Rites of Spring Summary and Recording

Tara C. Trapani

On April 3, Orion Magazine held a launch event for its spring issue featuring Sumana Roy, who was a contributor, and Mary Evelyn Tucker, who guest edited this issue. They explored the interplay of ritual and nature and how we can enhance that sacred intimacy. They were also joined for a portion of the event by Amy Brady, Executive Director of Orion. The event was sponsored by the Religion, Ecology & Expressive Culture Initiative at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Orion Magazine, and the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology.

They opened by introducing the issue itself–the first Orion issue ever printed on 100% recycled paper–and how it was a true feast of rich writings on the topic of the seasonal rites of nature, as well as human rites of passage that embrace and include the natural world. The late Ellen Bernstein was also invoked and honored at this time, particularly for her work with ecologically-themed Seders as an anchor of the Jewish year. 

Sumana's piece in this issue is titled “Guests of Honor: Reading the language of roots and blossoms in wedding rituals.” She expanded on this and the importance in this piece of involving and inviting the plant world to the wedding ritual, as well as the water, the sun, the soil. Flowers abound at ceremonies such as these, but the roots have just as important a role, as turmeric is used in abundance to enliven and embellish. We broaden our understanding of “ancestor” to welcome these members of our Earth family to the celebration. 

Climate change was brought into the conversation and how the rapidly changing climate is forcing adaptation and addition to the rituals, and will likely require more conscious efforts on our part to engage the natural world in our celebration and ceremony as climate disruption makes this increasingly more challenging.  We must create “moments of chosen communion” to keep this natural family close. 

Mary Evelyn also brought in how multiple ways of seeing and knowing the world (as explored in the 2021 volume Living Earth Community) are strongly present at this gathering of ancestors through a banquet for the senses created by weaving in these natural elements–the heightened sensory experience enhances our spiritual connection and communion. 

My biggest takeaway was an unexpected moment. Sumana's words really hit home when she said that our use of the term “non-human animal” is arrogant and condescending–positioning ourselves once again above every other species and defining them both in relation to us and from a perspective of lack. I, for one, have taken her words to heart and will be making a conscious effort to reframe and rephrase around this topic.

I can strongly and wholeheartedly recommend to all of our readers to watch the recording of the event (below). It was a wonderful tapestry of ideas, images, and sensory invitations. As this issue is a sumptous feast, so was the launch event, and I express my gratitude that we were all invited to the celebration!