Elder Priestess, Linda Maglionico, runs a regular open circle in Central New Jersey. We caught up with Linda and asked her about this project and why it’s a success.
How long have you been running the Nature as Our Greatest Spiritual Teacher meetups?
I founded the Nature as Our Greatest Spiritual Teacher meet up in New Jersey in August 2013 when I moved out of New York City. Prior to that, I ran Temple of Ara circles in New York City for 10 years.
Where do you meet and how often do you meet?
Every celebration we hold is outside (the idea of celebrating inside is counter to our mission!) so we meet throughout the entire year in the woods at local state parks, along the ocean’s edge and also amongst the grape vines at a local NJ winery. We meet approximately twice a month to celebrate New and Full Moons as well as solar celebrations such as the Equinoxes, the Solstices and cross-quarter celebrations such as the First and Final Harvests. I wanted to include each cross quarter celebration because they mark the ever-evolving seasons and are worthy of acknowledgement, since each has its own lesson to give. We also meet regardless of the weather unless we experience extreme weather events like torrential rain storms or snow.
What is the purpose of the group and what sort of activities or techniques do you use?
The purpose is to expand our own consciousness, awareness and sensory perception so that we can lead happier lives while also becoming better friends of Mother Earth. To achieve those goals, we frequently use a variety of techniques such as guided visualization and meditation, to communicate with Spirits of Place. In doing so, we focus on ecstatic communication to allow space for the Sacred to express itself, so that we can start to see the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things.
What has been the reaction to these celebrations?
The overall feedback has been quite positive since the mission attracts enthusiastic people who love Mother Earth as much as I do and who are able to put aside ego illusions to bring the focus back to the Great Mother. Participants are thrilled to look beyond the trappings of religion and its use of anthropomorphism and instead delve deep into engaging with Nature. We’ve been growing steadily since I launched in 2013 and we’re currently at 185 members, or Nature Lovers as I like to call them.
Do you use these meetings as a screening tool for those expressing interest in the Ara Tradition? Would you consider these meetups a good introduction to the Ara Tradition for those in the NJ area?
Considering that the group’s title, Nature as Our Greatest Spiritual Teacher, is a phrase found in a chapter of Phyllis Curott’s book, Witch Crafting – the Spirituality of Making Magic, I feel that what we focus on is an excellent primer for those who want to become more involved with the Temple. The group’s mission is the Temple’s teachings at its essential core, without any man-made distractions and intellectual overlays that distract us from the truth. As we say in the Ara Tradition, Nature is an embodiment of the Divine; as such, we live in a sacred world and seek to live in a sacred manner.
Where can people find out more information about participating in your meetups?
Right now the group is primarily found on Meet Up and is intended to attract people of like minds who live in the Central New Jersey area. Because face-to-face interaction is key to community building, those who join must be local or who are able to participate in person on a frequent basis. To learn more, please visit: http://www.meetup.com/Celebrating-Nature-as-Our-Greatest-Spiritual-Teacher/