Return to Turtle Island

     "This project focuses on the ecopsychological principles of energy and connection (Pye, 2019) as a process for myth and ritual making and a path to ecological and ecosystemic expression. New story embedded in an ecosystemic process. Modern-day consciousness, a study in responsiveness and ecopsychological awareness."

      There is a fabric of life that weaves itself through our memories, stories, and landscape. These threads never disappear but live on in the patterns of the imagination and continually seek to reweave themselves a new tapestry, a spinning of the wheel that connects forgotten truths to stories, dreams, and place. For most of human history, humans lived with the knowledge that they were a part of nature and lived in integrated participation with and respect for the mystery and awe of creation (Schama.1996, Memory and Landscape, p13). Mythologist, Joseph Campbell (1991) describes myth as "the song of the imagination which is inspired by the energies of the body" (27-28), and Jean Houston(1996) calls myth the "song of the soul". Myth is the doorway to the deeper realms of life; our Soul purpose and the gifts of the human imagination.

       Ecopsychology gives us the tools and the principles to wade in the waters of Soul and origin. Diving into greater depths requires the magic of metaphor and signposts from myth. These generational gifts guide us to the gateway of imagination and the understanding of emotions. To know the metaphor is to see the language and energy of the archetypal forces expressing themselves in shadow and light. To be aware of our natures and our connection to the larger whole of life is the new myth waiting to be born. The call of the Soul is a descending voice, wanting a deep connection with the process of life and Its season's. The new ecological perception requires new narratives for renewal, rebirth, seeding, tending and flowering. The ecopsychological voice is asking us to become intimate with the Earth and a call to maturity and responsibility. Thomas Berry (1988), eco-theologian and cultural historian, says in The Dream of the Earth, that "humans must return to a traditional context of the story as our source of understanding and value" one that is "rooted in the revelations of the earth" (136-137).

      Through my graduate coursework at Viridis Graduate Institute, I have learned that the mythic imagination is the source of psyche and soul. The idea of the Psyche/Soul is the term used to describe the seed of material matter, which encodes the instinctual nature of the natural world, including homo sapiens. James Hillman (1996) describes it as the acorn of the oak tree, a potentiality within every seed born into the realm of material matter (1-13). The Soul carries the depths of the eternal and the finite reality of death. The Soul is imaginative, reflective, and metaphorical. It gives the patterns of myth and the psychological and religious components of the human species. (1989, 21). Religion is a result of an individual or culture's connection to the mythic realm, the Animus Mundi, which Hillman calls the World's Soul, the sensuous presentation of each being, event, and thing in material matter. (2015, 357) To be human is to witness and participate in the energies that created stories, history, culture, the arts, and the universe.

      A deeper, passionate, and energetic voice began to emerge from my interior imagination during the time I attended Jean Houston's Program in the year 2000. Jean's workshops dished out a full entrée of poetry, dance, archetypal imagination, and a celebration of the ancient and modern teachings of myth, religion, and psychology. As an attendee, it was my first entrance into the realm of myth, one that would change the course of my life. Jean taught us that problem-solving should engage all our human capacities: the sensual, psychological, kinesthetic, mythic, and the spiritual, and must find expression through our involvement in the arts such as dancing, singing, painting, drawing, drumming, as well as imagining and dreaming. With my immersion in this program, my dreams became more vivid, the symbols more mythic, and my poetry, more soulful.

    The thought of creating a myth or more accurately, a mythopoesis, was not a spontaneous idea or inspiration. Mythopoesis is a Greek term for the making of a story or tale. In William G. Doty's (2014) work Mythography, Doty describes mythopoeia as the retelling of an original myth into an adapted version, be it symbolically or imaginatively (20). The realization that my collection of work was leading toward a unified whole took me by surprise. One of the final puzzle pieces came to me when reading Robin Wall Kimmerer's (2013) Braiding Sweetgrass as part of our Religion and Myth class. Kimmerer retold the mythic story of Sky-woman and Mother Turtle. I immediately recognized the images as a part of my story.


      For modern humans to have a relationship with the mythic realm, we must approach it through the process of ritual. Ritual allows archetypal symbols and images expression through human involvement. We are the witnesses and participants in the energies that have created our story, history, culture, the arts, and the universe. If we are to work with these energies, we must approach humbly and with reverence.

          In Detroit, I was exposed to a ritual's power to unify the community and create belonging. It was my honor to observe African American communities teaching their children the tradition and celebration of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is a uniquely African American and Pan African holiday founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga (1999-2020). He describes the holiday as a "practice in its reaffirmation of the dignity of the human person in community and culture, the well-being of family and community, the integrity of the environment and our kinship with it, and the rich resource and meaning of a people's culture." What a beautiful description of a soulful community. I watched children create costumes, masks, games and art for the celebration. They cooked traditional African food and began to learn about themselves and their culture in a deep and soulful way. The festival was full of color, tapestry, art, story, dance, music, ritual, poetry, and food. The children's faces beamed as they listened to their elders, tell the ancient stories. I felt like I was stepping back in time. The wisdom was felt and heard. I was witnessing something special.

       Another ritual I observed was a fall harvest ceremony at the Detroit Capuchin Soup Kitchen. They have many urban gardens and a garden education center called Earthworks. I witnessed a blessing of the harvest from the Friar that sounded very Native American. He called the Sun and the Moon, sister, and brother. He spoke of all beings as connected and blessed the fruit of the labor and the gifts of the nourishing presence of the Earth. In the spring, they do a similar blessing on the compost and the garden beds. It was a beautiful and moving ceremony.

      Through these observations and the impact my own ritual experience had on myself, I began to inquire how a ritual could be re-imagined through a modern perspective. I discovered that the form is crucial in creating a container for the images, symbols, and ideas which exist in the myth. To take part in rituals is to set an intentional container without expectation of outcome.

     My choice of Yoga for the container of the ritual was a natural one. I was seeking a form that would allow access to the story's energy and a connection to the symbolic values. Yoga allows us to imagine the power of the images and values as we practice centering, strength, and embodiment. It is a practice embraced by modern society and millions of individuals across the globe from various cultural influences. Yoga can be practiced individually and with others as a tool for connecting to our breath, creating awareness of the energies in our body, and how to root our energies to the Earth as a place of belonging and support. Judith Harris (2001), in her book, Jung and Yoga, points to the immense power that Yoga has for grounding the Soul to the ground of belonging. "If yoga is the unification of spirit and matter, can we contain and unify spirit and matter without the soul (53)?"

      The Soul is the ecopsychological self – the tree of our becoming. These are the principles guiding the ritual I will be presenting. Ritual allows us to engage in the reverence of shared images and values. When we can participate in soulful expression and engage with that which gives life meaning, we can then begin to trust again and participate in a mutually interdependent relationship.

     We must imbue our stories and imagination with images of renewal and connection to the Earth. I hope you enjoyed the story and the ritual. But most importantly, I hope you are moved by the images and the passionate purpose of Flame, for she is our future, she is our children, and she is the call of the Earth asking each of us to belong and commune with her Beauty and Mystery once again. ~ jennifer