Dancing into the Dark

Move into the mystery that holds together birth and death

A gathering based in women’s ritual dances from the Balkans, Greece, and Asia Minor.

Led by Emily Jarrett Hughes. Live music with Greg Herriges and friends.
Sunday, October 29, 3-8 PM, Picnic Shelter A, Fort Snelling State Park

In community, let’s cross into the season of deepest night. The collective joy of dance gently harmonizes us with nature’s rhythms. What’s more, these traditional dances connect us to myths and ancient wisdom that can guide us into being able to stand with alchemical power at life’s thresholds.

What mystery holds together birth and death?

As we remember our ancestors and dear friends who have moved on from this life, perhaps this question gets more urgent. What ties us together? Aging seems to force us to steadily lose parts of our lives; how could this be an invitation to Mystery? As we live in a time where so much is ending, is there the possibility that something is also beginning?

The dark mysteries invite us to awaken our own inner knowing of how birth and death are held together. It is dark in the sense that we cannot see it, it takes us beyond even our subconscious. They are mysteries in the sense that they invite us to understand the essence of the universe. That essence is unnamable; as the Taoists say, “If you think you can express it, that’s not it.” The way into the mystery is through direct embodied experience.

Through time, sacred stories have told the story of descent AND ascent woven together. Demeter, the Greek Goddess of Grain, presides over the annual descent of her daughter Persphone to the underworld. The Summarian Goddess Innana is transformed by visiting her sister in the Underworld. The Black Madonna births a son who dies and then rises again.

Motifs pointing us to the Goddess Demeter continue to be prominently “hidden in plain sight” within Greek dance (as in this article). We will draw on Laura Shannon’s pioneering research to dance our way into this ancient symbolic language. Through dance, we learn to literally embody the mystery. This year we will also explore how feminist mystic theologian Beatrice Bruteau gives us anchors for understanding the spiritual journey hidden in the dance steps.

Dance is a particularly powerful medium for integrating body, mind, and spirit and for weaving together self, community and nature. No experience is necessary. Open to all women/femme/non-binary folk. This retreat draws on the simplest of women’s ritual dances because they allow for the richest inner experience. If your feet are new to the steps, you will notice how the rhythm of the group will carry you, and offer you lots of grace in the learning process. It is not even essential to dance – active witnessing of the dancing is also rich. I’m happy to talk more about how to make your body comfortable and very connected and engaged in this special day.

As we enter into the realm of the dark, we will honor the ancestors that are with us. They are close and supporting us, just on the other side of that mysterious threshold that weaves together life and death. We will create our annual collective ancestor altar to invoke their guidance and wisdom.

Outline of our time together:

3:00 Offering to ancestors and invocation
3:20 Opening dance
4:00 Guided reflection, intimate conversation, and creative activity
5:30 Potluck dinner
6:30 Ritual dance synthesizing the themes of the day

About our location at Fort Snelling State Park

This gathering will take place very close to Wita Tanka (Pike Island), at the very heart of the sacred traditional territory of the Dakota people. It is also the site of catastrophic Native internment camps. We dedicate our dancing to cultivating harmony and reconciliation in every dimension.

Our picnic shelter will serve as an “earthen cave.” The space offers us lots of ventilation (2 huge barn doors on either side) and a hearth while also giving us a roof and protected enclosure. We begin in daylight along the river bank and end in our “cave” illuminated only by fire and candles. The hauntingly beautiful music, ancient step patterns, and our conscious attention to the presence of our own ancestors mingle into a powerful blessing to help you transition into this next season with ease and beauty.

This workshop is for you if you:

  • Wish to grow into your feminine strength, with increasing clarity and authority as you age.
  • Find the most meaningful way for you to explore the Divine Mystery is through the Sacred Feminine.
  • Find the most meaning in myth and sacred stories through experiential immersion.
  • Hunger to connect with Earth based wisdom from Europe.
  • Seek support for moving into a season that is sometimes isolating and depressive.
  • Grieve lost loved ones and wish to strengthen your connection with ancestors.
  • Feel curiosity about how recovering ancient wisdom that holds death and life together can dissolve fear and spark courage for living in a world full of chaos and endings.
  • Want to nourish your body with joy, beauty, and movement that cultivates rather than expends energy.

Cost: $59 by 10/18, $69 after 10/18. State Park entrance fee also required when entering park. Use Coupon code DARK23 to register to $40.

Space is limited. No one turned away for lack of funds. Ages 6-21 are $15, ages 5 and under are free. Best suited to ages 12 and older. If you have a younger one you wish to bring, let’s talk! Contact me directly about registering since my scheduling platform is not very flexible.