me in all directions as far as the eye can see. The words “I come from” are swirling in my mind, stirring the core of my being. I am at a crossroads, a convergence of three paths. I turn, and remember the fourth road that brought me here. I follow my footsteps back, being beckoned by the rhythm of the drums of my community. Now held in a space to integrate, I reflect on my journey to ancestors past, ancestors distant, and ancestors more-than-human.
* Throughout the night of the Twilight Covening Ritual sacred stories from many cultures around the world were told in honor of our collective human ancestors. The story of Skywoman comes from the teaching of the Haudenausanee peoples.
by Anya Arthen
— To be honest I do not remember ceremony being a part of my early childhood growing up in Russia, definitely not the way I know it now. The things we did that most resembled ceremonies were getting together and celebrating the new year with a beautifully decked out spruce tree, presents, and a toast to the countdown of the moments between 11:59pm and midnight, or maybe the yearly feasts that mark birthdays, years passing in a life.
As an immigrant in the United States when I was slightly older, ceremony started to become more prominent: ceremonies of weddings, graduations, naturalization to citizenship, and eventually funerals. Ceremonies and celebrations around the moments of significance in an individual’s life.
Now as an adult and as a Pagan, ceremony is infused into small daily
Photo by Engin Akyurt via Pexels
routines. It harmonizes to the phases of the moon, it punctuates the changing of the seasons, it celebrates the planting of a tree. Ceremony is Ritual. It is when I stand with community and acknowledge the moments of significance in an individual’s life. It is when we come together and open to lake, to green ones, to mountain, to creatures flying, swimming, and crawling, to sun and stars, to the unseen ones. It is when we come together to sing, and dance, and drum our gratitude into the land on which we stand, into the air which we breathe, out to the web we weave. It is when we sing up the sun on winter solstice morning, or watch it set over the horizon on summer solstice night. It is when I make my first cup of morning tea, breathing in intention for the day with its aroma.
This thought of ceremony has been sparked by a few passages that grasped at something deep within me from the book Braiding Sweetgrass.
Now, potent and powerful passages are not infrequent in that book. Yet, this particular one has had me mulling it over. Without rest it has been at the forefront of my mind.
Robin Wall Kimmerer writes:
“Ceremony focuses attention so that attention becomes intention. If you stand together and profess a thing before your community, it holds you accountable.
Ceremonies transcend the boundaries of the individual and resonate beyond the human realm. These acts of reverence are powerfully pragmatic. These are ceremonies that magnify life.”
She goes on to talk about something very similar to my experience in childhood and young adulthood: the fact that in the dominant culture ceremony is focused on the individuals, or mainly on the human experience. I will quote you the passage as her words are evocative.
“Many indigenous traditions still recognize the place of ceremony and often focus their celebrations on other species and events in the cycle of the seasons. In a colonist society the ceremonies that endure are portable from the old country. Ceremonies for the land no doubt existed there, but it seems they did not survive emigration in any substantial way. I think there is wisdom in regenerating them here, as a means to form bonds with this land.
To have agency in the world, ceremonies should be reciprocal co-creations, organic in nature, in which the community creates ceremony and the ceremony creates communities. They should not be cultural appropriations from Native peoples. But generating new ceremony in today’s world is hard to do. There are towns I know that hold apple festivals and Moose Mania, but despite the wonderful food, they tend toward the commercial. Educational events like wildflower weekends and Christmas bird counts are all steps in the right direction but they lack an active, reciprocal relationship with the more-than-human world.
I want to stand by the river in my finest dress. I want to sing, strong and hard, and stomp my feet with a hundred others so that the waters hum with our happiness. I want to dance for the renewal of the world.”
In writing those words in the time that preceded the publication of Braiding Sweetgrass in 2013, I wonder if Robin Wall Kimmerer felt the hundreds of people gathered on a mountain top by a lake overlooking her home state, singing, strong and hard, dancing so that the lake hummed with our happiness.
The words above encapsulate for me a deep aspect of what is so important about EarthSpirit, why was it that stepping foot into this community a mere 10 years ago shifted the trajectory of my entire life. It is because living as best I can co-creatively with the natural world around me makes sense. Gathering to celebrate in gratitude the beauty of spring and the abundance of late summer harvest, and in reverence the passage of time as the year wraps around to the cold seasons makes sense. Having a community to connect with and hold these ideals and carry these traditions makes sense.
I once heard a scholar of Russian history say that Russian culture has a pattern of self-destruction, that every 200 years or so, over and over again, Russian culture would get wiped clean and forcibly replaced. I never learned the traditions that were practiced by the people living on the land where I was born; they were not passed down in my family. In the United States I am an immigrant: I am not of the land I live on, yet I am of the land I live on, always learning to live in a way that nourishes that land and all beings on it.
That is what EarthSpirit has done for me. It has taught me the skills I need to live deeply rooted to the land. As a community drawn from the deep earth-centered traditions of the indigenous people of Europe, EarthSpirt gives all of us who are living in a colonist society a way to bring back the ceremonies that teach us how to actively form reciprocal relationships with the more-than-human world.
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
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 by Kimé Moore, used with permission
— To see more of Kimé’s art, visit her page, SwedishWillow Arts, on Instagram or Facebook.
EarthSpirit was one of the co-sponsoring groups for International Global Prayer Day, an event created by Grandmothers of the Sacred We, which is an organization founded by several Grandmothers (and Great-Grandmothers) from several different countries and spiritual traditions, with the intent of promoting world peace, understanding and respect. Andras and Donovan Arthen represented our community in this international Zoom event, and what follows is their statement and prayer.
I come with heart in hand
I come with peace in mind
I come with soul on fire
We are Donovan Arthen and Andras Arthen, and we join you from our homes in the hills of western Massachusetts. We bring with us the pagan traditions of the indigenous peoples of Galicia and Scotland that have come to us through our blood and through our teachers before us, whose ancestors before them learned from the mountains, trees, and storms, as do we now.
We are honored to be invited to be with this group of wisdom keepers of so many generations.
In recent days we have seen so much struggle across the world, so much pain, so much wounding and illness. But this is not new. It is the poisonous harvest of a long history of greed, which places the few above the many, and ignores the deep connection that all beings share.
As people who are striving to preserve the Indigenous spiritual traditions of Europe, we are very aware that this is a poison that has been spread all over the world by some of our own European ancestors. Those who embraced a religion that claimed ownership of the one Truth and rejected all others. Those who burned their own roots and tore holes in their hearts before they ever left their shores. Those who destroyed and forgot the traditions that connected them with the land that gave them birth, and persecuted into hiding those in their own families who refused to follow them.
To truly heal the wounds of this tragic legacy, European descendants must recognize the violent acts committed by these relatives of ours, and take action to remedy the harm that they caused and that we have benefited from. We must also look back to the roots that tie us to our Mother, and remember and embrace the traditions of our more ancient ancestors, so that we, too, can walk next to our cousins who continue to hold the old ways, the ways that bring healing, the ways that bring peace.
This is a time to listen deeply to our connection with our Mother, the Earth, so that we can give voice to wisdom that most human ears have long forgotten how to hear. It is time for those who have loudly spoken for so long to listen, and reflect on the voices and songs that are struggling to be heard.
The wind carries the stories of those who have been hidden, and those who have been buried under greed-disguised-as-progress, and it is time for us to raise our voices in song and shout alike, so that the bones of the Earth might echo with the rhythms of justice and of healing.
So that all peoples may find the endurance for the healing work ahead, we offer this prayer of peace and strength:
Power of raven be yours,
Power of eagle be yours,
Power of storm.
Goodness of sea be yours,
Goodness of earth be yours,
Goodness of sky.
Power of moon be yours,
Power of sun be yours,
Power of sea be yours,
Power of stars.
Yours be the unyielding course of the river,
Yours be the howling voice of the wind,
Yours be the fire that guides the way,
Yours be the strength of the stone,
May the deep peace of the running waves be with you,
May the deep peace of the flowing air be with you,
May the deep peace of the shining stars be with you,
May the deep peace of the quiet earth be with you,
This prayer was written by EarthSpirit elder and spiritual director, Andras Corban Arthen, and offered on summer solstice at a Solstice Global Prayer event hosted by Grandmothers of the Sacred We, a group of Grandmothers, Great-Grandmothers, and wisdom keepers from many nations. Learn more about Grandmothers of the Sacred We on their website or Facebook page.
The breath of the earth is the wind on the meadows,
the bones of the earth are the ancient stones,
the blood of the earth is the stream on the mountain,
the skin of the earth is the grassy soil ,
the arms of the earth are the trees of the forest,
the heart of the earth is a heart of fire ,
the soul of the earth is our very own soul.
Remember then, always
to sing with the wind,
to rest upon the stone,
to drink from the stream,
to kiss the green soil,
to place your arms round the trees,
to draw strength from the fire,
and to seek the spirit of the earth everywhere,
Remember: always return to the Earth
always return to the Earth
always return to the Earth
(O alento da terra é o vento nos prados, os ósos da terra son as pedras antigas, a sangue da terra é o regueiro no monte, a pel da terra é o solo herboso, os brazos da terra son as árbores do bosque, o corazón da terra é corazón de lume, a alma da terra é a nosa propia alma. Recorda entón, sempre cantar xunto co vento, descansar sobre as pedras, saciar a túa sede do regueiro, bicar o solo verde, abrazar as árbores, sacar forza do lume, e buscar a alma da terra por todas partes, en cada cousa. Recorda, volve sempre á terra volve sempre á terra volve sempre á terra.)
by Orion Foxwood
For nearly half a century, in the greening time of May, we have gathered in the woods summoned by the Life-that Runs-Thru-All and by a deep unexplainable longing for the connection that opens us wide and ends the homesickness that haunts humanity. The connection to Earth.
We, hundreds of humans and,
We, the wind, water, fire, and earth; tree, chipmunk, and cloud,
We, the unseen ancestors of humanity and, the-,
We, the “Wee”-ones (the invisible company) have met heart-to-heart, hope-to hope, deed-to-deed, vision-to-vision in cycles of birth, death, marriage, grief, and celebration united by a felt-cord of the community (human and other).
We have done this for 10 then 10 then 10 more cycles around the sun, and
all in service of -Earth, in celebration of -Earth
We have come from every direction to a sacred mountain, deep in the wild woods summoned by a voice that speaks to our longing for home, for the community, for the intimacy that is the salve of the soul, our origins, the home of our ancestors and the ancestor- Earth
We have immersed in the cleansing waters of a lake that courts the sky as celestial immensity smiles in her magic mirror and the watery one pours liquid beauty in ripples of tranquility washing tears of sorrow, delight, and homecoming, cradled in the bosom of- Earth
We, of many faces and diverse expressions of ethnicity, culture, sexuality, gender, traditions, pronouns, ages, and paths make our pilgrimage to ignite a sacred fire that warms all hearts, melts sorrows, awakens passion, ignites inner life, incinerates threads of illusion. And we erect a spindle, A pole to center and unifies all- as we dance in circles like planets around the sun with untattered ribbons inviting all of life to a web of song-weaving hearts, tears, compassion and sacred witnessing in the rain, shine, grassy field or sloshy mud- laughing (nay, giggling with childlike glee), singing, exhaling, and becoming innocent again children of one mother and her name is- Earth
We fly, we drive, we walk from all directions, from many states and countries, weaving with threads, breaths, glances, drum beats, poetry, performance and sacred art, all for the love of- Earth
We build communal bonds crossing generations, celebrating transformations as- sister and brother, father and mother, human and other. We awaken spirit-roads from the ancients past to a modern world, while unearthing silenced sacred spirits buried under the rubble of forgetfulness fueled by the illusion of isolation. They speak and teach – The Original Ancestors AND we listen deep. We are calling the roots to the tree to heal a family of- Earth
We have made the magic in one place for all places. For all places we go are on this sacred orb of blessing is, in truth, but one place. For in the spirit of the Earth we have come together and in the spirit of the earth, we are one. Our feet are on one earth and thus we consecrate the space that knows no distance and weaves threads and ribbons on the “inner-net” of life anchored by a center-post that aligns head, heart, gut, heaven, nature and the soul of the Earth.
The task that is ever before us- carry it light on your shoulders, carry it deep in your soul, for we have been blessed with magic and the magic will make us whole.
Sometimes we call it in and sometimes it summons us out.
We do it for us, all of us- seen and unseen and thresholds in between. It’s a rhythm, you know like a heartbeat, A breathing lung, or the ebb and flow of the ocean.
Sacred original instructions to be reborn in the spirit of Earth.
The Magic is in the EarthSpirit where we are ONE!
— We are delighted to share this beautiful piece from our dear friend and long-time Rites of Spring teacher, Orion Foxwood. These words originally appeared on Facebook and are re-printed here with his permission. To read more of Orion’s work and learn about his writing and teaching, please visit his website.
As you feel the shortening days and witness the changes in the landscape around you as Winter settles in, I want to take a moment to reflect on how your EarthSpirit community has stretched and grown over the past year.
Eldering ritual for Susan Curewitz Arthen and Morwen and Jimi Two Feathers at Rites of Spring.
For any group of people to truly become a community that has depth and longevity, it needs to become generational in scope. For years, within EarthSpirit, we have witnessed the Coming of Age of our young people and, more recently, we have begun to ritually acknowledge Elders of the community. At Rites of Spring this year, together we honored three Elders: Susan Curewitz Arthen, Jimi Two Feathers and, posthumously, Morwen Two Feathers. These respected members of our community were named Elders not simply because they had reached a certain age, but because they have served and shown commitment to the community for many, many years, generously providing leadership and teaching to hundreds of EarthSpirit members over that time.
It would be hard to reflect on 2019 without talking about the subsequent death of Susan Curewitz Arthen and the many ways she has continued to inspire and teach us as we came together around her rite of passage, her burial, and memorial. Susan’s 40-year commitment to EarthSpirit provided countless personal, ministerial, and practical gifts to all of us.
MotherTongue performing at Sue Arthen’s memorial.
Her welcoming smile, acceptance, willingness to listen, and ultimately her ability to provide a mirror to our deeper selves continues to teach us, and guide what EarthSpirit can become. In her memory, the Board has begun the creation of a “Sunflower Committee”, which will take up the task of ensuring that everyone attending EarthSpirit events feels welcome and appreciated.
Another part of the growth we have seen this year includes the expansion of the Board of Directors to include new members: Arianna Knapp and Isobel Arthen, bringing us to 10 members. The fully-volunteer Board works behind the scenes to keep EarthSpirit evolving with the needs of its community, fueled by your generosity and inspired by your actions and passions. With your feedback, and shared reflection, a number of new Board committees and teams have been formed or re-activated, including EarthSpirit Action – focused on opportunities to speak out in a way that can amplify the concerns for our world, Membership, Sexual Safety and Culture, Fundraising, and Program/Interfaith. We will be reaching out and looking to you to join us in framing the future of EarthSpirit with an eye toward shared stewardship and shared celebrations for five more decades.
The Board is committed to this work, and just this Fall its members engaged in a retreat led by EarthSpirit member Tatiana Lyons, to dig deeper on defining who we are and who we want to be, so that we can be more effective in our outreach and programming.
EarthSpirit volunteers tending the Sacred Grove at Glenwood.
At Glenwood, the community center and physical home of our organization continues to evolve. The Sacred Grove has been establishing its roots over the past ten years, and this year, with all 9 trees now in place, we are working to ensure their health and sustained growth. We are creating a rotation plan for the renewal of all of the sacred shrines on the land, and next year we plan to turn our attention to the Labyrinth. The solar installation is in its third year, and serves as a visible reminder of the way our mission of honoring the sacred Earth looks in the 21st century.
Building alliances and bridges of understanding is important, especially in today’s political climate. Andras Corban Arthen continues to serve as Vice-Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions and as President of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions. His leadership there connects EarthSpirit directly with people still practicing the old Indigenous ways in Europe as well as interfaith leaders around the world. Our Earthways Initiative reaches out specifically to Indigenous leaders in the US as well as in other parts of the world. We will continue to join forces with all of these peoples and groups, to further our work to protect the Earth and support other communities who share our values. Closer to home, EarthSpirit is significantly involved in Pagan Pride events across the Northeast (thanks in large part to Christopher LaFond), in local interfaith groups, and in Boston Pride.
As we enter our 5th decade, EarthSpirit continues to provide seasonal rituals, regional and national gatherings, rites of passage, classes and workshops, counseling, networking, and advocacy. This is a remarkable community with members who lift each other up.
The Healing Altar at Glenwood.
The times we live in provide many challenges, both global and personal. Our political climate is steeped in divisiveness and fear mongering, the Earth faces more drastic dangers everyday, and our hearts are heavy with the pain and grief of loss, illness, or injury of our loved ones. Our Healing Altar has been put to much use this year. Since Samhain of last year two dear community members have died, in addition to Sue – Lorna Tibbetts and Janet Banks – and many of us have lost other loved ones.
It has been evident each time that we have gathered in the last year how important this community is to all of us. Through quiet embraces holding the memory of our ancestors, to the laughter and joy of welcoming new babies into the light of summer at the maypole at Rites of Spring, this Web shows its strength everyday – including both those who can be present in body and those who hold their strand from a distance. Words cannot truly express how meaningful it is to be a part of such beauty.
Many of you have volunteered dozens of hours teaching, organizing, staffing, or planning for EarthSpirit events. Others of you have made one or more financial contributions already this year. We have consistently received contributions large and small which allow us to carry on. We appreciate every single one, as well as all of the volunteer time and expertise that our members contribute throughout the year.
Your open-hearted giving was directly felt at Rites of Spring when you came together to seed the newly created Morwen Two Feathers Fund, and the ripple was felt at Twilight Covening when 15 members of our community were able to join us for a truly transformational gathering as a result of that fund. The sheer depth of generosity of talent and spirit that came together for October’s Twilight Covening through the Clan Leaders, the artists, and the ritualists was amazing.
So many people have contributed in so many ways. Thank you! We feel blessed to share membership in this committed and dedicated community.
If you have not had the opportunity to participate in this year’s fundraising yet, or you have found further inspiration in this letter to participate once again, now is a great time. We count on all of you to be a part of the web that holds us together on so many levels.
We wish you all a prosperous and healthy year ahead.
We hope to see you at our Yule Celebrations in Eastern and Western Mass!
And, of course, at A Feast of Lights this February 7-9 in Sturbridge, MA!
Thank you all for being part of, and supporting, the EarthSpirit Community.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions closed yesterday. We go home today. It’s curious and apropos that today the planet Jupiter enters into Sagittarius, astrologically: wisdom and knowledge integrating with power and authority. When coherence and responsibility blend, the results look a lot like justice. The results look a lot like mercy and peace.
I heard from several aficionados of these Parliaments that “this time wasn’t as good as Salt Lake City (Utah, USA)” or “it wasn’t as intense as my experience in Melbourne (Australia).” For my part, as a first-timer, I was astonished by the range of diversity, nuance and complexity on display within the various theological and spiritual traditions — and the ways in which these vast and subtle traditions resolved to a few core principles again and again:
Develop a right relationship with the spirit world.
Develop a right relationship with nature.
Develop a right relationship with other human beings.
Develop a a right relationship with self.
Develop and iterate traditional practices that cultivate these relationships.
Now— it must be admitted, those relationships look VERY DIFFERENT based on whether your tradition began in a desert or a forest or a mountaintop or a city. Those
Our EarthSpirit delegation (photo by Moira Ashleigh)
relationships look different when they’ve been cultivated for fifty years, five hundred years, five thousand years, fifty thousand years. Those relationships look different if you’ve always been persecuted, never been persecuted, or suffered both extremes. Those relationships look different based on the portability and replicability and practicality of your traditions and the ideas it carries.
But the successful religious systems still look like justice. The successful ones still look like mercy. The successful ones still look like mutual respect and kindness for all the realms of being.
It can’t possibly be an accident.
Every conference attendee I spoke with couldn’t deny how powerfully we were affected by the conversations, the presentations, the constant reminders embedded in both our own traditions and those of others, to practice hospitality and welcome, to share with strangers, to communicate in trust and in good faith, to hope for a better world.
It doesn’t mean we’re not ruled by fear at times. It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have genuine conflict as individual people or as nations over resources, over access to necessary goods and services, or challenges with bad actors of various kinds. And, of course, we are all experiencing some of the most radical shifts in our relationships with nature, that our species has experienced in quite a long, long, long time.
But after talking with Buddhists, Indigenous elders, Sikhs, Jews, Christians, and other pagans and heathens — I end my own Parliament experience with recognition and insight and renewed sense of purpose that love, justice, and mercy live very close to the center of all of the Earth’s great wisdom traditions. and that love, justice, and mercy look a lot like long-term survival.
by Jennifer Bennett — When you think of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, lunch is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. The thousands of people from all over the world; the hundreds of workshops; the spiritual and religious presentations; and, the many, many speakers and booths full of information—these probably are. Yes, those are all important parts of the tapestry of this amazing gathering that happens once every three or so years somewhere on planet Earth. But, I’m here to tell you about the magic that is lunch at the Toronto Parliament.
The Sikh community, both local and partnering with communities from all over the world, offered langar every day of the 2018 Toronto Parliament. Langar–a free,
Isobel Arthen, Deirdre Pulgram Arthen, and Sam Long attending langar (photo by Moira Ashleigh)
communal lunch–is cooked, served and cleaned up after all by the Sikh community. Thousands of people are fed, every day. Langar is offered in a space specifically created for it–you are requested to take your shoes off, cover your head, and wash your hands. There are spaces for shoes, stations where they will tie temporary head coverings for you—if you don’t already have your own—and sinks are set up for handwashing. The Sikh community members sincerely welcome you all along the way and have informational kiosks about the Sikh community and their religion’s requirement of service set up around the area.
As you stand in the initial food line, lunch is ladled in to Styrofoam trays (which are recycled). Every person who serves food or water or hands you utensils, looks you in the eye and welcomes you personally. The food is some of the best vegetarian, Indian-style food you’ve ever tasted. Chapattis, nan, rice, dahls, lentils—different combinations, every day–are ladled into your tray. You then make your way to sit on the floor—thus illustrating that everyone (regardless of caste, or any other “category”) is equal. (A small number of tables with chairs are set up for those who require them.) As you sit and eat, more volunteers are wandering up and down the aisles of floor seating, with stainless steel buckets and ladles, constantly offering you more of everything on your tray. But wait, there’s even more! After you bring your trays etc. to the recycling table, it’s time to visit the dessert and chai table on your way out.
As if all this was not the Divine in action in and of itself–all this generosity, true service and abundance–there are also the relationships that spring up with those you randomly end up sitting next to. This is where real holiness blossoms.
Throughout the week of the Parliament, I shared langar encounters with a member of the The Troth’s Alliance for Inclusive Heathenry; a woman from Aumism–Universal Religion, who was from France (and spoke just about as much English as I did French—but we managed a bit of conversation anyway); a well-known Canadian grass roots organizer (who was asked by Prime Minister Trudeau to attend the G7 Advisory Council on Gender Equity) who ended up going to a crone-ing workshop because I mentioned it to her; the husband of one of the Parliament organizers; a family (whose faces lit up once they found out I was Pagan) who asked me if I knew a particular person from S. Carolina…and I did!; a lovely young couple—one of whom was running for office in his very conservative state district (as an out gay man) because no one else from his party was running; and another young man who was living in an intentionally-multi-faith household in New York City (Christian, Jewish, Muslim). When he found out I was Pagan, he actually apologized that they had no Pagans in their community…yet!
Talk about feeding your spirit! All these are folks I just randomly sat down next to, or they next to me, to enjoy our meals, became a huge part of the Parliament experience. The Divine works in many ways and through many voices. We should all, always, have such opportunities to “do lunch” and in such a Pagan-friendly, accepting and supportive atmosphere!