Mother Earth News Blogs > Nature and Environment

Nature and Environment

News about the health and beauty of the natural world that sustains us.


True Saga Commemorates an Epic American Pilgrimage for the Earth

"What they greatly thought, they nobly dared.”  - Homer, The Odyssey

Twenty years have come and gone, and thus I am moved to acknowledge and commemorate a great adventure for our earth and our era, and the telling of the true tale of that adventure as Odyssey of the 8th Fire.

The 8th Fire online saga tells the nonfiction story of a great, long prayer walk 20 years ago (1995-1996) from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The story and the teachings arise from the deepest roots of our land and it’s most ancient traditions of peace and environmental balance. But the unfolding of the saga takes place in the present and the future under the skysign of the Whirling Rainbow.

Sunbow Whirling Rainbow & my Sandpainting

In the tale, circles upon circles, spiritual elders make a great and generous giveaway of the teachings they carry for the people and for the earth we share.

As well as the true tale of our travels on foot across the continent, Odyssey of the 8th Fire is also the essential story of our meetings with dozens of traditional, learned elders of North America. They gifted us with messages to deliver.

Over the course of the long walk from sea to sea, I came to know Grandfather William Commanda of the Kitigan Zibi Algonquin Reserve in Maniwaki, Canada. A venerable keeper of specific earth traditions and understandings, Grandfather guided our multicultural walk of about 50 people of all nations and faiths. He told us of dying trees and poisoned waters. He spoke of strange sicknesses arising and deranged people rampant with weapons and chaos. He told us how his forbears had foreseen this, and how we human beings had a responsibility, and the capacity, to set thing back into balance on the land. That’s why the walk happened: to meet that responsibility and to let others know about it.

Grandfather William Commanda, Earth Keeper

Using his native language, Grandfather noted that we are living in an era when the Oshkibimadizeeg (a new people) are arising. They are human beings who are emerging from the clouds of illusion. They are remembering who they are and why they are here. They take care of the earth as they would care for their mother. They are walking and working in beauty.

Walking pilgrimage is a perennial spiritual tradition with historical roots that reach around the globe. In ancient times people set out on pilgrimage to do penance, to enhance their own spiritual growth, or to direct their prayers and sacrifices in support of someone, or some situation at home.

In our times, arising out of global necessity, pilgrimage has taken on a different character. Pilgrims often journey now to direct their thoughts, energy and spirits in support of the earth. Such was the character of the 225-day walking pilgrimage for the Earth at the core of Odyssey of the 8th Fire.

In the telling of the tale, Odyssey of the 8th Fire sets out many of the essential wisdom traditions that have arisen and endured through over 20 millennia of life and civilization in the Americas.

I’m grateful that it was possible for me, with the invaluable help of my wife Elizabeth Wolf and hundreds of others, to spin out the words for this ambitious spiritual saga along the Beauty Way, and to make of it an online giveaway for the people and for the earth we share.

Journalist Steven McFadden is the author of 15 nonfiction books dealing with the land and our lives upon it. His most recent book is Awakening Community Intelligence: CSA Farms as 21st Century Cornerstones. Read all of Steven's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.