Sacred Harvest Festival – rebuilding, changing, and staying the same

Harmony Tribe, the group that produces Sacred Harvest Festival (SHF), a Pagan camping festival held in SE Minnesota, celebrated their 15th year last week.  While the festival experienced ups and downs over the years, most recently a split in Harmony Tribe in 2010 resulting in the board resigning en masse, it appears to be back on the upswing with higher attendance and new and returning merchants.

In 2011 the festival faced several challenges.  A wounded community tired of drama, a new zoning restriction on the park which limited night time drumming, and lack of board continuity and experience.  These challenges showed in the attendance numbers.  Approximately 150 people attended SHF in 2011.

To meet these challenges the board brought in Crystal Blanton, author, mental health counselor, and High Priestess in California to hold a Restorative Justice circle and begin the healing at the 2011 SHF.  The success of that move, which rippled out through the community after last year’s festival, can be seen in this year’s festival numbers.  Although final numbers won’t be out until Sunday, Harmony Tribe Council Officer Judy Olson says the numbers topped 200.  Ms. Blanton returned to SHF this year to continue the community healing that was started in 2011.

Crystal Blanton, Cara Schulz, Judy Olson, and Heather Biedermann

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Sacred Harvest Festival – Shrines Unveil the Sacred

This years Sacred Harvest Festival ended Sunday and down came at least twenty five festivant shrines expressing worship and devotion to deity. Festivants were asked to bring shrines and they sprouted like fall mushrooms after a rain. I am sure I didn’t photograph them all, they had to be sought out in both public and hidden spaces. Some shrines had a clear focus, others were a reminder of our diversity. These photos on a windy day give a casual look, at night they transformed and were all lit and tended, and offerings of incense and libation graced many of them. Some grew as the week progressed, others disappeared or re-appeared in new forms. The theme of the event was “Unveiling the Sacred, Immersed in the Luminous Light of Love”, and shrines were an important aspect of this years festival experience.

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Nels Linde

Crystal Blanton Returns For Sacred Harvest Festival “RJ” Circle – Interview

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton is returning to Sacred Harvest Festival,  Aug 6-12th.  She is bringing her whole family to experience the festival, and is offering a second  Restorative Justice Circle as a service.  Harmony Tribe is facilitating community participation by non-registrants of the festival  for this event, Thursday, Aug. 9th, 10am at the festival site in Geneva, Mn. I talked to her by phone:

You are back at Sacred Harvest Festival (SHF) ?

Crystal: Yes, I had such a good time last year and I made such incredible connections with people that I really, really wanted to go back, and I wanted to share that experience with my family. I knew that if I could make it happen, I would.

Are you familiar with SHF Guest, Yeshe Rabbit?

We are both in the Bay area, and have had a great connection with each other as we both have continued to grow along our paths. I am really excited that she is one of the national guests this year. I think she will give the festival a great service. I visit her store often. I don’t work within her coven, but because we both are in the Bay area and do leadership type programs we come across each other frequently. We have been able to develop a great working relationship and friendship together even though we don’t work in the same coven.

Crystal at SHF 2011
with Bear Eared Hat

You are offering another Restorative Justice Circle  (RJ) at SHF, why a second one?

Usually when we do an RJ circle around a particular topic there is a follow-up. We do that as a means to make sure that after the first interaction that people have had the opportunity to be a part of the solution and deal with whatever has come up since the initial engagement. In this kind of scenario, my thought was to come back and offer that same kind of opportunity for people to engage in a follow-up but to also focus on some community building type exercises supporting the community with moving forward and gaining more tools as a community in that rebuilding process. This is the benefit for participating if you participated last year, to support going from one phase to the next phase of healing and restoring community values.

What if this is your first RJ experience, what would be the benefit?

As I am designing this my initial plan will likely change once I connect with the community. There is always what we think we want to do, and then once there, what is needed. My guess is that it would have a portion set aside to talk about the past year, and the feelings and emotions associated with the rebuilding of community. I want to focus more on that direction, but that is just based on impressions of what I left a year ago. Since this will be open to community, it also depends on who decides to participate and attends. Part of the RJ process, that can be both challenging and important, is to be able to move within the needs of the community which we are serving at that moment. Because I don’t know what portion of the HT community will be participating, I have to leave that somewhat open at this time. There will be time to get some basic feelings out, but my main push will be to get to the next phase of restoring.

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Yeshe Rabbit – Sacred Harvest Festival Guest – Interview

Lady Yeshe Rabbit
Sacred Harvest Festival Guest

I talked to Lady Yeshe Rabbit of the Come As You Are (CAYA) coven. We talked about her work in the San Francisco Bay area, her appearance at Sacred Harvest Festival, and her thoughts on gender issues in the Pagan community.

How do you like to be addressed?
For the most part you can call me Rabbit. My title in my coven is Yeshe, it is a word that has a few different meanings. In Tibetan it means “primordial wisdom”, and that is why I took the title, because I wanted to be guided by that primordial wisdom that resides within. It was also a childhood nickname, because I am Polish and my birth name is Jessica.

Tell me about CAYA?
CAYA coven is my coven.   There is within CAYA several different layers of membership. Some people have a casual relationship and may just attend our rituals. There is also an inner circle of trained clergy. These are people who have been with the group for a number of years. They would be my ‘closer’ coven you might say.

What is the role of CAYA in the Bay area?
CAYA stands for “Come As You Are”, and it is a coven that is built around the principles of eclecticism, inter-faith, and support for a wide variety of different paths. An individual who maybe has a very strong personal path, or, one who might be  just starting out and wants to learn about many different paths to see which one is the right fit, would find themselves very comfortable in CAYA. Each of us in CAYA feels that it is the utmost importance the we determine our own personal relationship with the divine. We then share our own individual practices and spiritual beliefs in the spirit of generosity without presuming that we know the one way that is right for everyone. What that means is that we are a coven “filled with solitaries” (jokingly), because everyone has their own individual practice. When we come together we join around a central core of protocols of how we do rituals in an outlined format, a baseline of ethics that we have all agreed to, and principles of community that we think are essential:  Cooperation, conflict resolution, clergy conduct and comportment. When people come into CAYA they feel very welcome, even if a beginner, or if they are extremely experienced and just don’t want to be told what to do because they are confident in their own path.

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Harmony Tribe Restorative Justice Circle Update – Editorial

A Restorative Justice circle took place facilitated by Crystal Blanton,  guest at last summers  Sacred Harvest Festival (SHF) in August.  This Restorative Justice (RJ)  Circle was specifically to aid Harmony Tribe(HT) and its festivant community to move beyond the real ‘hurt and harm’ the individuals, organization, and festival had felt over the past year. When I wrote about it, I also committed to  updates  as the Harmony Tribe (RJ)  process evolved. I wrote then as a Harmony Tribe member, and as of this editorial, am now a member of the 2012 Harmony Tribe Council, as one of 15 Council Members at Large.

Please read that August editorial for a more complete back ground of RJ and this particular RJ Circle.

The purpose of this RJ Circle was:

“… to restore; to restore a sense of safety in a loving and empathetic community. We are not here to blame, or to cast judgment on who was right or wrong. It is a about how we can support our community together and heal the hurt and harm that has been caused by a series of events. “

And Crystal summarized the RJ Circle with:

“ What happens, Where do we go from here? We can not fix everything that has happened. We can not restore relationships without everyone present. We can restore what is here. We have not lost our community… what I have seen is that with time ,work, and a commitment to values, and the mirroring of those to each other, a community can be healed. “

The RJ Circle came forth with several Collective Agreements, promises each person present made to the Harmony Tribe community. These were jointly arrived at by consensus, and individually affirmed by those present as their own commitments. These were to facilitate this community to “move forward in the healing process with safety and trust”.

The agreements are:

  1. We will aid the process of developing commonly defined principles and values, and the primary purpose for our community (HT) so that the HT council can work for the whole of our community.
  2. Define how Harmony Tribe (and its community) can participate in the processes of community, beyond HT the organization.
  3. The HT Community commits to participate as they can – to show up.
  4. Find ways to solicit community support and input.
  5. Commit to developing a means for mentoring or transferring knowledge or roles within the organization.

How has Harmony Tribe and its community progressed toward meeting these commitments?

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