I’m sad, tired, stiff, sore, slightly edgy and very tender. It is the last day of camp. Before I enter The Bower, my belongings (clothes, toiletries, medications, bedding and pillows) must be in my van: my room emptied of my presence. All physical trace of me gone: except for the unavoidable DNA strand ot two.
CloudCatcher WitchCamp is held on the site of an ancient volcano. There are advantages to this: it is very witchy, and disadvantages: for an elder, the site is steep, and the paths slippery when wet. The facilities are poor, but, the food is excellent.
I choose to sit on the floor in the Bower rather than use the chairs provided. The floor is better for my back: I can use the wall and pillows for support. By the end of camp, I think I will need a crane to help me up. Because I am obese, I am hesitant to ask other campers for their assistance: two bad backs are not better than one. I prefer to move close to the wall, kneel and face it. I then carefully walk my hands up the wall, bringing myself with them. The sea lions at Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia would be proud if they could see me. The way I channel them without so much as a yelp! Well, it works for me! (Heave away … Haul away … We’re bound for South Australia … old sea shanty)
I arrive last to Path. Someone is leading an up-tempo chant:
‘In the name of the Holy Mystery,
I call my power back to me,
In the name, in the name, in the name … … ‘
I am so appreciative of this person’s beautiful voice. Their warmth of spirit is weaving a spell to bind our path. There is such strength and leadership here.
Rose Weaver offers a mirror for us to look into as we check in. It is a gentle invitation: I usually run the mental mile from any mirror. Rose Weaver reminds us that the alternatives are: ‘yes, no, or, pass’. Some choose to pass. I say:
‘I see an ageing face, white hair, lines, wrinkles and no make up. I see a bandaged bear: a raggedy doll. I see an elder who is still triggered unexpectedly and uncontrollaby. An elder who can go from 0 to 100 in a heartbeat. I see shame, but someone who is still willing to make an effort to do better. I use coping skills and tools from my kit to self-soothe. I am seeking pleasure.’
I hand the mirror on.
At the end of check-in we ask for radical self-acceptance, and sing: ‘My body is a living temple of love.’
Next, Copper Persephone asks us to develop a sentence or phrase that is affirming. Write it as if it has already happened. I choose: ‘I nurture myself’.
Working in small groups, we massage each other. As I am massages, three people create a word salad from my affirmation:
‘Cassie nutures herself.’ (pronouns used are those chosen by the person being massaged).
‘She nutures herself.’
‘You nuture yourself.’
This creates a spell, which is pressed firmly and physically into my body, before those massaging me let go of my outside skin. I repeat: ‘I nuture myself’ three times.
I choose the level of undress (black bikini pants only) and where I want to be touched: anywhere there are no clothes; not face, neck or hair (sore ear, headband); breasts but not nipples. The Path is non-sexual contact. I practise communicating this clearly. I feel comfortable: we have all learned the same language around consent. All my attendees are the female sex. My attendees may choose to decline any of my requests, and change their mind at any time. I may choose to change my mind at any time
(My choices may have been different with different people.)
Later, to celebrate, we are invited to dance to music. Some dance naked, some remain fully clothed, others shed a few layers and some a few more. Some watch, others eat chocolate, strawberries or snacks. I have a simple light dress on: strings at the shoulders, no sleeves, cut just below the armpit and two layered. It shows more bare back and cleavage than I would ever dare in the over culture.
I sit watching: it is a very beautiful scene. It makes me think of Norman Lindsay drawings: bodies of all shapes and sizes revelling together. Sex positive drawings might look like this: joyful levels of undress. I see connection, smiles and trustful pleasture. I start to cry. Copper Persephone comes over and seeks permission to touch my back. I’m curious. I wonder why Copper Persephone wants to touch my back.
‘Yes!’ I respond.
Suddenly, I know: ‘Copper Persephone has my back.’ Across an ocean, I feel understand by this beautiful witch: relationships can last a life-time or a minute. For me, they are still real and true.
This community has my back, and I can take that feeling with me where ever I go.
I feel seen, heard, held and understood.
And I am grateful.
Photos from The Bower:
From top to bottom:
1. French doors decorated with cream scarves and gold table runners. (The colour theme requested by the Bower Priestess was darker blues and gold.)
2. Cloths above the altar: note sheets of rain tumbling down! The window pane is not ‘frosted’ (translucent)! Repurposed metallic embroidered sari scarf from op shop.
4. Wall decorations: dark blue netting with gold stars overlaying gold damask tablecloth. Top of two seater couch beneath hanging.