Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Full Moon o're New Year's Eve

Each of us has our our interpretation of the time of year we hold our New Year's Eve celebrations. For some it is in October, for other's it is the month of December, but depending upon where you are located in the world, the dates may vary. Typically though, the majority of the population celebrates New Year's Eve on December 31st, when at midnight, we all marvel at being together in some fashion when the date turns to January 1st.

This year we celebrate not only the ending of the old year and the beginning of the new, but we also will see the ending of a decade. What has the last ten years of life looked like for you? Have you found love? Lost love? Started a family? Changed jobs? It is a time of reflection and resolution most assuredly.

In beautiful fashion, we will have the Full Moon to watch over us and brighten the skies for us if we should be granted a clear and cloudless night. It comes a short 8 days after the Winter Solstice this year, the shortest day of the year. Each passing day we will begin to see more daylight and so the Wheel of the Year continues to turn. It is an excellent time for magick and celebration.

The naming of the Full Moons were given to us by the Native Americans of what is now the northern and eastern United States. It was the Tribes' way of tracking the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. Since the lunar month is only 29 days long on the average, the full Moon dates shift from year to year.

As taken from the Farmers Almanac's list of the full Moon names is the Cold Moon:

• The Full Cold Moon; or the Full Long Nights Moon - December •
During this month the winter cold fastens its grip, and nights are at their longest and darkest. The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long, and because the Moon is above the horizon for a long time. The midwinter full Moon has a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite a low Sun.

So no matter how you are celebrating, remember to take your gaze to the sky and receive your blessings from the magick of the moonlight. Happy New Year to you!

Love and light,

Friday, October 30, 2009

SpiritFire Mosquito Net Raffle!

It’s the SpiritFire Mosquito Net Raffle!!!!

Many of you are aware that I’ll be taking a group (6 students, a colleague and her partner) to Ghana, West Africa this coming winter, from December 18 – January 12. The students – some of them from my drum ensemble, and some who just want to learn more about Ghana – have worked hard to raise the money to go, each paying about $3300 or more for the trip (not including their visas, immunizations, etc. – it’s a lot of money!)

We’ve successfully raised enough money to cover travel and other expenses, but as you can imagine, it doesn’t leave a lot over for other things for many of them. They are really interested in doing service work while in Ghana, and have come up with a couple ideas, the most effective one being the distribution of mosquito nets. If you don’t know about the plight of people in Africa regarding malaria and a ton of other mosquito-born diseases, you can read about it here:


Personally, throughout my years of visiting Ghana to study music and dance, I’ve known many families who have lost children (who are partiularly vunerable) to malaria. The less expensive anti-malarial drug (chloroquine) is no longer affective against the strain in Ghana, and wasn’t really affordable to the average village resident anyway. Now the only drugs available cost as much as $5 a pill – these folks might make $1 a day, if they are lucky. The only way to really combat malaria is to help people avoid contracting the disease in the first place.

We, as a group, are now trying to gather donations for the trip once more. But not money – we want mosquito nets!

SpiritFire would like to help with this endeavor, and we are hoping you will want to help, too. So to help encourage folks to donate nets, we’re having our first (and hopefully not last) SFF Mosquito Net Raffle!

Here’s the deal: Buy a net, get a chance to win discounts on your SFF registration, or even a free entry. Of course, if you aren’t able to go to SFF this year we’ll gladly accept net donations anyway! But it’s our way of giving something back and adding some spice to the mix.

How does it work?

We need a very particular kind of net – one that will fit two people (doubles), and they need to be the square kind, as opposed to the hanging round/canopy styles (which are hard to transport and don’t work well for multiple people sleeping together). Nets must be new – we cannot distribute used nets.

If you have access to large stores with camping equipment, you can probably purchase these there – but nets can easily be purchased on the web. Here is the kind we’re looking for - campor.com seems to have the best prices:


We’d like you to send us nets, straight to the college address below if possible, so that they arrive BEFORE December 10th.

For every net you send in, you get a chance at a severely reduced or free entry to SpiritFire!

Send in 1 net = 1 entry in drawing for $25 additional off your SFF fee
Send in 2 nets = 2 entries in drawing for $50 off your SFF fee
Send in 3 nets = 3 entries in drawing for $75 off your SFF fee
Send in 4 nets = 4 entries in drawing for $100 off your SFF fee
Send in 5+ nets = equal amount of entries in drawing for FREE 2010 SFF registration!

You can either purchase the nets and have them sent to us directly (at the address below), or ship them yourselves. Please make sure to email me and tell me: how many nets you bought (please include a tracking number or order number, if possible), when they were bought/shipped, and who you would like to enter in the raffle. If it is for yourself, we’ll use your email to notify you if you win. If you’d like someone else to win the discount/entry, you can specify that as well.

ALL DONATIONS MUST BE RECEIVED BEFORE DECEMBER 10th, so we know how much we have to pack!

Ship to:

SMC in Ghana
c/o Professor Josselyne Price
St. Michael’s College
Box 345
1 Winooski Park
Colchester, VT 05439

Thank you in advance, and an update will be sent out before the trip, and then one after to share how it went.

In Gratitude,
Josselyne/SMC in Ghana

Saturday, October 17, 2009

SpiritFire 2010 Dates are set!

Hey folks,

We have shifted SpiritFire to slightly earlier in July to meet the scheduling needs of quite a few of our staff and others - sounds so far like this has been a really good move. The new dates are:

Wednesday, July 7 - Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hope you will be able to make it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blessed Mabon! Happy Fall Equinox!

Today is the Fall Equinox, or to some Mabon. A celebration of the changing of the seasons once again, an appreciation for the bounty of the harvest, and all of those wonderful things that go with it. The changing of the leaves, the crispness to the air with the bit of summer warmth subtly lingering in the breeze. Apples! Pumpkins! Cider! A great cornicopia of foods and traditions to be had. However you celebrate, may you find many blessings along the way.

I'll share with you this Grateful Dead song that I've been humming on this beautiful morning, and hope you enjoy it! Hooray for Fall :)

Gazing at the fire, burning by the water
Before he speaks the world around us quiets.
With eyes as sharp as arrows and turning to the fire
He clears the air and cuts it with a feather.

Many in a circle slowly 'round the fire
When he is gone I want to know him better.
No one is forsaken, no one is a liar,
He plants the tree of life on our foreheads with water.

He hums, there are drums, four winds, rising suns,
We are singing and playing, I hear what he's saying.
I remember breezes from winds inside your body
keep me high, like I told you, I'll sing to them this story and know why.

Love and light,

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Where in the World is the SpiritFire T-shirt?

So SpiritFire 2009 is over. That can only mean one thing … SpiritFire 2010 is on the way. But what to do until next summer to help remind ourselves that all the magic we felt was real? How to stay connected? Well, there’s lots of ways: study a pathway, stay in touch with the people you met, deepen your spiritual practice in whatever form Spirit calls to you, and … what for it … wait for it …

Play “Where in the World is the SpiritFire T-shirt?”

(Sung to the tune of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”)

Yes. You guessed it. Where in the world is the SpiritFire T-shirt. Over this coming year, take a picture of yourself in your SpiritFire T-shirt in some really interesting location. A foreign country. A national park. Hang gliding. Volunteering in your local community. For example, here’s a picture of me in my SpiritFire T-shirt just a few weeks ago in Salzburg, Austria.

Send your photos to the list labeled with your name and location. Where in the world will all the members of the SpiritFire community travel in the next 12 months? What are all the interesting things we’ll do? How many lives and places will the SpiritFire community touch? Let's find out.

I’ll do something interesting with all the pictures for the next festival. What will that be, you ask? Well, we’ll just have to see how many pictures come in and how good they are, now won’t we. The first part is up to you. Until then ... get out there, and keep the magic alive!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Soul Expression 2009

At SpiritFire this year, we held a poetry jam on Friday night. From my perspective, it was WILDLY successful. People brought it in big time: laughter, tears, passion, pain. Original work, Robert Frost, Leonard Cohen, the back of a sugared ginger box ... and so much more.

Poetry speaks to us in deep ways. It says what we've always meant to say but didn't quite know how to articulate. It reveals connections between us and others that we may have kept hidden. It takes off our rose-colored glasses. It shines light into dark corners. It shows us that the darkness has wisdom to offer.

Speaking only for myself ... and knowing that I am saying this LONG before we've done any planning for SpiritFire 2010 ... I think it's safe to say that Soul Expression will be back next year.

So here are some questions ...

What about the circle (set up, guidelines, timing) worked and shouldn't be changed?

What should be done to improve the experience?

How can we keep the magic of the circle alive through the rest of the year?

Comments are welcome. This IS a blog, afterall!

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Moon and Solar Eclipse Ritual - 07-21-09

It's a very real, very scientific, astrological and tangible experience we can all see and feel. The New Moon combined with a Solar Eclipse! Some of the best magick can be worked in the time of the New Moon leading up to the Full Moon, when the energy surrounding us is growing in the positive.

So what can we do to celebrate this magickal moment in time? The answer lies withing you. Do the spiritual work yourself, because it is as indivually sacred as unique for you as you are. Spiritual work is not something you can achieve by reading a ritual laid out for you to follow and get the same results as anyone else.

What is it that you want to achieve at this time? Is there something you want to see come to fruition that is deeply important and special to you? Is there something you have been meaning to let go of and embrace the new as you watch two heavenly bodies align as one?

By thinking on these things, or saying these things aloud as you stand or sit under the blanket of stars in the Summer night's sky, hold these feelings close to your heart, and lend your energy to it. Picture those dreams or ideas becoming real. Feel the energy within every fiber of your being, and give that energy out to the Universe. Request gently for the Universe to hear your call.

Eclipses tend to bring big changes. You can see that throughout history how often eclipses have been considered omens and the events that have been linked to eclipses, whether they happened as a result of a natural build-up of forces or people used the eclipse energy to force the event. Astrologically, they tend to have the regenerative effect of Pluto conjunct a House or Planet, sometimes decimating what was there before to remove it from your life and moving you forward to rebirth that area of your life.

Think of a massive light focused through a lens and burning across an area of your life–it will either sear it or illuminate it. Use the time of the eclipse to guide you as to how long your personal ritual will be. Sometimes starting at the beginning of the eclipse, and moving with the enrgy through the duration until its completion helps you achieve the best results.

Whatever you choose to do, whatever you want to achieve, or however big the life change you envision, it is all yours to decide how you lend your energy to it. Many blessings to you, and as always, love and light.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Why I think drummers shouldn't call breaks

I admit it, the title of this post is deliberately provocative. Few rules should ever really be absolute. But one of the agreements we tend to have at most fire circles--including SpiritFire--is that the drummers shouldn't just simply call a break and bring a rhythm to a sudden, screeching halt. I've felt that this is a good, logical agreement for several years now, but I observed a perfect example of exactly why it is good at the Rites of Spring last month.

The setting should be familiar: a fire, a dance track filed with dances, and musicians on benches at one end of the circle. The drummers, although few in number, were laying down a fairly decent 12/8 rhythm, exactly the kind of groove that promotes trance in dancers. Although the rhythm could have been a little bit tighter in terms of musical precision, several of the dancers were getting pretty deep into the groove. I was watching this with a fair amount of satisfaction from the edge of the circle, taking a turn as a fire tender. Decent rhythm, good response by the dancers, and the appearance of synchronicity between dancers and drummers.

Then, out of nowhere, one of the drummers simply called a break, and everything came to a crashing halt. And I do mean crashing. The dancers were given no warning and no gentle landing. The musicians were done, finito, sayonara baby Elvis has left the building. The dancers were left to fend for themselves, several of them apparently needing to shake themselves back into direct awareness of the circle.

And why did the musicians do this? From where I was standing, it seemed to be because one "alpha" drummer was dissatisfied that the rhythm was not as tight as his musical sensitivities would have liked it to be, and he simply decided that it was time to end the whole thing. He was either unaware of the dancers or simply didn't care about what a break would do to them. The only thing that seemed to matter to him was that he wanted something better, and if he couldn't have it, then the rhythm needed to end that instant. Rather than trying to simplify his playing to help less experienced drummers create a tighter groove, rather than slow the tempo so that everyone could keep up with the pace, rather than fade out, and rather than walk away, he called a break.

We talk a lot about the importance of musicians recognizing that, when at a fire circle, the musicians are playing in service to the dancers. I got to witness why that's so important and exactly what happens when a drummer forgets why he or she is really there.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Hello all,

Just back from Rites of Spring. For those of you who are newer to SFF, our fire circle is deeply rooted in the fire at Rites (which, in fact, is arguably the root of most fire circle events now running). What a sweet week.

The best part of the circles for me, which were all pretty mellow and a bit smaller, was the chanting. Rich harmonies. A diversity of songs with no jingles, no pop or theater pieces - but plenty of mantras, affirmations, chants, and some new ones that I hadn't heard before. While sometimes the songs would start up and not quite get going, many of them went strong for a loooong time.

Things I noticed about this - first, the drummers gave a lot of time/space for chanting before they started to play and then when they did play, it was with great care not to overpower those in the circle. True music-making!

Such a simple road to beauty. We win!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A favor, if you would...

Hello all,

Well before we head off to Rites, I figured I'd write in and say hello! I hope your spring is beautiful and getting warmer.

Registrations are going great for SpiritFire, and there are many unexpected surprises with folks deciding to come this year - wow. It makes me so grateful!

I am writing to share an experience or two from last year, when I had a couple of unfortunately sad but necessary issues at the beginning of the event, and I'd like to ask your help in making sure we don't have to repeat the scenario. Basically, folks become more and more open and ready for fire circles and family as the summer progresses, and often don't find out about an event until very close to it's start. Last year I had some very wonderful people contact me either directly or on behalf of friends who decided they wanted to go - but registration was closed, and I'd already sent head and meal counts to our gracious hosts. It was unfortunately not possible to "squeeze them in" at that point.

On Wednesday after closing circle, I was also approached by a beautiful soul who had been invited to come along to the event by another registered person, who assumed their friend would be able to register on site. It broke my heart, because despite the person's long journey and transportation issues that arose, I wasn't able to accommodate them. Telling them this was a very hard thing to do, but no other ethical option was available. I hope this person finds their way to us this year in time!

My request to all of you is this - if you know of folks who might want to come, let them know about SpiritFire earlier on, and encourage them to register earlier too! Once registration closes, we cannot add more participants. Please do not invite them to just show up on site, or encourage them to write after registration has closed. It causes us much heartache to turn folks away, when some pre-planning could have created a different outcome.

Our final, last minute, absolutely solid deadline is July 25th. From July 16 - 25 we can accept ONLINE registrations only, and will not receive mailed applications in time to add them. If folk aren't sure about their plans, please do direct them to our website -- http://spiritfirefestival.org -- and again, encourage them to register early so they can be a part of the bliss!

Thanks for your support and help spreading the word and helping folks find us in time - see you very soon!

Love, Josselyne

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What Distance?

We are having a strangely beautiful and transformative weekend. The magic began with a gig on Friday night. Everyone in the band was connected - to each other, to the audience, and to the music. It was both effortless and powerful, and it seemed everyone was reflecting that back to us. Connection.

Several of our beloved friends joined us at our home after the show where the music continued. There we performed our latest favorite by Tina Malia, a song called "Heal This Land." The energy of the song filled the room. Our beloveds became a part of the song and together we experienced the song playing us. We were connected.

Lillith Avalon's call from Vegas this morning thrust us deep into the vortex of this phenomenon. She had just left Mayfire and was crackling with raw, naked energy. After relating her powerful and transformative weekend to us over speaker phone, Lillith announced that she was sending her extraordinary energy to us. Here's where things got a bit strange. Somewhere between Lillith's breath and the silence that followed the trees began to bend with a sudden breeze, and a Baltimore oriole began to sing very loudly close to the deck where we sat...then another chimed in, and then another. They were singing to us! In that moment, those of us on the receiving end of Lillith's transmission became fully aware of our connection - not only to Lillith, but to the land, to the sky, to the world, to the universe. The distance between us melted. We wouldn't have been any closer if she were sitting with us on the deck.

Deep in our hearts we know we are all always connected. But the magic becomes engaged upon the awareness of that connection. Those of us who were present when Lillith breathed her fire magic from Nevada to Massachussets received a transformative reminder that we truly do live in a realm of unlimited possibilities. Worlds open when we open, when we recognize our connection.

So, where exactly lies the distance between us?

Lisa and Brett

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gifts From The Universe

Often times when life gets going too fast, I find that sitting outside and looking up at the trees and sky is so helpful. It reminds me of how small I am in the Universe, yet how important, as we all are, on the imprint of time. We leave our mark in some way on the world with our abilities, no matter what they might be. Different art forms in music, fire spinning, painting, teaching, listening... these we all contribute to each other while allowing ourselves to open our hearts and our gifts with ourselves.

Listening to the rain drops change the rate that they are falling, and the sound they make as they come in contact with the leaves and the ground is so calming. It brings a bit of the drumming we do when gathered at fire circles together to mind. It encourages me to pick up a djembe and rock out with the symphony nature is creating and inviting me to participate in. It reminds me to listen to the world around me, as I often may forget to do when the every day routine gets a bit too much to bear.

I had a moment a week ago when the afternoon sun was so warm and the sky was free of clouds, to get outside and just be in the moment. So I did. I sat down on the grass, kicked off my shoes, tilted my chin up towards the sky and closed my eyes. I heard the birds chirping when I hadn't noticed them before. I heard the water from the grass hissing slightly as the sun was evaporating it. I heard my breathing become slower and steadier and at that moment I realized that I was relaxing. Mother Nature sure knows her stuff!

So when you find yourself in those moments where you don't know what else to do with what you are feeling, find a nice comfy spot outside. Close your eyes, relax, and begin to receive your gifts from the Universe.

love and light,

Thursday, April 23, 2009



Today was a really, really, really long (and satisfying/productive) day, starting with an early 2 hour drive to play for a dance class and then an hour to work... then 2 classes, a rehearsal, and an hour drive home. I'm wiped.

I drive home and forget that I need food and drink; instead of going straight into town, I am on automatic and head over off the main road to the route that takes me home, which is currently much longer than usual due to a broken bridge. "Dang it," I thought, I just want food and rest!

So I drive the long way into town.

I stopped at Ramunto's Pizza, my favorite place in town, and step out of the car. On the way in the owner is also walking in the door. "Hello there," he says - "how are you doing? Done for the day? Did you have a good day?" I answered yes, and said how happy I was not to cook because it had been a rather brutal day as far as energy was concerned.

"Well I tell ya what. How many folks you feeding tonight?"

"Just myself," I said.

"Tell ya what. Please have three slices on me - anything you want."




"Are you serious?" I said? "Yep!" he replied, and we talked a bit about music and such while the folks got my slices ready. Thanking him, I went home, bemused at being hit by a RANDOM act of kindness. You know what? It feels great being on that side of the fence!

So here's my dare.

Commit a random act of kindness to a stranger this week. And then leave a comment here to tell your story! What did you do? What was the result? How did it feel?

Or if you've been a recipient, your story would be great!


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Orleans Presentation Update

Hello, beautiful ones!

For those who do not know, I presented a paper last weekend on fire festivals at the Popular Culture/American Culture Associations' Joint National Conference last weekend in New Orleans. Special thanks to those of you whom I spoke with at length either on the phone or via email, and thank Everyone for inspiration, both around the fire and particularly through this blog.

Our 15 minutes of fame was in the Ritual and Religion panel of the Festivals and Faires Area of the conference; because I was chairing, I got to go last, after the "Cult of the Good Death in Colonial Mexico City" paper and the "Christian Woodstock" paper. It was an awesome panel! I ended up presenting the all-night fire and fire festivals (note: festivals *specifically* created to be all about the Fire Circle, for lack of a better way of putting it) in the context of Victor Turner's Rite of Passage schema, which is cool, because both the fire circle and the entire festival itself mirror this schema. Liminality, temenos, and communitas (Janet, you're my hero) were major motifs throughout the entire area, so much so that by the time I gave my paper, I had some line about liminality being the new black.

So, using the well-known liminality framework for theory, I concisely defined and explained (as best as I could) "What. We. Do."--without getting into the variations (too much) between circles. My objective was to "bring" (I join others on this, notably Joshua Levin) these fire festivals into the academic dialogue and to see if people were interested in what I had to say.

They were.
In spades.

Mostly because I went last in the panel, about 3/4 of the Q and A session was directed to me. After saying Very Little about what actually happens around the fire besides vague phrases like "personal transformation" and "opening up to the numinous" (!!!) I got questions like:

"So, these festivals sound amazing...can you talk about how the seeming eclectic spirituality of these festivals is both celebrated and yet possibly problematic?"

"Do participants have particular roles that they serve at these festivals and, if so, are they fixed or fluid? For example, are there specific healers or shamans that help lead people through their process through the night?"

"Can you speak to the dynamics between the drummers? I mean, can anyone pick up a drum and play, or is it more hierarchical, based on talent?"

I KID YOU NOT. And that's only three of many questions I got.

So, that says a couple of things to me: 1) I successfully presented all of this in 15 minutes in a way that was accessible and led people to ask, ahem, familiar questions, and 2) Dude, Fire is cool. People were all over it.

So, that's the update--thank you again...and, by the looks of it, I will likely be pestering all of us in the future for more insights and may well go all hard core and get some questionnaires going for future research. We'll see what Joss says about that.

OH--and the Coolest thing?!! About ten minutes before I started my paper, guess who sauntered into the room with a knowing smile on her face?!


Much love and gratitude,


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Update series #3: Early Registration and the start of spring

Happy Spring all -

Just an update on where things are right now with SpiritFire - we have one of the highest registration counts for the early reg period since our "peak" attendance year in 2005, which is amazing to see! While we've adjusted our maximum attendance limit down since then (makes for a much more gentle and solid container), I'm hoping there will be a spot for everyone that would like to come to SFF 09.

There hasn't been a lot of direct activity during winter's long, drawn-out finale as far as events within the gathering. The major things that needed to get done included solidifying the 2009 crew roster, making scholarship decisions and notifying those folks about the results, and continually updating the presenter/workshop pages to reflect the current flow.

Crew: We have a rockin' group on for this year's heavy-lifting and toting and setting up! A few crew folks have agreed to take on some additional time working the welcome tent and arrival traffic to help ensure a smooth, friendly entry for all of us - I'm grateful. If you aren't on crew but are looking to help, one thing we could use is for folks to arrive at the start of the day, when the gates open, and then sign up for an early community shift either at registration or the welcome tent/sherpa areas.

Scholarships in particular were an amazing situation this year. Everyone knows the economy isn't all that healthy, but somehow not only did we get more registrations in the first period, we were able to offer a scholarship to every single application that came in to us as the result of some very generous donations from our community, both individual and group members. Some folks gave $10, some $100, and some more than that - it truly was awe-inspiring. I'd like to say that if any more scholarship donations come in, that funding will still be used to directly help those in need of assistance with registration this year, or if no further assistance is needed, it will be banked for next year.

Workshops: most workshops are finalized as far as descriptions and such, but as always the schedule will be tweaked and adjusted at least 1-2 more times as I try to make sure that 1) similar workshops don't conflict, 2) folks playing for or or assisting presenters don't get scheduled for conflicting workshops, and 2) a good balance and variety of workshops reflecting the pathways are available in all of the sessions. Once the schedule is finalized I'll post a note on the workshop page letting everyone know that's the case.

The circles are still being shaped; we're really trying this year to make the fire lighting times inclusive, engaging, and meaningful. Hint: have you been to SpiritFire before? Do you think you know what the agreements, promises, and requests between the pathways are for the circle we dance together? Might want to check that out! ;-)

Stay in touch! More soon.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Magick Is Real

I remember reading something a long while ago that said, you shouldn't invest so much energy into objects or things because the magic comes from within you. Don't depend on that lucky penny or piece of jewelry as the strongest talisman you can have comes from your own soul. That always stuck with me because I don't have one special piece of jewelry that I wear consistently apart from my wedding band, I usually mix it up. However, something can be said to speak for the total opposite and here's what I find fascinating.

Every religion has a symbol or symbols representing something we can all look to whatever our faith may be, and find comfort or solace in that object. For some it is an actual place of worship, for others it might be ornamental things we display in our yard or lawn, while for others it might be a piece of jewelry, a stone, a memento someone gave us, that object we found on the ground shortly after something miraculous happened to us so forever after we carry it with us. Whatever it might be, it hits home for us in a special way that reminds us of the path we are on together and individually.

As I pondered this I realized that even though I might mix up the actual objects I carry or wear, that there are things that I carry with me always, especially when traveling. You can take the term "traveling" any which way you choose here. The point is, there are special items that I find that comfort or have healing energy within them. It's a tough feeling to describe so I can shortly sum it up by saying, the actual item resonates in my hand from the energy I give it or receive from it when holding it or wearing it.

Even when I am done wearing or carrying it, and place whatever it is back in its special case or pouch or on the mantel, wherever its usual "home" is when I am not using it, that energy stay nestled within it. Part of that is the energy that I am reminded of when I pick it up once again. In this way I am creating a harmony within myself, and creating a special magic that flows from it to me and back again. So much do I believe in this type of energy work, that I offer this short story to you.

My daughter went around the fire with me when she was still in my womb. She felt the energy of the drumming from everyone in the circle as the beats of the drums vibrated off of my body. Throughout my entire pregnancy, I wore the same talisman of the Goddess which I only took off once she had been born and we brought her home, where it has quietly and lovingly hung above her crib since. The only time it is not there, is when I travel with her. I say my prayer to her and to this talisman every night, as that energy I carried then, still watches over her now while she sleeps.

Also during my pregnancy, I wore my prayer beads that my beloved sister and friend had given me out love and friendship. When I do not wear them they are in their special resting place. These prayer beads have been to several gatherings with me, where they have been around fire, where they have been lovingly touched knowingly or unknowingly by so many of you. That energy that I carry from these events and from all of you still resonates to and from these prayer beads. Recently when I took my Djembe out of its protective bag, my daughter became instantly fixated on the prayer beads that dangled from the shoulder straps for the drum. She now has taken them to be hers, and I grok this.

What I find fascinating, is that she is very gentle with them, She focuses on each bead, she wears them around her neck, she holds them, twists them, walks in patterns around the house with them all the while jibber jabbering in her own prayers. A few weekends ago my same beloved sister and friend came over and stayed the night. While she slept late into the morning, my daughter went straight for the prayer beads, and literally did circles around where my beloved one slept. All the while she remained focused. She did four laps, she repeated the movements she did on each lap, holding them up while she rounded a corner, touching the ground with them while she rounded the place where my beloved sister slept, putting them around her neck on the third corner, and on the fourth sitting down, reflecting and wrapping them around her wrist.

She was priestessing energy while my beloved sister slept restfully, peacefully, unaware of any of this while I quietly sat and felt the magical energy my 18-month-old was weaving throughout the house. She was creating safety and nesting space for her special friend. And without knowing it, my friend was sending that energy back to her in her sleep. My sister told me that she slept so well, wrapped in an energy of comfort and love.

So now we come to the most interesting part. Without fail my daughter reaches for "my beads" as she calls them whenever she is home. She takes them with her as often as she remembers to grab them. At the beginning of the week, when at her daycare and without her beads, she spiked a fever of 104 degrees. The staff there told me they hadn't seen a fever come on so fast and go so high so quickly, and that apart from the high temperature, she seemed perfectly herslf. She was still smiling and happy and had no issues at all which was hard for them to understand. She is teething and fevers are common, but a fever that high in a child is dangerous as so many things can happen and they need to be instantly given attention to bring their body temperature back down, and quickly.

I got the call, I picked her up, I took her home, I did all the mommy things I needed to do. But, the very first thing she wanted was the prayer beads. Within a fifteen minutes of her holding her beads, before medicine of any kind was given, before a cool bath was given to bring her temperature down, her fever dropped three degrees. My only explanation, if you can attempt at all to describe devine intervention or miracles, is that the magic is real. That the energy given to and taken from those beads is very real. It is not that I never believed that, it is that I never felt it be more true than when this happened. I cannot describe the tears and laughter that washed over me as I took her temperature as saw the results.

By the time I had gotten her to the doctors office, her fever had almost fully disappeared. She wore the beads all the way there, she wore them the whole time she was in the exam room even moving them slightly out of the way to make room for the stethoscope, and she wore them all the way home. When she finally slept I kept them in her room near her bed so when she woke up she would have them readily available to her. I totally felt a deeper connection with my child than I thought could be achieved apart from the time I carried her within my womb. My little priestess doing her thang.

So, the long and short of it is, that no matter what path you find yourself on, no matter what symbol or symbols bring you comfort, re-energize you or deepen your faith, they are your talismans for a reason. Yes, that energy you carry within your soul is the best one of all, but there is something to be said for carrying that penny for luck as well.

Love and Light,

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Someone just gave $150 scholarship donation.

To you and to all those who have donated - you are helping us make sure that what we do around the fire is accessible to as many people as possible. We are all grateful, thank you!!

We are still in need of scholarship funding, since as projected we're behind what we had to offer last year. When you register for SpiritFire please do consider making a donation - any size makes a difference.

Happy Spring,

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Call for Contributions

In a month, I go to New Orleans for the Popular Culture Association/ American Culture Association Joint National Conference. The Festivals and Faires Area has papers on Burning Man, Renaissance Faires, State Fairs, Mardi Gras...and, this year, a paper on Fire Festivals.

I have about 15 minutes to define: the sacred fire circle, fire festivals, the fire family/tribe, etc. In my proposal I ask origins questions, so I'll trace our origins back to RoS and Starwood. I'll mention Mayfire, Fires Rising (or not...), Sacred Soul Fire, SpiritFire, PhoenixFire, Forest Dance. From my proposal: "All of the above-mentioned festivals are annual events that run for less than one week and have beugne within the last decade. How does a new community rapidly define itself, and how is one's identity as a member of the "fire tribe" negotiated?"

I have a fairly good idea about what I'm walking in with and what I want to present. That said, I'd wager a bet that every single one of ye has a thing or two to say about this. This is the place to do so. For clarification: Lyra's going to an academic conference. The area that she's presenting in is the Festivals and Faires area, which is filled with cool crazy cats. That said, she's still bringing the fire tribe into the ivory tower, and her paper may be published. Does anyone have any responses to: What are these festivals, and how are they different from older ones? Why have they grown so in the last 15 years? Who goes to them, and why? What is this all about?!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mo' Betta'

It's March?! How did that happen??

Now that I've been out of the tropics for two winters, I realize that I have been much more focused on seasonal changes than I had been for several years. This is perhaps one of the most potent periods for me, Imbolc to Spring Equinox, for it's delightful to see the afternoon light linger just a wee bit more each day.

Common advice/inspiration for this time of year is to take stock of our seeds, so to speak, and start planting the ones that we can and plan--specifically--to plant the rest when the time is right. Specificity is a good focus word for me this year. It's easy for me (many of us?) to frame my desires in the abstract, but of course without concrete, specific plans--and planting!--nothing comes of it.

So, my questions to all y'all are what you would like to see manifest this year at SpiritFire. Or what you *plan* on manifesting. Do you use SFF as a yearly benchmark, like I do? In other words, ok, by SpiritFire I'm going to shed an inch off of my waist. (Blimey! Now it's witnessed! Now I *really* have to do it!!) What about plans for the event and community itself? Like, ok, a few years ago, (insert cool thing) happened at SFF. Could I somehow bring (cool thing or variation thereof) back?

This would of course apply to the other side, the stuff we write on the feedback forms for staff and say, hey, that thing, um, with the people, and, um, the stuff...sucked...can that not happen? I don't know that we need to go down that path--there's something kinda cool about focusing on what we specifically want to *do* *create* *cocreate* etc, as opposed to focusing on what we don't want. I guess the balance would be, if something wasn't working for you last year, or hasn't been working for you for awhile--what is your plan to make it mo' betta'?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Count to 10...and don't forget to breathe...

When I was a child I can remember very vividly moments where my mother's face would become redder than a tomato, and she would stop herself from speaking, only to either count to ten out loud, or do so in her mind before speaking in a very low, very calm voice. This got her point across much more than yelling ever could have as that deep, motherly, bordering-on-sensuality-and-explosion tone captured my attention and made me listen right quick to what she had to say. It was when she reached that level of calm, and her voice was steady that she had become empowered in a way I can only begin to understand now as I walk this path.

I now realize how I apply it to every day situations like something stressful happening at work, or a car cutting in front of me on the highway just so they could get off the exit ramp two seconds before I could. Before stepping on the accelerator and screaming obscenities which would only make things worse, particularly if it was an unmarked police car chasing another person... counting to ten helps a great deal. I could also use this method when my daughter decides that the dog's water is fun to splash in, and/or drink, and subsequently soaks herself and everything within a ten foot radius.

It's not just a way of preventing yourself from saying or doing things you don't mean, it's a method of relaxation that you can practice to bring that blood pressure down, and reduce your stress level. A form of quick meditation without the dim lights, candles or soft music to bring yourself to a happy enough place to realize that messes can be cleaned up, people can be misunderstood, and it's not the end of the world if the toilet overflows from an action figure being flushed down it.

I was reading about how spirituality has a deep-rooted connection to mental and physical health, and it is beautiful how this count-to-ten method ties into that. Spirituality concerns itself with matters of the spirit which can be tied to religious belief or faith, in many senses of the word. It doesn't matter what you believe in, just that you believe in something. And by putting your faith and beliefs in something, it becomes part of your spirit, part of your soul and your every day way of life. This includes not only your mind and body, but also the development of your inner life through specific practices. Spirituality relates to matters of sanity, psychological health, personal, subjective dimension of religion, matters of the heart and my goodness, the health of those around you :)

I have now taken it as my mantra to practice my mother's tried and true count to ten method when life throws a particularly hard day or series of days my way. I try to remain as calm as possible so the young people around me who absorb everything like a sponge, do not take anything with them into the world I will regret. So that my friends know me as a level-headed person who gives a lot of thought to everything they do or say. So people know that I can listen to those who have opinions that differ than mine, and can calmly tell me they disagree with me on something knowing I will take that to heart and not get instantly defensive or upset with them.

Each day is a new lesson, filled with different challenges. It is how we deal with these challenges that allows us to adapt and move on... keeping the dog water dish at a higher level to prevent a repeat of drenched everything that made me so unhappy the last time for example. Try to allow more time when I need to travel somewhere so if someone does cut me off, I'm not stressed about it. To try to remember that my loved ones don't mean to get on those last tiny frayed ends of sanity, and that I do love them. I think if everyone in the world practiced a little more thinking about what they say or do when something upsetting happened, and takes those long deep breaths and just count, we'd have a lot less violence, a lot less stress, and a lot more blissful of a place to live in with their fellow spiritualists, artist, idealists and dreamers of dreams.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My answer to Brett's Question

Spoken with eloquence by Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, who is now one of my heros. Wendy Mooney turned me onto this - thanks Wendy!

Please, take the 18 or so moments to check this out - wow.

A Romper Room for Spirit

It seems there was much excitement about this blog coming into existence, as is evident in the number of posts and comments early on, but as of late that has slowed. Has anything changed?
For me there are a number of things that limit my exposure here, ("limit my exposure" being one of them). I get too busy to sit and focus long enough to write something that is important to me, related to Spirit Fire and I feel is worthy of my asking others to take time from their busy lives to read. Now, having set my criteria for this post, onward!
I see Spirit Fire as a space in time to grow, to stretch into that higher vision of ourselves that we all carry, some a bit deeper than others but there just the same. A place to more deeply believe that we ARE magical beings, all of us. We get to play at that with others who are exploring their own paths. Like a spiritual Romper Room with a wide array of toys to play and learn with, a present, caring, playful staff and lots of colorful friends to be inspired by and to inspire, all wrapped up in a beautifully adorned, safe container. Any time we get to spend thinking more highly of ourselves has got to be good for us!
I invite us all to take the opportunity to be who we aspire to be, to see ourselves in our fire friends and to reflect the beauty of those present as much and as often as possible.
See you on the Mountain,

PS. If I post and ask a question, will that get more comments?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Traditions, New and Old

Mark and I have just returned from India, where we were part of the International Gathering of Elders. It was quite an amazing experience for many reasons, not the least of which is that is gave me a lot to ponder about the nature of heritage, culture and tradition.

In America, we are a country comprised of people whose ancestry is varied and diverse. Few of us can trace the family tree back more than a few generations and, overall, we have little connection to the countries from which our great, great grandparents originated. While we know ourselves to be, for example, of Italian, English and Dutch heritage, (or whatever combination is appropriate for each individual), these are just words that describe where our ancestors traveled from when they came here. We know very little about these cultures or their respective traditions. Let's face it - we're mutts! Most of our spiritual traditions are revivalist in nature and have little to do with where we actually came from.

In meeting people from all over the world, one of the things that Mark and I found interesting was the common thread that our traditions had been interrupted. Whether by war, displacement or persecution, nearly everyone could identify a break in their cultural lineage. Even our Native American friends spoke of the loss of heritage that happened when they were under siege. It seems nearly everyone who attended is still struggling to recover "the old ways." Some had gone to great lengths to research old folk tales, tattered books and still-standing villages to find a clue about how things used to be.

As I listened, it occurred to me that we might all be suffering from a need to "over-glorify" our ancestors in an effort to have solid roots. Yes, they left us a legacy. Yes, we benefit from the good they did. And (this is a very BIG "AND") - we are also left with their mistakes. It is our ancestors who "claimed territory", created hierarchies, marginalized one another, and drew invisible lines on a planet that had none, in order to define the differences between one "country" and another.

I am keenly aware that this "Gathering of Elders" was one in which many of the attendees were struggling to feel "legitimate." In a time where unity is a common theme amongst spiritual people, we spent a lot of our time in India making comparisons rather than experiencing the "One Tribe" conclave I had hoped for.

I loved the people I met from around the world and truly look forward to crossing paths with them in the future. This is not really about the people - its about authenticity. When we create a sacred circle, where do we place the elements? Do we place them where they actually are in our surrounding area or where we have been taught they should be? Do our symbols come from the world we share, or from history books and pictures of sacred sites? Who are the "ancestors" we call on?

What our ancestors did well is this: They listened to the Earth. She was the original teacher that ALL of our ancestors learned from. The word indigenous was used a lot at this gathering to identify who came from where. We are ALL indigenous, aren't we? Didn't we all come from Earth? Is there someone out there who is not from here? (If so, speak up now because we have lots of questions!)

The Earth taught our ancestors. The Universe was the classroom in which the 'traditions' were born. She will teach us in the same way, if we just listen. She has always been the teacher and she holds the lessons that are appropriate for this time.

So - what has this got to do with Spiritfire? EVERYTHING.

At Spiritfire, we are building new traditions that are based on our current life, not the life of the ancient ones. The ancestors are honored and recognized. They are called into the sacred space to inspire and guide, and yet, we are not tied to their ways. We are evolving, honoring one another, and allowing ourselves to be in the present moment, which is the only place we can be if we want to be inspired. At Spiritfire, the Earth Mother is present in each moment. The moon lights our path, and the stars dance with us. We are students of the entire Universe.

While I was in India, I found myself, over and over again, referring to Spiritfire and inviting people to share in this very unique experience. I handed out lots of postcards and am hopeful that some of the folks I spoke with will attend. I realized, as I was sharing, how very much I treasure the way we gather and what we do. I love the authenticity with which we meet each other. I love the depth of our sharing and the richness of our growth.

I feel very 'rooted" in this community, as it exists on the East Coast, in the Western States, and in other parts of the world we share. I feel the Mother as I dance the circle with you. I feel my heart as we connect eye-to-eye around the fire. And, as the energy rises through me, I become one with the stars and the moon and the entirely of All.

For this way, which is both as old as the dirt and as new as this very moment, I am deeply grateful.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


The other day we went skiing at our local area; it has a number of shorter, basic runs that are great for practice, and one or two longer ones that always test my stamina and technique. For me, skiing is a great way to clear the mind. Nothing helps one to focus and be present like the danger of falling down a steep hill!

The last time we were there, this day I referred to, I couldn't get myself into that place of presence as easily as I had in the past. It showed in my struggle to navigate the various terrain, and I got tired faster. It got better over time - made some adjustments to my boots, tried to relax and not push my pace - and even if it wasn't an effortless day of gliding, it was a good day of practice and learning overall.

What did occur to me, however, was that the situation seemed to mirror the fire circle in certain ways. It takes intention and focus to navigate the various terrain at a fire, and sometimes being "present" is challenging, while other times it's easy.

I'm wondering about your experiences with this. Can you think of times that being fully engaged at the fire was effortless, and times when it seemed really difficult? What struggles did you find yourself engaging with internally, and were there any externally?

And how did you work it out?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!

I am an athlete, have been almost my entire life. Soccer is a passion of mine, and while others can boast that their team may have won the state championship or other high honors, I can proudly say that while I was a captain, the entire athletic conference for my high school division, referees included in the vote, selected our team as the Robert Tingly Memorial Good Sportsmanship Award winners. What does this mean, and what does this have to do with SpiritFire you may ask.

Well, to earn that award, they looked at every member of every team - which team was the most kind, most passionite about their skills on the field, and how they treated those they were competing against as well as those who officiated the game. Our team treated everyone we played against, and each other, with the highest level of respect. Accidents happened, and in the spirit of competitiveness, people were knocked over or hurt. Our team members were the first ones to apologize and lend that other person a hand in getting up, or if they needed to be carried off the field, we helped them to their bench. NOT, every team was like this, in fact, there were some pretty aweful people out there. The kind that purposely tried to injure a member of another team, or took advantage of a bad call. We held ourselves, and each other, to a higher standard, not just as athletes, but as people respecting other people.

Society puts such an emphasis on competition, for sports, for jobs, for posessions, etc. How often do you see someone behaving in a manner that screams, "it's all about me!" and shake your head at them in disbelief? More often than not I find myself smiling in the face of the person that could have held the door for me, but instead walked through it and let it close behind them. When I get through the door and they are still close enough I remind them that I was right behind them and make them think about someone besides themselves for a minute. (
I'm respectful, but I'm no wallflower either.) I might even throw in a line about, "remember that poem, All I Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarden?"

So in the spirit of compassion and ethical treatment for others, especially in our community, it was with great pleasure that I saw this article today, and had to share it:

Sprinter gives Olympic medal to opponent

NEW YORK (AP) - Shawn Crawford confirmed that he gave his Olympic silver medal to Churandy Martina, the sprinter who finished second in the 200 meters but was later disqualified for running out of his lane. "I'm like, if a guy is 10 meters in front of me, I don't care if he stayed in the middle of his lane," Crawford told The Associated Press on Friday after finishing third in the 60 at the Millrose Games. "He was going to beat me anyway. He didn't impede in anybody's race." Crawford, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, originally came in fourth in Beijing.

Teammate Wallace Spearmon was third but was disqualified for running out of his lane. American officials studied video of the race and then filed a protest against Martina for the same error. Martina and his Netherland Antilles team have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, arguing that the protest was filed too late under rules set by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Martina finished in 19.82 seconds behind world record-setter Usain Bolt. Crawford's time was 19.96.

"It wasn't about doing the right thing. It's just me as an athlete - I feel like we all compete and train for four years to get to the Olympic Games," Crawford said. "We got there, he was told he finished second after all that, he took a victory lap. I can understand his humiliation and embarrassment and all that.

"Me being an athlete, I know how he feels, so I feel like it was to me to give it up to him."

Crawford left the medal for Martina at a hotel during a meet shortly after the Olympics. The two have since spoken about it.

"He was very surprised, thankful about it," Crawford said. "He thought it was very big of me to step up like that."

One of the highest honors in sports is to be the winner of an Olympic medal. It is not just for the fact that your country beat another country in competition, but more for the fact that the athlete accomplished this achievement in a nerve-wracking environment, with all the world watching, and did it proudly for the place he or she calls home. The unselfishness of this particular athlete reaffirmed my belief that there are greater things in life than winning an award that will collect dust on a shelf, or be forgotten about years later.

It reminded me of that time my team won the Good Sportsmanship award. It reminded me that there are people in this world that DO care about others, that WILL lend them a hand in time of need, that WON'T let a door slam on someone behind them, and will ALWAYS care about the world around them, and the people they share it with. They will do the right thing because their heart tells them it's right, and for no greater honor than feeling good about what they did for someone else. THAT's what I'm talking about!

Love and Light,

Friday, January 30, 2009

New Exercise

I've been working my way through some exercises in relaxation, attentiveness and focus with my class, and I think this one in particular is highly valuable and potentially useful to SpiritFire attendees.  It could easily be matched with transformative breathwork, or some of the other processes that get taught in SpiritFire workshops — but it only takes a couple of minutes a day, especially once you get used to it.

1) lie down in a relatively comfortable, dimly-lit space.
2) make yourself comfortable.
3) Begin flexing muscles, small and large, in order, from the tips of your left fingers up your arm to your shoulders.  
4) As each muscle tenses, hold it a moment and then release it, releasing the tension that goes with it.
5) As you reach your shoulders, scrunch up the muscles on the back of your neck, and then release the tension; do the same to your face, chest, and then down your right arm.  
6) The more attentive you are to tightening and releasing each muscle, the easier this will be to do quickly.
7) Tighten and then release the pectoral muscles of the chest, and then the horizontal bands of abdominal muscles.  Tighten the muscles of the lower back and release.
8) Tighten the buttocks and then release.  You should feel your spinal column relax against the floor, especially if you tighten and release the muscles of the lower back as well.
9) Tighten and release the muscles of the thighs, front and back; and then the calves.
10)  Flex, tighten and release the muscles of the ankles, feet, and toes in turn.
11) Take a few minutes to sense where there is any further tension in your body. Then work your way through all the body, top to bottom, rapidly tightening and releasing all the muscles through a second round.
12) Repeat a third time, if necessary.

At this point, you will have given yourself a thorough workout of all the major muscles and minor muscle groups, and you should be feeling relatively calm, relaxed, and happy.  Intense workouts using this method can generate tears, moments of anger, flashes of pain, and even spontaneous laughter.  It's slow-going at first but the process picks up speed with practice, and it makes me feel most days as if I spent part of the previous night dancing in the sweet spot at SpiritFire.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


When I wake up from the shortest nap I can take and still function, I know I am at SpiritFire, I am aware of the community I am connected with, I am mindful of the steps I take along a path alive with the roots of trees worn smooth by the feet of many brothers and sisters before me. Whispering voices drift through my hair in the breeze, laughter echoes through the woods, disguising its origin, becoming the air I breathe. Eyes become as bright as the sun, as deep as the universe and as warm and comforting as a mothers breast. Drum hearts beat in anticipation of the divine union of spirit. The fire…. the fire is my heart burning for learning, awareness, evolution, change, oneness, it is the sun and we are the heavenly bodies that revolve around it, honoring its gifts, its life-giving power, its consistency and its perfection.
When I am at SpiritFire, I know where I am, I AM where I am. I am more mindful of each moment on the Mountain because I am there with purpose! The more I live in awareness of the moment, the better I live!

Peace now,

Friday, January 23, 2009

A New Nation

I sat motionless, eyes transfixed on the television, sitting among my peers and co-workers as the 44th president of our country was sworn into office. What captivated me was not only the words he was speaking, but that he said them with such conviction, and without once looking at his notes, and without the use of a teleprompter. I know there are those of you in community who can speak from the heart with the same passion and effortlessness that he did on that day, and I admire you all for that. What you give to others when you can do this, just as I felt coming from this man, was a true sense of understanding for all people regardless of background, faith, beliefs, age, sex... the list goes on.

As he spoke, Obama touched on just about every subject he could, sometimes sublty, other times with more fiery seriousness and he essentially let us know that he was going to honor his words. That he didn't just do what most politicians do and say what we wanted to hear to get into office. He gave me a sense that he was going to fight the good fight, and that he knew what odds he was up against. It felt to me like we were seeing Olysseus coming home from his Odyssey and after everything he had to fight through to get to Ithaca, that he was standing before us a humbled and grateful hero.

In that moment at the pdium, and speaking to the faces gathered before him and to the people listening around the world, he knew that there were the those in places of great decision-making power that are happy with the way things are even when they know that they are not right and should be changed. And he was going after them next. At that moment, forgive the reference, but I also pictured that scene in Rocky where he dances with great joy after successfully climbing all those steps of the Philadelphia Library, arms straight up in the air in achievement, and a knowledge that he wasn't done yet.

He spoke of the economic woes and his intentions to change things for the better. He spoke of the educational system and how it has been failing us, and he spoke of the trust "we the people" have not had in our government for a very long time. When decisions are made behind closed doors it is a dangerous thing. It's like putting all your money in a bank, not getting a receipt and having a teller say, "trust me, it's there." There aren't many people who can blindly trust in situations like that, so it was refreshing to hear the newest leader of our country tackle these issues and concerns head-on only moments after being sworn in. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders a little bit. That burden that has been there for the last several years. The weight of putting on the happy face and keeping all these issues that keep me awake at night to myself so that my daughter can grow up in a positive environment.

We create the container for ourselves and for each generation that follows, and not just around the fires we build and tend for our gatherings. Not just in our communications with each other, but with everything we do with our daily lives. Watching the inauguration and seeing every face of every person there, most of them as I was, with tears brimming in their eyes, with something we had not felt from a person in the Oval Office in a long while - hope and faith. Of all the things he spoke of, the part that stood out the most for me and rang the truest, was this:

"This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed – why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."

Our country has made great strides indeed, and as a community we have a love for each other that is like no other. We welcome each other with open arms even if we have never met before. We share in each other's stories, and grow with each other. We look forward to seeing each other and "pay it forward" by taking those yummy good feelings from our gatherings back into our every day lives. I do believe our tribe, as near and as far as we reach has been changing the world just by being who we are. Isn't it refreshing to have a president who seems to support the same ideals with live by? After seeing what he has done so far, just in his first few days of office, I am so looking forward to seeing how the attitude and the economic state of our country begins shifting as well. And as that happens I am so looking forward to seeing what our tribe can do to make it even better!

Love and Light,

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bringing it all Home

As I read through what Lyra posted regarding community, and ponder what my beloved (Ahriana for those who don't know) posted regarding our upcoming journey to India, I have a couple of thoughts that seem to serpentine through my mind.

I find it rather interesting that I'm attending a gathering of indigenous peoples from around the world, my beloved is speaking from the pagan perspective (an entire dialogue in itself about what that does and doesn't encompass) and I'm feeling as though I don't fit into any single path and so what am I representing while I'm there? I look around me and observe a lot of people in my circle following a Native American, Wicca, Buddhist, Taoist, or some formal path that has some structure, sacred texts, or other element that creates a sense of belonging or kinship that others who follow the same tradition can associate with. But, I also look around and see an entirely different group that don't call themselves by any given title or group; the seekers who pull from the various traditions and sort of blend the best of what fits their souls...this seems to be where I find myself.

Here are my questions:
1) Since there is no tribe that these seekers belong to because of their spiritual beliefs, is this why events such as Spirit Fire and other gatherings become "home" or community.

2) Assuming this is the case, how do these seekers take it beyond the environment of tribe and step into a more contemporary venue where a different form of community can be established?

3) What is it that I'm bringing to this gathering in India that could be considered of indigenous nature? Who am I representing and how can I share what this group embodies from the collage of traditions from which we draw upon?

And, in response to Lyra's post, I feel that we find the ability to express our deepest questions and theories of what it is to be human/spirit at the Spirit Fire gathering without fear of rejection, persecution, or isolation in a world that is already too isolating. This freedom and desire to explore what spirit is and how we connect with it in myriad ways, is exactly what draws me to these tribal events...it's the inner most exploration of self in the presence of others trying to find commonalities that both verify my experiences and allows for a richer, more deep experience of my own.

So with this I leave for India with that little nudging from spirit letting me know that I will not be the same person when I arrive back in the states. I wonder what magical unraveling will occur?

Many blessings to all...

In all ways...


Rising from the Ashes!

In one week, I leave for India to sit in discussion with Elders from Tribal and Pagan traditions from 40 countries. We'll be talking about the "Renaissance of Ancient Ways" and I will be speaking on the subject of contemporizing what we already know. Using correlations between the elements of earth, air, fire, water and spirit to address, respectively, government, education, economics, religion, and the arts, I am asking that we, of all tribes and traditions, rededicate the ceremonies and rituals we regularly perform to change our current condition.

Why is this pertinent to Spiritfire?

I'll be sharing that the element of Fire carries such qualities as energy, passion, will, and clear vision. Our economic position, whether personal or that of our Country, is a driving force in our lives. It is the fire that warms the modern world, and our language reflects the element. For example, we "burn ourselves out" in our work efforts. We are "on fire" when a job excites us. When we can't find a job - the market has gone "cold."

Because Spiritfire is a powerful ceremony using the same energy that it takes to drive our economy, I see this gathering as an opportunity to affect change in that area - and since our economy is such a big concern, what better time than now?!

The question is, how do we do it? Is it as easy as placing intention? What are we asking the element of Fire to achieve? What, exactly, is wrong with the economy, and what needs to be corrected? Fire unleashed without direction is destructive and dangerous. Fire directed well
can consume and change, leaving the Phoenix to rise from the ashes.

What tools do we use? From the time we enter the gate, how do we use our voice, our movement, and our music in service to the economic fire?

Do we re-kindle a dying spark? Do we calm and direct a flame blazing out of control? What is the practical application of this fire to the larger concerns of our world?

We could sure use an economic Phoenix right now!

I'd love to hear your thoughts and, with your permission, be able to share them when I am in India.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Pathways Series: Music

Pathways Series: Music

Every fire circle gathering has unique aesthetics and intentions that fuel the interactions between people and the various mechanisms that bind them together in sacred space: SpiritFire refers to these as the Pathways of music, motion, voice, and seva.

Many of those who come to SpiritFire attend other fire circles around the country: Forestdance, MayFire, Phoenix Fire – and find an underlying sense, as Lisa so aptly describes in her recent post, of community. We share much, and our various forms of celebration are similar, but one of the beautiful aspects of having different events is the diversity we find.

I’d like to offer an exploration of how fires can be specific in their own ways of doing things, and offer a discussion about SpiritFire’s approach to each of the pathways. Music seems like a good place to start; recently we had our first staff meeting and devoted a good chunk of time to this topic (as well as the other pathways), and I know folks have been discussing these things in various forums, both public and private, quite a bit.

So what is the SpiritFire approach to music and the fire circle? What our the intentions and aesthetics of what we do? How can we celebrate diversity and spontenaeity at the fire and yet keep the circle’s boundaries consistent and clear for everyone to enjoy?

A few years ago we put together a (rather wordy but complete) basic description of how SpiritFire walks the path of music. You can access that in its entirety via the Yahoo Group files section, or contact us for a copy. We’re hoping to put up some new pages on our website that are dedicated to the individual pathways, and I’ll let you know how that idea progresses.

Here, however, I’m just going to offer some bullet points, and then share some of the staff’s realizations and decisions that transpired during the meeting in mid-January.

• First – SpiritFire is primarily a percussive fire circle; this was a big part of our discussions at the meetings. Our music is made from instruments of indefinate pitch, meaning non-tuned instruments, as opposed to instruments of definite pitch, which are tuned and focused on melodic content.

Tablas are a wonderful example of walking the line in-between these two ideas. They are tuned, but percussive; or the hang drum, which is a multi-pitched steel drum, but the pitches are rich in overtones and meld well with softer percussion.)

So how do we view our relationship to instruments of melodic nature? We felt the need to clarify some of that for ourselves, as a staff, which in turn will help us support the container more easily once we’re at the event. As many of you have seen, each night’s fire lighting ritual is focused on a different theme; each night’s focus is created by both staff and recruited community members, who are responsible for creating and maintaining the container that night. What we’ve set up is that for each night, the faciltators have the final say about what kinds of non-percussive content might appear at the circle, within the following perimeters:

1. Melodic offerings are meant to be brief, as a specific statement or transitional moment; they should done conscientiously and at pre-agreed upon times (with that night’s faciltators). For the most part, they are offered at dawn.

2. Those wishing to offer melodic music need to first check in with the night’s facilitators, and come to an agreement about the nature of the offering.

3. Folks should not assume the rest of the circle must stop and listen – the offering (like any other offering) needs to leave room for others to participate. A melodic offering is not a “spotlight” for someone to perform – it is meant to enhance and contribute to the sense of sacred beauty that is there, and to support the intent of that night’s focus.

On to the rhythmic/percussive part of who we are – here are some of the ideas that have grown over the years – and are already in practice:

• During the drumming sections, especially those with more drummers at a time, SpiritFire encourages playing 3-4 hand drum “parts” with multiple people playing a part in unison.

• Diversity in percussive sound is important, and can be supported in a few ways:
i. Bells and rattles are critical to helping those on hand drums and dunduns keep together – if many people are playing djembes, consider helping with a solid, consistent rhythm on a bell or rattle.
ii. We are trying to actively encourage other drum styles in addition to the djembe/dundun ensemble: dumbek/frame drums, congas, etc. – and all the musicians need to be an active part of holding space for those sounds. If a group of dumbeks is playing, consider allowing them to have their space without dunduns/djembes. There are loaner drums for those who want to participate in groups of instruments that they don’t own.
iii. Sacred Sounds like didgeridoos, singing bowls, and other such instruments are an important part of our circle, too!

• We ask that drummers stay conscious and connected, in service to dance.

• Our rhythmic aesthetic is one of long-playing grooves with very few sudden “breaks” to end a rhythm, which can throw a dancer off. Once a rhythm comes to an end, we ask the drummers to refrain from introducing a rhythm too quickly, so that chants and other sounds have a chance to manifest. It might be that a chant or sacred sound moment goes on for a long time with no drums – that’s a good thing.

• One soloist at a time, if there is a soloist!

• Simpler parts will meld with ensemble playing (particularly large groups) with more clarity and effect than fast, busy parts with many beats.

That’s quite a lot to digest; on the other hand, we’ve been building on these foundations for a few years now. Your thoughts? What else is there to consider for music? What things deserve more conversation or focus?

Update series #2: Inertia...

Well, the staff met on January 17th in Western Mass, from 10am to about 10pm. Long day, but we got a lot covered (and ate a lot of junk food) in the process.

My thanks to Brighid, who hosted the event at her home - it was wonderful!

So what did we cover? Basically, we decided on the nuts-and-bolts issues of operations and gathering structure. This includes:

1. Staff duties, both before and at the event
2. How to spread the word to new folks
3. What crew positions did we need this year (what specific on-site jobs were needed)?
4. What did we want to accomplish with the workshops, and which of the current proposals fit those intentions?
5. Schedule - any changes, clarifications, or other modifications to the event schedule
6. What things do we need to order/purchase before the gathering?
7. Scholarships - we generally discussed scholarships, but no decisions were made - applications aren't due until April 1st and 8hen only by a specific subset of the staff (which, thankfully, does not include me!)
9. The pathways and related pathways workshops
10. Fire lighting rituals - developed some thematic ideas and considered some proposals by community members
11. Site issues
12. 2009 icon and T Shirt art
13. Community workshift issues and schedule
14. Some changes and pre-planning for non-fire circle rituals

.... and about 10 or so other smaller details. I'm very grateful to have a group of folks on this staff who are so talented at focusing, communicating, and helping to constructively create and criticize in such a way that we can cover such a large agenda in one day! There is more to do, much more, but we did well.

So coming out of that - a reminder that if you would like to help us get some postcards out there, let me know by dropping a private email with your name, addy, and how many you need. We're looking to hand out postcards in person as much as possible at drum circles, dance classes, gatherings, etc.

If you can donate to the scholarship fund, please do! If you need a scholarship applications are due by April 1st - please make sure to read the scholarship FAQ on our website.

More soon!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Weaving the Great Web

Today is a happy day for me and for countless others like me around the world. Today hope was inaugurated into the executive office of the United States government. A tremendous tide of change is surely underway, and the intentional fire circle movement is, at least for me, one feature of this “Great Turning.” It signifies a return to earth spirituality, divine feminine power, and a leap forward into the next millennial phase of human cooperative systems on our planet.

I had given up hope for the first time in my 44 years following the 2004 election, and therefore was particularly amazed that my beloved friend, Julie Woods, could still be so vibrant and full of life when the whole world was clearly going down the tubes. Somewhere along the way, it seemed evident to me, people had forgotten how to belong together. Julie lived in a different world. I felt a twinge of envy every time she talked animatedly about her "tribe" and entertained us with fire circle stories. I wanted to tap into that energy somehow, to feel anything but the dullness of my own existence. As far-out as her stories sounded to my ears, I secretly, desperately wanted to belong to a tribe like Julie. That was how I came to attend my first fire festival in May, 2005. When Brett and I arrived at the registration tent at May Fire in Nevada, we were greeted with smiles, hugs, and these prophetic words: Welcome home.

The transformative nature of the work we do at Spiritfire – through the various pathways of Music, Voice, Movement and Seva – needs to be acknowledged here, because it represents what is beginning to happen on a global scale, in what Jeannette aptly identified as the profanum, or the realm of our common lives. Whenever we as individuals weave our intentions in collaboration with the other pathways we are creating the web of community, deliberately, lovingly, and in a safe container. That power accompanies us as we re-enter our common lives and influences those around us, much the way Julie had influenced me. Each time we weave this magic in the container of the fire circle the web grows stronger and more complex. What an amazing gift we unleash in our day-to-day lives knowing what can be accomplished in harmony with our combined talents and differences! In this regard, Spiritfire provides a model by which this web can be woven in the greater community, via us, the lucky festival-goers.

The wonderful Spiritfire tribe has long since become my extended family. How can I ever fully express my gratitude to those of you who have contributed to restoring my hope and faith in humanity? As we collectively walk forward into the years of Barack Obama’s presidency I maintain hope that we will rise to the challenges we face, and I believe his words, Yes, we can.

Lisa B

The Sacred and The Profane

Visualizing the sacred is not hard for many of us.  Iconography of images spanning vast aspects of time and culture throughout recorded history are easily brought to mind.  But "profane"?  No, I do not write of the modern usage of the term, but instead, hints of its older meaning.  The word profane derives from the latin "profanum" and sacred, "sacrum".    Profanum encompasses all that we know through our "senses" as well as all that is common in our daily lives while sacrum encompasses the ultimate unknown of Spirit.  This concept took physical shape in ancient temple designs by separating a common area (profanum) from the area of communion with Spirit (sacrum) and continues to reverberate into the present.
The idea of sanctity and profanity exists on many levels in the experiences and people that we love, especially, the intense relationships forged through years of attending festivals like Spiritfire.   Many of us see each other only a few times a year, and yet the power of these connections serve to carry us throughout the intervening seasons.  We come together as a community and create our "sacrum" visa vie the fire circle.  We leave behind our daily concerns and turn our attention wholly to the celebration of Spirit through the vehicles of Fire, Drumming, Dancing, Chanting, and each other.  The immersion into the rhythm of festivals can be slow, fast, easy, hard, or any number of things along the spectrum, but the intensity with which we open our hearts to the experience catalyzes our relationships to ourselves and others.  Thus, community!  

We often strengthen these community ties each festival we attend, or try to find or create similar situations locally on a community level.  But, what I'd like to know is how each of us carries this concept on a more individual basis.  How do you incorporate the sacred and profane in your lives?  


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pilgrimage and Altered Mindset

Andrew Watermountain here...

In all religious and spiritual traditions, there are places of pilgrimage and great teaching. Medieval Europe learned to work with stone in order to build cathedrals as housings for relics from the life of Christ and the major saints, and both the Church and ordinary seekers designated pilgrimage routes to reach them, highways of transit for those on a journey to purify the soul. Islam, of course, has the Hajj, the annual journey to Mecca and the sevenfold circuit of the Kaabah. Buddhism has the stupas of India and Indonesia and certain Tibetan lamaseries in the high Himalayas. Hinduism has the shores of the Ganges in the city of Benares, Shinto has the Ise shrine, Native Americans have their sacred spots; even American patriots have Gettysburg, the Lincoln Memorial, and Monticello.

When I go to SpiritFire, I leave my little New England town by back roads that wind and twist past old stone walls, the public library of a neighboring town, and a thin but deep lake in a steep-walled valley. If I have time, I cross the highway rather than go onto it, and continue across the lake in Holland, MA, past the windmill there, and through the broad valley around Brimfield, MA on US-20. In Palmer, I can pick up the MASSPike, or continue west on blue highways past milltowns and the reservoir, sleepy Congregational churches on town commons, and all manner of gas stations and forests. like taking this back way home; it gives me time to reflect on what I've learned, to stop and meet people who went to SpiritFire too, or who didn't go but wanted to. We have coffee, we eat meals, we deal with the lack of sleep and the altered perceptions.

If I don't have time, and I go by the highway, there are other landmarks: the insurance towers of Hartford, the hall of fame in Springfield, the interchange to the MassPike, the steep cliffs of the Berkshires, the walkover for the Appalachian Trail, the shopping malls of Lenox and Lee, the rest areas on the highway for coffee and danish and bathrooms.

None of these landmarks are 'sacred' to me. I don't view them as anything more than wayposts or signs that point out where I'm going, or how I get there. But I find that my perceptions of my journeys to other places are affected. When I go to Hartford, I've caught myself thinking, "a right turn here and I'd be on my way to SpiritFire. Only a few months to go." I'll be going to some event or another, and I'll see Berkshire cliffs covered in snow, and think of them green and warm in June, July and August. People, too, function as wayposts... seeing SpiritFire people in other contexts is always nice, but there's that shared secret smile, that understanding: we have danced under moonlight to the drums on the mountain together.

What are the inner, and outer, wayposts of your journey to and from SpiritFire? Are there specific landmarks or specific portals that you notice as you travel? What makes the journey to, or from, SpiritFire special to you?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fun with wood

So, I spent a good chunk of a day last summer working on a carving that I hope will eventually become a new stand for the One Drum. Here's what it looked like last last winter when I had it stored in my woodshop:

It's 9-feet tall and just a tad shy of a foot in diameter at the base. My plan is to carve the top 7 feet, and have 2 feet underground to support it. Eventually, Sage and I hauled it out into the sunlight (which had FINALLY arrived to these parts) so I could start de-barking it and getting a sense of how I want to work with it. And it's a good thing I did, too, 'cause I discovered that some sort of grubs (buprestid beetles, probably) had established themselves pretty firmly under the bark; I suspect that if I had waited too much longer they would have really invaded the wood. (And, in fact, they might have; only time will tell.)

Anyway, like I said, I spent most of that day working the bark off of it with my favorite buck knife (which I found years ago when I was wandering around in the tundra north of the Brooks Range about 150 klicks south of Prudhoe Bay, but that's another story) and trimming flush a lot of the knots with my chain saw. I let myself get a truly wicked sunburn. Stupid, yes. Careless, yes. But ... it felt so good to actually be working on something for SpiritFire ahead of plan.

What's most on my mind in the long term, though, is what I'm actually going to carve. I have some ideas, and with luck I'll actually be able to pull it off. More as it develops, I promise.

And oh yeah, the wood came from an elm tree Joss and I had to have taken down more than a year ago. It was right on the corner of our house, and the trunk was splitting in a way that made it virtually certain it would topple into the house during a storm. So, we had a crew with a crane come in and take it down, with the request that they leave all the long pieces and cool-looking pieces intact. Check it out:

So with luck and a little bit of perseverence, we'll have a new One Drum stand, sustainably and locally harvested and hand-carved. And who knows what other cool stuff will come from the other pieces saved from the tree. Notice in the picture from the wood shop the other piece of wood in the background; that's from a part of the trunk where three major branches forked. Joss has some thoughts about carving it out and heading the branches to make a three-headed drum. Now that would be cool!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Of Temenos and Temporality

Hey, gorgeous ones...

I've been mulling over a question for awhile now, one that I'm sure has bounced around in everyone's head for years, to some extent. I'm wondering about the festival phenomena, and what it means to forge a community around an annual gathering, as opposed to local geography. With what intensity do we infuse our connections with each other--for five, maybe ten days a year, and how does this intensity serve to create, rather rapidly, a new subculture?

We are, of course, one of thousands upon thousands of communities who meet annually, have intense experiences, and look forward to next year all year round. But I'm really curious about this. I'm curious about the sharp demarcation some of us make between "fire world" and "real life." I'm curious about the commitment we have to SpiritFire, and sometimes I wonder if, for some, an annual festival is becoming a substitute for year-round, local community. Or, perhaps more accurately, that year-round, local community has never really existed, and the festival model has given us perhaps our first vision of what community can really be.



Playing in the Symphony

I’ve been reading a book called “The Great Work” by Thomas Berry. It is quite an interesting read about nature, and history, and life as it is today and could be tomorrow.

The author speaks about (and I am definitely paraphrasing) becoming part of the "universal symphony." Basically, instead of taking the arrogant-human, intellectual position that we must “think about” and “create” a new way of living, he suggests that we listen to the symphony of life around us and find our place in it. He implies that, when we are part of the symphony, the world will be as it should be.

Makes me think about my drumming experiences around the Fire.

It would be quite a stretch for me to call myself a drummer…. A “thumper” maybe – but certainly not a drummer. While I feel the rhythm around me, I lack the skill so prevalent in our community. Still, one can only dance and chant for so long before the urge to sit and play for a while becomes compelling.

I frequently find myself sitting on a bench listening for a beat to follow. My hands fumble as I search for a very basic and simple pattern I can duplicate without too much concentration. The fact is, the more I concentrate, the more difficult it becomes to “play.”

I love that word…”play”….

If I stop thinking and let my hands rest on the drum head, a steady and simple beat i can follow will emerge. Its almost as if the drum plays me. I can “play” as long as I refrain from thinking about it.

Hmmm – seems like Mother Nature plays me too – when I stop thinking about how to fix what we have done to Her and just let myself feel Her rhythms! Perhaps finding the “symphony” is just that easy. I love the idea that, to make the world what we want it to be, we begin by finding our own rhythm within Nature. I love the fact that being around the Fire together teaches me how to do that. I love the idea that the key to creating the changes we want is to think less and play more!

The challenge, of course, is to actually make the time to play....

Blessed be,