When Gaia Girls Passages was born two and a half years ago, it was clear in an instant what our name should be. Gaia is the ancient Greek goddess of the earth and represents a sentient, living earth. Girls, well, it’s for girls. And Passages speaks to the life-passages that we support. Our mission was (and is) to help girls connect to the earth and village life in order to grow into conscious, confident, and purposeful women. What I didn’t anticipate, is that as the girls became true Gaia Girls, they would become voices for Gaia’s message.
During Gaia Girls gatherings, through sitting, writing, and creative theatre, girls listen to the waters, the fire, the flowers, and give them voices through written words or skits. Sometimes Gaia has a personal message of love and support, or offers her wisdom or medicine to a girl asking life questions. Other times, she shares a cry for help to repair the hurt and environmental destruction caused by humans.
This summer in our Artemis Village for girls and moms we held a “Council of All Beings,” a ceremony originally designed by Joanna Macy. Each of the girls and mothers chose a being in the natural world to represent. When the council was called and the fire was lit, each being entered as an honored guest. Throughout the evening, each was given the floor to share their message. We heard distinct voices from the rocks and soil, and from the elements of earth, air, fire, and water. We heard from the insects, trees, plants, birds, and mammals. When the beings were done speaking, the women who represented humans in the ceremony often had questions for each creature.
When a human asked the mosquito how to react more compassionately with the discomfort of their stings, mosquito replied saying, “When you are stung by us, remember that we are much smaller than you, and the harm that we are causing you so that we can feed our children, is INFINITLY less than the harm you humans are causing to the whole planet right now. Remember that if you think we are an annoyance, turn around and look at yourselves, and then tell me who is the true annoyance!”
“Poison” Oak made a passionate plea to us humans to see her not just as an inconvenience, but to also understand that she is playing an important ecological function of growing in disturbed soil so that the plants can regenerate. “When you see me growing, you know to stay out of that area. Then we plant beings can do our job– to begin re-growing a diverse and healthy ecosystem. Rather than calling us Poison Oak, you might refer to us as Guardian Oak.”
The water creatures began their presentation to the humans with these solemn words – “This is a Ghost Story.” Standing in front of a blue tarp with plastic bags and trash attached to it that represented our polluted oceans, each water creature told the story of their individual death through drowning in an oil spill, swallowing our trash, or dying from other pollutants in the waters.
We believe that developing a true, deep and real connection with the earth is the first step to becoming a true tender and caretaker. Spending time with our feet on the earth, swimming in her waters, and immersed in her forests, mother Gaia becomes a dear friend and we naturally learn to be in a state of gratitude rather than entitlement when we use her precious resources.
When we truly love a person, we will do everything within our power to not cause harm to her or him. If others are causing harm, we are compelled to defend this person. The same goes for mother earth. In the United States, we are currently 5% of the worlds’ population and use 30% of the world’s resources, including creating 30% of the world’s waste.
Our girls have been born into a critical time on earth. Joanna Macy says that we are in the midst of “The Great Turning,” from an industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization. This outcome is my hope, but our future as humanity is uncertain. In order for our girls to be compassionate and active participants in this turning, Gaia, our living earth, must be more than a concept. Girls need time to be immersed in the natural world so they know in their bodies that they are part of this great and interconnected web. These girls are growing into the future women of our planet, and now, more than ever, Gaia needs women who are compelled to bring forth the voices of those who have been silenced.
This year at Gaia Girls, in addition to all of the ways that we benefit from our time on the land, we plan to give back by adding a Gaia Speaks project to each of our groups, where girls use their hands, voices, or pens to give back and help our living earth restore.