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From Women’s Temple to Earthspirit Council House
It is early morning as I sit writing this letter to you. The woods are fern and leaf green, a sudden bolt of life. I sit in the goat barn writing studio that looks out over the woods, the sun barely over the lip of the horizon of trees behind me. A new day. There, facing into the north woods, is an iron hoop secured to a wooden base, precisely placed to face the directions. After Allan erected it there, he and a friend stood talking about it, when a young buck came up through the woods and tentatively put his velvet rack through the opening. He moved back and then in again, seeming to demonstrate that there is indeed a stepping through into another realm embodied in that hoop. That the hoop holds mystery. It was a blessing and a teaching.
Most mornings, the hoop is utterly invisible to me. I cannot believe the truth of its existence except through the rumor of my memory, because, no matter how hard I look, I cannot see it. Until it is gradually inferred by the morning light, I construct scenarios whereby it has been taken in the night, or perhaps Allan has removed it without telling me, or, or. . .
But it is here. Every time. This circle—this sacred hoop as some indigenous peoples say, the thing that is alive and mysteriously kins life, that keeps living, shape shifting between invisible and visible—is here. The young buck knew it and taught Allan—see, this is how you do it.
My persistent doubt about the existence of what my eyes cannot see, or my mind cannot wrap itself around, except for occasional and blessed illuminations, has its word origins in the Old Latin duo and implies that we have to choose between two things—good/bad, right/wrong, true/false, masculine/feminine, alive/dead, visible/invisible—which utterly denies the mystery and complexity of life. It is a flattening and numbing word magic we all suffer from.
Searching for words, I look up, and the hoop, through and within which all the world is held, is again invisible to my eyes, but for a little arc of northeast light. Will my doubt, my dualistic mind again deny what I know, what the young buck knows to be a mysterious and complex world?
No. I choose to live in the whole conjured world, putting doubt into the cauldron, where it can become a medicine of discernment. Again and again I make that choice. No matter what. There is more than I can see or my mind can comprehend. I am counting on it.
In the spirit of such conjuring, Women’s Temple, in her thirteenth year, will have a new name. Naming is a potent activity. Names seek to conjure and invoke powers we cannot see. Names create a field of possibility we can step into and become who we are. Anyone who has chosen a name for a newborn knows this. It is a careful and delicate process. In some old cultures, in adolescence, one is given a new name, or at birth, one is given two names, a common and a sacred one.
And so I am told it is time for a new name for Temple, one that reflects all that Temple has been and midwives what she is becoming. A name that conjures place and possibilities to meet these times. This becoming isn’t in my control, I can only make myself available to it and to let myself be conjured as well. It is my intention that Earthspirit Council House will continue to be about refuge, restoration, remembering, reciprocity, redemption, and mystery. The spirit of Old Woman—the Grandmother, the Goddess of a thousand names—lives there still in the House. She calls everyone with her great conch—the spirits of this land, the elemental beings, the animals and their over-spirits, the visibles and invisibles, the shape shifters. The women, the men, the young, and the old. All the Great Round.
The building and renaming of Women’s Temple as Earthspirit Council House are acts, not of faith, the opposite of doubt, but of proceeding from the possibilities that live in the hoop, the conjuring of a life of continued circles, councils, teachings, and inquiry about what it means to become a full human being in relation with all of life.