Saturday, Another full and rich day at the 2015 Parliament

by Kate Greenough Richardson

Mayan dancers at the 2015 Parliament

Mayan dancers at the 2015 Parliament

As I sit at a table in the “Gathering Place” to write this Sunday morning, I can see a couple of tables of buddhist monks in saffron robes, several Mayan performers are walking by with ankle shakers of seed pods, and it looks like some kind of chorus is taking the stage in the far corner. I’ve had to make my peace with how many things I would really like to hear, see and experience I’m simply going to miss. Luckily, with so many EarthSpirit friends along for this journey, it’s likely I’ll get to experience many things vicariously.

Saturday was another full and rich day at the Parliament. It started early, as I sat in Deirdre’s morning observance at 7am, entitled “Devotional Chanting for the Earth”. About 40 people showed up to join singing some off our favorite chants, starting with “We Are One With the Soul of the Earth” and ending with “Peace in My Heart”. People really came to sing, and stayed with each chant long enough to really sink into it. I felt grounded and centered as I went off to start my day.

From there I went to the second of a two part workshop called “Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee”. There I learned from Chief Arvol Looking Horse of an annual observance that is a 9 day ride following the trail taken by Chief Big Foot to the massacre at Wounded Knee. This year the arduous ride is being done in prayer that war and genocide should end. The organizers dream of a world wide ceremony to take place Dec. 29th at noon in every time zone, to honor and hold this intention of peace. They ask people to gather in wounded places that need healing. I signed up for their email list, and hope to pass on details as I learn them.

There was rehearsal for the cantata at noon, and from there I passed through the smudge gate to the sacred fire to make an offering, on my way to the Sikh’s Langar. This is a free lunch offered to all the 10,000 people attending the Parliament, and it’s an astonishing and moving demonstration of the power of service and generosity of spirit. You take off your shoes, and receive a scarf to cover your head, then get seated on the ground in long rows. Sikhs move up and down giving out plates then filling them with delicious vegetarian food until you are satisfied. You’re then invited to move to tables for tea and sweets if you wish. It really makes you wonder how hard could it be to feed every hungry person on the earth.

Langar, free meals served by the Sikhs at 2015 Parliament

Langar, free meals served by the Sikhs at 2015 Parliament

I was tired and filled with contentment and gratitude after my meal. After checking to make sure the booth was covered, I spent the rest of the afternoon watching performances by various groups. I saw Mayan dancer in full regalia, a Navajo hoop dancer, a Canadian Mohawk flute player, Cambodian classical dancers and Devotional dancers from India.

Then it was time for the evening plenary. The topic this time was Focus on War, Violence and Hate Speech. The speakers were hugely inspiring. Many spoke with great passion, calling out the institutions that promote and perpetuate violence, and asking us to search our souls for the commitment to active defiance of these evils. I had heard of some of the presenters – Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, and Jane Goodall. Others were equally impressive: among them, Allan Boesak from South Africa, Karen Armstrong who was presented an award for her work, Dr. Tariq Ramadan who asked us not to give emotional applause, but to think.

The evening ended up with a little party at the spacious and somewhat swanky house where some of us are staying. Cerillian had put together a tableful of festive nourishment, and many of us had the chance to meet or catch up with a couple of Parliament board members as well as each other. Honey and the Sting did a little impromptu performance of a few songs before the evening ended and we all went off in search of a good night of sleep.

We are always thinking of our dear friends and family back home; with these posts I can at least imagine I’ve got you in my pockets as I go through the day!

People of the Earth at the 2015 Parliament

by Rowan Morrigan

Inija Trinkuniene speaking about the survival of the Romuva religion in Lithuania.

Inija Trinkuniene speaking about the survival of the Romuva religion in Lithuania.

To a packed room, the “People of the Earth: The Surviving Indigenous Spiritual Traditions of Europe” presentation was a wonderful description of the history of indigenous people in Europe by Andras Corban Arthen, and an example of keeping a living tradition intact through the Romuva religion in Lithuania by Inija Trinkuniene. I think many people did not realize that Christian Europeans were the conquerors of the pagani (the people of the land) long before they went on to conquer the Americas and other lands. Once Andras set the stage with that, Inija showed how her tradition survived, largely due to Lithuania being the last hold-out to Christian European colonization. The photo on the screen shows a core concept of Romuva: the living fire.

Andras Corban Arthen speaking of the history of indigenous people in Europe.

Andras Corban Arthen speaking of the history of indigenous people in Europe.

Friday, Hope and Determination at the 2015 Parliament

by Kate Greenough Richardson

Young Whirling Dervishes at the Emerging Leaders Plenary, Friday at the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions

Young Whirling Dervishes at the Emerging Leaders Plenary, Friday at the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions

Friday started early, with morning observances from 7-8am. I didn’t manage to get to the Peace Drum Initiative session with Buyondo Micheal from Uganda, who had stopped by the EarthSpirit table on Friday and stayed to chat about drumming, involving youth, and working for peace. Instead I stayed at the sacred fire tended by Native Americans at the main entrance. A Mayan elder from Guatemala was doing a blessing of the four roads, including explanations of colors, directions, and numerology involved in the Mayan calendar. He ended by invoking ancestors and involving everyone present in making offerings to the fire.

Mayan ceremony at dawn, Friday at 2015 Parliament

Mayan ceremony at dawn, Friday at 2015 Parliament

Back to the booth for the morning. I hoped to spend some time choosing programs to attend for the day. If you think choosing workshops at Rites is hard, you have not seen anything. Not only are multiple presenters speaking on topics at any given time, but there is a cultural hall, many displays, a labyrinth, and of course the exhibition hall filled with booths where people stand ready to speak and exchange with such open hearts and minds. As I write this, there has just been some spontaneous drumming and dancing by “sikhs being distractingly joyful”, as Tiffany put it. In their booths, Sikhs are wrapping turbans on anyone who wants to try it out. Around the hall people are shopping (lots of pretty shiny stuff, much is Tibetan and Native American) or having earnest conversations. You could have a whole weekend’s worth of stories even if you never left the exhibition hall!

I left the booth for a while for a rehearsal of a 10 song cantata that is being performed Monday by a pickup 150 voice chorus. Written by Mary Lou Prince with words by Patty Christiena Willis, the songs evoke seasons and ancestors. On the way back, I stopped a while to listen to some amazing Indian singing and tabla playing going on under an outside tent, with people spontaneously dancing to the infectuous beats. I found a long hallway lined with banners with colorful depictions of many deities, I could have spent a half hour just getting through it.

The main event today was the Emerging Leaders Plenary in the evening [video part 1 and part 2]. Isobel was very involved in planning the program, which was stirring and diverse. Music and dance alternated with rousing speakers, people under 35 talking about their work and calls to action in the world. There was a group of very young whirling dervishes, Honey and the Sting performed a couple of songs, and a phenomenal group of lion drummers with a singer and a sword dancer. The projects described include “Rebuild With Love”, a Muslim initiative to rebuild Black churches destroyed by arson, and AFL Peace Team, an Australian Football (“Footy”) team from Jerusalem that is half Palestinian and half Jewish. There were speakers whose family members have been recently killed by hate crimes, speaking out for spreading peace and love, and defying the hatred that is so commonly being sown. Toward the end, all audience members younger than 35 were asked to stand and pledge to go out and do the work to change the world for the better. Then those over 35 stood and pledged to support and respect and publicize the great work that these young leaders are doing.

I think we all left the hall tired but energized. Another rich and full day, spent full of friendly curiosity, being moved to tears by reports of pain and injustice, being lifted by hope and charged by the determination to take the needed actions to heal the world, in the company of so many different and diverse people working for the same ends.

Emerging Leaders take a bow at the end of the Friday Plenary at the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions

Emerging Leaders take a bow at the end of the Friday Plenary at the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions

Thursday, Opening day at the 2015 Parliament

by Kate Richardson

EarthSpirit booth at the 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions

EarthSpirit booth at the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions

I arrived at the Parliament just in time for the closing session of the Women’s Assembly on Thursday (10/14). Deirdre started it off, filling the large room with voices chanting “I am the Earth” while she sang the main melody counterpoint. Women of many faiths then offered songs, prayers and invocations with encouragement for activism on behalf of peace, justice and healing the planet.

I then connected with some more of the EarthSpirit contingent at our booth in the exhibition hall. The booth is a communication hub for our group. Passers by stop to chat as well, and exchange information and questions, and sometimes to leave information about their events and practices. It’s lively, sometimes a little chaotic, full of web-weavings and little openings.

Just walking in the hallways you come across many fascinating sights that you wonder what they are about, such as this circle dance on a floor of circles.

Circle dance on a floor of circles at the 2015 Parliament.

Circle dance on a floor of circles at the 2015 Parliament.

The big event Thursday night was the Opening Plenary [video]. A huge room held many of the nearly 10,000 Parliament participants. It started with a procession of flags of different nations, and groups of indigenous people in full regalia, while a group of men drummed and chanted from the stage. As with the Australian Parliament six years ago, the chair of the Parliament Council started by thanking the local indigenous people, as original caretakers and inhabitants of this place. Many of the following speakers did the same.
Addresses and blessings were given by dignitaries of many faiths- Islam, Baptist, Baha’i, Sikh, Ute, Judaism to name a few, as well as a representative of the United Nations, and the governor of Utah and local government officials.

The plenary ended after 9pm, and some of us went out in search of food. Most restaurants were closing, but we found some highly entertaining cycle cab drivers who whisked the sore of foot off to a good kebab joint that was willing to serve us before they locked the doors.

As we move through all this activity I’m struck by how every one of our group feels a connection to the people who helped us get here, in so many ways. I’m sure there will be many wonderful photos and stories to help us carry it home and share the inspiration we’re getting here.

All best from Salt Lake

EarthSpirit at the Salt Lake City Parliament

Indigenous women light the sacred fire at sunrise to start the 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions

Indigenous women light the sacred fire at sunrise to start the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions

by Eric Arthen

Many people from around the country and around the world have descended on Salt Lake City to attend the sixth Parliament of the World’s Religions [http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/parliament/salt-lake-2015], being held here from October 15 – 19.

Sixteen members of EarthSpirit are taking part in the Parliament (PWR), presenting programs, helping to make events happen, or staffing an information booth to tell participants about EarthSpirit and about the pagan traditions.

This takes a great deal of time and effort from many more members of EarthSpirit than just those who are going on the trip. We are so grateful for the support our whole community has given to make this happen. In particular, the funds we’ve raised over the past couple of years has made it possible for us to participate and send our delegation to the Parliament. All of those who are going are volunteers, and are paying for the trip out their own pockets, but the donations we have received certainly help to defray some of the expenses. We couldn’t do it without you!

You can follow along with both general news about PWR and more specific news about the EarthSpirit delegation on social media outlets. Posts on Twitter will use hashtags #2015parliament and #earthspiritcommunity. On Facebook, check “The EarthSpirit Community” page,
https://www.facebook.com/The-EarthSpirit-Community-119744788098439/
There will also be posts here on the EarthSpirit Voices blog (https://earthspiritvoices.wordpress.com), both during and after the PWR.

Here is the list of presentations in which EarthSpirit members are taking part. The overall number of pagan programs far surpasses anything that the PWR has included in the past:

Friday, 8:30 AM (Mountain time)
Shared Session: Diversity and Applied Theology in Contemporary Paganism
Moderator: Andras Corban-Arthen (EarthSpirit)
Subsession: Diversity in Contemporary Paganism
Panelists: Jeanine De Oya, Eblis Correllian
Subsession: Contemporary Paganism and Applied Theology
Presenter: Dr. Gwendolyn Reece
Panelists: Jim Dickinson, Ivo Dominguez, Jr, Drake Spaeth (Earth Traditions)

Friday, 12:15 PM
Women’s Rites – Honoring and Celebrating the Cycles of our Lives
Presenter: Deirdre Pulgram Arthen (EarthSpirit)
Panelists: Angie Buchanan (Earth Traditions), Isobel Arthen (EarthSpirit), Ruth Barrett (Temple of Diana, Inc.)

Friday, 12:15 PM
People of the Earth: The Surviving Indigenous Spiritual Traditions of Europe
Presenters: Andras Corban-Arthen (EarthSpirit). Inija Trinkūnienė (Romuva)

Friday, 7:00 PM
Plenary 2: Spotlight on Emerging Leaders
A number of speakers including: Isobel Arthen, Donovan Arthen (EarthSpirit)
Performers: Honey and the Sting, Taiko Drummers

Saturday, 7:00 AM
Devotional Chanting for the Earth
Speaker: Deirdre Pulgram Arthen (EarthSpirit)

Saturday, 3:30 PM
We Are the Earth: Pagans Respond to Pope Francis on the Environment
Moderator: Sylvia Hall Linton (Earth Traditions)
Panelists: Andras Corban-Arthen (EarthSpirit), John Halstead (Humanistic Paganism), Heather Greene (The Wild Hunt)

Sunday, 10:00 AM
Ancient Teacher: The Earth As Our Spiritual Guide
Moderator: Angie Buchanan (Earth Traditions)
Panelists: Andras Corban-Arthen (EarthSpirit), Ellen Bernstein (Rabbi, Hampshire College), Elizabeth Weigel, Ajisebo Ogunninhun Abimbola

Sunday, 1:45 PM
Sons and Lovers of the Sacred Feminine
Presenter: Drake Spaeth (Earth Traditions)
Panelists: River Higginbotham, Ivo Dominguez, Jr, Donovan Arthen (EarthSpirit) , Claudiney Prieto

Monday, 7:00 AM
Understanding Religious Traditions 101 – Paganism
Panelists: Andras Corban-Arthen (EarthSpirit), Angie Buchanan (Earth Traditions) , Donald Frew (Covenant of the Goddess), Ruth Barrett (Temple of Diana, Inc.), Starhawk (Earth Activist Training)

Gathering the Threads

by Sarah Lyn Eaton

Right now, the snow and ice are melting, the winds are warming, and I am dreaming of groups of people in the woods. I call them my gathering dreams. I have them twice a year. In the summer, they are in preparation of Twilight Covening. Right now I am dreaming about Rites of Spring.

At the end of May, in the beauty of the Berkshire Mountains, the EarthSpirit Community holds a gathering of earth-centered pagans from around the globe. Recovering from the darkness of winter, from our separate burrows, those of us who dream of fire and water, sunlight and starlight, start to count down the days till we can come together again. We are waiting to meet those who will step on the mountain for the first time this year. We are waiting, excitedly, because some of my closest friendships have been made at this gathering over the last decade.

The first time I attended Rites of Spring, I didn’t know the other attendees outside of the small contingent of

Photo by Maggie Schollenberger

people from my local community. I will never forget how overwhelmed I felt to stand among so many people who believed in being open, in being kind, in being loving, and in sharing that energy with each other. Rites is my annual pilgrimage to a land that exists within our everyday world, one which we sometimes lose sight of when the hardness of the world clouds it. Over the course of my week at Rites, that spirit renews.

That spirit is contagious from day one. As everyone arrives, they are excited, joyously crossing through the Welcome Gate. Some say they are coming home when they arrive. And yes, if home if where the heart is, then we carry it with us, wherever we wander. Feet on the earth, flesh on the mountain, heart open and present.

The setting of the established mountain campground is gorgeous. The rocks, woods, and water make the immersion in nature’s wonder easy. It’s easy to be open. I walk the campground with my head up, eyes and smiles meeting both friends and strangers. You don’t have to know someone to find yourself in a deep conversation. It’s one of many gifts the gathering continues to offer.

I wasn’t new to paganism when I first arrived, but I was new to the idea of a specific path. Throughout the gathering, whether you arrive on Wednesday, or on Friday, there are workshops and rituals and concerts and drum circles and dances and so much more! Over the years I have taken classes with over a dozen different practitioners, some using the words Shaman, Druid, Buddhist, Animist, Witch, Heathen, etc. Last year, there were over seventy workshop presentations offered over the span of five days. Bring a notebook and an extra pen.

For first timers there is a newcomer breakfast, where you get to meet some of the facilitators of the event, as well as get a chance to connect with the other people new to the gathering, insuring you will see familiar faces throughout the week. You become small touchstones for each other.

During the day, if there aren’t workshops or affinity groups that tickle your fancy, check out the Art Salon or any one of the community-built shrines throughout the camp. You might walk the Merchant Circle and check out the amazing crafts and artistic wares for sale, from beautiful hand-dyed silks to stained glass, from pottery to drums, from leather masks to hand-forged blades (some created on-site!). Then in the evening there are concerts, large and small, rituals, dances of varying themes, poetry slams, sacred drum circles in the woods, and more. The week, or weekend for some, culminates in a large community-shared feast.

There are larger rituals that connect the gathering, from the Firelighting Ritual to the Maypole to the not-to-be missed Web Weaving Ritual. Hand over hand, thread over and under thread as drum and song excite the air. I want to entice you. I want you to come and add yourself to that web. I want you to come and experience the community I have become part of. Because it follows you home. And the world you see when you cross back through the gate is forever altered.

Join us this year. Be present. Throw yourself into the rituals. Smile at strangers. Take some classes. Start up random conversations in the dinner line. Weave your own web and let us be part of it.


Join us this year on the mountain for Rites of Spring!  Registration is open for a few more days: through May 8 if you mail in your form or through May 9 if you register online.

A Year of Drops: Educate Yourself

by Katie LaFond

Step 12: Educate Yourself

  • Read books like Garbology, Cradle to Cradle, The Backyard Homestead and Rubbish!
  • Go to lectures and workshops

    Photo by Randy Adams, used under a Creative Commons license

    Photo by Randy Adams, used under a Creative Commons license

  • Places like The Haberdashery, and even the mass.gov website have many great classes you can take to learn new skills
  • Join movements! If you want to be included in emails about upcoming events, please email us at earthspirit@earthspirit.com
  • Lead by example. Not all activism is marching. If your friends and family ask about your new habits, you have some experience now.  Tell them about your experiences, reference the materials you’ve used, or you can direct them to this blog post to get started themselves.

This is the last part in Katie’s thirteen-part series in walking lightly on the Earth.  Read more:  introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse), step 3 (reduce), step 4 (compost), step 5 (drive less), step 6 (local food), step 7 (buy local), step 8 (garden), step 9 (environmentally-friendly products), step 10 (reduce energy consumption), step 11 (get crafty).