“Is sustainable culture even possible without meaningful ceremony? In order for a culture to sustain, it has to be renewable and there has to be a mechanism for that renewing. There needs to be something that lifts people out of the everyday, which enables them to re-vision themselves and their myths. As the Balinese say, ceremonial is the pause for integration. Ceremonial lets us see ourselves as connected to something larger.”Facilitating ritual and sacred ceremony is the work where I am most “at home” more than any other. I find it interesting that after struggling for so many years trying to identify and give form to the kind of service I offer, that it should emerge so naturally right under my nose, often when I was looking elsewhere. The work I do and have been doing for many years now, can be best described as the work of a priestess. I have followed the quiet voice of the sacred never quite knowing where it would lead, yet it has continued to bring me back to the place of being a conduit for spirit, a holder of sacred space.
My teachers have been many, and varied. I first became interested intellectually in ritual and ceremony when I was finishing my BA degree in Religion and Adult Education through Antioch University Seattle in the early 80’s. Jim Riley was a wonderful guide for my independent study at this time. Later I expanded my understanding through years of exposure to many wonderful writers, thinkers and teachers who I was privileged to work with and learn from while on staff at the Chinook Learning Center. I credit Elizabeth Cogburn with giving me the first experience that ignited the flame of passion that I carry for ritual and ceremony and helped me to know it as “home ground”. I also honor Ross Chapin, Deborah Koff-Chapin, and Beno Kennedy who had been a part of Elizabeth’s New Song Ceremonial for many years, and later shared their knowledge and experience as we co-facilitated rituals in Chinook’s Core Studies Program.
One of the reasons I attended Matt Fox’s Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality in Oakland, CA in 1986 was so that I could study earth-based spiritual traditions and ritual with Starhawk, practitioner of the ancient religion of the great Goddess, Luisah Teish, priestess of Oshun in the Yoruba Lucumi (African) tradition, and Buck Ghost Horse from the Lakota Native tradition. I later continued my Lakota Native studies with two wonderful women teachers, Patricia Spradling and Macy Brader from the Wy’ East Healing Center in Sandy Oregon, in 1988-89. Their sharing of Women’s wisdom was invaluable to me in helping me to heal from my divorce, which came in the year following my Master’s program.
The creation and facilitation of our women’s spirituality program, Gaia Spirit Rising: Healing Ourselves, Healing the Earth with partner Renie Hope was also an invaluable training ground in ritual and sacred ceremony for eight years. Each nine-month program included three weekend-long rituals, which wove together the intellectual and creative components of the curriculum into a complete tapestry of experiential learning.
Currently I express my love of this work through facilitating wedding ceremonies and memorial services. In 1998, at the request of a friend, I became ordained through the International Assembly of Spiritual Healers and Earth Stewards Congregations, so that I could marry her and her fiancé. Since then, I have developed a small business facilitating weddings, and find this to be one of my greatest joys. Also, as friends have passed over, I have been called upon to create and hold the sacred container in which we celebrate their lives and grieve their loss. In addition to holding the temenos, I bring song and chant, which has always been an easy and natural talent. I am grateful to be able to offer these services which also nourish my soul.
Contact Marilyn to find out more about how to bring her to deliver your own sacred ceremony.