Where do we begin in describing our visit with our starry friend, Mary Stewart Adams? Long before our journey began, Mary has been the friendly and patient recipient of our host of astronomical and astrological questions. Our guide to the stars she is! Our journey would not have been complete without a trip to the northern tip of Michigan to visit Mary.
She told us to call as we got close, because her place is hard to find. Well, we had made it that far after days of driving, and we felt confident we could make it all the way to her house. We had not imagined the unique labyrinth of roads we would need to travel to find Mary’s cottage in the trees overlooking Little Traverse Bay! Luckily, she guided us in by phone until we could see her waving from the front porch. We could not have felt more welcome! She had created a cozy resting place for us, complete with art cards and words of inspiration adorning the bed. We dined on amazing cauliflower and beets (Perhaps this recipe will find its way to Elderberries!), and one of us was robed in the cape of Mars!
After sleeping in until about 10:00!, we made our way to the village for coffee and settled into the hear Mary’s story. What an incredible story it is!
When Mary first moved to the Harbor Springs area, there was a woman nearby home schooling with the influence of Waldorf Education. Soon another woman came along who wanted a Waldorf School, and the three ladies formed a study group. They met monthly over nine months with the intention of starting a school. Eventually, Mary stepped back from that initiative, wishing it well but realizing it was not in her destiny.
Another study group came together around Knowledge of Higher Worlds and continuing on to Theosophy and Philosophy of Freedom. There are 7-12 members of the group at each meeting, and they have been together for 10 years. Out of this circle, there came a Harvest Festival, and two members of the group took of biodynamic agriculture. The study group continues to meet weekly and holds a clear form. Through the clarity of their work together, they are able to form a chalice for the spiritual worlds. The festivals they celebrate are for the broader community and include the Harvest Festival, a Lantern Walk, and an Advent Spiral.
In her work with the study group, Mary remembered her work with Dr. Ernst Katz who had been a guide for her in the work. When Mary was ready to join the School of Spiritual Science, Dr. Katz had told her to begin right away. The group was at Lesson One, and Mary jumped right in.
Mary recommended that we look into Doug Wiley’s ideas about funding education out of agriculture. She is also inspired by Amanda Palmer’s work with gifting around asking the question. Think OutWord has also worked with Amanda, and she is bringing forward strong work.
The story of Mary’s biography begins before she was born. Her mother was a devout Irish Catholic in the 60’s with three children. Her mother left the church with the sense that something significant was coming. Not long after, she discovered she was expecting. When Mary was born, her mother chose not to baptize her. In this context, Mary was raised out of pride.
Mary had early experiences of clairvoyance and clairaudience. One of her earliest memories is of standing in a garden when she was three years old. There was a statue of the Virgin Mary, and Mary was talking to her. Just then, a door slammed and Mary was shooed away from the statue! What had she done wrong?
Mary grew up without religious training, but she was sent to a Catholic boarding school as a teenager. While there, she was required to go to Mass, and she went through all the motions- standing and sitting, standing and sitting- with the others until she looked over one day and noticed that there was a student from Detroit who was staying seated. “Wow! She’s not doing it,” Mary thought. Mary soon transferred to an elite private day school. While there, she had many Jewish friends, and she went with them to Temple. With this combination of experience, Mary received a unique spiritual education.
At the age of 18 when she reached her Moon Node, her mother received a book from a friend. Her sister Pat was modeling in New York, and Mary went with her and their mother to a New Age Health Forum. At this event, they met an astrologer who told her mother that she would soon lose two important males. That spring, Mary’s brother moved away to California, and her grandfather passed away. Around this time, Mary encountered the book, Cycles of Becoming.
John Barnwell was working at a bookstore Mary visited, and her mother had asked about a particular book that John did not think was going to help her much. Robert Thibodeaux recommended Rudolf Steiner to Mary’s mother with the book, At the Gates of Spiritual Science. The notion of Old Saturn resonated with her being. Mary’s sister Pat soon began studying anthroposophy with their mother. Mary was 18 years old at the time.
Mary’s paternal grandmother used to study the Transcendentalists. Mary was the seventh of eight children in her family. She was already envious of the relationship that Pat and their mother had together over their love for coffee. (Mary tried and just couldn’t like it!) Now they were reading Steiner together, too! Finding Steiner more accessible than coffee, Mary dove into the study with them. Eventually, Mary came to enjoy coffee as well, but not until her 40s. She said she was able to realize the power of coffee as a community building force.
Still, Mary found astrology easier than anthroposophy. There was a star chart with pushpins for the stars and planets, and Mary used to move them as the cosmos shifted. She developed such a fun relationship to the starry world in this way. Mary had taken one astronomy class in school and hated it. She was so happy to be finally able to move the pushpin for Pluto! She had waited so long to do it, as Pluto does not come around often. Mary would throw a party in Pluto’s honor when it came time to move its pin! Her face lit up again as she told this story!
Around this time, Mary met Tamara Slayton and the two became close friends and coworkers. It was when Mary moved to New York and was pregnant with her first child that she really got serious about anthroposophy. She picked up Knowledge of Higher Worlds and read it in three days!
In 1995, Mary was studying anthroposophy with her mother and her sister, Pat. They were all enthusiastic about the work, and Pat even went to the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City to ask about signing up for classes! Little did she know it was a kindergarten through twelfth grade Waldorf School!
Mary attended her first anthroposophical lecture when she was 32. It was given by Hazel Straker on the theme, The Conversion of Saul and the Gates of Damascus, and was pivotal for her life. Also essential to her work was Eve Hardie’s recommendation of the book, Star Lore, Their Names and Meanings. It all came together for Mary, and she realized that this was really what she was to be doing with her life! Remembering the suggestion that she take up Will Sucher’s book, Mary brought forth John Donne: “Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
When she was 29, she had an experience of hearing Christ. She had been to a talk on the Reappearance of the Christ in the Etheric by Hazel Straker. Afterwards, Mary asked Hazel how someone becomes an astrosopher. Hazel asked Mary her name and responded by chanting it back to her three times, dropping the s off of her last name: “Mary Adam, Mary Adam, Mary Adam.” There are many paths to travel when working with the starts, and Mary realized that no one was going to show her which way to go. She had to create the path herself.
She first tried to take up Sergei Prokoffief’s work when she was pregnant but found that she was not ready for it. She wrote the Pluto Papers out of her own work and afterwards burned them. She knew she must trust and be willing to surrender even this hard work to demonstrate that it was true. Around this time, her daughter, Jane, said she was cheating in her work and that she needed to be out looking at the stars. There was a gap in her work, and she needed to show up in it. Jane is still keeping her on her toes today!
Mary went to the Detroit Waldorf School where a talk was being given with a $40 entrance fee. She only had $20 and asked to enter. She was admitted. Mary wanted to do what her friend, Tamara Slayton, was doing. She looked into the curriculum for high school health and fertility and, with inspiration from the Celtic Wonder Tales, took Tamara’s work even further.
Mary calculated her own birth chart and developed a keen awareness of her life’s rhythms. At this time when a strong collaboration with Tamara would have been unfolding, Mary’s phone got disconnected. Tamara was eventually able to get a letter to her. When Mary met Tamara, she had a dream of ancient Greece with torchbearers. The torchbearers split to a path in the woods, and the Seven Holy Rishis appeared. Mary said that “getting there was the task.”
Next, Mary had another powerful dream in which she encountered Rudolf and Marie Steiner. They were all in a house together, and Rudolf Steiner was a young man, while Marie Steiner was already old. Rudolf Steiner was getting ready for something, and Mary proceeded to tell him about her sister. (The two sisters share a karmic path, Mary says.) Rudolf Steiner was not interested, but Marie Steiner was much kinder. They were all going to be going to a graduation party, and Rudolf Steiner had a deliberating gaze. Marie Steiner said, “We’ve got a lot of canoeing to do!” From that time, Mary became very interested in the history of the Anthroposophical Society.
Where Mary lives in Michigan, there are two bodies of water nearby with a strait that connects them. The area’s Odawa Indians are known for their birch bark canoes. Mary went canoeing with a friend and said she wanted to go right through the strait. Only after accomplishing the feat did she learn that it just isn’t done. She had unwittingly taken quite a risk.
As Mary was carving out her path, she received the inspiration regarding her work with anthroposophy: “Go do this where nobody can hear you.” She was not to work strictly within anthroposophical circles, but needed to be out meeting others with no apparent connection to her work. She then began to seek an audience for her work in a community where she would not use any jargon.
She had the opportunity to give a talk at the university when another speaker was not able to show. Mary received a phone call asking if she could be there within an hour. She agreed and traveled to the auditorium with no notes. She arrived to a packed room and said, “We’re going to pull a rabbit out of the hat.” She blew the audience away and got rescheduled for a second talk.
In 2006, Mary made a trip down the Mississippi River spraying biodynamic preps all along the way to New Orleans, where she met with Margaret Runyon. She was on her way back north and had arrived as far as Memphis when she got a call that she was to receive an award for her work. Mary said she couldn’t see it coming. “You can’t dream that.” She had to quickly drive from Tennessee to Michigan and made it with no time to spare.
With her work, Mary says she is planting seeds. When things reach a critical mass, people begin to wake up. In the year of the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s telescope (2010), Mary received unanimous support from the county to develop the Headlands Dark Sky Park. While the county officials did not fully grasp the deeper significance of her work, they knew it would be important for their community. The official designation came in May 2011, receiving international press. Funding came together to provide a fellowship for Mary’s work. Last year, the governor of Michigan protected 23,00 acres to add to the 600 acres already designated! There is now a Dark Sky Coast Association as well.
There was an event when Venus transited the sun, and 800 people showed up. Mary said, “I don’t want a laser pointer. I don’t want a telescope. I want people out there saying ‘Once upon a time…’ We need to know our history.”
There is now $30 million available for the project! The county has offered Mary a position with an office, and they want her to train others in her work. She leads groups on ferry tours that sell out. She says she aims to give people the cultural juice like poetry and stories. To take out work out into the world, we need to meet others as human beings on their own terms. We can do that without compromising. She is a “Star Lore Historian.”
Mary says that anthroposophy forces you to do what you want to do. The question is “What do you love?” “If you do what you love, and you love it enough, the stars will start to shine for you,” Mary said. She has built a foundation in her work; now she needs to stand on it. There is a time to move from foundation building to foundation standing. Mary’s true task is to establish a connection between human beings and the starry world. She calls this work “Social Astronomy.” “They hear it,” she said, referring to the stars. She said she is risking herself in her work. She spoke about astrosophy as Christianized astronomy, or Christ in astronomy. There is a universal mystery wisdom. “May human beings hear it!”
What is anthroposophy to Mary?
It is the capacity to be fully human. The physical body is imbued with life, and anthroposophy allows that to come to expression. There is something that Mary knows in herself that anthroposophy says yes to. It is an affirmation of her inner self. It is a gift. It is sacred, and it should be treated that way. Anthroposophy is a way of becoming that does not say “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not.” Be what you are. It requires a great deal of courage, as there is no fixed affirmation anywhere in the world.
By staying in pockets and small groups, anthroposophists run the risk of becoming like the Essenes. Anthroposophy is the opportunity to be fully alive. It is a being, the being Anthroposophia. She is that being who affirms that which is honorable in the human being at this time and that which is coming in from the future. She must wait for you to see until you see yourself. She is a companion who doesn’t compromise free will. She stands with achievement and says yes in love.
If Mary were to explain anthroposophy to a non-anthroposophist, she would say that it is an understanding that the human being is more than the physical body. It informs our thinking to think beyond the thoughts of the physical, but does not dictate how. It gives one courage to arrive at his or her own knowledge. Anthroposophy is the integrity of the human being with a spiritual origin happening in the physical world. It is the opportunity to investigate what it is to be in the physical world.
What does Mary love?
She loves anthroposophy! She said if we had asked her why she is alive, she’d give the same answer. There is a Rosicrucian mystery here. Christian Rosenkreuz will show up and say, “That way to self knowledge.”
As a follow up to the conversation, we wanted to understand more about how Mary found her relationship to poetry and how she met the star lore that she uses in her work. We are including her answer below in her own words:
“I memorized Dr Seuss as a kid, before I could read, as I heard my mom read it to my older brother. I loved the rhythm of his rhymes. In fifth grade I had to memorize “Block City” by Robert Louis Stevenson and I was floored by the idea that I could memorize poetry! Next stop, 11th grade poetry class, Mr. Fremuth reciting Byron’s “Prometheus” and I was amazed and confused about why he was so excited about it. English Lit degree at University of Michigan required I take poetry 101. Stumped by a poem, I turned to my then boyfriend (later husband) for help, and his explanation was like a mighty door opening, and it was one that has never closed (this was my epiphany). I also took Greek mythology, and while Edith Hamilton’s book in 10th grade made my head swim, my professor freshman year so lived into the myths that I was mesmerized and I knew that I wanted to do this same, no matter my subject, that I wanted it to be so real to me that I was living it as I was doing it. Old English prof really stirred the curiosity with his rendering of Norse runic alphabet. And I love rhythm, no matter where I find it, but particularly in rhymes, or in the juxtaposition of letters in words. Now, if I am to really answer your question, I would have to unveil, in myself, the way my thinking works, and at present, this is a challenging task because I am overwhelmed with delight by this weekend’s events…lots of poetry! I hear in rhythm, not in words, that’s the best way I can describe it, and because of this, when describing things, say the stars and their stories, I hear the rhythms of things that have been written or said and they jump into their appropriate place while I am speaking. This sounds like a lot of nonsense, but it is a training I was unaware that I was doing. In my listening for the planets and stars in my daily life (like when a person says how old they are, I assign it to a planetary rhythm so I can deduce where they are in the life cycle; or, if a certain date is mentioned, I think on it relative to the sacred festival it might be near, or feast day, or bits and pieces of history that you know), and I weave these things into this thinking rhythm. This is probably way more than you asked for! So it’s always been there. It’s never not been there. My whole approach is the way a person says a thing, and in that, I find deep meaning. I met star lore along the way, in poetic references, in mythology, and then in astrology at age 18, same moment as I first heard about Rudolf Steiner.”
We went to the Dark Sky Park on our way out of Michigan (and toward being shanghaied in Canada at the border), and what a precious gift it was to see the starry knowledge of Rudolf Steiner out in the public for all to see! Driving in, we were behind a truck that slowed down at each of the starry offerings that Mary had created along the path, and when we pulled out we saw two bike riders who had stopped to read the signs. This is how we imagine the work of Rudolf Steiner to be: out in the world for all to ponder!
Thank you, Mary!