Category Archives: CloudCatcher 2014

Aradia’s Story – from Ritual 4, CloudCatcher 2014

Over the last few months, the last few weeks, the last few days, I’ve been hearing different versions of Aradia’s story. 

There’s a version of her story that I’ve heard where she was born in Italy in the fourteenth century, or thereabouts. As it happens, I have Italian heritage in my own make-up, but maybe that doesn’t apply to you. But tell me – where do your ancestors come from? Where were people of your bloodline living back in the fourteenth century?

Scotland – Wales – Scandinavia – Germany – Russia – Ireland – England – Poland – France…

So I want you to begin to imagine what life might have been like in those places, back in the fourteenth century; I’m finding it hard, myself, but imagine… What do you think it might have been like?

Hard – short – basic – a struggle – just like life – frightening – local – village-like….

I’ve asked around and I can’t discover if Aradia was part of a peasant family, or maybe more of a merchant class, or if she perhaps was born into the aristocracy… but let’s take a moment to imagine her life if her family were peasants… or if they were merchants, or of a type of middle class… or if she was part of the aristocracy… For whatever reason – and maybe it was just being born a woman – she had a sense of justice and injustice. For whatever reason, she was inspired to learn and teach and spread knowledge and skills. Perhaps you also have a background that has inspired you towards questioning and rebellion, towards seeking and working for change? Is that the case?

There’s another story I’ve been hearing about Aradia, and that is that she was born divine, to divine parents. To a Goddess and an Angel, to Diana and Lucifer, or the moon and the sun, but that she became mortal. As we are mortal. Take a moment to acknowledge your own mortality. Look into the face of the person standing next to you, acknowledge their mortality. Yes. We are living now, but we are mortal and we will all die. 

Let me tell you a story. When I was a child, maybe 8 or 10 or 12, I used to climb out of my bedroom window, quite late at night and go into the garden. It was quite difficult to do – my room was on the first floor, so I had to walk along a ledge, clinging to the wall, until I got to the outside staircase and could climb down. And I used to lie on the earth and dig my fingers into it and I used to whisper, ‘Take me back…’

Have you ever imagined or felt that the earth was your mother? That your parentage was divine – that you belonged to the mountain or the river or the forest? Have you felt that that was where you truly belonged, that you were a child of the divine? Who here has felt that? Who did you believe your true parents were?

The mountain – the ocean – the stars – a tree – wolves – the wind….

Well, and maybe that was how it was for Aradia… sent to earth to teach these skills and this knowledge. Do you, also, have skills that you have been sent to teach? What are they? Shout them out, call them out to me! Do you have knowledge to share? Are there issues you care so much about that you will speak out, that you will act, that you will stand forth and teach and work and speak for them? What are these issues? What will you stand for? What do you care about?

The Great Barrier Reef – Coal Seam Gas – injustice – racism – equal marriage rights – child slavery – poverty – education…

So there’s one more story I’ve been hearing about Aradia, this week. Do you know what that story is? Do you remember it? We spoke of it only yesterday….

I am Aradia –

yes…

I am Aradia! – I am Aradia! – I am Aradia! – I am Aradia! – I am Aradia! –

Elements Path 2014 Day 4

Our final day in the forest. This was a day for gathering the threads that we had learned over the past days in our path as well as in the daily rituals. Our task for the day was to develop our own ritual – as a group.

Before we undertook the work to make our own ritual – we started the day’s path work with an ‘activist grounding’ – learning the technique of grounding for daily life and in stress situations. We then learned a song to acknowledge the elements. The day’s path work continued on to look at some of the different aspects of the craft – aspecting and the importance of tenders. This was followed by a discussion of some of the tools of the craft and their role in ritual.

I may not have been alone in having a little anxiety when our teachers announced that it was time for them to go and leave us to make our own ritual – then left us after leaving a short set of instructions.

It had been amazing how quickly our group had developed a cohesion and willingness to work together and contribute. Our ritual came together simply and naturally. We managed it in a spirit of consensus and participation. An intention was made – roles were taken up and the ritual outline was put in place. We drew on ourselves, our learnings in the path and our experiences of the main daily rituals. We also drew on the connected we had made in that place – with the elements and with each other.

By the time our teachers returned, we were ready to begin.

Of all the processes and rituals that I had experienced at CloudCatcher, for me, this had a special power, depth, warmth and sense of timelessness. As we went through our moves, the song that we had chosen ebbed and flowed under us and pulled the parts together. It was powerful and meaningful and most meaningful when we came to that part of acknowledging each other and our teachers in that special space where we had worked magic together. Simple magic. Strong magic. A magic of connection blessed with tears.

As someone who had entered that circle with a group of strangers; as an enquirer and a newbie – I left with sense of expansiveness and potential that I hadn’t realised I possessed. I will be forever grateful for the teaching, the companionship and the spirit of sharing of the friends I made in that clearing – in the deep forest green at CloudCatcher…

Ritual – Day 4 Cloudcatcher 2014

The closing ritual on night four of camp really struck a chord with me. After four days developing this story, this myth; rewriting our past, creating a new future, and building community, I felt open, vulnerable, raw and also deep in my own inner processes. Add to this the open fire, the stars, the friends, the potent magick we had been building, and it all culminated in a touching, tender and heart-breaking/heart-healing ritual.

We gathered on the cool, wet grass by the fire pit at the edge of the property, half-hedged in by wild growth; flowers, tobacco trees, wild weeds and tall grasses. We stood there in front of the fire, entranced by the flames, a phenomenon only achievable by a wild, open fire. I felt calm. My path had been asked to ground and centre then cast and call the elements. Earlier that day the members of my path had struggled to connect to co-create this act of magick after an intense morning working (that experience was another journey in itself), but after a friend and witch from my path and I had called forth the visualization of a deep and tall grove of trees with anchored roots and reaching branches to help us ground, centre and cast circle, members of the path came forward and together we invoked the elements in a spoken soundscape with popcorn-style invocations by all present of how air would look and feel in their paradise; and fire, water, earth and spirit. I felt strong and confident speaking, and I felt supported; I was happy we had come together, and the energy was strong as we began the ritual.

Next we were told to connect with our allies, of place, of space, of spirit – our allies, our deities – and hearing this I really pushed myself to connect, to draw my allies close and feel them near. I rolled my head back and looked up at the stars, feeling up into the heavens to connect with allies above, and then knelt down to touch the grass to connect with the allies of this land. I called my personal deities to me, along with my ancestors and my animal allies. I thought that was where we were supposed to be going with this part of the ritual, and I threw myself into it. Connecting with them is easy. If I feel alone, weird, strange, deficient, in need, there are always allies of the energetic kind who will come to me, who won’t judge me, who will help me. In a sense maybe it’s too easy, because theoretically I could live my whole life without having to be vulnerable and connect with other incarnated person, and to be honest connecting deeply and authentically for me can be scary, and involves risk. But then the teacher told us to stop. To look around. To look into the eyes of the people around us in the circle. That these people were our allies. Our human allies. People of flesh and blood. Here and now, to connect with, to support and from whom to be supported. And that this what we had been doing here. We were asked to reflect on who had fulfilled that role and had been that for us during the last four days. And this made my heart ache, because it was true, and I love these people, and it was scary, to be vulnerable with these people, but it was also so wonderful and freeing. To be seen by them and to see them in return. Our shining scars, our blazing hearts. I felt the beauty and terror of this level of openness, with tangible beings of flesh and blood like me. This was a defining moment, and I felt my edge, my fear – connection. And I saw my remedy, my elixir, my healing – connection. And tears jumped to my eyes – these people are my home.

As the ritual continued we were called to take a seed of the apple we had bitten into the day before, real or imagined, and we were asked to place promises into these seeds, promises that we intended to grow, for healing, and growth, and for bringing ourselves out in our communities. We warmed these seeds imbued with dreams and hopes and plans with the fire in our hearts, and placed them there for safe-keeping and to help them to germinate, grow, blossom and fruit. We were also asked to create a sigil for this working, a powerful idea crystallised into a symbol. We then returned to the hall to draw this sigil on a big sheet of paper, charging the paper and sending the energy out into the universe to manifest.

Two Aradias were present in the ritual, aspected down into two witches, and they each took on different elements of her personality, one soft and calm, the other fierce and edgy. Soft Aradia moved around the circle, looking compassionately at the people in the circle and offering love and support. As we worked with our allies and spoke of community, I heard her say “They are here to support you, let them”. Fierce love is allowing people to love us, even when it is scary or pushes our growing edges. Towards the end of the ritual Hard Aradia spoke of courage, of assertion, of our need to step up and be heard. Equally powerful though different in tone an intention, she ended the ritual with this gem. In terms of speaking our truth, changing our lives, working for the betterment of all, standing up for what’s right, she ended with “Don’t be a fucking chicken shit.” Fierce love is doing what’s right, and honouring what you know to be true, even when it frightens you.

One of the teachers said something which really stuck with me. He said “We are the links in the chain that we need.” And I thought that was a beautiful sentiment about how important community is, and the work we do at witchcamp.

The next day we released the circle we had cast on day 1 of camp, releasing the elements that had been in place all week, and we sent the thread of energy of witchcamps off to a teen witchcamp on the other side of the world. And I realized, I’m part of something beautiful, and this is only the very beginning. With much love.