Mythology of the Maidens

The maidens represent making love with Mother Nature. Generosity. They are the ever-flowing well of healing; the refreshing and rejuvenating waters available to all, joyous, sensuous, the powerful expression of the yearly seasons. 

Maidens are also Muses, kindling the desire in humans to honor and live with reverence for the Earth. To protect Her with our lives. We are always in courtship with the Earth, and the Maidens remind us that, if we are in right action and service, we are making love with Mother Nature. The maidens are in service to the Goddess Sovereignty, the Earth herself. If the Maidens are respected, Sovereignty is respected, and if Sovereignty is respected and protected, the Earth heals and thrives. 

To be a Maiden is not to only represent a chronological stage of life. At Vinotok, any women may choose to be a maiden again and again and again. Thus, our view of Maiden is the opposite of ageist, or patriarchal and socially-projected ideals. Any woman can choose to be any age she wishes. And of course, the Maidens of the village are the major voice for the observation of and selection of the yearly Green Man. 

Marcie Telander, Vinotok Founder & Godmother 

The Mythology of the Green Man

The Green Man is the second oldest of all archetypes. He is both the leader and the lover, the celebrated and the sacred gift. He feeds the earth spirits and he is also the father and brother of the forest and the field, the furred and flying, the hooved and horned ones. He is the stag in the heart of the wood. He is the sound and symbol of the rut. He is eternal joy, ecstatic awareness, tender partner to Mother Earth, as well as her ever-rebirthing son. He is the eternal seed of life. 

He has variously been named Pan, Dionysius, Bacchus and Freyj in European tradition. In Northern Tradition he is the Antlered One, the face in the green wood captured among the leaves, the old sculpture of the face with greenery growing from within and around which figures so prominently on doorways, church lintels and portals leading to sacred spaces around the world. He is also Cernunnos the shape-changer and symbol of all forest beings. He is Herne, the Sacred Hunter and Protecter of the Wild.  

If we are to spare the Green Man from being sacrificed so that the natural cycles may continue – we must ask for something or someone else to stand as the sacrifice in the Green Man’s stead. This becomes even more important to our valley homeplace, because if the Green Man should die, then certainly the Red Lady, our Mother Mountain would also perish.

Someone must save the Green Man so that our Red Lady may LIVE!

The Mythology of the Red Lady

Although mountains have been considered feminine and sacred in every world culture – the transformation myth of Mt. Emmons to a female embodiment comes from a very local and very human source. 

There are numerous stories about the “naming” of the Red Lady. The only one which the Old-Timers referred to was Frank Orazem’s experience. When I knew him, like most of the elders, he was very private, humble and would never speak of himself before or over others. After knowing him for almost eight years, and asking him for the story that others had shared, he finally told his personal story.  

Frank was coming out of the Big Mine just at alpenglow, when he looked up to see a rosy silhouette outlined in green in the bowl of Mt. Emmons. He was so stunned to see the image of the powerful Feminine, and being a devout Catholic who had always wanted to be a priest – not a miner – he knelt down and gave thanks for the blessing of this revelation. In his spiritual tradition, as in so many others, Mother Mary, as the Divine Feminine, protects and helps all who reach out to her. He felt that he had experienced an epiphany in which he “saw” the guiding Spirit of our valley in the reddish color of the iron oxide on the face of the mountain, and therefore – the “Red Lady.” He was constantly asking me when “the young people would go up there and clean off the moss” which was slowly beginning to cover the ferric red stones. He wanted to make sure that we would be able to continue seeing and honoring her in coming years when he was gone.

This is a case of a first-person account of an amazing epiphany, and he and I felt was a sacred event and very important reminder: if we take care of the Red Lady, she will continue taking care of us.

The High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) was established in 1977 to keep a massive-scale molybdenum mine off of Mt. Emmons. The organization formulated an embodiment of the Red Lady in the selection of a woman each year to represent the mountain. This selection began as a fun dance contest and very important fund-and consciousness-raiser. Through the decades this archetypal embodiment and wisdom figure has evolved into, what many of the women and men who have held this representation, consider a sacred duty and trust to support Mt. Emmons’ and the valley’s health and environmental rights.

Vinotok added the Red Lady to the Trial of the Grump because it was important to remind ourselves we are a community which has been battling non-sustainable and untenable technological threats from various molybdenum and other hard rock mining companies for decades. The Red Lady in Vinotok is another manifestion of the fierce divine feminine energy that must be listened to, revered and protected.

The Mythology of Sir Hapless, The Knight

When I was writing our various Passion Plays and Mumming scripts, and drawing these spirit beings and archetypes into our mythology and sacred street theatre, I was determined to honor the oldest and most original version of the Battle between the Dragon and the Knight. 

In earliest myths and cosmologies, the Dragon is all that is pure, neutral, chthonic, undomesticated, original, uncivilized – the most organic symbol of untamed, or First Nature. The Old-Timers from various European cultures often saw the Butte as a sleeping dragon or griffin which might be awakened when injustice invades the valley.

S/he/they is the fierce Guard and Protector of the natural world, rising up to wreak vengeance on humanity as it misuses, abuses and plunders the Earth. S/he takes on all patriarchal and greedy, death-dealing characters, acting as champion for, not only the survival, but the thrival of Earth. 

In much later times the appropriation and demonization of this ancient myth created a character called St. George, “a holy knight,” who stalks, enslaves and vanquishes the savage, base, evil, uncontrolled Nature, the great undomesticated danger and all her creatures. In this mythology the dragon must be tortured, punished and brought to heel. She must be used for man’s sole purposes and benefit. 

St. George is most often pictured in iconography as having his foot on the neck of the Dragon, sword plunging into her back. 

I created Sir Hapless, the foolish, ignorant and wrong-minded Knight as the original perpetrator, and lackey of heedless technocracy – progress at any cost. A frightening fool and narcissistic fop of technological society. This has, in our Passion Play – the Trial of the Grump, continued to be a picture of the blind and headlong results of unsustainable practices and technologies. Interestingly this archetype was a prediction of, and now a version of someone currently very familiar, and those who blindly follow him/them in our contemporary political climate.  

However, the archetype in our Passion Play and Trial has the ability to change, and even to humbly kneel and become Lord High Protector. He is confronted by the Harvest Mother, Nature herself, and experiences a transformation as the Harvest Mother stops this age-old battle between technocracy and the ancient untamed Earth, demanding a balance of progress and preservation, commerce and careful stewardship – at least for the coming year.

RuneQuest Activity

The Runes are an ancient Germanic and Norse alphabet believed to have been in use in Northern Europe for 2,000 years. In Viking times, the Runes were carved into bone, small rounds of wood or stones. The Old Norse meaning of the word “rune” is “to whisper the mysteries.” There are 24 symbols in the Elder Futhark, or Germanic, Anglo-Saxon, Norse”Viking” rune alphabet. Each symbol relates to an ancient saga or poem from the Eddas, an 8th Century collection of Norsemen’s and women’s travels to Iceland, Greenland and North America. These stories include the interaction of the Norse gods and goddesses with humans, and are filled with powerful forces, courage and mystery. 

Each of the 24 rune symbols has many meanings and identifies specific actions, energies and guidance for those who enter into the Rune Quest. Each rune also has symbolic color/s which represent it in ritual adornment and the creation of Cairns or Ancestor altars set in nature. By “casting” (throwing) or drawing a small runestone from a bag, or tray the questioner may ask for directions or information on the next best step in his or her life.  

How to go on your own RuneQuest 

  1. In this version of the process, look at the following rune images and choose one without first reading its description.  
  1. When you choose your rune, before reading further, see what the image symbolizes for you. 
  1. Then, read the description below. These descriptions assist the questioner in interpreting the specific meaning of this rune, relating it to their personal life and intentions for the future. 
  1. Ask a friend or partner to look at the rune with you and share their interpretation for and with you. 
  1. You may wish to create a sturdy cardboard or wooden disc on which to draw and carve, burn or paint your Equinox Rune.  We create wood discs with holes drilled through for leather or twine. These we hang on our front doors, they adorn our regalia and personally- created ritual Staffs.

The RuneQuest is meant to be an interesting and evocative experience and is drawn from the Old World indigenous cultures of many of our ancestors. As an ecopsychology and dedicated intentional undertaking, the RuneQuest may help us to reclaim and enliven original Earth honoring practices and traditions brought by our ancestors to North America. We are re-creating these powerful ancient healing and intention-focusing traditions as we bring forward perennial guidance to serve and heal contemporary needs. In the ancient wisdom practices of Northern Europe, it is believed that, through the RuneQuest we may also direct right action and commitment to the Earth, our community environment and life purpose for the coming year. You may choose to dedicate the next year to honoring the special rune which chooses YOU! 

The RuneQuest is here. The Transformations of Autumn Equinox are nigh!

Skol! Blessings from Godmother Marcie Telander

The Mythology of the Earth Dragon

In earliest myths and cosmologies, the Dragon is all that is pure, neutral, chthonic, undomesticated, original and uncivilized. She is the most organic symbol of the untamed and untamable, the ancient of ancients, First Nature. She is the fire of life in all things, the bearer of the truth, and the “pearl beyond price.” Currently, in Vinotok, the Earth Dragon is a representation of the divine and primordial feminine earth energies. 

The Earth Dragon is the fierce guard and protector of the natural world, rising up to wreak vengeance on humanity as it misuses, abuses and plunders the Earth. She takes on all patriarchal and greedy, death-dealing characters, acting as champion for, not only the survival, but the thrival of Earth.

The Old-Timers from various European cultures often saw the Butte as a sleeping dragon or griffin which might be awakened when injustice invades the valley.

Marrying the Land Activity

History and Mythology -This ancient European Ceremony was practiced for many centuries to ensure that the People and the Earth would be in balance, health and harmony. Ours is the first contemporary community that we know of, who have reclaimed and recreated this ritual for the 21st Century. 

The Autumn Equinox is a time of balance as the Sun “stands still” and signifies a time of equal Day, equal Night, equal Masculine, equal Feminine, equal Dark, equal Light and the requirement for a commitment to balance between Humans and the Earth.  

At the Vinotok Harvest Feast, in the beginning of the All-Community Handfasting ceremony this Wedding with the Earth Ritual is performed with the chosen Leader, our beloved Green Man and a mature woman and healer who embodies the Earth Goddess in the form of Sovereignty.  

Sovereignty is the force of Nature who must be obeyed.  She is the divine Feminine Wisdom figure who stands as the ultimate, and independent maker of Earth destiny, requiring compassionate reciprocity between humans and the Land.  She alone decides how this balance is to be established.  If humans lose their way, raping and pillaging Sovereignty’s Lands, she retaliates by creating the Wasteland. This is the ultimate suffering for humanity, and may only be healed when kinship and honorable service is reestablished with the Earth. As the Green Man honors her, so shall the people join in honoring her laws.  

Sovereignty enters the gathered community singing an ancient love song, beckoning the Green Man and the community to join her in a beloved and powerful ceremony. 

When we ennoble the personhood of all species and life-forms, exalting all of her Lands, we are courting the Earth in our dedication to the spirit of Place and the sacred ground of our home. As we establish our compassionate kinship and serve her we can be said to Marry the Land, to promise to make our pledges to the Earth as we preserve and protect the fragile balance of health in our environment. 

As Sovereignty beckons the Green Man she bids him and all of the men who wish to kneel before her to pledge his Oath. 

Create Your Own Ceremony 

This ritual can be celebrated by individuals, couples, families and friends or as we share it–by an entire community.  

Gather a chalice or goblet of sweet pure water and a cup of Earth. 

Write your vows, promises, commitments to the Earth for the coming Year and a Day. 

These can best be drawn from your Journaling activites which are written during Vinotok week. (See the vinotok.org and PILGRIMAGE OF THE WAY instructions.) 

Creating Sacred Space – Choose a special place in Nature as your wedding bower. Make a circle identifying each of the four Cardinal Directions with a small altar of stones, natural totems and biodegradable offerings that can feed birds, animals, the Earth. 

Regalia – Sovereignty loves natural beauty! Wear clothing that makes you feel wonderful and feels honoring and appropriate for an Earthy ceremony. Head wreaths are highly recommended for everyone!  Gathering natural fresh and sustainably harvested greens, willows, dried herbs which you collect in the woods or from your garden are a lovely ritual in themselves. Plus, you can let them dry and place them on your door. (see Wreath-Making Instructions on vinotok.org or in the Fire Circle of Altars) 

The Ceremony – When you have prepared your sacred space in nature, placing the goblet of water and cup of Earth in the center of your circle you may want to purge and protect the space and the participants.  You can make and use a smudge-stick of dried sage or other woody herbs tightly bundled together with natural thread. Then lighting it safely, waft the smoke around the circle, yourself and others who are joining you. 

Plighting Our Troth – Each individual will read/speak their vows or promises and accountability to our Mother Earth. As we do this, we may choose to kneel on one knee to show our respect and reverence.  We may begin speaking our vows by honoring our Ancestors and all of the Spirit and Nature Kin who are joining us for this ceremony.  Begin your vow sharing by saying: 

     “As I love myself, I love the Earth.  As I love the Earth, I love myself. I speak these commitments so that I may offer myself in joyful service to the Sovereignty of the Land.  

“May all things be blessed and balanced.” 

Take up the cup of Earth and take a small pinch of it to place on your forehead and rub between your hands.  Pass the cup around if others are with you and each will do the same.  Then each says: 

       “With this precious Earth, I humbly pledge body, spirit and service to protect, preserve and support the health of Our Mother.” 

Take up the goblet and pour some on the Earth, then drink, and pour some on your hands. Pass the goblet of water—or, everyone may wish to drink from their own personal goblet. 

Sealing the Vow – Feeling the Earth and water forming moist mud in their hands each says: 

       “With this precious Water of Life, I pledge to feed the Spirit of the Land, to guard her waters, children and All Beings.” 

All say together:   

         “With this pledge The Wasteland disappears.  The Earth Thrives and loving balance shall be restored.  It is so. And it shall be so.

Bless us All!” 

~Vinotok Godmother, Marcie Telander

The Mythology of the Harvest Mother

The Harvest Mother is the first and most ancient of all archetypes – the divine feminine – She is Mother Nature and the source for all life, the sacred cycle of the seasons. She births the Green Man at Winter Solstice; marries him at Summer Solstice; brings him back into her Earth body at Autumn Equinox; and gestates the Green Man again; until his renewal and rebirth and return of the sacred masculine and the light at Winter Solstice. 

The Great Grump, The Vinotok Effigy


The sacred sacrifice for greater Earth healing

In our community, one of the most important things the Old Timers wanted to communicate and pass forward was, was that although many of them lived extremely difficult and desperately dangerous lives underground and above ground serving the neverunionized mines at the north end of the Gunnison Valley, they were also courageous, fun-loving and rebellious.

In the old countries, including Slovenia and Croatia, folks created wild, sacrificial effigies, a send-up of a local bigwig, filled with grievances, often about the ruling class. The effigy was was tried and sentenced, banished, hanged, and then for extra good measure – burned.

The Old Timers spoke of this as a practice conducted in the autumn, during a time called “Vinotok,” a word translated from Slovenian meaning “the celebration of the season when the grapes were turned into wine.” In Crested Butte, many of the European cultures competed to see who had laid down the best Zinfandel from the
passing year.

This rowdy festival of feasting, generosity of spirit, polka and folk dancing, and drinking up all of the zinfandel led to the hanging and burning of the Boss Man effigy. It was one of the few revolutionary statements the working people, ruled by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, could make, hopefully without being fired. This celebration was also a seasonal reminder that this was the last time of abundance before the first snows and the coming of the long, hard winter. It was a time to remember the profound importance of community commitment to each other and the sharing of great generosity of spirit.

For us, today, the Grump symbolizes all we want to rid ourselves of for the coming year. In its creation are all the angers, resentments, frustrations and disappointments of the past ranging from the personal to the political. Indeed, it is full of the community’s “grumps,” slips of paper with an individual’s pains s/he wants to get rid of, and put into the communal Grump Box. The Great Grump itself, is then stuffed with these boxes. It is everything that does not serve us.

In the Trial of the Grump, as the battle between the primordial Earth Dragon and the technocratic Sir Hapless the Knight wages on, it is decided a sacrifice must be made in order that the Green Man and the Red Lady may live, and a luscious and abundant future may prevail. It is decided through a “trial” that the Grump will become that sacrifice and it is paraded to the Fire Circle, where you stand now, to be burned, and all the community’s
woes collectively transformed, to indeed make way for a brighter, and as local legend has it – snowier – year ahead.

Handfasting Activity

For over a decade during Vinotok at the Harvest Feast we celebrate our All-Community Handfasting and Re-Commitment Ceremony. This is an ancient Norse and European tradition in which a couple who choose each other may make a loving commitment, to be loyal, caring, compassionate and co-creative, to support our community and the Earth. 

Handfasting is a contract, which in the Old Norse fashion meant giving one’s word to another and promising to keep it truly and completely. The bond was made through the firm clasping of the forearms or hands of the two parties. We celebrate this at one of the seasonal cycles and celebrations of the year, Mabon or the Autumn Equinox. This is the time at which the Sun pauses and day equals night—or Equinox. It is a time of balance, equality and harmony. It is a time of commitment for the long winter and the next seasonal changes.  

In later times in Britain, handfasting with a red ribbon or cord was the way that country couples would formally designate their “engagement” or marriage. The handmade cord or sash represents the fire of Life in each partner, the blood of the ancestors flowing through the couple and bonds and binds or “fasts” both of their hands in love and loyalty. This is a joyous, conscious and realistic way to approach the ongoing recommitment of relationships, recreating, recommitting and renewing the vows—if both parties wish—every year and a day. In our community Handfasting has been practiced between couples, families and individuals’ statements of their Re-Commitment to the Self. 

Creating the Ceremony 

Regalia  Head wreaths, of course for everyone!Show your love and create a natural Handfasting head wreath for your sweetheart. And, you can dry and save your wreaths hang on your front door, or to add to and wear again in your next Vinotok celebration and Handfasting Re-Commitment ceremony.  

Traditionally, men wore white “peasant” or “poet” shirts and women wore their most wondrous clothing. However, at Vinotok Handfastings folks wear their most wild and wonderful regalia, much of it handmade, hand-me-down and vintage creations. Have fun! 

You will want to find, or better still create your own red Handfasting cord, ribbon, sash. It should be at least three feet long. It is a sweet ritual to sew or string onto the sash special objects, talismans, gifts from the forest or from friends to remind you of your unique story and how you came across the world to find each other. 

You do not need a pastor, priestess, minister or judge for this ceremony. You two are all that is necessary. It is the country way of those who prize freedom and self-created celebrations. 

Creating Sacred Space  If at all possible, choose a place in Nature that is meaningful to both of you, or all of you if this is a group-family re-commitmentceremony. Create your sacred circle by identifying the Four Cardinal Directions. Decorate the Handfasting Circle with little altars in the Directions, and you may wish to place offerings on the altars to honor the Earth and to feed the spirits, animals and the Land. Cornmeal, breadcrumbs, flower seeds and a vessel of water make fine and worthy offerings. 

Enter the Circle from opposite directions. One of the partners wears the Handfasting scarf around their shoulders. As you face each other clasp the opposite forearm of your intended placing yours over theirs. The pulse point on the wrist of both partners will be connected, signifying the love and Life Blood which flow through each to the other. Each pledges their promises, vows, loyalty to the other. 

Vows 

Each speaks to the other:  

“I (state your name) have come through my life to meet and choose you. I am here to plight my troth, and make my promise to love you, commit to you and have joy with you for the coming Year-And-A-Day.” 

You may wish to speak personal promises and commitments to each other. However, this is not necessary. At this point the old ceremonial way asks the partner who is wearing the Handfasting cord to take it off, and begin to weave the cord around both clasped arms, leaving a foot on each end of the cord free. Each partner takes the end of one cord, and together “tie the knot”(hence the old wedding phrase). 

Each speaks to the other: 

“You are my nourishment. Your love is food for me.” The second partner repeats this vow. 

“I am your nourishment. My love is food for you.” The second partner repeats this vow. 

“I honor that we are fed and nourished by the Earth.” The second partner repeats this vow. 

Lifting your joined handfasted arms up in the air – joyously announce together:   

“WE ARE THE FEAST!” 

Kisses of course!! And…. BLESSED BE! (until this time next year) It is so!    

You can hang your decorated Handfasting cord in a special place in your home, ready to use the next time you may choose to Handfast, perhaps for life!