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.

Banishing & Beckoning

Each year at Vinotok we banish our grumps by writing them on slips of paper, stuffing Grump Boxes stashed throughout town, and burning them with the actual Grump (assuming he’s found guilty at the Trial). This year, you may still stuff Grump Boxes with your grumps, those things you wish to Banish both inside and out, and transform them into Beckonings for the future.

At the Fire Circle at the Four-Way where the Crossroads meet, the Grump itself will be installed on Sunday, September 13, in an artistic display never before seen. Throughout Vinotok Week you will be able to walk the stone labyrinth, to place your Banishment Grumps into the Grump itself (instructions on the Grumps & Gratitude form found at one of the altars on the Vinotok Pilgrimage) and hang your Beckoning Prayer Flag (instructions found at one of the altars on the Vinotok Pilgrimage). There is also a ceremonial archway for you to conduct your own personal handfasting ritual (instructions found at one of the altars on the Vinotok Pilgrimage).

What do we need to get rid of, banish and burn from our individual and collective midst? And then … because it is so important to have something that rises from the flames … what do we want to manifest in the future? Banish and Beckon.

In Crested Butte only. Please note there will be no public burning of the Grump. But please be assured, your Grumps, collectively with the rest of the community’s, will be transformed. For our faraway friends, supportive materials will be found on our website on burning your own grumps at home. Free.

Walking a Labyrinth – The Crested Butte Labyrinth of Life

A labyrinth is an ancient tool that can help in deepening our spirituality, bringing forward the connection to our soul which helps us tap into our intuition, creativity, simplicity, body, spirit, intimacy and community. It is a walking meditation or prayer that engages your body, mind and soul. It is a path inward and a path outward, which is the same path, and represents the path we are on in life.

Walking the labyrinth is a meditation. As you move slowly through it, take a step with each full breath, ask a question, put forth an intention, look for a sign. When you reach the center, simply close your eyes and breathe.

How we use the labyrinth is through very personal intention. The labyrinth invites all experiences into its energy; be it grief, joy, love, wonder, or play. Walking the labyrinth is the way to listen to our inner wisdom and receive the answers and support of Spirit and the Universe.

Each time you walk the labyrinth may be for a different reason. You may be seeking:

balance or centering healing experiencing the energies connection to your higher self opening awareness

When we start to walk the labyrinth, we should stand at the opening and take a minute to reflect on what it is we want to learn or the answer we seek. Pause, breathe deeply, and focus attention on your intention so that you are inviting a clear answer. The more consciously we prepare for our walk, the deeper the walk will be.

Start the walk by offering gratitude to your Ancestors, to the Earth, to Life and to the blessings of being at the very center of your community. This is the time to ask for guidance and support from that Being or principle in whose Light you walk and in which you believe; be it Nature, Higher Power, Creator, a spirit animal, an angel, wisdom guide, favorite god or goddess, or the winds. You can take this opportunity to bow to this special Life Force and give thanks. This can be a verbal, visual or a physical bow.

Acknowledge your intention, your support and the commitment to the truth. When you are finished, take a deep breath, step into the labyrinth and let your walk take you to the place of peace and understanding.

Once you reach the center of the labyrinth you can:

relax meditate seek answers to questions

At the Center of the labyrinth you may feel how worries and busy thoughts have dropped away. This is the Still Point in which we pause, breathe and open ourselves to guidance and received knowledge from the Source. Do not hurry. Simply be open and you will receive. Note the four cardinal directions around you. Honor these as well as the three directions Above, Below and Within. When you are ready, begin your journey outward, feeling your intentions deepening with every step and breath. This walking meditation releases tensions and brings a centeredness which allows our intentions to flow through us and out into the world. As you prepare to leave the labyrinth, offer another thought or prayer of thanks. You are Home. It is so.

Blessings from Vinotok Godmother, Marcie Telander

Feast Blessing

Dearest friends, neighbors, brothers and sisters

As we prepare our community feast apart from one another, let us collectively take a moment to honor the flora and fauna from which this feast came.  The bounty before us was not artificially designed nor was it created in a factory but was woven by the Winds, Rains, Sun and Earth.  May the great animating forces that raised the plants from seed, raise us to ripeness so that we may one day be consumed, raising a mightier being to greatness.  And may the four legged creatures who were slain for this meal continue their journey through us so that we may grow to one day be devoured by life itself; continuing our own journey through a greater vessel.  “Oat and corn, oats and corn, all that dies shall be reborn.  Vine and grain, vine and grain, all that falls shall rise again.”  Let us rejoice in being a part of this sacred cyclical dance of life and death.  Our sweet bodies are not an isolated, independent event. No. We are made of the Winds, Rains, Sun and Earth!  The fruits and flesh before us will soon be woven into our being.  So as we enjoy this great feast, let there be a song of gratitude within our hearts and words of praise upon our lips. 

With love,

Your Green Man 

Brandon Johanns

Harvest Feast Blessing

In times of upheaval and unrest,
Let us re-member our community:
Mend relations and break bread with companions.
May this feast, drawn from our local soil
Tended with our own hands,
Re-root relationship to each other,
Nourish mind, body, spirit,
Perfect our vision in our current time,
Hold us here firmly to honor 
our homes, ourselves, this place.
Let us eat, drink, and be merry.

Many blessings to you,
Harvest Mother
Kat Bernier