By Carole Terrell • March 19, 2010
ASHEVILLE — After making it through the harsh winter, people in Western North Carolina are looking forward to the warm sun of spring. Some are preparing to celebrate the season's change with an ecumenical ritual.
Saturday officially marks the first day of spring, being the day of the spring equinox.
Members of Mother Grove Goddess Temple will celebrate at 7 p.m. Saturday with A Breath of Appalachian Spring: A Ritual in Celebration of the Spring Equinox, in the parish hall of the Episcopal Cathedral of All Souls in Biltmore Village.
Saturday's event is open to all faith traditions, said Byron Ballard, wiccan priestess and a member of the temple. Mother Grove “isn't a wiccan group, though some of us are wiccans,” she said.
“Mother Grove is an outgrowth of the work of several people in the goddess/earth religions community,” Ballard said. “Its goal is to create a permanent sanctuary, where people of all faith traditions may openly and safely celebrate the divine feminine, the goddess.”
Wicca is a modern religion built on the ancient agricultural religions of Europe, she explained. “Wiccans may also refer to themselves as witches.”
Jill Boyer is a co-founder and priestess with Mother Grove. She says she looks forward to celebrating “with my celebrants and community, having time to celebrate something that is very important to me and the ritual aspects themselves.”
Boyer believes people have an ancient and human need for ritual and celebration in groups, and to acknowledge the changing of the seasons.
The celebration will consist of raising a circle, singing, “whistling up the wind” and flying prayers written on paper airplanes. Ballard will lead the ritual, explaining that it is a joyful expression of the beginning of spring and coming together as a community.
Nonperishable food items will be collected at the event for the Mother Grove Cornucopia Project food drive.
“Last year, as part of the celebration, we asked people to write a prayer or wish on a piece of paper and fold it into an airplane,” Ballard said. “We spent about five minutes flying planes around the room. Then we asked people to pick up a plane that was not theirs, take it home with them and pray for that person.”
Ballard said that “whistling up the wind” is an old English and Appalachian tradition. March is usually the windiest month, so the element of wind will be emphasized at the celebration. One person will whistle while three others honor the elements of earth, fire and water.“It's a lovely holiday for children,” Ballard said. “The first chance to get out and see what's growing, to welcome baby chicks and lambs, to taste the first little green bits of chickweed. All pagan and wiccan holidays are family-friendly. Many Earth religionists choose to honor their spiritual traditions as a family group.”