Earthseed Ritual for Pagans, Part 3

Earlier this month, I presented an Earthseed ritual at the Earth Traditions Oasis festival.  I think it went well, if the discussion at the end was any indication.  There were eight participants, not including myself and my daughter.  The whole ritual lasted an hour and a half.

In the first part of the workshop, I shared the story of Lauren’s evolution toward the concept of God as Change.  The second part of the workshop was an adaptation of the Elements Ritual that has been posted here previously.  And the last part was a ritual using clay to experience the concept of Shaping God.

The script below is for anyone wanting to borrow or adapt it.


(Text to be spoken is in bold.  Text to be repeated by participants is also underlined. Instructions are in regular text.)

Story

Everyone take a deep breath, and let’s return to our shared space.  

Now we’re going to move into Part 2 of our workshop: Shaping God.

We’re going to begin another story.

There’s many examples of how Lauren and the followers of Earthseed Shaped God that I could use to illustrate this.  But I want to turn another book of Butler’s the first of a series called Xenogenesis, the first book of which is called Dawn.

The story is about a woman named Lilith.  Lilith wakes up in a dimly lit room with no doors or windows.  She doesn’t know how she got there.  She remembers there was a nuclear war that caused a nuclear winter and most of the people in the northern hemisphere died.  One minute she was struggling to survive in South America, and the next she is in this room.  She assumes she has been captured by the Russians or the CIA.

She is questioned for a long time by a disembodied voice.  She has no sense of time.  After a long time, she wakes up to find a figure in her cell.  It speaks to her in a calm voice.  She gradually comes to realize that it is not human.  Although it has a human like figure, it is covered in tentacles, kind of like nightcrawlers.  It has no eyes or nose or ears.  Instead, it has only these tentacles that act like eyes, nose, ears and follow her whenever she moves.  She finds it deeply repulsive and struggles to make herself approach the figure.  But the figure tells her she must overcome her visceral repulsion before she will be allowed to leave the room.  Eventually, she is able to do this.  And when she leaves the room, she discovers that she is on a ship, but a special kind of ship.  The ship is a living organism that the Oankali living in symbiotic relationship with.

The figure explains that she is on an alien ship.  The aliens are called Oankali and they have “rescued” all the surviving humans on earth and brought them to the ship, which is now orbiting the earth.  The Oankali explain that Lilith has been asleep for 250 years.  And during that time, the earth has changed.  The Oankali have healed the damage done to the planet by humans.  And in the process many of the plants and animals have changed.

The Oankali plan to return the humans to the planet, but they first need to teach them how to survive in the new environment.  Lilith is to be the teacher of a group of humans who are the first to be awakened.

There’s a catch though.  The Oankali explain that humans have a fatal combination of genetic traits: high intelligence and a tendency toward hierarchy.  Either one would have been fine on its own, but together, they will inevitably lead to the extinction of the human race.  The Oankali are especially interested in humans because of what they call our “talent” for cancer.  They are interested in the biological possibilities of cancer, which they want to learn from.  The Oankali say they have never encountered a species so full of life and so full of death.

The Oankali insist that humans must be a part of a gene trade.  The name Oankali means “traders”.  The Oankali have survived for millennia by traveling through the universe, finding other species, and sharing genetic information.  (Kind of like the Borg.  But without the colonialism.)  In that way, the Oankali continue to adapt and evolve and never overspecialize and go extinct.  

The Oankali have 3 genders.  Like humans, they have males and females.  But they also have a third gender called “Ooloi”.  The Ooloi’s job is to mix the genetic information of human pairs with the genetic information of Oankali pairs.

When this is done, the humans will all have their genes altered and the next generation of humans will be a human-Oankali mix, and the next generation of Oankali will be an Oankali-human mix.  The humans who refuse to be a part of this are made sterile.

The rest of the book is the story of Lilith’s struggle to get the surviving humans to accept their current circumstances and adapt.  Many of them refuse to even accept that they are on a space ship, and so they make stupid choices in a vain attempt to escape.  

Others refuse to be a part of the Oankali gene trade.  They see the gene trade as the extinction of the human race, rather than another step in its evolution.  As a result, while they are allowed to return to earth, they are left childless.

Even Lilith resists changes to her brain chemistry which will give her an eidetic memory.  

At its heart, the story is about how we humans would react to the most fundamental of changes, changes to what make us who we are, whether we would refuse to accept reality or whether we would adapt and survive, shape our new reality.

Ritual

We’re going to be working with clay in this part of the workshop.  The clay is colored.  And it will come off in your hands.  There are wipes available in each circle for your to clean your hands with.  And you can dispose of the wipes in the bowls.  If you prefer to use uncolored clay, we have some for your use.

Shape Self

Helpers, please distribute the clay.  Make sure each person has one color.  

Go around and hand out extras.

Some of you have more clay than others.  I’m going to ask you not to share it.  Not yet at least.  We’ll have an opportunity later to process our feelings about the inequality of the situation later.

Pause.

To Shape God, shape Self.

Self is.

Self is body and bodily

perception. Self is thought, memory,

belief. Self creates. Self destroys. Self

learns, discovers, becomes. Self

shapes. Self adapts. Self invents its

own reasons for being. To shape

God, shape Self.

Repeat the following:

To Shape God, Shape Self.

Shape the clay into something the represents you.

Explain that they will have 5 minutes to finish.

As they shape the clay, say:

Self creates. Self destroys. Self

learns, discovers, becomes. Self

shapes. Self adapts.

To Shape God, Shape Self.

Repeat every minute:

Shape God, Shape Self.

Give 1 minute warning.

Take a minute to think about this experience.

Shape Change.

Helpers, please pass around these bowls and have everyone take a slip.

Pass around bowl with slips of paper.

The slips of paper have one of the following instructions:

“Hand your sculpture to someone and ask them to smash it and return it to you.”

“Hand half of your clay to someone else.”

“Swap your sculpture with someone else.”

Read your slips but don’t follow the instructions yet.

Pause.

All successful life is

Adaptable,

Opportunistic,

Tenacious,

Interconnected, and

Fecund.

Understand this.

Use it.

Shape God.

Repeat the following:

Adaptable,

Opportunistic,

Tenacious,

Interconnected

Fertile.

Now stand up.  Find someone in another group and follow the instructions.

Everyone return to your groups and quiet down.  For some of you, this change may have been difficult.  Some of you may have been happy with the change.  We’ll have time to process that later.  For the moment, just sit and reflect on the change for a minute.

Pause.

Alter the speed

Or the direction of Change.

Vary the scope of Change.

Recombine the seeds of Change.

Transmute the impact of Change.

Seize Change.

Use it.

Adapt and grow.

Shape God.

Repeat the following:

Seize Change.

Use it.

Adapt and grow.

Shape God.

Continue to shape your clay.  Shape it into something new.  

Explain that they will have 5 minutes to finish.

As they shape the clay again, say:

Remember, all successful life is Adaptable, Opportunistic, Tenacious, Interconnected, and Fecund.

Recombine the seeds of Change.

Transmute the impact of Change.

Seize Change.

Use it.

Adapt and Grow.

Shape God.

Repeat every minute:

Adapt and Grow.

Shape God.

Give 1 minute warning.

Take a minute to think about this experience and what, if anything, you have learned.

Partner Change

Pause.

A victim of God may,

Through learning and adaption,

Become a partner of God.

Partnership is giving, taking,

learning, teaching, offering the

greatest possible benefit while doing

the least possible harm. Partnership

is mutualistic symbiosis. Partnership

is life.

Pause.

Any entity, any process that

cannot or should not be resisted or

avoided must somehow be

partnered. Partner one another.

Partner diverse communities. Partner

life. Partner any world that is your

home. Partner God. Only in

partnership can we thrive, grow,

Change. Only in partnership can we

live.

Take one another’s hands.  Look to the person on your right.  Look at the person on your left.  Look at the people across from you.  These are your partners.

Repeat the following:

Partner one another.

Partner diverse communities. 

Partner life.

Partner God.

Now I’m going to have you take what you have shaped and combine it with others in your group. Shape it into something that represents all of you.

But remember, no one should dominate this process.  Make sure to include everyone and everyone’s ideas.

Remember: 

Partnership is giving, taking,

learning, teaching, offering the

greatest possible benefit while doing

the least possible harm.

Proceed.

Explain that they will have 5 minutes to finish.

Hand out additional clay to each group.

Each minute repeat:

Partner one another.

Partner God.

Give 1 minute warning.

Take a minute to think about this experience and what if anything you have learned.

Discussion

Now let’s form one large circle.  

Let’s take a few minutes and talk about this experience.

What did it feel like to get more or less clay than someone else?

How did it feel having your first sculpture changed?

How did it feel working to shape the change?

How did it feel working together?

What did you like about this?

What did you not like about this?

Song

Now we’re going to close with a song.  Everyone who is able, please stand and hold hands.  Let’s include those who cannot stand.

Because I’m not a strong singer, we’re going to be led by a recording by a woman named Ola, who I recently met at a conference honoring Octavia Butler and her legacy.  

The lyrics are easy.  They are:

God is Change. Shape God. Shape Self.

Ola will lead us and we’ll repeat each phrase after her.  We’ll repeat God is Change several times.  Then we’ll repeat Shape God.  Then Shape Self.

Do we have some people who will volunteer to be clappers once you pick up the rhythm?

I’m going to play the first verse and we’ll just listen.  Just listen.  Then I’ll start it again.

We’ll sing it through twice.

Play song.

Thank you everyone.  Blessed be.

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