Erin Kircher in Glastonbury for Summer, 2016

Update – Erin was kind enough to give us a fuller account of her work this summer (one can still find the first, shorter description below this new update). Here is Erin’s longer report:

                                 

 

                                      Glastonbury Summer Volunteer Experience

 

To those who might not have had the chance to meet me, my name is Erin Leilani Kircher, and I will soon be a graduate of the Religious Studies department with a Minor in History from Humboldt State University.

Initially, I chose to major in Religious Studies to follow through on my lifetime passion of understanding ancient world cultures and traditions. Of those ancient curiosities, one specific set of mythology that has been a part of my life since I can remember attending preschool has been the legends of King Arthur and his knights. Part of what holds my attention to Arthurian legends, along with others throughout the ages, is how simple and tangible they appear on the surface, yet the more they are studied the more complex and dumbfounding they become. As my final year with Humboldt State University comes to a close, I have had the amazing opportunity to work alongside the Glastonbury Experience organization, which takes those who want to tour sites associated with Arthurian legend and Joseph of Arimithea (when he supposedly came to Britain) as well as other Celtic sites.

Regarding the specific role that I have been hired to be for the Glastonbury Experience organization, I will essentially be their experimental subject to test an official Glastonbury Pilgrimage route that they can present to the Glastonbury Town Council by this coming September 2016. Over the years, the Glastonbury Pilgrimage Center (part of the Glastonbury Experience organization) has only given visitors a rough map of the terrain of Glastonbury and nothing further. No tour guides, very few site markers, brief New Age spiritual backgrounds, and hardly any historical context behind what are considered to be sacred sites around Glastonbury. This is the core set of problems that I have been hired on to help solve for the Glastonbury Experience. Just this past week, I have officially completed their rough draft of the set pilgrimage route to Arthurian/Celtic Briton/Joseph of Arimithean sites. Exhausting would be a vast understatement.

In short, what I hope to accomplish in the next five weeks with my time as part of the Glastonbury Experience organization is to help establish a pilgrimage rout accessible to all platforms of spiritual paths. Currently, Glastonbury heavily focuses on more New Age Celtic and Goddess practices, and does not have a guided tour or pamphlet summary of the terrain that makes the area more contextual for those who do not subscribe to either sets of spiritual practice. In addition, the majority of the sites historically relevant to Arthurian legends have now been eradicated by the Industrial Revolution or swallowed by the landscape within the last 400 years, and are extremely difficult for people who are handicapped to access. Hopefully, the research and experience that I will be providing the Glastonbury Experience organization can help establish a pilgrimage route accessible to all spiritual backgrounds and physical abilities, as well as helping historical sites that have been lost through time around the terrain become remembered again.

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Original Post – Here is an short description from one of our current students, Erin Kircher, on her summer in Glastonbury, England. We hope to have a full write up very soon on her experience. In the meantime, here is what Erin is up to:

“Essentially, my official duty is to take pilgrimage through the sacred sites associated with Arthurian legend and Joseph of Arimathea, while also providing a detailed journal and final formal analysis objectively describing how the experience would be for someone who is not familiar with any aspect of King Arthur and Joseph of Arimathea. What the Glastonbury Experience organization I am a volunteer for wants to accomplish is an official pilgrimage route that they can present to the Glastonbury Town Council, so that tourists and practitioners of Neo-Avalonian/Pagan spirituality can experience a religious-like endeavor similar to what is offered at other holy sites around the world. At the moment the project is very underground and evolving, and they are very excited to have me as an academic Religious Studies and History student to provide a young millennial perspective, so I will be introduced to other scholars within the Somerset region for further education and research. This is a project that not too many of my fellow students can experience, so I am extremely grateful to be involved with something so massive as an establishment of an official Arthurian pilgrimage route!”

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Religious Studies Graduation Reception, 2016

Here are some pictures from our Religious Studies graduation reception–on May 14th, 2016 at Larson Park in Arcata, CA. Congratulations to all our wonderful students! And a special mention to our student award winners:

Eric Freed Peace & Justice Award – Andrew Perera

Outstanding Student Award – Zoe Thurman & Cade Strickland

 

Roy King and Robert Underhill Lecture on DNA Research, Pre-History, and Biblical Studies

On April 13, the Religious Studies department welcomed Drs. Roy King and Peter Underhill (HSU alum) to campus to speak on “Climate Change & Migration, through Genetics and Religious Studies.” Both drove from Stanford, and led over 100 students and communities members through a multi-disciplinary lecture and discussion of topical interest to many of us here on the HSU campus.

Underhill has been working in research that allows us now to understand ancient populations through detailed analysis of DNA typologies, that include many people from pre-historic cultures. He gave an overview of the science behind this, and Roy King followed with a discussion of how this research allows us to understand more about the emergence of ancient Israelite culture and the Hebrew Bible.

The event was a success, and we hope to have one or both of these scholars back for another event in the coming academic year.

Iranian Scholars Give Lecture on Islamic Mysticism

On April 2, 2015 Mohammad Monib and Mohammad Amindin (Professors at the International Institute for Islamic Studies in Tehran, Iran) gave a lecture about the foundations of Islamic Mysticism on the HSU campus. They stressed the importance of compassion and justice as central concepts and practices for all of Islamic life, but also for the elevated consciousness that derives from Sufi practice. Their lectures were informative and filled with excellent examples from their long experience and extensive study of Islam in Iran. We celebrate this magnificent example of intercultural exchange.

Many thanks to Mary Bockover for organizing this event, and for including Religious Studies as partners with the Philosophy Department in sponsoring the lecture.

Memorial for Eric Freed in Arcata

On Sunday, March 1, 2015, from 2:00-5:00 p.m., Humboldt State University’s Religious Studies Department hosted a celebrative commemoration of the life and legacy of Father Eric Freed at the Plaza Grill, at 780 7th Street in Arcata.

It has been a year since the tragic death of Father Eric Freed, and the HSU Religious Studies department has worked during this time to render this unfathomable loss into something positive for our students and community. Eric left us with a strong awareness of how important community is to our individual and collective well-being. It is in this spirit that we invited alumni, friends, and the greater community to an afternoon in celebration of Eric’s life and the ways that we can, and do, work together to foster peace and justice.

Father Freed taught courses for the HSU Religious Studies department for seven years, during which time he influenced countless students as they practiced engaged scholarship, learned deeply of the religious traditions of the world, and applied what they learned to projects, large and small, for human betterment. His positive impact continues to reverberate through our classrooms, congregations, community centers, and through myriad individual hearts and minds.

Students, alumni, friends of Eric, and the community at large gathered to celebrate his legacy of engaged scholarship, social justice, and human kindness through sharing reflections, food, and fellowship.

Josh Rudolph and Willie Schubert Give Career Talk on Campus

Josh Rudolph (RS/International Studies, 2009) and Willie Schubert (GEOG) gave an inspiring presentation on their work since graduation. It shows the sorts of things you can do with a degree from HSU and the passion to follow your dream. Josh found his inspiration in the study of Chinese language and culture while majoring in RS. Willie (who did not major in RS, but worked with us extensively) began his work in social activism during his undergraduate years. For more on their current activities, see the poster for their alumni talk. Thanks to Tony Rossi for organizing this event.

Clergy for Choice Meet on HSU Campus

The Religious Studies Department was proud to join the local Clergy for Choice group in sponsoring the screening of Jon O’Brien’s documentary film, The Secret History of Sex, Choice, and Catholics on campus on the evening of January 29. O’Brien, president of the international non-profit Catholics for Choice, visited campus to introduce the film and to lead a discussion on the relationship between religion and public policy. Over 200 students and community members attended. We thank all who participated in the event, and look forward to seeing you all at future events.

Sean McCann Opens Practice in Chinese Medicine

[Sean McCann gives a brief report on his recent graduation with a degree in Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, and his subsequent opening of a new practice in North Carolina, where he has been seeing patients for the last several months. His report is in the form of a letter to William Herbrechtsmeier (dated 31 Aug 2015). Please enjoy. He’s doing some very interesting work.]

Dear Bill,

How is everything on that side of the country?  What’s new in the Religious Studies Department?  My wife and I are at the start of a whole new chapter of our lives.  To begin, Trang is 30 weeks pregnant!  We are very excited for the new addition.  She is due 11/10.  It’s hard to imagine all of the changes a baby girl will bring, but we’re looking forward to it with great anticipation.  Trang is handling the pregnancy well, and I’ve been able to take care of most of the morning sickness, fatigue, pain, etc using Chinese medicine.  In addition, we moved to North Carolina in April, and I recently started my own clinic.

Grinding HerbsI completed my M.S. in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in April (I know, it’s fairly ridiculous that the word, “oriental” is still being used in some professional circles).  We moved to Asheville on the very day that I completed my courses.  The move was precipitated by an offer of a residency and job at the Alternative Clinic.  The Alternative Clinic is a comprehensive Chinese medicine clinic started by the teachers I’ve been traveling to study with for the past 2 years, Andrew and JulieAnn Nugent-Head.  Andrew spent the last 27 years studying with the old doctors and martial artists in China and moved to Asheville with his family last summer.

I spent my first 3 months in Asheville in their clinic, dividing my time between seeing my own patients, observing and assisting their treatments, filling herbal formulas, and speaking about Chinese medicine with people who walked in off the street.  It was fantastic to be completely immersed in the clinic with them 6 days a week, soaking up everything I could.  At the beginning of August, I decided to start my own clinic.  I continue to study with the Nugent-Heads and spend time in their clinic, but my primary focus is now on building my practice and applying everything I have learned up to this point.

McCann's Clinic

I am simultaneously studying the classic texts of Chinese medicine with them.  We are currently going through the Shang Han Lun and Jin Gui Yao Lue.  We will cover many others in the coming years, including the Huang Di Nei Jing and Nan Jing.  We go through the texts line by line, the two of them translating the classical Chinese and commentaries relevant to the text, as well as discussing the clinical relevance of the passages.  These times take me back to the RS days and leave me feeling thankful, once again, for my experience at Humboldt State.  Without it, I may not have discovered qigong and taiji, and I would likely never have understood what it takes to study and gain understanding from ancient texts.  I hope that the current students realize how immensely special their time there is.

This has been a thoroughly enjoyable time for my taiji and qigong practice.  I studied with a wonderful Chen taiji teacher, Dave Christophy (a student of Wang Hai Jun), while in Florida.  Since arriving in North Carolina, I have had extended periods of time during which I have been left largely to my own devices in terms of my personal practice, giving me ample time to reflect on what I have learned from Dave, Andrew, and you.  The interplay of the input from each of you leads me to new insights daily.  I have found, however, that freedom and willingness to play are of equal importance to good teaching.  Without these, one can never make an art their own.  I will begin teaching qigong and Wu style taiji here in a couple of weeks and am looking forward to working with a new group of students.  I hope to be able to impart to them the importance of this balance.

Jensen and CaseyTrang and I plan to spend anywhere from 3-5 years here, and then we hope to do some traveling before moving back West to settle somewhere.  I am intrigued by the idea of eventually getting a Ph.D. in something related to classical Chinese texts or Chinese medicine.  The field of study, as well as the practice of the medicine in this country is very young and, unfortunately, immature.  There are some incredibly skilled individuals with an immense amount of experience and knowledge to share, but the field lacks the structure to allow these people to teach what they know to large numbers of people.

The only way I can imagine increasing the ratio of good practitioners and scholars to charlatans is to bring the field into the major universities.  Certainly, these too have their issues, but I believe the difference in quality of education would be significant if this were the case.  I imagine Chinese medicine students with access to anatomy labs and professors who are qualified to discuss the classic texts, as is the case in the RS & philosophy departments at HSU.  This increased level of scholarship and blending with the larger academic community would, inevitably, bring about some magnificent changes for Chinese medicine, and medicine in general, in this country.

That is all quite a ways down the road, however.  There is plenty to focus on right now, but I still like to dream.  Anyway, I hope that this email finds you well.  Write back whenever you have some time.

Take care,

Sean McCann

Mindful Mountain Medicine
(828) 785-2401
SeanMcCannLAc@gmail.com
http://www.MindfulMountainMedicine.com

Carmen Finken Returns to Iowa after One Year at HSU

[Carmen Finken studied with us in Religious Studies for one year (2012-13) as part of the National Student Exchange Program. She’s now back in Iowa, but credits HSU and the Religious Studies program as a life changing experience. Read on below…]

(August 13, 2015)
I’m now working with AmeriCorp, but I would not be here had I not chosen to attend HSU during the 2012-2013 school year. The AmeriCorps program that I work for is called Green Iowa and there are six sites across the state. Our mission is to make Iowans more energy efficient through low-impact home weatherizations, energy education, and community outreach. As education coordinator, I work specifically with people (mostly children) on how to be more environmentally friendly and enrgy efficient.

Living Myths and Consumerism and Eco-Spirituality were huge wake up calls for me. I had no idea that we were living in the midst of an environmental crisis, nor did I care to look at religion through a phenomenological lens. My year at HSU was very informative, often in a very frightening sense. From Herb’s class concerning terrorism, to Sara’s class about the environmental crisis, and Steve’s class on impermanence, it was an incredibly heavy year. There was no way I would have been able to come back to Iowa and resume living my life as though I had not been to Humboldt.

I finished my religion degree in May 2014 and started working for AmeriCorps this past fall. I will do the program for a second year and then hopefully attend graduate school for environmental sustainability. I’m actually touring Portland State this Wednesday!
I find the work I do for AmeriCorps rewarding, though it becomes difficult to keep the faith that we aren’t spiraling into an environmental apocalypse. In a very long-winded conclusion, studying RS at HSU made me more aware of major environmental, social, and political issues, and has since given me a better understanding of global and theological concerns.
As you can tell I still have a lot of feelings about my year at HSU.

I’ve been doing a lot of volunteer work for the Bernie campaign here in Waterloo and Cedar Falls, like phone banking, canvassing, and holding house parties. When some of us here saw him speak in Waterloo, he said that human beings are not meant to be fighting in such violent wars. It instantly made me think of Living Myths and just violence. I just hope that he doesn’t get taken out for his attempt to bring forth a political revolution like in the past.
I hope that this fall semester’s Living Myths class brings forth a lot of insightful discussion. I wish I had had the courage to speak more when I was an undergraduate, especially at HSU.

The summer here has been pretty mild, at least in Cedar Falls. How is the mystical town of Arcata?

Thanks again for staying in touch. It means a lot to be hearing back from the HSU Religious Studies program.