Earth-based Religions

The Big Trip: Equinox


After the Inipi ceremony and the evening with Virgil, I needed a day to process everything. I left St. Paul after breakfast, and wandered around southern Minnesota on country roads and headed toward Mankato.

Mankato is a Lakota word meaning “blue earth,” and (perhaps not surprisingly) it’s located in Blue Earth county. Now, I had visited Mankato fifteen, maybe seventeen, years earlier. I lived in St. Croix for my high school and college years, and my summer job for several years running was to work in a Christian bookstore run by a missionary couple, Gary and his wife Marty. So during Thanksgiving break at college one year, I didn’t have enough money to fly back home to St. Croix, so my employers arranged for me to spend the holiday with Marty’s parents on a farm in southwestern Minnesota.

Back then it was a long bus ride from Minneapolis to tiny Mankato, which seemed at the time to be the last outpost of civilization, then an even longer ride to the snowy prairie wilds where Marty’s father gave me a toboggan ride over his fallow cornfields, pulling me along by his tractor. It was a lovely time. The trip back to college, however, was a disaster; my bus to Mankato turned over in a ditch, and we slept on the floor in a bus station overnight. Continue reading

Categories: Christianity, Earth-based Religions, Spirituality, The Big Trip, Travel | 3 Comments

The Big Trip: The Day My Life Changed


The drive itself took, what, fifteen minutes? Twenty at most. At the time, St. Paul was definitely Minneapolis’s poorer, more down-at-heels twin. Now it’s described as a somewhat bookish brother to Minneapolis in that it is festooned with small liberal arts colleges, tightly adherent to tradition, fastidious in its street level presentation, and less interested in the high-rise, glass-sheathed architecture meant to be appreciated by “angels and aviators.”

I arrived early at Mazakute Episcopal Mission, which was named for Paul Mazakute, the first Native American ordained in the Episcopal Church. I nervously entered the small church in the run-down part of town, and searched for the Rev. Virgil Foote, with whom I had scheduled an interview for The Witness magazine (which sadly ceased publication in 2003 at the age of 86). Foote is a Lakota, and his wife Kathleen, also an Episcopal priest, is white. Together they ministered in this little church to a blended congregation: about 70% of them were Native Americans of several different tribes, the rest white, black, and Latino. They said their ministry represented the place where the Red Road and the White Road cross. Continue reading

Categories: Christianity, Earth-based Religions, Shamanism, The Big Trip, Travel | 5 Comments

Turtle Island Prayer

Yesterday I saw a tortoise crossing the highway. Some cars dodged it, a few slowed, others either didn’t see it or didn’t care. When a car would approach, the tortoise would pull arms and legs in, briefly, as the car straddled it and drove on. Then the creature would start its lumbering passage once again. It had a very long trek ahead of it, with a concrete island separating northbound lanes from southbound.

I spontaneously prayed for its safety, importuning the spirits to protect it, or to guide someone to gently move it before it became roadkill.

Imediately I wondered at my mindset. Why do I have so much compassion for a tortoise when the human world is in such pain? Great disasters happen daily; inhumanity is rife, children are abused constantly, people starve, life sometimes seems unlivable. And yet I summon the powers of heaven to protect a turtle.

I don’t regret my prayer. He seemed so vulnerable, so exposed, despite his shell: one misplaced tire and he’d be sent back to the Undifferentiated Tao. But I find it remarkable, and not a little strange, that I have more compassion for a tortoise than I usually do for my fellow human beings.

Thoughts? Comments?

Categories: Animals, Earth-based Religions | 6 Comments

“God’s Time”

I love the annual death of Daylight Savings Time (or, as I understand it is now to be called, Daylight Saving Time, without the s; or, as my dictionary prefers to call it, daylight-saving time). And I’m certainly far from thrilled with the notion of it starting a month earlier and lasting for an extra week beginning next year, which I understand is supposed to do what DST has always tried to do: conserve our energy resources. (Apparently solar energy and wind power is still off the table.)

American farmers and, according to one book, “defeated urban dwellers,” got DST repealed during Woodrow Wilson’s administration, causing all sorts of confusion and a few train wrecks. WWII got DST back in place, then after the war, more chaos, because each locality could start and end DST as it desired:

One year, 23 different pairs of DST start and end dates were used in Iowa alone. And on one West Virginia bus route, passengers had to change their watches seven times in 35 miles! The situation led to millions of dollars of costs to several industries, especially transportation and communications. Extra railroad timetables alone cost the equivalent today of over $12 million per year.

Interestingly, one of the most vocal contingents to oppose DST in the 1930s were the Fundamentalist preachers, who considered it an offense against God. They felt the government had taken the country off “God’s time” and put it onto clock time. Now, God’s time, in the mind of people who use that phrase, really means “sun time,” but by 1883 most Americans were off of sun time anyway because the railroads had put us on “standard time”—the railroads had simply imposed it on the country as a commercial necessity. Sorry, Fundies, God didn’t invent standard time—the railroads did.

Of course, contrarian that I am, I’d prefer an entire world run on sun time: an unchanging twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness. Wonderfully precise, don’t you think? Only the actual length of those hours would change, and they’d wax and wane as the seasons changed.

Granted, it would wreak havoc on the aforementioned train schedules, and television programs would have to be considerably longer in the summer than it is around Yule. But just think of the economic boost, as everyone would be forced to get brand new, specially engineered clocks and watches that could slow down or speed up to keep pace with the sun!

Seriously, though: with DST off, the night comes upon us so much more suddenly. It’s a shock to the system, but a good shock, I think.

In pagan Celtic terms, it coincides almost exactly with Samhain, the beginning of the Dark Half of the Year. (If you’ve ever wondered why the solstices were anciently called Midwinter and Midsummer, it’s because the year was divided in two: dark and light, “winter” and “summer,” and their midpoints were the solstices).

Even here in steamy Florida, it suddenly makes me want to huddle closer to the fire, drink cocoa or mulled cider with friends, and engage in some wonderful storytelling.

That’s what makes it God’s time for me.

So tell me a story. Tell me your stories.

Categories: Earth-based Religions, Time and Space | 1 Comment

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