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  • Crystal Blanton and Yeshe Rabbit at Sacred Harvest Festival – Interview

    Crystal Blanton at Sacred Harvest Festival 2012

    Two other guests from past Sacred Harvest Festivals are returning, Crystal Blanton and Yeshe Rabbit. This year a whole range of rituals are offered from guests, Harmony Tribe members, and community members.  Crystal and Rabbit are together offering a Ritual of Ancestral Healing on Thursday, Aug 7th.   Yeshe Rabbit is offering a featured ritual Friday evening Aug 8th,  “Dancing with our Demons”, before the annual Rangoli ritual.  I talked to them together on a Google hangout.

    Advance Registration for Sacred Harvest Festival ends tomorrow at midnight, Thursday July 31st. Patrons can register at the gate in Albert Lea, Mn for a day, weekend, or the full week Aug 4-10th.

    Yeshe Rabbit

    What is the ritual that you are offering together?
    Rabbit: We are very excited about the ritual we are doing together,  the Ritual of Ancestral Healing. We recently heard a lecture two weeks ago together that was so wonderful.  It was with one of Crystal’s mentors,  Dr Joy Degruy,  who speaks about the racial and ethnic underpinnings that have formed American culture.  There are these invisible threads of racism twined within everything. You don’t see them until you pull back the cloth and reveal the threads that are holding it all together.  I am so fired up for this ritual after going with Crystal to this eye opening lecture.

    Crystal:  Doing something like this together is a step at looking at some of the many layers that keep us stuck. It is opening up conversation and connection,  extending the olive branch;  not necessarily through each other but through our ancestors. It is connecting in a way we don’t normally get to in our normal walk of life.  We will be acknowledging the many layers of societal hurt,  community hurt, and how we impact one another. I am excited about it as a way to open another level of work, and acknowledging it in a way meant to be healing. Not just ripping the scab off,  but acknowledging the fact the scabs and scars exist.  Loving those scars and loving our past through one another as a result of that.  I am really excited about it for those reasons.

    You are offering this in the mainly white Midwest.  Does that make it different?
    Crystal: I think it makes a huge difference because it is not often we get to offer this in other areas that may not have the diversity of places like the Bay Area,  and get a chance to  explore these things, in this way.  This is something very unique that both of us can bring to the table, and that otherwise people may not have the opportunity to participate in.

    Rabbit: When I have done this sort of work before, one of the things I have found is that white people feel that they can only talk to people of color about this issue. Sometimes we really need to be talking to each other about it. While our sisters and brothers of color in the Pagan community are often amazing resources of information and experience that we can learn from, it is not always appropriate for us to ask them to teach us everything.  By gathering groups of people together who are white to talk together with people they know and trust, in a creative environment of trust, we are hoping that people who are white will engage with us, and each other to take responsibility together for learning about race and ethnicity.  I know some of the people who live right there in Minnesota also have persecution in their ancestral past, that may be different than the type of persecution that Crystal’s ancestors may have faced.  Certainly different that my ancestors faced in Eastern Europe. It is still relevant because what we are coming to the table with is to take responsibility for what we can do, what we can learn from each others experiences.

    Crystal: I am excited about it. There is more diversity there than one might assume at first glance.  At the same time, even knowing that, the experience of people of color is different for people of color walking into a place that is perceived as a lily white area.  What that brings up , understanding that, and having that kind of dialog  in an open and loving way is so important. We plan to back up that kind of dialog with something that is magical and supportive. This is something we don’t often give ourselves permission to do,  to come to the table as we are, and work together for collective healing.  We don’t have to, it is not a blame game, it is not making people feel they have to take accountability for something that they don’t relate to.  It is dissecting a little of it together and than backing that up with magic. Part of why this is so special is it would be totally different if we were doing this in another location.

    Rangoli Ritual Ground Design

    What is your Friday night SHF ritual, Dancing with our Demons about?
    Rabbit: In Tibetan Buddhism you have various classes of beings that you encounter. In the Dharma view you have choices. You have rituals that will banish those demons, and rituals that will feed those demons.  In this case I am really referring to a shadow part of our personality or psyche that comes forward, or a vexatious situation, this is a demon. It is a bad thing,  some thing we deem a “bad” collection of energies. When we encounter those we are soul tied to decide, are we going to banish this, try to fix this, or try to feed this. When we are in this mode of trying to either banish, fix, or feed one of the things what often happens is we are not being present for the lessons that thet demon is teaching us in the moment.  Dancing with our Demons is a ritual to bring forward and embody some of the hardest lessons that we have had to learn from this year,  and dance them into healing, and dance them into awareness. Not necessarily seek to banish, fix, or feed any of it, but just to be moving with it. This movement based meditation will help us become aware of them and so learn from our demons.

    Another workshop you offer is about the Dharma Pagan?
    Rabbit: In this session we will start with a chanting session so everyone can come and benefit from the experience of a chanting practice. We will talk about the notion of the Dharma, and how I relate that to what in my Pagan practice I call magic.  It is the universal force that flows through all things.  We will talk about where my practice overlaps between my Paganism and my Tibetan Buddhism. This so perfect because after we leave you all we move on to what is like our pilgrimage. The first leg of the pilgrimage is the Pagan one to Sacred Harvest Festival. Then the second and third legs are first in Colorado at the Buddhist monastery, and then in Tibet itself. These are the Dharma voyage of the pilgrimage.  This workshop will be a great time to talk about that in terms of the structure of my beliefs.

    Crystal, your Tuesday workshop, “Embodying Cultural Archetypes”, is this preparation for the ritual with Rabbit or a separate topic?
    Crystal:  In some ways it is a separate topic, but there is some intersection there. Initially it is something I am working on,  work that I am doing independently as a writer and spiritual person. The Ancestral Healing ritual idea came about and they complimented each other.  Though I  didn’t plan them together, they will probably work in that way.  I am delving into the marriage between culture and our spiritual practice.  How we show up in our spirituality. It is important to acknowledge and honor all the many different layers of privilege and gratitude in our practice. Sometimes there is a negative viewpoint when someone brings up the idea of privilege, at least that is the perspective.  In reality we all live with privilege and there is an intersectionality with privilege. It is  important to understand and talk about how that feeds into gratitude. How we can acknowledge the things that we have,  and do so alongside other things that are very challenging for us.  How we can make that part of a balanced perspective and practice for us so that we are moving forward with gratitude. For me they are very closely related to the theme of the whole festival. How can we be grateful if we can’t acknowledge e what is happening within our life.

    Are Pagans class aware as a group, Is this about class?
    Crystal: I do think we struggle in that area. In some ways we are class aware but in other ways my perception is that we struggle with the many different layers of what makes us a whole person and not just a Pagan.  It is in the evolution of any community. You start with one person and then it spreads out and spreads out.  We add to it and then have a different awareness and understanding.  At this point we are expanding our understanding around issues like class, racism, gender,  and how those things make up the Pagan community.  We ask does our understanding enhance or take away from our spiritual practice?  We are growing in that way. Not all Pagans are poor,  but not all Pagans have a lot of money either.  It is a struggle to wrap our minds around that. Even though we are Pagans we are also just people who are struggling in different areas. Bringing attention to that just makes us stronger.

    You are offering a Community Gratitude Restorative Justice Circle on Friday, what does that look like?
    Crystal:  Because it is focused on community building we will do some interactive things differently than at the other restorative justice circles I have done there before. It will be the same format but different. I don’t want to give too much away, but one of the activities we will be doing will leave the community with something tangible that has a piece of everyone there. You can choose what to do with it, whether to put it on your website, or return it to the festival. I really want to leave something tangible and walk away so when anyone sees it they will remember, remember how incredible it was to build community in that way.  I am excited about offering it, I did something similar at Pantheacon a few years ago.  There it was a really great experience and I m excited to see how it works for Harmony Tribe at the festival.

    It is such an honor to be back there at the festival for a wonderful theme like gratitude, when I feel so much gratitude for everyone I have met in Minnesota.

     

    Yeshe Rabbit and Crystal Blanton  will join Tony Mierzwicki for a week of workshops and rituals at Sacred Harvest Festival, August 4-10th near Albert Lea, Mn.  Advance registration closes this Thursday, July 31st, but is available for a week, weekend, or day pass at the festival gate.

     

    Nels Linde

    ~ Nels is a council member of Harmony Tribe, sponsor of Sacred Harvest Festival

    Tony Mierzwicki, Guest at Sacred Harvest Festival – Interview

    Tony Mierzwicki

    Tony Mierzwicki is one of three national guests appearing at Sacred Harvest Festival (SHF)  beginning Monday, August 4th near Albert Lea, MN.  Tony is the author of “Graeco-Egyptian Magick: Everyday Empowerment” and was also a guest of  SHF in 2008.

    Tony is from Austalia but spends much of his time writing and lecturing in Southern California. I talked to him by phone.

    Your expertise is in Greek Religion, what have you been up to lately?

    I have a book coming out in December called , “Hellenismos: Practicing Greek Polytheism Today” . It is a book that reconstructs the practice of Greek religion and updates it to the current day. It is the first book to come out from a main stream publishing company. Every other book has either come out as an academic text or has been self published. This will be a practical text published with Llewellyn. I am a student of Greek religion and I am trying to make it more accessible for those people who are interested. There does seem to be a fair amount of interest in Greek religion at the moment. There are all sorts of Hollywood movies coming out, like Herakles and about other figures of Greek mythology. There would be people out there wondering how the Greeks venerated their Gods. This book will allow people to venerate the gods in a spirit of how the ancient Greek went about the process. There are a number of things that the Greeks did that we cannot do. We are not going to bring back public animal sacrifice, or slavery, or the subjugation of women. Every religion modifies and changes as time goes on. What I am trying to do is look at ancient Greek religion and come up with my best guess of what it would look like today if it had continued since ancient times. That is the spirit behind the book.

    This is based on my own experience, but I also lurk on many Greek based electronic forums to see how other people practice Greek religion, and the issues they are having. There are a number of misconceptions that people have, and I have tried to address those issues. The book is heavily based on source texts, with over 400 footnotes that people can refer to as my primary and secondary sources. I look at the book as “factual” but different folks looking at the same data and material will look to other directions or disagree with the practice outline.

    Is Greek  reconstruction a growing part of the Pagan movement?

    It is a slowly growing part of the Pagan community . People who are drawn to the Greek religion tend to be very scholarly. They tend to consult original texts and get very passionate in their interpretations. There are many intelligent people practicing Greek polytheism. There are some people who believe you go through the motions, performing rituals perfectly, but do not expect any personal interaction with the gods. Others believe you it is all about a personal interaction with the gods. That is my belief. Unless you can feel the presence of the gods you are not really getting the most out of your practice.

    The Greeks did not have a word for religion. In this day and age we tend to think of religion and secular life as two separate things. We go about our daily lives and may get involved in some religious practice occasionally. Christians may go to church on Sunday, but the rest of the week they are indistinguishable from the rest of the community. Pagans may venerate their gods on certain days, full moons or the eight Sabbats, depending on what they are into. For the Greeks, venerating the gods was something they did everyday. They would not think of beginning any venture unless they called on the gods first. The practice of Greek religion was integrated seamlessly into everyday life. We think of religion as being separate, but then it was considered a crime to disbelieve in the gods, or be an atheist. Everyone went to temples constantly and engaged in various sacrifices. There were particular rituals that took place on a city level. Household performed their own rituals, Guilds and trade groups performed their rituals. They were all varied and different. The principles remained the same but the nuts and bolts of how they did ritual varied.

    The description of how Greeks practiced religion in all aspects of life sounds a lot like much indigenous practice?

    One of the early theories of how religion developed is that it started off as a shamanic practice that became more institutionalized and then turned into religion. If you look at many indigenous tribes their gods have a very real presence. The gods are around them constantly and interact with them frequently. The tribes depend on the gods for everything that is good in their lives. The gods provide sunshine and rain and produce a bountiful harvest for them. They are constantly working with the gods, there is no idea of separation from the divine. This is something you also see with the Greeks.

    What are you bringing to Sacred Harvest Festival next week?

    The heart of my presentation is a series of three workshops that begins with The Practice of Ancient Greek Religion Today.

    The second is on Greek Nature Deities and Gaia Consciousness .  It is about the interconnectedness of us and everything around us. I wanted to bring in the idea of Gaia consciousnessbecause it is a thoroughly modern concept that talks about how everything is interconnected and integrated.

    The third workshop pushes that further and talks about how all of this impacts our health. The things we do in everyday life have an impact on ourselves and everything around us. One of the problems in modern society is that many see themselves as separate from the world. They think they can exploit the riches of the world and not suffer the consequences. I will be pushing the idea of working in harmony with the world, working with sustainable faming practices, sustainable energy and the like. I will talk about how this then also impacts on our health. The workshops form a cohesive series together and I am very grateful to be able to offer these three workshops as a series.

    Will this be of interest to those of many different paths?

    Absolutely, I will try to talk in generalities about these topics, but when it comes down to it one of the things that most Pagans have in common is a deep connection with the planet, the world around them. Regardless of the gods that they may feel closest to, most of us realize that we are integrally connected with the planet and that our decisions effect everything that happens around us – the butterfly effect.  This proposes that every little thing that we do, can wind up having a much larger effect around us. The more people become responsible in how they act, the better things will turn out in the long term for us. A precipice is approaching where we start running out of fossil fuels, and pollution is so bad we can’t breathe the air or drink the water.

    My fourth workshop will be about ancient curses and bindings. This will be an overview from an academic sort of viewpoint. It will give people an idea about what kind of activities took place so they can see the darker underbelly of our community from the vantage point of the past.

    The last workshop will be about the god Set. For a lot of people Set is thought of as an evil god, a prototype of the Christian devil. He has been demonized over the years. When one people conquers another they demonize the gods of the other. In this case Set was a very significant god in ancient times. There are various texts which talk about his importance and describe him as a benevolent deity. Once the worship of Osiris came to the ascendancy, Set was demonized. I hope to present some balance and provide another way of looking at him. He is a powerful god, but not really evil. I want to share what I have found in my research about him.

    When were you last a guest at Sacred Harvest Festival?

    This was in 2008 and had a fantastic time! I was made to feel very welcome. One of the things I really liked was there wer activities for all ages. There were many children and there wer activities for kids, teens, and adults. There was a strong family environment for people who attended with their kids. It was nice to have a festival where you could actually sleep!. Many stayed up late but it was around campfires, singing, enjoying stories and a drink or two together. The whole event had a very family kind of feel to it and I felt blessed to be there. I feel blessed to be coming out yet again!

    I firmly believe that whatever path you choose has to be the path that resonates with you, the path that feels right for you. Unless you have found a specific path you absolutely don’t want to deviate from, it is always good to see what other people are doing and perhaps learn little things that you can integrate into your own practice from them. I am simply bringing things I have learned in the past couple of decades in the hopes that attendees can get something out of them to integrate into their own practice. There may be people interested enough in what I am doing to engage in the practice of Greek polytheism or perhaps Graeco-Egyptian magick – the subject of my previous book. What I have found from running workshops based on my first book is that very few people will choose to practice exactly as it is presented in the book. People tend to pick out bits and pieces from it and integrate it into what they are already doing. That is fine because it is all about finding things which resonate with you. When I was starting out I was trying to learn everything I could from those around me. There were things that would just feel right, and others that didn’t quite feel right. This approach ensures that eventually you end up navigating your own path.

    There are so many gifted speakers this year sharing their experiences and knowledge. That is what it is all about, learning from each other and sharing our experiences. We can then all pass what we have learned and pay it forward. I can’t help those who helped me in the past but I can help those who come after me, and I encourage others to do the same.

    Tony will join Yeshe Rabbit and Crystal Blanton  for a week of workshops and rituals at Sacred Harvest Festival, August 4-10th near Albert Lea, Mn.  Advance registration closes this Thursday, July 31st, but is available for a week, weekend, or day pass at the festival gate.

     

    Nels Linde

    ~ Nels is a council member of Harmony Tribe, sponsor of Sacred Harvest Festival

    Follow the Moon: Astrology of intention and mindfulness

    by Teri Parsley Starnes

    Teri’s interest with astrology lies with helping people see how following a practice of intention and self-awareness leads to a fuller relationship with Mystery. Astrology is a wonderful tool for this. Her weekly column orients readers to the seasonal energy of
    each month’s Sun sign in order to set magical/mindful intention for the lunar month beginning at the New Moon.

    Each week Teri will write about the unfolding energies that support and challenge our intentions. The ebb and flow of the lunar cycle resides deep in our souls. Through following the phases of the Moon, we remember the natural cycles that guide us.

    Continue reading

    Eye of Horus Metaphysical Store Faced with Relocating

    Thraicie and Jane

    Thraicie and Jane

    You would never guess from the business-as-usual appearance at the Eye of Horus Metaphysical Store that the owners are faced with the sudden challenge of relocating it by the end of this month and finding the funds to do so. As I enter “the Eye”, I am still greeted by the customers browsing, buying and getting their questions answered by upbeat staff. Stones of all types glisten beside cards stating their magical properties. A client seeking spiritual guidance exits into a room with one of the divinational readers. In the background a CD plays musical selections from an upcoming Wendy Rule concert being held there this Sunday. Thraicie Hawkner, her long silver hair flowing down her shoulders, and Jane Hawkner, with a short, cute pixie cut, approach me from across the busy room with undaunted looks on their faces.

    Their confident appearance shouldn’t have surprised me. They have been running The Eye of Horus since October 31st 2003 in a previous location just a few blocks from their current space and even earlier as an internet business with booths at community gatherings. Meeting the challenges of entrepreneurship over the years has made them seasoned businesswomen with a fair amount of mettle. But, even so, finding out the first of July that they would need to find a new space and move the store into it by the end of July, would have been enough to make even experienced business owners sweat.

    “During this crunch time it has been particularly motivating to remember how many times people have come in and said things like, “I did not know there was a place like this, I feel like I have come home” or “Your store is the reason I was able to reconnect to my faith”, said Jane. It keeps us tuned into the reason we are here and to what the Eye of Horus means to so many people. Knowing that we have been of meaningful service to the community has been fuel for problem solving through this challenge.”

    “We have found a perfect size space for us that we can move into,” Thraicie said. She explained that the challenge has been raising the funds for the move. “We just found out July 1st that we would need to move, so we had no money to secure the new location, or any money to cover the closing of the store during move time, a rental truck or other moving expenses. So we developed the current fundraiser.”

    Eye of Horus has a GoFundMe website  that enables people to either purchase “perks” or make a straight donation. The perks are in the form of discounted services such as divinatory readings, therapeutic massage, discounted gift certificates, or a book shelf in their name.  In this way, people can choose to donate or purchase “perks” at attractively discounted prices.

    Continue reading

    Follow the Moon: Astrology of intention and mindfulness

    y Teri Parsley Starnes

    Teri’s interest with astrology lies with helping people see how following a practice of intention and self-awareness leads to a fuller relationship with Mystery. Astrology is a wonderful tool for this. Her weekly column orients readers to the seasonal energy of
    each month’s Sun sign in order to set magical/mindful intention for the lunar month beginning at the New Moon.

    Each week Teri will write about the unfolding energies that support and challenge our intentions. The ebb and flow of the lunar cycle resides deep in our souls. Through following the phases of the Moon, we remember the natural cycles that guide us.

    Continue reading

    Follow the Moon: Astrology of intention and mindfulness

    By Teri Parsley Starnes

    Teri’s interest with astrology lies with helping people see how following a practice of intention and self-awareness leads to a fuller relationship with Mystery. Astrology is a wonderful tool for this. Her weekly column orients readers to the seasonal energy of
    each month’s Sun sign in order to set magical/mindful intention for the lunar month beginning at the New Moon.

    Each week Teri will write about the unfolding energies that support and challenge our intentions. The ebb and flow of the lunar cycle resides deep in our souls. Through following the phases of the Moon, we remember the natural cycles that guide us.

    Continue reading

    Shoe Shrines in West Wisconsin

    photo: George Adams

    photo: George Adams

    On a backwater road in West Wisconsin there are shoes. Shoes nailed to guard rail posts, hanging from trees, even planted with flowers. Work shoes, dance shoes, running shoes, prom shoes, they are all on the roadside.  There are many possible explanations from ghosts to magic, a traveler’s shrine to a teenage prank. Their presence at the road side could be all of these reasons, or none. What you see for sure is amazed people slowing or stopping to look in wonderment.

    Shoes have always been a potent vehicle and symbol used in magic.  Shoes are very personal.  Over time they take the exact shape of the wearers foot, and are a reflection of who they are.  There are forms of Southern “conjure work” where the magic is activated through contact with shoes.

    In many cultures there existed a prehistoric custom of killing a person and placing the body in the foundation of a new building to insure that the building holds together. Later as this practice lost favor shoes were used as a substitute for a human sacrifice.

    In early American and many European homes renovation has discovered many shoes placed within walls. About half the shoes found were children’s shoes and may have been intended to bestow fertility on a female member of the household.  Women’s shoes are more commonly found than men’s. The shoes are almost invariably well-worn, perhaps because the donor didn’t want to waste an expensive new shoe on the project, or perhaps because a well-worn shoe is more likely to retain the shape of the wearer’s foot and hence his spirit.  They may have been concealed as magical charms to protect the occupants of the building against evil influences.

    A rancher will sometimes put boots on the fencepost to honor the passing of a beloved horse, a hired hand or fallen comrade.  A rancher would indicate he was home and the workday was over by hanging boots on the fence at the start of his lengthy entry road. When dating, a single woman in a trailer court would often place a suitors boots outside the door as a sign no gentleman callers were appreciated at this time!

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    The above shoes are from March 2004, a Saint Patrick tribute?

    Why all these shoes, and why here, on a low traveled highway in Wisconsin? The obvious explanation is that these roadside shoes are a living shrine to travel. Shoes represent us leaving home, getting on the road, and moving.  I observe these shoes nearly each time I leave home. When I see them again, I am almost back home safely. But how did they all get there, and who put them there?

    I have observed this shrine for over fifteen years. At one point there were over fifty shoes on one guard rail. It is ever-changing because the highway maintenance crew periodically removes them all.  This was a shock the first time I noticed their absence. Now the mysterious petitioners nail the shoes on so they are harder to remove.  Recently they began appearing as tied together pairs hanging from the roadside trees, twenty feet in the air!

    My kids passed on two local explanations circulated by the teen population. The shoes are “trophies” from the high school prom season. If you got “lucky’ on prom night a couple’s shoes (or their friends may choose representative shoes) would be stolen or donated to add to the highway shrine. You may notice an increase of shoes in May each year, and some brightly painted high heels are often included.

    The other local story is a ghost story spread by the teens. It is “reported” that in the late 1800’s two children (boy and girl) were lost in a snow storm (some say from the house just round the corner on the north side of 64) . No one ever heard of them again until their shoes were found near the current shoe bearing hilltop the following spring. Since that time the ghosts of the two children have made appearances to local folks (well teens mainly). As the story goes, people place shoes there hoping the children’s spirits will take a pair and they will move on. Another version is the children were murdered and their spirits keep adding the shoes to remind us the killers were never caught.

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    Renee, a local woman for fifty plus years now, contributed this authoritative explanation. This was started by some neighborhood kids having a little country fun back in the late 70’s early 80’s.  It eventually became a larger neighborhood game. At a birthday party teens were sometimes asked to bring an old shoe. It was part of the party fun to go nail another shoe to the post.

    What these shoes represent to you is defined by your perspective and inclination. They night be a simple prank, or a deep magical act. I do know they catch my attention each time I pass, and that is no coincidence!

    Nels Linde

    Shoe shrines are all located along Wi. State Highway 64. A few boots appear on fence posts just East of New Richmond, Wi, then a guardrail shrine and tree hung shoes appear just 100 yards past the Saint Croix County Line entering into Dunn County. A third guardrail shrine with flower planted shoes appears on Hwy 64 between State Highway 25 and Hwy 53 near Bloomer ,Wi.

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