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| Article Specs|
Article ID: 4691
Age Group: Adult
Posted: September 9th. 2002
Stones Rising 2002
by Drema Baker
The actual working of the Stones took a little different turn this year. The two furthest Stones - one by the farmhouse and one in the parking area - were pulled to the high meadow the day before the Rising, whereas in years past, they were pulled on the day of the Rising. This did not in any way decrease the feeling of excitement during the Rising. I actually worked on one of the Stone Crews this year; Mark Schwenk led our team, aided (and perhaps goaded) a bit by Stone Crew veteran Mike McGee, as well as Tom Chassells, Little John and others. Both Tom and Little John had their own Stones to pull, but every available able-bodied person helped out on this task, making the pulling of both Stones far quicker than anyone expected. I had never pulled a Stone like this before. I joined the crew just before it started up the hill to the parking field. As I joined them, Little John began drawing a symbol on the stone in what I have heard referred to as "party powder"; as he drew, he explained each segment of the symbol - this is the wings to make this Stone fly; this is the arrow to show it which way to go; these are feathers to make it light as a bird; and so forth. When he had finished drawing it, he touched his lit cigarette to its lines and in a brilliant flash it burned down to a black mark on the Stone's surface. All stood by, mesmerized, for a moment, then a great cheer went up and we all went eagerly to the ropes.
Now I am more accustomed to the level of physical labor required by long hours of typing at my computer, or perhaps walking the length of the WalMart parking lot, so you can imagine what I was in for. I deliberately ignored the little hysterical voice in my head saying "You'll be sorry!" and took my place among the others (on the outside, just in case). While I can't say it was the hardest thing I ever did, I can easily and without hesitation say it was very physically challenging. The weight of the Stone (with its Crew Captain aboard) was great, but with so many of us pulling the sled, it wasn't that difficult. What threatened my endurance most were the uphill portions, of which there were a significant number. A few times, I was almost certain I would not make it to the top; but merciful Captains measured out timely breaks, teaching us to lift our arms in order to gulp greater amounts of air when we stopped. During these breaks, tenders came forward with water and smudge for the Stone Crews, and about halfway through, one Church member came from the kitchens with a massive carrot on a stick, provoking a great deal of humor (and a few suggestive remarks) from the Crew. At one point, someone broke out pastel crayons and began to paint people. Then we were off again, and on the home stretch. By the time we reached the mouth of the high meadow, I felt like I'd accomplished something very significant, and that I truly could do anything.
I watched the next Stone being pulled; it was interesting to see it from this vantage point now that I'd seen it from the ropes, as well. When I went to observe, I could just see the team coming around the curve in the road, downhill, pulling fast. The Captains yelled instructions ("Go left!"), while other veteran team members worked with long, heavy, metal levers to pivot and dislodge the Stone when necessary. I could feel the group's energy, see their exertion. The team spirit was evident and, as always, there was a bit of good-natured competition between the Captains, who each "surf" their Stone all the way. At one point, the children excitedly ran alongside the Stone, asking of the attending adults, "Is this the Stone we'll raise tomorrow?" Tom acted as a Team Captain again this year; it was his second time as a Captain, but his first time leading a long pull. When I asked him what he felt, he said, "Chest-bursting pride and gut-wrenching terror." The energy, he explained, is like a drug, but he was very relieved that no one was hurt. The job of pulling and raising the Stones is unquestionably dangerous. It is through the care and guidance of the Captains that safety is maintained, so I could well imagine the relief Tom and the others felt when it was over.
It was the next day that the Stones were brought into the Circle. Witnesses gathered beneath the arbors and to either side, leaving a wide avenue between them for the Stone Crews to enter with their honored cargo. The actual placement of the Stone above and before its appointed space within the Circle is always tricky, and the teams took their time to ensure accuracy. While they worked, the Witnesses sang, danced, drummed and held sacred space for them. I looked around, seeing faces both familiar and new, delighting in seeing young mothers who had been pregnant at last year's Rising and were, this year, carrying new babies on their hips. I knew that these tiny new members of the tribe would be passed through the hole in the East Gate Stone after the Rising was complete, and looked forward to that moment.
While these people come to this place to see or participate in raising Stones on the hill, the Rising is not the only ceremony that takes place during the event. Other rituals are spaced out during the days and nights so that attendees can, if they wish, participate in all of them.
The Labyrinth was present again this year; in fact, it made two appearances. The first was presented by members of the new Labyrinth Project, and was done by candlelight Thursday night, preceding the Walk of the Altars to the Ancestors. The second one, presented by Crossroads Earth Religion Center, took place in the Stone Circle beneath the Witness Arbors Friday afternoon. I walked both. The Labyrinth carries great significance for me personally, with only one path in and one path out and both paths the same. Walking it is akin to walking the path to Spirit - just when you think you are getting closer to the Center, the path winds out again, only to bring you to the Center when you least expect it. As a walker in this ritual, you pass familiar faces and ones unknown, and all are on the same journey to the same place, though it appears to be parallel or even opposing at times. At one point in my Friday walk, I saw a child of about 10 walking it by himself. He was definitely not somber, as we adults were. He was laughing, waving at people as he passed them. Later, I got a more up-close and personal view of a child's Labyrinth walk by taking my 5-year-old Goddess-son's hand and walking it again, with him. He took it very seriously, asking me questions ("Are we in the Underworld now?"), sometimes then questioning my answers ("It doesn't look like the Underworld. I can still see the powder [cornmeal]. It must be a game."). The experience, combined with the fading in and out of the world outside the "walls" of cornmeal and the drifting sounds of the Stone Singers Chorus belting out the tune for the "Flintstones, " was otherworldly and strange. No two Labyrinth walks are ever the same, and this one held true to that fact.
That night there was a Blessing of the Warriors, written by Heather McDuff (Hospital Corpsman Second Class, USNR) and held by the community's military Veterans who, as I understand it, have formed quite a bond between them. The rite was held to honor military and civilians who'd passed in the last year, express gratitude to the protectors at home, and those who fight far from home. Mike Martin, a regular attendee at Stones Rising and a committed member of the Four Quarters Veterans' group, described the ritual as touching, heartfelt. He felt that the ceremony, which allowed participants to remember past years and friends who had died in the field or were changed forever by their experiences there, helped to bring closure for some. "Stones is a special place for me anyway, " he said. "In the last two years, I've gotten involved in the Veterans' community on the land, and [Stones] means even more to me now. It's ironic, since I hated the military when I was in it." Mike feels that his calling on the land at Four Quarters is to provide Veteran support and to add his energy to that group whose experiences extend over generations, with Vets from many wars.
Review: Aranea, PagaNet News
Photos: Lance, PagaNet News
Click for Part III of this review.
Web: Stones Rising and the Church of Four Quarters - www.4qf.org.
Web: PagaNet News - www.paganet.org.
For more info on The Labyrinth Project at the Church of Four Quarters, please contact Denise Scott, Dclausenscott@hotmail.com, (703) 719-7355; or Carrie Krystek, Ckrystek@yahoo.com, (703) 642-1912.
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