Sunday, September 5, 2010

New Stone Chamber Discovered

With the study of primitive structures around my immediate area being firmly lodged into my psyche, my awareness to land formations and subsequent stone formations has led to a more discerning eye upon what may be under or around the seemingly well trodden paths. Often, one may pass by dozens of potential "cultural sites" without knowing they are there, for the desire of an easier traversing through forests and fields. Recently, it was my pleasure to discover (for my self if nothing else) a "chamber" or room undoubtedly built by humans to contain something of importance. I list it as such a vague title because of the conflict in "origin" that often follows such chambers and sites throughout New England. Here are a few pictures of the chamber found in Rochester, VT:
The above and below pictures are demonstrative of careful laying and placement of stones in a circular pattern, recessed beneath the ground. The top picture is just inside the entrance looking at the ceiling and rear wall. The bottom picture is looking slightly downward through the entrance at the real wall.

Top: View looking down from entrance. Approx 8-10ft depth. Bottom: Outside view of small entrance and very large single stone cap enclosure.
This "chamber" is located in close proximity to older crumbling walls and piles of stone. along the same elevation line are other stone pilings and arrangements. This particular "chamber" has a south facing entrance with sunlight filtering downward through the opening at noon in early Sept. Planetary declinations have not yet been determined.
It is entirely possible that this could have been a colonial structure dating to the origin of the adjacent farm. It's use could have ranged from a well to a food storage chamber. I find it particularly interesting that it falls in line with other structures in the area which are not associated with known farming practices by colonials or later farmers. It is possible that these are structures made by pre-colonial or colonial era Native Americans. Whichever the source, it is interesting that there is a concentration of stone phenomena in the Rochester area that has no known explanation by Colonial European, Early American, or known Vermont history. There is much more research to be done for sure but this is certainly an interesting find!

Monday, May 4, 2009

All Species Day 2009

Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of Montpelier Vermont's "All Species Day". It began with a wonderful vision from Janus Walrafen of a day of fun and pageantry for kids, centered around a Spring Beltane theme. What might have been a local only affair back then has now blossomed into quite an extravaganza and an afternoon filled with dazzling costumes and ritual.

The day began with a call to all species in Hubbard Park's soccer field. The field is nicely surrounded in an enclosed and remote circle of trees that is more of ritual place today than anything resembling a soccer field. There were blessings by local Abenaki tribeswomen as well as smudge purification to the hundreds present. The directions are then called by elaborately costumed participants evoking each cardinal direction as the ruling elemental representation. As each direction is called, those children and adults dressed as a particular species of either plant, aquatic animal, legged land animal, or bird or insect (some like myself had their dogs as well), circle the center of the field where a nest of straw is prepared for the dying crone as she too makes her way around the circle carrying a torch to each direction. When the crone makes a full circle she enters the nest and dies whereupon a group of dancers performed an elaborately choreographed dance to traditional Mande drumming from West Africa.

The crone transformed into the Maiden and is born anew as the young goddess; fertile and energetic to meet her mate. She dances her way toward two stacked fires and lights them ablaze with a remaining torch. At this time everyone in attendance passes through them and up a winding and steeply wooded slope to another field that has puppet theater, juggling and silent dance. The Stag King emerges from the woods to be greeted by the masses and leads the crowd down the path to the roadway where a truck full of samba drummers awaits with 25 or so samba dancers in the head of what will now become the parade of participants. As the drummers start up, everyone who was in attendance (still in costume mind you), follows the procession for about a mile or so over a bridge where offerings are made to the river and another Haitian dance of Parigol is performed. The parade continues its mile route to the State House lawn and up the steps.

There is now a little bit of time for people to get blankets and set up a spot on the lawn. Morris dancers perform for a few minutes as a Huge 30 foot tall Earth Goddess puppet is erected and makes it's way to the top landing of the steps. The drums start up again with Cuban yemaya dancers emerging from the puppet. This transitions to Haitian Kongo and more dancers emerge from the Goddess' skirt. The dancers make their way down the steps toward the Stag King who is waiting at the bottom landing for the Spring Goddess to greet him. The drumming stops and the Stag transforms into the Green man to unify with the Spring Goddess, and thus consecrate the birth and unification of Male and female; God and Goddess; The final fertility rite.... The coming of Spring!

Hannah and I have been a participant in this day/ritual for 12years. We have been the stag and goddess on two occasions as well as yearly drummers and dancers. For a few years I have led the samba drummers as well as Drummed for all of the Haitian/Cuban dances. Hannah of course has ALWAYS danced .... in everything. We created the piece of the ceremony that includes a transformation of the Stag to the Green Man. We felt it was a healing way of representing the male aspect of the season as equal to that of the goddess.

This year was the first year that we chose to actually walk the whole thing as mere attendants rather than participant organizers. It was hard to believe for some that we were not IN it this year. We wanted a chance for others to be involved as well as an opportunity to view it with our son Thelonious, on his level and speed. He was a very convincing lion who needed to roam!

I highly recommend attending this event in Vermont if you ever get the chance. Whether or not you follow Beltane in this manner or not, the intention and offerings of renewal and peace are tangible and quite lovely. First Sunday in May... Mark the calendars!


Friday, May 1, 2009

Beltane 2009

Happy Beltane! This evening marked a first for me as my son and my wife joined me in a fairly elaborate Beltane family ritual with our lovely dog Lily. It was just the three of us (plus Lily) in a place in the Vermont Mountains called Spirit In Nature (SpIN). We decided to embark on our trip over the gap with offerings to the altar and some small cuttings from some special trees to build our little beltane fires with.

The rain held out the whole way there and my son was very excited to be doing this with us. He sang the whole way in the car (15min drive) and the whole time down the path to the sacred circle area. He was making songs up as we walked and spoke about the journey there and what we were here for. It was wonderful seeing the pure response to the delightful and inspiring creative energies that this day marks, flowing freely in our son Thelonious.

We created and consecrated a large circle to fit us all. We built two fires and evoked the directions... loudly! We had roses and lavender from our wedding that Thelonious was able to sprinkle in and around the circle; making it more wonderfully about love and our story of creation.

Following calls for blessings and words about Beltane's meaning to us and eachother, We held hands and lept between the fires of the god and goddess; of day and night; of woman and man; of duality joined. We embraced the oneness of the duality of diety and our place within the sphere of life. Even Lily went between the fires!

We ended by singing and dancing through a stone labrynth and laying our prayers and blessings in the center, and then singing and dancing our way out. It was our way of acknowledging visualizing back to the mother. Without a maypole we went straight to the womb.

It was simple, yet profound. I felt confident of the presence of many tonight beyond our family. My wife Hannah and I both felt the strong presence of animals just beyond the reach of the circle. I'm not sure they ever get a chance to be a part of Beltane as we see it. I think they might have been quite interested and in my mind, much a part of why we were there.

We ended by feasting on Indian cuisine that was spectacular. I am almost too blissed out to write much more.

Happiest Beltane to all. May your energies join with those of another to birth a creation filled with love and peace.


The Mangroves

I remember being a young boy and playing for hours in the hedgerow of my yard. The tunnels they would create naturally that only a child could navigate; the worlds of wonder they inspired as I would lay upon my back and gaze at a lazy summer sky filtering through the newly budded branches in early spring. As i grew I found that even in the midst of playing army and war with friends, I'd have to be in woods where it felt "real". I would literally be in among the trees from as soon as I was allowed to exit the house until my mother would call at dusk. I wore army camouflage during these battles with peers and would insist on being fully clad in green. I needed the "look" and was convinced that uniformity was the reasons of my first connection to the wilds and forests; ultimately the land.

It was much later in my adulthood, following a near full enlistment in the Marine Corps that I discovered that the cause for my attraction to the military and ultimately to wearing green in the woods was just simply that: to be in the woods as connected and resembling to what I loved so much- The trees.

I had an opportunity while in Guatemala last week to visit a space fairly sacred to our boat driver. We were traveling through a waterway that extended through the entire west coast of Guatemala and extended even into parts of Mexico. It was an expansive preserve of mangrove trees that created an almost false land on every shore side. As our driver propelled us by use of long pole, he beached the boat on a small section of soil and bade us depart for his favorite spot. He had come here since childhood and explained that it was a place where adults could learn to feel as a child again.

All around there were the hardened tentacles of the mangroves reaching downward from sturdy branches. off of each tendril were often five finger like, soft and pliable shoots that resembled hands with fingers coming from the tree tops and reaching for the ground. We were told that we could climb the trees and that they were amazingly hard and could support our weight easily. Immediately I went up into the higher branches and literally played like I was 8 again! I was giggling openly and could feel the tree's delight to have us among them. They felt like children to me as well.

It was only out of respect for the driver's time and a family member needing to go to school that I left the space as easily as I did. I allowed the trees to brush their fingers along my head and shoulders as I walked, and I made sure to touch my hand to theirs as well. There was amazing love in these trees that have seen so much pollution and refuse throughout the years. They seemed to know the driver and love him as he loved them.

As these trees are now being protected I felt honored to be among them and know that they had a caretaker so devoted to sharing his and their experiences with us and others. I marveled at the durability and use of the tree itself, especially after reading about MIT scientists using them to create living houses (a story for another time!), and especially to know of their energy, vibrancy and innocence they exude and inspire in me. As I became part of their story, and they mine, I can only hope to hold on to that feeling and seek to experience and cultivate it, within other spheres of my life, with others both close to me, and as we were to the driver, -seeming strangers on a watery path.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mixco Viejo

Mixco Viejo: Some claim it to be a ruin site of an early proto Mayan civilization named Pok'omam who might have been eventually conqured by another southern Mayan group around 1100 C.E. Regardless of western or European opinions from an archeological standpoint, it is clearly and currently utilized by local Mayans as a place of worship and practice। Locals in the area do not refer to this particular place as a "ruins" or even in the past tense. Although it may not host the ball games and palace courts of antiquity, Mixco Viejo, with the changing landscape and partially burried structures, has changed its necessity and relationship to acrchitecture and has re-emerged from the dust of time with new purpose or at very least, a new path toward the ancient practices venerated by the Maya of the area.

With some 120+ structures including two ball courts, dozens of building/palace foundations and appoximately six "pyramids" unearthed, the site stretches across a mountain top plateau and down the topography in an expansive panoramic visible only in segments with the naked eye। To view the site in its entirety one would have to be looking down upon the land from above....which may have been the desire in the first place. I had the pleasure of visiting this place with just my traveling companions and family and no other tourists at all. A truely unique experience afforded by most othertravelers either not wanting to visit the site or not being aware of its existance. It allowed me to conduct a small personal rite, as unobtrusive and respectful as I could, without interfering with another's perspective and practice or photo opportunity.
I found four higher structures that aligned themselves with the areas cardinal directions। I began with the northen alar platform and pyramid। I first attempted to connect myself to the rocks and earth beneath me. I wanted to know at least a piece of their voice and their song. I ascended the structure on hands and feet and sat within a circle I had lightly etched in the dust at the top and made my statements and thoughts heard to the North and to Earth. I felt the hot rocks beneath me and smells and tastes of burned and dried earth. The sound of stones vibrating under my feet as they moved across the ancient surface stirred a sense of understanding and connection to these mere rocks as my feet passed out of the circle and down the steep and crumbling stairway.

I then found the structure to the East and ascended the pyramid with a handful of dried grasses and leaves। My purpose was to feel the air and wind around me. I closed my eyes and called to wind and to air, to sky and cloud and to the unseen and everchanging. I focused and placed my thoughts of travel and journey as well as guidance and protection within the handful of dried plants I held. I called to East, to Dawn and to Wind to carry my message of peace to the unknown and unseen. The air around me was gentile and consistent and cooly kissed my skin as I stood stilly focused on my hand and what it held. I released the contents of my hand into the wind and watched the particles dissipate and travel into obscurity. I inhaled deeply and decended.

I chose not to follow the path uphill from the site toward the next double pyramid. Instead, I favored the southern path that led by a recently used ritual burning circle. I was mindful to keep my feet on the narrow path through the grasses that ascended a stony and windy rise upward. It landed me atop the next plateau looking wesward down a long Mayan ballcourt. I felt this to be fitting as we all traverse the games life plays on our many paths. Entering the ballcourt, I made notice of how confining and tighly compacted the stones were; how the direction of travel was now set unil one emerges from the game field by passing through it. And through the other side were the structures of the South.

On this plateu there were the double pyramids facing south, a series of palacial foundations, as well as a ball court and partilally unearthed smaller pyramid. In the center was a beautiful tree providing shade. At this point of the Sun's arc, my shadow was directly under me. The sun was at its highest and also hottest. The sense of Fire and heat was omnipresent. I ascended one of the double structures and surrenered myself to the Fire of Sun, Earth, and Air. What sweat I had was only witnessed by the salt left on my skin and the dryness of my palms as I grasped each step upon ascent. I stood atop and visualized burning; burning all that was unneeded and passed. I visualized the fire of life and of joy; the blaze of knowledge and of wisdom. I called to these and welcomed the destructive and constructive force of South and Fire. After allowing myself to become heated and quite hot, I decended and sat under the tree in the center while making my self known to her. I quieted my thoughts and ascended the older pyramid with my son while speaking of the hot and dry ground and air around us at the top. I decended and sat with the group under the tree and filled ourselves with water and contemplation.

As the majority of the small group walked the path back toward the North of the site, I waked the remaining distance to the large pyramid in the West। With my body now full of life giving water, I contemplated the essence of water and its similarity and connection to air. I began sweating again and could feel my skin moist and damp. At this point I was playing a small riq drum like drops in a pool. The tiny symbals on the drum ringing in a cascading way indicative of my walk toward, and from a place of water. I found upon the top of the plateau, another ball court. I chose not to play this one as it was not on my path towat the pyramid. There was however another tree stretching over and sheltering an altar. I played the drum slowly at the altar and could feel my body dripping and aware of water and the end of the journey; this being the last of the points comprising a huge circle spanning across the entire cityscape of Mixco Viejo. I contemplated West and the Sun's end. I contemplated the rise up the pyramid and what was visible beyond it as I faced the stairs upward. I ascended the pyramid while playing the drum. At the near top I lost my balance and had to put a hand on the rocks and noticed a handprint on the stone from my wet hand. I continued to play; comming from south to west; comming from heat, dry and uncomfort. I played with my eyes closed contemplating endings and their cyclic journey to beginnings; contemplating water and its cooling life giving sustenance. I contemplated this journey and the what brought me here and asked aloud in voice, above my now thunderous drumming, to be heard and recieved.

A sudden, strong and consistent wind arose and blew my hat off. I stopped drumming and stood arms stretched into the wind. I felt the sweat of my body cooling me as this wind blew through my hair and body; surrounded me in its presence. I opened my eyes and the wind gently stopped. I picked my hat up and descended the pyramid. I looked to the tree and thanked all that was present. I continued back to the place of origin and said goodbye to this wonderful place and greeted my family again for our continuation into the next journey.