Equinox

This spring brought an exceptional equinox for us.

Our Druidic Circle decided to make a pilgrimage. We had two goals in mind, and found a third during the journey: a perfect triad.

We set out before dawn on Friday, March 18, to pick up various members of the group in Fort Collins, Timnath, and Boulder. Our goal was Eads, Colorado and the nearby Sand Creek Massacre Historical Area.

The Sand Creek Massacre of November 29, 1864, was one of the major turning-points in the relations between the Euro-Americans expanding westward and the native tribes who already lived here. The history is well-known and unpleasant. We went because one of our group felt a powerful tug to do a rite of peacemaking with the spirits and the land, after a vision that person had experienced years before at the site of another massacre near Norman, Oklahoma.

When Marta first contacted the US Forest Service (which manages the site), they told her that the Sand Creek site was closed for the winter, but as Marta explained what we intended to do, the woman became more and more interested. She arranged to have one of their most knowledgeable rangers, Craig, open the site for us.

Craig met us at the site at 2:00 pm, as we’d arranged, and told us a great deal about the massacre — the players, the events, the Congressional investigation, the deterioration of relations between the US government and the Native Americans. Then he sent us on our way. He told us that the Native tribal leaders have done a lot to repatriate the remains found on the site, and that they hold annual ceremonies of remembrance and peace, which made us feel a lot better, knowing we were in good company — in spirit if not in the moment.

Anne, our geomancer, found a place with a strong upwelling of natural forces, and we set up there. Our rite was simple. We started by stepping away from the center to spend time meditating with the land, then returned to open our ceremony. We kept to our own rites, using our Celtic forms and European musical styles. We did share maize and tobacco with the ancestors, but also shared mead and raised bread. During the rite, within our sacred space, we spoke among ourselves of some of what we’d received during our individual meditations. Time passed magically as we sat in a place of timelessness under the afternoon sunlight as the wind hissed in the grasses about us. At last, the ranger had to call us back to the present from the top of the bluff behind us, and we quickly wrapped up and returned to Eads for the night.

On Saturday, we drove south. Our goal was Picture Canyon near Springfield, but we discovered the Ameche Japanese Interment Camp just outside Granada, CO, which was directly on our route. We stopped there and wandered the remains of the camp, then held a short, spontaneous memorial rite in the cemetery. At its peak, the site held over 7300 Japanese-Americans, most of them relocated from the west coast, making Granada the third-largest city in Colorado.

Iannin felt inspired to lead something a little different at the end of the rite. We normally hold hands and say:

Here in peace and love we stand,
Heart to heart, and hand in hand.
Come, O Spirit, all unite,
Of earth and sky, by day and night.

After we spoke this, we released hands, took a step backward, then grasped the hand of the spirit of one of the Japanese ancestors who had lived or died in this camp and repeated our verse. We took another step backward, with a Japanese spirit to one side, and a Native American spirit to the other, all joined in one circle of unity.

Afterward, we returned to the van and headed for Springfield, Picture Canyon, and Crack Cave, our other original destination.

Crack Cave is a narrow crack in the sandstone cliff within Picture Canyon, and at sunrise of every spring and fall equinox, the sunlight enters the cave and precisely illuminates certain ridges which bear vertical marks in the stone that some claim are a vowel-less form of Irish Ogham, the writing of the Celts of the British Isles of two millennia ago. The Native American tribes also used vertical marks as counters, so scholars debate the matter of who made the marks. The debate seems to center primarily around the orthodox dogma that no Europeans arrived in the Americas prior to Columbus, an orthodoxy that is now in shambles and crumbles a bit more with each new archaeological discovery. The marks could certainly have been made by Celtic/Druid explorers or traders who traveled up the Mississippi River and then the Arkansas River. Or the marks could have been made by Native Americans. Whoever made the marks, it seems clear they intended to mark the equinoctial sunrise.

The cave was closed this spring because of the white-nose fungus that is killing so many bats, so we could not join the usual tour to watch the sunrise from inside the cave. But we were able to celebrate our equinox rite outside the cave, and it was magical. This year, equinox coincided with a “super moon,” a full moon at perigee (the point of closest approach to the earth), making the moon unusually full, bright, and directly opposite the sun as seen from the earth.

We rose at 5:00 am to give us the hour and a half we needed to drive to Picture Canyon and hike to the cave. The full moon slowly sank in the west as we drove, and the entire canyon was shrouded in fog when we arrived. We joined up with Anne’s business partner, Karen, and her three boys, and the nine of us reached the cave well before sunrise. I’d brought my violin; Iannin had his guitar and Jim his drum, and we made quiet music as the sun rose. We were moved to sing many of the parts we normally speak, as the dawn light slowly burned off the morning mists and surrounded us with a pearly golden glow.

The remainder of our road trip was a lazy course through the high plains, stopping at various pictograph canyons along the way, until we reached I-25 and eventually, home.