Haiti needs relief

As we know, we are deeply connected to all beings and the fortunes or misfortunes of one affects us all.

The current disaster in Haiti is beyond comprehension – hundreds of thousands homeless, injured, orphaned or dead. An entire crowded and already destitute city destroyed. In our warm homes here, for which we are so grateful, we can all reach out now with compassion and generosity, sending practical help along with our energy and prayers to the many victims of this disaster.

I encourage everyone reading this to take just a few moments to open your hearts to the Haitian people and then to take action. Even a small contribution will join with others to make a difference.

You can do your own research, but I found a couple of easy ways to donate quickly with your cell phone:

Yele Haiti: donate $5 by texting “Yele” to 501501, which will automatically donate $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund (it will be charged to your cell phone bill).

American Red Cross: Send a $10 Donation by Texting ‘Haiti’ to 90999.

You can find out how to do more through some of the many agencies working to get aid to Haiti at:

  http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2007/impact/

  http://www.google.com/relief/haitiearthquake/index.html

  http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=1004

sent with love,

Deirdre Arthen

Twilight Covening 2009 Visioning Ritual

by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen

Returning from this year’s Twilight Covening, I am struck once again by the power in a community working ritually together on a deep level. Each year we create a spiritual bridge together that brings us from the season of summer exuberance and brightness into the dark time of introspection and germination. The effect of this special and potent time stays with me all through the winter.

This year’s Visioning Ritual on Sunday was about the essence of fire itself, its many aspects and our relationship with it, as the humans that we are. It was about getting outside of our assumptions and symbolic minds and approaching a natural and elemental force – open and listening. It was a journey to learn, to shift and to gain a new companion in our continuing travels through our spiritual life. Here is the story that that was told to begin the journey. May it inspire you to travel further.

TWILIGHT COVENING 2009     VISIONING RITUAL STORY
Deirdre Pulgram Arthen, October 11, 2009

You are embarking on a journey to find a vision; to seek a path to follow into the winter.

Let me tell you a story about someone who was on a similar journey not so long ago.

A young man left home to seek a future for himself.  He knew it was time, though he had no particular goal in mind.  He just knew that if he looked hard enough he would find his way. So he wandered for months and had many wonderful adventures, but as the winds grew colder and the nights grew longer, he began to feel afraid that he would be pulled along into the cold dark time with no direction or path.

The stranger he met on the road one day appeared old and quiet. They traveled along together for a while side by side, and then the young traveler asked the wise woman, for that is who she was,

“What am I to do? The winter is coming and I am travelling without direction.  How will I know which path to chose?  How will I find my way?”

“Fire is the key”, she answered.  “Fire transforms.  You give fire one thing; it gives you back something else.  You must get to know fire, for if you do, fire can offer light to show you a path to chose and the power to follow it”.

“Know fire?  I lived with fire my whole life; I already know fire” the young traveler responded.

“No”, the wise woman said.  “What you have is assumptions about what you do or do not do with fire.  What you have is a head full of stories about what fire “means”.  Leave these assumptions and stories behind, and let yourself gain a new companion on your journey.  Fire is not an easy companion, but it is a strong ally.  It is obvious that we are made of earth and air and water, getting to know the fire itself brings us closer to knowing the fire within”.

And with that, she turned and walked away.

Not really understanding exactly what the wise woman meant about “knowing” the fire, the young traveler decided to see what he could find out about what it meant to know fire.  He went to the first fire he found and joined the crowd around it; he listened and he watched.  Eventually, he came to do as the people around that fire were doing, and after a short time said to himself,

“Ah, now I see, now I know fire and can ask for its help finding my way”.

But the fire answered, “No, there is much more, seek another fire.”

So he did.  He traveled for a time and found people gathered around another fire, and he tried to do as they did and come to know the fire.  Again, after a short time he said to himself,

“Ah, now I really know fire” to which the fire responded “No, there is much more, seek another fire”.

And so the young traveler did, fire after fire, taking a bit of knowing from each one, until one day he encountered a fire that spoke to him first!

“I recognize you”, the fire said.  “You have seen me in many forms, and I have seen you at those times as well.  If you work with me now, and bring all that you have learned, I will help you find the path to take.”

And so the young traveler approached that fire with an open heart, bringing all the lessons he had learned, and he began to talk with and listen to and dance with and make offerings to the fire.  In its turn, the fire offered him its light, its flickering visions, and the power to act on what he saw.

Together, they began to create a vision and find the direction for the next step on the traveler’s path.

[photos by Robbi Packard and by Dave Anderson]

Western Massachusetts Pagan Pride Day

by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen
photo by Michael Whitehouse

ritual circle at Western Mass. Pagan Pride Day
A number of EarthSpirit folks from the area spent yesterday at the Western Mass. Pagan Pride event. Thanks to Cassie Olewinski, whose hard work organizing was quite evident, the day was a great success overall. The EarthSpirit Community had been asked to lead the ritual this year and MotherTongue was also asked to perform so, since we had an information table there too, it was a very full day.

For the morning performance we intertwined group choral pieces with solos by Sarah Stockwell Arthen and Andras Corban Arthen. The mix was a good one, it went beautifully and we were well received – though it is always difficult to play for an audience that is milling about, and you kind of wonder if anyone is really listening. It’s certainly not the best venue for quiet or subtle songs, but we did hear appreciatively from people afterwards.

The afternoon ritual was the part that I found provocative in a lasting sort of way. We began with some of our community drummers playing to gather some energy and people in the area for the ritual. Again I was grateful to have a significant group of EarthSpirit Community members there, because many of the attendees seemed reticent about joining in, and together we created critical mass to get things moving. (Someone later said that the rituals in past years have been more demonstrative than participatory.) We began chanting and spiraling in to create a circle and did collect many people, but a portion of them still remained outside, even when invited in. It was a very participatory ritual including several chants, collective knot work and another spiral dance – a pretty typical EarthSpirit style ritual with an emphasis on accessibility for all and connection among the people there and with the natural world around us. The work of the ritual was about each person taking responsibility for her or his side of the relationships in their life – relationships with self, other people, the community and the web of creation – seeing what it is that we each need to do to hold our relationships with integrity and binding ourselves to do so. It was a good piece of work and it felt good as we did it together. We ended the ritual with the recognition that integrity in our relationships can bring us inner peace and, from that, help to create outer peace in the world that we are a part of. We sent out our wishes for that peace.

What lingers with me now is the recognition that came once again as we sang and danced together in that little green patch of earth near the highway, that many people in the greater pagan community – even those who have been involved for years – have not had much experience of that kind of ritual. Many people who consider themselves pagans gather more often indoors and follow a prescribed and scripted ritual when they celebrate their spirituality. To be invited to open up to the land that we were on and to the beings there, to feel our connections with each other and with the earth, to reach inside and find something there waiting to speak out – these are all aspects of ritual that I take for granted at this point but which were surprising and especially moving for some of the people who came up to me afterwards.

Today, in the September sunshine, I feel especially blessed and filled by the spiritual community that we have within EarthSpirit and by the traditions that we have preserved, reclaimed, brought together, developed and shared over these 30 years. It is wonderful to me when I watch people who celebrate and assume that this is the way that it has always been – because that shows me the depth to which the work has taken root. And it is also wonderful when I am with people experiencing these ways for the first time and they tell me that they will never forget that moment – because I am always amazed at their willingness to be so open and I am reminded of the importance of what we are doing together.

EarthSpirit and The Parliament of the World’s Religions, part 1

by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen

Logo for 2009 Parliament in Melbourne

Logo for 2009 Parliament in Melbourne

A little history

“The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions was created to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.” (www.parliamentofreligions.org [2009 archive])

In 1893 the first global interfaith conference in the United Sates was held in Chicago, and in 1993, as a centennial marker, the CPWR held its first modern parliament event. Members of the EarthSpirit Community attended that first Parliament where we offered presentations and performances, helped to organize a large full moon ritual in Grant Park, and Deborah Ann Light, a joint representative for EarthSpirit, Circle Sanctuary and Covenant of the Goddess signed the document “Toward a Global Ethic,” which you can see on the Parliament’s web site. (TowardsAGlobalEthic.pdf [archive] or here) It was a remarkable experience, and those of us who went brought back both a new awareness and appreciation of the variety and depth of spiritual practices and traditions around the world, and a sense of what the Earth-based traditions such as ours have to bring to the global interfaith conversation.

In 1999 the Parliament was held in Cape Town, South Africa, and again EarthSpirit was represented. Susan Curewitz Arthen and I organized a joint information table for U.S. pagan organizations and also offered presentations. Before the Parliament itself, I was also involved in discussions with the Council in Chicago which led to the crafting of a document titled “A Call to our Guiding Institutions,” addressed to religion, business, government, media and education, and which was presented and endorsed at the Parliament itself. (CalltoGuidingInstitutions.pdf [archive] or here)

In 2004 the Parliament was held in Barcelona, Spain, and EarthSpirit was again represented. MotherTongue traveled to Spain to perform, and members of EarthSpirit offered workshops and rituals and organized a shared information table. For several years prior to this event, Andras Corban Arthen had been developing connections with pagans throughout Spain, and particularly in Barcelona, so we were able to include many of them in various Parliament events and forged deeper friendships and connections which continue to this day. Two Spanish pagan groups have specifically used EarthSpirit as a model in developing their own organizations.

Andras and I were invited to be a part of the Assembly of Religious and Spiritual Leaders that year, and as such, we participated along with 200 other international delegates in in-depth conversations about issues such as access to clean water, equal rights for women, religious violence, and other critical concerns facing the world. From these conversations and others like them throughout the event, participants were encouraged to make commitments to taking action in their local communities.

In 2006 Andras was elected to the Board of Trustees of the CPWR and has been an active member there ever since. In 2007, he represented the Indigenous European Traditions on behalf of the Parliament at the Universal Forum of Cultures in Monterrey, Mexico, where he offered workshops and participated in rituals with members of the local indigenous communities. (http://spiritofthearth.blogspot.com/ )

In preparation for the 2009 Parliament, he has been a member of the Indigenous Task Force, working with a small group to contact and recruit leaders of indigenous spiritual traditions from around the world to offer special presentations at this year’s event. His focus has been especially on bringing in practitioners from South America and Europe. He has also been a part of the Program Committee, reviewing many of the thousands of program proposals that have been submitted, to help create the best possible content for the Parliament. Andras has also been building connections with pagans from Australia, and especially from Melbourne, where the Parliament is taking place.

This December, nine members of the EarthSpirit Community (so far) will travel ‘down under’ and join Andras to participate in the interfaith conversations, and offer workshops and rituals. We will host our own EarthSpirit information table and will collaborate in creating joint programs with others from earth-centered traditions. We are especially looking forward to connecting with members of the Australian pagan community.

We are very grateful to the members of EarthSpirit who have been so generous in their financial support of our interfaith work, especially over the last two years. While every person attending each of these Parliaments has made a considerable personal investment in order to be there, your donations have enabled the organization to be fully engaged in an ongoing international dialogue among deeply spiritual people committed to building a sustainable future. We have found we have a lot to learn and a lot to offer.

Coming soon:

More information about EarthSpirit’s participation in this year’s Parliament, and an attempt to answer the question, “So what does our community get out of all of this interfaith work?”

If you are a member of EarthSpirit and are interested in coming to the Parliament in Australia, you can get in touch with me: deirdre@earthspirit.com to talk about what we have planned.

Sparks and Ripples at Rites of Spring

by Deirdre Arthen

This year at Rites of Spring, EarthSpirit’s largest annual gathering ( www.earthspirit.com/ros/index.html ), we embarked on what will doubtless become a tradition there – an exploration of how our community’s spirituality manifests in the world. We called it “Sparks of Inspiration, Ripples of Action, Exploring How We Walk in the World”. We all come to the EarthSpirit Community from different places and paths, but we all share the belief that the Earth is sacred so we wanted to look at the many ways we live that belief in our day-to-day lives. The ways may be large and dramatic, or small and simple; public and visible, or private and subtle, and together we make a vibrant mosaic, a beautiful pattern of spirited and spiritual engagement with the world.

To make the patterns visible, we invited all Rites of Spring participants to share their particular part of the mosaic – any actions that have been inspired by their spirituality or connection to the Earth, whether those be in the community, through creativity, for the Earth directly, or in the lives of others – by creating a page, including a description of what they are doing, to add to an actual mosaic on the wall of the Dining Hall. It was wonderful to see how many different ways people are living their spirituality. We read about permaculture and green building, about assisting with births and deaths, about living off the grid, about working with children and working with local communities and about college students planning career paths directly emergent from their spiritual values. The scope was broad and the writing thoughtful. I look forward to sharing some of the specifics with you here soon (after I get permission).

There were several other aspects to “Sparks and Ripples” this year, in addition to the wall mosaic. One was an event on Saturday morning where some very active members of the community, Jimi Two Feathers, Sarah Stockwell-Arthen, Steve Trombulak, ALisa Starkweather, Isobel Arthen and I and some others, spread out on blankets in the merchant Circle to share more about our inspirations and actions in person. The topics ranged from environmental activism, to community planning to service-learning to healing. On Sunday during lunchtime, Sarah Stockwell-Arthen and Isobel Arthen hosted an introductory talk and round-table discussion about sustainability and activism, and several of our community rituals also included some focus on how we manifest our spirituality in the world. (Many thinks to Sarah, Isobel, Stephen, Morwen, Eric and Chris for their work to make this vision a reality at Rites of Spring this year.)

The Web Ritual, in particular, was very meaningful as people first made commitments to taking their own actions in the world and then as so many stepped forward to hold the strands of the web that make our own community – strands of communication, teaching our children, creating music and art, writing, growing food, developing earth-friendly technology, maintaining our sacred traditions and more. As small groups held the strands the rest of us wove ourselves into the web with many colored yarn – some even home-spun that day. The resulting structure was not only beautiful, but especially powerful to be with because of the depth of true intention that went into it.

“Sparks and Ripples” is a chance for us to see new aspects of each other and be inspired by the many ways that members of our community take actions that ripple out through the web, far beyond the bounds of Rites of Spring. We look forward to hearing what you have to share. Please drop us a comment and let us be inspired by you too!

Welcome to EarthSpirit Voices

by Andras and Deirdre Arthen

Welcome to EarthSpirit Voices, an interactive blog-journal which will serve as a way for members of the EarthSpirit community to bring the strength and depth of our connections onto the web. We intend this as a place for thoughtful conversation that is available to all for learning and sharing about Earth spirituality and the ways that our practices carry us through our lives.

As we begin, the major posts in the journal will be written by a group of individuals active within EarthSpirit. It will include some “official” postings, such as announcements of events or updates on EarthSpirit activities, but will more often feature thought-provoking articles intended to deepen our community and our spiritual practices. These may include interviews with long-time members of our community; an art gallery based on the Salons held at some of our events; songs or poems and excerpts from works of fiction by EarthSpirit members; articles about specific indigenous European traditions that connect to our current practices; ideas about building meaningful traditions for families with children; articles in response to workshops at Rites of Spring or some of our other gatherings; pieces specifically of interest to young adults, and much more. We hope to explore a variety of topics as broad as the diversity of our community, yet woven together by the shared intention of deepening our understanding and our spiritual connections with one another.

This is not only a place to read articles. Comments are encouraged, and we hope that many good conversations will be generated. We also welcome the submission of articles, art and creative writings. If you are interested in contributing, please write email to voices at earthspirit.com for more specific details. We do ask that comments be connected to what has already been written and that this not be used as a bulletin board to announce non-EarthSpirit-related events, to update the public on your daily life, or to complain about or denigrate others. We reserve the right to moderate comments if needed.