by Thorolf van Walsum
GLOVER – As the autumn leaves, rain, and supply lines fell, it wasn’t only the trick or treaters who were active in the Northeast Kingdom. On Thursday, Oct. 28, a group of witches, weirdos and out-of-state wanderers gathered around a fire near Glover to communally manifest meaning in their lives and speak openly about the goings-on of their lives.
Rootstock retreat center is a rural refuge and creative sanctuary that welcomes everyone from environmental healers and activists to the regular folk who might not know the difference between the two. This past week, from October 28 to November 1, they celebrated the third year of its operation with their annual Transformation Fire ceremony.
This transformation fire began with a round of thanks being given to seven directions: North, South, East, West, skywards, earthwards, and center. Each direction was hailed with a giving of meditative thanks; Beana Bern, the founder of Rootstock, started the circle off with North, giving thanks to the grandfathers, grandmothers and grandpersons of the land and the powers the North brings before giving space for other volunteering participants to acknowledge the remaining directions.
Following this acknowledgement, everyone around the fire was given a sprig of cedar and encouraged to share something meaningful from their life. Participants from a wide range of stages in life shared what had been most impacting them of late, then throwing the sprig into the fire. Divorces, life after college, and the aimless desire to help nurture the world in one’s old age all mixed in the smoke and ashes of the evening. Following the offloading of weights, new directions and intentions were set as the fire-goers tossed small bundles of herbs onto the fire, sowing new spiritual seeds as their past was relegated to the composts of time.
This evening would go on to include a communal soup dinner, two sharing space fires (“sun” and “moon” circles for males and females respectively), and countless bouts of howling at the brilliant stars above. While the ceremonies were intended for a full five days of activity, it took only one night of participation to see and feel the value of a space that welcomes and encourages non-judgemental time for expression and listening.
The following is a passage from the Rootstock Retreat vision statement. “We believe that the inner landscapes of consciousness, wellness and oneness need nurturing, exploring and fortifying so that the outward work of compassion, restoring justice, dismantling the patriarchy, defending the earth, decolonizing ourselves and our world, and birthing a new paradigm for humanity can occur.”