Rites of Passage Circle Around Death

FireHeart 2 Cover for EarthSpiritRites of Passage
Circle Around Death
by Sue Curewitz Arthen ©1988

Death dances around us constantly. Watching the seasons change, mourning the loss of a familiar four-footed or winged friend, aching for the Maypole tree that once stood tall and green, we honor the death of all living things as part of the wheel of life. Losing a parent, love, child or friend is different. Our sensitivity to human death is heightened by our connection to human energy. And energy, transformation, and life are what we dance with as we circle around death.

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The Story of Real Vampires

FireHeart 2 Cover for EarthSpiritThe Story of
Real Vampires
by Inanna Arthen ©1988

“Real Vampires”-how can this be anything but a contradiction in terms? We all know about vampires. Stock characters of fiction, guaranteed box-office draws, the media vampire has been familiar to us since childhood. Generally speaking, our blood-suckers appear with a tongue planted firmly in one toothy cheek-from Bela Lugosi hamming it up in the 1950’s, to last summer’s teenage “vamp” movies, to Count Chocula breakfast cereal, the media seldom treat the vampire as truly fearsome. The stereotyped vampire traits are familiar to any child: vampires have big fangs, sleep in coffins, are instantly incinerated by sunlight, and are best dispatched by a stake through the heart. But the most important “fact” that we all know of course is that there are no such things.

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Rites of Passage Handfasting

FireHeart 1 Cover for EarthSpiritRites of Passage
by Sue Curewitz Arthen ©1988

Five years ago, as a mother of two, I began to write a magazine column entitled “Pagan Childe”, focusing on issues around raising the next generation. Complications set in … I left my mate and children and became quite absorbed in a new discovery. To be able to write about the generation I am helping to raise, I needed to have a better sense of the shape of the generation I am from – and what shapes me, in part, are the life cycles I live through. As a pagan, I have faith that my experiences of the rites of life can often be different from other people’s. The degree of conscious celebration and ritual alters the experience and alters me. As members of a pagan community, we share and invite these complex alterations, and it is on these experiences that this series will focus.

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The Wicker Man A Ritual of Transformation

FireHeart 1 Cover for EarthSpiritThe Wicker Man
A Ritual of Transformation
by Walter Wright Arthen ©1988

Rites of Spring 1982: a circle of witches gathers at twilight in a familiar clearing in the southern New Hampshire woods. They come deliberately in four lines from the cardinal directions singing their invocations to the beat of a lone drum. Only moments before, the members of each line had formed their own circle, chanting together and calling the energy and power of one direction, one element, to be with them. Now, wearing colored ribbons (yellow for air, red for fire, blue for water, and green for earth) the four lines merge in a circle surrounding a human-like figure woven of reeds and grasses that stands at the center. The chanting voices weave together as do the dancers, until the movement suddenly stops, each group in its quarter. Now the celebrants turn their attention inward. The elemental chants shift into a chant to the moon. Silence. A voice calls them to sink into the earth, to be connected with Her. Ouietly, those assembled there recall the arrogance and thoughtlessness with which humans live on the earth-wasting their Mother’s riches, destroying and polluting Her body. They recall how they themselves have done so.

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From Roots To Dreams Pagan Festivals and the Quest for Community

FireHeart 1 Cover for EarthSpiritFrom Roots To Dreams
Pagan Festivals and the Quest for Community
by Andras Corban Arthen ©1988

This month, the Rites of Spring Pagan Celebration in New England will be ten years old, making it one of the oldest continuous Pagan gatherings anywhere. From its comparatively humble debut over Mother’s Day weekend in May 1979, Rites of Spring has evolved into a week-long event involving more than five-hundred from all over the country as well as Canada, and including participants from as far away as England, Germany, France and Australia.

When asked by the editors of FIREHEART (as the festival’s originator and one of its current organizers) to provide a retrospective article on Rites of Spring, I thought it would be interesting instead of explore how an ongoing event such as Rites can mirror the changes, issues, and growth of contemporary Paganism, and provide a perspective on important themes and currents within the Pagan community.

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