Why Twilight Covening?

by Lanna Lee Maheux Quinn

For those of us who find strength in earth-based spirituality, Twilight Covening is a unique offering, a weekend-long ritual, that allows us to plug in before the winter, learn some skills and connect with the greater community in a meaningful way.

The way it works is that you pick a focus for the weekend. You do this by choosing your clan, and your clan leader or leaders will guide you and your fellow clan members through the weekend. You spend time together with your clan, and then spend time with the larger gathering. You focus in with the smaller group, and focus out with the larger group; Deirdre Arthen likens it to breathing, which is a very apt description.


White Raven clan table (photo by the author)

Choosing a clan is a magical process. You sign up for 4 different clans, in order of preference. You don’t always get your first preference. You might get your second or third or even your fourth choice instead. I firmly believe you will end out in the clan you were meant to be in; I’ve found this to be the case for myself, even if it took me a few months to realize it! So choose wisely, and trust that you will end out where you need to be.

And now it’s time for a shameless plug, because this year, for the third year in a row, I am offering the White Raven Clan with Giariel Foxwood. (I’m one of those clan leaders I mentioned earlier!) We will be building relationships with our ancestors, human or other, by using Faery Seership Practices. Those who take our clan will walk away with a daily practice that will help them build co-creative partnerships with their ancestors.

Whether you decide to sign up for White Raven Clan or one of the other fantastic offerings we have this year, I hope you join us. It’s a restorative and invigorating weekend that gets you set for your contemplations over the long winter.

Twilight Covening will be held in the Berkshires from October 6-9, 2017.  Online registration is open through September 23.

Phoenix Clan: The Only Way Out Is Through

by Liz Porter and Ben Schuman

Twilight Covening is a three-day institute of Earth spirituality held within an ongoing ritual in the Berkshire mountains each fall.  Participants work together in small groups called clans during the days and gather for community rituals at night.  Using the current of the season’s turning toward winter, we use focused practice to gather inspiration and insight to feed us through the dark months and help us deepen our practices.  This year’s event is October 10-13 and registration is open through September 26 online.  Learn more or register now.


Photo by Steve Jurvetson, used under a Creative Commons license

The Phoenix is an amazing creature whose life cycle symbolizes powerful transformation in our own lives. This transformation is facilitated through a process of death and rebirth. It is said that the Phoenix lives to be 500 years old (or 1,000 years, depending on the story). As it nears its final days, its bright plumage faded and beak worn from old age, the Phoenix builds its own funeral pyre, essentially preparing its own self-sacrifice. This preparation is significant because it implies not only willingness, but wisdom. The Phoenix knows that it has reached the end of one of its many lives and acknowledges this passage readily and completely. Who among us has been capable of such complete knowledge and acknowledgement when we have reached the end of the line regarding a certain situation, behavior, or relationship?

The Phoenix then proceeds to kindle its own fire, lighting the pyre upon which it sits, hastening its own death. It burns so completely that it leaves only the essence of the creature behind in the pile of ashes. Who among us could knowingly put ourselves onto a funeral pyre and then also be the one to strike the match? Who among us could so completely sacrifice the situation, behavior, or relationship that has come to an end?

Many people with a passing familiarity with tarot have had the experience of pulling the Death card (or its cousin, the Tower) and unknowingly dreading the implications. Both cards represent a transition point in the cycle of life. They say: “Something must change, but what?” Death itself is neutral – a phase shift, a release. Death is associated with loss, regret, remorse and guilt. It is also associated with transcendence, freedom, and release from pain and sorrow. Death is a deep valley of the unknown and while fear of the unknown is natural, we must brave this fear in order to transform.

If you have ever participated in some sort of ritual releasing, either at Twilight Covening or elsewhere, you may have thrown something amorphous like ‘fear’ or ‘jealousy’ into the fire. Or, you may have gotten specific and thrown in a job or a relationship. Often, however, we find that whatever we think we have just released is still with us. Indeed, we may have released the same thing into the fire several years in a row. Why is this?

What we wish to get rid of – these self-sacrifices – are like weeds. Pull the weed at the surface, and it will appear to be gone. But it will grow back. To fully rid ourselves of these “weeds” we must pull them out by the roots – even digging them up out of the ground if necessary. The issues that we wish to be rid of are similarly “sedimented” — that is, what is on the surface is just the topmost layer of our challenge and a good deal of what we need to be rid of exists beneath the surface.
The process of acknowledging what must be released so fully that we can build our own funeral pyre, and prepare to burn it to the ground, is a deeply personal journey of self-examination and willingness. We must be willing to look beneath the surface of our challenges, to see what is sedimented, or rooted to us. And, we must brave the unknown of what may come once we are truly free.

If we are releasing fear or jealousy or anger, we must seek out the roots to ask – what are we really afraid of? What is the basis of our fear or jealousy? Where does it come from and how are we feeding it? If we are releasing a person or a situation, we must be similarly brave and pull back the curtain to see what we are doing to contribute? How are we connected to the outcomes we are living through? Where in our bodies do we house the pain and stress generated by this situation?

Some stories claim that after the Phoenix is burnt, the essence remains. It is said to be a worm that burrows into the ashes, taking comfort, protection and nourishment from the ruins of what once was. This is reminiscent of the earthworm, which burrows deep into the earth, gaining warmth and nourishment from the richness of the soil. A new Phoenix shortly begins to emerge through the ash — at first small and newborn, it quickly grows into a young bird with bright plumage and a powerful beak and talons.

In Phoenix Clan, we will facilitate the exploration of our sacrifices so that we can release more completely and prepare for death and rebirth. We will support each other through this intense process, holding energy for each other’s brave examination of their own sediment. We will name our sacrifice, listen in silence, stand before death unburdened, and be reborn to the world anew.

Photo by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr.  Used under a Creative Commons License.

Spinning Yarns with Llama Clan

This post is by Katie Birdi.  Katie follows an Earth-based spirituality and has studied Anamanta and Blackheart Feri. A third-generation fiber artist and a flutist, Katie has taught workshops in a variety of pagan disciplines, and lives with her family amidst a sea of wool in Western MA.

Llama Clan was born of Wool and Magic. My life has been threaded through with fiber arts, music, magic, and stories of my ancestors.

spinning…Hi, I’m Katie and I’m 4 and three-quarters years old. I love dancing and my doggie and my Nannie is teaching me how to spin yarn, knit, and crochet. She’s got a big wheel that spins around and around and she lets me push my foot on the pedal while she moves the fluffy stuff through her fingers and tells me stories about magic.

…Hello, I’m Kathryn, I’m in the eighth grade, and my Mom, Aunt, and Nan just made me a special dinner. I recently became a Woman. They gave me special earrings, told me stories, and my Nan joked that I wouldn’t be a “real” knitter until I could knit on US size 2 needles. My Aunt’s knitting takes my breath away, and she talks about it like it is a living thing. I’m starting to understand that it IS a living thing!

…I’ve been unable to walk for 4 years now, so I’m really grateful for my Mom, flute, television, and my knitting needles. Nan, Mom, Auntie and I sit, knit, tell stories, and have tea and cookies. Sometimes as we tell stories, my eyes get heavy, and I feel like I’m dreaming. The stories are more complex now, and when I knit, they get woven into my project. I’m starting to feel the love and the stories in the sweaters that my Mom knits for me.

…Birdi here. Had surgery, walking again. My favorite meditation tool is garter stitch, and college is great. I miss my Mothers, but I’m learning so much, and I’m hoping to be in Crow Clan this year.

…I’m a clan leader now. After a couple of years co-leading Nightingale Clan, enjoying the magic of music, these beautiful recurring dreams come to me where I get to share the magic of knotwork, the crucible of intention that runs through my hands while spinning, and the chanting that can be done while knitting lace. I have all these ideas burning in my soul that I want to share. Every step in fiber working is full of magic. I’m seven months pregnant, and I know that while I knit this baby blanket with my hands, I’m knitting together the tissues of a body with my own. How sacred my belly button is, that it connects me to my Mothers, and to Those who will come after…

Llama Clan was born of Wool and Magic. My life has been threaded through with fiber arts, music, magic, and stories of my ancestors. As a clan leader, I weave clans together drawing from my own magical work, and the magical tools that have best served me. I’m grateful to be able to offer Llama Clan again, to help facilitate a unique Twilight Covening clan experience. I hope you will join me.
Twilight Covening is a continuous three-day ritual that connects us with the seasonal shift from light to dark in order to seek inspiration and tools to fuel our practices through the winter.  The intensive work of Twilight Covening takes place in practice-specific Clans of 10-20 people and in full-community rituals that flow together through the weekend.  This year, the gathering will be held October 11-14 in Western Massachusetts.  Registration is open until September 25!  Learn more or register now.  

An Unexpected Journey: Caribou Clan at Twilight Covening

This post is by Rose Starwind.  She started pursuing her magick at the age of 13, and has walked many Paths and followed many trails in pursuit of spirit.   A poet, environmental consultant, and mom, she has a deep love and respect for the Earth. Twilight Covening remains a significant part of her spiritual work each year.

The year I birthed my daughter was the year I birthed the Caribou Clan. By then, I had attended Twilight Covening sixteen times, and suddenly all the things I had experienced and been taught there fell into a big soup cauldron. My clan leaders’ combined energies, devotion, and love of their Crafts gave rise to something new: an understanding of what it was to be deeply magickal without compromising who I was as a woman. I knew clearly that any Work I did was Women’s Work, because I was a woman doing it! Coming to the Mountain as a new mother, my first time leading a Clan alone, with my six-month old daughter and her father forming the Kangaroo clan, something essential shifted inside me again, watching my daughter wander the Mountain. Her first tooth appearing during the Visioning Ritual, and the forms of nourishment that could be absorbed shifted profoundly — for both of us.

Looking into her eyes at that moment, I remembered the dance of the energy exchange in the Lynx Clan, the resounding silence

Photo by Bruce McKay

Photo by Bruce McKay

that fell after we had raised a sound with our voices. That sound had become a clear chiming as the energy blended into something other, a whole far beyond the sum of its parts. I remembered shuffling in a sodden circle, shape-shifting through the elements of fire, all of the Alligator Clan in Sarah Cooper, attempting to thaw in front of the fireplace. I really remembered what it felt like to Shift into bear form, my shoulders bunching and relaxing as I walked — or actually, as I lumbered along. As the room warmed and our chill faded, the bear gave way to the lion and I felt what it was to walk with intensity, to hunt, to take down prey, my eyes glowing like the fierce sun present inside me, warming spirit and form.

I remembered my first Reindeer Clan- immersion in the practices of the wild north- food (knekkebrod!?) storytelling, magickal crafting, journeying with the drum. I laughed, remembering my chagrin and the heart-felt laughter of my fellow Reindeer when we returned from a journey to meet our guides. I met a puppy. A puppy with big dangling ears that it stepped on and tripped over rather consistently. ME (?!), with a puppy for a spirit guide? Only in hindsight can I find the lesson there: yes, in many ways I was just a pup. My all-grown-up and magickally mature hunting hound had to find the places where we still stumbled on our ears and needed to trust, and gain both strength and grace.

I stayed with the Reindeer work and then into the Ptarmigan work at the forge: the creation of the sacred fire using specific woods to build it, the sound of the smith’s hammer echoing as we journeyed to its rhythm. I remembered my first snowfall at Twilight, flakes striking the forge and the hot iron with tiny hisses. The following year, one might say that I moved from the proverbial frying pan of the Ptarmigan Clan into the fire of the Gryphon Clan. And oh, the changes that came from that Work. Profound, intense, sacred, and silly, the Gryphon Clan changed me: my perspective of who I was, what I believed about myself, and how I contended with Pain, whatever its source. A new strength was discovered, and after years of suffering with physical pain, I was able to simply identify it as pain. That was the Secret: pain was nothing more, and certainly nothing less, than just pain. The Gryphon work in particular prepared me for the pain of childbirth, embracing it to fuel the change within myself, and allowed me to birth with confidence. Yes, it hurt, and yes, I hollered — there is no safeword in childbirth to make it stop — but the lessons from Gryphon allowed me to ride that pain, not allow the pain to give rise to fear, and therefore my child came into the this world without her mother’s fear coloring her birth.

In Albatross we shared the poems of the Norse, found our way through our experiences, and engaged each other to write our stories, poems, musings, the challenge being to write them in skaldic verse (a specific Norse poetic form). It was there I touched a grief I didn’t know I had; there I was enabled (yes, even as a clan leader) to be held in safety and trust by my clan, and there that I created poems and art that birthed my healing. In Elk, we used the stories of the Norse to reflect our own realities: what were Our Stories? How do we continue to stumble through we should have learned from our Ancestors? We became the Norse that find and express the laughter despite hardship, or pain, or fear, or cold, or wet. Exploring the wisdom of the ones that have gone before, fueled by laughter, rich stories, and trust, the Elk stayed warm and dry despite the eight (yep, 8!) inches of rain that fell across that Twilight weekend.

It is with a profound sense of gratitude – for the Earth and the mountain, for the clan leaders and participants who have helped to shape the woman that I am today, and for the opportunity for growth and change that Twilight Covening represents — that I approach my 20th consecutive Twilight Covening. But most of all, I’m grateful for the journey that began with a long drive up a steep mountain road, my first Twilight Covening, all those years ago.


Twilight Covening is a weekend-long ritual where participants work in small groups focused on a particular aspect of Earth-centered spiritual practice and then come together for community rituals in the evenings. This year, it will be held October 11-14; registration is open until September 25.  Learn more or register now.  

Being Nature: Deer Clan at Twilight Covening

This entry is by Miriam Klamkin, who is a Glainn Sidhr Witch, professional astrologer, teacher, and spiritual coach.  She has been teaching at EarthSpirit events since 1993.

There is an intimate reciprocity to the senses; as we touch the bark of a tree, we feel the tree touching us; as we lend our ears to the local sounds and ally our nose to the seasonal scents, the terrain gradually tunes us in turn. The senses, that is, are the primary way that the earth has of informing our thoughts and of guiding our actions. Huge centralized programs, global initiatives, and other ‘top down” solutions will never suffice to restore and protect the health of the animate earth. For it is only at the scale of our direct, sensorial interactions with the land around us that we can appropriately notice and respond to the immediate needs of the living world.
– David Abram, Becoming Animal

After the rattling dies down and all is quiet…I float in a semi-trance state, half awake, half asleep, recalling the sound of the chainsaw earlier in the day, clearing our new sacred grove. The saw takes down a nearby sapling, then comes after one of my limbs… WAIT! THAT’S MY ARM!! Abruptly, I wake to full human-consciousness and the stillness of the circle around me.

Another time, in a different grove at gloaming-time…I watch quietly as misty gray beings detach themselves from the tree trunks and come out to play, walking the land, meeting and separating, dancing with dignified grace.

And yet another time, on a hilltop… I am treated to an indescribably glorious song and dance of the winds and the trees. I feelPhoto by Sarah Twichell I am this close to deciphering the meaning of the “words” of this song, but I don’t need a dictionary to interpret its overall intention.

And another, up at the stone circle… a new stone has been placed. Gently, respectfully, I place my hand on this massive, stationary being, and it is shaking internally. I withdraw and check in with myself: am I projecting my own nervous alarm onto the rock? Nope, it’s not me. I’m fine. I use some of the grounding techniques I’ve learned over the years – giving back to stonekind, usually so solidly there for us when we need to ground – and gradually the vibrations abate.

Experiences such as these are not all that hard to achieve; it’s a simple matter of clearing your mind of the expectations of a lifetime and paying attention in a particular way.

Okay, it’s hard. That’s why I developed Deer Clan.

Our culture has trained us to hold ourselves separate from the natural world, ignoring the fact that we are part and parcel of it and participate in “nature” with every breath we take. We inevitably interact with the nonhuman beings who live all around us, but we’ve learned to ignore our intuitive perceptions. Our fellow beings observe us as we observe them, and sometimes they choose to talk to us.  It’s just like the fairy tales, only it isn’t all about us: they have their own lives and their own agendas. And they don’t speak to us in plain English: they communicate through sound and movement, through
our own senses and emotions, through subtle energetic states for which we have no words. It is only by approaching our fellow beings with respect, sharpening those senses, observing those emotions, and noticing those energetic states that we even begin to understand our true place in the world.

The understanding begins not in an intellectual process of cataloging, comparing, or deciphering, but through using the empathic senses to feel what’s going on. Even if I never learn the words to that windsong, maybe the experience of wonder and connection it evoked is enough.

The word “deer” evolved from Old English “deor”, which referred not only to deer but to any wild animal. According to Ted Andrews, author of Animal-Speak, “There are many stories and myths of deer luring hunters or even kings deep into the woods until they are lost and begin to encounter new adventures.” In Deer Clan, we become “lost” to the civilized selves we know and invoke the wild being within us in order to become one with our world. In that state, we have access to the senses that touch that world and are touched by it.

Twilight Covening is a three-day institute of Earth spirituality held within a continual three-day ritual. It is a time for exploring ways to deepen Earth-centered spiritual practice and a time to develop our collective wisdom in a shared sacred space as we move into the dark time of the year.  Get more information or register now.

Journey, Story

by Alison Mee

(photo by Sarah Eaton)

I have my story and I realize, indeed, we each come with our own stories. Sometimes, it is the time for the sharing of stories. But this is not that time. This is the time to look in each others’ faces and acknowledge and nod and slip quietly together into the whispering hush of trees, the soft openness of water, the deep slow being of stone.

For thousands of years, our ancestors have used the drum to guide us in and out of shamanic journey. Feeling the drum entwine with the pulse of my blood and the sense of this air against this skin, wraps me in an agreement. I will journey, she will drum. Wherever I go, the drum will follow; wherever I go, I will bring the drum. I will not leave the drum and the drum will not leave me, and however far I journey I will return to the drum. I will allow it to call me home to my tribe when my wandering is done. It is an ancient and sacred trust.

With the drum to keep me safe, I drape my body over the rocks by the water. I am the person in the body on the rock in the water. I am the body on the rock in the water. I am the rock in the water. I am the water, lapping rhythmically against the rock, against the body. I am the bright warm star beaming against the skin. I am but the motion and the rhythm of the lapping. The pattern. The relationship of all these things.

I follow one molecule of water as it exits the lake with the lap, lap, lap, lap, rhythm, to lay on my skin for a moment and then rise up in the warmth of the sun. I fly swirling without destination, without focus or care. No concerns, no attachments, floating freely on the breeze. Time and thought recede. Colors wash away and I am without sight. There is only motion and a relaxed dance with the sky around me, as I rise and fall in response to a thousand different rhythms of connection.

(I am unaware of the passage of time and I am without worded thought.)

Awareness reawakens in the knowing that there is something in the distance calling to me. Don’t go further, it says. Don’t get lost. Return. Return. Return. Return. It is the drum.

My first conscious act is to resist this return. For several breaths, perhaps, I am in dual awareness. I am both this one molecule of water, on a breeze high above the lake, and I am the woman on the land dipped into the lake’s edge. I am aware of the reality that from another perspective, all my story is mostly irrelevant. It’s just a story. It’s just the way humans are. Daughter? Parent? What does that matter, when I am floating free in an eternal rhythm of change, from liquid to gas, back and again…? What of one particular human existence being a bit shorter than had been hoped? What of hope? It’s all as distant to me as the lake would be, diagrammed in a textbook, viewed from my human perspective.

Beckoned gently but firmly by the drum, I slip back into my skin, allowing my bones and blood and eyes to close in on me, the air moving through my throat as it does every moment of every day for years upon years. And as my body comes over me, so, shockingly, as plunging into an icy lake, comes grief, and love, and sorrow… comes knowledge, relationship, and sweet, sweet attachment. I am not a water molecule. I am a huge complex relationship of water molecules in living community with metal and stone and oils and bacteria and all the parts of me. Like a wave flowing gently across an ocean until it hits the shore, I crash into being human again, with tremendous emotion and care for not only all beings of the earth, but for some beings in particular, for no reason other than our blessed human connections.

My story matters. It matters to me. And it should. The shift in perspective serves to allow me to return and feel everything with raw edges, like a child again. I am in the love and the sorrow long before I search around in the recesses of my brain where I keep rational thought, where I use logic, reason and stoic resolve to tell myself everything is OK, to frame my story in some way that is easier to sit with, but diminishes it in the process.

By allowing myself the ecstasy of becoming other, I force myself to seek out my self and when I find me, I embody me, more fully than I had before my journey. I shake off denial and pity to find acceptance and compassion. I am grateful for my form of being, being human. Knowledge that my weeping, laughing, desiring, dreaming, dancing, loving, longing, raging emotions are simply my own perspective, makes them truly all the more precious. I am right where I am supposed to be.

[Editor’s note: Thanks to Alison and Dick for sharing their experience as members of the Kodiak Clan this year at Twilight Covening and to Starwind for encouraging them. Do these experiences evoke feelings you would like to share, similar experiences or questions? If so, please contribute your comments.]

Bear Elements

by Dick Huntington

(Kodiak photo by USFWS)
I gaze at the sun
And it tells me,
“Feel my warmth;
Be healed in my FIRE.”
I lift to the sky
And it tells me,
“Feel the AIR,
Softly Kiss your face.”
I lean on the Tree
And it tells me,
“Come be touched
In places you cannot reach.”
I walk in the WATER
And it tells me,
“Be no fountain
When the well you need.”
I lay with the EARTH
And She tells me,
“Rest here in me
To be reborn — again.”

And so we came together at Twilight Covening, this time as Bears, or to be more exact, as KODIACS; each new clan-mate arriving from singular and divergent points on the cosmic compass. Under our Clan Leader’s gaze, we accepted and acknowledged each other as family and quickly moved into Magical Space. Those of us who had known each other for years and those newly arrived, it made no difference for now we were one, litter-mates, cubs of the same Mother.

All of our Clan Time was spent outdoors in the open, connecting directly with the Elements in pursuit of our pre-stated goal of finding the source of all of our needs for renewal. We worked as individuals and together within the clan structure and even with some of the other clans to extend our connectivity.

The core-central theme of our leader’s teaching was that we don’t so much heal the Earth as we must learn to interact with it responsibly so that it may heal itself and thereby heal us. She told us, “Everything is about relationship. Learn to trust yourselves, each other and a loving universe.” And so too we are connected each and all to each and all.

This is real human magic, true Earth magic; useful, sustainable and necessary; brought to us by competent and caring masters of the mind – body – spirit connection.

My deepest thanks and fondest regards too all at EarthSpirit, the hard working staff and leadership and to all my newest family members. WOW! A family wherein you get to pick your relatives. Will wonders never cease?