As I began giving energy to the idea—talking about it with friends to let the mycelial network begin to form, showing Spirit I was taking action on the inspiration—I realized I was actually embarking on a much deeper journey both personally and with my community.
Confronting my Own Fears
Personally, I’ve had fear and hesitation around creating projects like a community ritual with other people. I’ve tended to do things on my own; out of fear. I’ve hosted a few small-scale Equinox and Solstice gatherings. I drew on teachings and examples from those around me when it came to the design of the structure of the event. And I created space within the events for participants to share and co-create. But I largely created and ran it solo. When I look back now on those events I smile to a younger, nervous, inexperienced me. I have compassion for the gap between the events I did create and the transformative group ritual experience I long to have. Yet I went in that direction of planning and hosting solo because that’s what felt most comfortable. I’m scared of the potential messiness of working with people—setting expectations, managing conflicts, potentially being disappointed by people, the potential challenge of being on different pages with the event, the challenge of committing time and energy to a project while we’re all trying to survive and create joy while living under capitalism.
I realized early on after receiving the inspiration for the Spring Festival that there was an invitation for me to grow and learn to collaborate again. To learn the joy and possibility of working in a group. To see that what we create together is far more than any of us could create on our own. I have a background in theatre as an actor. I remember the deep joy of co-creation, and the pride of giving energy and care to creating a finished piece of theatre.
And isn’t this invitation what relearning principles of community care is all about? Leaning into the potential messiness of being in relationship? Learning to establish connection and trust, to set clear expectations and boundaries, to learn the skills to manage conflict, to learn how to grieve when loss and disappointment happens, to learn how to repair ruptures of connection?
Inspired by my Ancestors
I draw inspiration from the festivals of my Irish and Greek ancestry. In modern times, Orthodox Greece has events like Apokries, the Greek carnival season; 10 weeks prior to Orthodox Easter of community festivals involving song, dance, food, and masquerading. I read a book about the role of Priestesses in religious cults in Ancient Greece called Portrait of a Priestess
by Joan Breton Connelly which outlines how each god and goddess has their own calendar of celebrations and holy days, resulting in a busy Ancient Greek community life of pilgrimages, festivals, and rites. I’m learning about the Celtic pre-Christian pagan calendar of holy days that align with solar and lunar events. And learning about their modern pagan reimagining of that calendar in the Wheel of the Year and the 8 holy days that include the solstices and equinoxes.
This Ritual Needs Many Stories
I feel nourished by my solo spiritual practice of being connected to the land, the changing seasons, spirit and my ancestors, yet I know there is more waiting for me in community ritual.
I don’t want however to work solo to create a Celtic Pagan celebration of spring. I don’t want it to be a celebration isolated to one group of people or set of practices. I want to celebrate this land where I am on the Grand River Watershed in what’s known in present day in colonial terms as Guelph, Ontario. I want a ritual space that is a meaningful interaction between many stories of this land and our relationship with it. Because to create a new song on this earth that prioritizes care and justice among many peoples (including animal, mineral, plant and ancestral), a song that counteracts the modern mythos of extraction, oppression and individualism, we need a polyphonic song. I would be reproducing patterns of harm if I celebrated this land, as a white settler, in a way that made invisible once again the indigenous peoples of this land, and the many other cultures and ethnicities who find ourselves here because of colonization, economic migration, or by other means.
River Walks and Conversations
So I started having conversations to get feedback on the Spring Festival idea; to seek collaborators. I witnessed the mycelial network grow outside of me, and began reaching out to friends who have passion and experience in ritual, nature connection, art, working with kiddos, who are parents. I was granted a small pot of money through the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition’s “Setting the Table” Fund so that I could pay people for 1 hour consultations, where they share their time and expertise. I’ve walked in the forest and by the river, sat around a bonfire, or shared a tea with people to dream and learn.
I quickly realized the project needed more time. That five months wasn’t enough, so instead of a May 2023 timeline, I moved to a May 2024 timeline. And now, at this point, I don’t know what the timeline of the project is. It might not be a project at all anymore (for now at least). I think it’s become a longer, slower process of developing relationships and being in connection.
A Way Forward
I’ve been shown a possible way forward by Australian Aboriginal academic and carver Tyson Yunkaporta through his 2020 book Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World (Tyson has said he dislikes the subtitle which was created by his publishers). In the last chapter he outlines a process to share and produce knowledge, a sequence to follow to work with indigenous knowledge in sustainable ways. The sequence is distilled from hundreds of conversations between Yunkaporta who is from the Apalech Clan and Doris Shillingsworth a Mumuwari elder. The sequence is as follows:
1.Spirit/Respect: The values and protocols that guide introductions between people Setting rules and boundaries. Starting from a base of profound respect between people.
2.Heart/Connect: “Establishing strong relationships and routines of exchange that are equal for all involved. Your way of being is your way of relating because all things only exist in relationship to other things.”
3.Head/Reflect: “Thinking as part of the group and collectively establishing a shared body of knowledge to inform what you will do.”
4.Hands/Direct: “Acting on that shared knowledge in ways that are negotiated by all.”
Yunkaporta contrasts this sequence with how white colonizers often work with Australian Aboriginals—by imposing projects and programs that go array because they start with directing, instead of starting with relationship building.
Sand Talk, in combination with a recent river walk with a local artist, has shown me the need to slow down even further, and really listen to the broader invitation in the spore of the Spring Festival Idea.
Reciprocal, Respectful Relationships
If I long for meaningful community ritual that tells many stories, then it needs to be created by a group of people who hold many different stories. Not just me holding the vision, and inserting artists and ritualists into a structure of my design. And that means slowing down and making introductions (Respect), and establishing respectful, reciprocal relationships, with many people who are similar and dissimilar to me (Connect). So that then, together, we can create a vision for a community ritual (Reflect), and then play together to make that vision a reality (Direct).
And the creation process needs to recognize that we don’t all come to the table in the same way, with the same privileges and resources. As a white, able bodied, middle class, settler with reasonably steady income and secure housing, with no children or care-giving obligations, I hold a lot of privilege and have a lot of capacity. Not that my life is perfect or that I’m thriving (what kind of health and balance is possible in a toxic, unjust system like racialized capitalism?) yet it’s still totally possible for me to donate my time every month over the course of a year to organize and plan a one day Spring Festival. If I am asking Indigenous, POC artists and ritualists to join me in that co-creation, what might they need in order to have the capacity and resources to devote time and energy to such a project? How could we create a model, a process where people could get adequately paid for their time and experience? Where supports like child care and transportation could be included? What is needed to create an equal and reciprocal relationship? How do we create community seasonal ritual together in a nurturing, caring, respectful, and just way?
More conversations need to be had.
Want to Chat?
If you’re interested in chatting with me for up to an hour about this Spring Festival idea, or what the path to get there involves, please be in touch. Honorariums are available for your time, with a priority on Black, Indigenous, POC artists and ritualists.
I’ll check back in and write more as the fungal network spreads. Sign up for my newsletter to be sent further posts.
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