I Come From

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?

Image by Zach Reiner from Unsplash

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?

Twilight Covening 2019

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. 

I follow.

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.

What do you think of when you think of ceremony?

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

Hands lifting water

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.

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

Goosebumps

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.

Good Counsel (Bo Consello)

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,
in everything.
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.)

solstice fire

The Calling to Rites of Spring: it’s a WE thing!

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 planet-earth-1401465698wt7summoned 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.

It Looks A Lot Like Justice

By Andrew Watt

Written on November 8, 2018

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

p1150403

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.

It can’t possibly be an accident.

Spirit Soaring!

by Kate Richardson

The Spirit Soaring Art Salon and Gallery formed the core and bulk of my experience at the Parliament of 2018. In the weeks leading up to it, I had already been reaching out to and communicating with artists who might participate. When I arrived on Thursday, the first thing I did after checking in at the EarthSpirit booth was to start setting up the gallery space, located in a generous alcove right next to the Red Tent. Deirdre negotiated lighting as I unloaded my easels and tables (the overhead fluorescents were on one switch, and lit both gallery and Red Tent).

Deborah Koff-Chapin showed up early, and set up a table draped with a banner and decks of her Soul Cards. Deborah then spent every plenary and assembly making ‘touch paintings’ in response to the speakers and performers; keep an eye out for an online gallery of her Parliament work. Swami Matagiri Perkins dropped off two paintings by Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, and I set up a table with the drawing I had brought and some cards, just so it wouldn’t seem empty.

Over the next couple of days more work arrived and the space became full and lively. One evening an artists who became aware of the gallery while visiting the Red Tent

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Mosa’s altar and Carolyn’s mask (photo by Moira Ashleigh)

called me to ask if she could set up an altar. I enthusiastically invited her to do so; it was a thing I wished I had the energy and resources to plan and execute but had not been able to. So I met Mosa McNeilly, who set up a beautiful and deeply meaningful altar honoring Yemaya, and her ancestors brought from Africa to America. She gave permission to share the poem she posted alongside the altar, which I will do in a separate post.

Sunday morning I arrived to check on the gallery and found some striking drawings of stylized goddess faces right next to Carolyn Hawthorn’s paper sculpture of Medusa’s head, resonating with her fierce energy.  I did not get to meet the artist, Megha Venketasamy, until the actual Salon on Monday, just another example of the beautiful synergy of our location right next to the Red Tent.  I can’t speak enough gratitude for the way ALisa and the Red Tent holders shared the space and the flow of energy through our area. The Spirit Soaring gallery and the Red Tent experienced a flow of conversation, energy and experience between them that felt inviting and richly creative.

Finally Monday noon arrived, and the gallery filled with even more art, along with all the artists and others who came to attend the Salon. I patterned the presentation on our EarthSpirit Art Salons. Each of the artists briefly introduced herself and her work, then presented some statement or demonstration of how her creative process connects with or expresses her spirituality. With 17 artists presenting, we used the entire 90 minute time allotted, and many stayed later to engage or continue conversations.

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Dr. Suresh dancing (photo by Moira Ashleigh)

The offerings were wide-ranging. There were drawings, paintings and photography, weavings and tapestries, and books. Cheri Jamison sang an operatic aria, Mani Rao sang one of the Zoroastrian devotional songs she has composed, Dr. Padmaja Suresh along with her spoken presentation, demonstrated her training in Indian classical dance. Mosa read her poem and called on Yemaya with chant and rattle. The artists came from different disciplines and different spiritual backgrounds, and there was a joyful enthusiasm of sharing the wealth and range of expression.

Many of the artists expressed interest in keeping in touch with each other, and following each others’ work. I felt that the supportive, engaging experience I’ve had with our EarthSpirit Art Salon’s format translated very well to this setting. I received enthusiastic feedback encouraging us to repeat and expand upon it for the next Parliament.

I had thought this would be the end of my blog post, which I drafted after the Art Salon, but the experience continued! On Tuesday, the art started to leave the gallery, and I started to break down the easels and tables. In the late afternoon as the space was emptying out, Mosa came by with some friends, and began drumming on some drums she’d left there after a workshop. People began dancing, and joining in the drumming and chanting. The now mostly empty gallery space became an impromptu drum and dance, which seemed a most fitting closing for the joyful expressive energy that had inhabited that corner of the convention center. It delighted me as I was preparing to let go of a space I’d been holding all week, and seemed like a natural outgrowth of the kind of energy that EarthSpirit seems to join with and bring forth in the world.

Transforming Masculinity

by Will Rowan

My name is William, and I am a man. I am a man who struggles with how to be me in a culture that has strict definitions of what a man should and shouldn’t be. I am a man who had to relearn to cry as an adult. I am a man who struggles with rage and who needs to remind myself that I can ask for help when life is overwhelming. I am a man who is getting better at admitting and apologizing when I am wrong or when I have made a mistake. I am a man who listens to and believes women. I am a man who is in service to my community, which includes all beings of the Earth. I am a man who seeks the mystery.

When I was 25, I came to a gathering called Rites of Spring. Within half a day, every man (and a few women) who I had met came up to me at lunch and told me that I should go to the beach and meet the Brotherhood of the Stag and Wolf. How could I say no to that?

On the beach, we met each other hand to hand, body to body. We pushed each other upwards, and we caught each other when we fell. And we held each other when we cried—we gave each other space to let out the pressure that had been building and building inside of us. But we let it out without fear of hurting anyone, because we held each other.

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Will and Donovan demonstrate during the workshop (photo by Moira Ashleigh)

And over the years, we built networks of trust with one another. We howled into the distance between us and our brothers called back, offering to us a witness of our struggles. And we grappled with what it means to be a good person in a world that tells us over and over that to be a real man we have to hurt our sisters, our brothers, and all others who dare to not bow at the altar of He-Man. We sacralized this work, built a temple, and took our place in the web of our community.

And now we’re sharing it with the world in the hopes that other men can learn from our stumbles and our successes and take up this important work themselves.

For the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Donovan Arthen and I spoke about our experiences with the Brotherhood of the Stag and Wolf, its founding, its development, and the effect it has had in our lives. The presentation was called Transforming Masculinity: Changing the Way that Men Engage with Communities. The response to the material from the fifty-some-odd people in the room was palpable and I hope we left them inspired to go out and do their own version of this important work. Unfortunately, Donovan and I spoke so passionately about the subject that we ran out of time to answer questions!

So here are some of the questions folks wrote down for us along with my answers. Please note, these are my answers, based on my experience, and I do not speak for Donovan or for the all members of the Brotherhood of the Stag and Wolf.

What suggestions do you have for transferring this experience to young men living in an urban setting?

Donovan did answer this one at the Parliament. He suggested taking them out of the urban setting to begin with. I definitely second that. Even if that’s not possible, it’s important to bring this work away from environments associated the sort of heckling that often goes along with recreational and sporting culture among men. A good urban setting for this kind of work would be a martial arts dojo, and I would suggest respecting the customs of the dojo by bowing when entering or leaving the mats. Keeping whatever space this happens in sacred is important.

Say there is a young man who is struggling with toxic masculinity to the point of making others feel uncomfortable. However, this young man doesn’t see a need to change. How do you help him become aware of his actions?

This is a tough one. This kind of young man is habituated to discount the words of women and feminine folk, and he also is likely to ignore any criticism of his actions from any source — especially if it’s paternal. To accept criticism is to admit defeat and lose face, and this defensive mindset is a master shape-changer that can rationalize itself for days.  (I should know, I’ve lived it.)  He needs to be called on his behavior by people he respects and trusts who are willing to be patient with him refusing their criticism over and over again. And in order for that to happen, somebody has to gain his trust and respect first. That’s a lot of emotional labor, and it’s definitely not a burden to be put on the shoulders of the ones he’s making uncomfortable. This sort of emotional education is often the province of coaches, outdoor educators, and camp counselors. The trouble is, a lot of coaches—men specifically—are still operating within the constraints of the same model of masculinity and so need to break themselves out before they can do this work for others.

Do you share your vulnerabilities with each other? Also do you work on relationships with women?

In some of our work in the past five years, we’ve come together to share what we’re going through in our lives and how we’re doing. The network of howls (sending a simple coded email to a whole list and whoever is available can respond), has been another way for us to see each other in a supportive way at our most vulnerable. As to relationships with women, we’re all working on our own relationships and support each other on an individual level as requested by each other. However, some of the best work on that that I’ve seen in our community was when we hosted a series of discussions over several years entitled “I’m a Guy, Any Questions?” During those we dug into a lot of the pervasive societal gender dynamics we see around us and talked about ways that men can use their privilege to support women rather than marginalize them

What are the ways (if any) that a woman can assist a man to break the societal expectations of masculinity?

I have to say it’s really tough for me to suggest that women and feminine folk take on more emotional labor than is already loaded on them by default in our culture. This is our work, and we really can’t ask you to shoulder the burden for us. That being said, when you have the bandwidth, there are some things that in my experience help.

1) Don’t pull your punches, rhetorically speaking. Sparing our feelings only teaches us that our comfort in ourselves is more important than your emotional well-being and sovereignty.
2) Celebrate and encourage the ways that men around you are breaking societal expectations. Sometimes we’re putting a brave face on it, but we’re internally nervous as heck.
3) Please don’t participate in the casual shaming of “feminine” behavior in men, and call shamers out.
4) This is a silly one: call it a bun, not a man-bun.  It’s the same hairstyle. We don’t need to be insulated from the merest whiff of femininity by having it called “guy-liner.” Is our masculinity really so fragile we have to put “man-” in front of a purse in order to carry a moderate number of things around? #petpeeves

Ancestors at A Parliament of the World’s Religions

by Arianna Knapp

As I drove the last few hours toward Toronto, I realized that I was coming to my Grandmother’s childhood home, and the city where my ancestors had arrived from

Kay Malcom Knapp

Kay Malcom Knapp

Scotland at the turn of the last century. It has been remarkable to witness and participate in a variety of cultural rituals which have each venerated ancestors. Her presence has echoed in my mind and poked at my bones as a chalice is raised and I walk a Wiccan circle dance invoking her spirit at Sam Hain, I speak her name over a horn of mead at a Sumble witnessed by dozens of participants from a variety of cultures, and meditate on her journey to the drums and chants of Canada’s First People.

Added to the depth of connection is the discussion of women’s history, empowerment and agency. There was never a time to explore such things with her, she left this world before I was of an age to ask the questions. However, I have the distinct impression that she is witnessing the generations of her lineage and proud to know how we have carried her name, her strength, and her kindness into our world.

Kay Malcolm Knapp: you are carried by:
Alma Kay Alberghini
Kael Laurel Malcolm Alberghini
Arianna Knapp