Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Archive for the ‘Sacred Play’ Category

Awakening to Wonder

The Factionist/via Flickr

Today on an NPR blog I read about a symposium (at Concordia College in Minnesota) regarding “re-enchantment.” The posting caught  my eye because “re-enchantment” is one of my forms of sacred play.

From the College’s website:

Awakening to Wonder: Re-enchantment in a Post-Secular Age
Sept. 14-15

The symposium will explore the role of wonder in today’s world by asking such questions as:

  • What role does wonder play in popular culture, including literature, movies, and games, and what is the significance of the current attention to wonder and mystery in these areas?
  • What place does wonder have within the intellectual vocation of making sense of the world?
  • Can reason and wonder coexist, or are they in serious conflict with one another?
  • How and why is the place of religion changing in the contemporary world?
  • Do such changes in religion involve changes in our sense of the world as a locus of wonder?
  • What are the experiences writers in a wide range of fields of study have in mind when they speak of re-enchantment?
  • Do shared experiences of wonder represent a common ground where people of different faiths, cultures, and academic disciplines might meet, understand and appreciate each other, or explore solutions to problems they have in common?

How I wish I could have attended! A post-secular age. The rebirth of wonder.

At this time of year, when the green melts away from the tree leaves, leaving on display the reds and golds; when the air has that delicious crispness in the morning; when the pace of summer activities has slowed; when I feel myself beginning to be drawn inward ~ the story-spinning part of me begins to awaken, and of course it whispers of inner and far-out worlds. My fingers itch to create masks and otherworldly garments, all in the service of re-enchantment, at a time on the wheel of the year when the earth appears to be falling into a doze.

Awaken! We need new, more expansive ways of understanding the world and our places within it. May our common ground in experiences of wonder lead to many stories, works of imagination, and the enchantment that will empower our creative connections to this amazing planet, and with one another.

Wild Flowers

After several days in the woods with more than a dozen women, I’m slowly adjusting to the indoor world. The rooms seem cramped and stuffy, but I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising, after living outdoors for a few days.

There were many memorable moments. One of my favorites was watching a huge flock of hundreds of birds encircling the clearing in which I was sitting ( a little freaky, in that it reminded me of the Hitchcock movie). They were silent except for the sound of their wings.

The photos show the back of the stone fireplace, where some flat surfaces provided spaces for small “altars” to be created by the women present.

On one evening, we lay on our backs near the coals of the fire and watched for meteors. There were many, but one was absolutely spectacular as it streaked across the sky, leaving a long trail which looked almost double. Later that night I took the rain-fly off my tent so I could continue to watch the stars through the night.

On the last evening, a friend and I created a “dusk walk,” a liminal experience on the paths in the woods, which were lit with candles. The experience left me with the desire to create more outdoor magical experiences for others.

I’m already dreaming about next year’s Wild Flowers event. It is sponsored each summer by the organization Wellspring Haven.

Beach Play

Earth, air, fire and water today. Watching the little fishies, the granddaughters, splashing, swimming, playing, immersing themselves in coolness and fun. Soaking it in – the sky with wind-blown clouds, the sandy shore, the strong summer sun, and precious water. We are made of cycling earth, air, fire, water, constantly renewed. No wonder beach play feels so good!

Welsh Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology

Ethnobotany: the study of culturally important species of plants.

Ethnoecology: the study of culturally important ecosystems.

Ned Phillips-Jones offered the above definitions at a workshop my daughter and I attended today on the Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology of Wales. First we gathered for a power-point presentation about the process of using one’s own ethnic background to research and imaginatively explore what plants and animals might have been important to our ancestors. There are close relationships between plants from Wales and plants here in New England: the Welsh rowan and the American mountain ash, for example. My father (whose mother came to this country from Wales) planted mountain ash trees around our home when I was a child – and now I have planted mountain ash at my home. Many plants (rowan, oak, hazel, mistletoe) were considered sacred by ancient Celts. Ned also spoke about coppicing, creating hedges, carved and standing stones, and building cairns. He has been incorporating these methods into his garden project.

The Forest Garden

After the indoor presentation, we proceeded outdoors to the wonderful forest garden that Ned has created on the Hampshire College campus. There we saw hawthorn, blackthorn, elderberry, sloe plum plants, nettle, tiny Welsh daffodils, and many other plants, beautifully arranged in beds with stepping stone paths. We ceremonially planted a holly bush in the garden (the berries on it in the photo below were not real but were there for effect! 🙂 ). It’s a beautiful, peaceful sanctuary of edible delight!

Planting the Holly

Welsh Daffodil

On the social network Americymru, Ned wrote: “A long term goal of mine is to teach Permaculture through the medium of Welsh. I want to help create forest gardens (and teach about them) in order to help struggling communities produce a diversity of foods and useful goods which require little maintenance to produce for years. A number of traditional perennial Welsh wild food crops are promising as contributions to forest garden ecosystems (hazel, gooseberry, wild leek, sea kale and sorrel).
There are strong connections between language, culture, communities, and locally produced food. I believe there is great potential to reinvigorate communities and local economies by investing in perennial agriculture and designed ecosystems. The opportunity for ‘green’ job creation gives the concept added relevance to current policy discussions.”

To finish our time together we enjoyed Herbal Mead, Black Currant Juice, Laver (sea vegetables), and Cawl Mamgu Tregaron (soup).

Gardd bendigedig, Ned! Diolch yn fawr!

Ned Phillips-Jones

The Green Man Archetype

We should not be seeking the Garden, it is not lost. It is we who are lost. It is we who are alienated from the Garden of which we are a part, which is around us and within us now, and always has been.

Green Man

So says Billy, one of the many Green Men present at the Convention I am attending this weekend. I apologize that his photo, above, is not more clear; the light was low.

Brian Froud said that a first step in reconnecting with the spirit of nature is to acknowledge that it is possible. Before “taking things” from nature, we should seek permission. Communication, he said, is possible and necessary, and there are no “rules” about how to do it; it is individual and intuitive process.

At the end of the Green Man Panel, Brian was made an honorary member of the Blessed Order of the Greenman (BOG).

Blessed Order of the Greenman induction ceremony

Other members on the Green Man panel included Celtic scholar John Matthews, folklorist Steve Winick, artists Wendy and Brian Froud, and BOG founder Shane Odom.

So far (it’s not over yet) attending this event has been a colorful, inspiring, and thought-provoking experience. There have been many other workshops, gatherings, and events here. More posts will follow as time allows – it’s a busy time!

Easter Bunny or Hare?

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Photo by Joel Minsky.

More info on rabbits, hares, spring, and Easter, from the blog eNature.com.

This photo was taken by my brother-in-law when we were traveling in Cape Breton.

Green Spirit

On this white and snowy day, I’m sharing a springtime photo, plus a link I just added to this blog.

The people of GreenSpirit:

* celebrate all existence as deeply connected and sacred

* understand humanity as integral to the planetary landscape rather than its distinguishing feature

* find inspiration in the traditions of Earth-based peoples and Celtic spirituality

* are exploring the unfolding story of the Universe and promote common ground between people in the context of this vision

* seek to redress the balance of masculine and feminine and befriend darkness as well as light

* create ceremonies and celebrations which connect us more consciously with the cycle and seasons of the Earth

* seek a more just, sustainable and peaceful way of life in harmony with the Earth

The statements above (in italics) are from the GreenSpirit website. I learned about this organization  from my friend Marian, an active GreenSpirit member. This group in Great Britain is based on the Creation Spirituality movement. To learn more about Creation Spirituality, visit the CS website.

Meanwhile, closer to home, through Sanctuary Without Walls I am looking forward to hosting gatherings where we can explore how our place as part of the natural world and our earthly and cosmic story can offer us inspiration, healing, a sense of peace and balance, a profound feeling of belonging, and more. Posts about this and other events will appear as plans develop.