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The Author's Corner

 


Jesse Wolf Hardin

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 Gaia Eros

 

Kindred Spirits

 

 

Gaia Eros:
TWPT Talks to Jesse Wolf Hardin

©2002-2004TWPT


TWPT:  For many of us there came a time in our lives when something became very obvious, our current path was just not the right one for us. When was it apparent that Paganism was the right path for you and how did you begin that journey?

JWH:  I know what you mean- a pivotal moment when someone’s constructs and props fall out from under them, an opaque perceptual film pulled from their eyes so that the entire world seems fresh and new.  Most folks who study with me are at that point in their lives, on the precarious edge, far from comforting illusion and familiar supports, buffeted by winds of terror and bliss.  Usually though, they’re rediscovering more than remaking themselves as Pagans- reawakening to their glad inner heathen spirits, recalling when the childhood years before trauma and boredom robbed them of their enchantment, when they communed with plants and animals and cavorted through backyard “forests” like excitable nymphs and apprenticing Pans.

For some of us, there was never a time when we fully forgot the feel of magical connectedness and infinite mystery.  We were set apart from our placated classmates not just because we felt deeper the anguish and ecstasy, but because we had a harder time bearing the contradictions and compromises and lies.  Like some of my closest friends, I related more to the the trees I climbed and took refuge in than I did to the uninspired people walking unseeing beneath their branches.  Some were Pagans years or decades before knowing what the word meant, refusing to numb out or dumb down, holding fast to Nature, strengthening intent, ritualizing connection and gratitude.  

TWPT:  Did you go out looking for others with this same Pagan viewpoint of the world or did you keep to yourself during this formative time on your journey?

JWH:  Much of my life the only groups I felt a part of were historic or mythical, assemblages of storybook heroes and elves? and the extended family of actual Seers and Sorcerers, an ancient lineage and alliance of cloud riders and edge dwellers.  As a teen runaway I sought out and learned from wayward monks as well as Peyote priests, outlaw Zen bikers and Curanderas, eccentric healers and indigenous shamans.... but they too were solitaires in their own right.  I went years without ever even hearing about any organized festivals, circles or groups, making ritual alone or in small groups at antiwar rallies or on mystical mesa tops.  Always the natural world was my companion, its plants and animals my examples and teachers.  The parallel rise of NeoPaganism and deep ecology during the 1980s meant that my life efforts had a real-time constituency at last, that I was part of not only a timeless magical quest but also a community of questers and seekers and miracle makers!  I’d finally found a tribe where I could feel at home, instead of largely alone.

TWPT:  Were you involved in environmental activism from the very beginning or did that come gradually as you began to define what was required of you along this path?

JWH:  I’ve always loved and learned from the inspirited natural world, and one tends to want to nourish that which they learn from, to protect at all cost to ourselves that which we truly and deeply love.  And it’s even more than that.  When you feel that you are an inseparable extension of an inspirited Earth, you become as the last stands of Redwoods, the embattled grizzly, the poisoned river, acting in self defense!

Also, I’ve never considered myself an “environmentalist.”  Those calling themselves environmentalists are all too often urban intellectuals and bureaucrats who alienate rural communities and are afraid to camp outdoors.  Their concerns are often for a “cleaner” or “safer” environment for human beings to live and work in, which is a fine goal.  But I’m a spiritual ecologist devoted to the overall health of the biological, geological and metaphysical fabric, and every creature, mountain or mychorrizal fungi that make up its evolving weft and weave.  Since I’m given to do the work of a wizard, a “safer” world is hardly my concern.  Rather, I promote risk for the sake of great accomplishment and noble deed, the journey of the hero or hera who goes on a dangerous or seemingly impossible quest not for herself, or even for the human species alone, but for the greater whole, the larger cause.  I’m also a conservationist, motivated to restore what’s been damaged and defend what’s threatened as something not only precious but sacred.  Whatever one’s religion or practice, surely respect for the integrity of creation was at one time considered fundamental... and I know that without that sentient engagement and conscious respect, even the most advanced society is on the road to self destruction.

To answer another part of your question, what’s required of me on my path continues to be revealed, moment by moment, day after day.  I see telling omens so often that I’m hesitant to close my eyes at night.  I am reminded by the consequences of any task failed.... and encouraged by the amazing results of intention, will and magic that’s Spirit directed, intensely focused and heartfully applied.  

TWPT:  Tell me about what your vision was when you first started out on this path and how that vision has evolved over the years to what it is now. Did you have glimpses of where this journey would take you even from the start?

JWH:  I never imagined that I would end up tending a sacred place of power in the wild Gila Mountains of New Mexico... or that I’d be entrusted with the passing down of a magical Earthen teaching not unlike the Earth-centered beliefs of the ancients and the practices of the adepts.  But I was forever drawn to Nature in her every form, and promised to a path of Spirit and heart wherever it might take me.  Any plans I ever made, no matter how clever or well intentioned, had to stand the test of Nature’s will and process.  My ideas, hopes and habits were broken again and again as I learned to align my will and rhythm with that of the purposeful universe... but always I was led further on my path, and deeper into intentional being and doing.  Rather than selecting a direction, I’ve followed the sound of my calling.  And every truth is measured against the truth and teaching of Earth and Spirit.

It’s made it impossible for me to simply adopt any existing tradition, and led me instead to go to the original source of inspiration for the most balanced religious and magical practices, to Spirit itself as embodied in and expressed most immediately through the informative and nurturing Earth, Gaia.  Christians should keep in mind that Jesus went to the wilderness for understanding and clarity of purpose.  Buddha obtained enlightenment from as much as beneath a Bodhi tree, and the Druids drew power from their sacred oaken groves.  By listening to Spirit we find we are given wholly new revelations resonant with existing traditions, but true to our often mixed blood heritage, to the regions where we reside and their resident power, and to one’s contemporary time.  This New Nature Spirituality can be a source of deepening for Benedictines as much as Wiccans, to anyone willing to hear the call for awareness, consciousness, sentience, empathy, responsibility, engagement, gifting, commitment and follow through that one hears in so many ways from the lips of the Earth.

My original vision was unwavering service to truth in whatever form it was given to me, and to develop and utilize my available powers for the good of more than myself.  That much has never changed, but now I have accepted the additional responsibility and assignment to share what I have learned, and share the inspirited place that has been my teacher, guide, fuel and reward.  

TWPT:  When was it that a desire to write surfaced in your life and did you immediately think about communicating your ideas on Paganism and related subjects to the community at large?

JWH:  My first published writings were on the political and philosophical implications of imprisonment, of all things, printed in a publication on nonviolence called “Win.” The manuscript was smuggled out of a juvenile detention center by a friendly English teacher, concerned that I have some creative outlet besides playing ping pong and planning escapes!  In 1978 I traded paintings I’d done for a  Harley motorcycle, then traded the Harley to cover the cost of bringing out my first book of poetry.  I first expressed the values of spiritual ecology and Earthen spirituality in a series of articles for so-called environmental publications in the 80’s, then in Pagan and New Age periodicals starting in the early 90’s.  

TWPT:  In your bio I saw the terms Earthen Spirituality and primal mindfulness, tell me what those terms mean to you?

JWH:  Earthen Spirituality is any spiritual perspective, experience or practice grounded in, reflective of, inspired by, informed and empowered by the inspirited Earth.  This includes Neolithic Bear cults, contemporary and archaic  Goddess worshippers, tribal shamanism, the Red Road of Native America, Australian Aboriginal beliefs, Druidry, Wicca, Asatru, Pantheism, Paganism and NeoPaganism in general.... and to some extent even Taoism, Buddhism, Gnostic Christianity, Unitarianism and mystical Judaism.  In Earthen Spirituality one recognizes the interconnectedness of all things, and that all things have spirit, integrity and worth.  It sees Nature as our original matrix, the context from which we arose, the most intimate manifestation of Spirit, the clearest teacher, source of nourishment and shelter, and our refuge.  The matter that makes up our bodies endlessly returns to and arises from its soil.  “New Nature Spirituality” is what I call Earth-instructed spiritual and magical practice in all its many evolving forms, appropriate for Seekers of mixed ancestry in these particular times.  It’s an umbrella of beliefs, as well as a set of practices that can add understanding, depth and power to any spiritual or magical approach.

Primal mind is our original conscious state, body knowledge, intuition and instinct, tapping the awareness of the awakened universe.  It is who we are as a part of everything, prior to imagined separation, illusion, habit, distraction and self deceit.  It’s the alertness of wild animals on the prowl,  the honest suffering and extreme bliss of mortal, sentient life,  the wonder and awe of little children, and the insight of the wizard, the instinctual sensuality and protectiveness of an indigenous mother.  And it’s our native state, too? ours to reclaim.  

TWPT:  For those who call themselves Pagan is there some inherent responsibility attached to calling yourself that in regards to how you approach and interact with nature and the environment?

JWH:  What more appropriate group of people could there be to nurture, restore, resacrament, protect and praise the natural world, Gaia, than those of us who circle in her meadows, praise her wisdom, invoke her resident spirits, revere her, or revel in her bounty?  All of Nature and Spirit are engaged in reciprocal relationships, opening to and accepting the gifts that sustain and inform them.... and each being or element returning the favor in its own characteristic way.  Only the human consciousness, increasingly residing in its objectifying mind, can opt out of this eternal energetic gifting cycle?  “taking” from the Earth without giving thanks, let alone giving something back.  And in the truest sense of the word, we have a responsibility to tend her bleeding wounds, guard her endangered groves and springs, ensure the survival our animal kin and plant teachers.

Let us remember, we’re not talking about obligation here.  To be obligated is to feel forced into a certain act, and the tool used to force us is often shame.  Responsibility is the ability to respond: responding to meet a need, express a quality, remedy a problem or confront a threat.  We choose to respond, not out of guilt, but because we care!  

TWPT:  You were an active writer for Green Egg Magazine (as well as many others) until it closed it's doors a few years back, what was it that you were hoping to communicate to the readers of Green Egg (and others) via your articles and how successful do you think that they were/are?

JWH:  Green Egg was the preeminent Pagan magazine of its time, and now I write columns for Circle Nature Spirituality Quarterly, Elements and Magical Blend.  My intention is to inspire, inform, instigate and encourage.... always from the inclusive Earthen, Gaian perspective.  I write out of love and alarm, the need to disrupt and awaken as well as the desire to affirm and to heal.  And because the mountains and rivers burn within me, and this is one way to let a little of them out!  I write for those on the edge of a more intense experiencing of their own existence, as well as those who have spent decades or even multiple lifelines fashioning their skills and gifts.  I can’t help but write words like magic grains that feed the joy of supposed madfolk, that inspire activists and affirm the lovers and tenders of the land, that offer solace to the most sensitive as they face honest reflection in writing’s bottomless wilderness spring.  How effective I am at this I can never know.  I’d do this work if I thought no one read it or used it, because its my calling to do so, and the right thing to do.  But I’m also very grateful to those readers who have taken the time over the years to express the ways in which a book or article have “changed my life for good,” or even “gave me back my reasons to live.” I keep their correspondence on file, and reread them on those rare occasions when I’m not too busy to feel the immensity of this mission and charge.

I’ll tell you, many times I’ve questioned how much time I spend on this solar powered laptop instead of playing in the river or dialoging with the spirits in the canyon’s yonic caves when I can never be sure who will read what comes of it, or to what degree the readers will feel inspired, motivated, abetted or revived.  And each time I get the same answer: that I write what comes through, because I have to!  

TWPT:  When was it that you decided that you wanted to write books as well as articles?  What can you accomplish in books that can't be done through your writings in articles?

JWH:  From the time I was a little boy reading Faulkner and Verne I thoroughly hungered to write something myself, true stories that evoked a real world, a world so magical as to be almost unbelievable except in its most powerful telling... or fullest living.  I started hand writing my feelings and hopes on scraps of art paper, on cafe napkins, and in the margins of my homework assignments.  I imagined them opening minds like a burglar opens safes, or an angel opens hearts.  I pictured them like Jack’s magic beans, seeds that once planted and growing would break through the concrete, reawakening in us all the crucial sense of wonder.  I loved not only the content of books, but their weighty presence, the feel of their cloth and leather bindings, the smell of their pages.  Magazines make a story, a message, topical and timely.  The insights are told in the metaphors of the moment, and examples are often distilled from the month’s news.  Unfortunately, few periodicals are saved and referenced by their readers, even those that feature content relevant to the ages.  Books have an advantage in that they’re more likely to end up in used book stores, to be shared with friends or handed down to heirs.  Like magic boxes full of wisdom and inspiration, they sit on dusty shop shelves or in cardboard boxes in closets, patiently waiting to enchant the next person led to open the lid on their secrets and gifts.  

TWPT:  Tell me about some of your first books that you wrote and whether or not they accomplished what you had set out to achieve when you first started writing them.

JWH:  Full Circle combined poetry, art and essay in a “Song Of Earthen Spirituality,” and was the first book to introduce New Nature Spirituality and contemporary Gaian theosophy to the Pagan and environmental communities. Kindred Spirits (Swan•Raven) continued the theme, with half its pieces focused on plant and animal totems/teachers/guides, their real life example as well as mythic significance... and the other half offering tools for our human species to engage self, Earth and Spirit in ever deeper ways.  Awaiting support from the right publishers are the original Gaian runic system I call The Gifting Bones, a magical novel The Kokopelli Seed, and the manual of reinhabitation Coming Home.  Each came out as envisioned, or more accurately, the way they were given to me.  Each is a piece of the whole, of a primal and natural way of looking at and aiding the world we’re integral to.  While there are few other titles anything like what I’ve written, the way of seeing and being is nothing new.  Its ancient, in fact, common to all once-magical peoples, and as elemental as the Earth.  I’m pleased with what’s been given and said.  The prayer is that they’re read.  

TWPT:  A lot of people have different ideas as to the effectiveness of a book as a teacher so I wanted to ask you how you felt about the concept. What are some of the advantages and the disadvantages of picking up a book and using it as a primary source to learn about a the path that you have chosen for your life?

JWH:  The only valid “primary source” is the inspirited universe in total, speaking through the natural, inspirited world we’re both immersed in and extensions of... and speaking through our own natural, flawless hearts.  All books are secondary sources.  At best what we write is a true and resonant extension of what Spirit is trying to tell us, filtered through our ponderous intellectuality, and colored by our individual experiences.  At worst they’re a distraction and misrepresentation, but even then they stir us by stimulating thought and consideration, by inspiring us to challenge what they say and stand up for what our hearts know.  Books often go far beyond entertainment by offering fresh perspectives and subtle messages, overt models and outright examples, sample ceremonies and the lyrics to songs, encouragement to sing and insight into the essence of every thing.  They can draw attention to our own truths, and to the Earth’s,  to the immensity of life and the power of beauty, to the opening of self that is a gift of the greatest sadness, and the titillation of both imagination and hunger.  They can stir and propel, enlighten and affirm.  In the end, it’s up to us to make sure what we read leads us to a deeper living of our own lives, and to the fulfillment of purpose. 

Books on sailing should lead us siren-like to the beckoning salty seas and the manifesting of our windward dreams.  It would be sad if a publication about sex served as a substitute for the actual romance, the flirting and risking, the touch and sweat of bodies and souls coming together... when it could be an urging, a prompting that results in the reader doing what it takes to find love and satisfy desire.  Even a book of fantasy and dragons can inspire us to ride our long hidden reptilian passions, to bravely battle the scaled demons of sloth and self doubt, to heroically resist the destructive empire of today with every magical tool at our disposal.  Books are most useful when they point us not in the direction of endless contemplation, but outside, out-of-mind, to the real world where ever more realized people do real work and real magic for the good of this ever so real and feeling universe.  Instigation and evocation, message and mission, lyricism and art.... in a fearless frothing brew.  

TWPT:  Who were the authors that you found to be helpful along your own path and are there any books that you still perceive as being "must reads" for those setting off on a path similar to yours?

JWH:  I know books can change lives, because they changed mine.  I recommend reading all the venerated spiritual and magical texts, historic and contemporary, plus everything written on social justice and environmental ethics, indigenous world view and how to grow a garden or start a fire with sticks.  I suggest the hard to find collections of poetry as well as underground novels, for the broadest range of information and ideas, priorities and beliefs.  Crucial reads for me growing up were works by the bohemian Buddhist and sensualist Alan Watts, H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley, Theodore Roszak’s The Making Of A Counter Culture, Alan Ginsberg’s sexy seditious poetry, and the Tales Of Don Juan series by Carlos Casteneda.  In my field specifically, Joseph Campbell’s conversations with Bill Moyers The Power Of Myth are a must, as are the Deep Ecology series of recorded interviews conducted by Michael and Justine Toms for the revolutionary New Dimensions Radio program.  I’d also have to strongly suggest David Abram’s The Spell of The Sensuous (Pantheon), Ralph Metzner’s The Well of Remembrance (Shambhala) and Green Psychology, Bill Devall’s Simple In Means, Rich in Ends (Gibbs Smith), Bill Devall & George Sessions’ Deep Ecology (Gibbs Smith), Starhawk’s Truth or Dare and Webs of Power (HarperFrisco), Terry Tempest Williams’ An Unspoken Hunger and Coyote’s Canyon, Derek Jensen’s A Language Older Than Words, anything by Gary Snyder including The Practice of Wild, Jamake Highwater’s Primal Mind, Paul Sheperd’s The Others and Thinking Animals, Susan Griffin's The Roaring Within, Thomas Berry’s The Dream of The Earth and The Great Work, Joan Halifax’s The Wounded Healer, Jerry Mander’s In The Absence of The Sacred, Jim Nollman’s Spiritual Ecology, Chellis Glendinning’s Hello, I’m Chellis- & I’m In Recovery From  Western Civilization.  It would be a poorer world without the incisive humor of crusty nature loving Ed Abbey, or the wisdom of Thich Nhat Hahn.  I’m proud to have contributed to The Soul Unearthed, edited by Cass Adams, and Oberon Zell-Ravenhearts encyclopedic book for youth called the Grimoire For The Apprentice Wizard (New Page), and to have inspired John’s Seeds “Howl” chapter in Dharma Gaia (Shambhala).  

TWPT:  Your latest book is Gaia Eros: Reconnecting to the Magic and Spirit of Nature, judging by the use of the term "reconnecting" I would assume that your premise is that some of your readers will find themselves disconnected from magic and the spirit of nature, how did that happen? Was it sudden or did people drift away over many years?

JWH:  I actually would have preferred the word “connecting” instead of “reconnecting” in the subtitle, since it carries no assumptions.  And even that would be slightly misleading since we are inseparably connected to both the natural world, the energies of Spirit and the forces of magic.  The subtitle does, however, serve to suggest the necessity or our deliberate movement in the direction of more conscious  bodily, emotional, spiritual, energetic connection to both the inspirited natural world and our own authentic magical natures.  All personal , psychological, social and environmental distress can be directly traced to the profound insecurity that arise from our learned/imagined separation from our real self and needs, from each other, from our culture and time, and from the Earth we’re a part of.  This condition is made much worse by our existing in a completely man-made environment with no mirrors of our actions but constructs of our own making, no honest measure or natural test.  But our distancing from the inspirited Earth goes back to the evolution of our linear capacity.

The very capacities that made language and art and song possible, as well as genocide and ecocide- the very capacities that define us as “human”- have made it easier for us to stop listening, to stop trusting the proddings of Nature and the pleadings of our primal intuition.  Indigenous peoples developed ordeals like vision quests, seclusion in underground kivas, ritual purification and sweat lodges, as well as sacred rites and tribal taboos, because they already saw how easily they could lose their direction and ground, betray a home or destroy an ecosystem.  The earliest uses of psychotropic plants and fungi wasn’t an attempt to transcend or transport, but to ritually and viscerally find their way again and again back to our roots, our source, our larger body the Earth... back to the sense of connectedness with the rest of the tribe and all of life that can give strength to purpose and fuel to vision.  It is what holds a community or clan together, and binds us consciously to the interwoven totality and tonality of Earth and universe.  In general, our kind tends to relegate magic to Harry Potter and Don Juan, while doubting our own power and avoiding the responsibility that real power brings.  We may practice any of dozens of traditions, but there is still the need to access directly the Spirit of Nature that informed the founders of those cherished traditions.  It is accessible the moment we hush our minds to listen... listen to the epiphany of birdsong and the clapping of leaves calling us to awake, calling us home.  

TWPT:  Is it simply because we live in a technologically oriented world that we don't make these connections to Gaia like we used to or is there something else that we have neglected over the years that has widened this schism to the point that we have to really work at it to close it up again?

Technology has become an agent of our forgetting, but it doesn’t need to be so.  The same technologies that distract us from our connection can also be used to grab our attention, deliver us information, and provide us with a means for proactive right action.  Digital music can inspire us to spend time in nature or to compromise less.  The internet provides tools for getting back to the natural world, as well as for self understanding.  As with our very lives, it’s how we apply technology that is the primary defining issue.  And while there are a number of obvious extenuating factors, there is no reason good enough for us to look away, to feel or care less, to deny or pretend or retreat from what we are called on to do in the course of being our true selves.  Every willful child has to make a deliberate choice at some point to deny their belief in magic and their faith in their own abilities and hearts, to stop climbing trees and interacting with wiggly little bugs on the grass, stop looking for animal shapes in the clouds overhead, and for a magical reason for every amazing thing that happens.  We begin denying what our eyes and hearts tell us in order to win acceptance and approval from those peers and adults who have themselves traded in enchantment for a set of commonly held habits and officially endorsed illusions.  And as adults, we may continue to remake that same choice, finding fault with our native instincts and needs, struggling to adhere to the precepts of our paradigm, our kind and our time.

Being responsible for our choice has an upside, in that at any moment we can opt to do things entirely differently, to take our wands and reawaken our magic, to participate in the Gifting Cycle and fulfill a hero or hera’s quest... no matter what the cost, feeling worthy of the resulting lessons and gifts.  

TWPT:  Tell me about the name of your book Gaia Eros and what it means to you.

JWH:  The procreative universe and the passions that fuel it are nothing less than erotic.  Life is eros, the urge to endlessly create and be recreated, to submit and then thrust forward, to give and receive in endless color and form.  We of this Earth, extensions and offspring of Gaia, are given both the desire and the ability to be party to that creative force.  Literally, to party-hearty!  And through our own depth of experience we transmit to the planet whole our excitement and satisfaction.  Our search for spiritual oneness is also a hunger for recombination with the diverse elements of the All.  We undergo just such alchemical release and reconstruction with every focused orgasm, and in the burning heat of the sacred sweat lodge.  And to an extent we can do it with rituals and spells, meditation and questing, through painful empathy and ecstatic immersion.  But always, it is reinforcing the awareness of that connectedness which tethers us to wholly/holy magical creation, while giving us the wings with which we fly.  Gaia Eros is dedicated to inspiring compassion and passion, being and action, healing and exceeding, ritual moments and unbreakable pledges, the thirst for adventure and hunger for truth, sensitivity and sensuality, miracle and art... to provoking care-full service to the Whole, and the most intense experiencing of our enchanted lives.  

TWPT:  What are the consequences for all of us if this reconnecting does not take place and we go on our merry way living our lives as if Gaia mattered very little to our daily lives?

JWH:  As a result humanity faces not only increasing regimentation, loss of depth and meaning, fracturing of community, abstraction and objectification and a dulling of experience... but also, ever more destructive wars over the distribution of disappearing resources, the extirpation and bioengineering of species and the end of evolution as it’s existed for over 4 billion years, and a level of environmental damage that could spell the dissolution of civilization or even the extinction of our kind.  More immediately, our failure to tend our connection and keep alive our magic means a flattening of sensation, a reduction in informative and character building empathy, and a decrease in our bliss.  It allows for the imagined separation that makes us blind to our own powers and the will and form of the energies creating reality around us, that leaves us unhappy campers frantically orbiting a world that we once knew as home.  We are spiritual beings but we are also of the flesh, the flesh of wind and soil and purpose: Her flesh.  

TWPT:  Tell me about magic's connection to nature and how it is that we can find that magic via reconnecting with nature in our rituals, in our spirits and in our minds?

JWH:  Nature is a repository and nursery of magical energies.  And we, as extensions of that natural world, are imbued with some of this animus force.  It may manifest as clairvoyance or prediction, hyperawareness or the ability to influence events, but it is of Nature and not something unnatural.  It is our true magical natures.

Paying close attention to the natural world can affirm our valid truths, expose our illusions, inform our process, ground our sensibility, excite our sensuality, heighten our sensitivity, expose our weaknesses, contribute to our strengths, and reveal our path.  It can inspire our direction, our focus, our effort, our commitment, adamance and ardor!   Nature is midwife to all magic, and we do a disservice to invoke its power without giving it attribution, credit and attention... without protecting, nurturing and celebrating the source of our beings as well as our beliefs.  

TWPT:  If you had to sum up what Gaia Eros' message was and its importance to the Wiccan/Pagan community what would you say?

JWH:  Its gifts to the Wiccan/Pagan community are its seductive reminders, lyric inspiration and rhythmic reassurances, as well as practical tools and insights for deeper connection:  Connecting to, embodying and serving the Planet/Goddess Gaia.  Learning from plant and animal inspiriteurs.  The art of “sacred indulgence.”  Gaian sensuality and sexuality.  Drumming and altered states.  The art of ritual and the ritual of art.  Undergoing a sacred “vision” quest.  Purchasing, protecting, restoring and resacramenting the living land. Tuning into the omens and lessons of the natural world.  Creating positive magical community.  Planting “seeds” of insistence, enchantment and delight.  Embodying our most magical selves.  Fulfilling our most meaningful purpose.

The importance of Gaia Eros can only be found in its absorption and application, to whatever degree it inspires magical life, sensate and responsible existence, efforts at social change,   Most important to me is to inspire my readers to make every care significant and every act decisive, to go for the gusto, live life to the full, commit to the seemingly impossible, and follow their hearts and dreams.  To remember that they have the magic wand in their hand, and that no matter what happens no one can ever take it away from them.  That it is their destined quest and mission to each and every moment brighten and better, resacrament and praise, savor and stir, and create the world anew!  

TWPT:  Tell me about the Earthen Spirituality Project and what you and Loba are accomplishing through your programs and internships?

JWH:  Founded in 1981, the Earthen Spirituality Project is a small wilderness-based teaching facility and blossoming women’s center, on the Sweet Medicine Wildlife Sanctuary in Southwest New Mexico.  The sanctuary is located in an isolated river canyon deep in the enchanted Gila bioregion, in an ancient ceremonial site for the Mogollon peoples and a palpable place of power.  Nested seven shallow river crossings from the nearest road, the restored inholding is surrounded by National Forest, and home to towering pines and majestic cottonwoods, blossoming cactus and wild grape vines, elk and deer, lion and bear, ducks and herons, rare songbirds and bald eagles.  Teachers, Seekers and resident interns dedicate themselves to restoring and rewilding the lush canyon ecology, resacramenting the land and caring for its archaeological integrity.... as well as disseminating the important Gaian insights the canyon provides through correspondence, counsel and teachings, books and musical CDs like our world-beat album “The Enchantment,” the hosting of students and Seekers for Project programs, and the nurturing of a sustainable lineage of sacred caretakership.  We host men and women for individual counsel and Gaian teachings, retreats in one of our riverside cabins, vision quests, wildfoods weekends and sacred indulgence workshops.  In addition, amazing Loba leads sacred indulgence workshops for women, and the Wild Women’s Gathering.  Our sincere and fervent intention is to contribute to each Seeker’s path of magical rebecoming and Gaian mission, whatever that may be, and wherever it might take them.  Most  remain closely in touch after they’re gone, some keep coming back on pilgrimages and studies, or support our work with their contributions and energy.  A tribe of Sensitives, connected intimately to each other through us, this Canyon, these truths, and this Earth.  

TWPT:  What part does your location in New Mexico play in allowing those who come there for your programs to reconnect their lives to nature and to understand the part they play in the grander scheme of things?

JWH:  Time anywhere in Nature, in our awakened bodies and not just our minds, can attune us to insights and powers.  I spent years seeking out and communing with the anima and entities of special locations, the “locus inspiritus” of the Sioux’s sacred Black Hills, the kivas of Chaco Canyon, the hallowed promontory of Washington’s Orcas Island.  But never have I experienced a place where the energies are so insistent on a confrontation with comforting but debilitating illusion, on dealing with every aspect of our selves, on our noticing the enchanting spirits that inhabit this hallowed place and heeding their counsel, ensuring change, implementing cures, walking our talk and talking nothing but Her evolving truths.... singing and living her counsel, expressing her anger at the destroyers, and giving full voice to her oohs and ahhs of pleasure.  This Canyon affects people deeply and often irreversibly, and would whether we or not we were here to guide or translate for you.  

TWPT:  Give me some examples of what the programs/internships involve and how long they take to complete. How would someone that is interested find out more about what is available, how much it costs and when the programs are offered?

JWH:  Retreats are usually one weekend or a full week, with or without counsel and discussion, featuring focused solitude and communion, personal restoration and clarification.  Medicine quests require 10 to 14 days of one’s time, up to 4 days and nights of which is spent solo downriver.  The Wild Women’s Gathering lasts a week, and most workshops are three day affairs.  Descriptions can be found on our website www.earthenspirituality.org, and for event dates or to schedule a retreat or teachings write Box 820, Reserve, NM 87830, or mail@earthenspirituality.org.

My dozens of magazine articles almost all go out for no pay, we give many books away, and depend on donations to take care of this place and do this Gaian work.  There is no charge for events or opportunities per se, only our request that people give as much as they possibly can in return.  Those who can give extra help make up for those who come who can contribute nothing at all.

Openings are available for women and occasional men for 30-90 day internships, as well as the more demanding apprenticeships, and potential lifetime residencies.  Applicants should be ready to invest themselves in this wilderness paradise and its ministry of Earth and Spirit, presence and awareness, compassion and response-ability, promise and purpose.  We feast on locally gathered wild foods and bulk organic grains, and eat a number of meals together each week.  A portion of every day is given to being alone with land, taking intimate walks that deepen our connection and affirm our practice and work.  Typical activities include tree planting, seed collecting, wood chopping, cooking for groups, studying, questioning, transcribing talks, corresponding, submitting articles and manuscripts, assisting the many guests coming for inspiration and guidance- and actively celebrating life, tribe and place.  

TWPT:  Tell me about yours and Loba's relationship to the land in New Mexico and how you came to be caretakers of it.

JWH:  I was drawn here to this enchanted country like a salmon to its ancestral spawning ground, a wolf responding to the perfume of a mate in heat, a sacred Mother singing back her wandering child.  After years of gypsy vagabonding I found myself compelled to stay, to learn what it meant to reinhabit and become native again.  I closed my struggling gallery- the first ever mystical art gallery in Taos- then sold all of my vehicles and even the engine out of my converted school bus in order to make the first installment.  Instead of picking where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, I felt picked... and assigned.  Then a tentative Loba arrived here in pursuit of a dream, only to discover her confidence, her skills, and her magical calling to tend this place and all the women Seekers who make their way here to “feel things out” and “turn things up.” We serve the land unfailingly and eternally in every possible form and capacity.  Gaia speaks clearly through the Canyon, and when we leave in order to present at conferences or festivals, the Canyon speaks through us.  

TWPT:  With Gaia Eros due out anytime now are you busy working on new things or do you take breaks in between writing projects?

JWH:  We produced the “Enchantment” CD between completion of Gaia Eros and its publication.  And I just completed integrating many of our teachings into a book on the psychological and historical twists of the Wild West, scheduled for release in 2005.  It’s my best effort yet to reach beyond the choir, or in this case, the circle.  It’s a great pleasure for me to get pieces in most issues of magazines including Magical Blend and Natural Beauty & Health.  Plus I’m expanding a collection of short Gaian truisms or aphorisms called the Canyon Testaments, and adding to what will be the next collection of Gaian essays.  A break is most excellent advice.  And involved as I am now, I’ve scheduled a fair break between lifetimes!  

TWPT:  Where are you and Loba going to be appearing for the rest of the year? If someone was interested in having you come and speak to a conference or festival how far in advance do they need to contact you?

JWH:  We’re available to present up to a half dozen times a year at any Pagan festivals, ecology, spirituality, sexuality or magick conferences that care to bring us, and Loba loves doing women’s festivals as well.  Dates tend to fill up 3 to 9 months beforehand, so we suggest writing us as far as possible ahead.  My next appearance will be at the Green Nations Gathering, an inspiring collection of ecospiritual teachers, herbalists, restorationists and activist greens held in August in upstate New York September 17th through the 19th (http://www.greennations.org).  

TWPT:   To close out this interview do you have any thoughts you'd like to share about what you do that I didn't already cover or thoughts about how our readers can reconnect with nature right where they are whether they are in an urban setting or in the country?

JWH:  You can sense deeper your inviolate connection through conscious intense noticing of the hot shower water trickling down your face, the sound of the thunder over the roar of traffic, the smell of rain and the taste of buttered bread.  Through time alone, with a quieted mind.  In groups, dancing and communing under moonlight.  In the backyard, as you follow a lady bug again on hands and knees.  In the top of tree you haven’t climbed in years.  In the touch of an amorous breeze on your bare face.  In the feel of rich garden dirt as you thrust your hands in up to the wrists.  Make sacrifices and go to any effort or expense to seek out special wild places of power that can catapult you along the arc of your medicine path... but also seek your place, insight and magic in the everyday.  In the grass between the street and the walkway.  In the wildness of neighborhood parks.  In the embrace of a lover, and the glad cackling of raucous  ravens.

And also, I’d suggest performing one’s rituals outside instead of indoors.  Always knowing which way is South without a compass.  Investing one’s whole being into any prayer or spell.  Giving back to the places where we gather for ritual or retreat for contemplation or solace.  Making promises to the spirits we invoke and evoke.  And keeping our promises.

Concluding advice?  Tear down the walls of the mind.  Open the heart.  Reinhabit responsive animal body as well as spiritual self.  Rail against separation, contribute to connection, take satisfaction in the certainty of ultimate magical wholeness.  Be real, and do special things for the very real world in the most powerful, meaningful and beautiful ways possible.  Find your inner Merlin, your Diana, your inner wren and bear.  Emulate Kokopelli and Pan, Aphrodite and the karmic Morrigan.  Sing without being prodded!  Skip even if you  look silly.  Care for more than your individual self, and know that self is part of all that is and all that can ever be.  Find the best ways to serve, to say thanks, to dance. Howl and purr to suit your mood.  Understand your moods.  Forget about coping, and make positive changes instead.  Resist injustice and fight against defeatism.  Surrender to being, Spirit and purpose.  Give every gift, I say, and you’ll never have to wonder if you’ve given enough.  Discipline yourself, and thereby neither require nor accept no discipline from others.  Indulge in what’s real, and eschew the artificial.  Swim in swirls of expressive color.  Practice communicating without words.  Practice using your will to make things happen.  Practice loving without expecting anything back.  Luxuriate in the darkness of an unlit night.  Shine bright!  Attempt the inconceivable!   Run outside during storms and tilt your head towards the sky.  Never let anyone tell you that you can’t fly!  Make magic your life, thereby making your life ever more magical.  Never forget to show gratitude.  Never forget to re-member.  And then nevermore, need you say “never.”

 TWPT:    Thanks Jesse for sharing your thoughts with our readers and I wish you all the best with your new book.

Additional Links

For Info on The Earthen Spirituality Project:  http://www.earthenspirituality.org
To Order a signed copy of Gaia Eros from the author:  http://www.earthenspirituality.org/music_books.htm
To hear their CD "The Enchantment":  http://www.cdbaby.com/gaiatribe