Home›December 2023 Interview with Valerie Dean, Keeper of Praise Song for the Earth + Middle East Peace
December 2023 Interview with Valerie Dean, Keeper of Praise Song for the Earth + Middle East Peace
In relation to Praise Song, the altar is the round garden I have grown on the metal tray that is dressed every month and is the centrepiece. I feel it holds the energy of all the prayers, love, expressions of gratitude, etc., and this is the gift of beauty we give every month. I always take a photo at the end of each praise song to send out to the group.
Here is a Praise Song that Valerie sent last December.
Part I: Natural Magic
Praise Song for Earth December 2022
Grey upon grey upon grey, days of curling mist and deep damp fog, the hill shrouded in cloud it wears like a winter bonnet but I’m not sure it’s keeping out the cold. Days that creep slowly out from the cloak of night, light slowly seeping, but so tentative, so unsure, and we live in the half-light until it edges away swallowed by the descending darkness. But sometimes if I venture out, I am in a someplace, sometime, somewhere, made new by this soft focused light, by the absence of an expansive view in a place that’s all about the view. Damply delicious days, raindrops on the black branches of the twisted hazel, like fairy lights glowing in the gloom, fungi and moss vibrantly alive, I swear I can hear that moss so vivid in its greenness singing out with joy. And as I listen to the gently falling rain singing its song of life and let it fall soft on my face, I am becoming part of this secret underworld of fern and moss, of lichen and fungus, of tangled root and twisted branch, walking on a carpet of leaves and acorns, breathing in air heavy with spores and scents of sweet decay. Squirrels are busy harvesting hazelnuts and acorns, the Jay on sentry duty sounds the alarm and I look up, and there across the grass is a huge oak its golden leaves a beacon of burnished light against the grey, and I am undone once more by beauty. Oh, what is there to do but love, then love some more and speak that love and be that love, thank you, thank you, thank you.
So the year mellows into winter, drops more deeply into the soft darkness of rest and replenishment, more deeply into the dreaming. And I feel my breath slowing as I breathe in the energy of winter, as I let myself slide into the bigger body, nestled warm in Her embrace. Thank you, Mother Earth for holding us, growing us, nurturing and nourishing us, sheltering us, loving us.
It is time once more to let Her know how much we love, how much we, care, how much we cherish. Let us find the gratitude in our hearts, sing Her praises, speak our love. However you wish, wherever you are, join me on Saturday 10th, I will be with the altar from 10.30 am
Any expressions of your love that you would like to offer please share them to the group. Words, poems, music, images, crafts, memories, movement, moments of joy, let love of Her be your inspiration.
Thank you for another year, another cycle through the seasons, thank you for the beauty of your offerings over the year, such richness, such joy.
Wishing everyone a wonderful festive season, a very merry Christmas, a real rest, and many moments of wonder.
May She know that She is loved May She know that She is loved May She know that She is loved
Valerie lives in a hamlet, Knightwick, halfway up a hill overlooking the River Teme Valley in Worcestershire, England. Val is a very good friend of Diane Barker and they live close to each other. (You can read Diane’s Earth-Love interviews of February 2023 and March 2023.)
Diane had been telling me about the first Mamos Puja she was involved with in 2011. At this time I had been training with the wonderful ceremonialist, Annie Spencer, for some years and decided to ask a few friends if they would like to join me in a small gathering/ceremony to support the Mamos Puja. I asked everyone to bring some expression of their love for Earth to share. It was a joyful and moving celebration and it was lovely to see how engaged were the children who came.
During my training with Annie, we would meet regularly throughout the year, particularly around the Celtic festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh. These were times to deepen our understanding of and relationship to Earth and Spirit, to the elements of Earth, Fire, Air, and Water, to the Holy. Making beauty, giving love, and gratitude through ceremony.
I remember one weekend in Cornwall with Annie when some of the participants brought children or grandchildren. I made a particular friendship with a boy who I think was eight years old. We would go off together looking for adventures and magic, finding feathers that I taught him to bind with prayers, looking for signs and messages, immersing ourselves in the landscape, having fun. One night, we all walked up a nearby hill to make ceremony under a full moon. It was magical, calling to the directions, speaking to Moon and Water as kin, feeling part of something ancient and real. As we walked down the hill afterwards, my young friend said, “I will never forget this night as long as I live.” It was wonderful to see a child falling into love and the mystery!
Towards the end of my time with Annie, storytelling found me. I woke one morning saying the word storytelling over and over, and as we often worked with dreams, I took notice. I had no real idea of what traditional oral storytelling meant, thought it was something akin to learning and reciting. I met a woman who had done a week-long storytelling course at Emerson College in Sussex, which sounded as though it might be what I was looking for, so I wrote them a 10-page cry from the heart. I have no idea why I didn’t just enquire about courses! Within a few days, they phoned to say, “ We’ve got an Open Day, we think you should come.” During it, one of the course tutors came up to me “ asking, “Is there any way you can turn your life upside down for three months?” I did, and so began that thread—another way of working with the rhythm of words and the beauty of language. I also discovered two small storytelling groups locally, and at one of them met my partner, David.
Praise Song for Earth. March 2022
Messengers of Spring
The woods are vibrating to the sound of woodpeckers drumming their Spring song. The buzzards do their sky dance in pairs now. I wake to birdsong, daring to believe Spring is near. And oh, the joy of seeing the first celandines. I don’t know why I like them so much but learnt their name means, “messengers of spring” and for the Victorians, they signified joys to come. I have been watching the first oak leaves unfurl, so tender, so vulnerable, so full of the promise of new life. A few days ago I passed a bank of primrose and dog violet, “Welcome, maids of honour. You do bring in Spring, and wait upon her.” So much to be grateful for.
A dilemma, do I mention this latest war, this place where we humans find ourselves? Praise Song is a time for praise and prayer and celebration. Yet I must, we humans are Her children too.
For all the children of Earth
Though my heart breaks I will breathe for you when you cannot I will love when through fear or pain or grief you cannot I will see for you the first small messengers of Spring, I will watch as trees unfurl tender new leaves, as buds swell and blossom breaks I will turn my face to the sun to receive its warmth I will send my prayers for peace out on the winds and waters and ask that they be taken to where they are most needed I will listen to the songs the river sings and stories the wind brings I will offer what practical help I am able I will keep the threads of love alive, vibrant, singing out their song I will hold a vision of a dawn when children wake to birdsong not bombs, when the night sky is lit by moon and stars not missiles. This I will do for all Earth’s children
So, join me please in finding those messengers of Spring, the small beauties, the hope to be found in new growth, new life, on Saturday 19th, wherever you are however you wish. I will be with the altar from 10.30. Please forward anything you wish to share to the group.
Let us come to praise Her with hearts full of love and gratitude, let us weave the threads of remembering, let us remember we do this for all Earth’s children. Bring praise, bring prayer, bring love in whatever way you are moved to do, words, poem, image, experience, song, music, silence, movement.
May She know that She is loved May She know that She is loved May She know that She is loved
If you would like to take part in these monthly ceremonies or wish to contact Valerie, her email is: email@example.com
Spell of Rain
Tonight, I listen to the rain rushing through the trees, slooping down the windows, breathing in delight. This is enough, more than enough.
I don’t want to hear the sounds of another distant war brought to my eyeballs. There is time enough to mourn the ignorance and terror of men.
This night, let candlelight and Spirit be my companions while music gushes and roars fortissimo to pianissimo, and back to mezzo, followed by a silence.
As the merciful rain rages through the land, may it wash away the suffering of all.
As this storm unites Earth and sky, may it heal our rifts.
As this deluge quenches the thirst of all creatures and beings, may our thirst for peace be eased.
Middle East Peace
I’ve been particularly touched by a silent vigil in my local town held every Wednesday evening. It was organized by two residents, Steve Einstein and Tui Wilschinsky, and calls for “No songs, no spoken prayers, no signs, no debating. We will stand (or bring a chair if you need to sit), from 6:00 until 6:30 pm this Wednesday, and every Wednesday, mourning all the lives lost, in the hope of more peaceful days to come.”
On the first one I attended, after 15 minutes of silence, we gathered outside a local restaurant, owned and run by a Palestinian family who have lost relatives in Gaza. They knew we were coming and welcomed and thanked us, busy as they were serving evening meals.
Steve knew Vivian Silver, who was killed on October 7th during the Hamas attack. Vivian co-founded “Women Wage Peace,” now the largest peace movement in Israel, whose goal is to unite Arab and Jewish women, Israeli and Palestinian women, in any effort possible to build bridges of understanding and to work towards peace and coexistence. She also founded AJEEC Nisped, an organization based in Beer Sheva dedicated to promoting the socio-economic development of the Negev Bedouin community and partnership between Arabs and Jews across Israel. Both organizations are part of ALLMEP, the Alliance for Middle East Peace. Please explore their site to gain a sense of the incredible work they’re doing! Last month, I mentioned Huda Abuarquob, ALLMEP’s director, a remarkable Palestinian. She gave an Awakin Call interview two years ago that speaks to today’s situation. You’ll find it at this link: https://www.awakin.org/v2/calls/589/huda-abuarquob/recording?check=1
Perhaps, you’ve heard of “Standing Together”? Sally Abed, a Palestinian Israeli, and Alon-Lee Green, a Jewish Israeli, founded the movement eight years ago. They came to the States for a week recently to share their work of Arabs and Jews Choosing a Shared Future. In this video, they explain how this movement is enacting the only paradigm that works for all people in their land and how we can support their work. Very inspiring! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZcnjzi3QeA&t=4703s
To My Israeli and Palestinian Cousins
Love seems inadequate. Even Love with a capital L seems too small and frail to break centuries of revenge.
Yet even more woefully flawed; flak jackets, tanks, rifles, rocks missiles after missiles weeping after wailing.
Here at the junction of three continents Eurasian Hoopoe birds, with their cinnamon crowns, rest peacefully on ancient Jerusalem stone, to return year after year.
Like the Bedouins and unlike conquering civilizations that stayed for centuries, their attempts to annihilate the cousins as unsuccessful as turning lead to gold.
Now both peoples shout, Never Again! Do they hear the cost of that mantra? Never peace again? Love is wholly and holy, inadequate.
But, my dear cousins Love is all we have.
– Sally Churgel
Krista Tippett interviews Christiana Figueres in her podcast, On Being, titled “Ecological Hope and Spiritual Evolution.” Christiana was the driving force behind the bringing together of 150 countries who signed the 2015 Paris Agreement. She also underwent a personal transformation during that period with the help of Thich Nhat Hahn practitioners. For a healthy dose of “muscular hope” and optimism, one couldn’t do better. Here’s the link, followed by an extract from the interview transcript: https://onbeing.org/programs/christiana-figueres-ecological-hope-and-spiritual-evolution/#transcript
…That intentional cultivating of a mind of love and joy is so critical to our personal resilience, to our personal regeneration, to our personal agency, to our capacity to engage. It’s just a sine qua non. Without it, there is no capacity to engage in a positive manner, in a constructive manner, in a transformational manner with anything outside ourselves. It just isn’t.
And so the more young and not-so-young people realize that yes, we are at a very deeply painful moment in the history of this planet and of human evolution, and that we can either succumb to that, or we can use that, as you say, as fuel. We can use that to intentionally decide that we’re going to stand up. Using the depth of the pain to root us so that we’re not swayed by the wind. Use it to root us in our determination to do everything for a better world, not just for us, but for generations to come, Krista.
And that’s the piece that I don’t think that we have very clear yet. Whatever we’re doing over the next seven years, and this is no Latin American exaggeration, whatever we do over the next seven years is really going to determine the quality of life on this planet for generations to come. Hence the alarm clock.
I’m delighted to offer you three of my books as audiobooks, each one ending with some music. The books, Spangling Darkness, Strings of Shining Silence, and At This Table, are for your listening pleasure and any friends you may wish to gift. Too busy? Allow yourself to enter a different space.
You’ll find them all on my site: raphaelblock.com
With love and best wishes, Raphael
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