By Marianne Dietzel, St. Paul, Minnesota
Sponsored by the Anthroposophical Society, one hundred and forty of us gathered in Sacramento April 6-8 from all over the country for The Sacred Gateway Conference: Conscious Living, Conscious Dying, and the Journey Beyond. Bringing personal stories of loss and of caring for our beloveds, we came to gather with others who wish to remove the stigma of death, and instead open meaning, ritual, and connection.
The conference began and ended with a eurythmy depiction of the journey of the soul between death and rebirth. A soul followed an angel guide through the planetary spheres, joining each planetary being with its gesture. This journey was accompanied by lyre music played by Andrea Pronto and Anne Riegel Koetzsch.
Andrea and Anne creatively adapted parts of Songs of the Trees, by Colin Tanser, to accompany the journey, as well as John Billings' III (Stourbridge '83) and Heaven to Earth (Adelaide '86) during the soul's time in the region of the zodiac and upon rebirth on earth. This provided the perfect mood to allow the audience to get an artistically-rendered glimpse into this realm, building a foundation for and giving a balance to explorations of other issues around the threshold of death. In addition to lectures, workshops and a plenum on Saturday and Sunday, participants chose artistic activities, including singing led by lyrist Robin Elliot Dagg, eurythmy and writing poetry, to begin each day.
On Saturday afternoon we honored Nancy Poer, pioneer of threshold work, with testimonials from many who have been guided and inspired by her, and with single white roses handed to her one by one, accompanied by the local Threshold singers. The entire throng then surrounded her with her long rainbow silk, chanting, "Spirits all around us like a rainbow 'round the sun." Visible love and care wove about this event and all aspects of the conference.
Saturday evening featured a Momento Mori ritual (developed by Dennis Klocek) in which all participants could walk a path of remembrance of a loved one, a lemniscate with a sojourn on earth at the bottom of the larger loop, and a sojourn in the upper Devachan in the smaller upper loop. This walking was accompanied by Marianne Dietzel playing solo lyre. Participants remarked on the poignancy of walking with the delicate lyre music in the background, while observers commented on the sight of so many walking the path.
The success of this conference resulted in a positive impulse to hold a second one on the East Coast in a year. Indeed, the date and the place have been set, and planning is underway. We hope many of you will join us in Harlemville, NY on April 26-28, 2019.