Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring Equinox morning

by Moira Ashleigh
Male Swan in Display by Mogrianne
Walking, sunk in the Spring tapestry, occasionally jarred by discordant people chatter. I am aware of how people stay tight focused on people, almost as if to keep the fearsome Nature away. Not wanting to drop into the rock stillness, the Spring river current, the mirror clear pond showing them that they are only a small part of a bigger whole. I hear them chatter to make themselves bigger, much like the geese to claim their small territory. Posturing like the swan, to fend off anything coming near. Myopic focus on themselves, their story, their drama. Because if it is important enough, then they are important enough not to be lost, Not to be forgotten, not to be so small that they do not matter. Then I sink back down into the now of roots, rot and new life stirring just walking in the energy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Searching for Symbolic Identity

by Martin Bridge

3 views of goddess carving by Martin Bridge
The experience of Spirit, of Magic, of the transcendent far outweighs the importance of understanding it. Those who have attended one of the Art Salon events at either “Rites of Spring” or “A Feast of Lights” will no doubt have heard me speak to the importance of the yearlong study of “Anamanta” and the effect it had on my artwork. My work became much more abstract for numerous reasons, the first and foremost is the emphasis placed on experience.

One of the other essential aspects of this shift is that I feel like the illustrative quality of much Pagan Artwork that depicts spiritual or deific forces often trivializes these entities. It also sets unrealistic expectations in seekers, leaving some people searching for grand visions of towering White Stags emerging from the perimeter of a Stone circle that has materialized around them or a Silver clad Goddess descending from the moon. While we wait for these experiences we may miss the more subtle (and more frequent) expressions of spirit.

As EarthSpirit has been evolving, how the community defines itself changes as well. Even the slight change in the language in describing “Rites of Spring’ from “A Pagan Celebration” to “A Celebration of the Sacred Earth”, is a strong indication of it’s individuality and uniqueness that has been shaped by it’s history. One of the main reasons for initiating the Art Salons was to give the visual artists within our community a chance to share and talk about their work while exploring how we can better integrate what we do into the rituals and evolving traditions of the community. This also created the opportunity to start to talk about how what we put forward visually describes and defines who we are. A related area that I am trying to explore, in my own work as well as in groups like the Spider Clan at “Twilight Covening” is to look at the symbols we use in our art and ritual working.

I feel a bit of an internal tug of war when I think about the use of symbols in relationship to my magical work. I at once feel a strong resonance with the power of ancient symbols from times long past and foreign cultures and also a strong desire to move away from the cultural appropriation, editorial revival and sometimes direct misuse of symbols that I see within the greater neo-pagan movement.

Of Depicting the Goddess

For years I have not chosen goddess forms or imagery for any of my work. It took a comment from a friend to draw my attention to this and I realized that there was a subconscious choice to stay away from them as I feel there is a wide array (bordering on a surplus) in contemporary neo-pagan artwork and I didn’t feel like I had any particular insight or anything remotely original to bring into the mix. I didn’t want to work on the subject(s) simply because of other people's potential interest in it.

It was not until I spent a weekend in my great Uncle Clark Fitz-Gerald’s studio with his son Stephen that I chose to do a small venus form that was partially inspired by that friend's comment and almost challenge to work in a more feminine quality (even in my abstract work). And largely inspired by my Great uncle's own interest in the Iconic “Venus” forms and his collection of replicas of Neolithic and early European goddess forms and his own renditions including the comical “Venus of Bucksport.” His interest in these forms are similar to my own, finding the simple, more iconic and abstract forms some of the most compelling images of the divine feminine.

This particular rendition was carved primarily at Twilight Covening. One of the predominant themes that was held through the visioning ritual last year was abundance, in particular abundance of what we need. This tied in closely with the story of part of the carving's creation.

"This tree was cut five months ago and this segment left behind. Rather than leaving it to rot I chose to make something of it. When I began my work I had a clear image of what I wanted it to shape but I was working with haste and accidentally fractured a part of the wood. Due to my carelessness I had lost an essential part of the wood and I would be unable to create the form I had originally envisioned.”

“At that point I was left with two options: abandon my work and leave what remains to rot. Or to continue, working with prudence, and though I recognize that no mater what I do I would not be able to shape the form I had originally envisioned that I could still shape a work of beauty with what I did have."

Our expectations and dreams sometime cloud us from seeing the beauty of a more simple way of being.

Some of the other more significant aspects of this piece are that it was shaped from the base of the tree that provided the Maypole used at Rites of Spring 2008. Also the beadwork adorning her form was done with patterns, most of which arose from this past Spider Clan’s work in exploring symbols relating to abundance. This has an important connection to the second piece I will describe here.

Energies of Abundance

Abundance painting by Martin Bridge
This painting grew directly out of the clan work at Twilight Covening 2008. One of the predominant energies we were exploring was that of Abundance. Long before the event we were sensing the growing sentiment of Lack, as people were wrestling with the idea of travel primarily due to high gas costs. Little did we know as we chose this as one of the energies to explore that the event would be precipitated in less than a month with the banking collapse that lead to the current recession we are experiencing.

While human markets were crashing the climatic conditions yielded a bumper crop of apples in the Northeast. Apple trees were dropping branches under the weight of this years fruiting, one person I spoke with mentioned that it was the greatest crop he had seen on the trees in his memory of approximately 80 years.

Over the years of the Spider Clan’s work we have seen a remarkable co-incidence of multiple persons conjuring similar representations when asked to visually depict something symbolic of a particular energy or principle. This year one of the most predominant images that appeared in conjunction with the idea of abundance was that of a fruiting tree, providing enough to be taken and still to return to the earth continuing to provide for future generations. As we distilled and simplified the form the symbol utilized in this composition was what resulted.

The composition of this piece is one frequently repeated in my work, with a central symbol centered below two circular forms suggestive of eyes - a universal symbols for consciousness. In this case it was considering the extreme version of animistic philosophy that even ideas and concepts can have a spirit or consciousness guiding them.

My hope is that as we continue such exploration that our community can develop it’s own symbolic/visual identity and we can begin to rely less and less on external, adopted (or appropriated) symbols.

I invite you to play with and utilize this symbol in any way you can utilize it in line with its original intention.

(Go to to learn more about Martin and see his artwork.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

2008, the year in review

[Excerpt from an end of year letter about EarthSpirit's work in 2008.]
Rites Maypole
At this challenging moment in history, during this year’s Twilight Covening the EarthSpirit Community took time to experience the fullness in our lives and to express gratitude for all we are blessed with. Our Earth-centered spirituality helps us to recognize the value of the sacred as manifest all around us every day. It tunes us in to the web that connects us all, one to the other, with no hierarchy of superiority and no assumption that what benefits humankind will be the best for all of creation. It guides us and sustains us in times both joyful and difficult.
EarthSpirit’s work is to share the basic concepts of Earth-centered spirituality with our world 
– by building a community which shares these values and serves to support its members 
– by offering ceremonies and artistic expressions to all who might be moved by them 
– by preserving traditional spiritual practices which embody these values and teaching ways in which they can be integrated into daily life, – and by connecting with people from a wide range of spiritual traditions to foster understanding among all people.

We do this because we recognize the importance of connection between all people, between people and the Earth and between people and the realm of spirit in maintaining a sustainable future for our planet. Especially now, when separation so clearly prevents us. When we look back, we can see that 2008 has been a very full and productive year for the EarthSpirit Community: 

Rituals, Classes and Gatherings

EarthSpirit offered community rituals for Beltaine, Samhain and Yule in both eastern and western Massachusetts and also a ritual for members celebrating Lunasdal at Glenwood, our land-based center. In addition to giving us all the opportunity to gather and celebrate our most sacred times, these ceremonies are some of our best outreach tools. They are publicized by mail, on the Internet and also by word of mouth, and have proven to be a wonderful way for people to get to know about EarthSpirit as well as a powerful way for members to connect with one another throughout the year. 
We also sponsored Andras Arthen teaching “Anamanta”, a system of spiritual practice which he developed from traditional European roots, to classes in both eastern and western Massachusetts and more classes with him and others are being planned for next year.
A Feast of Lights, Rites of Spring and Twilight Covening continue to be a strong ritual and social cycle for our community. These gatherings are very special times of connection for so many of us who live far apart and rarely get the opportunity to actually spend time together. The meaningful community traditions span multiple generations and there is fulfillment in watching our young people step into leadership roles as they become adults. This year each of the gatherings brought forward new teachers from within our community and from connected circles. We are excited to see some new voices speaking up and we are looking forward to hearing more from them.

Our Center at Glenwood

Volunteers have been in and out of our center at Glenwood this summer and fall, helping us to rehab our Common House so that it can become a more welcoming space for the public and for members who come for workshops, concerts, rituals or classes. At the time of writing, we are finally ready for the finishing touches on the first floor – new light fixtures, paint on the walls and wood trim around the windows and doors. In order to make the space fully functional, though, we would like to also replace the roof on the building and maybe even add a composting toilet. It will be wonderful to be able to have a permanent and beautiful space in which to host more programs for our community.

When the weather turned warm, EarthSpirit invited all members to come to our center for a series of Open Houses. These free monthly events allow members to connect with the sacred shrines here on the land at Glenwood and include a tours as well as programs which varied from month to month, including singing and chanting, a healers’ round-table discussion, and an ancestor ritual. The Open Houses will begin again in the spring, after “mud-season” and we hope that you will be able to join us.

The Arts

Spirituality is often most directly expressed through the arts. MotherTongue’s new CD, Weaving the Web of Life, continues to sell well on CD-baby and through direct orders. It includes many of the songs and chants that the EarthSpirit Community has created for use at our rituals and events throughout the year. The Art Salon that we have offered at both Rites of Spring and A Feast of Lights, has grown and deepened as our visual artists have brought their work to exhibit and as they discuss the ways in which spirit has moved them in their creative process. 

An Advisory Council

In the spring, we established an Advisory Council which met twice during the year. We invited 20 active and committed EarthSpirit members from a variety of groups and geographical locations to make a 2-year commitment to come together to discuss our current strengths and also some new directions that we want to take. 
Topics of conversation have included the development of new programs for members in both eastern and western Massachusetts and for those at a distance, further outreach through more classes and public rituals, an increased and updated Internet presence, and the continued expansion of our interfaith work on local and international levels. The membership in this council will grow and change over the years and we hope that many of you will become involved in this kind of discussion with us.
Much interest has been expressed in training on various levels – from deepening spiritual practice to leadership training, to young-adult classes, to classes and activities for children and families. Concrete discussion has already begun around creating a EarthSpirit curriculum for children and their families and we hope to be able to present that to the community within the next year.

The Internet

The EarthSpirit website is one of our most consistent tools in developing and maintaining our community. Designed and maintained completely by volunteer service from Solstice Sun Designs, it has been both beautiful and reliable for years. In the coming year, however, we are hoping to be able to fund a complete overhaul of the site to bring it up to date with current standards and software while maintaining the distinctive beautiful design we have grown to love.

Interfaith connections

EarthSpirit maintains a strong voice in the global interfaith community with its director, Andras Corban Arthen, serving on the board of trustees of A Parliament of the World’s Religions. One of the special and most interesting aspects of his work there this year has been his participation on the Indigenous Religions Task Force, where he is able to work closely with representatives of American Indian and Australian Aboriginal traditions and at the same time share information on the indigenous pre-Christian European traditions. His work there has opened minds and doors and developed lasting connections with others who share similar Earth-centered ways. Andras is currently working to develop an international network of people who are practicing and preserving the old ways of Europe, and to that end he recently spent a month in Spain and Great Britain, giving several talks and meeting with a number of traditional practitioners; he hopes to bring some of them to the 2009 Parliament of the World‘s Religions in Melbourne, Australia. 
EarthSpirit plans to send a delegation to that 2009 meeting as well – to offer workshops, rituals and performances that will further the work of sharing our Earth-centered perspective with people of other traditions, and to engage in the global conversation about values and actions that can change our world for the better. Members have been very supportive of EarthSpirit’s participation in these kinds of efforts in the past, and we appreciate any financial assistance you can offer as we undertake this expensive but immeasurably valuable project.

Friday, March 20, 2009

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 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.