"Goddess Shrine", America's Stonehenge 2007,
by Valerianna Claff, Katja Esser, and Lisa Bouchie
Today we mark the longest day of the year in
the northern hemisphere. At RavenWood,
we will gather for a ritual fire and witness
the light fading into dark. For many years I
co-facilitated a huge celebration at America's Stonehenge
in New Hampshire. My friend, Katja Esser,
had been creating a big, public celebration for
years before I joined her in 2000. We took it to a whole
new level together employing our artistic skills to create
impressive clay shrines and ritual spaces. My favorite shrine
was the one that had been in my mind for several years -
a huge, clay goddess at the center of the circle. We built her out
of artists clay and natural clay that Lisa dug from the side of
a river bed. We spent the whole day prior to the celebration
building her. Below, Katja and I work on the detail of her face.
In the ritual,the participants each had a
moment to enter the centerof the circle and
place a flower symbolizing their authentic selves
in the belly of the Goddess. It was a ritual
of coming home to the Mother.
It was a very sweet ritual, one of my favorites
that I facilitated with Katja. These gatherings grew
to over one hundred participants, quite a thing
to hold, and a wonderful experience.
Dancing in the summer...
Last summer, for the first time in 10 years, I decided
to stay here at RavenWood to celebrate solstice.
It was a hard decision, some scheduling things
contributed to my choice and also the need to
create smaller, less complex and more intimate
ritual space. My time facilitating at Stonehenge was such
an amazing ego boost - everyone would bow down to us and
rave about the shrines, our singing, our facilitation.
So, in giving up this ritual,
I gave up a big bit of ego boosting for the year!
But it felt and feels important to me to honor
the profound healing I receive in this gentle forest of RavenWood.
There are no huge views, no amazing standing stones,
no throngs of revelers to celebrate with wild abandon -
the gifts here are the simple beauty of moss covered stones,
humble forest flowers, a gathering of red mushrooms amongst twigs.
It is a quiet, introspective forest that gathers me in and asks
me to be myself beyond the masks and roles of the
world beyond. I feel myself woven into the web of all life as
I witness the flow of seasons and the creatures living their lives,
sharing the land.It is a place I feel sometimes more owl,
tree or bear than human. I wander for hours in the forest
and perch on logs listening to stories sung
by frogs and held in the stones, not knowing until I move
alongthat a raven was perched in a nearby tree, watching.
afternoon sunlight on just one trunk
Our gathering tonight will be intimate, calling on deep
truths - spoken, sung, danced - shared and witnessed around the fire,
reflecting the quiet magic of the forest here. We will be blessed
with luna moths and owls, bobcats and coyotes, with wind in
hemlocks and a growing crescent moon - though we might see only
the beauty of ourselves reflected in the eyes of another, speaking a
prayer into the fire....