Vinotok takes the message of community mythology abroad

Sharing a ‘Mini-tok’ in Germany this spring

By Dawne Belloise

is one of the most beloved and distinctively local celebrations of Crested Butte and now others are seeking its message and meaning as it might pertain to their own community and heritage. Vinotok founders Marcie Telander and Mark Schwiesow were contacted by a presenting group to bring a mini Vinotok troupe to perform in an international forum in Potsdam, Germany, May 17 through 19. The presenting group is called The European Forum for the Study of Religion and the Environment. The Vinotok clan is currently in the process of raising funds to get a few of them to the event and have set up a GoFundMe page (see below). 

The focus of the forum is on the questions of arts and celebration as being used to bring a community together to advocate for the environment, however, Telander says that the discussions were mostly listed as academic. “There was a lot of talking around the idea but with no experience of how it can really happen,” she says. Telander says that there will be academic discourse but also artists and activists at this conference. She also notes that the conference organizers were excited about the Vinotok clan performing as well as lecturing. “It shows them that it really can be done and how it’s done.”

At the forum, Telander explains that the Vinotok clan will create altars and banners that are interactive and immersive and show the seven days of the pilgrimage of the way of Vinotok. Activities that individuals can do at these environmental altars will also be included. “We will be docents. It will include performative pieces which involve the conference participants in writing their own grumps and considering what they would wish to release from their own community so they can beckon and bring in transformative mythology and healing stories from their own roots,” she says. 

The forum participants will also take part in a procession with nine of the Vinotok members who will be traveling to Germany, “who will be embodying the archetypal wisdom figures such as the Harvest Mother, the Green Man, the Earth Dragon, the Knight and others,” she says. The anticipated nine who will travel to Germany are Rob Sepety, Jo Ellipses, Chad Reich, KT Folz, Isabel Russell, Lisa Reuth, Molly Murfee, Schwiesow and Telander.

 Telander says that the forum is questioning, through case studies, if this type of community activism exists anywhere. “Are we repeating ancient things from the past that don’t have meaning anymore? How would they include mythism, gaiaism and what is indigeneity? Those are big questions around the world.” Telander says that Vinotok is the case study. “There are people seeking home across the world. COVID really brought that to the forefront. But what is home? We do not know until we arrive and our external landscape is matched by the internal landscape, and we feel that. We want to assist people,” she says and feels that “place spirit” can be anywhere.

At home, Vinotok had been developing an apprenticeship where people from other places could participate and volunteer with guild masters. “They’d learn our philosophy, have hands-on volunteering and servant leadership with us,” she says. The participating apprentices would then take the work they do back to their own communities. “This is a special kind of reclamation in the 21st century of some of the most ancient forms of village making and community celebrating and elevating. It’s one of the most ancient forms of eco-activism that exists, especially in Europe.” 

Telander explains that these ancient forms of “village making” and storytelling come from a band of sacred theater artists and players who would travel the villages and put on passion plays which helped identify and focus on the core values of the community, especially the elders, local artists and artisans. “It would bring the people together through the shared stories, music and theater. In turn, they would spend time with the different communities gathering personal stories and learn about the mythology and heritage of the peoples. They’d recreate it with local people learning the process.”

“Vinotok is based on a reclamation of these ancient European indigenous communities of enhancements and regeneration,” Telander explains. “We are practitioners of this, so essentially, Vinotok will be taking their stories to Germany and we’ll do a Mini-tok there. We’re returning with a European tradition to the homeland and the roots where it began.”  

Telander said the goal now is to raise enough money to allow nine of the Vinotok troupe to travel to the forum where they’ll first present a panel of speakers, “focusing on our practice of forming a village environment of resistance, assistance and persistence and how a community can bridge disparity of views of the environment, generational gaps and any other form of community separation more safely through personal story sharing, seasonal celebrations, the devotion to the personhood of the environment and expressive arts from the heritage and legacy of the community ancestry.” 

With the event rapidly approaching, Schwiesow comments, “Over 40 years, working-class Vinotok volunteers have dedicated tens of thousands of hours to making our community’s defining celebration available to all of Crested Butte. Of the 35 events during the week of Vinotok, many are free. The rest are for a minimal donation. We have not solicited money from the thousands of people who celebrate with us every year. We are not asking for personal remuneration now, merely help covering the expenses of the trip. Now we have an opportunity to show the world how, ‘Myth, Ritual and Practice’ can make a true difference both locally and internationally. This is why the conference was so interested and excited to have us there. It is our deep hope that those in our community who have the wherewithal will step up and contribute generously to this opportunity. The international community wants to know how our small village has united to celebrate together and raise awareness and activism on behalf of the environment in the ‘Age of Ecological Catastrophe’ and how to create a culture of resilience and sustainability in the 21st century.”

For more information on Vinotok, visit The GoFundMe page is at:

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