All this month, members of the various Earth Religions — Pagans, Wiccans, Heathens — remember their ancestors and make an effort to atone for misdeeds in the past year. The observances began at the autumnal equinox in September and continue for six weeks until Samhain, the Pagan New Year celebration, which is observed Oct. 31.“This is the holiest time of our year,” said H. Byron Ballard, a Wicca priestess and a founder of CERES, the Coalition of Earth Religions for Education and Support. Previously, CERES sponsored an Earth religions week during October, but this year, because of the number of events, the observancewas expanded to a month of activities, Ballard said.Among the events is an afternoon workshop at Holy Ground, the feminist retreat ministry.
Ballard will lead a discussion about Wicca. “The impetus was a really beautiful altar (Ballard) created for our shrine art exhibit,” said Laura Collins, assistant director of Holy Ground. “It fascinated us, and we saw it as an opportunity for learning.” Collins said one of the deepest commitments of Holy Ground is to allow people to explore all faiths. “We want to dispel some myths and really have a chance to understand,” Collins said. Ballard also has created a personal ancestor altar using photos and mementos from her family. The bowl of turnips recalls her Irish ancestry. “In Ireland, they didn’t have pumpkins, so they carved jack-o-lanterns out of huge turnips,” she said. The skull represents ancestors whoare “long dead.” Members of the Earth Religions also will donate “Wiccan Woolies,” hats and scarves, to Helpmate, the domestic violence services agency, for women and children in Helpmate’s shelter. “We’re knitting and crocheting like crazy,” Ballard said. “I have my knitting bag with me all the time.” The project came about as several members were talking about what they could do for the community, Ballard said. “We just thought women and children in this situation might want something warm and wonderful to comfort them,” Ballard said. “Originally, we did it for winter solstice, but it’s already cold then, so we decided we’d start doing it for Samhain.”