“The rain is coming”
The clouds catch in the mountain making it impossible to find the edges of the valleys, and clouds overhead swallow the sky and the horizon.
Day one of ‘Elements’ path began the morning of what could be considered day two, after an energetic opening ritual of ecstatic drumming, dance, and chanting the night before.
I had never worked ritual in this manner, and the awkwardness I felt held me back from truly engaging. Being around reclaiming witches I quickly built up a vocabulary with which I could better articulate my experience: I found an ‘edge’.
The ‘Elements’ path is quest-based, and from the very beginning we’re invited to stretch our edges – to push past the discomfort of the unfamiliar and discover what it truly means to be immersed in the elements, and to take a journey that will hopefully allow our quest to become fully realised.
As part of our induction, we were introduced to some fundamental principles of reclaiming ritual ‘structure’. However I use the term loosely because the ecstatic nature of the tradition appears fundamentally open to personal experience and expression.
However, three key focuses for ritual include: ritual conspiracy, ritual Intention, and ritual affinity. The three principles were explored more deeply throughout the path and the general camp evolution.
What was perhaps the most fundamental component of path work – or even just being in camp – was agency. This was explored in various ways, but what moved me the most was deep listening, something I recognised as an edge that I needed to stretch. The concept may seem simple, however it involved ending statements and interchanges with the word ‘check’, to indicate we’d stopped talking rather than vocalise or gesture. We simply ‘twinkled’, holding up a hand or two and wriggling our fingers as a sign of acknowledgement, because they didn’t need me to fix anything, simply to be a container in a group that could simply hold space and listen!
We followed up the typical rounds of names and check-ins with breathing exercises. Before any work, during work, or simply to break up the work, a deep breath was encouraged. It slowed things down for me and allowed me to check myself when I came across another edge; of which I discovered were varied.
After casting circle, we began the fundamental work of the elements, starting with Earth.
Each witchcamp is built around a broader intention, and this time it focused on the myth of Apollo, Hermes and the Bee Maidens of prophesy. Using aspects of the myth, we were asked what our quest was – the intention behind taking the ‘Elements’ path, and were guided into a trance to explore that. I already had all the answers of course, and knew my quest was to lean into my edges and find ways that reclaiming could be introduced to influence my own personal practice of Druidry.
I was expecting to receive information that would build my confidence to use inspired utterance to guide and direct my intentions when holding ritual. Not used to working with aspects of deity, when invited to pass through a gateway and meet with Hermes, I was met with a bee maiden instead. She led me to a stagnant pool and the stream that fed it was blocked. The trance continued, and I was led to a larger catchment at the base of the mountain. There, a path took me up to a cave where my guide joined the other two maidens. At their feet flowed three streams, each cascading to the pool below. What followed was an oracular experience that suggested something much deeper was coming, the runes I received were Perthro, Tiwaz, and Algiz.
I knew at that moment that I didn’t know my quest at all, in fact my true quest was still buried beneath the deep waters to come.
As I was led back to where my quest began and leave behind my inner work, the bee maiden left me with the inevitable awareness that something else was underway, and the words, “the rain is coming”.
The second part of the work involved a small meander up the mountain to a small clearing where our quests were made clear to the group, and objects collected with intent were assembled on a makeshift altar on the ground.
The object I found that represented what I thought was my quest was a fern frond, a simple ladder like structure that was made up of many rungs, ultimately culminating into a single pinna that symbolised the integration of reclaiming witchcraft with my Druidry.
We left that sacred grove we created and our quiet contemplation, before wrapping up our first day of working with the elements the same way that it begun; with a breath.