Joy Burton's picture
I began as a Wiccan in 1990, self-taught and a guest of various groups and teachers while starting Campus Pagans at Washington University in St. Louis. In networking with the local community, I was a part of starting the first St. Louis Pagan Picnic. River and Joyce Higginbotham, Dana Eilers, San Barbrida, El Bee, Christine C, Jay, Brad, and many others were a great inspiration in my early days of learning, sharing, and priestessing. I was a hesitant and shy but eager learner in co-leading a women's Goddess Spirituality circle out of the dorms for women of all ages, and our campus group had lots of fun and some great rituals. When I moved to Denver, Colorado in 1995, I became involved with Pagan Rainbow Network and Hearthstone Community Church. Moving into solitary practice for the early 2000's, I re-emerged as a mom seeking an open women's circle that was family-friendly and found nothing in my part of town. I founded a group named, quite sarcastically, Highlands Ranch Pagan Meetup, poking gentle fun at myself and my inexplicable love for my overwhelmingly conservative neighborhood filled with HOA regulations and megachurches. I figured I would be lucky to find two or three other women and the website could shut down. Before I knew it, I had 50 people of all types of Pagan practice, beliefs, and experience levels all wanting an open and public ritual experience. One thing led to another, and I stepped in to lead ritual and take on other ministry tasks. We started an international Pagan festival called Beltania in 2008. Another unintentional blessing! A picnic inviting all our friends, with my promise to feed everyone who showed up, resulted in 250 people dancing a maypole and listening to some friends who were musicians. A fellow leader and organizer suggested overnight camping the next year, and before we knew it we had a 500-750 person 4-day festival. The revenue generated from that festival has helped Living Earth do quite a bit. We re-named ourselves when we grew far beyond the Highlands Ranch area of Denver and became Living Earth, recognizing our evolving and unique tradition of neo-Paganism rooted in Wicca, Reclaiming, and the Cornerstones of Community. Now, the Living Earth Tradition stands on its own with students and initiates and teachers. In 2010, we purchased land in the Colorado mountains with two other groups for a shared retreat facility called Earth Haven. For two years, we camped, danced, drummed, took care of the land, had many rituals, and learned a lot. Our paths diverged, and I felt a calling to have a nonprofit community center in Denver so that we could serve more of our community on a day-to-day basis. Living Earth Center opened on Imbolc, 2012, in Denver. We've moved twice due to growth in our attendance and space usage. We offer the space to other groups and individuals to use, and have become a hub of community service and outreach as well as regular sabbats and esbats. As Executive Director and High Priestess, I collaborate with a team of diverse and beautiful priests and priestesses, ritualists, dedicants to service to others and to the Divine, students, participants, and guests. Every day is a learning experience and an opportunity to reach out and connect with the Earth, with the Divine, and with the community. www.livingearthcolorado.org www.beltania.org meetup.com/livingearth https://www.facebook.com/groups/livingearth/ and https://www.facebook.com/Beltania-Festival-134102423317179/

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