The Heartland Spiritual Alliance holds a bake sale to bring in dough for lawyers' fees.

Cookies and Mother Earth Milk 

The Heartland Spiritual Alliance holds a bake sale to bring in dough for lawyers' fees.

Most people consider sixth grade the most appropriate time for holding bake sales to raise money for purchases such as risers for a music class or scooters for the gym. Adults who contemplate the bake-sale approach to fundraising usually succumb to a bullying form of pride that prevents them from standing on street corners with signs reading "Proceeds go toward the phone bill!"

But Aislinn Firehawk, president of the Heartland Spiritual Alliance, isn't easily intimidated. In October, local groups that hold gatherings at the secluded plot of Kansas land known as the Gaea Retreat Center discovered that Leavenworth County commissioners had refused to renew the center's operating permit. Since then, the center has been preparing to deal with bills it never imagined it would confront: lawyers' fees. Organizations such as the Heartland Spiritual Alliance are hosting a bake sale -- with $10 psychic readings offered lemonade-stand-style -- at Sacred Earth Arts this weekend as part of a grassroots effort to maintain the center's ownership and land-use rights; Firehawk, for one, has become "very attached" to the site.

"I've been involved with this land since it was purchased," says Firehawk, whose organization spearheads the annual Heartland Pagan Festival, a weekend of celebration that draws more than a thousand people every year. Residents of neighboring areas petitioned against renewal of the retreat center's operating permit, complaining about the activities they suspected took place behind the brush. "It's about fear," Firehawk says. "[Neighbors] don't know what's going on out there, so they assume the worst. We're not doing anything out there that we'd want to hide. Their kids could tell them that, since they crashed every event we had this year."

What Firehawk and others appreciate about the land is that it's "unsullied." Plenty of people went to Gaea to watch shooting stars during the recent Leonid meteor shower, taking advantage of the clear sky in a safe place where city lights don't reach.

Firehawk expects a rich variety among the psychics who will offer their services for the fundraiser. One plans to read tarot cards; another will use runes (letters of an ancient Nordic alphabet used to interpret the status of the person receiving a reading). Firehawk herself will be reading stones. "Tools are tools," she explains, "and psychics are psychics. Sometimes people just feel better if there's something between you and them so they don't feel like you're reading their minds."

Asking $10 a reading on top of the price of baked-good donations may seem a bit demanding. But Aislinn reminds skeptics that the proceeds benefit the retreat center and its land. "We're doing this to preserve our space."

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