Afterglow

ROS Fire Circle 2014aby Lyra Hilliard

Return with me, for a sweet moment
onto the top of the mountain
that holy place where we remember who we are.

What is your favorite spot?
Where on that expansive site do you stand firmly
on the ground, feeling the pulse of the earth shoot
through your body, realigning your bones and the muscles that bind them,
reawakening your sense of connection and trust?

Where do you remember the wind
kissing your skin,
dancing through trees’ leaves, gently
dipping branches to bow to you?

Where does the water speak to you–and how?
Is it the lake shrines, beach times, streams winding
softly over rocks or roaring near sun-flecked cliffs?

Where does the fire invite your
soul to dance, your
blood to rise, your
armor to melt?

Where does your body remember its power?
Where do you breathe deeply, love freely,
raise your neck, stand tall, feel your
shoulders straighten as your hips and heart reopen?

Everywhere?
Me, too.

Go there. Return with me, for a sweet moment.

Return to the place teeming with renewal
Each being sloughing off its winter sheath
to gently reveal the sweet skin beneath
each birth, bud, and blade a radiant jewel

on the crown of that mountain that
pulls us, molds us,
holds up a mirror to remind us
how stunning we are.

I see you, too.

I see smiles of relief and release at the gate
I see sparks in your eyes of knowing and becoming
I see open palms and outstretched arms
I see you kneeling to kiss the ground.

I hear hushed excitement broken
by djembe slaps and throbbing djuns,
by a chorus of voices rising up through the night
pierced
by inimitable shrieks of delight.

I feel the vibrations of your feet underneath my own,
my breath quicken as shadows yield to painted faces
my heart pound as I stand between two sisters to
sing you and welcome you home to the fire.

Here, in this temple, I see beauty Everywhere.
I see you shine and risk, rise and kiss
the flames with your voices and drumbeats, your
flying limbs and whirling feet, your tending and
serving and burning through layers
that no longer fit to reveal
the you we’ve all been waiting for.

I see you, and I bow before your sovereignty.

Return with me, for this sweet moment.
Come home with me, to this fire,
to this temple, to this mountain, to this
community
of beloveds.

And say yes
if you will return again, for
many, many more moments
in the flesh
So that we may play and pray and remember ourselves for
many, many more fires
to come.

© Lyra Hilliard 2014

Photo by Rowan Oakthorn

 

Jonas Trinkūnas, founder of Romuva, receives award from Lithuanian President

by Andras Corban-Arthen

jonas award 01-72(l. to r.) Inija Trinkūnienė, President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Jonas Trinkūnas

EarthSpirit recently sponsored a series of performances in Massachusetts and Vermont by Kulgrinda – the ritual performance group of Romuva, which is the name given in modern times to the revived ethnic pagan religion of Lithuania. Jonas Trinkūnas, the krivis (supreme priest) and founder of Romuva – who took part in those performances – is an old friend, someone I’ve known and respected very highly for some twenty years.

Kulgrinda concert, Concord MA

Kulgrinda concert, Concord MA

Jonas attended Rites of Spring back in the nineties, and I have visited him, his family, and his community in Lithuania. In 2008, when the Parliament of the World’s Religions put me in charge of finding representatives of the indigenous spiritual traditions of Europe to attend the upcoming Parliament in Melbourne, Jonas’ name was the first on my list.

 

A few days ago, on 6 July, Jonas had the distinction of receiving the prestigious Order of the Grand Duke Gediminas, one of Lithuania’s top civilian honors. The award was personally bestowed by Dalia Grybauskaitė, the president of Lithuania, who praised Jonas for his involvement with the underground resistance against the Soviet regime which ruled Lithuania for over forty years, as well as for his work in preserving traditional Lithuanian religion and literature.

Lithuania was the last country in Europe to officially become Christian – a change which took place mainly for political reasons, and which was not completed until the beginning of the 15th century. The pagan religion co-existed with Christianity for a very long time beyond that, and continued to survive even after Catholicism became dominant and gradually attempted to assimilate and eradicate the remaining pagan practices. But paganism still lived on in the countryside: a large sector of the peasantry, though nominally Catholic, kept alive their traditional pagan spiritually which was deeply ingrained in their everyday lives. A very strong folkloric movement which began in the 18th century helped to keep alive, in the urban centers, an awareness of Lithuania’s pagan roots.

Jonas Trinkūnas & Andras Corban-Arthen at 2009 Parliament of the World's Religions, Melbourne, AU

Jonas Trinkūnas & Andras Corban-Arthen at 2009
Parliament of the World’s Religions, Melbourne, AU

Jonas Trinkūnas immersed himself from an early age in the myths and folklore of his native land, and by the time he’d finished his university studies in the early 1960s, he had published a number of articles as well as a dissertation on pre-Christian Lithuanian religion. He became a researcher and professor of literature and ancient cultures at the University of Vilnius, and during that time he founded a very popular folkloric organization which presented a variety of traditional folk music and dance events; he also began making extended visits to the countryside, to learn directly from rural villagers what still survived of the original pagan traditions.

Jonas’ activities brought him afoul of the Soviet authorities, who feared that his religious and folkloric pursuits were fomenting nationalistic sentiments which could lead to acts of sedition. He was interrogated by the KGB, and subsequently dismissed from his teaching position at the university, and forbidden from holding any kind of teaching job; for many years, he was forced to do various kinds of menial work in order to support his growing family. His folkloric organization was officially suppressed, and he could only engage in his religious practices clandestinely.

Finally, with the loosening of Soviet government controls brought about by glasnost and perestroika in the late eighties, Jonas was able to resume his public activities and to bring Romuva out in the open. Since 1990, when Lithuania achieved its independence from the Soviet Union (the first of the former Soviet republics to do so), Romuva has grown steadily and has achieved a strong presence in Lithuanian culture, though it has not yet managed to gain official government status as a traditional religion.

It may have been an unprecedented event for a pagan leader to be awarded a high honor by the president of his country – it’s certainly something that should make all pagans around the world very proud. Let us hope that the bestowal of the Order of the Grand Duke Gediminas upon Jonas Trinkūnas signals a growing willingness by the Lithuanian government to grant Romuva the official status it has long deserved.

jonas award 02-72dpiJonas Trinkūnas and Inija Trinkūnienė with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė
and members of the Romuva community at the award ceremony in Vilnius.