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Good news about some of our animal siblings

October 26, 2020

Here’s a little good news about the environment:

The Gulf of Mexico whale, which numbers fewer than 50 individuals, received endangered species protections.

The global summit on endangered species created stronger protections against the trade of Asian otters, giraffes, sharks and vaquitas.

A California court upheld a state ban on ivory sales that aims to help save elephants by reducing global demand for ivory.

(Source: NRDC)

Offerings to the Gods

September 30, 2020

From the many tablets and artifacts left behind by the ancients, we know quite a lot about the way that Sumerians practiced their religion. Many ancient cultures made offerings to the gods as a way to celebrate or appease them. Mesopotamia was no different.

In ancient Sumer, daily offerings at the houses of the Gods pleased them and made them comfortable. In fact, at one time, gods could expect four meals a day with multiple courses!

Statues could be votive offerings and could also contain offerings, in the case of a beautiful cup or plate. First fruit offerings might include wine, beer, barley and dates.

Different gods preferred different kinds of offerings. If it pleases you, gather some offerings to give to the gods at Ishtarfest. General offerings that any of the gods would like include animal and vegetable foods and libations of water, wine and beer, as well as the burning of incense. Beer, bread, lentils, olive oil, cheese, cream, butter, honey, and tropical fruits like dates are all good choices. Jewelry and statues also make good offerings.

Offerings for some of the gods that are mentioned during the festival (there are a thousand gods, so the list is not exhaustive) are as follows:

3Qtr Right

An, the Sky God: Feathers, incense (particularly cedar, anise, and lemongrass)

Dumuzi/Tammuz: any vegetation

Enki, God of Water: beer, spring water, cucumbers, apples with stems, grapes, fish, poem or other writing

Enlil, Air God: Food, land and precious objects. For this festival, some soil from your yard will do. Also, anything related to air, such as feathers, music or the breath.

Ereshkigal/Irkalla, Goddess of the Underworld: mortuary offerings made to the dead (bread and water), fasting, weep for her

Geshtinanna,  goddess of agriculture, fertility, and dream interpretation: vegetation, dreams

Inanna/Ishtar, Goddess of Love and War, Venus: incense, wine, artisanal beer, baked treats, cedar oil or incense, rose petals, lapis lazuli

Ki, the Earth Goddess: sand or earth, jewelry or precious stones

Nammu, Goddess of the Primeval Sea: salt water, seaweed

Nanna/Sin, the Moon God: Reeds, linen

Ningal, Goddess of the Reeds & Moon: olive, fig, and apple, along with nuts such as the pistachio, walnut, and almond.

Ninkasi, Goddess of Beer: toasting with beer

Ninshubur, Messenger Goddess: anything you would offer to Inanna would also please her vizier

Shamash/Utu, the Sun God: wheat flour (especially einkorn or emmer wheat, burn a candle or incense, the bill of rights or the constitution

Siduri, the Goddess at the Inn at the end of the World: toasting with wine

To find out more about the Sumerian gods, be sure to show up for Ed VanDerJagt’s class on Sumerian Deities on Saturday Oct.10 at 11 a.m. EST on Zoom.

The devotional ritual to Inanna and Dumuzi is another good choice for exploring the magic of offerings. On Saturday Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. EST, Valerie Vogt and Ivan Richmond invite you to bring food and drink offerings, which may be eaten afterwards. Traditional offerings include lentils, olive oil, bread, cream/milk, beer and wine.

Temple of Inanna & Dumuzi will lead a devotional involving offerings at Ishtarfest 2020.

Feel free to make offerings during the other rituals as well. Water will be appropriate for the Friday night ritual Procession to the Underworld, at 7:30 p.m. EST with special guest Elspeth. Traditional offerings will be appropriate for Saturday night’s main ritual The Sacred Marriage of Shadow and Light at 7 p.m. and Sunday’s Oracle of Inanna at 8 p.m.

If you want to make a meal for the gods, check out the Sumerian cooking shows on Saturday at 12 noon and Sunday at 9 a.m. and 12 noon. See our schedule for more information at http://www.handsofchange.org/ishtarfest.

 

Why Ishtar?

September 15, 2020

This is the 5th consecutive year that Hands of Change has offered a festival celebrating Sumerian mythology, religion and culture. What we seek to do with Ishtarfest is to help bring back the worship of the elder gods in modern day Paganism.

Greek thought can be directly traced to Mesopotamian/Sumerian societies. Both Hesiod and Homer relied extensively on Sumerian sources for their writings, and strong similarities exist between the two culture’s mythologies. These works were central to the development of Greek thought, which influenced European and American structural and cultural development.

The influence of the Mesopotamian city of Uruk reached as far as Egypt, where similarities can be seen between Sumerian and Egyptian artwork, as well as between their pantheons.

Growing up in our culture with Greek and Egyptian mythology taught in our classrooms, modern Paganism has taken on the flavor of those and more Celtic influences. We believe that it’s time to trace our roots back even farther to the Fertile Crescent to learn about the birth of pagan civilization and its influence on our world today.

The history of the festival, which occurred 6 times in this century, is as follows:

2003 – Shapatu of Ishtar, Two Nights in Babylon

2016 – Ishtarfest, featuring the play The Shapatu of Ishtar

2017 – Ishtarfest’s Sumerfaire, A Sumerian Renaissance Faire

2018 – Ishtarfest, Journey Through The Goddess (centering on the Goddess Chant – Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna)

2019 – Ishtarfest, to the Kur and Back (Sweat lodges and descent ritual)

As we move into our festival, we encourage you to find out more about the links between more modern pagan cultures and the inspiration that they derived from Sumerian religion and mythology. Our presenters will shed light on why Mesopotamia has relevance for Paganism today.

We are very honored to have some amazing speakers this year.

Oberon Zell, the father of modern Paganism, will present Mysteries of Mesopotamia. The Dawn of Civilization began around 10,000 years ago, in Mesopotamia— “The  land between the rivers” (the Tigris and Euphrates). Ancient Sumeria gave us the earliest writing (cuneiform) as well as origin myths that have come down to us in the Book of Genesis. But was there an actual “Garden of Eden”? And if so, where was it located, and what happened to it? And what of the legend of the great flood of Noah? Did that really happen—and if so, when, and how? And what was the Sumerian Underworld told of in the story of the “Descent of Inanna”? Oberon will reveal some of “Hystory’s Mysteries” from his current book project.

Jason Mankey, Llewellyn author and writer of Raise the Horns at Patheos Pagan, will be sharing information about the god Pan, who may have had his roots in Sumerian Dumuzi. Few ancient gods have captivated the modern imagination as much as the Greek God Pan. This workshop follows the history of Pan from his humble beginnings in the mountains of Arcadia to his rise into the pantheon of the ancient Greeks to his re-emergence in the 19th century. Find out what has made Pan so popular and ever-present for the last three thousand years.

Ancient Near Eastern echoes of the Astra Planeta and Greek Mythology will be addressed by Hercules Invictus. The gods and goddesses of both Mesopotamia and Greece have associations with planets in our solar system.

Michael Law will regale us with Hellenistic Astrology that was heavily influenced by Sumerian thought.

James Jacob Pierri of Auset Gypsy will discuss Isis, Ishtar, and the knots that bind. The goddesses Ishtar and Isis have much in common with one another, similarities in myth, image, ritual and magic! At the center of it all is the “Sacred Knot” that both Goddesses possess. His talk will provide visuals and a light meditation ritual.

These speakers and others will begin to unravel the mysteries that Mesopotamia beckons us as modern-day pagans to learn.

Cook Like a Sumerian

September 8, 2020

Have you ever wondered what people ate 4000 years ago? Well, it turns out that we actually know a little bit about that. At least four clay tablets from ancient Sumeria contain recipes for food from the time.

The earliest known cookbook was engraved in clay around 1600 BC by Babylon’s version of Wolfgang Puck. Even though there are words missing, it’s in Sumerian, and it doesn’t have any listed quantities, it provides valuable clues to our culinary past.

For you pagan foodies out there wondering why Sumerian food would have relevance to your modern palette, have you ever eaten Middle Eastern food? Yummy, right? Mesopotamia is modern-day Iran and Iraq, and the food from that advanced civilization is just as delectable. Modern Iraqi stew seems to be a direct descendant from the stew recipe found on one of the culinary tablets.

Sumerians might eat barley flatbread and honey for breakfast. The ordinary Sumerian’s evening meal might consist of fish mixed with cucumber, onions, apples, cheese, watercress, mustard, turnips and eggs. More wealthy locals added wild boar, venison, lamb, and water fowl to their diets. Milk, butter, and cheese came from cows, goats and sheep. Meals after a hard day of work could contain a grain cake cooked with diverse fruit, along with dried fish and a pitcher of beer. Vegetables were plentiful and added color to most meals.

Attend one of our FREE Sumerian cooking classes at Virtual Ishtarfest 2020 Oct. 9-12.

Come, feast your eyes and soul with recipes from the cookbook of Siduri, the Innkeeper at the End of the World. Learn to cook Gilgamesh’s last meal on earth. Maeve will conjure up Fesenjan, a walnut pomegranate stew. Traveling back in time she will breathe new life into this time-honored recipe using the slow cooker of a modern-day chef.

Conny Jasper will be creating a simple and delicious dessert using Sumerian spices. She’ll be exploring ancient food with nutritious and medicinal properties. Conny will discuss some of the delicious and health boosting Sumerian and Mesopotamian ingredients and recipes.

Not unlike other ancient cultures, Mesopotamia had its own version of fermented beverage – beer! They even had a goddess dedicated to this nectar of the gods named Ninkasi. Cernunnos will share a brief history of beer in Sumeria, as well as the role the brewing goddess played in the culture. Best of all this class will serve as a practical introduction to ancient brewing methods as our brewmaster demonstrates how to make an ancient Sumerian beer.

Dedicated priestess to the Goddess Inanna, our resident Sumerian expert Enheduinanna will recreate an ancient bread and date spread in her cooking segment. If you were at Ishtarfest last year, you know it was delicious!

We hope you will join us. Gates open at 4 p.m. on Friday Oct. 9. Be there or be a cooking pot!

Supercharged Lionsgate Portal Opens on Aug. 8

August 7, 2020

Meditation to tap into its energy

Have you noticed a brightly twinkling star in the sky just before dawn? If you are up at that time, you can view the Dogstar Sirius which is the bottom of Orion’s belt lined up vertically with our planet. Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major the Greater Dog (which is why it’s called the Dogstar and this time of year is called the Dog Days of Summer, because Sirius has now emerged in the sky from behind the Sun). In the early morning, you can see it madly glinting in red and sometimes blue. (It’s also called the Blue Star, and the Egyptians called it Sothic).

The ancient Sumerians and Egyptians could definitely see Sirius (which is twice the mass of our Sun). The people living in the fertile crescent worshipped a race of beings called Nibiru or Igigi, depending on the location. These “gods” it is rumored may have traveled to our planet from Planet X, the tiny planet orbiting Sirius. In fact, Sirius may be the second sun in our solar system. Nasa confirms that 90 percent of stars begin with a binary partner.[1]

Inanna holding a lion’s leash

The Lionsgate portal occurs every year when the sun in Leo syncs up with the star Sirius. This is said to generate high frequency spiritual energy and is a time when psychic senses are highly sensitive, people receive downloads, and the New Age community is touting the rewiring and upgrading of both the physical and spiritual bodies. The portal will be especially powerful due to recent solar and lunar eclipses.

Ritual

Ishtar Gate of Babylon

Acknowledge Sacred Space – We tell the creation myth of the ancient Sumerians to increase our awareness of the sacredness of what we are about to do:

Using a bowl of water, spritzes the area say: First was Nammu, goddess of the primeval sea.

Put a rock on top of pile of rocks on your altar and say: A cosmic mountain formed in the sea, made of the perfect union of the god of heaven, called An, and the goddess of earth, called Ki.

Light a stick of incense in the air and place it on your altar, saings: Their passion ignited the sky and Ki became heavy with child.

Blow out the stick of incense, walk around the area with it, and say: An and Ki gave birth to Enlil, the Air-god. The birth of Enlil was the event that separated heaven from earth, and gave each its own form and function.

Welcoming:

Hail Inanna, Lady of Heaven and Earth! Hail, Star of the Evening,

Lady of the Largest Heart,

Queen of rarest deeds proclaimed
Help us to gather our power from the Heavens,

And to walk to ways of the Old Ones with new eyes.

Be with us now in your radiant glory: Lead us on the great journey

Hail and Welcome!

Hail Ereshkigal, Lady of the Underworld!

Mistress of the Seven Gates, 
Lady of Irkalla, help us to move beyond ourselves 
And our fears, and see all endings with new eyes. 

Be with us now in your dark splendor: Watch over us as we visit your realm

Hail and welcome!

Meditation:

Feel yourself firmly rooted into the floor. Your feet flexing on the ground, every toe connecting with the earth. Observe the channel of your spine and notice your energy sinking down into the earth.

Visualize before you the Gates of Babylon (see photo). You are on the brink of entering another world. If you choose to walk through the gates before you, your life will never be the same. Beyond these gates lies the Akashic library – all the spiritual knowledge that ever was, is and will be. The storehouse is vast and open to you, if you have the courage to step through the Gates of Time.

Before you is Ereshkigal, wise grandmother wearing the head of a lion, who walks with you through the land of endings. Old ways are dying. Listen to her wisdom as she whispers in your mind. Listen carefully as she gives you a message of courage. She is the gatekeeper. If you wish to proceed, ask her permission and walk through the gates. Hear the lion’s roar in your heart as you step over the threshold and feel the portal’s energy pulsing through your veins.

Before you is Inanna, the morning and evening star, holding a lion’s leash in her hand. Her radiance envelops you and you feel the energy of the storehouse of ancient wisdom throbbing around you. Allow her to walk you around. Touch any volumes that attract you and absorb its teachings through your skin. Focus on the top of your head and notice any sensations you experience. Then shift your attention to the center of your forehead and see with your Inner Eye. Feel your throat and listen for any words of wisdom that you may hear or speak. Finally, place your hands over your heart and commune with the Goddess of Love, who stands beside you. When you feel complete, allow any energy you may still retain to pass down your spine and into the earth to be recycled for another day.

When you are ready, return to the land of the Living through the Gates. Take a few deep breaths and relax fully from your grand adventure with the Queen of Heaven and Earth.

Goodbyes:

Hail, Lady of the Evening Star! I praise you for your bright courage and for helping me to harness my potential. Go in peace with my thanks and blessings. Hail and farewell!

Hail, Queen of the Underworld! I praise you for your dark wisdom and for embodying the power of the portal. Go in peace with my thanks and blessings. Hail and farewell.

Allow your awareness of the sacred space and the Goddesses to recede from your conscious as you extinguish the incense and remove the sacred objects from your altar. Eat and drink something to further ground you.

If this article interests you, check out our info on Ishtarfest Online scheduled for Oct. 9-12, 2020.


[1] https://humanoriginproject.com/sirius-mythology-two-sun-solar-system/

Dream Interpretation in the Ancient World

July 20, 2020

In the New Age, dreams have been examined and pored over to gain psychological understanding of ourselves, receive messages from Spirit, and to divine the future. The art of dream interpretation has a long history and can be traced back to our ancient Pagan ancestors.

The Greeks believed that dream-visions were messages from gods and ghosts; dreams were said to “stand over” the dreamer as though brought by an entity. These altered states link those experiencing them to the spirit world and enable them to receive messages.

In the Greek view dream visions are objective fact and are interpreted by complicated symbolism. Prophetic dreams were categorized in the following way:

1. Symbolic dream: metaphors that must be interpreted.

2. Horama/vision: straightforward, pre-enactment of a future event.

3. Chrematismos/oracle: parent, priest, God, or esteemed elder reveals without symbolism what will or will not happen or should or should not be done. An apport, or token, might be left behind in the dream and later found on the physical plane as a sign.

If we go even further back to Mesopotamia, we find references in the ancient Sumerian texts to how this dead culture viewed dreams.

In the epic “Gilgamesh,” Gilgamesh’s best friend Enkidu dreams of his death in very specific terms that come true exactly. The Goddess Ishtar, also known as Inanna, tells her father Anu, God of the Sky, what will happen if she does not get her way with Gilgamesh. She sends the Bull of Heaven against Gilgamesh and Enkidu, and they overcome it. Cleansing themselves again, they parade through the streets of Uruk, and Gilgamesh announces his fame. However, Enkidu dreams of his death and renounces his former great deeds as being nothing when set against his coming death.6 Enkidu curses his having killed Humbaba, his bringing the cedars of Lebanon to the city, and his encounter with the harlot. (He takes this last curse back, however, and gives her a blessing.) Enkidu dreams again, this time a long dream of the House of Death, and falls ill. In the Greek view, this can be described as horama.

Gilgamesh himself has two important dreams. In the first a meteorite falls to earth that is so great that Gilgamesh can neither lift it nor turn it. The people gather and celebrate around the meteorite, and Gilgamesh embraces it as he would a wife, but his mother, the goddess Rimat-Ninsun, forces him to compete with the meteorite. In the second, Gilgamesh dreams that an axe appears at his door, so great that he can neither lift it nor turn it. The people gather and celebrate around the axe, and Gilgamesh embraces it as he would a wife, but his mother, again, forces him to compete with the axe. Gilgamesh asks his mother what these dreams might mean; she tells him a man of great force and strength will come into Uruk. Gilgamesh will embrace this man as he would a wife, and this man will help Gilgamesh perform great deeds. That man turns out to be Enkidu. The Greeks would have called this a symbolic dream.

Another symbolic dream is that of Dumuzi (Tammuz), the king-consort of Inanna (Ishtar). Dumuzi dreams that rushes envelop him, one reed trembles and two reeds growing together are removed. In the next scene of his dream, he is terrified by the forest, and then water is poured on his holy hearth. Amidst other symbols of death and decay, predatory animals catch their prey and agriculture grinds to a halt. His sister Geshtinanna interprets his dream for him, thus earning her the epithet of “the old woman, interpreter of dreams.” She concludes that Dumuzi’s demons pursue and attack him. She says the single reed is their mother, who mourns for him, and the two reeds are herself and Dumuzi, who will each be taken away. The remainder of her analysis prophesies death and destruction for Dumuzi.

Finally, in a dream, the god Ea tells Utnapishtim to make a boat with very precise measurements and to take in the boat “the seed of all living creatures” to save them from a coming flood. This is an example of chrematismos. It is also the precursor to the Noah story in the bible.

From the time of Gilgamesh, a historical Mesopotamian king living around 2700 B.C. to the Greeks in the last centuries before the Common Era, the rich tradition of dream interpretation continued to be practiced in a very similar way.

If you would like to learn more about ancient influences on our modern day Paganism, we invite you to out annual Ishtarfest celebration, currently schedule the second weekend in October.

-Rev. Amara Willey

Springtime in Sumeria

May 6, 2020

Spring rites are upon us! Many of us have recently celebrated Beltane or May Day or may be anticipating another spring celebration. As we prepare for Ishtarfest 2020, let’s take a look at what the ancient Sumerians did to celebrate in their own seasonal style.

The big festival of the day was called Akitu. This word comes from the Sumerian word for barley. However, more seems to be known about the Babylonian version of the festival than the Sumerian. (Probably partially comes from the fact that the Babylonian civilization is slightly newer than the Sumerian, but hey, I’m not a historian.) The Babylonian Akitu was a twelve day festival that celebrated the new year for this region. There would be some prayers for Babylon, some recitation of the Epic of Creation, and a ritual drama in honor of the god Marduk. In fact, a lot of what was done for this festival was in honor of Marduk, Babylon’s patron god. The king of Babylon would travel down river and back and ultimately submit to Marduk at his temple. Statues of the gods of this pantheon were cleaned and dressed before being paraded around for worship. There were songs and possibly sacrifices.

These days, not too many of us are involved in twelve straight days of worship anymore. We’re too busy with work and family obligations, not to mention the myriad distractions we have! But chances are this year, none of us will be dancing around a Maypole in large groups (or small ones), so it might be interesting to think about ways we can modify celebrations to work for us.

As a New Year’s celebration, consider taking this time to make a few New Year’s resolutions. Sure, in Western culture we usually reserve making these for January 1, but any time could be a good time to make a promise to yourself or develop a new, positive habit. Now that we’re in isolation, it might be a good time for some self reflection to decide what you need or time to develop a skill.

As a holiday to celebrate barley, maybe you want to get some planting going or tend to a garden you already have. Plant flowers or crops ready to harvest later in the year. They’re about to get some great sunlight in the coming months! (My husband would say a good way to honor barley is to drink some beer. If that’s your thing, go for it.)

Read up on some creation myths. There are many out there, so familiarize yourself with a new one. Analyze similarities and differences (if you’re into that sort of thing). What kind of shared consciousness might connect civilizations from across continents with similar ideas and stories? Can you find a part of the Sumerian creation myth to honor in your own tradition?

Honor the deities you keep on your own personal altar. Dress them up, or just give them a dusting. Douse them with some holy water. Find a way to show them that this is a time in which you want to show them how much they mean to you.

Have a great spring!

Ishtarfest 2020 is still planned for this October, CLICK HERE for details!

Feeling Ruff? Sumerian Goddess Gula May Have the Cure

April 21, 2020

Ever feel like a good cuddle from your dog helps restore your health?

Thanks to the ancient Sumerian Goddess Gula, you might be onto something!

Gula is a goddess of healing, daughter of the creator God Anu and mother to two sons, Amu and Ninazu, and a daughter, Gunurra – all healing deities. She was helpful to those trying to conceive a child, and we won’t mention how she could also be called on for curses. 

Originally, this goddess was known as Bau, a Sumerian goddess of dogs. At the time, dogs became associated with healing when people noticed how much faster dogs’ wounds healed when they licked them. Ta da! – the goddess became associated with healing as well as canines! 

Doctors’ knowledge of the medicinal arts was said to come from Gula. But at her temples, it wasn’t the snakes of the caduceus but her sacred animal, dogs, that could be found everywhere. Buried beneath the ramp leading to her temple at Isin, the remains of more than thirty dogs were found. Also found were ceramic figures of dogs with Gula’s name carved into them, usually in doorways to protect people from harm. In fact, inscriptions found in the area make it abundantly clear that burying dog figurines, or having actual dogs themselves, were seen as charms to protect homes from evil.

So dog lovers out there – in these dark times, where disease and illness, as well as negativity, are around us in abundance, rejoice! Give your pet a great big cuddle and offer up a prayer to Gula. It may just be all the protection you need!

Ishtarfest 2020 is still planned for this October! CLICK HERE for details!

Disclaimer: Obviously, if you become ill, a cuddle from a dog won’t be all the medicine you need – please also head to a doctor to get yourself checked out!

Virtual Travel

April 9, 2020

Most of us are following the recommendations to stay home during these challenging times. I don’t know about you, but getting out into Nature and traveling to new and fascinating places has always been my passion. Since that is not possible for the time being, I thought I would share some suggestions for movies and books that I found online to help keep our sanity. Maybe we can’t get to these places now, but it’s great that we can – at least virtually – bring these places to us!

Stay safe, Everyone! Blessed Be.

Gaia

NOTE:

The following suggestions and synopses are from The Discoverer Blog

#1.  Ken Burns: The National Parks – America’s Best Idea

A deep-dive into the history of the United States’ National Parks. Like all Ken Burns documentaries, the cinematography is beautiful, the narration and expert commentary is insightful, and — maybe most importantly — the series is really in-depth!

Available on PBS or Amazon Video  

#2. PBS “Nature” Series

This long-running PBS series covers everything you could possibly want to know about nature, from “The Story of the Horse” to “A Squirrel’s Guide to Success.” Ten seasons are currently available for PBS members, while Amazon Prime subscribers can see one season plus several standalone feature films.

Available on PBS for PBS supporters and on Amazon Prime Video

#3. Free Solo

Being stuck on your couch with your feet firmly on the ground won’t seem so bad after watching climber Alex Honnold attempt to become the first person to free solo El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. That means climbing the 3,200-foot natural wall without assistance, ropes or other gear. The film won the 2018 Academy Award for best feature documentary.

Available on Hulu or for rent on Amazon

#4. Mountain 

The Hollywood Reporter called it “one of the most visceral essay films ever made” due to its musical score. It premiered at the Sydney Opera House in 2017. This film explores the highest peaks around the world and it is more visual art than it is a storytelling piece. 

Available on Netflix

#5. Expedition Happiness

A couple and their adorable Bernese mountain dog take you on a trip in their refurbished school bus across North America. Once you’ve seen this film, you’ll be tempted to use your extra time at home to start renovating a van or school bus to replicate their journey. Send us pictures. 

Available on Netflix

#6. Dancing with the Birds

After watching this Netflix original documentary, I have come to the conclusion that birds are severely underrated. This film takes you on a deep dive into the lives of birds, It turns out they are quite

bizarre, intelligent, and preformative. The video footage is exact and takes you into remote areas to get the most stunning shots of these underrated creatures. 

Available on Netflix

#7. Elephant

Megan Markle narrates the story of an elephant named Shani and her spirited son Jomo in the Kalahari Desert. It’s a compelling look at the dynamics of an elephant family. Spoiler alert: You’ll learn we are not too different. 

Available on Disney+ 

#8. Ice on Fire

Using beautiful camerawork and hard facts, this critically acclaimed HBO documentary reminds us what’s at stake if we don’t take aggressive action to curb climate change. Importantly, the filmmakers also offer workable solutions to help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Available on HBO, and via Amazon Prime with an HBO subscription

#9. African Cats

African Cats follows a pride of lions and a family of cheetahs across a national reserve in Kenya. It’s a stunning adventure in storytelling as you will get quite attached to the characters. 

Available on Disney+ 

#10. Jane

Most people will know exactly what this film is about when they see the title and a picture of a ‎chimpanzee. The movie pulls from more than 100 hours of unseen footage from Jane Goodall’s timing studying primates in Tanzania. Jane Goodall’s life is a great story to show your 8-year-old little explorer. You never know who will be the next great anthropologist!

Available on Disney+

#11. 180 Degrees South

If you’ve always wanted to make a trip to Patagonia, this is the film for you. 180 Degrees South follows Jeff Johnson through Chile, while he attempts to mirror Yvon Chouinard’s (founder of the company Patagonia) and Doug Tompkins’s (founder of North Face) trip down south in 1968. This is not a nail-biting documentary. Instead, you will leave with intense feelings of wanderlust. 

Available for purchase on Amazon  or YouTube

#12. Seven Worlds, One Planet

In seven episodes, this documentary series explores how the distinctive geography of Earth’s seven continents has shaped species’ evolution and animal behavior. 

Available on BBC America with a cable subscription or YouTube

#13. Honeyland 

This Oscar-nominated movie tells the story of Hatidze Muratova and her ancient bee-keeping techniques. There is a lot going on in the film so it will require your undivided attention. Between conflict with neighbors and raising seven noisy children, Muratova’s life, set against the backdrop of the Balkans in Macedonia, isn’t one to miss. 

Available on Apple TV

#14. American Experience: Into the Amazon

Not long after losing his bid for a third term as president, Teddy Roosevelt trekked into uncharted territory in the Amazon. This PBS documentary tells the story of the joint Brazilian-American expedition in 1914, led by Brazilian explorer Cândido Rondon.

Available for free at PBS.org/show/american-experience/

Netflix movies

Jack Whitehall Travels with My Father

Our Planet

Sense8

Travel Movies

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

India There’s a romance to train travel, and getting around India by train is arguably the best way to see the country. That’s exactly what three quirky siblings, played by Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson, do in Wes Anderson’s take on the family road trip. While the movie focuses on the brothers’s attempt to rekindle their relationships, it is set against a stunning backdrop of the desert vistas and hilly landscapes of Rajasthan. Visits to temples, encounters with humble villagers, and conversations with fellow train travelers offer an authentic insight into life in India.

Into the Wild (2007)

Trek to Alaska – based on a true story

Based on the real-life story of college graduate Christopher McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp), this is a bona fide get-up-and-go tale. After donating his entire savings to charity, McCandless walked and hitchhiked his way to Alaska while seeking a vagabond lifestyle, foraging and sleeping in the wilderness. Scenes shot in mesmerizingly beautiful places, such as Lake Mead, Lake Tahoe and Alaska’s Denali National Park, make the nomadic life seem an attractive one. He even found time to run with wild horses and kayak down the Colorado River. It all looks good until–spoiler alert–things take a turn for the worse.

The Way (2010)

The Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago is a rite of passage for pilgrims and backpackers alike. In this fictional drama, Martin Sheen brings its spiritual reverence to light by following the footsteps taken by his recently deceased son. Sensational footage of mountainous landscapes, green valleys, pretty villages and country roads will make you want to lace up your boots and get walking. Along the way, Sheen joins up with colorful characters such as a sensitive Irish travel writer and a bitter Canadian divorcee. Those with firsthand experience of the trail can appreciate how accurate these character portrayals are.

Tracks (2013)

The Australian Outback – based on a true story

The Camino de Santiago is a rite of passage for pilgrims and backpackers alike. In this fictional drama, Martin Sheen brings its spiritual reverence to light by following the footsteps taken by his recently deceased son. Sensational footage of mountainous landscapes, green valleys, pretty villages and country roads will make you want to lace up your boots and get walking. Along the way, Sheen joins up with colorful characters such as a sensitive Irish travel writer and a bitter Canadian divorcee. Those with firsthand experience of the trail can appreciate how accurate these character portrayals are.

Looking for a great book about nature?

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan. “The Big Burn is a really great, interesting read about the terrible forest fire that raged through the Northwest in 1910. It shows the role of President Teddy Roosevelt and Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot advancing the very idea of public forests.” 

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. “Bryson perfectly captures both the euphoria and the mundane and pain of long hikes.”

Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. “I grew up in the intermountain west, in the shadow of the Nevada nuclear test site, just as the author did. Her beautifully haunting personal account of the consequences of radioactive fallout alongside the story of a salt-water flood in a wildlife refuge sticks with me, years after I read the book.”

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. “Ok, so Wild isn’t exactly a book about nature. But the memoir, which tracks Strayed’s solo journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, is a gorgeously written story about the healing power of solitude and wild places. And, it’s a powerful reminder of why we need to preserve special places for future generations.”

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey. “Mr. Abbey combines a love for the outdoors with a call to action and throws in a lot of humor along the way.”

Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story of Yellowstone by George Black. “This is a fantastic deep dive into how our first national park came into existence, including the genuinely complicated conflicts that made it imperfect. It also put visiting Yellowstone incredibly high on my bucket list — hopefully it reopens soon!”

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. “My favorite book about nature changes all the time, but I keep coming back to A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold. He writes about our relationship to the natural world in a way that is deeply personal and moral, without self-righteousness or condescension, as evidenced by his first two sentences in the forward: ‘There are some people who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.’”

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner. “Cadillac Desert, a highly-entertaining history of water development in the American West. Great characters and it’s just stunning how badly we screwed up the environment and managed to do so at an economic loss. A really good cautionary tale. I basically only read non-fiction and this one is way up there on my list.”

Trampoline: An Illustrated Novel by Robert Gipe. “This book has a lot of personality, which is easy to spot in its endearing illustrations and its bold, wry main character, 15-year-old Dawn Jewell. The story is especially significant to me because it centers on Eastern Kentucky, where I was born, and the blue, rolling mountains of the region, a piece of nature that is precious to everyone from Southeast Appalachia. Dawn gets roped into her grandmother’s radical protests against mountaintop removal and finds a passion for preserving nature and protecting the unique mountaintops of her home.”

The Overstory by Richard Powers. “The Overstory is Richard Powers’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 2018 novel about trees. It’s been described as a ‘masterwork,’ a ‘visionary, accessible legend’ and a reminder that ‘we walk among gods every time we enter a forest.’ This book is like no other, and it will stick with you forever.”

It's Spring and What a Spring It Is!

March 22, 2020

It’s Spring, but this is a Spring unlike anyone has seen in their lifetime. Rather than the earth waking up and the world getting busier, we’ve all been put on pause and are semi-hibernating. The hope and beauty of Spring still promises all the good things of the wheel turning. The trees will soon be green. The flowers will soon splash their vibrant colors over the ground. The birds will sing and chatter, oblivious to human concerns.

We stand here at the brink of change. Looking inside and pausing our busy lives, we have the opportunity to re-evaluate what’s important and what isn’t. The Goddess has given us the chance to reset the world and it is up to us as one race, the Human Race, to do so.

I invite you as magickal people to envision the world as a more beautiful place, as the Utopia that it could be and was always meant to be. Remember that the Goddess provides and we are all under her protection and care.

I keep thinking of the Abbi Spinner song “Held in the Heart” (https://spiralwound.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/held-in-the-heart/). The song reminds us that we are “here in the heart of this holy moment.” I believe that this is the moment we have all been waiting for, the moment when real change is possible. We have to find new ways of doing the things that we need to do.

Humans are unceasingly creative and innovative. It’s part of what makes us who we are. I believe that we will find energetic connection when we can’t have physical closeness, the ability to work when we shouldn’t leave our homes, and the courage to help each other rather than only to look out for ourselves.

There are no coincidences. This is a time of great change at the beginning of the Aquarian Age. Business as usual is impossible so how will we replace it?

What is this Spring growing in you and how will you blossom?