Deep Peace: Ten Years of Inspiration

by Susan Curewitz Arthen

“Peace in my heart
Peace between our hearts
Peace at the heart of the world”*

I am Susan, mother of Elizabeth, godmother of Isobel, daughter of Mary, grand-daughter of Sarah and Ann and I have spent the last ten Mother’s Day holidays celebrating with a Deep Peace ritual at the EarthSpirit Peace Cairn in Western Massachusetts.

In 2001 I was inspired to reclaim the origin of Mother’s Day after listening to a radio broadcast on NPR (National Public Radio). This holiday was the creation of Julia Ward Howe, abolitionist, feminist and author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, who issued a Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870 (below). She was outraged at the Franco-Prussian war, and felt that women needed to be called to action. Julia believed that if all mothers had a day off from their labors, they would find a way to make peace happen in the world. Although the holiday was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, it has clearly turned into something quite different from her vision. Hallmark cards, breakfast in bed and a new toaster oven replaced a radical call to change the world.

My personal feelings about Mother’s Day have been quite mixed. The holiday has always felt contrived to me; a day to honor those who Mother sounds wonderful, but there are the other 364 days where the reality of mothering is dismissed and undervalued and when, as a mother, I felt dismissed and undervalued as well. When I learned of the original intent of the holiday, I felt an immediate and urgent need to bring it to light within my own community, to share the passion and inspiration it fed in me. And all women, whether or not they have given birth, are welcome to Deep Peace. When Julia Ward Howe was alive, most women were mothers and that is not the case today.

My inspiration deepened after a workshop that Deirdre Pulgram-Arthen and I did at Rites of Spring, also in 2000, about the EarthSpirit Peace Cairn. She said, “Before we can make peace happen in the world, we need to find and commit to peace in our lives.” And so, Deep Peace was born. Every Mother’s Day, a group of women meet at the Peace Cairn; we share our female lineage, and open our hearts to peace with chant and movement. Then we each go off for some time for personal reflection. Some clear the ground around the Cairn, some sit by the stream or at the point where two streams join, and all of us seek what we want to honor in the coming year to bring peace into our lives. We often make a talisman to remind us of the commitment, and when we gather again by the Cairn we speak our commitments and also offer the story of any stones we may be adding to the mound. The richness of what is shared there often enriches me as much as any personal conclusions that I have come to, and I am amazed, honored and grateful at the willingness of the women to be so open.

Having the Peace Cairn as the location for the ritual was serendipitous. Or maybe not. The Cairn was offered as EarthSpirit’s gift to the 1999 Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions in answer to the challenge offered there — what were we going to do when the Parliament was over, what actions were we going to take in the world? Since then, the Cairn has grown from just a few stones to a mound; a Peace Pole was donated several years later with the words “May peace prevail on Earth” in four languages, one on each side. They are English, Gaelic, a Native American language and Pawprints, honoring those whose spirits dwell here. Visitors to the EarthSpirit Center are encouraged to bring stones for the Cairn: stones from their own land, stones from their travels. The stones that are brought to the Cairn create a web of connection to the places they have come from, and are blessed and nourished in many ways. The Deep Peace ritual is one way of sending our intentions back out through that web and into the world.

Some years the ritual is small — a handful of women — and some years it is bigger. The last few years, we have deepened the event by including Stand for Peace, sponsored by Julia’s Voice, a group of “mothers and others” also working to “Take Back Mother’s Day and honor Julia Ward Howe”, and thus expanding the energy going out through that web as well.

One notable year, we had several pairs of mothers and daughters and I was moved to tears when I asked Lucia, Deirdre’s mother and the oldest woman present, to start the lineage naming. It fed a need for multi-generational sharing that I did not know I contained. Every year brings a challenge, an answer, no small amount of camaraderie and joy, and, of course, delicious food sharing at the end.

My wish for this year is that others also begin to create Deep Peace moments wherever they are on Mother’s Day in addition to any traditional celebrations; take some time for yourself, connect to the Deep Peace ritual, connect to the Stand for Peace event, open to what will bring you peace in the coming year, and feel the strength of our power and intent. “Arise, the women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts…”

Mother’s Day Proclamation, by Julia Ward Howe, 1870

Arise, the women of this day!

Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies.
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice!” Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession. As great men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, and each bearing after her own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

*(Deep Peace chant, at top, © Copper Fox)
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