Smudge with Cedar, Sage, Sweetgrass, Tobacco; Pass Moonwater


One: We stand for a moment, perfectly balanced, between the light and the dark, between completion and dissipation. Between heights and depths, between justice and mercy, we are centered. As the wheel of our earthly year turns, let us also turn - To the East

All: To Air and inspiration

One: To the South

All: To Fire and compassion

One: To the West

All: To Water and dreams

One: To the North

All: To Earth and rebirth

Chant: Gathered Here


Psalm 1 (New Century Psalter)

Song/Music: NCH 422 Come O Thankful People Come


Proverbs 31:10-31
James 3:13-4-3, 7-1a

One: Let us share our personal harvests, our accomplishments during this summer season, stories of justice done, tasks completed, differences made.


All: We know we are born from the Cosmos, but we deny that we are a part of it. We see a small part of the awesome pattern, and we think we control the design. We long for deliverance, and are terrified to realize that the power lies within.

One: We know that the Cosmos evolves through trial and error, mistake and dead-end, but we seldom give ourselves the same freedom. The natural world knows nothing of fall and redemption. Instead our home planet shows us fruition and transformation. Would a true Godde of Earth demand less?

Song/Music O God of Earth and Altar (NCH 582)

Preparation for Entering the Labyrinth


The Fall Equinox - Mabon - holds the final metaphor for our journey through the Wheel of the Year, which began with Samhain - All Saints. The Equinoxes are about balance. Libra, and the scales of justice are the illustrations for this Fall equinox. But balance is illusive. It is only momentary; and on this side of the Year, the balance is tipping toward darkness - the shadow - the unknown - death. We can no longer avoid the metaphors that propel us into coming darkness.

As I have discovered throughout this past year of creating rituals, even the Christian Common Lectionary readings reflect the spirit of the time. The passage from Proverbs celebrates the fruits of women's work; James speaks of a harvest of righteousness that is sown in peace; the Wisdom of Solomon warns against the unrighteous who have lost faith in spiritual experience: "for our allotted time is the passing of a shadow, and there is no return from our death, because it is sealed up and no one turns back." The writer calls this the devil's own separatist thought. The medical establishment has always thought that death is unnatural, but they haven't figured out what to do about it, other than to deny it -- and we all know the consequences of that denial. What the medical establishment and fundamentalists, and a lot of other folks miss is that the darkness is not the end. The passage chosen from Mark puts Jesus' knowledge of his own suffering and death into words: "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again."

This particular group is certainly aware that Jesus never said any such thing, and the story is there for political purposes. But look what 17 centuries of Christian hegemony has done with the placement and timing of the story of Jesus in the lectionary. Western societies, from the Romans to the Celts, lived the patriarchal metaphor of Persephone and Demeter -- the Goddess mourns her daughter's return to the underworld, the bargain she made with the God. Aboriginal spiritualities, where the Greco-Roman legends did not hold sway, honored the dying God who returns to the Mother to be reborn at the Winter Solstice. Hearing about Jesus' death in this time of harvest leading to Advent never made sense to me as a Sunday School student - but in the context of a sun-based, seasonal Wheel of the Year, it makes perfect sense. Add in the politics of convincing a few thousand Pagan warriors that your religion is the only one, and the reason for the rhythm of the lectionary readings becomes clear. Jesus became the dying-rising God of the Christians.

Robert Funk, in "Honest to Jesus" points out that Christians need to move beyond the dying-rising god. Our theology must be accountable to what we know about the nature of the universe. As Bill commented in our planning group last month, the old agrarian cosmology didn't go far enough; the life and death of Jesus is about transformation -- a new heaven and a new earth.

Each of these liturgies for the Wheel of the Year celebrates the natural rhythms of the natural world, and of our human existence. Much as we'd like to believe otherwise, we are part of the great cosmic progression -- the continuing wheel of birth, life, death, rebirth - Matt Fox has called the process Via Positiva, Via Negativa, Via Creativa, Via Transformativa. Everywhere we look in the Cosmos, there are wondrous beginnings, terrifying abysses, beautiful innovations, and spiraling throughout every process, miraculous transformations.

We want to stay in the wondrous phases, in the innovative, creative, exciting phases. But we can't. Life in the cosmos is dynamic, never static. Human experience being what it is, we cannot avoid the Via Negativa. Let us follow the seasonal metaphor along with Persephone and her earlier incarnation, Inanna, into the darkness -- which is also initiation..

At the second harvest, the god dies, leaving his seed buried in the ground. Animals withdraw into caves and hidden places to sleep and dream. This year, the Fall Equinox happens in the midst of the darkest phases of the waning moon - so even that source of light is faint and inaccessible, as the moon disappears to the size of a thin crescent, rising earlier and earlier in the morning until it becomes synchronous with our great Sun and seems to disappear altogether. The effect is a double whammy. The Sun is weakening by day, and the Moon by night.

We frantically build the fires, light the lamps, install the mercury vapor crime lights. We are terrified of the dark.

Listen to what Meister Eckhart has to say about this in his Sermon 17 (as translated by Matt Fox inBreakthrough):

Meister Eckhart: Sermon 17

"What is this darkness? What is it called? What is its name?" "It's name means nothing other than an aptitude for sensitivity that is not all lacking in or devoid of being. It is rather a rich sensitivity in which you will be made whole. For this reason, there is positively no turning back . . . You are not permitted to believe that God is like an earthly carpenter who works or does not work according to his own wish, and who has it within his will power to do something or not according to his own pleasure. This is not the way it is with God. Wherever and whenever God finds you ready, [God] must act and infuse into you. In the same way, whenever the air is clear and pure, the sun must infuse itself into the air and cannot keep from doing so! Of course, it would be a great deficiency in God if God did not accomplish great deeds in you and infuse a great blessing into you, provided God finds you unencumbered and bare. Breakthrough, pp. 240-241

Fox points out that Meister Eckhart was a pre-modern thinker. Descartes and the scientific method that breaks everything into dualisms was still 200 years into the future. Eckhart saw little difference in spiritual essence between himself and the rest of the natural world. This makes him a mystic, along with a host of others such Hildegard of Bingen, and the ancient Celts, Native Americans, and Buddhists. In Sermon 29, Eckhart says,

. . . whatever can be truly expressed in its proper meaning must emerge from inside a person and pass through the inner form. It cannot come from outside to inside of a person but must emerge from within. . . . Why don't you notice anything of this? Because you are not at home there. Sermon 29, p. 399.

Meister Eckhart invites us to be at home with the darkness, at home with the inward places. "The more noble something is," he says, "the commoner it is. I have my senses in common with the animals, and my life in common with the trees. My being, which is more inward, is held in common with all creatures. . ."

The great Lakota Elder, Black Elk, teaches that ritual is the way for the people to manifest vision. The vision we are working with today is the Wheel, or the Spiral, of time and the seasons. One way to illustrate the Wheel or the Spiral is by means of a labyrinth. The labyrinth, as most of us know by now, is not a maze, with tricks and traps and false trails. There is one way in, and one way out - so the Labyrinth lends itself to the experience of walking into the darkness, and back out again. The Dark Moon time also supports this ritual walk. During the waning Moon, the plants reach deep into the ground, nourishing and strengthening roots. At the Dark Moon, everything pauses, takes a breath, and then transfers energy into new growth with the turning to the New Moon waxing toward fullness again. How can we feel despair with this eternal rhythm available to us every night? All we have to do is look out the window.

I invite each of us to walk the Labyrinth, carrying with us the symbol of whatever it is that needs deep nurturing silence, or burying in the earth; it may be something that needs a Sabbath rest. It may be something that is no longer useful to us that we need to leave behind. Walk in silence, toward the Darkness, through the Via Negativa. See what happens in the Center -- the Via Creativa. Leave your offering -- you sacrifice -- in the center. There is a bowl for things to be buried in the Earth, and there is a bowl for things that you may want to retrieve at Samhain. Then turn and walk the Via Transformativa.


SongTurn, Turn, Turn (Pete Seeger)

Walk the Labyrinth, place the item in the appropriate container, return in silence and stand around the labyrinth until all have finished


Communion: The Coming of the Cosmic Christ

One: The Eucharist is about the universe loving us unconditionally still one more time and giving itself to us in the most intimate way (as food and drink). Interconnectivity is the heart of the Eucharistic experience: God and humanity coming together, God and flesh, the flesh of wheat, wine, sunshine, soil, water, human ingenuity, stars, supernovas, galaxies, storms, fireballs -- every Eucharist has a 15-billion-year sacred story that renders it holy.

All: The gratitude from which the Eucharist derives its very name . . . is not just our gratitude toward the Source of all things; it is also the [gratitude of the universe] for our presence and for our efforts at contributing, however imperfectly.

One: The Eucharist is heart food from the cosmos -- the "mystical body of Christ" and the Cosmic Christ or Buddha nature found in all beings in the universe -- to us. Christ is the light of the world, which we now know is made only of light. Flesh is light and light is flesh. We eat, drink, sleep, breathe, and love that light. The Eucharist is also our hearts expanding and responding generously: "Yes, we will." We will carry on the heart-work called compassion, the work of the cosmos itself."

Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh, p. 271

Break Bread, Pour the Cup


One: As the wheel of our earthly year returns, let us also return - to the North

All: To Earth and rebirth

One: To the West

All: To Water and dreams

One: To the South

All: To Fire and compassion

One: To the East

All: To Air and inspiration

Song: Sent Forth by God's Blessing (NCH 76 - tune: The Ash Grove)