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.


  1. Beautiful, and well said.

  2. Something I see with this piece is an application in the round. As you have shown the Body Tree reaches out with Gatherings and Sings and Groups to the right, which I see reaching to the Tree of Song and speaks to how we go out in the the greater world and teach what we know. Truly beautiful and well placed.