When attempting to answer the query about how I live engage and express goddess feminism activism and spirituality I think about creating and celebrating rituals either alone or in the company of others. My rituals seem to have directed the course of my life over the past 35 years. These rites are a living backbone that supports me and runs parallel with the animals that I study and write about as an ethologist and a naturalist. I cannot separate the two. So the question becomes: What is Earth based ritual?
When I discovered the Women’s Spirituality movement some thirty-five years ago I knew I had found home. As a feminist and a naturalist the festivals of the Old Religions ‘fit’ like a glove because most of these pagan rites (pagan means country person) revolved around Nature as Goddess, and the observations of country folk who were wed to their agricultural practices; these rituals always followed the seasons. One way of visualizing this idea of Nature as Goddess is to see the goddess as the center of wheel and the god(s) as the traveler(s), moving around the center. In Goddess theology both male and female elements are understood as being equal in importance.
I remember so clearly my astonishment when I finally found the feminine face of god; what I didn’t know then is that this reality would change my life in profound ways. Perhaps the most important realization came to me gradually as I began to believe that humans were just one of many species and that all species carried a form of consciousness and awareness. Most exciting to me was also the realization that I could communicate across species and that trees and frogs, dogs and bears all wanted to converse with me as much as I wanted to commune with them.
I found myself slipping through the veil as I began to write my own rituals, shamelessly borrowing whatever elements appealed to me from world mythology and incorporating them into my own rites. It is probably just as accurate to say that these rituals also came to life through my dreaming body, since almost from the beginning my dreams directed the process. I chose the Celtic calendar as my own because of the eight festivals of year, four involving the equinoxes and solstices, and the other four occurring as cross quarter days. Beltane or May Day is the next cross quarter ritual, the Feast of the New Grain occurs August 1, and All Hallows, or the Feast of the Dead occurs on October 31, and lasts through November 2, which also corresponds to the end of the Celtic year… At the Winter Solstice the next year begins so there are a few weeks when “the space in-between” acts as an open door to the universe and is a powerful time to self-reflect… Each of these eight rituals follows the obvious and subtle change of each season.
When I researched Native American mythology I learned that indigenous peoples also held festivals around the same times that the European festivals were held. These synchronous eruptions reinforced my belief that there are invisible “fields” or regions of influence in Nature that people tap into intuitively if left to their own devices. Nature literally became my compass as I continued to write and celebrate ritual every full moon and eight times a year. There is something in my psyche that loves this whole process; for many years now I have left it to Nature and my dreams to inform me what comes next, so although cyclic my rituals are also continuously evolving. All I have to do is to pay attention to the animals, birds etc. that might be acting as guides in daily life or in my dreams, stay open to synchronicity, and reflect on whatever is hooking me mythically in my research, and the rituals write themselves.
Celebrating, I frequently tap into a specific archetypal field and at these times my rituals become profound religious experiences. Not always though. Sometimes I don’t feel any connection to anything. However, I have learned that the only important thing is that I keep paying attention, writing, and celebrating; that Nature will eventually reveal herself again to me in a meaningful way.
Each ritual follows a simple pattern. I call in my guardians – the animals and birds that are most important to me, I call up the elements honoring each – fire, water, earth, and air, and I honor the four directions. I compose a brief essay or poem to use as an invocation and write about whatever moves me in the body of the ritual. I give thanks. In each ritual I release something in myself that I no longer need, and I set intentions that have emerged through my dreams/day-life. To end the ritual I thank the guardians and the four directions for being present to witness the rite, and I imagine the circle that has been created by the ritual remaining unbroken until the next festival.
These rituals have changed the way I live my life, tuning me in to Nature on a level I couldn’t have imagined.
The second part of this essay (expected to be published next week) is a ceremony that I wrote this year for the Vernal Equinox to help the reader see how Nature’s rituals work through me.
My hope is that this example will excite the imagination of the reader and that perhaps S/he will want to write a ritual of her/his own choosing to enter the world of Nature at will.
To be continued.