Monday, January 16, 2012

The EarthSpirit Grove

by Kate Greenough Richardson
The EarthSpirit Grove, click for larger image

This year I found myself with enough free time to be able to volunteer to help out in the EarthSpirit office on a weekly basis, which has given me a good look at all the projects and efforts this organization is leading and supporting. One week, Deirdre asked me to help think about a way to visually represent EarthSpirit’s work and its connections within our own community and out to the rest of the world. She had the idea of using something that was more like the living world we connect with, than like an organizational chart. Specifically, something that involved trees.

We listed out all of the projects and connections we could think of, and spent some time sketching on big paper, moving pieces around to see how they grouped together. In the end we came up with the outline for the drawing of the “EarthSpirit Grove” which now hangs in the office, and which was also reproduced in the latest annual newsletter.

In the center is the “Tree of Ground”, the physical home of the organization. This tree represents all the things a healthy organization needs in order to keep going and do the work of its mission. Here is the care of the physical home of EarthSpirit at Glenwood --the sacred sites which need maintenance and care, the community building in the process of upgrading so it can become a more functional and welcoming home for meetings, workshops and retreats. It includes also the office with its computers and phones, and all the routine administrative functions that any non profit has to attend to in order to keep going.

On one side is the “Body Tree”. Here are all the efforts and activities that support and nourish the home community of EarthSpirit. This includes the sort of pastoral care that the elders and adepts among us may do, the individual counseling and readings that help others meet challenging situations and decisions. It also includes the celebrations that bring us together as a community; seasonal rituals both on smaller less formal scale at Glenwood and elsewhere, and more formal open public rituals. And it also includes our major annual gatherings: Feast of Lights, Rites of Spring, and Twilight Covening. This is the tree that feeds our spiritual practices and our sense of community. Here are the models and teachers and co-practitioners that help us find and pursue our path; this is where we find and enliven our spiritual community.

On the other side is the “Tree of Song”, the tree that reaches out in to the world beyond the EarthSpirit community, to add our voice to the chorus so we may be able to bring the insights we gain from our practices and beliefs to the great effort of healing the world. This includes cultural offerings like MotherTongue, EarthSpirit’s own ritual performance group, as well as support of other pagan performers who bring their perspective out to wider audiences. It also includes outreach in writing-- from the EarthSpirit Voices blog to books and articles. One segment of this tree holds the ‘gateways’--places that hold information about EarthSpirit by which people can enter and learn about us. This covers the websites and blog.

On a larger scale, the Tree of Song holds our interfaith work and political activism, both on a formal and informal basis. EarthSpirit supports efforts to have a visible pagan presence in political actions related to concerns we particularly share. Primarily these include environmental concerns, peace work, and the rights of indigenous peoples. We have been instrumental in ensuring that pagans have an active presence and voice in the Parliament of the Worlds Religions, an international interfaith organization which holds regular conventions every 5 years. A group of our youngsters are also involved in Peace Jam, a project that connects kids with Nobel laureates to inspire their sense of responsibility and activism.

The Body Tree is our selves, and the paths and practices that bring us and hold us together as a living community. It’s how we take care of ourselves and each other. The Tree of Song is how we speak of what we know to the greater world, and how we use our skills and strengths to heal the wounds of the world. And the Ground Tree is the structure that makes this all possible in the world, so it’s not just scattered dreaming. Each tree connects with the others, each is a vital part of what EarthSpirit is in the world.

All the trees have roots in our spiritual practice, which is what makes for our distinct perspective. It informs the work we do in the world, and sets the tone and flavor for our community gatherings and rituals. The principles Andras has codified in his Anamanta teachings are the underpinnings of all our work. At the root of the Ground tree, you’ll see the egg representing the Glainn Sidhr order from which the initial inspiration for EarthSpirit arose.

In creating this representation for EarthSpirit’s work, Deirdre hoped it would provide a way for people to get a sense of all the things EarthSpirit is involved in. It gives us a way to pay attention to the whole, but also to pay attention to each tree and branch, to see what may need to be fed or supported, and what may need to be pruned or trimmed back. And also, my personal hope is that this mode of representation shares the sense of vitality and potential that has fed me as I’ve engaged in the work of EarthSpirit.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thank you all for helping

by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen

It has been another busy year for EarthSpirit, as we have consolidated and expanded our important work in all branches of activity -- thanks, in large part, to many dedicated community members who have made contributions of their time, expertise, goods and funds to support the work of the organization. We are very grateful; we could not do it all without you.

In over thirty years of existence, EarthSpirit has been able to grow into one of the largest pagan organizations in the US, supporting its members with programs and actively engaging in the world on many levels to create change. We’ve done a lot, and we look forward to doing more.

One of the original intentions of EarthSpirit was to build spiritual community through connections. Over the years this has always meant local and regional celebrations and gatherings, publications, performances and classes. By offering programs and leading rituals for other organizations, we build relationships regionally and around the country. Increasingly, EarthSpirit has reached out to its international members to assist in developing community in Europe and Central and South America. We hope to further develop and deepen these efforts in the coming year.

Our web site,, continues to be an entry-point for newcomers as well as a resource for long-time members. Our recent addition of EarthSpirit Voices ( has brought sharing and discussion of spiritual practice into our presence on the Web. We look forward to expanding and improving both of these important communication vehicles in the near future.

In the early 1980s we realized that pagans, given the opportunity, could make meaningful contributions to the interfaith dialogues that were developing both nationally and globally, and that we could also benefit greatly from participation in such forums. Since that time, EarthSpirit has played a major role in helping paganism attain a much greater level of credibility and respect within the interreligious movement. The work that EarthSpirit director, Andras Corban Arthen, has been doing through his service on the board of trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR) has been growing. Last November, Andras was sent by the CPWR to Guadalajara, Mexico, as part of the site committee which evaluated that city’s bid to host the 2014 Parliament. While there, he also had the opportunity to meet with many local pagans as well as several indigenous leaders.

In February, Andras went to Chicago to help choose the host city for the 2014 Parliament, which will be Brussels, Belgium. In early May, he was sent back to Guadalajara along with CPWR executive director Dirk Ficca to explore ways to maintain a working relationship with the local group that organized that city’s bid, including a collaboration to develop an interreligious initiative throughout Latin America. As a result of that trip, Andras was asked to serve as the CPWR’s liaison with the Guadalajara group. In addition, Andras was elected again to the CPWR’s executive committee, and was asked to oversee the Parliament’s Ambassadors program, which coordinates several hundred Parliament supporters from all over the world.

The ‘Indians’ of Old Europe, the presentation that Andras has been offering in recent years which places the surviving pagan traditions in the context of Indigenous European spirituality, has been receiving a great deal of favorable attention throughout the interfaith movement, with lots of people telling him how it’s helped them to see paganism in a different light and to take it much more seriously. As a result, he has been receiving many invitations to speak at interfaith and academic events in the U.S. and abroad, including two next year in India and Denmark. Unfortunately, those invitations rarely cover all of the expenses involved, so the only way he is able to attend is through the support and generosity of our community.

EarthSpirit has been committed to young people since the outset. Without engaging and including youth, any community becomes unsustainable. Our mentoring programs, Rites of Passage ceremonies and ongoing activities such as EarthSpirit PeaceJam help those growing up within our community learn from the experience of elders while finding their own voices and means of expression. In the coming year we look forward to continuing and expanding our support for these programs.

In 2011, thanks to our generous donors, we have replaced our sluggish and undependable office computers with new Dells that actually work reliably. What a difference it makes for our office volunteers! We have also begun work to completely revamp our database system using expert volunteers to develop and create a configuration that will greatly improve our ability to stay connected with members across the US and around the world.

As you might imagine, all of this work, in so many areas, requires a significant amount of money to sustain it. Despite the struggling economy over the past few years, our community has been very generous. We have consistently received contributions large and small -- both in the mail and at the auction at Rites of Spring. We appreciate every single one. Please consider increasing your donation to EarthSpirit this year to help us move quickly toward our goals.

We count on you to be a part of the web that holds us together on so many levels. Thank you all for helping EarthSpirit to continue moving forward!

Deirdre Pulgram Arthen, Executive Director