Ancestors

Today’s post is by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen.  Deirdre has been a witch for over 30 years and is the executive director of EarthSpirit.
I spent the day today in the presence of my ancestors – beginning this morning as I raked and prepared the path through the woods to the Ancestor Shrine, lay the fire and collected the tools that I needed. Then this afternoon, as a part of EarthSpirit’s Sacred Lands series, I led a ritual of remembrance and honoring as I have for the past several years. It is a simple ritual and sometimes that is the best.
At mid-afternoon a small group of us walk in silence through the meadow, under the archway of trees and into the woods alongside the stream, which talks and sings as we pass. Dry leaves crunch underfoot but the winterberry is in full display and the moss on the wooden

Ancestor shrine in the woods

The ancestor shrine at Glenwood

board we cross over is thick and green. We travel over the hemlock-needled trail until we reach a stone fire circle. Beyond that is the shrine. This whole area is dedicated to those who have gone before us and even at other times of year you can feel their presence in the dark moss, mushrooms and rotting wood. Today the feeling is stronger still.

We have brought a decorated pole from the web ritual at Rites of Spring and some of us set to work planting it in the ground. Two people set the shell spirals from Twilight Covening in their new places and a others light the fire.The ritual is simple, as I said. We gather and open to the natural space around us with words and song and then we sit on the logs around the fire each with a stick to add when we choose to speak. As in a dumb supper without the food, each one of us in turn calls to mind and speaks of an ancestor or loved one. We make an offering to the fire in their honor, the bell rings three times, and we take white cotton cloth to tie as a cloutie on a tree near the Shrine where it will remain until it rots.One call follows another – this person’s mother, that one’s brother, a family dog, ancestors long past, an aunt, a grandmother – all join with us in the web of creation which is made of all we know. We finish with a cup of cider raised in honor of their lives, another song and time for ourselves in the woods there by the stream. Then, as we are ready, we make our own way out of the woods.

Samhain is a season more than a day. As the leaves fall and October slips by, the closeness of the spirit world is tangible and the call to enter in grows stronger. Our ancestors, whether of blood or heart, of spirit or of tradition are part of who we are. This is a good time to reach toward them and remember.

Advertisements

On music and roots

By Deirdre Pulgram Arthen

This past weekend I attended the Old Songs Festival just outside of Albany, NY, as I have done for all but two of the last dozen years. It is a place that feeds my soul. I get to dance and sing, listen to and play music —  and relax, with no performance expectations from anyone. The musicians who come there are, for the most part, people who feel the roots of their music: they study their traditions in great depth and absorb them into their bodies, then exude them in their playing and singing. Their motivation is love — not fame or fortune, but love of music, love of the old ways themselves, love of the people who brought the traditions into being and of those people who carried them on, love of harmony, love of community, love of our species, love of the earth.  Many of the people who perform, organize, and attend have deep and long-held commitments to social justice and to the environment. Many have been political activists for decades. Very few preach. Instead we bask the joy of making music together as we walk through the fairgrounds and feel the satisfaction found in sharing the work of making the world a better place.

Gordon Bok and Archie Fisher performing

Gordon Bok and Archie Fisher performing at Old Songs 2013 (photo by Andras Corban Arthen)

While there were many things that I loved that weekend, there was a song that Gordon Bok performed that especially touched me.  It was something that he had written years ago as a result of listening to the marine radio channel in Maine, which he said he does for entertainment sometimes. It was essentially a conversation between two lobster fishermen. One was stuck and, over the course of the song, the other one came to help. That was it, really.  But something in the way that Gordon captured all of us in the fairly common conversation of two men on the water was just magic to me. There they were, fishermen on the ocean – that vast and moving body of water that cares nothing for people, but still feeds us and gives us life. And here we all are, humans in a universe that is not centered on our needs and desires, but which we must live in and depend on while we are incarnate beings.  We can forget sometimes that we are also floating – maybe near the rocks, maybe out of our depth – and that the simple act of accepting an offer of help allows both us and our neighbors to experience ourselves more fully as the interconnected beings that we are. The song held the magic of knowing, and Gordon shared that knowing with us all.

I find my own path reflected in that community of music makers. I, too, value the roots of my traditions and those who have brought them forward, and I find in the shared songs and dances true expressions of the joy of being human, fully intertwined with all that is creation.

Rev. Richard Ravish

by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen
We are saddened by the news that our long-time friend Richard Ravish died in Salem Massachusetts on Saturday morning 9/15 at the age of 59. It is a true loss to many of us and we send our love and condolences to his wife Gypsy, his daughter Asherah and his stepdaughter Kitoto.
 
Richard and his wife Gypsy (Amy), who Andras and I handfasted many, many years ago, have been leaders in the Salem Wiccan and occult communities for 30 years. Richard was a Wiccan high priest – the Magus of the Temple of Nine Wells ATC, a public congregation in Salem and high priest of the coven of Akhelarre.  He was a Freemason, Thelmic and Enochian magician, a Rosicrucian and a Hermetic initiate. He lived fully out of his spiritual practice and gave generously of himself to many as teacher, priest and chaplain.   
 
Richard was a designer of magical tools, was proprietor of the store, Nu Aeon, creator of the gallery Cosmic Connection – both in Salem, and together he and Gypsy were the owners of White Light Pentacles/Sacred Spirit Products Inc.
 
May his spirit fly free. May his family and loved ones find peace, in time.
Blessings to all.
 
You can find a full obituary and memorial details here at Salem News.

Thank you all for helping

by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen

It has been another busy year for EarthSpirit, as we have consolidated and expanded our important work in all branches of activity — thanks, in large part, to many dedicated community members who have made contributions of their time, expertise, goods and funds to support the work of the organization. We are very grateful; we could not do it all without you.

In over thirty years of existence, EarthSpirit has been able to grow into one of the largest pagan organizations in the US, supporting its members with programs and actively engaging in the world on many levels to create change. We’ve done a lot, and we look forward to doing more.

One of the original intentions of EarthSpirit was to build spiritual community through connections. Over the years this has always meant local and regional celebrations and gatherings, publications, performances and classes. By offering programs and leading rituals for other organizations, we build relationships regionally and around the country. Increasingly, EarthSpirit has reached out to its international members to assist in developing community in Europe and Central and South America. We hope to further develop and deepen these efforts in the coming year.

Our web site, www.earthspirit.com, continues to be an entry-point for newcomers as well as a resource for long-time members. Our recent addition of EarthSpirit Voices (earthspiritcommunity.blogspot.com) has brought sharing and discussion of spiritual practice into our presence on the Web. We look forward to expanding and improving both of these important communication vehicles in the near future.

In the early 1980s we realized that pagans, given the opportunity, could make meaningful contributions to the interfaith dialogues that were developing both nationally and globally, and that we could also benefit greatly from participation in such forums. Since that time, EarthSpirit has played a major role in helping paganism attain a much greater level of credibility and respect within the interreligious movement. The work that EarthSpirit director, Andras Corban Arthen, has been doing through his service on the board of trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR) has been growing. Last November, Andras was sent by the CPWR to Guadalajara, Mexico, as part of the site committee which evaluated that city’s bid to host the 2014 Parliament. While there, he also had the opportunity to meet with many local pagans as well as several indigenous leaders.

In February, Andras went to Chicago to help choose the host city for the 2014 Parliament, which will be Brussels, Belgium. In early May, he was sent back to Guadalajara along with CPWR executive director Dirk Ficca to explore ways to maintain a working relationship with the local group that organized that city’s bid, including a collaboration to develop an interreligious initiative throughout Latin America. As a result of that trip, Andras was asked to serve as the CPWR’s liaison with the Guadalajara group. In addition, Andras was elected again to the CPWR’s executive committee, and was asked to oversee the Parliament’s Ambassadors program, which coordinates several hundred Parliament supporters from all over the world.

The ‘Indians’ of Old Europe, the presentation that Andras has been offering in recent years which places the surviving pagan traditions in the context of Indigenous European spirituality, has been receiving a great deal of favorable attention throughout the interfaith movement, with lots of people telling him how it’s helped them to see paganism in a different light and to take it much more seriously. As a result, he has been receiving many invitations to speak at interfaith and academic events in the U.S. and abroad, including two next year in India and Denmark. Unfortunately, those invitations rarely cover all of the expenses involved, so the only way he is able to attend is through the support and generosity of our community.

EarthSpirit has been committed to young people since the outset. Without engaging and including youth, any community becomes unsustainable. Our mentoring programs, Rites of Passage ceremonies and ongoing activities such as EarthSpirit PeaceJam help those growing up within our community learn from the experience of elders while finding their own voices and means of expression. In the coming year we look forward to continuing and expanding our support for these programs.

In 2011, thanks to our generous donors, we have replaced our sluggish and undependable office computers with new Dells that actually work reliably. What a difference it makes for our office volunteers! We have also begun work to completely revamp our database system using expert volunteers to develop and create a configuration that will greatly improve our ability to stay connected with members across the US and around the world.

As you might imagine, all of this work, in so many areas, requires a significant amount of money to sustain it. Despite the struggling economy over the past few years, our community has been very generous. We have consistently received contributions large and small — both in the mail and at the auction at Rites of Spring. We appreciate every single one. Please consider increasing your donation to EarthSpirit this year to help us move quickly toward our goals.

We count on you to be a part of the web that holds us together on so many levels. Thank you all for helping EarthSpirit to continue moving forward!

Deirdre Pulgram Arthen, Executive Director

Boston Gay Pride Interfaith Service

by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen

This weekend I was invited to participate in the Boston Gay Pride Interfaith Service. It took place at the Old South Church in Copley Square right before the parade on Saturday morning. It was wonderful to be a part of what turned out to be an inspiring service on many levels and I was heartily welcomed into the group of clergy which included Buddhist, Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim and Yoruba representation — in addition to the Pagan. I look forward to having the opportunity soon to connect more closely with the organizing committee for this service and, perhaps, to finding some EarthSpirit members who would like to coordinate an EarthSpirit presence at Pride events around the state next year.

My part of the service was the “Call to Worship” which happens at the beginning of a Christian service as a transition into the focused spiritual part of the service after the welcoming remarks and announcements. The theme of the entire Pride week celebration was “no more and no less.” Here is the text of my remarks:
Good morning,
We come together to begin this very festive day with a moment of reflection on, and celebration of, our personal connections with spirit, We do this here in a community of others for whom that spiritual connection is also an important part of life. Look around you and see the diversity of who we are here – We come from many backgrounds, from many spiritual traditions, we have different temperaments, different lifestyles and different perspectives. But at the root of it all, what we share in common is our humanity and, through that, our own special place in the web of creation.

In that web of life are the trees, the stars, the rocks, the rivers, the birds, the grasses on the plains, the thundering waves of the ocean, the insects in your garden, the deer and the coyotes in the forest, the mist rising at dawn. What wonder we can know when we open and experience the majesty of each of these! And what wonder can we know when we see that we are, each of us, no more and no less than any of these beautiful and powerful aspects of creation. That we are the earth itself.

Many people are inclined, I think, to choose to see themselves as separate from the world, to create an “us and them” divide that either values humans as the owners of a world where everything is created especially for our own use, or to denigrate our role to that of a cancer – eating away at our fragile eco-system and destroying our home.

While it is undoubtedly true that we humans have extraordinary capacities to create and to destroy, and that with that capacity comes an obligation to be conscious of our actions and take responsibility for them, as long as we keep viewing ourselves separate from the web we will not know how to keep it intact. We will not know the depth of the ways that our tugging on one strand affects the rest.

My experience has been that when I am able to let go of my assumptions, to allow myself to move away from my rational, judgmental brain and into my heart and spirit – to find that place in this sacred web where I belong, that place where I am one with the very soul of the Earth and the sky and all the beings in them, I can touch the mystery I am a part of, and find direction and peace.
I invite you to join me now in a call and response to open ourselves deeply to the sacred of which we are a part – no more, and no less than any other. My daughter, Isobel, will sing the response part with you – the words are simply “I am the Earth”

We then sang my chant “I am the Earth” together as a call and response.

(I was followed by a Muslim woman who read a scripture from the Koran and then by a Yoruba practitioner who led us all in a drum blessing.)

[Photos by Moira Ashleigh]

Coming Together for All Beings of the Earth

by Deirdre Arthen

Dear friends, Just a reminder that the deadline for registering for Rites of Spring is coming up very soon – May 15! Don’t miss the warmth of the fire and the magic of community on the mountain. You can find all you need to register at: http://www.earthspirit.com/ros/rosb.html

I also wanted to remind you that the first Sacred Land Open House at Glenwood is taking place this Sunday, May 9. These afternoon events in western Massachusetts are free, include a tour of the land, and this week there are two programs to choose from – Qi Kong with Jonathan Kapsten, and Deep Peace – a Mother’s Day peace ritual for women. You can find out more at: http://www.earthspirit.com/openhouse/index.html

On a more somber note – as we celebrate All Beings of the Earth at Rites of Spring this year, many of us are feeling a strong desire to join in an effort to send protective and peaceful energy to all the beings living in the area of the Gulf of Mexico who are so threatened by the man-made disaster occurring there. This weekend, many EarthSpirit members will be at Glenwood for one reason or another and we are planning a simple and focused working with that intention. We invite you to join us from wherever you are.

We will place a stone and a natural sponge in the center of our labyrinth. Each person who wants to participate will follow the path to the center with the clean sea-water of the Gulf in mind, quietly singing the following chant: Holy water, Healing Water, Life-bringer, Water flow, and building power of intent. (I wrote the chant, which is on MotherTongue’s Weaving the Web of Life cd, to be used to reawaken us to the sacred nature of water, since I feel that it is largely because humans do not acknowledge the sanctity of water that we abuse it and pollute it.) Once in the center, we will hold the two objects and fill them with our intention – the stone to carry our protection, and the sponge to absorb the damage that is already being done.

At the end of the weekend we will send both the stone and the sponge to EarthSpirit members in Louisiana, so that they can put them into the water and complete the working.

If you are at a distance, but would also like to participate, you can either focus your intention on the objects here at Glenwood that will be travelling south, or you can fill your own objects and put them in a natural water source near your home. All water is connected on this planet, and whether you place a stone in the stream behind your house or in the reservoir in the next town, your intention will flow to where it is needed.

We would love for you to tell us about your experience with this, right here on EarthSpirit Voices. The photo accompanying this post shows the labyrinth at Glenwood, to help make your focus easier if you’re joining us from afar.

Celebrating Spring and honoring those with whom we share this sacred Earth!
Deirdre
Arthen