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