Author Archives: everquestingmind

CloudCatcher Story 2014: Dark Heart of Paradise

Dark Heart of Paradise: Flesh Fruit and Fire

'Flesh, Fruit and Fire' - Designed by Lorelei, 2014

‘Flesh, Fruit and Fire’ – Designed by Lorelei, 2014

Walk with us, into the Garden. Come in – yes, all the way in; deeper. We’re going into the very centre. We’re not quite sure what we’ll find there, in the Dark Heart of Paradise…

Flesh – I am this being, this dancer, lover, gardener; this poet, child, sage. I am flesh and bones, heart and lungs, skin and eyes and fingertips; I am one and many. I am part of everything; of the trees, the animals, the water and air, of you – and I am separate, my own being, folded into my own limbs and thoughts.

…My flesh exposed…my body naked…I am aware of how wonderous is this body, this flesh …in the Garden I come to know my innocence and my power…

Fruit – Out of this body can come another body; I can give birth to myself, to another. Fruiting, I am fruiting like the trees of the garden; fig, pomegranate, almond, apricot, apple. I am lush and ripe. You are fruit too; together we are delicious. We are every fruit you can imagine and even the forbidden fruits; that of Knowledge, that of Life.

…Within that fruit… the pentacle…the points of my birthright…my inheritance…my legacy…the seeds of my own rebirth…seeds that I will pass on to future generations…

Fire – Fire of moonlight, starlight, sunlight; fire of the red blood. Fire that shows up the darkness, casts shadows, fire to tell stories by; warmth and fear and illumination. Fire when I look into your eyes, between our bodies, for regeneration.

…the fire illuminated my soul…sparked my passions…holding promise of power as well as a warning…the sacred flame burns within…

I am Eve – the one who dares. I am Eve who is bold, Eve who is disobedient, Eve who listens to whispers and reaches out to the impossible. I walk the inner roads and I show how to walk where I have walked.

…I am one of the first humans…one of humanities progenitors…the one who listened to the Serpent…who made my own choices…who willingly bit into the fruit…who was flooded with the knowledge…who awakened to my own limitless possibility…

I am Aradia – teacher, chosen of the Goddess; the words are mine. The outer path I tread, bringing you the secret learnings. I am the Child of the Gods. I was given this form that I might teach all the world magic, that we might be free. I am the original Strega; the first Witch to walk this Earth. I bring you your birthright.

…holy teacher…holy terror…holy initiator…you offer to illuminate my way…to show the power that lies within me…I accept your gifts…I claim my power…

And I the Serpent – listen to your dreams and remember you are as Gods, Divine children thrown outside the gate with flaming swords when you sought only your birthright. Knowledge now is yours. What have you done with it? And do you remember that one tree still stands guarded here, untasted, the Tree of Life? Would you, knowing, venture back to this place of your separation and your shame? Would you dare?

… The Serpent offered me its seed… that held the pentacle I am told is forbidden… It says its name means light…it illuminates… I taste the sweet flesh of fruit…Gods speak….angry that I now contain Knowledge… and the Gods said I could not eat of the Tree of Life lest I become one of Them… in my center…my belly…Aradia came forth…and my legacy was passed on…because I dared…

Dark Heart of Paradise: Flesh, Fruit and Fire.

If you dare…

CloudCatcher Story 2013: Freyja and the Brisingamen

 

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‘Freyja and the Necklace’ by James Doyle Penrose, 1890

FREYJA, Goddess of Love and War, comes from the Vanir, an older dynasty of Norse Gods. She is married to ODIN, Warrior and Magician, All Father of the Aesir, the younger Gods…

The DWARVES are a race of deep Earth dwellers, artists who sing grace and beauty from stone and metal. They have crafted a necklace, Brisingamen, the like of which the world has never seen…

And then there’s LOKI, the notorious trickster – or is he? – who wears many shapes, listens at doors and moves between the worlds to reveal what others have sought to conceal…

The Vanir are Gods of the Earth, of fertility and the body, the ripe, the lush and the green. The Aesir are a pantheon of Sky Gods, concerned with rulership, wisdoms of the mind, and the play of cloud and lightning. The partnership of Freyja and Odin brings these two forces together – and in the early days of their union, Freyja initiates Odin into the mysteries of magic and love; while marriage to Odin brings Freyja into the dynasty and rulership of the Aesir as the balance of power shifts from old to new.

One morning, Freyja wakes up longing for grass and flowers between her toes, for the parts of her life that she has not touched for some time. She travels to the Earth and tends to the flowers and the trees of her gardens, but the longing and restlessness only grows greater within her. She follows this thread of longing into hills and mountains, onto bare Earth and rock, eventually entering a cave, drawn by the ring of metal on metal.

Inside the cave, four dwarves reveal to her the sublime Brisingamen, a necklace they have, at the height of their powers and artistry, spun from Earth and Sky and welded of the four elements, more perfect than a snowflake and more lovely than a sunrise. As soon as she sees it, Freyja knows she must have the necklace. The price the dwarves ask is that the Goddess spend a night of love with each of them, and Freyja agrees.

Loki, unseen and unknown, is witness to the agreement between Freyja and the dwarves. When Freyja leaves after the fourth night, with the bright Brisingamen around her white throat, Loki follows her home.

While Freyja sleeps in her Hall, Sesrumnir, Loki seeks out Odin and reports on all that he has observed. Odin commands Loki to steal the necklace and bring it to him. Shapeshifted into a fly, Loki enters Sesrumnir through a tiny window and approaches the sleeping Goddess. Shifted again into the guise of a flea, he nestles against her sleeping form and bites her cheek, and as she turns in her sleep he quickly assumes his true form, undoes the clasp and flees the Hall.

Freyja awakes as she hears the Hall door close, and her hand instinctively goes to her throat – her necklace is stolen.

Freyja storms into the Hall of Valhalla, advances straight up to Odin and demands the return of Brisingamen. Odin confronts her with what he has learned from Loki, but Freyja refuses to apologise or to justify her choices. The necklace is essential to her, and she demands the talisman’s return. Odin’s reply is another demand: that Freyja use her powers to start a war without end in the hearts and minds of humanity – for he delights in blood and battle. Reluctantly, Freyja consents, and it is on these conditions that Odin returns her necklace.

Community Day Part Two – Fairness

Following on from the morning debrief we began a discussion on the fairness and accessibility of CloudCatcher WitchCamp. I was particularly interested to have this discussion. A few things come up every year about Camp payments and pricing, and I wanted to take an opportunity to check in with community to see if we offer the best we can and are accessible to as many as possible.

In general and after lengthy discussion all those present felt that our current pricing and payment system were, overall, pretty fair and balanced. It was noted that the website and registration process currently don’t make it clear who can apply for scholarship and concession prices, which has left some people not applying because they felt they did not fit an assumed criteria. There was also feedback that cancellation or on-selling of tickets for those who register but cannot come might need to clearer. For 2015 these have been noted and will hopefully be made more obvious to those registering.

To summarise our pricing system this year, we had 3 payment levels. Full ‘early-early’ payments made by November were the cheapest at $530, early payments made before our January cutoff were $590, and the most expensive being a full payment finalised just before Camp at $650. We also offered concession prices in each payment period at $460, $500 and $540 for students and low-income earners. Young people 23 and under have a flat rate of $460. We also offered several scholarships of $250 and $300, given to those who applied, with a focus on first-time Campers and those who had not received a scholarship in the last year. That is four days and nights of Camp with all meals, accommodation and pathwork. We do pay our three full teachers $500 when finances allow, and pay for full teacher flights and domestic travel. Just for comparison, I have seen similar-style retreats running over only 2 nights for $750-$1200 (that I hear are also very worthwhile). There are also 10-day intensive Vipassana retreats that are purely a voluntary donation.

We discussed several variations and options for Camp payments and how we might best serve the community in offering places at Camp, and I will break these options up with some of the pros/cons and comments made during the discussion.

Full Scholarship: This is the entirety of the Camp price paid for. It’s an idea I’ve always kind of liked. Pros: it offers a space to Camp for someone with no disposable income, it’s about as accessible as it gets. Cons: It was felt that there should actually be some exchange, some commitment made by the potential Camper so that they both value and fully participate in their Camp experience, and are less likely to blow off Camp at the last minute leaving us short on numbers.

Work for Scholarship/Concession: Some Camps have specific roles, like an Altar Priestess, and in exchange for holding the role receive a scholarship. Pros: It can attract diverse scholarship applicants, and it can help ensure roles and tasks are fulfilled. Cons: It can potentially isolate the role, leading to less community involvement and more feeling of ‘having’ to do it rather than ‘desiring’ to do it.
Overall, while we found the idea interesting and a good method of providing reciprocity, we decided that most Camp roles we want to develop as shared, creative, engaging community roles that shift and blossom over the years, rather than creating an expectation that certain tasks should carry certain financial benefits.

Cut-off Dates: One idea posted that we could alter the payment system slightly – rather than a full payment being made by a cutoff date, we could allow Campers to pay half the early price before the date, with the remainder before Camp. Pros: Allows more people on limited incomes an opportunity to guarantee their place and price, rather than chasing an increasing price up to the Camp. Could provide more signups early on giving security to organisers and possibly more signups overall. Cons: Possibly more work chasing final payments before Camp. Could result in slightly lower income if more people shift to early bird prices.
No decision was made on this, and the organisers are still discussing it as an option.

Other aspects of fairness were discussed, particularly gender fairness. The Camp has always had many more women than men, and Reclaiming has a very feminist tone, which occasionally has made some men attending feel slightly alienated. There was also some feedback that possibly the masculine aspects of our myths may not be explored to the same depth or extent as the feminine. The organisers have taken this on board and will look at ways to make our Camp more inclusive for men and male-identified people.

It was also noted that we have a consistent and strong push towards community engagement and development, particularly as Reclaiming is still a relative fledgling in the area, but that we could also allow space for those who don’t necessarily want to contribute to the community but just want to pay their fee and take what is on offer at Camp itself as a spiritual intensive; looking at ways for providing both community development and an intensive retreat experience for those who desire it.

Disabled access has and possibly will continue to be an issue given the location and terrain. Wheelchair access in the bathroom was improved this year, but those wheelchair bound still often require assistance up and down the hill from the dining to the ritual hall. I don’t believe this has been a huge issue, but remains a point to consider.

The last issue was food, and remains a growing challenge, with the number of intolerances and restrictive diets seeming to increase. We have tried every year to cater to the varying and often very particular dietary needs of our Campers. This has been a trial for our incredibly gracious and dedicated caterers who have modified the menu each year and provided many individualised meals. The feedback this year was that the food offering was quite poor. We might need to create our own specialised menu, rather than providing the caterer a list of exclusions and assuming they can adapt suitably.

That covers this section. If you have any queries or comments please feel free to leave them below. Next Blog: CloudCatcher Dreaming into the Future

Lorelei x