by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen
photo by Michael Whitehouse
photo by Michael Whitehouse
A number of EarthSpirit folks from the area spent yesterday at the Western Mass. Pagan Pride event. Thanks to Cassie Olewinski, whose hard work organizing was quite evident, the day was a great success overall. The EarthSpirit Community had been asked to lead the ritual this year and MotherTongue was also asked to perform so, since we had an information table there too, it was a very full day.
For the morning performance we intertwined group choral pieces with solos by Sarah Stockwell Arthen and Andras Corban Arthen. The mix was a good one, it went beautifully and we were well received - though it is always difficult to play for an audience that is milling about, and you kind of wonder if anyone is really listening. It’s certainly not the best venue for quiet or subtle songs, but we did hear appreciatively from people afterwards.
The afternoon ritual was the part that I found provocative in a lasting sort of way. We began with some of our community drummers playing to gather some energy and people in the area for the ritual. Again I was grateful to have a significant group of EarthSpirit Community members there, because many of the attendees seemed reticent about joining in, and together we created critical mass to get things moving. (Someone later said that the rituals in past years have been more demonstrative than participatory.) We began chanting and spiraling in to create a circle and did collect many people, but a portion of them still remained outside, even when invited in. It was a very participatory ritual including several chants, collective knot work and another spiral dance – a pretty typical EarthSpirit style ritual with an emphasis on accessibility for all and connection among the people there and with the natural world around us. The work of the ritual was about each person taking responsibility for her or his side of the relationships in their life – relationships with self, other people, the community and the web of creation - seeing what it is that we each need to do to hold our relationships with integrity and binding ourselves to do so. It was a good piece of work and it felt good as we did it together. We ended the ritual with the recognition that integrity in our relationships can bring us inner peace and, from that, help to create outer peace in the world that we are a part of. We sent out our wishes for that peace.
What lingers with me now is the recognition that came once again as we sang and danced together in that little green patch of earth near the highway, that many people in the greater pagan community – even those who have been involved for years - have not had much experience of that kind of ritual. Many people who consider themselves pagans gather more often indoors and follow a prescribed and scripted ritual when they celebrate their spirituality. To be invited to open up to the land that we were on and to the beings there, to feel our connections with each other and with the earth, to reach inside and find something there waiting to speak out – these are all aspects of ritual that I take for granted at this point but which were surprising and especially moving for some of the people who came up to me afterwards.
Today, in the September sunshine, I feel especially blessed and filled by the spiritual community that we have within EarthSpirit and by the traditions that we have preserved, reclaimed, brought together, developed and shared over these 30 years. It is wonderful to me when I watch people who celebrate and assume that this is the way that it has always been – because that shows me the depth to which the work has taken root. And it is also wonderful when I am with people experiencing these ways for the first time and they tell me that they will never forget that moment – because I am always amazed at their willingness to be so open and I am reminded of the importance of what we are doing together.