Celebrating Earth Day

by Selena Fox

Earth Day, April 22, is an excellent time to do Ecomagic. Since its founding on April 22, 1970, Earth Day has become a widely celebrated global environmental awareness day. At Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve, we combine environmental science and ecospirituality in the various activities that comprise our day-long celebration of Earth Day each year.

This year's Earth Day Festival, on Saturday, April 22, included individual and group Nature walks, bird watching, the dedication of our newly expanded Eastern Bluebird trail, prairie restoration burns, an environmental education talk, a potluck feast, and a community Earth Day Spirit Ritual which included readings, music, drumming, meditation, and a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Earth Day. Joining the Circle staff and members of the Circle Sanctuary Community were members of the Neighboring Faiths class of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, Wisconsin; members of the Modern Alternative Religions Society from the University of Northern Iowa; students from other colleges and universities, plus others.

We did controlled restoration burns on both our prairies. In the morning, we burned the Remnant Prairie, a surviving piece of the original Oak Savannah Prairie that once was widespread in southern Wisconsin prior to the arrival of European-American settlers. In late afternoon, following our main ritual, we burned portions of our Restored Prairie on the hillside which we have been converting from old farm field back into prairie as part of our Prairie 2000 project.

Before doing our first burn, we circled the Remnant Prairie and attuned ourselves to each other, to the land, and to Earth Day. Then we called to the Elements of Nature to aid us in our prairie burns. Facing North, we called to the Soil to receive the Fire and let it stimulate growth of prairie plants. Facing East, we called to the Winds to blow very gently and to aid us in Fire control. Facing South, we called to Fire to consume vegetation encroaching on the prairie and to work with us in keeping flames contained within the bounds of the prairie. Facing West, we called to Water to work with us in extinguishing the Fire as needed. Facing Center, we called to the Spirit of the Prairie to bless and guide our burn. We then took our positions around the prairie area and did some raking and other preparations. Then the fire was kindled. As we worked with rakes, fire flappers, fire starters, water tanks, and other equipment, we sang: "Prairie Fire Burn, Prairie Fire Burn, Phoenix from the Ashes, Prairie shall Return." When the burning was complete, we paused to give thanks to the Prairie and the Elements and to envision the Prairie springing to life again in the weeks and months to come.


In early afternoon under a warm, sunny sky at our large Festival Circle, Dr. Michael Nelson gave an eco-philosophy talk in which he discussed how Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic fit well with contemporary Ecofeminist environmental ethics. Among the points he mentioned were Leopold's use of first person narratives, his sense of place, the non-gender bias of this philosophy, and his holistic orientation. Dr. Nelson is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, and coeditor of the eco-anthology, The Great New Wilderness Debate.

Following his talk, I guided a Nature walk that included meditative visits to Brigid's Spring and the Wetlands. We observed a variety of birds along the way as well as violets and marsh marigolds in bloom, plus enjoyed the sounds of Spring peepers.

In late afternoon, we began our preparations for our main ritual. We gathered at the Bonfire Circle to the sounds of Community drumming. As we processed along the field road, we dedicated it as the Circle Sanctuary bluebird trail. We held our Earth Day Spirit Ritual in the Stone Circle atop Ritual Mound near our Restored Prairie. The ritual included smudging as we arrived at the Circle; attunement to the Circle, Land, and bioregion; casting the Circle; honoring the Divine and Earth Day; honoring ancestors and human diversity; honoring the Elements, creatures, and plants; and communing with Mother Earth. Following our Mother Earth meditation, we added stones to the Circle as we each made pledges about specific actions that we could do in our own lives and regions to help the environment. The ritual concluded with thanksgivings. Marble stones, energized during the ritual, were passed out to participants as symbols of the day. After the ritual and the prairie burn that followed, our Earth Day celebration concluded with participants feasting and making merry around the bonfire.

 

Selena Fox, founder of Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve, has celebrated Earth Day since its inception. In 1970, while a college junior year, she helped organize an Earth Day teach-in at her campus, the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

More recently, she has begun the Earth Day Spirit Project and is collecting chants, meditations, stories, readings, rituals, and other materials used in multi-tradition Ecospirituality rituals for Earth Day. If you have material to contribute, contact her: Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary, P.O.Box 9, Barneveld, WI 53507 USA; circle@circlesanctuary.org; (608) 924-2216. An outline of her Earth Day Spirit Ritual, plus more information about her project appears on page 51 of the Spring 2000 issue of CIRCLE Magazine.