Events Calendar

  • PAGAN HOLY DAYS: Fall Equinox (Sept 22), Samhain (Oct 31), Winter Solstice (Dec. 21) -- all celebrated at OLHA
  • HOWL, women's poetry evening, third Sunday at Nightbird Books, S. School St. in Fayetteville



Rise up from intrepid darkness
A cloak that imbibes doom yet only
Slides itself under the world a soft reminder
Of the womb silken beat
That rises upward
As echoing geysers
Pushing past the inherent thickness
Of compressed earth and stone
Settled compactly over a throbbing light core
The star is hidden
The mystery folded over itself
In layers of story
Welded into invisible wings
That will rise up
Will seek companionship
In the days to come
With starlight song to guide them
By Esyule

Sappho Sez ... an advice column

Dear Sappho,
I never thought I’d do this but I feel compelled to write you. Every three months for the past year, I’ve read your column aloud to my partner. First I’d read all the letters from women with questions for you. Then we’d try to guess which one would provoke you to answer with a “nonviolent communication is the key” response. Actually, it’s never that difficult since that’s your basic answer to every dumb question these women write in about. Where do they come from, anyway? They can’t be for real! But that’s beside the point. I recently attended the quarterly business meeting of a women’s nonprofit group, since I was considering joining their board. One woman there took up a lot of the meeting time with some really negative leading questions about a recent fundraiser the group had held. She whined on and on through the entire meeting. It was tedious and uncomfortable and I just wanted someone to tell her to shut up. Her diatribe had little to do with anything on the agenda, though she claimed a connection in each instance. She finally brought the meeting to a halt when, on the verge of tears, she ranted, “I’ve been a member of this organization for 13 years. I’ve brought in new members every year. I’m here for every board meeting and I volunteer for every fundraiser. And not one of you came over to help at my booth!” It seemed like the situation would take the rest of the evening to resolve and I was looking for a back door in order to escape, when a little old woman who had come in halfway through the meeting, quietly stated, “It sounds like you’re really hurt and angry because when you were in need of assistance and wanted moral support for your new project, all the other volunteers were engaged in other activities and didn’t offer to help you.” Less than three minutes of conversation later, the wound up woman had calmed down and seemed content not to be the center of attention for the remainder of the meeting. I connected with the little old woman before I left and asked her exactly what had happened back there. She told me that she had used empathy to hear the other woman’s needs behind her feelings and that once she felt really heard, the woman was able to let go of controlling the meeting. She went on to say that she had spent the last year working in a small group with other people who wanted to learn to communicate more effectively in their intimate relationships. I had my comeuppance when, in response to all my questions, she referred me to her nonviolent communication group. Now, I’m two months into an NVC group (not the AR one you go on about) and I’m writing you, Sappho, to say I’m now a believer and I’ll never be able to make fun of you again. Well, at least, not with the same amount of glee.
Learning Empathy in Iowa

Dear Learning,
Thanks for your honest letter and for sharing your experience of witnessing an episode of nonviolent communication in action. In my personal life, I’m really just now barely beginning to get a gut-level feel for the avoidance of falling into my usual, old, very well-established patterns of behaving. I recently experienced a personal epiphany while engaged in working through a problem with a close friend. It occurred to me while I was in the midst of being dragged down emotionally, that I didn’t have to go there to that old familiar place in response to her expression of feelings. The epiphany was experiential rather than intellectual; I already “knew” her feelings and reactions were hers and really had nothing to do with me or my behavior. But, to actually catch myself in the act of dragging myself down and to be able to stop that process was enlightening and freeing: “Wow, I really can listen and be understanding without making judgments on myself.” I’m excited at the prospect of joining another class on nonviolent communication this fall in order to deepen my understanding of the precept of empathy and how to extend it to myself as well as others.

Spiritual Column

By Esyule TwinStar

Autumn is the time of harvest and I have this image of Kuan Yin standing with her beautiful urn of unending pure waters of compassion flowing into the full bearing gardens of our lives. Surrounding her is vast diversity of color and shape in all the healing plants bearing fruit from branch and vine. The message is to continually feed the positive in your life with kindness, love and understanding. These waters are pure because they represent pure truth and the nurturing of the world by that essence. Washing away inner delusions and outer lies, full and abundant life force will flow in, giving us the energy and strength to open to the abundance of the world. This is a time of great change. Not only is the season shifting, but the greater cycle is also coming into a new, so very positive era, countering old negative thought forms and behaviors. It is time to let those old patterns that have only brought suffering die off. Kuan Yin stands with us, a gentle reminder to fill all newly emptied space with kindness—surely an easy action, be compassionate—an extension of love to your self and the world, and to compost the old. This will yield a new world that we can be at peace with, though it will require a gestation time. Blessings to all as we greet this Autumn Equinox with hope, love and light.

Festival Ramblings

By Cynthia Huelsmann
This year I gave myself the gift of free time, choosing not to dive back into work after my job ended in December 2007. I have long had the dream of attending as many womyn's festivals as I could manage, and I decided this was the year to do it. In a series of articles I will attempt to share some of my experiences and thoughts on three of the festivals I was able to attend this summer. This article will cover my experiences at Womongathering.

Held June 12—15 at a summer camp in northeast Pennsylvania, 2008 was the 20th year for this festival celebrating spiritual ritual. This was a Water and West year, honoring the Crone aspect of the Goddess. I was a festie virgin, driving alone up to the gate, after a day and a half on the road, and I was a little anxious and a lot excited about what was to come. I arrived on Thursday almost an hour after the gate opened, comforting myself in the knowledge that some friends attending were long-time festie-goers, including our own locals, Cedar and Esyule. Luckily for me, my housing assignment required changing and, at my request, the lodging assigner was happy to assign me to White Buffalo cabin with my friend Carol and her partner and friend. I felt like the goddess was looking out for me. I drove to the cabin to unload and there were Carol and Paula, and I had a home nest at fest! As I unpacked, I noticed another couple of friends setting up camp, and had another reunion. Shelley and Kathy were there to lead a singing workshop that I was really looking forward to attending.

Feeling somewhat settled, I dove into the flow of the festival. I had a bit of time to wander around the grounds and go through the welcoming gateway—a special spot with a couple of tents decorated in the water motif, occupied by womyn just waiting to give new arrivals a hug and tell them they were so happy they came. A womon could sit there and visit a while and spend a little time releasing what she wanted to leave behind and bringing her spirit together (grounding and centering) to be really present for the weekend.

Next on my agenda was finding the dinner hall and figuring out how that worked. We all brought our own plates and utensils and washed them in a communal sink area after meals. The food was great, and there was plenty of it. At dinner I joined my first workshop—a Sisters’ Sing-Along, led by an energetic group of womyn called the South Mountain Singers. They clearly loved singing and sharing their passion with all of us. I had great fun as we sang (from booklets they passed out) such standards as “Amazing Grace” (a witch version they had rewritten) and “Wade in the Water.” We sang songs that were new to me (the vagina songs), as well as many familiar chants—“We Give Thanks,” “I Thank the Earth” and “We All Come from the Goddess,” for example.

These same womyn were in charge of the procession and portal to the community ritual to light the sacred fire. So I found myself becoming Kali as I carried a large puppet with two other womyn and sang for what seemed like hours as hundreds of womyn slowly streamed through the portal to be blessed and purified. This year eight directions were recognized. In the center was the infinity symbol with fire in one loop and water in the other. Womyn took part in calling all the directions, led by Sappho as she lit the fire which she and a few others would lovingly tend for the entire weekend. We watched as it grew and we waited as it ate the big pile. The direction of its fall would indicate special meaning for our time together and for the coming year. [I think it fell to the northwest, and I have no recollection of Sappho’s reading regarding the direction’s special meaning.] This sacred fire is a real vital part of this festival and I wish I had had more time to spend there. I did go back for the closing circle which I will describe later. One thing I noticed, even this first day, was the flexibility of these womyn in their ritual and their openness to experimenting with different ways to do things. There was a joy in playing with the energy and an open inviting spirit. I felt welcome right away in this group.

Friday began for me with my turn at the sweat lodge, times having been assigned at registration. I was happy to have this purification early in the day and early in the festival. The Lakota Inipi ceremony was facilitated by Beverly Little Thunder, who is amazing and an early leader in sharing and teaching this ritual to womyn. As we arrived, we each made prayer ties to take into the lodge—one tie for each direction. We stooped as we crawled in, a prayer on our lips for “all my relations.” We entered as we had left our mothers womb into this womb of the mother earth. We were wedged in as close as possible, as we were told to “leave only the space of a tissue between you.” At final count there were twenty of us, and I think this was not a crowded lodge to Beverly.

The ritual was amazing. As we all sat in that dark hot space and sweated and prayed together, I felt our connection, heard how we had common desires and hopes. Most of us started with gratitude for all we have and then begged for a clear connection to our spirit to lead us to serve where we are needed. There were tears running down my cheeks as I heard the prayers of other womyn there and knew them as my own. It was hot but bearable. Beverly doesn’t believe sweats should be a form of torture; still, in some lodges—not ours—that weekend, womyn did have to leave. The door was opened four times to receive glowing, red-hot, local rocks representing the ancestors. I felt thankful that I ended up in a spot with a bent sapling, holding a little coolness, behind me. Leaning against it, on and off, enabled me to remain for the duration. This ritual was magic and I have not given all the details here; you need to come and experience it for yourself.
(to view the entire article, go to


On the Road Again & Back

by Esyule
This past June found me heading east to gather with a great group of womyn north of Scranton , PA. This year I was privileged to get to know Jenny Yates, full time astrologer, author and lesbian feminist. She was one of the workshop leaders at Womongathering and I offered to extend a network connection so that you too can order various types of astrology charts and readings via her web site/email. If interested contact Jenny at: or

The weather was very hot and then quite stormy during the two and a half weeks away, which added spectacular skies and challenging driving. After Womongathering, I headed west in caravan with Cedar to National Women’s Music Festival in Madison, WI. There, I had time to visit with Tret Fure who is doing a wonderful music workshop in Virginia and promised to keep me posted of any events in the Midwest. She has a great new CD, True Compass. Find her website on the Sappho's Favorite Links page (

For those wondering how Cris Williamson is doing, she also performed at National, is doing well and also has just released a new CD, Fringe. She performed a number of new pieces from the album and I enjoyed them.

Sid Reger taught one workshop at Womongathering and also taught at National. She will be submitting an article for Sappho’s Web this Fall. She is doing some great work on the Bee Goddess so we may be hearing more on that soon. If you’d like to check out Sid’s artwork or goddess study go to

Overall it was wonderful seeing such a cross-section of womyn of all ages and backgrounds participating in ceremonies, hearing new music from old friends and music from new young womyn as well as seeing both funny and serious theatrical presentations.


Looking for the Goddess in Greece

By Diana Rivers

Mother, we have come seeking some trace of You here in this dry, boney, beautiful land surrounded on all sides by sea, this land where You were worshipped for so long and by so many names. We have come hopeful and open-hearted but You are elusive, not easily found, hiding always just out of reach, a secret, a hint, a whisper, the echo of an echo, a locked gate, a closed museum, a shadow, a shadow behind the shadow, some words in a guide book but no directions, some directions but no sign, a sign, but the path much too long or steep for these old mortal feet to carry the body, or the road years gone in rain and rock-fall, the bus that doesn’t come, the boat that leaves too soon.

Sometimes it seems as if You are lost to us, perhaps even gone from this land, and we feel like crying, or we turn our anger and frustration on each other. Just as we despair of ever finding You, You whisper, You call, You beckon, always around the next corner, the next turn in the road, up the next hill. We follow and keep following and are finally rewarded by this cave, supposed to be Zeus’ birth-place, but for eons before that a center of worship to You as Goddess of childbirth.

This place is a womb, its dark opening guarded by a fig tree that both conceals and marks the entrance, hiding it from those who have no business here. We enter, bowing low under the rock ceiling, and are met by a metal fence and closed gate. No matter, the gate swings open at a touch, doorway to the under-world. Hushed and awed, we step into the silence and You are there. Your large, dark, ancient presence permeates this chamber and enfolds us. Our feeble lights barely open a tiny path in the darkness but we can see just enough. Your form is there before us, huge stone head and shoulders rising out of the earth, reflecting, echoing the shape of the cave around it. A flat altar-like rock is on the ground before You and we sink down beside it. Others have been here before us. We find flowers, sage, shells, feathers left as offerings. We add our own small offerings, light our little candle, pour water over You as a libation, sing our few chants and suddenly we are connected to circles going back and back and back through time, seeking guidance and comfort here at the Source. Sitting in this cool dark stillness, we have found our way home to You.

Spiritual Findings ... by Esyule

This seems like a water year when we are being offered lessons of flow and surrender. The great forces of the rivers, the windy storms and the seas all rise up to remove everything in the way of their turbulent waters and at the same time nourish all growing things. The fruit this year is abundant, the trees full and prospering along with the wild creatures that fully dance in the circle of life. We thank a wet season for all this.

There is a rune that is shaped like a bent reed called Laguz. This rune represents water and is regarded as feminine (as most aspects of water usually are), associated with the Goddess Nerthus who bestows blessings on all whom she visits. Laguz also means love and life representing the beginning and continuance of partnership unions. Often this means guidance via tests through the “primal waters” of our emotions, giving rise to sustenance. Laguz is the rune of fluidity and her message is to be flexible like the river reed.

This leads to the concept of surrender. As much as we like to sometimes believe that we control nature and how we walk in this world, the ultimate truth is that deep and ever present forces of mystery direct our lives. Surrender is the message of allowing. This comes when there is little alternative, but to be conscious of giving one’s life direction over to Higher Powers; it allows the journey to be an aware one that will lead us with our eyes open to uncharted and necessary shores. The Divine aspect of surrender is found through the simplicity of trust and purity of intention. It does not mean giving up, allowing negative energy to drown us or flood our lives with debris. It does, however, carve a new path in our worn ways of seeing ourselves in the world.
The message of this bright and full time of the year is to dance in the rain, float in the rivers, love fully and savor life. We, as independent and strong womyn, stand like the great blue heron in the river, patient and beautiful taking sustenance from all the blessings around us, following the current easily and gracefully.