For a long time, you’ve heard and read about preparations for Listening to the Earth: A Gaian Tarot Retreat. Last weekend, October 7 through 9, it happened! Twenty-seven of us gathered at Canterbury Hills Conference Centre in Ancaster, ON to engage in intentional circle-based conversations, nature-honouring ceremonies, deep exploratory workshops, and self-generated entertainment. We humans were joined on numerous occasions by the more-than-human beings: deer, falling black walnuts, luminous autumn sky, a variety of splendid trees, swooping hawks, and a bubbling stream in the ravine. The Canterbury cooks ensured that we had full, happy tummies.
Friday’s opening ceremony included poetry by our own Andrea Mathieson and by Alice Walker as well as an invocation to the Seven Directions, asking for their support. The heart of this ritual was each person, one by one, stepping into the circle, stating hir name and where they’re from, then placing a sacred object in the centre with a brief story of its significance to hir relationship with Gaia. Joanna Powell Colbert’s keynote talk was simple and meaningful. What still vibrates in me from Joanna’s talk is to combine our bloodline ancestry with the bloodline or spirit of where we actually live and to fall in love with where the two converge.
During Joanna’s Saturday morning workshop, each of us had a soul encounter with a being in Nature. A dead and fallen blue-beech tree called to me, so I sat with it, noticing what was right there, listening to its essence, and asking occasional questions. That seemingly dead, grey trunk was so full of life; pale green moss and rich brown mushrooms abounded on and in its body. A chipmunk enjoyed the tree’s shelter for a while and fallen leaves made their final resting place in its curvy crannies. I loved the sensation of being with this more-than-human being and of the breeze and leaves touching my head, hands, and legs. After sharing our soul encounters with the group, we learned and performed a Dance of the Four Directions, a series of tai chi-like movements that honours the earth, sky, and elements.
Saturday afternoon was dedicated to breakout workshops with Bev Haskins, Andrea Mathieson, Jeannette McCullough, and me. They were offered twice so that participants could experience a variety of wisdom ways. Whether people took part in my “We the Ancestors”, Bev’s “Life Choices”, Jeannette’s “Celebration of the Sacred”, or Andrea’s “Repairing the Bridge”, they had direct Knowing of their connection with Earth and her creatures, their own feelings of grief and joy, and with one another. Any veneer of separation fell away as people recognised that we’re all in these times together and that all of us have life-sustaining powers to contribute to Earth’s survival.
After dinner, we enjoyed an evening of drumming, singing, and sharing stories and jokes in the Fireside Area. Immense fun!
On Sunday morning, people pulled out their tarot decks and gathered in small groups of four or five to do this three-card reading:
- What profound and simple truth is Gaia giving us this weekend?
- What allows us to live this truth in the world?
- What gifts can emerge from living this truth?
Each group summarised its findings to the assembly in a single sentence, a few in entertaining ways. This led to a council of summing up what was in people’s hearts and minds from the retreat.
After lunch, Joanna shared a few words about each card of the Gaian Tarot being a portal into the heart of Gaia and every card essentially saying, “Get outside!”
Over the course of the weekend, folks had written their reponses to “Having listened to the Earth, we now declare…” on sheets of paper. During the closing ceremony, four people read these declarations aloud. We enlivened the statements with drumming, rattling, and vocal sounding. People retrieved their sacred objects from the centre as they completed the sentence, “As I return to my community, I leave here ready to _______.” We thanked and released the Seven Directions and hugged one another good-bye.
Many participants want another Gaia-related experience next year! Let’s notice what Life whispers to me. It might happen 😉