Turning the Wheel ~ Photographic Reflections on a Year of Pandemic Ritual

by | Sep 15, 2021 | 0 comments

Turning the Wheel ~ Photographic Reflections on a Year of Pandemic Ritual

by | Sep 15, 2021 | 0 comments

Holy Days at Heartward Sanctuary

We are dancers in an ancient, cyclical, life-generating choreography of earth and sun. Our bodies are an expression of the earth dancing her praise for her beloved.

For many of us, the past eighteen months have been full of profound transformation. Familiar, stabilizing and life-giving routines were stripped away as we sheltered in place, endured loneliness and faced our deepest fears. Many of us spent months looking directly towards death; surrendering to a possible economic collapse; scrambling to recreate safer, sustainable structures; and facing the history of racism and current injustices in our nation (and world.)

During this confusing, lonely and traumatizing time, our local Flowjo-based dance community adapted its practice to meet an evolving set of needs. Our multi-generational community had the opportunity and challenge to adapt our collective forms to maintain connection and sanity in uncertain times. Letting go of our decade-long ritual of gathering indoors for twice weekly Ecstatic “Dance Church,” we began gathering instead at Heartward Sanctuary for open-air services and seasonal observances of the Quarter/Cross-Quarter Days. These traditional Old World holy days–the Solstices, Equinoxes and the midpoints between them–honor the earth’s revolution around the sun, stage by stage. They celebrate the cyclical nature of time, nature and life itself.

While conceptually simple, the act of attuning to cyclical time goes against the grain of the over-culture, with its exaltation of youth, insistence on growth at all costs, and avoidance of death. In place of relentless “progress,” the earth Holy Days approach embraces recurrence. Each year sees us treading and retreading through the same cycle of seasons while also evolving, emphasizing a spiraling path of growth. Hopefully, each time through we deepen a little more, learning to become resonant with each phase of the glorious dance between earth and sun while also mapping our own lives in the process.

This pandemic year, even with all of its costs, offered us an opportunity to continue to build and deepen community connections and adapt how we dance, collaborate and create together. We honored not only the seasonal cycles, but let these points on the wheel highlight our own human circumstances and passages. Each turn of the wheel bringing its own ritual need and elemental medicine.

On June 28, 2020 we gathered for our first outdoor dance. By August 1, we had committed to tending the wheel of the year via all eight quarter/cross-quarter days here at Heartward Sanctuary. With Summer Solstice 2021, we completed the cycle for the first time. As our distant ancestors once did, we have celebrated the earth’s cycle of holy days through a full revolution on this land–through prayer, song, dance, play and elemental ritual attuned to the earth’s rhythms. In doing so, we’ve also deepened into relationship with this place and the spirits of the land who are generously hosting us.

Thank you to our Sustainers, musicians, guest facilitators, volunteers, dancers, food organizers, the spirits of the land, the ancestors and all the participants who have co-created these meaningful experiences in such a challenging time.

We welcome kind and kindred folks of all faiths, ages, nationalities, races, genders, sexual orientations, ability and military and vaccination statuses.

Enjoy just a few photos of our first year of earth cycle based ritual.

August 2020, Lammas

adapting ~ circling in a pandemic

Fall Equinox

consecrating ritual center at the crossroads


a funeral for the world that was

Winter Solstice Ceremonies

Vigil in the Virtual Temple

and prayers in the open-air


a gentle awakening

Ceremony in the Virtual Temple

Vernal Equinox

releasing winter


dancing fertility, a celebration

Summer Solstice / Liberation Day

liberation & reconnection

May the playfulness of summertime be balanced with maturity and responsibility to catalyze creative collaborative systems in service of collective liberation for all.

We extend a heartfelt thanks to this inspired crew of ritual collaborators ~

Julia Hartsell & Toni Craige

Jonathan Edwards

Daniel Chambo

Julia Hartsell, Amrita Grace, Jane Stolper

Shane Hawkins & JJ Hurst

Kelly Stack & Julia Hartsell

Gary Phillips

Shane, JJ & Jonathan


Beltane Dancers: Toni Craige, Julia Hartsell, Shane Hawkins, JJ Hurst, Scott Campbell, Gino Lerebours, Jane Stolper, Alexis Dumain, Susan Ripley, Susan Fowler

Photographers ~ Julia Hartsell, Daniel Chambo, Scott Crews, Jonathan Edwards, Natalie Shaw, Apollo Grace, Tara House and aerial shots by Jeremy Lewis


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