When I first started my shamanic practice 35 years ago, the most common reaction to my work was rolled eyes. People would sigh and look up to the sky as if searching the heavens for a nice, rational, normal person to talk to, instead of the kook I was perceived to be.
"Oh, Donna!" they would exclaim at each mention of energy or spirit. Their response was more a jocular acceptance of my endearing weirdness than it was disdainful or rude. I have to say that despite whatever they might have personally felt about what I was doing, the public and the media has always treated me with great respect.
I suppose they could have been afraid that if they offended me, I would cast a nasty spell of warts or rashes on them, but I prefer to think that beneath it all, there has been a certain acknowledgment and appreciation of the importance of ritual and ceremonial celebrations.
Well, the times sure have changed. Today meditation is mainstream and not just for hermits in caves. Everybody does yoga and t'ai chi. And elegant ladies wear crystals hung on silver and gold chains.
These days I am hired to do programs in schools about multicultural rituals for solstices and equinoxes, to lead drumming circles at bridal showers, to do space clearings for real estate agents, to perform jinx-breaking spells for construction crews, and to offer blessings of newly constructed crypts at cemeteries.
I owe this change of attitude to the hundreds of "Celestially Auspicious Occasions" that I have presented over these past three-plus decades. These public, participatory rituals celebrating each turn of the wheel of the year have gradually gained understanding and acceptance of Earth honoring practices.
The Vernal Equinox was the first event to reach a mass audience. On the first year that I offered "Eggs on End: Standing on Ceremony," a picture of that event appeared on the front page of The New York Times. And the rest, as they say, was history.
That rite of spring has been featured on every television news network in the United States, as well as throughout Europe and Japan. It has been the The New York Times on several occasions including a Sunday editorial, as well as The New Yorker, USA Today, The Village Voice and Omni. Because of all the press coverage, the Spring Equinox is now a popular contemporary holiday, noted everywhere on weather reports and on the news.
Several years ago, all of the participants of my annual Winter Solstice Celebration, "Reverence to Her," were arrested by an overzealous Guiliani police force on the beach in Staten Island. This resulted in a media frenzy. The New York Times championed our cause and published four major stories in four days including a full-page feature about my urban shaman practice.
The New York Post screamed, "Pagan Cult Bust!" The Daily News piped in. The stories were syndicated across the country. As a result, the Civil Liberties Union took our case and both judges that we came in front of dropped our charges and released complimentary statements on our behalf that were published in law reviews across the country. And now, the Winter Solstice, too, has achieved the status of a mainstream holiday.
Now, all I have to do is boost the public awareness and observance of the Fall Equinox and the Summer Solstice to the same popularity and I will be able to retire, my job complete!
Join Donna Henes, Urban Shaman for her 35th Anniversary Summer Soulstice Celebration.
Tuesday, 8:00 PM
SUNSET SOLSTICE CEREMONY
A sizzling Celebration of Summer. A family friendly event. Bring kids, dogs, drums, percussions and plenty of rousing spirit.
Socrates Sculpture Park
32-01 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City, Queens
For info: 718-956-1819