Parliament Day Two: People Call Us Pagans, and more

by Moira Ashleigh

Day two dawned early and clear with all of us knowing it would be a long day. Our events started at 9:30 AM with a panel: People Call Us Pagans – The European Indigenous Tradition. The three panelists were: Andras Corban Arthen, Phyllis Curott, and Angie Buchanan. MotherTongue sung, “In the Circle of Earth and Sky”, as an intro piece to the panel.

Topics the panel covered were: why we use the name Pagan, the similarity in the yearly holiday calendars, sacred geometry, the indigenous aspects of Paganism, Nature as teacher, and techniques to “remove the blindfold.” The room was full to overflowing with 101 people attending in a room meant to hold 70.

Today there were 3 video interviews done in the EarthSpirit Booth. The Clinton Global Initiative, an independent film maker from Canada, and Vision Peace Now. People are very excited to talk to us. Hearing advice like: “Go outdoors and spend some time in Nature, find a tree and listen. Listen to the rocks and streams, until you can hear them.”

Directly after the morning Pagan panel, Isobel Arthen was one of the speakers in the Daily Youth Session: Mother Nature Doesn’t Do Bailouts. The young people were very motivational in their passion about caring for the Earth. There were youth speakers from Christian, Native American, Buddhist, Aboriginal and Pagan traditions.

Many connections at the Parliament of the World’s Religions are made in the halls between workshops. There is a moment where one heart opens and another heart responds and a cross tradition and cross religion connection is made.

Later in the afternoon, Deirdre Pulgram Arthen, Andras Corban Arthen and Angie Buchanan co-facilitated a Peace Ritual for 75 People, titled “Peace at the Heart of the World.” In the ritual many Pagan presenters offered a spoken piece including T Thorn Coyle, River Higginbotham, Drake Spaeth, Anna Korn, Don Frew, Patrick McCollum, Sue Curewitz Arthen, Kaye Hughes Kittredge, Chris LaFond, Moira Ashleigh and several of the Queensland Pagans. The sacred waters of the worlds were brought to bless everyone as well as the sacred symbolic rattles by Julee Higginbotham. MotherTongue led several chants and closed with a Gaelic Blessing.

Directly after the Peace Ritual, some of the Pagan attendees went with the indigenous group while the rest were guided across the city by tram and hosted by The Melbourne Reclaiming group for the Parliament Local Community Night. On the bus ride we were joined by several Christian Parliament participants, they came to learn of our ways first hand. We heard questions such as: “Do you have a worship day?”, “What do you believe happens at death?”, “How do you feel about and work with healing?”, and “What do you do in your meetings?”. Later during the ritual there was sharing by many participants including: Wendy Rule, T Thorn Coyle, River Higginbotham, and Angie Buchanan. MotherTongue sang two pieces: Traveler’s Prayer and Old Woman. Moira Ashleigh danced the “Old Woman” solo. One very touching part of the night was when one of the Christians apologized to us for what had been done to our practice in the name of Christianity.

Finally a tired, but well satisfied, EarthSpirit group wound their way back across the city to get a short sleep before another full day.

First official day at the Parliament of the World’s Religions – Melbourne

by Moira Ashleigh

We are all here in Melbourne, a city with tall buildings on a river near the Tasman Sea. It is spring/summer here. Sometimes quite hot, but today half way through the day the wind picked up to cold and cloudy with a smattering of rain, now at suppertime it is cool and sunny.

To begin the week, we all held hands in a circle for a moment. We took time to remember why we are here and to reach back to those who have helped us come to do this work. MotherTongue rehearsed for short time, then Isobel went off to another rehearsal, while Andras went to a board meeting, and the rest of us registered and collected items for the booth EarthSpirit is offering in the exhibition hall. Sue and Deirdre collaborated to create the right presence in booth, which is in a prime location three spots from the entry door.

Chris LaFond met the harpist, Cath Connelly, who is lending him a purple harp for the event. She has just finished a tour of Ireland speaking on Saint Brigit and the Pagan Brigit goddess.

In the early afternoon Chris tuned and played the harp in the registration hall, Kaye and Kate sang and Moira danced to Old Woman. The group attracted the attention of a Parliament journalist who had them do a sound byte of music and some video where Moira announced the Tuesday morning observance by MotherTongue, all done on the journalist’s iphone, which he called old technology.

Next we were off to the Pagan Meet and Greet sponsored by Angie Buchannan and Drake Spaeth. There we met some of the local pagans who are very excited that we are here. The new pagan board member Phyllis Curott was there as well as several other known pagans and wiccans; such as Patrick McCollum, Michael York, Rowan Fairgrove, T. Thorn Coyle, and many more. Picture a small warm room on the 18th floor with many Pagans all excited to be together at this event. 🙂

Angie spoke of the reasons why it is so important to do this work and to go to workshops and rituals other than our own. Four rattles made specifically for the event were passed through the group to be energized for gifting to the Parliament Board in Chicago, the Parliament Board in Melbourne, a hereditary Vodoun Priest who traces his heritage back to the 14th century and one to the Dalai Lama. These rattles were made by River Higgenbotham’s sister, a well known potter, who combined pagan symbols with aboriginal symbols specifically for this event.

Andras came in later from the indigenous opening with Jonas Trinkunas, krivis (chief high priest) of Romuva, the pagan religion of Lithuania. Jonas has been to Rites of Spring in 1997, many of us remember him from then.

At the end of the Pagan Meet and Greet MotherTongue sang two songs for the group. They were in good voice and warmly received. the pieces they shared were: Unison in Harmony and Traveler’s Prayer.

Tonight is the opening plenary.