CloudCatcher 2019 – Affinity Group Ritual – Day 3

At CloudCatcher WitchCamp we almost always have an affinity group ritual. This is an opportunity for these small groups to turn inward to each other, drop deep into the arc of ritual-work in the cauldron of the Story and Theme of the Camp and open to the magic of the moment, of desire, of need. Affinity groups are an essential ingredient in Reclaiming WitchCamps. I have had okay, wonderful, and not-so-great experiences in affinity groups as a camper at Reclaiming WitchCamps. Most of the time we end up in affinity groups “by the hand of the Goddess or Fate Herself”. We pick tokens or found objects and then we are sorted… though sorting hats aren’t usually around. Affinity groups usually consist of 4-7 people.

I did not randomly or by fate choose a token and then get sorted… I chose to enter the pre-determined Person of Colour affinity group. At CloudCatcher and several other Reclaiming Camps affinity groups are also organised around axes of oppression and experiences of social and political marginalisation. Reclaiming is intrinsically a politically-engaged tradition and feedback in the community of late in various countries has clearly communicated a need for these kinds of solidarity groups. As well as this, choosing to go into the PoC affinity group as a self-identified PoC is entirely optional.

We are collectively exhausted. WitchCamp is called a magical intensive quite specifically… it is thorough, “full on”, and well – often, intense.

One of our group excuses themself so they can get the rest they sorely need. Another does not feel completely safe and feels a spirit that has been pushing against their edges all day might invade their space if we do not ward ourselves, so I offer to cast a Circle of warding, containment, and strength.

I take my wand from Inanna’s altar in the East and I move with the arc of the sun below the equator: beginning in the south where the sun can not be seen, through to the dawning east, to the high tide of day in the north, to the twilight dusk in the west, back to the midnight south, arcing above, swooping below…

“By the centre which is the circumference…” These are words I often use to seal the Circle-casting ritual in Reclaiming and Feri practice. They are a meditation to me, they have deep meaning, and I open to the mystery between the words, and evoked by the words.

And then we simply sing. We sing, and sing, and sing.

We sing a song Riyana taught us at ritual conspiracy. It was woven by Jennifer Byers, Pavini Moray, and their path at Free Cascadia WitchCamp:

Deep, dark velvet, Earth my lover
Open my mind and open my body
Wet and welcoming, sweet surrendering
Starlight and bone, my power from within –

We sing, I am drumming on my bodhran while others sway and rock singing with their eyes closed. A few of us take pastels and colours and form magical sigils on the paper on the ground. Each group has been tasked with this by the teaching team. This too is for the compost. This ritual matters too. This ritual is what we need.

So, we sing. We sing and then we laugh.

CloudCatcher 2019 – Primal Witch – Day 4

I can’t believe we’re here, the last day. As I rise and pack my things gathered from the edges of camp the sun nudges its way out from behind the clouds. Last night in ritual we ascended from the underworld and my feet feel lighter on the earth. Its a busy morning for which I am grateful, taking my mind off leaving the womb of camp and integrating this earth path back into daily ‘life’. I needn’t have worried though, our last day on path is so grounding…

In circle drumming, I look around at the faces in our large group I’ve journeyed with over the last four day. A beautiful gathering of all whom have showed up and inspired me to the brim, filling me with confidence and hope for the possibilities of what we can achieve in support to make our world a better place. It’s not just Path you see its the optional offerings, smaller rituals and conversations over meals and tea that also form part of the web that has been weaving.

Today we begin with a sharing circle, talking about the land that raised us. Such a grounding experience! We’re invited to talk about the land on which we ‘grew’ which may not have necessarily been our place of birth. I am loving everyone’s descriptions and am moved by the blend of tenderness, joy and deep grief that can come from relating to ‘a land that grew you’.

My heart is instantly pulled back to Kamilaroi country north west slopes and plains NSW where I first gave my heart to the goddess. The land on which I did my first magical working where the wind whipped up so quickly my heart missed a beat. Sacred land. Trap rock country. The land where I had my first encounter with herbs so many years ago. River country. The land where I raised my kids. Where willows hang over the waters edge and the deep deep holes held potential for fishing and fun.

Riyana shares a statement that goes deep into my core …

‘there is no place that doesn’t see you’ 

As I move in trance on this land once again, I see the dog rose on the fence and look toward the nettle nestled amongst the river stones on the water’s edge. There’s a smattering of pine trees that shelter the usnea. I hear the platypus splash playfully and feel the pull towards this land to see, feel and exchange with her again. Downstream, mother willow calls me…

We learn how the land communicates via pheromones and bird song. How the whip of a breeze   takes our scent and lets those around it know we are here. Sue begins to drum and her guided meditation sees my depths expand as I lean into an audible flow of grounded connection. A hazy line appears, a thread, a note, an invitation into another layer.

I hear a whisper on the breeze,

calls me back to you

calls me back to life

calls me back to love

I occupy myself body, mind and spirit, embody the landscape and follow its song and thread home to self. By doing this, I know the better  I will be in service to community and earth.

I step onto the Primal Path before me with a dedication renewed to work the magic of self care, connection and watering of others as a form of activism.

Life IS a love spell … a love spell with the green bloods. A love spell with Mother Earth.

A deeply grounded love spell of the heart.

CloudCatcher 2019 – Sacred Sexuality – Day 4

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.

3. Altar

4. Wall decorations: dark blue netting with gold stars overlaying gold damask tablecloth. Top of two seater couch beneath hanging.