For the Love of Frogs

Every year on the first Sunday in May, citizens of Montpelier, the capital city of Vermont, come together for a ritual celebration called All Species Day.  First, people of all ages gather in Hubbard Park, a scenic nature preserve overlooking the charming Victorian houses of the town.  The sage is burned, the invocation is chanted.  This is the day when folks of this northern bioregion come together to honor the non-human species they share the land with and to celebrate the return of the sun, warmth, and long light days.  Children and adults have labored to create the giant puppets and costumes that will represent the multitude of species at this long awaited ritual event. The traditional Raven appears and her huge black wings stir the air and call the spirits.  Drummers call the creatures forth, and they emerge from the woods: the two-leggeds, the four-leggeds, the many-leggeds, the ones who crawl close to the earth, the ones who swim, the ones who fly.

White geese, soaring on high poles carried by humans, return from their winter voyages. The ancient mythic archetypes are present: Old Woman Winter lights the ritual torches and the fierce and frightening Dragon lumbers forth from the trees, spewing forth a bellyful of maiden dancers, who dance the dance of Eros on the spring grass. Plays are enacted, including the traditional myth of Persephone and more postmodern “rites of spring.”

Soon the parade begins, and everyone—children, adults, creatures—assemble to march down the mountainside into the town.  The streets are filled with drummers, dancers, and chanters as the crowd makes its way across the river to the very center of power in Montpelier, the golden-domed Statehouse, which is crowned, appropriately enough, with a wooden statue of Ceres, the Roman Goddess of Agriculture.  Excitement builds as the Earth Mother, a towering puppet that reaches nearly to the top of the Doric portico, appears on the steps of the Capitol Building in all her glory to bless the congregation and sanctify the gathering.  From her skirts emerge a seemingly endless number of dancers, moving to African/Caribbean rhythms.  Tiny maidens, garlanded in flowers and strewing petals, prepare the way for the Queen of Spring.  

And then here, on the steps of the Capitol itself, is reenacted the ancient marriage of the Stag King and the Queen of Spring, a European tradition older than the nation state, older than Christianity, older than patriarchy itself.  Submerged for millennia, this pre-modern ritual emerges in postmodern times, as we begin to recreate a culture that reveres and respects all of the living beings of the Earth.

To read the entire paper, “For Love of Frogs: Aesthetic Education and the Ecologically Responsive Mind” click:

Thanks to Earl Hatley for the photos, and to Janice Walrafen, the Artistic Director of AllTogetherNow, for her 20 years of bringing All Species Day to us.